A month after his arrest, Leonard was playing basketball in jail. He collapsed on the court. An enlarged heart, the sheriff's officials said.

Leonard's dad called Dulany with the news. Her student was dead. "It was very hard," she says.

There are so many other kids like Leonard. If Dulany's efforts can save just a few, she'll be happy. "If everyone can take on a child and be with them... hopefully, we'll have more of that," she says.

The Alabama Georgia Grocery Store has been in Jimmy McMillan's family for seven decades.
Monica McGivern
The Alabama Georgia Grocery Store has been in Jimmy McMillan's family for seven decades.
Jimmy McMillan (left) was a champion bass fisherman and owner of the store his family had run for generations.
Courtesy of the McMillan Family
Jimmy McMillan (left) was a champion bass fisherman and owner of the store his family had run for generations.

Before he walked into the Alabama Georgia Grocery Store on January 2, Corey Graham Jr. was one of those kids. When he was young, he lived with his mom in the Glades and visited his dad on weekends. An argument with his mom's boyfriend sent Corey to live with his dad when he was 15. Errica Hearns said she was tired of her son, according to court testimony from a later custody battle. "The child was disrespectful, and she could not have him in her home anymore," court documents indicate Hearns told Corey Graham Sr.

Corey's dad and grandmother live in a four-bedroom ranch house on a sprawling plot of land in the horse country west of Riviera Beach. Corey Graham Sr. worked in sanitation before he had a stroke in 2007. Grandma was an educator who had also worked with people on probation and parole. Her house seemed a different universe from Belle Glade. When Corey stayed with them, Dad and Grandma told the court, the teenager earned good grades at Glades Central, obeyed his curfew, and spent his free time at home reading, playing computer games, and talking to friends on the phone. He played football and ran track, with his dad cheering from the sidelines.

But when Corey was living with his mom, his grades would slip. Their relationship appeared to be tumultuous. In October 2009, when Corey was 16, he asked the judge if he could live with his dad and grandmother permanently. A few months later, before the request was granted, Corey had another fight with Hearns' boyfriend. Hearns locked the boy out of the house, barring him from getting his clothes inside. According to court documents, Hearns told Graham Sr. to take their son because "she didn't care anymore." (Hearns and Graham Sr. declined to comment for this article.) She never showed up for the next custody hearing.

Finally, when Corey was 17, his dad won primary custody. A year later, the teenager graduated high school. But there was no football scholarship waiting for him. Instead, he enrolled in Palm Beach State College and started staying with his mom in Belle Glade. Her apartment was a few blocks from the Alabama Georgia Grocery Store.


The City of Belle Glade has no movie theater, no mall, no skating rink. Aside from the football field, there are few options to keep kids off the streets.

On a recent weekday afternoon, clumps of teenagers gather on the sidewalk near the basketball court in Lakeshore Park. Trash litters the grass. Insects nip at ankles in the warm, swampy evening. "We'd rather be here than out there," one of the kids says, pointing over the apartment buildings toward Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Sitting nearby is Delvin Kyles, wearing a tight white T-shirt, diamond earring, and goatee. The Glades Central senior bristles at the notion that Belle Glade is nothing but football and crime. He points out that his school recently improved its state grade from a D to a B, for the first time in its history. "They think it's all about sports. But why can't we be doctors and lawyers?" he says, looking a stranger straight in the eye.

Five minutes away on the tiny Belle Glade campus of Palm Beach State College, a pair of cousins tries to prove the same point. Woody and Harvey Johnson sit outside laughing and studying at one of the tables that overlook the campus parking lot. Woody is 20, seeking a degree in criminal justice or business administration. Harvey, 21, wants to be a chemical engineer.

The cousins live at home, study, go to church, and don't have time for much else. They enrolled here because they couldn't afford other schools, but the community college's resources are scarce. Harvey is planning to transfer to a college on the coast next semester, but he worries about paying for the hourlong bus ride east.

"It's very limited options out here," Harvey admits.

Still, the cousins are looking at bright futures. Neither of them buys the argument that football is the only way out of the Glades, nor do they think crime — such as the shooting Corey Graham Jr. is accused of committing — is the only other option.

"Well, he made a decision," Woody says, staring straight ahead, his tone somber. "He had the power to change that around. Every man is held accountable for his actions."

In Belle Glade, there are many ways for a person to stray from the right path. Some stumble into trouble early and never find their way back again. Four days after Graham was arrested for the murder of Jimmy McMillan, prosecutors accused a second man of tampering with evidence, tampering with a witness, and serving as "an accessory after the fact" to the crime.

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16 comments
PONYBOI LIVE
PONYBOI LIVE

THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THE TOWN ITS DA PPLS IN IT(SOME OF THE PPLS)THAT DONT WONT TO WORK LIKE OTHERS.ARE LET DRUGS TAKE OVER THEM.IN LIFE U HAVE TO WANT TO DO BETTER,AND SET GOALS....SMH.ETC.

