PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As a child, Quantez Russell did all the right things to make his mother proud.
“He was involved in the church choir; he was involved in Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. He was an usher boy in church. I don’t know when it went awry,” said Joan Turner of Suffolk.
As a former investigator for the Newport News and Suffolk police departments, Turner used forensic science to solve crimes — but piecing together what happened to her son is still a mystery. She says her son changed due to bullying in middle school.
“I knew his favorite color was always blue then all of a sudden it became red,” said Turner, who later learned her son was involved in assaults and robberies as a member of the Bloods street gang.
On the evening of Veterans Day in 2015, Russell’s girlfriend called to report the 30-year-old had been shot. In a story 10 On Your Side has covered numerous times over the years, Russell was last seen in Suffolk. His car was found, but there has been no trace of Russell.
In July 2016, Turner received a mysterious and disturbing phone call.
“They [an unidentified caller] heard that Quantez was shot twice in the head and they [the suspects] bound his feet and his hands with heavy chains and they threw him in the James River,” said Turner in describing the content of that phone call.
Turner says divers searched the river but nothing was found.
In memory of Russell and as a warning to others, on Saturday morning, Turner will host an adopt-a-street cleanup event at 1226 White Marsh Plaza in Suffolk. Turner says that’s where Russell used to hang out.
“I kept passing this same place, where Quantez, when he was a juvenile, he would go over as a teenager and hang out and he would do his bad business in this particular area,” said Turner.
“If he went missing and his name is on that sign, I don’t want you or your child to go missing and have your name on a sign,” Turner said.
This unsolved disappearance intersects the unsolved triple murder that claimed the life of Virginian-Pilot reporter Sierra Jenkins and two men.
In a Zoom interview with 10 On Your Side’s Regina Mobley, Turner describes the moment she learned the young reporter who covered gun violence had become the victim of senseless gun violence herself.
November, Jenkins penned a front-page story on the disappearance of Turner’s son.
Turner and her daughter Jenay were sitting together for lunch when they learned Jenkins was one of five people who were shot during the early morning hours of March 19, outside Chicho’s Backstage in the 300 block of Granby Street in downtown Norfolk. Three of the victims died; two others were injured.
“I could not believe it when my daughter started screaming in the restaurant. And I said, ‘What is wrong Jenay? What is wrong?'” Turner said.
“She said ‘Oh my God Sierra, Sierra Jenkins just got killed.’ I said ‘What, killed?'” Turner said. “I could not believe it.”
“I said, with everything in me, I will be at her[funeral] service to show respect for her and to show how much we care for her, how much we loved her, and how much we appreciated what she did not only for my family but for other families of those who have lost loved ones in this city,” said Turner.
During the funeral service, just before the eulogy was delivered, Turner was the last mourner to offer expressions and reflections before an overflow crowd at Metropolitan Funeral Service on Granby Street.
“She [Jenkins] texted me and called me, constantly telling me that she was praying for me and that she was thinking of me,” Turner said.
Later this year, Turner will request a death certificate for Quantez Russell. For now, his mother says she continues to make monthly payments for his life insurance. His case remains unsolved and the Granby Street shooting deaths of Jenkins and two others, Devon Harris and Marquel Andrews, remain unsolved.