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Young people killed by violence remembered; one mother shares her story

6:12 PM, Oct 14, 2013   |    comments
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  • Photo courtesy: Dena Westbrook

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Dena Westbrook laughed at some of the memories of her son, Thomas "TJ" Nunley.

"He could moonwalk better than Michael Jackson," she smiled. "He made people laugh and he liked to laugh too."

"I miss that laugh. He had a wonderful laugh," Westbrook said with tears in her eyes.

Family asking questions after son shot, killed near their home

Nunley was registered at FSCJ and aimed for a career in graphic design, she said.  However, that aspiration ended too soon. 

Nunley was murdered last year.

T.J., 19, went for a walk alone around his Fort Caroline neighborhood Dec. 9, 2012.

"He probably didn't think anything about taking a walk, looking at Christmas lights in this neighborhood in this area," Westbrook said.

He was found shot in the 7,000 block of Fort Caroline Road, about a mile from his home.

Posters still hang at the site on a fence, asking people for information about the case because it's still unsolved. Westbrook wonders if he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but she doesn't know.

"We have no idea," she said.  "We have no information at all. We just don't know and we want to know. We really do. We need to know."

A brick with TJ Nunley's name on it was placed at Terry Parker High School Monday. It's one of 20 pavers placed at the school this week to remember young people who were killed by violence in Jacksonville this past year or so.

Compassionate Families, Inc. organized the event and a candlelight vigil Monday evening. Members of the group have also lost loved ones to violence.

After the shooting, Westbrook made the hard decision to move Nunley's little sister out of the state for her safety.

"When you have surviving children, you want to protect them," Westbrook explained.

However, Nunley's sister used to go to Terry Parker High school and wrote about the pavers at the school on her Facebook page Monday. 

She said, "I used to walk over those bricks by the lunchroom and look at the bricks with random names and wonder, 'who are these people?' Now your name is there, and these names are people who've passed away.  Rest in peace, TJ. Sissy loves you."

Westbrook asks for anyone with information about her son's case to call Crimestoppers. 

A $15,000 reward is available for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who committed the crime.

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