Cartyerc
Cartyerc

There is a lot of talk about the "downgrading" the author did in this article. Back story on me, I was born in pahokee & raised in Belle Glade. I saw everything the author put in this article and more. Some of you say there is more to Belle Glade.... You're right.... There is also more to the world. The author isn't trying to put Belle Glade down. They are merely trying to shed light on a town that doesn't get the same publicity as the "wealthier" parts of Florida.

Cartyerc
Cartyerc

I had more... The part regarding the people playing card games and such. How many times have we heard,"get your education, or end up at the packing house/loading ramp/sugar mill/bean field"? How is the author downgrading our city by spelling out the facts that are in a census for everyone to see? Take your pride out of the equation. Belle Gkade is

Cartyerc
Cartyerc

*Belle Glade is stricken with poverty & crime. It's fact... I'm proud of my roots. I'm not to proud to face the truth. Think about it folks, if you disagree... Get out there & take our town back. Improve the community. Don't avoid the bad parts of town. Rebuild them. Love you all, I'm done.

We love our city
We love our city

This is so sad how you can get on here and downgrade the City of Belle Glade people choose not to better themselves by sitting under a tree playing cards and drinking beer all day. If you want anything in life you have to work for it, its not coming to you and if you choose to sit on the corner or go to school or get a job its your choice. I watch the news everyday and West Palm Beach & surrounding cities are on the news with a higher crime rate than Belle Glade but the wealthy can cover up their crimes unlike the poor communities there is some positive in our town and you don't have to drag our name in the mud we are PROUD OF OUR CITY.

IloveBelleGlade
IloveBelleGlade

This is pointless!!! I don't see the purpose of this article. I see you start off bout Corey robbing the store, how the residents making a living then jump to people who choose not to do anything. What makes you degrade a town u never lived in, the people who live in it when u never been through what we been through growing. Yes this really offends me because I was born and raised in Belle Glade, Fl never had much growing up but im very happy to be the woman that I became. From what I've read you only listed the bad things about Belle Glade what about the good things. Yes we have a high crime rate but crime happens everywhere you go. Im done but to Whomever this maybe im proud of who I and where i came from and i dont care who dont like reruns you are very immature and illiterate etc

Jalou002
Jalou002

How can you write about a town that you wasn't raised in.. What smell like manure to you smells like home to us. There is more to BELLE GLADE then football and crimes. If your going to talk about the bad why not mention the good things that happens in belle glade. This town gives the families that are unemployed a chance to send their kids off to school. You mentioned the liquor store but u didn't mention the library that's across the street. You mention seeing kids hang around but you didn't mention the boys and girls club and YEA. There are crimes everywhere but yet belle glade crimes are bad. You mention the bad things about the school but u don't mention the kids thats in school on the coast that's doing drugs. O wow I guess that's not a big deal because they have parents that is wealthy enough to cover things up. They always say Another man's trash is another man treasure.... Belle Glade is my treasure

Vanessa
Vanessa

This is just plain out ridiculous. How can you down grade a city that you really dont't anything about. What was really the purpose of this article. Was it about a Robbery or did you jut want to say some things about belle glade. And for the record more than just criminals come out of belleglade. There are indeed successful people some just choose not to come back to belleglade due to the fact that their is very small opportunity. Instead of bad mouthing belleglade how about you write about helping belleglade.

Why33430
Why33430

I don't get the part about the smell of manure????  Hey if you want to hang out every day all day sitting under a tree playing games ie: gambling and drink beer (which both costs money from working or PUBLIC assitance which is created by others working while you are sitting and drinking beer) instead of being a "postive" role model to these "young" men wandering the streets with nothing to do but watch you drink beer and gamble, how do you have a right to complain about jobs?  Jobs only come to those who seek not sit a whine about their beer getting warm. 

Carloslndn2
Carloslndn2

Was this sopposed to be a story about a young man who robbed a store. Or are you writing a novel about the surrounding areas of okeechobee lake? .... You wrote a paragraph disrobing what belle glade looks,feels,smells like? .. Learn to get the point! Every time I read an article I have to skip multiple paragraphs to get the point. Mad annoying!

FQS9000
FQS9000

Their momma's are so proud of those two good boys.  The popo are framing them, as the store owner had it coming and probably shot himself.

Let's start up a defense fund and get these two wonderful lads back on the streets where they can loaf around, knock up more ho-bitches and shoot evil, greedy, white store owners who are exploiting the oppressed afro-american community.

Free the Belle Glades Two!!!!  No Justice, No Peace!!!!

Betterbelleglade
Betterbelleglade

You can't defend something that is plainly caught on video!

FQS9000
FQS9000

I see my sarcasm missed you.

NewsDog
NewsDog

Are you going to believe what you see with your own eyes or what a brotha tells you.  

Betterbelleglade
Betterbelleglade

I would like to also know what an ordinary crime is? This article seems to put Belle Glade down harshly. For those that know what truly is, this article was a total slap in the face. We live here because we love it. Those that don't need to get out and quit giving it a bad name.

Betterbelleglade
Betterbelleglade

I believe what can be seen AND what he confessed to. Does there need to be more than that?

 
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