Sunday, May 19, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 3:57 p.m.
Featured image: Kisha Stansberry is comforted by PAEC Assistant Principle Thomas Newton during the school’s graduation ceremony last week. Stansberry’s son, Isiah, was due to be at the commencement, but was killed on March 12. | Shanel Romain
Kisha Stansberry, 39, can’t remember the face of her oldest son, 19-year-old Isiah K. Scott, as he lay in his coffin. Scott was fatally shot on March 12, outside of Family Dollar, located in the 1000 block of South Madison St. in Maywood.
Stansberry learned of her son’s death through a Facebook livestream video that showed a blurred body lying on the sidewalk moments after the shooting. By the time Stansberry arrived at the scene, first responders had taken her son to Loyola University Medical Center, where a nurse told her that he was in critical condition.
“As a nurse myself, I know that means one of two things — he’s actually critical or deceased,” Stansberry said. “The images of him in my head are him in the street, at the trauma center and when they let me see him the next day, when I had to identify him at the medical examiner’s office. He had this look of disgust on his face. They shot him in the back.”
Less than a week after Scott’s murder, Stansberry said, she received a lengthy Facebook message from one of multiple people who witnessed her son’s death, which happened at around 8 p.m. In fact, she said, the chatter surrounding her son’s murder has been deafening. Everyone seems to know who killed her son, but so far no one who witnessed the killing has told what they know to the police.
Stansberry and her husband, Dean Stansberry, Isiah’s stepfather, requested to be interviewed last week in order to plea with community members who witnessed the murder to cooperate.
“The entire town knows who killed him,” Stansberry said. “They’re buzzing. They’re talking about it. But people don’t want to consider themselves a snitch.”
Dean said that he places the uncooperative witnesses into two categories: those who don’t want to be labeled a snitch and those who may be afraid of retaliation.
“We want people to know that the guys who killed Isiah are not those guys,” Dean, 39, said. “They weren’t even in a street gang.”
PAEC’s graduating class of 2019. In tribute to Scott, school officials decorated a chair adorned with his graduation photos and a rose. | Shanel Romain
The last meal
In the days after Scott’s murder, Kisha and Dean threw themselves into figuring out what may have led to their son’s death. Through eyewitness accounts placed in Kisha’s Facebook inbox, their son’s cell phone records, interactions with the police and Scott’s social media activity, the Stansberrys were able to piece together the events and possible motives leading to the fatal shooting. What they found left them stunned.
The couple said that all signs point to the likelihood that he was murdered by two of his former friends and classmates.
“It really stings knowing that I know who did it and knowing that these boys have been in my home,” Kisha said. “They called me mama. I can remember the last meal I cooked for them — chicken Alfredo.”
The Stansberrys said that at the time of his murder, Scott was attending Proviso Area for Exceptional Children (PAEC), an alternative school for students with behavioral and cognitive challenges.
“Initially, when I spoke with the detectives, they said that they could not find anyone who would say anything bad about Isiah,” Kisha said. “He was jokester. He was a really sweet kid.”
The Stansberrys said that their son could light up a room full of people, but often stayed to himself. He played football for the Maywood Bucs from the time he was five until he was 14. Scott played football for Proviso East until going off to Job Corps in 2017.
“He didn’t like it there, so he came back and went to summer school and then to PAEC,” his mother said.
During his graduation ceremony at PAEC last week, school officials remembered Scott as a well-mannered and respectful kid.
His parents said that Scott was into modeling and rapping (he was working on a rap CD when he died). He also liked music from other genres. At the time of his death, he had been working for UPS for a year and just gotten a promotion.
“He was versatile,” Dean said. “He listened to Johnny Cash and stuff like that.”
Kisha Stansberry with Proviso Township High Schools District 209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez, right, during Proviso East’s graduation ceremony on May 19. Stansberry’s son, Isiah Scott, would have been in attendance if he had not been fatally shot in March. | Photo submitted
While attending PAEC, they said, Scott befriended three young men.
“From the beginning, I thought something was off a bit with a few of them and told him he shouldn’t hang with them,” Kisha said. “But Isiah would say they were cool. I can remember the last meal I cooked for these boys and they killed my baby a year or two later.”
Dean said that the couple fed the boys and dropped them off to school.
“We would have long talks with them making sure they went to school and telling them that they needed to better themselves,” he said. “We had all kinds of discussions.”
Last year, however, the relationship between the four friends dissolved over an altercation. Eventually, some of the boys stopped attending PAEC altogether. Scott and another boy drifted from the group while the remaining two started sending Scott threatening messages on Facebook, Kisha said.
