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Mothers Against Violence event held

More than 200 people gathered at an event Saturday that raised money for a scholarship fund while keeping a spotlight on the case of a local missing man.

Joan Turner, the mother of Quantez Russell, organized the first Mothers Against Violence luncheon at the Suffolk Shrine Club. Russell has been missing and not heard from since Nov. 11, 2015.

Turner is the community outreach coordinator in the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and was previously a crime scene technician in the Suffolk Police Department. She recalled working many of the cases of young people who died as a result of gun violence in Suffolk.

“All of the solved and unsolved cases, I continue to keep these cases in my heart,” she said.

But for her, the worst case of all is the one that remains unsolved more than four years later — her own son’s.

Russell, 31 when he disappeared, was involved in drugs and gangs. He was last seen leaving Suffolk heading to Newport News. Turner received a call that night saying her son had been shot and unresponsive in Newport News, but no clues to that crime were found, nor has Russell’s body ever been found.

Since that time, Turner has tried to make some good come from her son’s case. She has organized a public forum about gang violence and speaks to groups of young people about what happened to her son. The family has organized the scholarship fund, which has given scholarships to seven young people, one of whom is about to complete Tidewater Community College and go on to Old Dominion University.

Through the city’s street cleanup program, the family also adopted a street near Cypress Manor, where a sign with Russell’s name on it is posted. That stretch of road has special meaning for Turner.

“The reason I wanted that sign to be there is there are still people living there who bought stuff from my son,” she said. “I wanted it to be a reminder that their life can end up like his.”

The guest speaker at the event was Almetia Hardman, one of the prosecutors in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

“You have taken your pain and transformed it into a movement, not just a moment but a movement,” she said of Turner. “If she can reach one young person and save them from the gang life, her mission is done.”

Delegate Clinton Jenkins spoke at the event, highlighting his work in Richmond.

“We’re working really hard in Richmond to get some of the guns off the street,” he said. “When we as legislators do what we need to do, we can cut down on economic disparities. A lot of the crime in our neighborhoods is associated with economics.”

Jenkins also spoke of a bill he sponsored, House Bill 1579, that would cut from seven years to two years the amount of time a person like Russell must be missing before they can legally be declared deceased. A House subcommittee last month voted to continue the bill to next year.

Eric Knight provided a musical selection at the event, and there was a silent auction. Turner said Monday she believed enough money had been raised at the event to possibly give five or six $500 scholarships this year instead of three.

“The main purpose for this is not only to bring awareness to Quantez’s case but to help students who cannot afford college,” Turner said.

Parents and grandparents of those lost to violence also were recognized at the event. A slide presentation showed photographs of local homicide victims interspersed with photos of Russell. Featured in the slideshow were TyQuan Lewis, Dwayne Langston, Diane Holland, Kadeem Bryant, Michael Lee, Eric Silver, Angelo Beale, Lloyd Green, Neshia King, Deshawn Parker, Da’Jour Collins Sr., Desmond Smith, Leondrae Johnson, Patrick Cochrane, Carlton Holland Jr., Davanta Wilson, Marquail Manley, Terrance Hoggard Jr., Anthony Washington and Aaron Hunter.

Turner said she believes the event will become an annual one.

“I’m going to pray on it and hope it’s even bigger and better, just to help the kids out,” she said.

For more information on the scholarship or to get an application, call 650-8096 or email ilv4n6@msn.com.

If you have any information on Russell’s disappearance, call Detective C. Scherer with the Suffolk Police Department at 514-7973 or Detective A.M. Thornton at the Newport News Police Department at 928-4223.