A group of armed young men gathered outside the home of the man accused of killing Jesse Clarke just before the fight that ended the 14-year-old's life began, say the accused’s foster mother and neighbours.
Brodie Nicholls, 18, faces a second-degree murder charge in connection with the stabbing.
According to his foster mother, Charmaine Miller, and neighbours in the east-end area where the stabbing happened Monday night, at least a dozen young males showed up at Miller’s home around 9:45 p.m. Monday evening armed with metal pipes and bats. There was no indication that Clarke was one of the males who was armed.
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Miller told CBC Hamilton that a group of young men approached her home around 9:40 p.m. Monday and started yelling.
“They said if my kids didn’t come out, they were going to stab me,” Miller said.
The group had been at her house in the past, she says – but she would not say why, just that they had a “beef” with her children.
Miller says the group wouldn’t leave, and started throwing things at her and her house.
A neighbour told CBC Hamilton she saw three men strike Nicholls, the accused, with pipes.
“They hit him in the neck, arms and ribs with a steel bar,” Miller said.
Nicholls had a large abrasion on his neck Tuesday afternoon when he appeared in court.
Another neighbour – who declined to give her name over fear for her own children’s safety – said she saw the armed group outside the home around 9:45 p.m. and heard Miller yelling that she was on the phone with the police.
“She was yelling, ‘Get away from our house, I’m already on the phone with the cops,’” the neighbour said. “They started beating on the kid, Brodie.”
According to Hamilton police logs, officers received a disturbance call on Lincoln Street at 9:48 p.m. ET. According to a statement released Tuesday, police said they received a call about the disturbance just before 10 p.m.
Hamilton police Det.-Sgt. Matt Kavanagh did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
According to neighbours, at some point, the altercation moved from Lincoln Street to Gordon Street, and that’s where Clarke was stabbed. The remnants of tattered police tape could be seen attached to a front step on Gordon Street Wednesday morning. Neighbours say that’s one of the places where police found blood on the street.
'He would never hurt anybody,' brother says
Jesse's older brother, Cody Clarke, told CBC Hamilton from outside his family home that his brother was about to move back in with his family on Gage Avenue North just before he was killed. He had been living with his girlfriend, but they broke up and he moved in with his mother, Clarke said. He wasn’t happy, so he was preparing to move back with his father, brother and stepmother.
“He never should’ve left at all,” Cody Clarke said. “If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have been out with those people.”
“He started running with people thinking he was all cool. I don’t know. But I know my brother, and he wouldn’t hurt anybody for any reason.”
The Clarke family has been overwhelmed with messages of support from the community, he said. A vigil was held outside their home Wednesday night, and a memorial has been built on a pole at Barton and Lincoln, close to where the teen was stabbed. His brother says the vigil was a difficult thing to deal with.
“It helped, but it hurt at the same time,” he said. “Seeing how many people were here for my brother crushed me.
“I don’t know how I’m getting through it. Time keeps going and thoughts keep coming and it just hurts.”
'Wrong group of kids,' friend says
Close family friend Melissa Mercuri organized the tribute to Jesse Clarke that now sits on Lincoln Street. She told CBC Hamilton she’ll never forget him.
“The kid had the biggest heart. So warm. So loving. His smile was pure affection,” she said. “He was just a big goofball.”
The 14-year-old's death was just a case of someone being at the wrong place at the wrong time, she said.
“He had a rough time this last little bit. It was just the wrong place, the wrong time, the wrong group of kids.
“I think he was just there to represent or be in the crowd.”
Funeral arrangements are still being organized, Mercuri says, but she expects the community will once again be there to mourn someone who died senselessly.
“He never got to have a kid or grandkids. Even to have a steady girlfriend and be loved,” she said.
“My heart just breaks for him.”