Teen’s Alleged Murderer Turns Himself In

Paul Bass PhotoFamily Photo(Updated 1:42 p.m.) Alicia Roberts was dialing her 13-year-old “baby” son’s cellphone number when another call came through—telling her someone had killed him.

Roberts was dialing her son, Marquell Banks, to tell him that she’d finished cooking a dinner of collard greens, baked macaroni and cheese, and steak. It had gotten late. “I was calling him to come home, get ready for school, and eat,” she said. “That’s when I got the call.”

Roberts’ older son’s “baby mother” was on the line, Roberts recalled. She told her about the report that Marquell had died across town on Porter Street, off North Frontage Road.

The man who police believe killed Marquell turned himself in on Monday. He was being held on a $2 million bond.

When Roberts heard the news of her son’s death Sunday night, she didn’t want to believe it, she said in an interview at her home Monday. She rushed over immediately to see if it was true.

She arrived around 9:20 p.m. to find cops and reporters surrounding a taped-off crime scene at Porter and Parmalee Avenue.

“I just want to know: Is it my son?” she cried out.

Police told her yes, it was. Someone had shot Marquell in the head.

Roberts was beside herself. Police calmed her down, ushered her into a cruiser to take her to Yale-New Haven Hospital’s emergency room to identify the body.

Along the ride, a small part of her held out.

“You still had that little bit of hope it’s not your kid,” she said.

The truth “hit home” when she saw Marquell’s body. “He was lying there [as though] sleeping, with a bandage on his head. That’s a parent’s worst nightmare. You have to ID your child. He was only 13. He was just starting life, not doing nothing. Now I’m about to bury my son.”

“Pain” Hits Home

Family PhotoRoberts recalled that nightmare Monday morning sitting with her sister, Bridgette Roberts, in the kitchen of her third-story walk-up a block from Fair Haven School, where Marquell was in seventh grade. (They asked not to be photographed for this story.) ABC’s “The View” played on a grainy picture on a Tru-Tech television set no one was watching in the spare living room.

Meanwhile, police were looking for an 18-year-old New Haven man they believe killed Marquell. Police said Marquell was with that man and two other older teens in the first-floor apartment on Porter Street Sunday night. The 18-year-old allegedly shot Marquell in the head with a sawed-off shotgun; apologized to his dead body, according to one witness, and then fled out the door.

Acting Police Chief John Velleca announced at a press conference Monday afternoon that the 18-year-old had turned himself in to police at 10:45 a.m.  Police had gone to his last known address looking for him around 3 a.m.; he wasn’t there. His mother later accompanied him to headquarters where he was subsequently questioned. (Velleca is pictured at the top of the story surrounded by, from left, Lt. Kenny Howell of patrol, Board of Police Commissioners Chairman Rick Epstein, and Major Crimes Unit chief Lt. Julie Johnson.) Detective Nicole Natale led the investigation with the assistance of Wayne Bullock and David Zaweski

The murder charge indicates that they believe the shooting was no accident.

The shooting is the city’s 28th homicide of 2011. Besides the murder charge, the suspect faces charges of reckless endangerment, unlawful discharge and possession of a sawed-off shotgun.

The murder warrant is sealed. As of mid-Monday afternoon, the reason for the homicide remained unclear.

The “why” certainly bedeviled the Roberts sisters in the Fair Haven apartment.

Alicia Roberts said Marquell—the youngest of her four children, known as “Quellay”—had said he was going to a friend’s house earlier Sunday afternoon. She didn’t know which friend; she assumed it was a friend in the neighborhood.

“I’m surprised somebody did this to my son,” she said. “He got along with everybody. He loved rapping, video games, basketball.”

“This kid had Division 1 written all over him” said Frank Redente Jr., Marquell’s coach at Farnam Neighborhood House.

Marquell played in Farnam’s biddy basketball league, according to Redente; his team won the league championship last year when Marquell scored the winning basket. He also played in a summer Amateur Athletic Union league with a team called the New Haven Heat.

Redente took Marquell and the Heat on an AAU trip to Virginia over the summer. In one game, against a team called the Illinois Crush, Marquell “spun around in mid-air and threw up a circus shot” that went through the hoop right before the half-time buzzer. “It was quite an amazing play,” Redente said. “He told his gym teacher the trip was the best thing that ever happened to him.”

“Marquell was one of a kind,” with a great sense of humor, Redente said. “He had us in stitches” during one mammoth traffic jam on the Virginia trip.

“When I hear about other people’s kids getting killed, I cry. I feel the pain,” Alicia Roberts said Monday. Now, she added, she knows what the pain feels like firsthand.

“Hug your kids when they walk out that door,” Marquell’s aunt Bridgette said. “Tell them you love them. You never know when it’s your turn.”

A Ruckus In A Quiet Neighborhood

Paul Bass PhotoPolice arrived at the scene of the shooting Sunday night to find Marquell inside the first-floor apartment, bleeding from the head from a single gunshot wound. He was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital—and immediately pronounced dead.

He had been hanging out with three older teens in the apartment.

Police are still unsure of the motive for the shooting. The relationship between the shooter and Marquell Banks also remains unclear.

