The little boy in the Amber Alert flyer wasn’t smiling, but even with the pensive look, his bright eyes lit up the face of this handsome little child. I noticed immediately that he was wearing Lightning McQueen pajamas from the movie Cars. The movie had already been out for years, but was still a huge hit with little boys, and my own 21-month-old son was an absolute fanatic.
His mother claimed that he had been kidnapped when “three Hispanic men” who kidnapped her and the child, but then only let her go. She claimed that the men had given her trouble before, and that they wanted to intimidate her to leave her home in Maywood, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) because her family is black.
The thing is, it was all a lie. Bryeon’s mother randomly picked out men from booking photos to accuse of beating her and kidnapping the pair. The problem is, these were real people, and it took less than a day to clear all three due to the fact that one was in jail at the time, one turned himself in right away to clear his name, and the other was also easily cleared.
Then the truth started to dribble out. The boy was not, in fact, kidnapped. He had been beaten and left for dead after his mother and her boyfriend were frustrated and upset with his lack of progress being potty-trained. After being beaten, he lay on the floor for hours, struggling for life, but no one helped him, and he died there. After he died, the two adults put his body in a backpack and dumped his body from a bridge into the nearby Des Plaines river. They “cleaned up” the scene and coached Bryeon’s 4-year-old brother with the story that they were going to tell police.
It’s actually amazing how quickly the story fell apart. Had Bryeon been kidnapped, that speed may have saved his life. However, in this case, the child was dead to begin with.
The Maywood police had trouble finding Bryeon’s body and eventually gave up. A local man by the name of Robert Larson spent most of the next month looking for him, finally finding the body on May 14. Not that race should have anything to do with it, but Larson is white, and it didn’t matter to him that this was a black child he was looking for, just that this was a dear child who had his life cut short way too early, and maybe he could do something for the dignity of this child in death, even if he couldn’t do so in life. Larson certainly was going through some hard times himself, but over the next five years, he also made sure that he made it to every court hearing to stand up for Bryeon.
Now ten years have passed. Had he lived, Bryeon would be eleven, like my son is. He wouldn’t be so little anymore. There would be plenty of disagreements and fights along the way, but I can’t imagine doing anything so incredibly brutal and inhumane to a little boy like that, one’s own son or not. My son’s second birthday rolled around a couple of weeks before Bryeon’s would have. My son got to celebrate his, but Bryeon will always only have had that one birthday to celebrate. It’s so unbelievably sad.
Ten years later, there’s not a word of remembrance to be found anywhere else on the internet. With all that has happened with “Black Lives Matter” and the like, it’s striking that there seems to be so little attention given to cases where, even when the innocent child is black, the murderers are black as well. That the mother here tried to make herself out to be the victim of racism and blamed real people solely on their Hispanic appearance also seems to get lost in the mix, but she did it to garner sympathy and, to some degree, it worked. Truly, Larson – supposedly of a “privileged caste” – showed more love to her son in death than she did in life.
It’s been ten years, so these things are hard to find now, but I seem to remember some of the usual players going on about how difficult it is for black women and raising kids. Raising kids is incredibly hard, whether one is black, white, green, purple, or blue. It’s hard rich or poor. (Of course, being able to afford multiple nannies would probably help, but how many among us have that luxury?) Having a 4-year-old and 1-year-old at age 22 without the father(s) of the children around is excruciatingly hard. I don’t deny that. But that’s not racism, that’s the way the world has always been.
I don’t write to make this a racial story, though. I write it to remember a little boy whose short life did matter and still does.
Bryeon Christian Hunter – 9 July 2011-16 April 2013