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Six months after a homicide

December 14, 2007 |  5:21 pm

Harris_dovonbarbara_dwaina_at_gra_2

(HR has been returning every month to interview Barbara Pritchett and her family since June, when Pritchett's 15-year-old son Dovon Harris was murdered in the Nickerson Gardens housing project in Watts. Above, Pritchett and daughter Dwaina at Dovon's gravesite Friday.--Brian VanderBrug/LAT)

On Thursday, Pritchett passed out in a hallway of the Compton courthouse.

It was during proceedings for the defendants in Dovon's murder case. She was sitting near the front of the courtroom, she said. A witness was describing the last moments of Dovon's life: How he stepped off a bus, and started to walk. How the gun went off. How the witness looked back and saw Dovon lying on the ground...

Pritchett felt a burning in her chest. She was out of the courtroom as fast as she could walk, seeking refuge in the hallway. Her daughter Dwaina, 18, and Duane Harris, Dovon's father, followed her. Pritchett had moved near a window.

Dwaina joined her, watching as her mother took heaving breaths. Pritchett was hyperventilating. Suddenly, she slumped. Harris caught her, and eased her onto the floor. Court staff called paramedics. Nothing medically wrong, they said later. Just stress.

The grief is getting harder for everyone in the family. The holidays have been tough.

Pritchett weeps more frequently now. She appeared fretful, her braids loose on her shoulders. She twisted a tissue in her lap as she spoke. She is no longer sleeping much, she said. She naps, wakes, cries.  Recently she woke up, and realized she was already crying: She'd been crying in her sleep.

Dwaina has quit her job at the Burger King in LAX. At first, when she told her employers of her brother's murder, they were sympathetic. But as the months passed, Dwaina kept having problems maintaining her composure, and their patience grew thin.

She had habit of hiding in the back to cry. "It got to the point, I was crying every day," she said. One day, a manager caught her, and accused her of seeking an excuse not to work.

Dwaina walked off the job briefly, hurrying to a restroom. After that, her relationship with her boss went downhill. She quit last month. "He basically said, 'get over it," she said.

Duane Harris, Dovon's father, who lives in Tennessee, has taken a few days off from his job as a door-and-window installer since the murder. Mostly, he tries to conceal his feelings. "It don't get no easier," he said. "People say time heals. But not when it's losing your kid. It still...." He broke off, circling his fingers in a churning motion.

He, too, could not bear the court proceedings. He found himself getting angry. "I could not protect my son from being hurt," he explained. "For a father, that is the hurting-est thing."

Pritchett said the sense of unreality she has had since Dovon's murder has now begun to dispel. For the first time, she and other family members seemed inclined to talk in detail about the circumstances of Dovon's death. "We are actually now in the part where we are really reliving it," Pritchett said. Before, "It was not sink-in time."

Both Pritchett and Harris talked about getting calls with the news Dovon had been shot, going to the hospital....

Dovon was still on life support then. They recalled how Duane Harris had begged the doctor to take his body parts, and put them in his son.

Harris_dovonNo, the doctors said, because Dovon had been shot in the head. Harris continued to insist. "Take my brain. Take my life. Give it to him," he had said.

The doctors "had to keep explaining to him that it was impossible," Pritchett recalled.

When it came time to take Dovon to the surgical unit for the organ harvest, only one family member was permitted to follow the gurney down the hall.

Pritchett told Harris to go. "That was the hardest part," Harris recalled.

"To walk with him on a gurney to those doors. To see him go through those doors for the last time."

See also Five Months After a Homicide, Four Months After a Homicide,   Three Months After, Two Months After and One Month After.

See also Watts United, 'I've got expectations for you," and Dovon Harris


The comments to this entry are closed.

Comments (11)

Deeply sorry for the loss of your precious son's life.I can't end this without saying that when i read the part on how his father begged the doctor to take his body parts and brain just to save the life of his son.I felt that in the pit of my stomach.GOD BLESS YOU!

My heart hurts foryou. We (my family) recently lost a love one to violence.
i was crying daliy and just could not let it go. I am a christan, i prayed and asked god to give me peace. with in days i got some relief. it sound like you
and your family need some grief counseling. please try to find some professional help. parhaps the reporters who are following this can assist
you in finding help.. I will remember youanf your family in my prays.

Barbera look you keep your head up and remember pray to the Lord Daily
it will get you through it and you know a lot of people may think she needs to
go on with her life but unless they have lost someone as young and as tragic
your lost was then they cant sat a damn thing

Barbara my condolences goes out to you and your family and I pray that god gives you guys the straight to move on and just to keep davon memory alive and also to let other know that this could be us. I have a son that is 14 yrs old and it scares me everyday to know that he don't have to be doing anything for somthing tragic to happen to him. I just try and try to do my best just like you did and I guess no matter what you do tragedy is alway near so all we can do is pray and raise our kids right so they will not be the on out there that is doing this senseless murders or getting murder. Barbara my heart was broken when I read this story just knowning I have a son that age. But God is going to watch over you and god is going to take care of your son were he don't have to worry about this cruel world anymore May God Bless you and your family.