The man was not home when they came to his house in the early hours Monday.

The apartment door was open when police arrived Sunday night. The door remained open as the investigation continued into Monday morning.

The scene is a block away from the Universoul Circus, which is set up on the divider between Legion Avenue and North Frontage, the limited-access stretch of Route 34 that divided the neighborhood in the 1960s (and interrupted streets like Porter).

Neighbors said Porter Street is quiet.

“I’ve been here 18 years” and rarely seen any trouble, said one woman who lives a few doors up the block. She did say that about a month ago she noticed undercover cops spending a few hours at the house where Sunday night’s fatal shooting took place.

Police confirmed that they rarely receive calls from Porter Street.

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posted by: RL on October 23, 2011  11:21pm

This really breaks my heart..

posted by: the ville on October 23, 2011  11:52pm

My heart goes out to his parents and my prayer God bless

posted by: BRANDEE on October 24, 2011  1:23am


posted by: observor1 on October 24, 2011  6:58am

A very sad incident to say the least.A young boy,barely a teenager,is gone because of someone’s negligence. As other media have reported it was a shotgun found in someones back yard it clearly indicates it wasn’t there for sporting purposes.Maybe this incident will be a wake up call to parents and others to start reporting all the questionable weapons to the NHPD so they aren’t in the wrong hands.How about it people. Are you ready to help put a stop to this carnage in New Haven??

posted by: FairHavenMom on October 24, 2011  8:29am

This makes me so very sad.  New Haven is out of control and I can’t wrap my head around such senseless violence. 28 homocides? Its shameful.

Observor1…you have a very good poing about parents and community speaking up and taking back thier neighborhoods. Unfortuately they are the ones not reading this it seems.

posted by: Moira on October 24, 2011  9:00am

13? He was still a child, barely a teen. Devastating.

I recently had the privilege of chatting with two city high school students—juniors—who are working together to create a neighborhood youth group. The group, which will be split into two sections (ages 7-12 and 13-18, has among its goals peer support for kids affected by violence in their neighborhood. It also has the goal of bringing kids together—kids as young as 7—to speak out against this kind of violence.

It was inspiring to meet these students and hear of their plans. They have some quality mentorship, so I’m sure their group will do well. Despite their proactivity, however, I am very sad that things have become this bad for them, their friends and our whole city.

posted by: robn on October 24, 2011  9:07am

I know it was probably impossible to get answers so soon, but it would be a public service if the NHI could tell this child’s story. How is it that a 13 year old boy comes to find himself facing the barrel of a gun?

posted by: evelyn on October 24, 2011  9:17am

This story is such a heartbreaking story. I didnt know this young man or his famdily, but there could be absolutely nothing this CHILD has done to warrant dying the way he did. My heart and prayers go out to the family.

But on another note, where was the $90,00 consultant New Haven has that is supposed to get this kind of stuff under control? come on people.., We have to get involved and have our voices heard out here in order to do something like this. No mother should have to identify her 13yr old with a bullet in his head or anywhere else. This has me shedding tears as I write this because I have two teenagers myself and they wonder why I keep them so close?

posted by: doreen on October 24, 2011  9:31am

My prayers are with the family and friends of this child.

posted by: Fairhavener on October 24, 2011  9:47am

This is a major piece of the puzzle here: “She [mother] told police she had seen her son a couple of hours before the shooting. He was alone. She didn’t know he had gone over to West River.”

A mom doesn’t know that her 13 year old is not at home but way across town on a school night? Do you know how difficult it is for a person without personal motor transportation to get across town on a Sunday evening? Very difficult! The buses run on limited basis on Sundays. This was quite an undertaking for this teen to even be there in the first place.

Mom, where were you?

Still, my deepest condolences go out to all involved with this tragedy. I hope the the shooter gets a full sentence.

posted by: D on October 24, 2011  10:42am


Do you have more information about this group? Are they forming it through their school? I’d really like to learn more about what they’re doing.

posted by: Moira on October 24, 2011  11:03am

D, it’s through a literacy center in the Kensington area. The students indicated that the center is mentored (if not totally run) by Yale students. The high school students I spoke to already volunteer at the center, and the decision to start the group was of their own volition. That’s the most I can offer. :)

posted by: mrs G on October 24, 2011  11:47am

It’s sad to see another young man life cut so short we need to take back streets and protect our children .Because we are losing really fast .My heart goes out to that mother she lost her baby at 13yrs,he didn’t deserve to lose his life to gun violence.Let start praying for god to step in and take control,because we need Jesus know.
Family stay strong.

posted by: Noteworthy on October 24, 2011  12:26pm

This city is out of control. Rudderless. Empty. Devoid of real leadership. The bodies continue to accumulate.

Unsuccessful mayoral candidate Tony Dawson said it this way: “While DeStefano does nothing, our children are being murdered in the streets. We cannot expect change with the same tired leadership.”

