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Forgotten Victim

March 6, 2005
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB And TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writers

Tylon Broughton is lying on his back at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, pleading with the respiratory therapist not to suction his lungs. There's no mistaking the fright in his eyes. He moves his lips, but he has no voice. A sound of disgust from the corner of his lips is the strongest protest he can lodge.

The therapist acknowledges the teen's objections, says she understands that it feels like his breath is being taken away. Tylon closes his eyes. He has no power. The therapist suctions his lungs.

Tylon "Ju Ju" Broughton is 15 years old. He was stabbed in his neck by a younger boy on Hartford's Capen Street Feb. 13 in a fight over a stolen car. The cut from the blade paralyzed him from his neck down. Doctors have told his family that, barring a major medical advance, Tylon will never regain the use of his limbs, never breathe without a ventilator. And there is no guarantee that he will learn how to speak again after having had a tracheotomy Wednesday.

His life changed forever just a few short blocks from the corner where his father was slain four years ago.

In a month of violence in which Hartford saw its first homicide of the year and, within 11 days, the homicides of two teenagers, Tylon's stabbing was the first violent crime and the one police have said the least about. Though his young life is in ruins, few know of his fate. There have been no vigils memorializing the end of his life as he knew it; no flickering candles marking the end of his dream to play professional basketball; no mention of him at rallies or forums about crime fighting in the city.

The brutal knifing has sent Tylon Broughton silently into oblivion.

Soaring and Sinking

His short life as a free-running boy was remarkable, though, for the emotional pain he endured, the violence that affected his family, the joy he took in sports and his recent success in school despite a life filled with mistakes and challenges.

Tylon was born to a girl who was just shy of 15. His grandmother, Mildred Mackey, took him on as her own, though his mother, Christie Mackey, lived with them most of the time. His family delighted in his athleticism. More than anything in the world, Tylon loved to play basketball. With his Allen Iverson sneakers tied on, he soared to the basket and more often than not, he made his shot.

Where he couldn't go on his feet, his trusty bicycle took him. Tylon, his grandmother will tell you, was riding a bike even before he was big enough to sit on the seat. When he was 2, he grabbed the handlebars, planted his feet on the pedals and tore off, his little body standing over the bicycle frame.

Tylon transferred among schools in Hartford several times. Through the years, he attended Clark, Sand and West Middle Elementary School. Then Fox Middle School and finally a move to East Hartford.

In the sprawling world of his family, Tylon developed ties with his mother and father, 12 brothers and sisters who were born to five mothers, and many aunts, cousins and grandparents.

What piece of his father Tylon had, he lost in 2001. That's when 30 year-old Marvin Keith Blunt was slain.

Blunt, the first homicide in Hartford that year, had had a conversation with a man in the parking lot of a convenience store on Garden Street just a few blocks from where Tylon was stabbed. As Blunt walked away, the man shot him at least three times. It was the end of a life fraught with challenges.

The youngest of 11 children, Blunt had served time in federal prison on drug trafficking charges and was on supervised home release when he was killed. His family said at the time that they thought he was on his way to a better, more spiritual life. Investigators said they believed Blunt was killed over a gambling debt.

Keith Blunt's death wasn't the first time Tylon experienced loss because of a murder in the family. On the wall at the foot of his hospital bed, his family has taped a picture of him and his younger sister, Keosha Blunt, smiling for the camera. The siblings share a father and they are especially close. In the summer of 1998, Keosha's mother, Sharone Tyson, was murdered, her body found in tobacco field in Windsor alongside her boyfriend, who had killed himself as well. She was 22. A few months later, to Tylon's dismay, Keosha moved out of state. "She didn't want to go, and he didn't want her to go," said Tylon's mother.

Tylon was sad when his sister moved, and his mother said he changed after his father was killed. His grades dropped and "he punched the walls and stuff like that," Christie Mackey said. "He had a lot of anger. I guess that's how he dealt with it."

Young Lives Ruined

Mackey says she isn't sure what sparked the stabbing of her son three weeks ago. Tylon was in the city visiting Mackey's aunt that weekend. Mackey lives in Hartford, too.

Assistant Police Chief Mark R. Pawlina said Tylon was involved in a dispute over a stolen car with another teenager when he was stabbed outside of 48 Capen St. in Hartford's North End. Coming the night before the first 2005 homicide and a flurry of shootings, Tylon's stabbing received little publicity. For more than a week, police did not release any details of the crime despite repeated requests for information.

The stabbing of Tylon - and the much higher-profile homicides of 14-year-old Reynaldo Batista and Lorenzo Morgan Rowe, a 15-year-old Weaver High School student, within 11 days have angered residents, who are clamoring for action by police and city officials.

