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Thug charged in '07 savage killing of teen seen as weak

When a murder is solved, you usually hear that everyone - the victim's family, the homicide detectives, the concerned neighbors - will finally be able to find closure, justice, peace of mind.

When a murder is solved, you usually hear that everyone - the victim's family, the homicide detectives, the concerned neighbors - will finally be able to find closure, justice, peace of mind.

Sometimes, though, the only thing those people will find are disturbing, horrifying answers to questions that will haunt them forever.

Like in the case of Antonio Quinton Clarke, a 15-year-old Bartram High School sophomore whose body was found behind a Grays Ferry electronics store on Nov. 27, 2007.

Clarke hadn't simply been murdered. He had been brutalized in a way that even grizzled detectives found hard to stomach - he was beaten and stabbed nine times, his throat was slit, and his partially nude body was wrapped in cellophane.

Investigators never developed so much as a single lead in the case. Until this week.

DNA evidence from the crime scene that had been resubmitted to the state led investigators to Tramine Garvin, 29, a convict who lived a block away from Clarke and who confessed on Thursday to murdering the teen, police sources said.

Garvin, who sources said was already behind bars on unrelated gun and drug charges, was charged with Clarke's murder.

The motive, said Homicide Capt. James Clark, was as horrifying as the violence that had been visited upon the teen's body.

"There was a group of kids from another neighborhood who wanted to fight the decedent," he said.

"He didn't want to fight them. He was scared, to the point that he stopped going to school.

"The older kids in [Clarke's] neighborhood took this as a sign of weakness of the whole neighborhood. They decided he needed to be dealt with . . . so they lured him to a house and killed him," Clark said.

The case isn't finished.

"We know he didn't do this by himself," Clark said of Garvin.

"We're hopeful that we're going to bring one or more persons in very soon. We have a pretty good idea of who we're looking for."

Clark said investigators zeroed in on Garvin as a murder suspect earlier this week when evidence from the crime scene turned up a hit in CODIS, a database of DNA belonging to convicted criminals.

Garvin was questioned at Police Headquarters and quickly confessed.

"This shows people that we never stop looking at a murder case, even if we don't make an arrest right away," Clark said.

Clarke's slaying stunned neighbors on Bonaffon Street near Woodland Avenue in Southwest Philly, where he lived with his mother and his then-16-year-old sister, who had muscular dystrophy.

Neighbors described him in glowing terms as their "Q," the kid they all would have been proud to call their own. He looked after his sister and avoided the gangs and drugs that lured so many of his peers.

"He was a good little kid, especially compared to the s--- that comes out of this ghetto," Brian Blango, a neighbor, told the Daily News last November as the anniversary of Clarke's slaying neared.

Marie Clarke, the teen's mother, said yesterday that she often saw Garvin in the neighborhood and believed for some time that he was involved with her son's death.

"He's the same guy in the same neighborhood where my son grew up," she said. "I'm so relieved they got him and he confessed."

Clarke told the Daily News in November that her son skipped school a few weeks before he was murdered. Initially, she thought it was because he was getting teased over a learning disability he had.

Later, she learned that he was being hounded by members of the Bloods, who were trying to recruit new members from Bartram. "He said the Bloods had been harassing him to be in their gang," she said.

But her boy didn't want any part of that world. He was afraid of fighting, of living the aimless, pointless life of a street thug.

In the end, it cost him his life.

"He was a good kid," Clarke said. "A really, really good kid."