Teen father-to-be got a job, apartment and a car in 1 month — then he was gunned down
John Cassidy has his father's eyes.
That makes it hard for his family to look into them sometimes.
They call him Baby C, or sometimes Cassidy — that's what they called his dad, his namesake, too. At just 3 months old, they can already see his dad's personality in him.
Passersby found John Cassidy Davern — "C" to those who loved him — dead in a vacant lot in Homewood on a Saturday morning last October. He'd lain there, shot to death, for more than 10 hours.
Two weeks before that, he and his girlfriend, Casey Morton, found out they were having a boy.
"It's great to have him because we have a little piece of C, but it's hard, like, for my 26-year-old, and hard for some of the kids," said Kelly Davern, C's mother. "Some days it's hard for them to even be around the baby because the baby reminds them so much of their brother. So the pain is so unbearable that they have to take a step back from the baby.
"It's not that they don't want to be with the baby. It's just the pain that they can't cope with, because he looks so much and his actions and everything are just so much like his dad," she said.
Casey cried when the baby was born.
"I cried my eyes out," she said. "I let (C's) mom do the first feeding. I had to cope with it. I had to come to reality. Then I stepped up to the plate."
She said she'll tell Baby C what happened to his father when he's old enough to understand.
She'll tell him how, according to police, C's friend, Floyd Beard, shot him at least four times over less than an ounce of marijuana he'd gone to Homewood to sell him, and how he'd planned to take his sister and Casey to the movies Saturday with the $50 he'd get.
Beard has pleaded not guilty.
She'll tell him about the apartment they moved into just three weeks before C was killed, and how excited they were — about how they'd just gotten a car, and C had gotten a job. She'll tell him about how C, at 19, was getting his life together.
Now, she and the baby live in Kelly's Mt. Washington home with Kelly's other children.
"I just didn't want to stay there," she said of the apartment the young family had briefly shared. "It would have been way too hard."
Too hard to think about the life that they'd plan — that could have been.
"He was excited to be a dad. He would rub it in my face that it was a boy," Casey said. "He was excited — like, he was just like jumping up and down and so excited. It was hilarious."
He'd have been a good dad, she said.
"He would have been the type of dad, like … He would always be there for the baby," Casey said. "He wanted to put him in sports, and he was talking about all the things he wanted to get him and do for him.
"We started getting him clothes early," she said. "We started doing baby shopping."
You always knew when C was in the house.
"He was loud," Kelly said.
"Yeah – he was loud," said Justin, C's brother. "Unbearably loud sometimes."
And he loved life.
"He just thought that life was one big party and it was never going to end," Kelly said. "And he trusted people way too much. He always saw the good in people. He never wanted to see the bad."
C's own family will admit that he had a rough life growing up. Kelly spent several years in jail, he never knew his father, and Justin and his grandmother raised C for the most part. He's the one who found their grandmother dead one day.
Casey saw the good in him.
"He was the type to give you the shirt off his back," she said. "If he had it and you needed it, he'd give it to you."
She's the one who changed everything.
"He turned 19 and started growing up," Kelly said. "When she started showing in the summertime — once her belly started showing, he started getting, like, 'This is real.'"
When Baby C was born, Kelly quit her full-time job managing a bakery to help take care of her grandchild. Casey's been dealing with postpartum depression, she said.
"Casey has good days, and she has bad days," Kelly said. "Yesterday — she was freaking out. I don't think we'll ever be the same."
Never the same because they've heard the testimony describing C's death — how police said Beard shot him, and shot him, and kept shooting. She said Beard laughed at her during the preliminary hearing — like it was a big joke, she said.
Baby C has helped ground her. But it's tough.
"Yes, I love being home with my kids," she said. "I love being home with my grandbaby, but I miss the passion of working."
They've all compromised, she said. She said her family, as close as it is, will never be the same.
Despite Beard's arrest in early spring, the wound remains. She has said she wants his mother to feel what she feels.
"She'll still get visits. She'll still get to see her son, so did she lose anything? No," she said. "She doesn't have to wake up and she doesn't have that feeling. She doesn't have it. Her family's not torn apart."
The family will never be the same, she said. The family will never move forward. But they can hope for closure. They gained some in March when they went to the spot where C died. They went on his birthday — March 12.
Baby C was born 10 days earlier.
They make sure to tell Cassidy about his father.
"Everybody talks about him," Kelly said. "Casey tells him all the time about him. She talks to him all the time about him — and he laughs and giggles. We tell him about his dad every day."
Baby C falls asleep in her arms. It's 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, and Casey has yet to return from work. Kelly talks to Cassidy, seeing her son in his smile, in his mannerisms — in the glint in his eyes.
"You look just like your dad, huh?" she says to him. "I'm so glad you're sleeping, buddy, because you wore me out."
He's teething now, she says, and it makes for a long day. Kelly drives for Lyft at night, not getting to sleep until 3 a.m. most nights. She gets up before 8 a.m. when Casey leaves for work.
When Casey gets home, she takes over. Looking at her son, she gets emotional.
"He'll make faces that his dad used to make," she says. "They look — it's a spitting image. It's hard. I live day by day. I have to.
"He's my encouragement," she says.
He'll know his dad, Casey said, even though he never got to meet him.
"If he's real fussy and you play videos of his dad, or some of the music he used to listen to when I was pregnant … he'll go right to sleep," she said. "Or pictures, if you show him — he'll sit there and smile."
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.