Becky DeaKyne spends her days in court volunteering her time in support of the families of Chicago’s young murder victims.
At night, she yearns for the day when her own teenage son’s killer will be brought to justice.
In what looms as a fairly typical week, DeaKyne is planning four trips to the Criminal Courts Building at 26th and California for scheduled appearances by defendants in the cases she is following.
Mostly she goes for the mothers, whose names she knows better than the victims — Myrna, Maria, Liza, Ashake, Monica, Diana, Vanessa, Sabrina, Gayle, Stephanie and the other Vanessa.
Those are just the ones who come immediately to mind. There are always more being added to her calendar.
This Wednesday looms as particularly busy.
After a trip to 26th and Cal in the morning, DeaKyne is expecting to make it to 60th and Springfield by afternoon to help a mother passing out flyers in hopes of finding information about who killed her son.
Then she’ll hurry home to Albany Park to continue her now more than two-year-old tradition of marking the monthly anniversary of her own son’s unsolved homicide.
Leon DeaKyne, 17, was shot in the back on the street near Montrose and Troy at about 7:45 p.m. on Dec. 12, 2011, by a gunman who fired into a group with whom Leon had been standing.
His mother, therefore, makes it her practice to arrive by 7:30 at the spot where his body was found to mark it with flowers and candles.
Then at 7:45 she hands out her own reward fliers. She doesn’t stop until all 200 have been handed out.
DeaKyne, 58, chats up the people she meets about whether they knew her son, or if they know anything about what happened.
She talks to everybody, including the young gang members she meets. She’s made friends with many of them.
“She’s fearless,” says her friend Myrna Roman, whose own son Manny was murdered in 2009.
Roman also tries to be an advocate for murder victim’s families, but she says nobody does more in that regard than DeaKyne, who has been known to give rides to court and even help out with babysitting.
“Becky is always the first one there in court. She’s always the first to help with the flyers,” said Roman, whose case I have written about several times in the past.
It was Roman who wanted to bring attention to DeaKyne and her efforts on behalf of others—partially in hopes of focusing more attention on Leon’s unsolved murder.
DeaKyne shrugs off her volunteer work.
“That’s what friends are for,” she said.
DeaKyne, a single mom from Minnesota who split with Leon’s father before he was born, can’t shrug off the death of her only child.
But she has trouble asking anyone else to help. She insists on passing out her flyers alone.
“I’ve always felt like I had to do it all myself,” said DeaKyne. “The police don’t care. My family’s gone. I have to do it.”
DeaKyne complains with some bitterness that she has learned more about her son’s death from her monthly forays on the street than from talking to police. She has passed along to detectives the name of a man she was told did the shooting, but hasn’t heard back.
This is a common complaint from victims’ families, and I don’t know the answer. Most detectives don’t see handholding as part of the job. But there ought to be a better way.
In the only published account of DeaKyne’s death, it was reported police said he was a gang member, and DeaKyne believes that has made his case a low priority.
DeaKyne insists her son knew many gang members but was not in a gang, which is an old story that could go either way. She admits he “wasn’t a perfect kid,” acknowledging prior scrapes with the law for retail theft, trespassing and curfew violations, but nothing serious.
He’d also had problems in school, but managed to graduate early from Roosevelt High School and was working for an Indian fast food restaurant near City Hall, she said.
On the night he was killed, DeaKyne said she and her son had just returned home from his pediatrician and that he’d told her he was going out to get something to eat at McDonalds on his way to play PlayStation with some friends.
Police did not respond Friday to my request for information about the case. I’m not trying to lay any blame, but I obviously would like to stir somebody’s interest there.
As much as any victim’s family member, DeaKyne deserves a chance to have other people come to court to support her.