“That summer he had stopped hanging with them,” she said. “In his inboxes, one of the boys said, ‘I’m going to do this to you, let’s meet up to fight.’ Isiah asked the boy, ‘Why are you trying to fight me?’ He was telling him he didn’t have any beef with them.”
Kisha said she sensed the relationship between her son and the boys had soured when she saw the two boys out one day and spoke to them.
“Isiah said, ‘Mama, stop speaking to them, I’m into it with them,’” she said. “But we never took it as something that would escalate into this. The boys called us mom and pops. About six months ago, they were walking down the street and I said, ‘Why aren’t you all in school?’ They said, ‘Alright ma, we’ll register,’ and kind of rushed off.
“This is the relationship we had with these two boys, but in the process, I’d never met a parent or a guardian or anything. It was just them all the time,” Kisha said. “They lacked guidance.”
After Scott’s death, she said, she realized from conversations with police and looking at her son’s Facebook messages and texts that the nature of the threat was far more serious than she or her husband had initially thought.
In a July 11 Facebook message to Scott that Kisha showed Village Free Press, one of the boys tells the 19-year-old that he’ll kill him and will enjoy doing it. In another Facebook message, mere months before Scott’s death, the other boy demanded that Scott give him a $300 hoodie that Kisha had bought him.
“If we had known that it was this serious, we would have reached out to the police earlier to rectify everything,” Dean said.
Kisha Stansberry stands next to a shrine she’s made in tribute to her son, Isiah Scott. She and her husband say “everyone in town” knows who killed Scott, but, so far, no witnesses have told the police what they saw. | Shanel Romain
‘We found out he was dead on Facebook’
According to the Stansberrys and the witness accounts that were shared with them, on March 12, the boys saw Scott walking on Madison Street. One of the boys started fighting Scott. After Scott reportedly got the better of the boy, the other boy walked up to Scott and shot him twice in the back in front of multiple witnesses.
“I was on the phone with my uncle and my baby son was in the shower,” Kisha recalled of the day she learned about her son’s death. “My son said, ‘Ma, somebody just got killed down the street. I said, ‘Oh, my God, let me check on Isiah.’ So, I went to our Life360 app and tracked his phone. He was in the 1400 block of 8th and I thought, ‘OK, he’s good.’
“My younger son then said, ‘Ma, it’s in front of Family Dollar. They’ve got video of the boy laying down in the street.’ So at this point, I’m calling Isiah to tell him not to walk home, because they’re shooting and that I’d pick him up. No answer. I called that boy seven times and it was no answer.”
As she lay on her bed scrolling through Facebook, Kisha said, she came across the video of the crime scene and her mother’s instincts kicked into high gear, despite the fact that she could not clearly make out the body on the ground.
“She hopped up and said, ‘That’s my baby!’” Dean said. “She knew.”
“I ran out of the house to go down the street and by the time we got to Family Dollar, there was just the tape and people looking for bullet casings,” Kisha said. “In my heart, I knew it was him, but in my head I’m taking pictures of the scene thinking that I should send him these to let him know that he shouldn’t be out here. I texted him, asking where he was at and that they were shooting.
“At this point, people were out there tagging Isiah in this video,” Kisha said. “So, we found out he was dead on Facebook.”
The following Saturday, Kisha said, numerous witnesses reached out on Facebook to tell her what happened. No one, however, has yet to share what they know with the police, Kisha said.
“The detective working our case is really compassionate,” she said. “Anytime I get a lead, I shoot it to him and he responds. He’s working diligently and hard to bring the killers to justice, but he’s having a hard time because witnesses are refusing to come forward. I want people to know that they should not be scared. When you see these boys, you’ll know that they’re not people to be afraid of.”
The Stansberrys have so far raised $2,000 in reward money for anyone with information about the incident that may lead to an arrest. They have a goal of getting to $10,000. They added that they’re also raising money to help relocate potential witnesses.
In the meantime, the hashtag #justiceforisiah has figured prominently in their lives. They’ve printed it on t-shirts and made it a mantra in their quest to bring attention to their son’s murder.
“I want to emphasize that these boys are really not two to be scared of and I also want to bring light to the whole no-snitching culture we have in the black community,” Kisha said.
“This is why we are the way we are. I guarantee you if it was a white police officer who shot Isiah, everyone would have been down there giving their testimony, because it’s the community against the police. But honestly, the police have been nothing but wonderful. The detective even called me to wish me happy Mother’s Day.”
If anyone has any information on Scott’s murder, call the Maywood Police Department at (708) 450-4471. VFP
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