CHICAGO – Hester Scott's family members begged the Chicago police officer to have her troubled teenage grandson committed to an institution.
When the boy she'd taken in from a drug-addicted daughter ran away, she kept taking him back. He made allegations of abuse — none of which were proven — that forced her to hand over her badge.
It was that devotion that may have led to her death.
Prosecutors say 15-year-old Keshawn Perkins beat his grandmother with a lamp, stabbed the 55-year-old with a kitchen knife and dumped her body in the backyard after she caught him skipping school and confronted him. He is charged as an adult with first-degree murder and robbery.
On Monday, as Scott's relatives planned her funeral, they also set out to give something back to the 25-year police officer: Her badge.
"We want the police to do right by her, so he (her son) and the grandchildren will have something so they can believe in our city," said her sister Marlene Scott-Pittman. "They need to see the city is showing them, 'We made a mistake and we're going to fix this the best that we can.'"
The president of the police union that Scott belonged to said he asked Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy that Scott's badge be reinstated in time for her funeral.
"We're hoping he does the right thing," said Mike Shields. "I just think that's proper for a Chicago police officer (and) this officer is certainly entitled to her badge."
Even after she lost her police powers and spent four years in a call center — the police department's version of limbo — Scott kept caring for the boy and his three siblings when her daughter could no longer do so.
"She did it because she loved them and they didn't have a home," said Scott-Pittman. "She felt a responsibility to take her grandchildren and keep them together."
Scott was known around her Chicago neighborhood for her commitment to the children, whom she had taken in seven or eight years ago when her own daughter started seeking treatment for drug abuse. Her brick home has a second level that is all tan siding; Scott had added a story onto the house to make more room for the children.
She lobbied to get Perkins into Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, a reputable high school, and drove him to his train stop each day, neighbors said.
"She was a good mother to those kids," said Jessie Bell, 61. "She devoted all her time to them."
Scott was especially known for her efforts to help Perkins. Neighbors and family members painted a picture of a troubled boy suffering from mental illness who would repeatedly run away and lie. The teenager used her credit cards without permission and spent her money — once to buy a bb gun — and spent so much that she had trouble making a mortgage payment, said neighbor Nora Powell.
"She loved him and she didn't want anything to happen to him," Powell said. "She did what she could."
Perkins, who is in custody in Cook County, was denied bail Sunday. The Cook County public defender's office, which is representing him, did not immediately return a call Monday.
Neighbors believed Perkins struck his grandmother on more than one occasion and then told authorities that it was Scott who was the abuser. In 2007, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigated while her sister took care of the children.
"I kept the children for two months and they were confused, running away and fighting each other," said Scott-Pittman. "This is what she had been dealing with. These were damaged children that she was trying to restore."
State workers ultimately dismissed the allegations, family members said. Agency spokesman Jimmie Whitelow declined Monday to give further details, citing the "legal rights of the accused minor."
The children came back to their grandmother's. Still, she was stripped of her police powers and put on desk duty pending an investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority.
Prosecutors said one of Scott's last acts was to confront her grandson on Friday about skipping school. They said he grabbed a lamp and struck Scott "until she shut up" before stabbing her with a kitchen knife, taking her purse and wrapping her body in a blanket before dumping it in the backyard.
Neighbors said they knew something was wrong. Bell said he saw Perkins moving something in the backyard and come out holding a purse. Another neighbor, Earl Ware, called police after he spotted blood on the sidewalk outside the house.
"It was so upsetting," the 65-year-old said. "I didn't think it was that extreme."
Hours later, her body was found by police in a sewer trap.
Sophia Tareen can be reached at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen
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