After Killing, Sister Holds Family Together

Family PhotoTywan was at a cook-out at a friend’s house. He walked to the mini-mart on Dixwell Avenue for a cigarette. He ran into someone he knew—and ended up shot at least four times.

That’s the story Tamara Murphy has pieced together so far about how her younger brother Tywan Turner (pictured at another sister’s high school graduation) died Saturday night.

She’d been raising Murphy, who was 19, since their mother died of lung cancer five years ago.

In between working two full-time jobs, Murphy has been raising a whole household of children and siblings on her own. Some have ended up in trouble. Some have excelled at school and in sports. Tywan, she said, was on the straight path.

Police are piecing together what happened at 7:58 p.m. Saturday at the mini-mart. It was the second homicide that day, the third in three days, the fifth in eight days. All involving black victims.

Sgt. Herb Johnson said Monday police “are following up leads” on Turner’s killing. “We’re running them as we speak,” he said.

Johnson also confirmed what Tamara Murphy said: that Tywan—unlike some other people shot in this year’s spate of homicides in the African-American community—did not appear to be someone in trouble with the law.

Murphy, who’s 34, used the present tense Monday morning to refer to her younger brother, even as she scrambled to take charge of arrangements now that Tywan no longer “is.”

She spoke upon returning to her Hamden home after working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift as a health information tech at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She has a second full-time job as a case manager working with the disabled at Marrakech.

Meanwhile, she’s raising Tywan’s younger brother as well as two of her own children, on her own.

Monday’s conversation was interrupted by a phone call from jail. One of her sons, who’s locked up, was on the line. She told him she was arranging with corrections officials for him to have a private viewing of Tywan, with whom he was close.

“You hang in there, OK?” Murphy told him. “You be strong. Stay focused. We don’t need no tickets; you’re doing good. Don’t be angry and do nothing foolish. We love you; we’re going through a transition here.”

Paul Bass PhotoAfter the interview Murphy (pictured) planned to work on the funeral arrangements. She was asked how she keeps her composure.

“I don’t have a choice. It’s something that has to be done,” she said. “I’m the oldest.”

That was the reason she went to probate court and became legal guardian of three younger siblings when her mom died in 2005, she said. That’s why she gets involved in her kids’ schools. Someone has to do it.

“I try. I try. I do,” Murphy said. “I try to provide structure. As young men, they need that. They think I’m hard.”

Tywan’s transition was a bit rocky after their mother died, according to Murphy. He struggled in his first year at school in Hamden after he came to live with her. He was left back in ninth grade; she got him placed in an alternative high school program, where he was still enrolled and earning honors at the time of his death, she said. He had been active in youth programs, such as LEAP.

Tywan—better known by his nicknames “Sukie” and “Frankie”—was at a cook-out Saturday night back on the block where they all grew up, by Henry and Townsend in Dixwell.

He ran into the person he knew outside the entrance to the mart. They got into an argument. The man fired at least four bullets into Tywan. Tywan fell to the ground, according to his sister; he struggled back up, staggered into the store, then collapsed on the floor.

A police officer happened to be in a parking lot at the time. The shooter escaped. Tywan was transported to the hospital, where he died.

At the time, Murphy was in Wallingford, attending her 13-year-old son James’ AAU basketball game. Her younger brother Jermaine, who’s 15 and doing well at a high school in Northford, runs track in the same league, she said. He lives with her, too. (Pictured at the bottom of the story are some of the trophies the two boys have won, along with dance trophies earned by Murphy’s 6-year-old daughter Jada.)

A friend phoned Murphy at the ball game.

“You need to come home,” the friend said.

“What’s wrong?” Murphy asked.

“You need to come home.” The friend didn’t want to say why.

Then Jermaine’s phone started ringing. Friends told him why. They all rushed home.

And now, as usual, Murphy is picking up the pieces, trying to keep the family strong and intact.

She was asked what she wanted to tell people who read about her family’s story.

“Sometimes when tragedy happens, they say, ‘Where are the parents?’” she responded. “I’m the legal guardian. I’m their sister. I’m active in their lives. I’m active in their school. Trust me—I have exhausted resources for all of them.

“I did all I can do. Five years ago, we were burying my mother. If I didn’t step in the gaps, where would they be?”

New Haven has had 11 homicides so far in 2010; it had 13 in all of last year.