Prophetic. True.

posted by: John on October 24, 2011  1:58pm

It is easy to blame the administration for all these crimes, We as a community must take ownership of our streets and children. As parents we should know where are kids are at all time, know what are they doing. Is easy to blame others and not our-self

posted by: cedarhillresident on October 24, 2011  2:54pm

I made this video in 2006 to vent. When chief Ortiz was in place and I asked him and Destefano what are you going to do the kids in my area having guns…they both laughed and told me I watched to much TV :(  And because of that type of additude the situation just kept growing now it is almost 2012 So do you still think I watch to much TV?

posted by: cedarhillresident on October 24, 2011  3:02pm

opps and made this one a year later….guess the promises were just words!


just makes me sad that I was screaming back then and still nothing but election promises!

posted by: reader on October 24, 2011  3:12pm



posted by: westville man on October 24, 2011  4:30pm

Noteworthy,  Sadly ironic that you chose Dawson to quote on this when rumor has it he will endorse Destefano.

These murders would not be ALLOWED to occur in the suburbs. I agree with some of the other writers- we are ALL to blame, including me. Very depressing.

posted by: The mad rapper on October 24, 2011  5:10pm

This is extremely sad. This generation that’s is coming up has to grow up. All we are seeing is kids killing each other it’s sad. I hope that some of these parents start to wake up. All these rap videos about drug guns and violence just is not fun anymore. Grow up people take a stand in your child’s life so that stories like this don’t happen anymore. Aren’t we tired of all this. I don’t understand it. It seems to happen in the same neighborhoods with the same people. Cut the rapping and violence. It only gets you to one place and it’s not a good one. But then again I might just be wasteing my breathe because the people that should be reading this aren’t.

posted by: Elaine Braffman on October 24, 2011  6:23pm

This takes my breathe away….so sorry to the family.

posted by: Truth Avenger on October 24, 2011  6:31pm

We need an Occupy NRA movement… The uncontrolled flow of weaponry, legal and illegal, makes the taking of life all too easy.  The lame argument that “guns don’t kill people-people kill people” sidesteps the fact: people with guns-kill people. Some accommodation with the right to bear arms is going to have to be reached. The other part of the equation, as a previous commenter mentioned in another article, is to keep these kids occupied with wholesome activities and mentoring programs.  Parents need to occupy more space in the lives of their children-don’t leave it to video games and peers.
Heartfelt Condolences to the mother and family members.

posted by: People Stop on October 24, 2011  6:42pm

People don’t make this tragic accident a political spectacle. Two families have lost their children, one to a violent crime and the other for pulling the trigger.  As i read in this article the parent turned her son in, that say a lot about this parent and we need more parents like this one.

Now it’s not the Mayor’s fault nor any community leaders fault but the one who pulled the trigger.

Respect these families and pray for them so Stop finding fault into people that have nothing to do with this incident and praise the police department for doing such a good job in breaking this case.

don’t use the incident as your election platform, respect the families.

posted by: Jake on October 24, 2011  10:48pm

@the mad rapper
This incident has nothing to do with rap music. These kids listen to rap music because they can relate to it, and it has a strong connection to their lifestyle, but they don’t base ttheirlife off of rap music. after all, there are plenty of Christian rappers out there, sending messages of love and faith. I personally enjoy rap music, but never take the lyrics into consideration while making my life decisions. I think that who we really should be after is the parents. There is a strong llack-ofcommunication between endangered kids and thief parents, because the parents just don’t seem to care, untill it’s to late. I’m wondering why the parent had no idea where her child was. I’m wondering where the adult in the house was. If the parents start caring then the kids will lead by example. It all leads down to laziness. To the family of the victim, you will be in my prayers tonight, although generally I don’t pray at all. This event is just to sad to handle.

posted by: bewildered on October 24, 2011  11:11pm

I think that it is such a tragedy that a young boy has to die for people to wake up.  Parents need to know where their children are and who they are hanging out with.  As a society we are always questioning, the police, the teachers, the government officials but honestly it starts at home.

posted by: city resident on October 25, 2011  7:47am

The only way to stop the black on black violence is to get to the bottom of problem.  Teen mothers no good black male role models is the issue. Stop blaming king John and the police for the this problem.  Raise your children correctly or dont having them.  Its no one else is fault for this violence except for the people involved. Take responsibility black community for your own actions. This child died possibly by accident don’t blame City

posted by: Moira on October 25, 2011  9:16am

@ People Stop: Agreed.

I really hope that Fair Haven School has provided grief counselors to its students.

posted by: selam on October 25, 2011  12:52pm


posted by: streever on October 25, 2011  10:45pm

Before making nasty comments, please, consider that the young man who died has a family and loved ones who are reading this. This will come up in every google search for him.

Do they want to read bickering, debates, and accusations? No, absolutely not. There are plenty of opportunities and venues to debate what and why happened—I don’t think a permanent on-line record tied to the victims name is the best place for that.

posted by: grieving family on October 30, 2011  12:46am

To all you ...s up here first of all you don’t know what my mother is going through unless you a had child die yourself.. my mother isn’t to blame because at the end of day she is a single parent who did more than enough to give us a good life. And it wasn’t an accident he meant to kill my little brother. So if u dont know what your talking about don’t comment.

posted by: Jennifer on October 30, 2011  11:45am

Hey my friend Daniele was close friends with him and he is really sad