Mourners erupt in grief at funeral for slain 3-year-old

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. -- A funeral to say goodbye to a murdered 3-year-old collapsed into pushing and shouting when someone in the pews said the boy's sister was partly at fault in his death.

Amir Beeks died a day after he was beaten Wednesday with a baseball bat, sexually assaulted and dumped face-down in a drainage ditch. Police said his killer was a 10-year-old who lured him from a library.

The victim's sister, 18-year-old Krystal Singleton, was standing before the boy's open casket Monday, sobbing softly. Singleton, who had accompanied her brother the day he was beaten to death, began screaming, "I was right there! I was right there! I was following him! He was right there!"

Then she touched Amir's body, saying, "Please move, move!" She screamed and cried and refused to leave the casket until three men picked her up and carried her from the First Presbyterian Church of Avenel.

As they left, an unidentified person called out, "It was your fault, too."

With that, mourners jumped out of their seats and rushed toward the casket, pushing and shouting as a minister pleaded for calm.

"This is not the time or the place," he admonished.

Once the service began, clergy and family friends said Singleton was not at fault.

The Rev. William Ingram, who presided over the funeral, looked directly at Singleton when he told the congregation, "We are not here to assign blame; we are here to express love."

Several mourners expressed pity for Singleton.

"It's not Krystal's fault," said Beverly Rossi, a neighbor of Amir's adoptive parents, Rosalyn Singleton and Jeffrey Hanckerson. "I don't blame her. It's just a tragedy."

Other clergy who spoke at the service urged mourners to focus on how Beeks lived, not how he died.

"This little boy, on the day he was in that library, was there to have fun and learn with his little inquisitive mind, surrounded by good people," said the Rev. Bill Johnson.

The name of the suspect has not been released by authorities, although the boy is widely known in the community as a bully who threw rocks, picked fights and vandalized cars and homes. He is charged with murder, felony murder, kidnapping, illegal weapons possession and aggravated sexual assault.

"My heart goes out to the family of that boy ... They have to be hurting, too. This has destroyed a lot of families." Rossi said.

The Star-Ledger of Newark reported Tuesday that the 10-year-old boy's father says a teacher from the school was supposed to be supervising him at the time of the attack.

The district had arranged daily lessons at the Henry Inman Library in Colonia since the 10-year-old was expelled from fourth grade for disruptive behavior in January, the father said. The paper did not identify the father, who is legally blind, because authorities did not release the boy's name.

The paper said a Middlesex County law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the teacher released the boy early when he grew uncooperative with a lesson. Authorities said the teacher was allowed to discharge the boy early and was not required to take him home, The Star-Ledger reported.

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