By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Murder is an unsettling reality in our country. Behind the news stories are families grieving their loss.
Galey Fernando’s corridor and living room walls are painted pink. There is an incomplete part on one side. Her son Sherwin Williams was too short to reach it and he joked it was a style. She laughs recalling that.
“He was a quiet, quiet fella. He used to come here in the building, paint and when he paint, he go downstairs, everybody in the building know him…He buy things [in the shop] and come upstairs,” Fernando said. It was a routine for Williams to paint her Harding Place, Cocorite apartment every Christmas. The last time was in 2020. Fernando has not repainted since he was killed September 16, 2021. The wall is a reminder, a connection to a memory.
Williams, 46 years, of Vincent Brown Street, Gonzales was sitting on a plastic container under a tent at Chocolate Alley, Gonzales talking with his girlfriend on his cell phone. He was a CEPEP worker and workers assembled at that location.
It was not yet 8 a.m. when a dark, tinted, grey vehicle proceeding along the roadway stopped and two armed men got out and shot him to death. There was video circulating online with the murder.
Fernando said from what she saw, he did not look threatened and did not run away. “He sit down there and everybody run and I saying, ‘why Sherwin?’, but when you ain’t have no cocoa in the sun you not looking for it and he see the men coming out,” she said in an interview at her home.
Williams was among the 448 homicides in 2021. In that year, there was a 12.3 per cent increase with 49 more people killed.
There was nothing unusual on the day Williams’ life ended. It was a daily activity to walk up Vincent Brown Street to see his son Xavier, who lives with his maternal grandmother. Fernando said: “He used to go up there every morning, make sure he drink tea with his son, and say, ‘go back and lie down’ and he say, ‘I’ll see you later’ and he left and went to work.”
A family traumatised
Xavier, then 19 years was traumatised and stopped eating. To ease his suffering, when he visited, she would tell him to touch the wall his father painted. She described a close relationship in which the two were almost like brothers. Xavier plays pan with the Renegades Steel Orchestra.
“When he going and play his pan, he always used to be there with his father…they were so inseparable.”
Williams lived with his older brother Anthony. They took care of their father after he got a stroke. Anthony, a public servant got news of the killing from a neighbour. Fernando related, “A fella say ‘boy, look they now kill your brother’ and he like, ‘what stupidness you saying? My brother now pass me here’.”
Fernando heard of the death from one of her daughters. Her reaction was disbelief. “If you know your son in activities then you will say you expecting it but knowing that your son does not be in those things…I was so traumatised… still traumatised.”
Fernando never went to the scene of the murder; she could not bear what she would see. Next time she saw him was at his funeral at St Theresa’s RC, Woodbrook. Only ten people were allowed in-person because Covid-19 restrictions were still in effect. Fernando placed a pair of sunglasses over his eyes. He loved wearing sunglasses.
Fernando said: “I and he had a good relationship, I used to call him ‘show show’ and he come and thing and we hug up and so on. For his birthday, he will come through; for my birthday, he will come. He will say, ‘but you ain’t getting ole mam’s’ and I say, ‘yeah boy I dey, but the old pain’.”
There are suspicions about what led to the murder. One was comments he made on the job site about keeping gang activity away from the workplace, another was that of a case of mistaken identity because of his nickname ‘Sprang’. She only found out about this in the newscasts after he died. She was disturbed because of the stigma associated with persons called ‘sprangers’—drug addicts.
Williams’ friends explained he got the name from when they were out liming and how he flopped down and spread out when he drank. “Nobody had nothing bad to say that my son was a bandit and this and that. I feel good in my heart they did not say anything bad about my son,” Fernando said.
If not for seeing him in the coffin, she sometimes can’t believe he is dead.
“I pray now to let…to let go…let go him. I taking one day at a time. It hard,” she said. Fernando said she used to feel sympathy for parents she saw on the television news who experienced the loss of children. “I say ‘gosh nuh, I wonder how that mother feeling?’ but when it come to you, it is a different feeling,” she said solemnly.
Fernando is a member of the Legion of Mary at St Mary’s Mucurapo, St James. She said the group, the parish secretary and Fr Emmanuel Pierre supported her.
“They helped me a lot, people in the church in general, ‘how you going?’ everybody…I will say, ‘I am going one day at a time’,” she said.
Fernando said it will take time to get over her son’s death. It was sudden and senseless. “If my son was sick and he did die was different, but he was not sick.”
She gave away photos of Williams to his sister and one of two photo albums sent by his girlfriend. The other is kept in a bag, out of sight because “it brought back many memories.”
Asked what she thought of crime, Fernando said mothers need to speak to their children from young. “Dem boys and them didn’t get violent just so you know…if you have a child and he not working nowhere and he bringing money for you and he buying big time sneakers and he buying big time shirt, you supposed to be watching that as a mother, you understand. I blaming some of the parents for that kind of behaviour with their children.”
If they ever caught the persons responsible, she had one question: “Why”.
Fernando gets a little solace touching the wall Williams painted. She said maybe she will have the wall repainted Christmas this year.