On May 27th of 1994, the corpse of a four year old boy who had weighed 41 pounds was discovered inside a duffel bag. The child had been of African American descent, and sadly did not receive the same media attention as other children who passed away under similar circumstances. It’s said that even plenty of people who live in the Philadelphia area aren’t familiar with the case.
This precious baby had been beaten to death, he’d suffered severe trauma to the head and torso; his little ribs had been broken in several areas, blunt force trauma. Once he was deceased, this innocent baby had been wrapped in sheet and a towel, then stuffed into a multicolor Graco duffel bag, and dumped under the Benjamin Franklin bridge. His little body lay there, decaying, for months before being found in a vacant lot.
There’s talk of dogs having found the bag first, but I’m not sure how reliable that info is. When discovered, his little body was so badly decomposed that they could not even tell his sex or race at first; it is noted that this baby had suffered many injuries such as broken bones which had healed before his murder. Finally his face was reconstructed, and a picture was released to the community in hopes of finding his identity and hopefully what had happened to him. Sadly, it would be years before this information would come to light.
For 7 years a lady named Mary Peck had pleaded with the coroner to release the child’s body for burial. Miss Mary, truly a saint of a woman, has fiercely loved this child whom she had never met. She affectionately named him Tarsicius, who is the patron saint of altar boys; the real Tarsicius had been beaten to death while carrying the holy sacrament. Miss Mary had been absolutely determined to give this baby a proper burial, come hell or high water.
Finally in 2001, after a DNA sample had been taken, the child’s cremains were released and Miss Mary gave the unnamed child a beautiful Christian funeral. She paid for everything which couldn’t be donated; there were priests, nuns, even bagpipes played at the ceremony. Miss Mary ordered a headstone which read, “God bless this grave of this unknown boy.”. Miss Mary wanted to ensure this baby was dearly loved in death, as she had not felt that he had been truly loved in life. She was such an amazing woman with a beautiful soul. Miss Mary always said that when they knew the boy’s name, she’d replace the headstone; sadly she didn’t live to see this come to light, Miss Mary had been fighting cancer for a long time and lost her battle just 2 years before the case was cracked.
In 2005 police finally knew the name for this child, and his killers were brought to justice. This beautiful boy’s name had been Jerell Willis. His uncle couldn’t stand keeping quiet anymore, and he went to the police after he’d seen the reconstruction photo. The boy’s “mom” had been 32 year old Alicia Robinson. From what I’ve read, Alicia had birthed 9 children, but custody of only the two youngest.
Alicia’s claimed that her husband, Lawrence Robinson AKA Jevon Willis, had beaten this innocent boy to death, thrown him across the room like a ragdoll. She stated the attack had occurred during a major snowstorm; Jerell had become lethargic, eventually unconscious, then he passed away. Neither Alicia or Lawrence could be bothered to call for help, they’d just allowed Jerrell to die. During police interrogation Alicia admitted to dumping the body; she stated that she and Lawrence had carried the baby’s corpse on a public bus to the bridge where he was discarded like trash, then the couple went on with their lives as if nothing had ever happened.
Jerell’s extended family had cared about him, they’d repeatedly asked Alicia as to Jerell’s whereabouts but she’d always given an evasive answer. The community was also concerned; perhaps one of the most upsetting aspects of this case is that DCF had been called multiple times concerning the welfare of Jerell, but the case closed in ’93. His life could’ve been spared!
Alicia pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension or prosecution as part of a plea deal which dropped murder charges against her. As part of this deal, Alicia had to testify against her husband; she was sentenced to just 5 years and is probably free today. Lawrence had already been spending 8 years in prison for sexual assault at the time of the murder trial. As a mother it’s impossible to understand how or why Alicia covered for this piece of garbage. Lawrence claims he’s innocent of the murder, that he hadn’t even been at home when Jerell brutally lost his life. Alicia’s other children were asked, and they all claimed that their mother had never been abusive towards them; the same absolutely could not be said for Lawrence.
I’ve searched and searched but can not find what, if anything, Lawrence was sentenced to. If you know, please fill me in; I would hate to think that at least some justice was not served.
It’s a shame that Miss Mary wasn’t alive to find out this child’s name, but she still ensured that his headstone was changed; today it bears Jerell’s name. Mary didn’t do what she did for publicity, she’d not been a boastful woman. Matter of fact, her own headstone doesn’t even bear her name, only her husband’s; that’s the type of person Miss Mary was. One thing is for sure – the world is in dire need of more Mary Pecks. Bless her.