To the police who have investigated the cases, Reynaldo, who has been memorialized by friends waving pictures of him holding a gun, Tylon and Tylon's attackers are "the lost boys. ... All the kids in that group were all in the same boat," Pawlina said. But Lorenzo, an honor student who was not involved in the street life, was the exception, Pawlina said.

Tylon's mother said her son's attacker is a 13-year-old who is known to the family. Mackey's roommate, Adrienne Lauray, who spends her days in the hospital, said Tylon's assailant turned himself in to police. "It was the safest thing for him to do," she said. "A bunch of people wanted revenge."

Pawlina confirmed that Tylon's attacker is a juvenile who has been taken into custody. The youth, whose name was not released because of his age, was expected to be referred to juvenile authorities in connection with Tylon's stabbing, Pawlina said.

The incidents should be a lesson to city youths, police and Tylon's family say.

"For the most part, kids who stay away from drugs and guns aren't going to have a problem. If that's the kind of life you have, you can become a victim pretty easily," Pawlina said.

Tylon's family members say they don't think he was getting into trouble recently, though Mildred Mackey, his grandmother, said he was on probation after serving time in detention as a result of a fight at East Hartford Middle School and the theft of a bicycle.

Tylon's principal, Helene Marchese, saw a different boy - a handsome charmer who was always polite to her and who flourished in small, highly structured classes.

He was referred to East Hartford's Transitional Education Program because he was not successful academically or behaviorally in the town's large middle school, Marchese said.

"Some of our kids get lost in that environment," she said. "He's had his bumps and grinds in life, making bad choices. But he was on the right path educationally in our school. He's a very likable kid. He's effervescent. He has a beautiful, big smile. He was a leader. Everybody wanted to be around him."

Tylon especially likes science and doing science projects, his mother said. He had gym first period every day, so he was never late to school, Marchese said.

But while he did well in the protective environs of his small school, Marchese said, she hears from some of his peers that when he was unsupervised after school, he was taking risks. "The lure of doing negative things outside of school when it's unstructured is really great for kids," she said.

Several of his friends have visited him and cried when they saw his condition.

"It should be an example for them," Christie Mackey said.

"If they don't stop doing what they're doing, they could end up like him," Lauray said.

There's a message in Tylon's fate for adults, too, said Tylon's aunt, Tonya Blunt. "Boys need a positive role model," she said. "Adults have to see that if they do the right thing, their kids will do the right thing."

Christie Mackie, 30, has a record of convictions including assault, larceny, robbery, escape and others. But she doesn't believe her activities affected her son. "It didn't," she said.

Tonya Blunt lays some of the blame of the emerging culture of youth violence on the video games youngsters play for hours at a time.

"If it's a shooting game, they're sitting there concentrating on how to shoot a gun. That's how pilots learn to fly, with simulations," she said. "The whole point of the game is to get your target. You get people who say, `Oh, my kid plays with that game and he's not violent.'" But other children are affected by the games, she said.

Loss And Grief

If she were to have a chance to confront her son's attacker, Christie Mackey said she wouldn't have anything to say. "He ruined his life just as he ruined Ju Ju's. That's something he will have to live with for the rest of his life - how he's making someone else suffer."

Lauray said she prays for the assailant. "Pretty much his life is over, too. In a different form and fashion, it's over."

Day and evening, members of Tylon's large and supportive family stand vigil in his room praying hard for a miracle. They see hope in the slightest movements. He seems to shrug his shoulders ever so slightly when he is extremely frustrated, for example. Could that be a harbinger of better things to come?

It's hard to know exactly what Tylon is thinking because he can't speak. He moves his lips, but his nurses and family have trouble understanding. After a few frustrating attempts, he tends to close his eyes in exhaustion and drift off to sleep. He'll undergo speech therapy classes, though there's no guarantee he'll learn the trick to speaking after a tracheotomy, his nurse said.

When he mouthed again and again that "the wings keep falling off," his family was able to pick up the words, but not the meaning. What wings did he mean? The wings of the colorful butterfly painted on the ceiling above him? An angel's wings? Tylon tells his family that his father has been speaking with him.

It's unclear what kind of educational or rehabilitative program is in Tylon's future.

Mildred Mackey sits quietly in the hospital visitors' room waiting to see her grandson after the tracheotomy. She's quiet.

Day and night, she said, she can think of nothing other than Tylon lying there in his hospital bed, wondering how he will get along in life.

Soon she will begin looking for another place for them to live - something on the first floor with a ramp for a wheelchair.

Tears are flowing less freely now. Christie Mackey said that at first, Tylon cried all the time. Now, she said, he's showing more frustration and anger and crying less. She's crying less, too, she said - trying to be strong for Tylon.

But Mildred is worried. As he languishes immobile in his bed, she wonders whether his spirit can survive.

"He's going to want to ride his bike and play basketball and he won't be able to. That's going to break him down," Mildred said. "I want him to live. But I don't know if he's lucky."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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