Homicide Watch Chicago
A Chicago mother is still searching for answers in the death of her son.
“It’s been 6 years since his murder, I’ve had three billboards posted with a $10,000 reward and no one knows who killed my son,” Tonya Burch said.
Ambitious, polite and caring described Deontae Smith, a 19-year-old with dreams of joining the U.S. Air Force to support his family.
On Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009, what started off as an unusual day for Burch became even stranger when she received inumerable calls from unfamiliar phone numbers after a long day of work as a cosmetology instructor at Capri Beauty School.
“I usually don’t work on Saturdays, but this particular Saturday an instructor called off and I volunteered to fill-in for her. Meanwhile, Deontae was at home and he called me, he was very excited because someone from the Air Force called him to schedule a interview,” Burch said.
About 8 p.m., when Burch got home, her son was getting dressed and she asked, “Where are you going this time of day?”
He replied, “I’m going to a block party, then I’m taking my girlfriend to a late-night movie.”
Burch told him to be safe and not to forget to pick her up on his way to the movies, so she could tag along; Smith smiled, told his mom “Whatever,” and walked out the door.
While resting in bed, Burch said she received a phone call at 11 p.m. saying her son was shot.
“I got about five phone calls in a row saying Deontae was shot, but no one ever told me where he was. I started going into prayer mode and hoping it wasn’t true”.
Burch got out of bed and drove around the neighborhood. She went to her son’s girlfriend house, but no one answered the door. She continued to drive around until she saw police lights flashing and when she drove towards the lights, she saw a crowd of about 200 people.
“When I walked up to the crowd, I heard a woman say her daughter was shot, so I thought maybe they got her confused with Deontae. That was until my nephew, who was also at the party, came up to me and said, “Auntie, Deontae was shot.”
According to Burch, police approached her asking what her son had on because there was a male dead on the scene.
“Once police asked me what Deontae had on I knew it was him.”
Prior to the shooting, Smith was leaving the block party when two females started arguing, which escalated into a fight, and then someone started shooting.
Smith ran for a block before collapsing and dying at the intersection of Peoria and 61st.
“There were too many people outside that night for no one to have seen what happened to my son,” Burch said.
No arrests have been made in the years since, and Burch said the case is on its third detective.
“I don’t think the police were active in my son’s case, nor were they aggressive enough. It was like, ‘OK. he got killed. It’s over; he gone, it’s over with.’
“All of the information the detectives got in my sons case was mostly from me.”
The case has appeared on America’s Most Wanted, but there haven’t been any leads in recent years.
“In honor of my son, for 6 years, I’ve been doing a back-to-school picnic because he loved school and was so involved. So every year I give the kids school supplies, they come out for that food and music.”
Burch said she usually doesn’t do anything for Smith’s birthday on Dec. 11, but this year will be a little different.
“I will have a prayer and balloon release for Deontae, he would’ve been 26 years old.”
There will also be a at 950 W. 61st, naming a portion of the street in honor of Deontae Smith. The event gets under way at 5 p.m.