Toddler found in apartment with bodies of mother, grandfather gets visit from Santa

The 2-year-old, found with the bodies of Javonni Jenkins, 27, and Curtis Hardman, 79, in Jenkins’ South Side apartment in early December, is now in the care of an aunt.

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Chamaine, known as “CJ,” sits on Santa Claus’ lap at an event held Wednesday by South Side community and business leaders at Joe Willie’s seafood restaurant, 7433 S. State St. They gathered to show support for the 2-year-old, who was found inside an apartment with the bodies of his mother and grandfather earlier this month.

Chamaine, known as “CJ,” sits on Santa Claus’ lap at an event held Wednesday by South Side community and business leaders at Joe Willie’s seafood restaurant.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Nearly two weeks after being found alone with the bodies of his mother and grandfather inside a South Side apartment, a toddler managed to smile broadly as he greeted Santa Claus.

The two met in a South Side restaurant where community and business leaders had organized an event for people to “wrap their arms” around the 2-year-old who had lost his mother, Javonni Jenkins, and grandfather Curtis Hardman, only a few blocks away.

The 2-year-old was found by police Dec. 8 with the bodies of Jenkins, 27, and Hardman, 79, who were shot to death. Police discovered the scene inside Jenkins’ apartment in the 8100 block of South Drexel Avenue in East Chatham after Jenkins, a medical assistant at Holy Cross Hospital, didn’t show up for work.

When a FaceTime call from her co-workers was answered by the toddler, a colleague sought police to make a well-being check on Jenkins. Police found the bodies when they showed up at the home.

Chicago police say detectives are still investigating the case.

Sonia Coffee carries Chamaine “CJ” and stands next to the 2-year-old’s aunt, Tanesha. The toddler was found in early December with the bodies of his mother and grandfather in his mother’s apartment in early December. South Side business and community leaders held an event on Wednesday to show support for the toddler.

Sonia Coffee carries Chamaine, known as “CJ,” as she stands next to the 2-year-old’s aunt Tanesha. The toddler was found in early December with the bodies of his mother and grandfather in his mother’s apartment.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

At the restaurant Wednesday, little Chamaine, known as “CJ,” looked at ease with his aunt Tanesha, Jenkins’ sister, an organizer said. Tanesha declined to speak with reporters or give a last name for herself or her nephew.

The toddler looked particularly happy when squeezing into a toy Mercedes with bows alongside his 3-year-old cousin. They slammed the doors like they had places to go and grinned.

Standing behind the two were the South Side business owners who had organized the event at Joe Willie’s seafood restaurant at 7433 S. State St., which also included a toy and food giveaway and volunteers. They planned to give away 500 bags of food provided by Mariano’s that included turkeys, Cornish hens and chickens, as well as dry goods, such as cornbread mix and rice.

“We’re gathered here as Black business establishments to support, unite and help a family and a community that is reeling from gun violence,” said Carlos Estes, one of the organizers.

Holding the 2-year-old in her arms, Sonia Coffee emphasized that it takes a village to raise a child. “We wanted to be here, not just today but every day,” said the owner of CHW Management Inc., which sponsored the event with Bridging the Tys to Jordan, Joe Willie’s restaurant and Statewide Security and Safety.

A community member picks out toys during an event at a South Side restaurant organized by business owners to show support for a 2-year-old who was found alone with the bodies of his mother and grandfather in her apartment in East Chatham in early December.

A community member picks out toys during an event at a South Side restaurant organized by business owners to show support for a 2-year-old who was found alone with the bodies of his mother and grandfather in her apartment in East Chatham in early December.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Many of those coming for the giveaway were unaware of the connection between it and the 2-year-old.

Derrick Johnson, a custodian at Jones College Prep, heard about the giveaway while coming home from work on the Red Line. “I could always use the extra food and toys for the kids,” said the father of two girls, ages 7 and 10.

Hearing about the connection, however, many expressed concern.

Carolyn Edwards, 76, who had come with her eldest, Antiwan Philpotts, 47, to say hi to one of the organizers, said she was shocked to hear the story when it first came out.

“Crime keeps us from moving forward,” said the native of Atlanta, where she said she attended Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor.

“I feel so sorry for him,” said the mother of five, grandmother of 10 and great-grandmother of six. “It didn’t used to be this way, and people are going to have to come together to look out for him.”

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

Carolyn Edwards, 76, outside of a South Side restaurant where an event was held to show support for a 2-year-old boy who was found nearby with the bodies of his mother and grandfather in his mother’s apartment in East Chatham in early December. 

Carolyn Edwards, 76, outside of a South Side restaurant where an event was held to show support for a 2-year-old boy who was found with the bodies of his mother and grandfather in his mother’s apartment in East Chatham in early December.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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