Corey Graham Sr. tried to do right by the son who bore his name. When Corey Graham Jr. was with his dad in the horse country west of Riviera Beach, he obeyed his curfew and kept his grades up, according to court documents from a custody battle. Corey played offensive lineman on the Glades Central High School football team, and his dad cheered from the sidelines.
But when he wasn't with his dad, Corey lived with his mom in Pahokee and Belle Glade, the impoverished sugar-farming towns on the western edge of Palm Beach County. As a teenager, Corey fought with his mom's boyfriends, and his grades slipped. He graduated from Glades Central without a football scholarship.
On January 2, police allege that 19-year-old Corey walked into a Belle Glade grocery shore and shot the owner in an attempted robbery. The town erupted in mourning. The victim, Jimmy McMillan, was a popular bass fisherman whose family had owned the store for generations. Read the New Times feature story about the murder here.
On January 7, while Palm Beach sheriff's detectives were interviewing Corey, his parents arrived at the sheriff's office and asked to speak to him. What followed was a wrenching conversation between a father and his son. Here's a condensed version of the newly released transcript:
Dad: "You got to talk to me, Corey. I can't protect you... You got to tell me the truth. They got the video. They got the picture of your hand. Who shot him?"
Son: "I had."
Dad: "You shot him?"
Son nods head.
Son: "I ain't really -- he reached for the gun."
Dad: "Why did you do this, Corey?"
No audible response.
Dad: "Why you do this, man?"
Son: "I needed money."
Dad: "Corey, you [unintelligible] me. I can't take [unintelligible]. Why you didn't tell me this from the start, man? Corey, I ain't gonna see you no more. I gotta come and see you at prison, boy. Why you decide to do this?"
Son shakes head.
Dad: "Corey, you know I'd give you anything in the world since I only wanted you to do right. You were by yourself?"
Son nods head.
Dad: "Corey, I ain't gonna see you no more in life -- whole life no more, son. I'll come and see you in prison. If they say robbery, that 20 years. [Unintelligible] death sentence with the... Why you couldn't come talk to me? You feel you can't talk to me?"
No audible response from son.
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Dad: "Why? 'Cause I only want you to do right, right?"
Son nods head.
Dad: "I don't know what to do, Corey. My heart. I don't know what to do, son. I ain't gonna see you no more my whole life. Now, that gonna kill me. You know they're gonna -- they're gonna hurt my heart."
Corey Graham Jr. has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and is in jail awaiting trial.