Grieving McKeesporters question council's proposed limit on memorials
A mother whose son was a victim of a fatal shooting questioned McKeesport council about a proposed ordinance that would put a 14-day limit on temporary memorials.
“How can you put a limit on somebody's grief?” Mae Hudson said at Wednesday's council meeting.
“There is no limit on grief,” council president Darryl Segina replied. “You would grieve privately after that. This is a very sensitive issue for us.”
The woman's 41-year-old son Carlos Hudson and his cousin Jana Randolph, 49, both of McKeesport, were killed when they were shot in the head on Riverview Street on Aug. 22 around 10:13 p.m..
Allegheny County Medical Examiner's ruled it a homicide. The case remains under investigation.
At its Tuesday workshop, council discussed setting time limits on makeshift memorials for victims of accidents or violence.
Mayor Michael Cherepko said the conversation started when the city received complaints from residents about the long time that some memorials are allowed to stand.
Cherepko has repeatedly said that council is trying to be respectful to grieving families while sympathizing with those who do not want to see constant reminders of tragedies in the city.
“Everyone grieves in different lengths, different ways,” Cherepko said. “I think what (council is) trying to do is pay respect to your lost loved ones by allowing these corners, these streets, these sidewalks to have things placed on them for two weeks.”
The proposed ordinance will not require permits for memorials, and no fines will be assessed for surpassing the 14-day limit.
Public works personnel or other city crews can remove memorials that exceed the limit, and ones that reappear within the same calender year.
Segina said the proposed ordinance is not yet law, and adjustments can be made.
“We have it in rough draft form right now,” he said.
Council plans to adopt it at the Nov. 6 meeting.
Councilwoman V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery suggested the limit be extended from from seven to 14 days.
She said Carlos Hudson is her cousin, and noted that other relatives have been victims of violent crimes.
“I see both sides of it,” Walker-Montgomery said. “They brought up about when people ride through the city, there are so many (memorials).
“But there are so many of them because the reality is there are so many murders. So the more important issue is, what can we do about the murders?”
Mae Hudson said the memorials often are the victims' families' only solace.
“We feel that that's all that we have,” she said. “People just feel that nothing is being solved. There are no murderers being convicted of anything.”
Cherepko said detectives take cases very seriously, but have a hard time gathering enough evidence to make an arrest because so few people are willing to come forward with information.
“For the most part, if you don't find a murder weapon, if you don't have someone to testify against someone, you can't even get a warrant,” the mayor said. “That's the reality of what you're faced with.”
Hudson did not raise her voice or argue with city officials, and they took notice of her composure.
“I applaud you for coming in here so calm and just laying it out there and handling yourself the way you are,” Cherepko said to Hudson.
A public meeting about the proposed ordinance will be convened before the Nov. 5 workshop. No official time has been set.
Hudson had a message for her son's and his cousin's killer.
“You were wrong for even thinking about killing somebody or setting them up to be killed,” she said. “You were wrong for taking somebody's life for whatever reason. It wasn't God's reason. Who gave you the right? There (were) two people that you killed and you destroyed their family, their kids and their grandkids. What were you thinking?”
Walker-Montgomery said anyone with information about murders in the city can contact McKeesport police at 412-675-5015 or county police Homicide Unit at 412-473-1300. Callers may remain anonymous.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965., or firstname.lastname@example.org.