March 6, 2005
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB And TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writers
Tylon Broughton is lying on his back at Connecticut Children's
Medical Center, pleading with the respiratory therapist not
to suction his lungs. There's no mistaking the fright in his
eyes. He moves his lips, but he has no voice. A sound of disgust
from the corner of his lips is the strongest protest he can
The therapist acknowledges the teen's objections, says she understands
that it feels like his breath is being taken away. Tylon closes
his eyes. He has no power. The therapist suctions his lungs.
Tylon "Ju Ju" Broughton
is 15 years old. He was stabbed in his neck by a younger boy
on Hartford's Capen Street Feb. 13 in a fight over a stolen
car. The cut from the blade paralyzed him from his neck down.
Doctors have told his family that, barring a major medical
advance, Tylon will never regain the use of his limbs, never
breathe without a ventilator. And there is no guarantee that
he will learn how to speak again after having had a tracheotomy
His life changed forever just a few short blocks from the corner
where his father was slain four years ago.
In a month of violence in which Hartford saw its first homicide
of the year and, within 11 days, the homicides of two teenagers,
Tylon's stabbing was the first violent crime and the one police
have said the least about. Though his young life is in ruins,
few know of his fate. There have been no vigils memorializing
the end of his life as he knew it; no flickering candles marking
the end of his dream to play professional basketball; no mention
of him at rallies or forums about crime fighting in the city.
The brutal knifing has sent Tylon Broughton silently into oblivion.
Soaring and Sinking
His short life as a free-running boy was remarkable, though,
for the emotional pain he endured, the violence that affected
his family, the joy he took in sports and his recent success
in school despite a life filled with mistakes and challenges.
Tylon was born to a girl who was just shy of 15. His grandmother,
Mildred Mackey, took him on as her own, though his mother, Christie
Mackey, lived with them most of the time. His family delighted
in his athleticism. More than anything in the world, Tylon loved
to play basketball. With his Allen Iverson sneakers tied on,
he soared to the basket and more often than not, he made his
Where he couldn't go on his feet, his trusty bicycle took him.
Tylon, his grandmother will tell you, was riding a bike even
before he was big enough to sit on the seat. When he was 2, he
grabbed the handlebars, planted his feet on the pedals and tore
off, his little body standing over the bicycle frame.
Tylon transferred among schools in Hartford several times. Through
the years, he attended Clark, Sand and West Middle Elementary
School. Then Fox Middle School and finally a move to East Hartford.
In the sprawling world of his family, Tylon developed ties with
his mother and father, 12 brothers and sisters who were born
to five mothers, and many aunts, cousins and grandparents.
What piece of his father Tylon had, he lost in 2001. That's
when 30 year-old Marvin Keith Blunt was slain.
Blunt, the first homicide in Hartford that year, had had a conversation
with a man in the parking lot of a convenience store on Garden
Street just a few blocks from where Tylon was stabbed. As Blunt
walked away, the man shot him at least three times. It was the
end of a life fraught with challenges.
The youngest of 11 children, Blunt had served time in federal
prison on drug trafficking charges and was on supervised home
release when he was killed. His family said at the time that
they thought he was on his way to a better, more spiritual life.
Investigators said they believed Blunt was killed over a gambling
Keith Blunt's death wasn't
the first time Tylon experienced loss because of a murder in
the family. On the wall at the foot of his hospital bed, his
family has taped a picture of him and his younger sister, Keosha
Blunt, smiling for the camera. The siblings share a father
and they are especially close. In the summer of 1998, Keosha's
mother, Sharone Tyson, was murdered, her body found in tobacco
field in Windsor alongside her boyfriend, who had killed himself
as well. She was 22. A few months later, to Tylon's dismay,
Keosha moved out of state. "She didn't
want to go, and he didn't want her to go," said Tylon's
Tylon was sad when his sister
moved, and his mother said he changed after his father was
killed. His grades dropped and "he
punched the walls and stuff like that," Christie Mackey
said. "He had a lot of anger. I guess that's how he dealt
Young Lives Ruined
Mackey says she isn't sure what sparked the stabbing of her
son three weeks ago. Tylon was in the city visiting Mackey's
aunt that weekend. Mackey lives in Hartford, too.
Assistant Police Chief Mark R. Pawlina said Tylon was involved
in a dispute over a stolen car with another teenager when he
was stabbed outside of 48 Capen St. in Hartford's North End.
Coming the night before the first 2005 homicide and a flurry
of shootings, Tylon's stabbing received little publicity. For
more than a week, police did not release any details of the crime
despite repeated requests for information.
The stabbing of Tylon - and the much higher-profile homicides
of 14-year-old Reynaldo Batista and Lorenzo Morgan Rowe, a 15-year-old
Weaver High School student, within 11 days have angered residents,
who are clamoring for action by police and city officials.
To the police who have investigated
the cases, Reynaldo, who has been memorialized by friends waving
pictures of him holding a gun, Tylon and Tylon's attackers
are "the lost boys. ...
