Even at a young age, Curtis Jenkins III had a passion for cooking, whipping up treats for family and friends, and planning to one day to open a restaurant.
He watched his maternal aunts cook, and about a year ago he starting selling platters that he advertised on social media and delivered to Camden neighborhoods. That may have led to his death, authorities say.
Jenkins, 20, grandson of Camden City Council President Curtis Jenkins Sr., was found dead a block from his home late Tuesday, two days after he was abducted after delivering a meal in the city’s Fairview section. Authorities say he was lured to that location by a man who ordered a platter.
“He was a good kid,” his grandfather said. “He wasn’t in the streets.”
Family and friends Wednesday remembered Jenkins III as a kind and caring young man who was respected by his peers and known as a “warrior” for his resiliency. He was considering attending culinary school, said Tariq Miller, a friend since elementary school.
“He was one of the most mentally strong people I knew,” said Miller, 20, of Lawnside. “He just had a positive attitude on life. Everybody leaned on Curt. He was smart, calm, and collected."
“He was great, in a good mood, laughing and joking,” said Miller, a rising junior marketing major at Towson University.
Jenkins lived in Lawnside briefly as a youngster with a grandmother and returned for the beginning of their freshman year, Miller said. Jenkins wanted a chance to get a better education, he said. He moved back to Camden after graduation and lived with his father.
Haddon Heights High principal Eric Rosen said Jenkins was a member of the Multicultural Student Union and would often prepare dishes for his classmates. “He was always smiling and seemed to get along with his teachers and his peers,” Rosen said. “He genuinely seemed to be liked.”
The oldest of three, Jenkins was affectionately known by many as “Li’l Curt,” the third generation in his family with the name Curtis. He would have celebrated his 21st birthday on Sunday. Jenkins was employed part-time at the Camden County Clerk’s Office. He worked his food business on the side, said his father, Curtis Jr.
“He was a beautiful person, a very respectful and loving young man," his father said. “Everybody loved my son.”
There was an outpouring of grief on social media for the young Jenkins. Many posts called for an end to the violence in Camden, once listed as one of the most dangerous cities in the country.
Brandon Beverly, 32, of Deptford, was charged Wednesday with murder in Jenkins’ death. Authorities said Jenkins was asphyxiated in a plot to demand drugs from his family as a ransom payment.
A childhood friend, Dayanna Cartier, recalled when she and Jenkins were about 10 years old and Jenkins was in the kitchen “cooking fried fish, potatoes, shrimp and stuff” while she was “still confused on which went first in making a bowl of cereal, the milk or cereal first.”
On the night Jenkins disappeared, his father said, his oldest child had prepared chicken and shrimp platters. Miller spoke with Jenkins that night and said he was “super upbeat.”
“He was good. It was like any other call from him,” Miller said.
Jenkins called his grandfather about 7 p.m., asking him, “Pop-Pop, do you want a meal?" It was the first time that Jenkins had made such an offer. His grandfather had already eaten, so he declined.
“Maybe divine intervention wanted me to talk to him one last time,” said Jenkins Sr. “I’m hurting big time. Such a big waste. Why him?"
On Wednesday evening, more than 100 family and friends gathered at the Camden home of Lisa Robinson, Jenkins’ great-aunt. Together, they recited Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer, and upon a final “Amen,” those gathered released dozens of white balloons, some with messages to Jenkins, written in black ink. “I love you Curt,” one read.
“Today is a day that we are going to rejoice,” said Jenkins’ cousin Tywana Barnes. “Even though he didn’t come home with us, he went home to the Lord.”
Staff writers Wendy Ruderman, Barbara Laker, and Marissa Payne contributed to this article.