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Local News

For Peoria women whose children were murdered, Mother's Day is anything but joyful

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Hannah Alani
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WCBU
(From left to right): Mothers Kim Purdy, Yolanda Wallace, Sherrce McGhee, and Tracy Sumrell all lost their children to homicide in Peoria.

This Sunday marks a day of celebration for many Peoria moms.

But in a city experiencing record-breaking homicide statistics, there are countless women for whom this weekend is anything but joyful.

WCBU hosted a roundtable conversation between a group of Peoria women whose children and grandchildren were killed in recent years. The women shared stories about their lost loved ones, and reflected on what Mother's Day means to them.

Gathered were Sherrce McGhee, Kim Purdy, Diane Grimes, Tracy Sumrell, and Yolanda Wallace.

Wallace, who lost her son Jon Buckley to gun violence in 2006, said she doesn't celebrate Mother's Day.

"I haven't celebrated Mother's Day or any holidays for the past five, six years," she said. "But when I did, it was ... hard to go on."

McGhee lost her daughter Charee Alexander at the age of 19. Charee was fatally stabbed in a park. She left behind a daughter, who McGhee is now raising; the father of Charee's daughter was killed in a shooting.

"We have other kids so we can't say, 'We can't celebrate Mother's Day,' and take that from them, but I can say it's very difficult," she said. "I have other kids that still need their mother."

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Hannah Alani
/
WCBU
Sherrce McGhee wears a T-shirt in honor of her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend. Both were killed in Peoria, leaving behind a baby girl.

This Sunday marks the first Mother's Day since Purdy lost her son. Last summer over Fourth of July weekend, Michael Anthony Charles Johnson II, 19, was shot and killed.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think about him," she said. "I'll never be in Peoria on the Fourth of July or celebrate it. Because that was his favorite holiday."

Grimes was Johnson's paternal grandmother.

"To know that your loved one is gone ... the only thing that will help you get through is to know where he's at," she said. "And I know he's in Heaven."

Kim Purdy T-shirt.jpg
Hannah Alani
/
WCBU
Kim Purdy wears a T-shirt in memory of her son Michael, who was shot and killed during 4th of July weekend in 2021.

Tracy Sumrell's son Alijah Sumrell was 23 when he was shot and killed on Jan. 29, 2019. He was an active member of the U.S. Army. Her son's killer has not yet been found.

"I love him and I miss him so much. And I just want justice for him, because he did not deserve to be killed. He was killed insensibly."

Sumrell said her first Mother's Day in 2019 was impossible.

"I literally had to leave town, get me a room and just be by myself," she said. "I didn't feel like I deserved to celebrate Mother's Day. To even get a Mother's Day gift was too much for me."

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Hannah Alani
/
WCBU
Mother Tracy Sumrell holds a "Who Killed Me?" poster for her son. Alijah Sumrell was shot and killed Jan. 29, 2019.

Sumrell has two other children, who are 29 and 30. She said she hugs them close every chance she gets.

"If they were all at home now, that'd be fine with me. People always say, 'Oh at 18, they gotta get out' ... I could be 100 and they could be 70 and they could still be at home with me. That's how I feel about it right now," she said. "Mothers ... please, continue to parent your kids. I don't care how old they get.

Once a month Wallace hosts a survivor's grief group. She also tends to the Jon Buckley Memorial Garden, which she founded in 2012 in her son's honor.

Lastly, this weekend, she is helping to coordinate a gun buy back event.

Wallace said she is always looking for mothers and family members to connect with — as well as volunteers in the community who may like to help put up "Who Killed Me?" flyers around town.

For more information and to get in touch with Wallace, visit the garden's Facebook page.

group.jpg
Hannah Alani
/
WCBU
(From left to right): Mothers Kim Purdy, Yolanda Wallace, Sherrce McGhee, and Tracy Sumrell all lost their children to homicide in Peoria.
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