All the kids in that group were all in the same boat," Pawlina
said. But Lorenzo, an honor student who was not involved in the
street life, was the exception, Pawlina said.
Tylon's mother said her son's
attacker is a 13-year-old who is known to the family. Mackey's
roommate, Adrienne Lauray, who spends her days in the hospital,
said Tylon's assailant turned himself in to police. "It was the safest thing for him to
do," she said. "A bunch of people wanted revenge."
Pawlina confirmed that Tylon's attacker is a juvenile who has
been taken into custody. The youth, whose name was not released
because of his age, was expected to be referred to juvenile authorities
in connection with Tylon's stabbing, Pawlina said.
The incidents should be a lesson to city youths, police and
Tylon's family say.
"For the most part, kids who stay away from drugs and guns
aren't going to have a problem. If that's the kind of life you
have, you can become a victim pretty easily," Pawlina said.
Tylon's family members say they don't think he was getting into
trouble recently, though Mildred Mackey, his grandmother, said
he was on probation after serving time in detention as a result
of a fight at East Hartford Middle School and the theft of a
Tylon's principal, Helene Marchese, saw a different boy - a
handsome charmer who was always polite to her and who flourished
in small, highly structured classes.
He was referred to East Hartford's Transitional Education Program
because he was not successful academically or behaviorally in
the town's large middle school, Marchese said.
"Some of our kids get lost in that environment," she
said. "He's had his bumps and grinds in life, making bad
choices. But he was on the right path educationally in our school.
He's a very likable kid. He's effervescent. He has a beautiful,
big smile. He was a leader. Everybody wanted to be around him."
Tylon especially likes science and doing science projects, his
mother said. He had gym first period every day, so he was never
late to school, Marchese said.
But while he did well in the
protective environs of his small school, Marchese said, she
hears from some of his peers that when he was unsupervised
after school, he was taking risks. "The
lure of doing negative things outside of school when it's unstructured
is really great for kids," she said.
Several of his friends have visited him and cried when they
saw his condition.
"It should be an example for them," Christie
"If they don't stop doing what they're doing, they could
end up like him," Lauray said.
There's a message in Tylon's
fate for adults, too, said Tylon's aunt, Tonya Blunt. "Boys need a positive role model," she
said. "Adults have to see that if they do the right thing,
their kids will do the right thing."
Christie Mackie, 30, has a
record of convictions including assault, larceny, robbery,
escape and others. But she doesn't believe her activities affected
her son. "It didn't," she said.
Tonya Blunt lays some of the blame of the emerging culture of
youth violence on the video games youngsters play for hours at
"If it's a shooting game, they're sitting there concentrating
on how to shoot a gun. That's how pilots learn to fly, with simulations," she
said. "The whole point of the game is to get your target.
You get people who say, `Oh, my kid plays with that game and
he's not violent.'" But other children are affected by the
games, she said.
Loss And Grief
If she were to have a chance
to confront her son's attacker, Christie Mackey said she wouldn't
have anything to say. "He
ruined his life just as he ruined Ju Ju's. That's something he
will have to live with for the rest of his life - how he's making
someone else suffer."
Lauray said she prays for
the assailant. "Pretty much his
life is over, too. In a different form and fashion, it's over."
Day and evening, members of Tylon's large and supportive family
stand vigil in his room praying hard for a miracle. They see
hope in the slightest movements. He seems to shrug his shoulders
ever so slightly when he is extremely frustrated, for example.
Could that be a harbinger of better things to come?
It's hard to know exactly what Tylon is thinking because he
can't speak. He moves his lips, but his nurses and family have
trouble understanding. After a few frustrating attempts, he tends
to close his eyes in exhaustion and drift off to sleep. He'll
undergo speech therapy classes, though there's no guarantee he'll
learn the trick to speaking after a tracheotomy, his nurse said.
When he mouthed again and
again that "the wings keep falling
off," his family was able to pick up the words, but not
the meaning. What wings did he mean? The wings of the colorful
butterfly painted on the ceiling above him? An angel's wings?
Tylon tells his family that his father has been speaking with
It's unclear what kind of educational or rehabilitative program
is in Tylon's future.
Mildred Mackey sits quietly in the hospital visitors' room waiting
to see her grandson after the tracheotomy. She's quiet.
Day and night, she said, she can think of nothing other than
Tylon lying there in his hospital bed, wondering how he will
get along in life.
Soon she will begin looking for another place for them to live
- something on the first floor with a ramp for a wheelchair.
Tears are flowing less freely now. Christie Mackey said that
at first, Tylon cried all the time. Now, she said, he's showing
more frustration and anger and crying less. She's crying less,
too, she said - trying to be strong for Tylon.
But Mildred is worried. As he languishes immobile in his bed,
she wonders whether his spirit can survive.
"He's going to want to ride his bike and play basketball
and he won't be able to. That's going to break him down," Mildred
said. "I want him to live. But I don't know if he's lucky."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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