All 11 victims have been black.

Police ask anyone with information about this shooting, or other recent cases, to contact them at 203-946-6296.

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posted by: Across town on April 12, 2010  1:26pm

After reading this, I have tremendous respect for Ms. Murphy. My thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family.

posted by: Baby Taz on April 12, 2010  1:41pm


posted by: ec on April 12, 2010  3:09pm


posted by: anon on April 12, 2010  3:52pm

This is really a tragedy. However, just adding more cop cars won’t help.  You need to focus on the environment in these areas, which is currently filled with trash, broken glass, motorcycle noise, and worst of all, constantly speeding, excruciatingly loud traffic.  Has anyone in City Hall ever spent a few hours walking up and down Dixwell Avenue to see what it is actually like to be there?

How about making all those in-street pedestrian median signs permanent, with concrete barricades and poles like they use everywhere in the rest of the world, and installing them throughout the city.  Then you could free up some of the traffic cops to focus on gun sweeps and neighborhood policing.  We’re not talking about cops who actually enforce traffic, since New Haven has very few of those and they should be kept since they often find guns and drugs… we’re talking about the cops who are needed to go out and write crash reports all day long, all at taxpayer expense.  You’ll also have more people out walking, which means more people watching the street, able to stop crime (or at least witness the criminals), and also more people to support small businesses and local jobs instead of shopping at Wal-Mart. 

Slow down the speeders and make it possible for people to walk in our city, and you’ll have many more resources for fighting crime.  The cities that have in-street pedestrian barricades all have much lower crime rates than New Haven.

posted by: Stevie F. on April 12, 2010  4:55pm

My condolences go out to you and your family, Tamara, and may god help you guy in your time of sorrow. Everyone that grew up with you know how you had to take care of your family when Joanne past and you did a wonderful job. May God bless you and family.

posted by: open your eyes new haven on April 12, 2010  5:26pm

this is a sad incident, but anyone in the city who honostly believes focusing on pedestrian walks, broken glass, and vehicular noise is going to stop the violent crime is obviously slow..heres a lesson in what police describe as the triangle of crime, dope is traded for guns, guns protect the dealers who sell the dope to get the guns.  If there was more focus on violent crime, and more help from the community backing the police who are attempting to stop violence, the city would be in a better place..if the parents would stop blameing the police for chasing their children, and instead ask, hmmmmm why is my son/daughter running from the police, carrying guns, selling dope, robbing people the city would improve ten fold…..TAKE RESPONDIBILITY FOR YOUR OFF SPRING

posted by: MR on April 12, 2010  5:34pm

This woman is an absolute hero (2 full time jobs, followup at the school level on all the kids, the selfless act of taking in her minor siblings, etc.)...and all that love and hard work still wasn’t enough to protect this kid from his own neighborhood.  Just maddening.

posted by: Hood Rebel on April 12, 2010  6:04pm

Paul thanks for showing the human side of this story. It is frustrating to read some of the overly simplistic comments made by folks who do not know the real and often unknown tragedies.

posted by: Alderman Greg Morehead on April 12, 2010  8:42pm

The entire Board of Aldermen extends our deepest sympathies not only to Ms. Murphy’s family, but to all of the families that have suffered a loss this year. 
As elected officials, we don’t have all of the answers, and we work together with the community to come up with solutions to problems.  I will be having a community meeting on this Thurs, 6:30pm at Varick Church on Dixwell/Charles St to address these shootings and possibly come up with viable solutions with the help of the community.  Hope to see you there.

posted by: Rachiepy on April 12, 2010  10:03pm

Is the family taking donations?  I wish Ms. Murphy had the ability to take some time off.

posted by: from derby on April 12, 2010  11:24pm

i dont kno tywan or the sister but im so happy to hear dat she took her moms place..& doin her best at raisin her kids and brothers! keep it up cuz u r a strong black woman!! may god bless your family! rip mr turner..

posted by: Michaelangelo on April 13, 2010  7:51am

I agree with Hood Rebel, an often forgotten piece of the story that needs to be heard. Thoughts and prayers to this family (and all the others).

