Brutal.

There is no other way to describe the murder of Antonio Q. Clarke - not in the eyes of his family or the weary detectives trying to solve his case.

Clarke, a 15-year-old sophomore at John Bartram High School, was last seen alive by his family when he ventured out to catch a trolley in Southwest Philadelphia on Nov. 25. He never made it back.

The following day, his body was found on a loading dock behind a Grays Ferry electronics store in an almost incomprehensible state.

Homicide Sgt. Tim Cooney said Clarke was bloodied, beaten, partially nude and wrapped in cellophane. Clear plastic bags covered his head and feet. His throat was slashed, and he had been stabbed nine times in the back.

He had no history of scrapes with the law or traces of criminial activity, leaving investigators with virtually no clues that could tell them how the teen could lose his life in such an excessively violent way.

"To be perfectly honest, we don't have a whole lot to go on," Cooney said yesterday. "There's very little physical evidence. We don't know where he was actually killed."

To Clarke's family, nothing could justify his horrific death.

"He was a respectable boy. He worked at a community center, helped kids in the neighborhood and stayed out of trouble," said the teen's mother, Marie Clarke.

For the past several years, Clarke said, her son worked as a counselor at the Southwest Community Center, on Woodland Avenue near 64th Street. An administrator could not be reached for comment.

Clarke said her son - who was known by family and friends by his middle name, Quinton - looked out for his 16-year-old sister, Kwanesha, who suffers from muscular distrophy and has been wheelchair-bound all her life.

"They were like twins, really. He always looked after her and helped her get around," Clarke said.

Clarke said her son got into a fight with students from another high school a few weeks before Thanksgiving and was left rattled.

"He didn't say a lot about the situation, but he was afraid to go back to school for a few days," she said.

Cooney confirmed that detectives are working with school officials to see if more can be learned about the supposed confrontation.

On the last day Clarke saw her son alive, she said, he hung around with friends and watched football. Later he told her he planned to visit a relative and was going to take the Route 11 trolley.

"Somebody could have grabbed him before he got on the trolley or right after he got off," Clarke said. "We just don't know."

Cooney said Clarke's body was found by an employee of Selectronics, located on Napa Street near Grays Ferry Avenue. It took several days to identify Clarke; a medical examiner ruled that he died of trauma to the brain.

"We're not talking about being shot from 20 feet away," Cooney said. "This was absolutely brutal, up close and personal." Tipsters can call police at 215-686-3334 or -3335.

Staff writer Dana DiFilippo contributed to this report.