TAMPA - Students at Tampa Bay Tech High School recently remembered one of their own, 17-year old John Singleton Junior at a local football game.
And a pair of Nike tennis shoes is all Lydia Rutledge has left of her nephew, John.
"It's just a symbol to me that I can have a piece of him with me. He won't ever wear these again. He won't ever step through the door and have these same shoes on," Lydia commented softly.
She asked her sister for anything tangible of John's, as she still misses his laughter and great sense of humor.
"He wasn't my child but I loved him dearly," Lydia said.
Tampa police say John was gunned down outside a birthday party at the Unique Island Grill on East Lake Avenue in Tampa on October 29, 2011.
Lead Homicide Detective Scott Bullard says a fight started inside the restaurant and spilled outside with shots being fired possibly between two gangs.
But Detective Bullard is adamant, John was not part of any gang and not involved in that fight.
"I don't think he provoked anybody. I don't think he was involved in any type of argument at this party at all. I really sincerely believe that he was in the wrong spot at the wrong time," Detective Bullard said.
And even though dozens attended that party, no one has come forward to identify the shooter. Many honor what they call a 'code of silence,' something Lydia says needs to end.
"I just feel like they're being cowards. Even if you know who did this, you're holding onto to something that eventually may destroy you," she added.
A plastic flower with old ribbon is all that identifies where John has been laid to rest, as the family doesn't have the money to pay for a tombstone.
"In the same year, my brother died. My brother died on Valentine's Day and my nephew was killed the day before Halloween. So it was equally tragic because we had just lost my brother," Lydia said.
Lydia desperately wants to get guns out of the hands of teens and make the neighborhood safer.
"You always here the saying, 'you don't want to bury your children. You want your children to bury you.' But everyday it's that we are burying our children. They're not burying us. And it's really a tragedy," she said.
And she makes this plea for any witness to come forward.
"You sometimes have to step out and say 'I'm going to do the right thing.' This is somebody's family. My sister will never have her son back. He's gone forever," Lydia begged, with tears in her eyes.
Crimestoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for any information that leads to the identification and arrest of a suspect.
If you know anything call 1-800-873-tips.
Taking Action: Thank you to Rest Haven Memorial Park owner Jim McKeehan, who has graciously offered to pay for John Singleton's headstone.
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