About an hour after a judge gave a $25,000 bond Friday to Michelle Johnson, the driver whose car allegedly hit her 11-year-old son at the school bus stop Tuesday then fled, a woman named Elizabeth McCrorey came to the door of the little house in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Chester.
The house sits on a street of bouncing balls – and where that 11-year-old boy bounced a ball and lived and dreamed until he died after being hit by the car.
At McCrorey’s knee was a tiny daughter who had run to get help when the car hit her brother.
“Yes, La’Darious Wylie is my son,” said the woman at the door. “Please, come in.”
Inside were the other kids. McCrorey has seven children.
“La’Darious is the third,” McCrorey said. “I donated his organs.”
She looked at a booking mugshot of Johnson, accused of hit and run resulting in death.
“I don’t hate her,” McCrorey said. “I just don’t like the fact that she didn’t stop.”
Somehow, this mother in her grief refuses to hate the accused and donated the heart, lungs and more of her son so that another kid somewhere will bounce a ball and live and dream.
Just minutes before, McCrorey was at the Chester Police Department, where she was given a copy of the police report that shows officially her son was dead. She held it in her hand at the police department as a couple of gracious cops offered the tiny daughter a cupcake. The cops gave the little girl a yellow bag of Halloween goodies.
The girl smiled. McCrorey thanked everybody and she tried to smile but the smile was not there.
Because Tuesday, before 7:30 a.m., La’Darious was at the bus stop down the street from his house waiting for the yellow school bus that would take him to school where he was an attentive student and thrilling to be around, until a car struck him.
The collision that smashed La’Darious’ head was so bad, police say in an arrest warrant, that there was “severe damage” to Johnson’s 2003 Nissan.
McCrorey did not go to the court hearing Friday morning that lasted just two minutes. McCrorey was too distraught for court.
Johnson, 57, had turned herself in Thursday night after police say she did not stop to either render aid or call authorities. Johnson is charged with felony hit and run resulting in death. She said nothing except “yes sir” in her bond hearing where Chester City Judge Johnnie Edwards set the bond and gave the future court dates.
It remains unclear why Johnson did not stop Tuesday after she allegedly hit La’Darious. She offered no explanations Friday in court.
Johnson has no previous criminal record. The charge carries from one to 25 years in prison if convicted, state law shows.
Johnson was led into Chester court at the magistrate office by two deputies and for some reason required a chair for the short hearing. Two deputies had to help her to her feet so that Johnson could sign court papers. Three people there at court in the gallery to support Johnson said nothing, either.
McCrorey, the mother, back at her home where her son’s death was pronounced by signs along the street reading, “Slow, funeral,” opened the door again when a knock came. The hit and run had been news for two days and all of Chester knew from an obituary in The Herald that this little boy lived on Ashford Street.
Into the house came a stranger named Debra Gill. Gill had one hand clenched and she opened her arms and hugged McCrorey, the stranger, and handed over the money that was in the clenched hand.
“For expenses,” whispered Gill.
Gill told McCrorey to call on her if she needed anything. Gill gave her phone number.
The family was told of the $25,000 bond for Johnson. Cedric Evans, the stepfather, was stunned.
“That’s it?” Evans asked. “That’s nothing. The boy was killed and she drove away.”
Another knock at the door and in came a lady named Annie Reid. Reid lives down the block and is a Chester City Council member. But on this cold Friday morning, she was Annie Reid, neighbor.
Reid carried a condolence card that without a doubt had money inside for a family that had seven kids and now has six because money has to be found to bury the seventh.
“I saw him so many times, on the street, bouncing a ball,” Reid said. “Him and other boys. That’s what boys do. They run and they play and they bounce a ball.”
Reid’s words about a boy with wide eyes and a huge smile who ran and bounced a ball caromed off the walls of the little house. Nobody spoke for a moment. The boy who bounced balls was gone.
Reid told all the other boys in the family how handsome they were and the girls how beautiful they were. She made sure the family knew she was there for them and she left with her heart so heavy she could barely walk.
Back in the house, McCrorey looked at Johnson’s booking photo.
“I don’t know her,” McCrorey said of Johnson.
McCrorey then had to turn to taking care of her kids and consoling them, and dealing with a son gone.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065
How to help
Two accounts have been set up to help the family of La’Darious with funeral expenses. Donations may be made at any First Citizens Bank or through a GoFundMe account. Donations also may be made to Kings Funeral Home, 135 Cemetery St. in Chester.