A 5-year old boy, a neverending tragedy

The World

It started with a 5-year-old boy who had the decency to do the right thing. It is about to end with tragedy layered upon endless tragedy. Eric Morse, who was 5 in 1994, was asked by some older boys in his Chicago neighborhood to steal candy for them. He said no. He didn't want to steal. The older boys, who were 10 and 11 at the time, determined that Eric, who was growing up in a home marked by frequent parental absence, must be punished for his honesty. The 10-year-old, according to court documents, had an IQ that was below 60. The 11-year-old had an IQ of 76. They had led wretched lives of neglect and squalor. On October 13, 1994, the two older boys encountered Eric and Eric's older brother, Derrick Lemon, who was 8.

They asked Eric and Derrick if they would like to see a clubhouse. Eric and Derrick agreed to follow the older boys. The older boys led them to an abandoned apartment on the 14th floor of the Ida B. Wells housing project, a high-rise building that had the reputation of being a home base for drug dealers. They led Eric and Derrick into the empty apartment. It is where they would execute Eric. The older boys lifted Eric up and dangled him from an open window. His 8-year-old brother would testify later that he was able to grab Eric's arm and pull him back in. But then, Derrick testified, the two older boys ordered Eric to look out of a second window. If he refused, they said, they would strike him in the head with a brick. Eric, afraid, complied. The older boys then picked the 5-year-old up and dangled him out the second window. Again, his 8-year-old brother tried desperately to save him. He grabbed on to one of Eric's arms.

But, Derrick would testify, one of the older boys, seeing that he was trying to rescue his little brother, bit the hand with which he was holding Eric. With the boy's teeth sinking painfully into the flesh of his hand, he had to let go. Eric's body dropped 14 stories. Derrick would later testify that he ran down all 14 flights of stairs. He believed, he said, that he might be able to get to the bottom in time to catch his brother.


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