Crackup on Lex Street

It was the biggest mass killing in the city's history. But that doesn't begin to tell the story of what happened that night in West Philadelphia.

By Solomon Jones
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 14 | Posted Feb. 14, 2001

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"What you have to realize is, this man would come home from work and just be family man," says his cousin Robin Barnes. "It was no sign, no nothing, that this man was living that other type of life."

That's why, when his wife came home from work on Dec. 29 to find detectives waiting at her home to tell her that her husband had died in a crack house, the shock was complete.

"You're not only dealing with the fact that you've lost someone that you cared about and that you respected," says his cousin Lisa Nelson. "Now you've got this other thing that you're dealing with, this other side of their personality ... That just doubles the grieving."

In the days following the shootings, the Mill Creek neighborhood in West Philadelphia was consumed with grief and anger.

There were whispers of revenge. Maynard, the dealer who had warned Porter not to get involved in the drug trade, was mentioned as a possible suspect.

He was questioned by police.

"Maynard admits that he hated George Porter," says a highly placed police source. "I guess for a lot of reasons. They got in fights before. They were neighbors."

But Maynard told the police, "I didn't like Porter, but I didn't kill him."

Police questioned Shawn Crews.

"Crews was with these people before this happened," the police source says. "And we know that Maynard may have been involved in it, too. It might have been these four people who did the shooting, but other people are involved in it, too--we think."

By Jan. 1, with no suspects in custody, the whispers of retaliation reached fever pitch. When the house next door to Shawn Crews' was firebombed, neighbors and police assumed the whispers had become reality.

"We thought it was related," says the police source. "There was a woman there. It was a domestic thing. We thought that because Crews lived next door, that they had made a mistake."

The firebombing wasn't related. Archibald Harvin, 42, admitted to police that he firebombed the house because he believed his estranged wife's neighbors were the cause of his marital troubles.

Doris Ewell, 72, who lived next door to the firebombed house, died shortly after the blaze, further heightening neighborhood tension.

By the time of the funerals for the Lex Street victims, the roiling fear, sadness and anger threatened to boil over on the entire community.

At CJ Helton's funeral on Jan. 4, hundreds of mourners walked quietly down the aisle of the Church of New Hope and Faith on 39th Street as police vehicles idled outside.

CJ's cousin's voice shook the rafters of the tiny church as he shut his eyes tightly and sang: "I miss you my buddy. I miss you my cousin."

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 14 of 14
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1. kimmi64 said... on Sep 3, 2008 at 12:22PM

“i could have been there too. i just happen to be at kirkbride rehab center in west philly at the time, not too far from the bottoms. i was that caught out, crack addict,hiv having prostitute that hung out at crack houses like that across the city. to think yhat i could have been laid out on that floor with the rest of them makes me feel unimagineably wonderful, being saved from that horrible death. whew”

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2. adeena said... on Dec 16, 2008 at 07:58AM

“as salaamu alaikum! masha'allah 4 the lives that weren't taken. Alhamdulillah”

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3. none yah said... on Feb 18, 2009 at 09:34AM

“yall dont know nothing about nothing...... ”

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4. Anonymous said... on Apr 28, 2009 at 02:19AM

“It is a damn shame those people lost their lives. I grew up playing ball at the Creek, playing football across from Sorrows and Sis Clara Mohammed, eating at Dwights and it makes me wanna cry for the families that lost loved ones. I've been to Iraq and Korea twice and its a damn shame that my neighborhood is still is disarray.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jul 13, 2009 at 10:45PM

“There will be a movie about this compelling story sometime next year, and I guarantee the City of Philadelphia is gonna have a question or two to answer. It was indeed a shame that four young men were wrongfully accused, which leads me to believe they just strong-armed and chose those who allegedly "confessed" to the killings.

Tragic.”

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6. kishia hanible said... on Aug 18, 2010 at 01:43AM

“i have read the book watch the dvd listen to the case the youngest one that got killed was my cuzin sam i don't know what went down that night but who ever did the shit will pay rather it be in life or death they will pay and i tell you their is no system that can do what god won't do and beleave me they will suffer....r.i.p to all of them.”

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7. Steve Wright said... on Jul 24, 2011 at 10:42PM

“I left Philly in 1979 for the service to get far away from the violents in the Mill Creek section of town. I returned for a visit to family and friends in June 2011 and in hope to see that this city has improved over the years. Philly is basically the same as I left it which is a shame, When I was growing up there it was alot of shooting and killing like it is now. Growing up on June Street between Parrish and Brown I feelsf or those who lost there life on Lex St. Rest in peace Petey I remember many games of basketball we played at the courts of Mill Creek playground. R.I.P. Petey”

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8. Anonymous said... on Sep 11, 2011 at 04:39PM

“IT SADINS ME TO KNOW I WENT TO SCHOOL WITH A LOT OF THE PPL OF LEX ST... PPL PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE STOP THE VILOENCE THE ELDERLY ARE OUT LIVING THE YOUNG. IT MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL.......SIMPLY CRAZY!!! WHATS HAPPEN TO LETS SHAKE & MAKE UP!!!!”

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9. Anonymous said... on Jan 17, 2012 at 04:06PM

“SOMETHING JUST TOLD ME TO LOOK UP THIS CRIME.. AND ITS CRAZY HOW IT HAS BEEN TEN YRS AND THINGS HAVENT GOTTEN ANY BETTER..... LIKE SERIOUSLY THE YOUNGEST PERSON WOULD HAVE ONLY BEEN 25 LIKE MYSELF. WE WENT TO JAMES RHODES TOGETHER... PPL STOP KILLING OUR FUTURE OFF.. YALL DONT UNDERSTAND THAT, THAT IS WHAT IS GOING ON....”

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10. sexylady46 said... on Jan 21, 2012 at 08:43PM

“This sad that these seven ppl was killed over a fucking car”

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11. DownthewayJ said... on May 24, 2012 at 09:09PM

“Grew up in west Philly. Lived on Lancaster Ave. Shame how we continue to kill each other. When will we learn? As-salaamu-alaikum”

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12. mike war said... on Jul 20, 2012 at 07:51AM

“R.I.P JIG

46 street for life! all was senseless

r.i.p buzzy”

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13. ryan said... on Aug 31, 2012 at 12:25PM

“He said, 'This is a press conference, not a community meeting,'" Long recalls. "How can you say that as the mayor. you elected that clown and look where it got you. black people dont get the big picture thats why when you walk into a prison its made up of 65percent blacks. i recall abraham lincoln freed the slaves and yet you vote for democrats the blacks. because they want free money!”

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14. Anonymous said... on Dec 4, 2013 at 06:34PM

“this story needs to be updated. at least 4 other men were charged. the 1st 4 were aquitted.”

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