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“Life is Real” is the motto Tiffany Bowie, who wears a necklace with her son’s picture on it, keeps with her as a reminder of her son. She thought that by moving her son from the city of Pittsburgh to the family oriented community of Aliquippa, she would be giving him a better life and an opportunity to excel at football, a sport he enjoyed. Never did she expect she would face the greatest loss of her life—her 18-year-old son.
|MOTHERS’ LOVE—Tiffany Bowie holds the picture of her late son, Robert M. Hall Jr. He was tragically gunned down in Aliquippa on Dec. 28, 2010. (Photo by Rossano Stewart)
Robert Melvin Hall Jr., Bowie’s son had gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd. He had been shot at several times, but never hit, until one night. On Dec. 28, 2010, Hall was gunned down while riding with friends. And on Jan. 5, 2011, Bowie said her final goodbye to her only son. Now, almost two years later, the three suspects thought to have been responsible are walking away free and Bowie feels as if she has been robbed of any justice.
“I have no son and no justice,” Bowie said. “The loss of a child is the ultimate loss. He came from me and you cannot mend that hurt.”
On the night of Dec. 28, 2010, Bowie said Hall had been riding around town with friends when an SUV containing three males, Dejaun Hill, Henry Owensby and Deontae Nash, had opened fire on the vehicle her son was in. She said a bullet travel through the taillight, through the trunk and backseat, striking Hall in the heart. Hall’s body was later found in the parking lot of the Valley Terrace Apartment complex in Aliquippa and was pronounced dead at the scene. According to Bowie, earlier that night an SUV of a rival gang had been shot at and the vehicle Hall was mistaken as the one seen leaving the scene.
Police later charged Hill, the alleged shooter, and Owensby, the driver, with homicide and conspiracy to commit homicide. Nash was never charged. Bowie said she was told he had made a deal to receive immunity for his testimony, but Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said there was no deal and that Nash was not charged because he was a passenger in the vehicle and considered to be a witness.
Hill was tried and on June 7, 2012, his trial ended in a mistrial because a Beaver County detective had alluded to Hill’s prior convictions, which is typically not allowed in a criminal trial. He was retried two months later and on Aug. 24 was acquitted of all charges due to lack of evidence. Bowie said she received a call days later saying charges against Owensby, who is serving time in Ohio on unrelated charges, would also be dropped.
Berosh said the district attorney plans to drop charges against Owensby because the evidence would be the same and the person they tried was believed to have been the shooter.
“We wouldn’t have tried the case if we did not feel there was merit to it. I may disagree with the jury’s verdict, but I have to respect it,” Berosh said.
“(With) the trial and the outcome, I felt like he (Hall) died all over again. My son was far from innocent, but he didn’t deserve this,” Bowie said. “You are supposed to forgive and I am working on that. If I do forgive, I’ll never forget.”
Not only does Bowie feel her son’s death has received no justice, but now she is worried about retaliation, not only against the witnesses at the trial, but against the suspects. “I don’t want anyone to take it into their hands because they are ‘reppin’ my son.”
Bowie said she has asked to meet with the three men, but has not been granted that wish. She said if she were face-to-face with them, she would say, “Turn your life around, you have a second chance.”
Bowie, who also has a daughter, said her life has changed considerably since she lost her son. She said she goes to counseling and is “withdrawn and protective over my daughter. I’m trying to keep it together for her, without her I don’t know where I’d be. I tell people to appreciate what you have.” She added it’s unbelievable how many of her friends have lost their children. “We used to get together for a high school reunion, now it’s a lost but not forgotten reunion.”
“Life is real” is the phrase her son used to post on his Facebook, Bowie said in honor of her son; she is working on starting a clothing line using that slogan.
In regards to the Black-on-Black violence, she says, “They are killing us. We’re dying off. I see my daughter marrying a White man, and not that it’s a problem, but because they (young Black men) are dying off. Kids do not understand what you’re putting your parents through. It’s so easy to buy a gun on the street; it’s as easy as asking for a tissue or a light. We gotta start coming together.”
When asked what is needed to address the violence in the Black community Bowie said she would like public officials offer better protection and while people are locked up, offer more education programs. But most importantly, Bowie said people need to speak up and come forward with information. “It could be your family member and you would want someone to come forward.”
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