Unknown Albert Billups-Wilson Killer- Illinois- 2011 Aug 16, 2021 0:32:08 GMT -5
Post by Scumhunter on Aug 16, 2021 0:32:08 GMT -5
(Above photo credit: pjstar.com)
PEORIA — This autumn should have been life-changing for Albert Billups-Wilson.
At 18, he should've had a bright future glimmering before him. Even as a boy — then known by loved ones as "Little Albert" — he talked of attending college, then perhaps going into law enforcement. His family didn't doubt his dreams: At age 8, he was upbeat and driven, with a love for learning. He had the tools and mind for success.
But he never got the chance. Little Albert didn't get to grow up.
One moment, the 8-year-old was asleep in his East Bluff home. The next, at the crack of gunshots, he was lifeless.
The boy lost his life in a drive-by shooting that devastated his family and shocked Peoria. Just hours after the slaying, city police and civic leaders pleaded for the public's help in seeking justice.
"We're going to attend the funeral of a future Barack Obama," said youth activist Carl Cannon. "Somebody took that away from him."
Added a somber Steve Settingsgaard, then the chief of police: "If the murder of an 8-year-old doesn't cause you to stop and take your breath, I don't know what will."
Police are still looking for help. A decade later, the killing remains unsolved — though not forgotten.
Sgt. Erin Barisch, an investigator with the department's violent crimes unit, recently began taking a renewed look at the case. Detectives have theorized multiple scenarios and suspects, but need witnesses to fill in some blanks.
"This is one of those cases where we know there are people out there who know something," he says. "We need someone to step up."
That would be a godsend to Alma Billups, the boy's paternal grandmother.
"Somebody needs to come forward and shed some light on why this baby isn't here," she says. "... This baby was hit by a bullet meant for someone else."
A bright future for a young boy
Albert Armond Billups-Wilson came into this world on Dec. 18, 2002. He was the son of Albert D. Billups and Latisha M. Wilson, who never married and went their separate ways shortly after his birth. The boy lived with his mother, though his father (as well as both sides of his extended family) remained active in his short life.
Grandma Billups often took him to church, which he enjoyed. During sermons, he wouldn't shy away from raising his hand to ask questions. Sometimes, if piqued by a particular scriptural quotation, he'd enthusiastically shout, "Amen!"
At Glen Oak Community Learning Center, Albert was known as a vibrant, smiling student who enjoyed classes, math above all. Always sparking with energy, he often asked teachers if he could help in the classroom. By the summer of 2011, he eagerly anticipated starting third grade.
Amid his positive spirit and scholastic zeal, his family did not doubt his plan to go to college, then become a policeman or fireman. He described big houses and sports cars he would buy, but not just for him.
"He talked about how he was going to take care of his grandma and his family," Grandma Billups says.
She turns and looks at photos of Albert as a young boy. She thinks about never getting to attend his eighth-grade graduation. Ditto for his high school graduation last spring.
She tries not to look back, but the calendar can be harsh. She sees August and cannot help but note its back-to-school call.
"He'd be going to college this year," she says quietly. "But that dream was shattered."
In August 2011, Albert lived with his mother, his 4-year-old brother and extended family in a two-story dwelling at 1031 E. Behrens Ave. On the night of Aug. 10, he went to sleep in a second-story room atop a mattress, along with his mother and his brother, police have said.
They were still asleep at 4:33 the next morning as a barrage of gunshots — upward of a dozen, according to witness accounts — fired from the street toward the house. One bullet burst through the exterior siding on the second floor, striking Albert in the head.
He died instantly.
Few tips after a tragic murder
Aside from describing the attack as an intentional drive-by shooting, police have never publicly discussed the crime scene in detail. However, Johnna Ingersoll, then the coroner of Peoria County, said a week after the murder, "It's amazing to me to understand how other persons in the bed were not physically injured."
Less than 40 minutes before the shooting, about a mile to the northwest, a burst of gunfire had hit a residence on East Willcox Avenue. Police suspected the shootings could have been related. But aside from projectiles at both sites, little other evidence remained. The shooter or shooters vanished into the wind.
Reaction roared loud and deep. Peoria police launched a massive investigation, along with a task force to combat street crime. Civic leaders held a news conference to beg the public for tips. Anti-violence rallies, some attended by relatives of the slain boy, called for peace and justice.
However, few tips trickled in. Detectives started connecting dots regarding possible suspects and motives. But they lacked accounts from witnesses — silenced by either loyalty or fear or both, police say — that could bolster the investigation and support criminal charges.
