NO GUN LAW would have saved Antonio Quintin Clarke.
Known as "Q" to family and friends, the 15-year-old's body was found on Nov. 26, bloodied, beaten, partially nude and wrapped in plastic on the loading dock of a Grays Ferry electronics store.
His throat had been slashed, and he'd been stabbed nine times in the back. Clear plastic bags covered his head and feet.
Mob informants have been killed with less brutality than this teen was.
Marie Clarke wants to know what kind of monster would do this to her son.
"Q was afraid to go to school for three days, because he said some boys were going to hurt him," says Marie, sitting in the dining room of her Southwest Philly rowhouse on Bonaffon Street.
The table before her is adorned not with Christmas greens but dozens of sympathy cards and photos of Q, a sophomore at Bartram High.
"He wouldn't talk about it," she said. "But then he seemed better, like something got worked out. But then this happened. Someone has to come forward here, because whoever did this took out a really good kid."
So far, police are stumped.
According to Philadelphia Homicide Sgt. Tim Cooney, Q had no criminal history. That's why his body went unidentified for several days after he went missing the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Police were unable to match Q's fingerprints with any on record, because he had no record.
"It's a gruesome case," says Cooney. "We're asking the public for help. We need anyone with information to come forward."
There is no instruction manual about how to go on after your son's gangland-style murder.
So Marie Clarke is playing her nightmare by ear.
The first thing she wants to do is move out of the house she lived in with Q and his two sisters for the last eight years.
She has spent the 10 days since his funeral packing everything in boxes - even though she has nowhere to go.
She hasn't been able to make herself go through Q's things in his basement bedroom, but she plans to get to them soon. Because each day on Bonaffon Street is excruciating.
"I can't live here anymore," says Marie, a tall, slender woman who sometimes speaks so softly, it can be hard to hear her - even when she's speaking angrily of her son's killers. "I moved here with three children. I can't live here with two."
Her daughters - Shante, 19, and Kwanesha, 16 - are heartsick over losing Q. He and Kwanesha, who is disabled by cerebral palsy, were inseparable. He lifted her wheelchair in and out of the house, carried her up and down the stairs, made her laugh herself silly.
"Your death is hard for me to handle," Kwanesha wrote in a letter to Q after he died, "but I hope we can get through this as a family. It is crazy that [at] my first funeral, I need to pay my last respects to you."
"Me and the girls are quiet," says Marie. "Q was loud and funny. He came in the house, you could hear him acting crazy with his friends. He made the house alive. It's too quiet now."
And she can't get used to her refrigerator staying full.
"He used to eat the food faster than I could buy it," says Marie of her lanky, beautiful boy, whose eyes and lips were hers.
Now, the food just sits there.
Q's friends are grieving, too:
The older neighbors, who'd let him tailgate with them on Sundays, when they'd set up barbecues on the block and pull their TVs onto the sidewalk to watch Eagles games.
And his buddies at the nearby Southwest Community Center. Q had attended an after-school program there for years and was so well-liked and respected, he eventually got hired as counselor, five afternoons a week.
His co-workers made a large donation box - covered with photos of Q - that they displayed at his funeral, to collect funds for the family. The pictures show Q clowning and straight-faced, mugging and posing - all the fast-changing moods of adolescence.
It's unfathomable that the young man they depict - so full of sass, nuance and affection - will never be older than 15, because he bumped up against an equally unfathomable evil.
"My whole life is my family," says
Clarke, who is single. "This has torn us up. Whoever did this has no idea what they've done to us. No idea."
Anyone with information about the murder of Antonio Quintin Clarke is asked to call Southwest Detectives at 215-686-3334.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns: