Remembering the Marcus Yates murder

OVERBROOK - October 21, 2011

That was back in 1988. This weekend, his family is recapturing our attention.

Three generations of the Yates family were back on the grounds of the Cassidy School Friday, as a newly planted red maple takes root and a dedication stand with a plaque is prepared for a ceremony.

A quarter-century ago, this family was the subject of tragic headlines.

"I was totally lost when my son was murdered, and I also had my other son shot twice," said Marcus' mother, Rochelle Yates-Whittington.

5-year-old Marcus Yates, a kindergartener at the Cassidy School, was shot to death. He was caught in a crossfire inside a corner store in Southwest Philadelphia.

Marcus' older brother Malcom was shot twice and told he'd never walk again. He and brother Anthony testified at the trial, face-to-face with the killers, who eventually went to prison for life.

The Yates case sparked outrage across the city, but it was an awful harbinger of things to come, There have been dozens like it in the 23 years since. Yates' mother is now an evangelist who crusades against this senseless violence.

"How many murders, how many children's lives have been taken since the death of my son? And people are so nonchalant about it now," said Yates-Whittington.

Malcom's two brothers, Malcom and Anthony, have survived to become solid family men. Malcom, who was told he'd never walk, played some pro football. But both have carried their early childhood pain with them.

"There's still anger. That will never go away because to open fire in a store with 11 people - you really can't wrap your head around it," said Malcom.

"You know that saying, 'Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger?' It made me a whole lot stronger," said Anthony.

Malcolm's sister was born 9 months after Marcus' slaying. She is now a young mother herself.

The Yates family hopes a new tree, replacing one that died out, will serve as a living symbol of the need to stop the violence. The tree will be at the center of a rededication ceremony Saturday at the Cassidy School in memory of Marcus Yates. Former Mayor Wilson Goode, who was in office at the time of the murder, is expected to attend.

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