Abused youth slain in Chicago

The Associated Press

CHICAGO His nickname was "Yummy." In a short life filled with abuse, he was prosecuted at least eight times for felonies before police sought him in a shooting spree that left one teen dead and two others wounded.

Officers found Robert Sandifur in a pool of blood beneath a railroad overpass Thursday. He was 11.

Robert's body, not yet five feet, not quite 70 pounds, lay about seven blocks from where police believe he opened fire Sunday at two different groups of boys, fatally hitting a 14-year-old girl, Shavon Dean, about 10 yards from her home.

Robert was suspected of having gang ties, and two gunshot wounds one to the back of the head and one to the top led police to suggest that fellow gang members had killed him. Authorities had a suspect in the boy's slaying.

Solemn neighbors gathered around the pool of Robert's blood in the South Side neighborhood of neat yards and well-kept homes. Adults showed young children the still-wet blood, as a warning.

"This is our problem," Valerie Jordan said. "The authorities and the system have failed. This is our child. The young lady that was killed, that was our baby."

In the last two years, Robert was prosecuted for felonies including robbery, car theft, arson and burglary. He was convicted twice and received probation, although one judge sentenced him to three weeks of detention for probation violations.

Robert was no stranger to the state's child welfare agency either.

A 1986 investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services found scars on Robert's face, cordlike marks on his abdomen and leg, and cigarette burns on his buttocks.

Robert was taken from his mother and placed with his grandmother, who nicknamed him "Yummy" for his love of cookies. Complaints that she was not supervising the boy led to his placement in a juvenile facility in 1993, but he ran away.

In July a judge returned Robert to his grandmother until the boy could be put in an out-of-state detention center that permits locking in or physically restraining children, both of which are forbidden in Illinois.

"This kid got missed a number of times in the system," said Dr. Elva Poznanski, chief of child psychiatry at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago. "It points out the fact that there is just simply not enough placement available for kids."

Poznanski said she's seeing more and more violence among young children, many the products of abusive homes.

"If you don't provide some way to raise these kids to be useful citizens you're going to spend a hell of a lot of money on the other end," she said.

Robert's grandmother, Janie Fields, became hysterical before she shut the door on reporters.

"I really can't say what I'm going through," she said. "But I know my baby's not here anymore and I can't say I love you Robert anymore."

Police Superintendent Matt Rodriguez said the boy's death should send a message to other youths that "the promises of the gangs ... are not promises of things that are good."

Standing in front of Robert's blood, Edward Jones said it was ironic that the boy died "thinking he'd found a family" with a gang.

As Jones talked, a cocky boy not older than 12 stepped in the blood as he walked toward the light at the end of the overpass.

Jones pointed to the boy.

"That's what it's all about," he said.

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