Joliet mom waits for news of her missing son
By Janet Lundquist email@example.com September 6, 2013 7:50PM
Aqua Wright at her home, in Marcus Wright's bedroom | Janet Lundquist~Sun-Times Media
Anyone with information about Marcus Wright’s disappearance is encouraged to call the Joliet Police Department’s investigations unit at (815) 724-3020. Information can also be left anonymously with Will County Crimestoppers at (800) 323-6734.
Updated: October 9, 2013 7:59PM
Life in what is arguably Joliet’s most gang-riddled neighborhood isn’t easy.
This summer Joliet police noted that, although shootings were down 12 percent citywide, the Forest Park neighborhood on the east side has seen a 22 percent increase.
One couple living there has spent the past 16 years trying to stay out of the fray, only to be pulled in this spring.
Marcus Wright was 24 when he disappeared March 20. His parents, Allen and Aqua Wright, say he was last seen riding in the back of a beige 1997-99 Buick LeSabre.
Wright’s parents reported him missing to the Joliet Police Department on March 21.
Authorities said there are a lot of people who know Wright and who may have seen him around — including his friends — but those people aren’t talking. Now, more than five months later with no sign of Wright, his parents are convinced he fell victim to foul play.
At first, the Wrights were bombarded with theories.
“They’ve told us that (gang members) put acid on him, that he was shot and taken out of town, that he was cut up and dumped in the Des Plaines River,” Aqua Wright said. “We’ve heard literally like 10 different stories,”
Now, everyone they talk to says they don’t know what happened to Wright.
Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton said Wright’s case still is being actively investigated by a detective, who receives occasional tips but no substantial leads on Wright’s whereabouts.
Thinking back on her son’s behavior in the days before he vanished, Wright said she sensed he was afraid of somebody.
He would cut through bushes if he walked home, he would hide in the house and ask his parents to tell people who came looking for him he wasn’t there.
He didn’t leave home for more than two days at a time, and that was mainly to visit the mother of his three children who lives three blocks away, Aqua Wright said. When he wanted to come home, he’d call her for a ride.
She said she suspects her son was on drugs, because he wasn’t acting like himself in the days before he disappeared. She has been told her son owed someone money and a gun. She has also been told gang members thought Marcus was a snitch.
“Marcus was trying to fit in in their world,” Aqua Wright said. “He was trying to be a part of them. And when he realized that the guys did not like him, he started staying away.”
In the Forest Park neighborhood, known as “The Hill,” gangs run the streets, she said. It is nearly impossible for children to avoid the culture, so they become part of it.
“That’s my baby,” Aqua Wright said, sobbing, looking at a photo of preschool-age Marcus dressed in a white cap and gown.
When Marcus got older, he and his friends began to mingle with gang members, she said.
“We studied trying to keep him off the streets, he studied trying to get to the streets to fit in,” Aqua Wright said. “Me and my husband would tell him, ‘These are not your friends.’
“I used to say, ‘Lord, teach him something I can’t teach him.’”
Teaching the neighborhood’s youth to follow a positive, peaceful path has been a primary directive for Bettye Gavin, executive director of the Forest Park Community Center.
The missing person fliers Aqua Wright said she posted in the neighborhood all have been torn down — except for the flier at the community center.
“We certainly undergird Ms. Wright and her family with the disappearance of Marcus,” Gavin said. “We are continuously vigil in our prayers, hoping that they will get some news.”
Gavin has taken on the task of reducing crime, starting with the kids who live in the neighborhood.
This summer the center, along with the Joliet Police Department and Joliet Park District, ran a day camp for 9- to 12-year-olds.
“It was wonderful. It kind of broadens their horizons,” Gavin said, adding that local businessman Terry D’Arcy, the police department and Will County State’s Attorney’s office pooled their resources to provide vans the center can use for events such as field trips or to transport children for services elsewhere in town.
“A kid leaves this ZIP code and goes to another part of town, and they think they’re in a different city,” Gavin said.
She’s also created a free library, updated computer lab, community art project and a community garden at the center.
“We recognize that we must reduce the crime,” Gavin said. “In order to do that we, along with police and the residents in the community, are beginning to be more vigilant. Everybody is watching now.”
Meanwhile, the Wrights hope for news about Marcus.
“I ask God for peace while we wait,” Aqua Wright said. “I know it’s going to come out.”
But they aren’t willing to wait in the Forest Park neighborhood. They have put their house up for sale, planning a move to Joliet’s west side.
“I feel bad for the young men up here, because this is all they know,” Aqua Wright said. “Most of these guys don’t have mom and dad. All they have is the streets and making money.”