My heart goes out to this family. We would like to envite you to our weekly grievance counseling. Healing doesnt mean forgetting, it means learning to live with the occured. This is a learning process that begins deep within your heart. Pray to god and find it in your heart to accept what has happened and learn to forgive...As our father in heaven has learned to forgive us daily.
If you're interested in any further "Trauma Amelioration Programs" please check us out on the web: www.goingbeyondboundaries.com

I just wanted to say every time I came through the nickerson gardens, and I seen your son he was very respectful...so that is telling me You was raising your son to be a respectful your man........god bless

my heart goes out to you and your family my son has been gone now for 15 months and i know exactly how you feel i look on the los angeles county jail system to keep up with the court dates of my sons killers and i am dreading the day when their trial starts i hope your family finds the peace we all need when our child is murdered for no reason god bless you and yours

(Due to technical difficulties, this comment by Dwaina Harris, Dovon's sister, was placed on the site by HR's author at the request of Ms. Harris.)

I to first start off by thanking everyone for the prayers, comments, suggesting, and anything you have expressed to my family currently at this moment we are getting counseling go to church and pray to the lord that justice will be served. man this is real hard for me and my family because we had a very close relationship with one another. My mom was always there for us when we came home from school it ain't like she was the kind that always at work. We went to bible study on Tuesday and mourning worship on Sunday mourning. and even at times when my mom didn't want to cook he would step up and make cheese toast or pancakes for everybody. That maybe small stuff to yall but that meant a lot to us. This was a big lose to us, are house was the house that my family love to come to. Since this have happened a lot have changed and we just don't hang together like we use to. So in my closing I will like to say thank you and god bless .

I 1st would like to say my heart goes out to your family.I do know how you all feel especially Dwaina.I too lost my brother he was murdered March 16th 2002 we all were celebrating his 32nd b-day.My brother was murdered in front of me,our dad,cousins & a host of friend.I know what your going through it felt like and still feels like apart of me die with my brother.I was 2 yrs older then my brother & he was my everything.He wasn't in any gangs or a mensce to society.He was hard working and a good Man.When I read what u were going through it was so similar to what I went through.I worked for the telephone company for 12 yrs and I suffered everyday my emotins were all over the place.They didn't care & I really didn't expect them to understand,because you have to go throuugh it in order to understand it.I can go on & on I wish that I can speak to u I'm from NY and maybe we can communicate through the blog to help eachother and lift eachothers sprits.I still have my days but what helped me was I gave it to God I couldn't understand it & I felt like I was going crazy,my sister we can't do it on our own & he wants us to give it to him.I pray for your mother,father and for you maybe oneday we will cross eachothers path.I want to do something postive so people can stop taking our love ones away.They really don't know what they take away & all the lives they effect.Stay strong and know that your brother is in a much better place & he is watching over you.

GOD IS IN CONTROL. I AM A MOTHER WALKING ON A PATH WITH YOU MY 17 YEAR OLD SON WAS SENSELESSLY MURDERED ON MARCH 11TH 2006. WE HAVE YET TO GO TO TRAIL DUE 2 SOMETHING THE DEFENSE WANTS. MY PRAYERS ARE WITH YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY THANK GOD FOR YOUR HUSBAND MINE LEFT A MONTH AFTER WE LAID HIS ONLY SON TO REST, I WILL LOVE TO TALK WITH YOU I TRULY UNDERSTAND THE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, THE TEARS, I WILL NOT TELL YOU, YOU WILL BE OKAY IT HAS BEEN 2 YEARS AND STILL I AM NOT OKAY, STILL I CRY, STILL, I FEEL THE PAIN DEEP WITHIN MY HEART, STILL I CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHY. ALWAYS I WILL PRAY FOR YOU AND THE FAMILY

Ms. Pritchett, Mr. Harris & Dwaina please accept my sincere condolences on the loss of your son and brother. My heart is broken reading your story and hearing Mr. Harris's exchange with the doctors made me stand up from my computer and cry. I pray that peace will come to your family and you will be left with only good memories of your child. We serve an awesome God and I won't be so presumptious to say time heals all wounds, but he will heal you, if you have the faith of a mustard seed. Before, I close my eyes tonight, I will kiss my children and bend my knees to thank Him for the time I have with them. I will NEVER forget your child, this has shaken me to my core. God protect and keep you close to Him.



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The Homicide Report is compiled using information from the Los Angeles County coroner's office, local law enforcement agencies and the Los Angeles Times. It is written by Times staff writers.


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