Hopefully this “stop snitchin” code ends so this family and all the others can get some closure. Sad.

posted by: Calvin Haley on April 13, 2010  9:08am

Our Prayers go out for Ms Murphy and her family. Looseing loved ones is never easy, and me and my family pray that you and your family continue to stay strong

posted by: Melissa on April 13, 2010  9:23am

This is truly a tragic story - I’ve never met this family but I can truly sympathize, I went through losing my parent young, very young, but I didn’t have a sister like you Tamara - GOD BLESS YOU, as I see he has with compassion, caring, love, and decency, in HIS world you will be handsomely rewarded. Every last one of those kids are so lucky to have you. You stay strong, and when you don’t feel that way your mother will guide you from heaven - put her wings of purity over you. Even though Twan is not here physically, he knows… he knows you love him and were there for him, you did not fail him, this horrible world did.
Please - if they do any type of fundraising for you and your family have WTNH post it here.. your family is the exact type that deserve the support of your community. As they say - it takes a village to raise one child, however, on your own you’re doing fantastic. Hold onto that and be proud of the young men and women you are raising as I know you are!

posted by: Kmr on April 13, 2010  9:42am

My prayers are with you.

posted by: felicia on April 13, 2010  10:45am


posted by: G. Willis on April 13, 2010  11:54am

I was one of Tywan’s teachers and feel fortunate to have worked with this fine young man. The death of his mother was something he still struggled with but thanks to his wonderful sister,Tamara, who tried to “fill in the gaps”, he was working hard to overcome his loss. If you are lucky, there will be people in your life that you will always remember because of their inner strength and outward tenderness. Tywan was one of these people.

posted by: J Pearce on April 13, 2010  12:57pm

I was one of Tywan’s teachers.  He will forever be remembered as a likable, funny and respectful young man.  He will be missed by all the circles of people he touched….not only his immediate family who cared for him deeply, but his extended family of friends, relatives and adults.

My life is better for having had Tywan in it, and I thank him and his family for being open to us and letting us into his life.  He is very special and will always have a place in our hearts and in our memories.

posted by: A Parent on April 13, 2010  1:42pm

Hearing this story filled my eyes up with tears.
It’s a shame the good kids can’t even walk around in certain parts of the city. Someone saw this and a lot of people know who killed him please help the police solve this. This could of been your family ,son,father,brother.
Over what did this young man have to die for.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on April 13, 2010  1:51pm

open your eyes new haven,
I have a feeling you didn’t actually read anon’s post, because all that the commenter points out is that with proper infrastructure investments, we can free up more police to do effective police work instead of wasting resources addressing certain road problems that can easily be solved by better design. Additionally, proper urban design contributes to lower crime through various means including more active streets that deter crimes of opportunity, more economic growth contributing to more jobs and less property crime, etc.
This is a very modest proposal that makes a ton of sense and once you get over your bias you can see how universally acceptable this should be.

posted by: D. Holman on April 13, 2010  3:05pm

I am another of Tywan’s teachers. Ty was a young man who truly enjoyed his education. My History class will not be the same without his enthusiasm and zeal for learning the material. Behind his “gruff” exterior was one of the most sensitive and caring young men I have ever met. Ty, you will be missed.

posted by: Jones on April 13, 2010  3:11pm

The people have to hit the streets and stand on the corners if they want this to stop. It is not enough for parents to sit at home looking at TV knowing that their children are at risk when they leave the home.

Do like the Muslims and stand on the corners after an 83 yr old was beat up on George st. Let the youth know that this behavior is acceptable.

posted by: Ella Matteo on April 13, 2010  4:03pm

It brings me great sadness to see a family torn apart by violence. Especially this one. Tamara has given her all with this family and has reached out for all sorts of positive involvement for the children.I applaud this parent for all her strength and focus. Always keep the anger out of your heart and keep peace there.

posted by: yvonne on April 13, 2010  5:42pm

Thank you N. H. Independent for putting a human face on this. Most of the bloggers on the other newspaper site and the tv news site just allow the racists to rant with complete disregard for the victims or the victim’s families.

I feel so bad for Tywan and his family and would like to make a donation if you (nh indenpendent) can tell us how.

Tywan was obviously not just “another gang/drug/criminal black male victim” that everyone wants to blame.  We know the truth.  Hold your head high Tamara. We are proud of you and share in the sorrow at the loss of your brother.

God bless.

posted by: JB on April 13, 2010  5:43pm

I pray that someone (or “ones”) will have the courage to do the right thing and identify the shooter to the authorities. 

Every decent person in that neighborhood needs to stand up and take back control of the streets.  No one else can do it for you.