The community rallied with thousands of dollars to help defray costs of Little Albert's funeral, held a week after his death and just days before the school year he'd so eagerly anticipated. Instead of preparing his back-to-school supplies, he lay in a small, white casket, clad in a white suit and pink-and-white shirt, the same outfit he'd worn recently — and joyfully — at an uncle's wedding.
Mourners, many of them teachers and school staffers, included children wearing T-shirts with Albert's face on the front and the back bearing the message, "Enough Is Enough! Put the Guns Down and Increase the Peace."
Amid the solemn scene, Albert's mom could not be calmed or consoled. As a minister offered solace in his remarks to the gathering, she stormed out, shouting, "I'm not going to sit here while my baby's laying there."
In the street, her grief continued to erupt. "Why? Why? Why?" she roared, getting no answer in return.
A decade later, there still are no answers.
A new look at a stymied case
From time to time, Barisch and the violent crimes unit will take a new look at an unsolved murder. Recently, they decided to reexamine the files from the slaying of Albert Billups-Wilson.
"It's good to put fresh eyes on a case," he says.
Barisch, a 22-year veteran of the department, was working in the vice unit at the time of Albert's death. Still, like the rest of the force, as well as the entire city, he felt the crushing weight of the youth's murder.
"You've got an 8-year-old boy who doesn't have an enemy in the world," Barisch says. "And here he is, lying face down, not knowing what hit him.
"I don't want to take away anything from any other homicide. But this is an innocent child."
For that reason, Albert long has been forefront in the department's mind. As part of the Don't Shoot program — which Barisch ran — Albert served a key role posthumously, with the blessing of his survivors. High-risk offenders were brought in to hear multiple warnings about where their lives could end up if they were to persist with gun violence. Those meetings always started with two photos: one of a smiling Albert, the other of his gravestone.
"This is why we're here," Barisch would tell attendees, who usually sat stunned..
A decade ago, among other scenarios, investigators pondered whether the drive-by was part of an ongoing violent feud between two sets of brothers, one of whom had an apparent connection to the residence. Barisch says that theory is still in play, though police also have been investigating other possibilities.
To advance the case, none of the working theories depend on a technological breakthrough regarding crime-scene evidence, he said. Rather, detectives believe there are witnesses who can provide vital links that could solve the crime and lead to charges.
"There are certain elements of what happened that only certain people would know," Barisch says.
Police hope the passage of time — and, perhaps, the erosion of relationships or fears that kept witnesses silent in 2011 — might loosen lips.
"People shift toward different friendships," Barisch says. "People move away. Their allegiances change.
"... We're hoping this (case) weighs on their minds. We're hoping someone now could have children of their own, and they'd step up and do the right thing."
A public plea from a grieving grandma
Alma Billups hopes the shooter's family can see the tragedy through her eyes.
"Whoever did this had a family," she says, then points to a photo of grandson Albert. "He took this baby right here. That person's family has got to think about that. If you're wrong, you're wrong.
"If they're holding back information, they're giving him a right to shoot somebody else's house, to shoot another kid."
As for the notion of keeping quiet as part of a street code, she believes the shooter deserves no such consideration, not after killing a child.
"Don't take it out on the kids," she says. "They didn't do anything."
She pauses, then takes a look at a photo of a smiling Albert, just as she has done an uncountable number of times since Aug. 11, 2011. Sometimes, she smiles back. Every time, she feels pain.
She talks of good things in her life. She is helping raise Albert's brother, now 14, and hopes to find a way to put him through college.
Meanwhile, she says, Albert's death — though brutally heartbreaking — gave her new life.
"I know God," she says. "... My life isn't the same as it was. Things I did then, I don't do now."
She pauses again, then smiles. She talks of Albert and the next life.
"I'll see him again," she says, smile widening. "If I do right here, I'll see him again."
Tips regarding the killing of Albert Billups-Wilson can be called directly to Sgt. Erin Barisch at (309) 494-8379. Calls also can be made anonymously to Greater Peoria Area Crime Stoppers at (309) 673-9000 or through the website peoriaareacrimestoppers.com.
Thoughts? Ten years is way too long to wait for justice and it's time the idiot or idiots that tried to shoot and kill someanwhile else and wound up killing a sweet and innocent 8-year-old boy.
Look I'm not condoning not talking to the police, but I understand the distrust because of recent current events and fear of retaliation. However, you'd think just this one time there could be at least one person who goes "you know normally I wouldn't talk to you but I have to make an exception here." You'd also think that one person could potentially have a child themselves. I don't condone "Stop Snitching" but while I understand being generally apprehensive, for an 8 year old boy, someone needs to step up and do the right thing.
Admin Note: If you have any news-related updates on this case, please contact us here: amwfans.com/thread/1662/website-contact-form