Murder of Eric Morse
|Time||6-7 PM (CDT)|
|Date||October 13, 1994|
|Location||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|Convictions||First degree murder|
The murder of Eric Morse occurred on the evening of October 13, 1994 in the Ida B. Wells Homes housing project on the south side of Chicago, Illinois. The killing was particularly notable for the young ages of the victim (5 years old) and the killers (10 and 11, respectively). Morse's murder drew national attention to the plight of children in Chicago's housing projects. The event occurred only a month after 11 year old Robert Sandifer fatally shot a 14 year old girl, and was then murdered by his fellow gang members.
Two of Eric's schoolmates, Jesse Rankins (then ten years old) and Tykeece Johnson (aged eleven), asked Morse to steal candy from a store. Morse refused. Later that day, Rankins and Johnson took Eric and his 8-year-old brother Derrick Lemon to a vacant apartment on the 14th floor of a tower in the Ida B. Wells housing projects. Rankins and Johnson dangled Eric out a window, resisting attempts by Derrick to intervene, and then dropped him. Eric Morse suffered massive head injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
Conviction and sentencing
The Illinois legislature enacted a law permitting 10-year-old children to be sentenced to prison. Rankins and Johnson were convicted of murder and were sentenced to the maximum term of 5 years. Rankins served an additional 9 years for sexually assaulting another inmate during a gang attack. After their initial releases, both men returned to prison repeatedly for other offenses.
Derrick Lemon, Morse's older brother who struggled to save Eric in the moments before he was dropped, received a lawsuit settlement in Eric's death for more than $1 million from the Chicago Housing Authority and a private management company. Lemon is now himself currently serving a 71-year murder sentence for the fatal shooting of his aunt's boyfriend at a barbecue in 2006.
Morse's death was cited nationally in speeches by politicians including President Bill Clinton and then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Henry Cisneros, then Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, called it a clinching fact in the federal government's decision to take over the troubled Chicago Housing Authority.
- Peggy Cassidy, "Boy Killers: Never Released From Truth", NBC 5 Chicago
- Susan Kuczka and Flynn McRoberts, "5-year-old was killed over candy", Chicago Tribune, 1994-10-15
- Gary Marx, "Eric Morse mom tells of search for son, sad outcome", Chicago Tribune, 2001-05-30
- Gary Marx, "5-year-old Eric Morse's killers: Growing up behind bars", Chicago Tribune, 2009-03-24
- Whet Moser, "The Derrick Lemon Timeline", Chicago Magazine, 2011-04-04
- Carl Schoettler, ""Remorse": Two children of the Chicago projects have made a remarkable documentary on the life and death of 5-year-old Eric Morse, killed for refusing to steal candy. Their work will be broadcast tomorrow on NPR.", The Baltimore Sun, 1996-03-20
- Brent Staples, "The Littlest Killers", The New York Times, 1996-02-06