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Mom of star athlete wants help finding son’s killer: ‘I never thought anyone would kill him over a pair of shoes’

Torrence Sumerlin, a former Whitney Young baseball player who later played on a college team that won a NAIA World Series, was meeting someone to sell a pair of Air Jordans when he was murdered in Tri-Taylor in August.

Carla Sumerlin, mother of Torrence Sumerlin Jr. stands near the area where her son was murdered holding a button of her sons face, in 2300 block of West Polk in Aug. 20 of this year, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Carla Sumerlin feels like she needs to do something to help catch her son’s killer.

So last week she sent letters to everyone on the 2400 block of West Polk reminding them that her son’s life was taken on that block and asking for anyone with information to contact the police.

Torrence Sumerlin, 26, an avid gym shoe collector, was there about 10:20 a.m. on Aug. 26 to meet someone to sell a pair of Air Jordans.

Instead two people who’d been hiding nearby rushed him as he stood by his open trunk and shot Sumerlin in the chest.

Carla Sumerlin said she worried about previous such meetups to sell shoes and would call her son and ask him, “You OK? You want me to stay on the phone? Where are you?” and her son would assure her he was in a safe area.

“I always worried about him, but I never thought anyone would kill him over a pair of shoes,” she said.

The assailants never even grabbed the shoes, said Carla Sumerlin, speculating that her son’s size and physique might have spooked the would-be robbers.

“He was an athlete. He worked out every day,” she said.

Torrence Sumerlin Jr., who played baseball for Whitney Young High School and Southeastern University, with his mother, Carla.
Provided

Torrence Sumerlin played baseball at Whitney Young High School and was a 2013 graduate from the school, which held a funeral service for him in August. He played for several colleges before graduating from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He was a member of the first team in Southeastern University history to win the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics World Series in 2018, the school said.

More recently he’d been working as an Uber Eats delivery driver and, shortly before his death, had purchased a two-flat building on the Near West Side as an investment property and the first step of a plan to create generational wealth for his family.

“His whole thing was building generational wealth,” Carla Sumerlin said. “He would preach it to his brothers and cousins, and he was starting out. He didn’t even have any kids yet.”

He was a driving force behind starting a business over the summer with his mother to purchase and rent out other properties in Chicago. Its name, they decided, would riff off their own last name: Sum It Up LLC.

“He took his job at Uber Eats seriously to save money to invest,” said Carla Sumerlin, who lives in the same building that her son did about six blocks from where he was murdered and works as an account analyst at an investment firm in the Loop.

He was an honor roll student in high school and college, an athlete, a person with goals, she said.

“We did everything to keep him away from this type of environment; he was the best, and he still became a victim of it,” she said.

“To be taken so tragically over some gym shoes doesn’t seem like something I can get over that easy. It just doesn’t seem fair, and I just want them caught,” she said.

Torrence Sumerlin knew a lot of police officers through playing in various men’s baseball leagues, and detectives working the case told Carla Sumerlin they’d received a bunch of calls from others in law enforcement asking about the case.

“They told me, ‘We’re working hard on it,’” she said.

On Tuesday, Carla Sumerlin was heading to visit her son’s grave with his girlfriend, who is Mexican, to celebrate Day of the Dead and leave some of his favorite things, including a baseball and chicken from Hooters.

“We brought him into a Hooters once when he was little, like 5 or 7, and he looked at me and said, ‘Mom, I don’t think we’re supposed to be in here,’ and he was just mesmerized by the girls, and then he had the chicken and it’s been his favorite place ever since,” Carla said with a laugh.

Police on Tuesday said no one was in custody for the murder. Anyone with tips should call 833-408-0069 or 312-746-7330.