To Ms. Murphy: I’m so sorry Tywan is gone.  It’s obvious how much you loved him and I sure he deeply appreciated everything you did.

posted by: Greg Smith on April 13, 2010  6:03pm

To Mrs Murphy, My condolences to you and your family. GOD bless you for being a strong and committed single parent. Thanks for being there for Tywan, GOD sees your labor of Love and it will not be in vain.

posted by: toosinbeymen on April 13, 2010  6:59pm

I’m so sorry for what happened to Tywan and the trouble his family has seen. Thank God his big sister was there to help the family.

I hope neighbors, city officials, and community leaders can find a way to stem this tide of violence.

posted by: Praying on April 13, 2010  9:57pm

thats sad may god bless this family. I respect the sister you have been what held the family together and may god get you and your children and siblings through this trying time.

posted by: Turner-Murphy family on April 14, 2010  5:56pm

The Turner-Murphy family will be accepting donation. All donation can be made out to Tamara Murphy in the form of a check or money order. All donations to be sent to Howard K. Hill Funeral Service 1287 Chapel Street, New Haven, Ct 06511. The Turner-Murphy family would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their expressions of love and kindness.

posted by: Mary Gardner on April 14, 2010  9:31pm

Tamara my heart goes out to you and your family, I will keep you in my prayers,just trust in god and he will get you threw may god bless all of yous.

posted by: mw on April 15, 2010  9:47am

I was a teacher aide at Tywans school. Tamara my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.  You were Tywans rock and you should be so proud of the job you have done and continue to do.  Tywan was an amazing person .  He will be terribly missed by all of us, but never forgotten.  He will always have a piece of my heart.

posted by: beefair on April 15, 2010  11:02am

There is a community meeting being held on Thursday @ 6:30 at varick and at the same time one is being held @7 at the elks. Therein lies some of the problems in community building in New Haven. We don’t talk to each other enough. Working in silos keeps us divided and less effective. Working together is the hallmark for success. I hope at least there will be sharing of info from both meetings. Also, mark your calendar for saturday, April 24th. there will be a meeting at the capitol in hartford for people to attend and talk to their state reps about issues confronting them in their community.

posted by: Gerry Botte on April 15, 2010  7:08pm

As one of Tywan’s teachers, I am so deeply saddened that his smiling face and thirst for knowledge will not be a tangible presence in my classroom again.  I do know that every time a student is doubting his/her ability, Tywan’s spirit will be there, encouraging and promoting positivity.
Tamara, you were his angel.  He loved and respected you like no one else. Please know that we will always hold Ty close to our hearts.  Please be comforted by imagining the peace he felt when your mom greeted him in heaven!

posted by: ree on April 15, 2010  7:57pm

Be strong my black sister I did not know your brother but I’d jjustlike to say you did the right thing by your mom you were your brothers keeper and there’s only so much you can do with the youth of today so I say to you and your family be strong and continue to keep god first he will be there when nobody else is….

posted by: Caprice Taylor on April 18, 2010  3:49pm

I know Tamara and her whole family and she is a great , strike that , excellent mother and sister , she is active in the extracurricular activities and keeps them in church . Tam , we love you and keep your head up .

posted by: Sylvia Cooper on April 21, 2010  12:47am

Mr. Bass, thank you so much for telling this full story. This article was treated with great respect and compassion, and sometimes it’s worth telling the story even if the reality isn’t news worthy because we get caught up in thinking it’s just another day in the city of New Haven. I know the city is under great stress with all the crimes and killings.  However despite the opinions of others these victims good or bad are a part of someone’s family.  We shouldn’t judge what we don’t know especially when we don’t have all the facts.  And even if we did, we should ask ourselves, are we going to be part of the problem or the soultion? When you can’t answer either of the questions then hope and pray that you or anyone you love are never affected by this kind of tragedy.

posted by: sabrina parker on May 6, 2010  4:32pm

yo Sukey its so sad that some dumb person had to do this to you and i didnt know you ythat well but then i found out that you were some how related to me and all this time before i knew you was my cousin i used to like you so much on county street.

posted by: brina on May 6, 2010  4:42pm

i cant believe wat some one did to Sukey he wasnt even bad and some body want to take his innocent life and i just want to say that there will always be space left for sukie in my life.

      R.I.P Sukey always