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Family recalls the day Tyshawn Lee, 9, was killed: “He said, ‘I’ll be back’ .. He didn’t come back”

On the second day of the murder trial of two men charged with the crime, jurors for the first time saw photos from the shooting scene.

Corey Morgan, on trial for the murder of Tyshawn Lee, sits beside his lawyers Tuesday during opening statements at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
Corey Morgan, on trial for the murder of Tyshawn Lee, sits beside his lawyers Tuesday during opening statements at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Pool

Jurors on Wednesday saw two sets of photographs of Tyshawn Lee.

One set showed the fourth-grader in his school uniform shirt and smiling in a school portrait. The second set showed the 9-year-old’s body slumped in a pool of blood.

On the second day of the murder trial of Dwright Boone-Doty and Corey Morgan, prosecutors for the first time showed jurors images from the scene of a crime that shocked the city in the fall of 2015, showing the elementary-schooler’s body in an alley across from Dawes Park with his prized basketball a few feet away.

Boone-Doty is accused of luring Tyshawn from the park basketball court, promising him candy, then shooting the boy multiple times at close range, leaving him to die in an alley.

The motive, prosecutors have said, was revenge for the killing of the brother of Boone-Doty’s co-defendant Morgan. Tracey Morgan was shot to death three weeks earlier in an attack that had also injured Morgan’s mother.

The afternoon of Nov. 2, Tyshawn had come home from school and told his grandmother Bertha Lee he was going across the street to the park to play basketball, the 75-year-old testified.

“He said, ‘I love you, Grandmama,’ and I said, ‘I love you, too, Tyshawn.’ And he said, ‘I’ll be back,’ ” said Lee, the first witness called by the prosecution Wednesday. “He didn’t come back.”

The trial is expected to last at least three weeks. Cook County Circuit Judge Thaddeus Wilson ruled last month that prosecutors can enter a limited number of autopsy photos as evidence, saying the pictures were among the most horrific he had seen.

Dwright Boone-Doty appears during opening statements Tuesday in the murder trial of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee at the Leighton Criminal Court building in Chicago.
E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool

The scene in the alley had left an impression on people who were there in November 2015, witnesses testified.

Brian Lee, Tyshawn’s uncle, had been washing a car in front of the house when he heard shots. He went inside to check on his family. When he went back out, he saw people rushing from the park toward an alley a few houses down. Lee looked down the alley and saw his nephew’s body.

“I saw him in a pool of blood,” he said. “It ain’t seem real to me.”

Herman Otero, a plainclothes police officer and former Navy medical officer who was the first cop to arrive, said the sight of the dead boy was chilling.

“It was probably one of the most disturbing images …” Otero said, his voice trailing off as a defense lawyer called out an objection. “There was a young child laying on the ground, unresponsive.”

Police found seven shell casings from a .40-caliber weapon, later determined to have been purchased by Morgan’s older brother, on the ground, Detective John Murray testified. The boy had been shot twice in the head and also appeared to have been struck in the hand. Based on Tyshawn’s age, investigators initially assumed the shooting had been accidental.

“When children get shot like this ... it could have been from another one of his friends playing with a gun, it could be that a child was shot inadvertently,” Murray said. “But we weren’t getting that information from anyone.”

A woman drove up to police the night of the shooting with her teenage daughter, who said she had seen three men in their 20s in the park and that one of them had played basketball with Tyshawn and walked off with the boy toward the alley, trailed by a black sport-utility vehicle.

Then, she testified, “I heard gunshots, maybe four or five.”

The woman, then 16, left the park with her mother. They returned to seek out police that night after watching news reports about Tyshawn’s death and were able to describe two of the men, and gang officers helped provide the names of suspects, Murray said.

The witness, now a 20-year-old college student, testified Wednesday with a mop of braids all but obscuring her face from the jury.

Police located other witnesses at the park the following day, and Murray prepared lineups with Morgan, Boone-Doty and former co-defendant Kevin Edwards. Edwards pleaded guilty two weeks ahead of the trial.

Prosecutors have said Tyshawn was targeted by the defendants, all described as members of the BBG/Terrordome street gang, because the boy’s father was a reputed member of the rival Killa Ward gang, which had killed Morgan’s brother and wounded Morgan’s mother three weeks earlier.

Morgan’s attorney Todd Pugh noted that the 20-year-old witness failed to identify a suspect in a photo or in-person lineup, according to notations in police records, though she testified Wednesday that a photo of Morgan looked similar to one of the men she had seen.

Cross-examining Murray, Pugh pointed out there were no records of police talking to two other witnesses who were in the park and were said to have given descriptions that detectives used to identify Morgan, Boone-Doty and Edwards.