Jerell Willis

Jerell Willis

Camden, Camden County, New Jersey, USA
Death 28 May 1994 (aged 4)
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Burial Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 7118678 View Source

Circumstances : This unidentified homicide victim was found on May 27, 1994 on a vacant lot adjacent to 311 N. Lawrence Street in Philadelphia near I-95 and the Banjamin Franklin Bridge. The victim's decomposed body was found wrapped in brown and yellow or orange striped sheets inside a multi-colored pink, blue, and green nylon bag. The victim is described as a black male, four to six years of age, 38" tall, and 41 lbs. His right front tooth was chipped. This child may be from outside the Philadelphia area. The image shown is a facial reconstruction prepared for the Philadelphia Police Department.
Date Missing :may-27-1994
City of Report :PHILADELPHIA
State of Report :PA
Country of Report :USA
Case Number :u400007

After nearly 11 years, police have identified the woman they believe is the mother of the "Boy in the Bag."

Some parent of the year she was.

So far, Alicia Robinson has been charged with abuse of a corpse and hindering apprehension in the 1994 death of her 4-year-old son.

Cops on both sides of the river are still sorting out the details but are pretty sure the boy was beaten to death in Camden, stuffed into a bag, tossed out like the trash, and left to rot in a vacant lot in Old City.

Even more baffling?

That, police suspect, Robinson and an as-yet-unnamed man "of interest" in the case used NJ Transit as an accessory in the crime.

Supposedly, they boarded a bus toting the tot's corpse, rode over the Ben Franklin Bridge, ditched the duffel, and returned home to get on with their lives in Camden.

Robinson may have given birth to the boy, but if she played even a costarring role in his death, she doesn't deserve to be called his mama.

That title should go to Mary Peck.

She was the North Philadelphia stranger so heartbroken by the story of the "Boy in the Bag" that she spent seven years begging the morgue to release his body for burial.

If the boy wasn't loved during his short life, Mary made sure he was cherished in death, for eternity.

"This little fella has no name," she told me the day we met. "At least his little body should be at peace, at rest."

In February 2001, after police exhausted all leads and took DNA tests from the body, the "Boy in the Bag" was finally cleared for cremation.

I drove Mary to the morgue, where staff members marveled at her resolve to prove to a boy no one wanted that someone really did care.

Strangers touched by her tenderness joined us for the funeral.

The archdiocese donated a spot in New Cathedral Cemetery in North Philadelphia. A bagpiper volunteered his musical services.

A woman Mary never met decorated a box with lace and a cross so the boy's ashes could be buried in something beautiful.

At the cemetery, the Rev. John McNamee said Mary had even chosen a name for her "little fella."

Tarsicius, the patron saint of altar boys. He, too, was beaten to death.

In more than a decade of doing this, I've never met a woman like Mary.

Calling it a privilege is an understatement. Calling her an unsung angel seems too schmaltzy.

Mary didn't do schmaltz. She was as humble and unassuming as her deeds were gracious and grand.

"If I didn't do it, somebody else would - wouldn't they?" she once asked me.

Mary had battled cancer before the boy's burial. She was thrilled that a grave marker - donated by another stranger - was installed before she got sick again.

If only Mary could have lived long enough to see the case cracked.

This week, I stopped by the boy's grave again, thinking as I brushed snow off the black granite marker that there's one more thing Mary would want so he can rest in peace.

Turns out Jim Travis was thinking the same thought.

"I'll replace the marker when we learn the boy's name," said Travis, who owns Travis Memorials. "Whatever it takes, I'll do it."

Mary Peck lost her fight against cancer in April 2003.

I was out of town for work at the time and couldn't attend her funeral.

Not that she would have had me.

Modest until the end, Mary insisted on a simple graveside burial.

No fuss, no crowds, nothing fancy.

"That's what she wanted," her son Harry Peck said. "How do you not honor the person you love?"

After visiting Tarsicius, I drove up Broad Street to Northwood Cemetery in West Oak Lane.

There, in Lot 74 of the Birch section, Mary lies next to her husband, Harry, a Navy veteran who passed in 1984.

I wasn't surprised by her final resting spot.

Harry's name is on the gravestone, but, per her wishes, Mary's is not.

  • Created by: Josephine
  • Added: 25 Jan 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7118678
  • Graveaddiction
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Jerell Willis (1 Jul 1989–28 May 1994), Find a Grave Memorial ID 7118678, citing New Cathedral Cemetery, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Josephine (contributor 21893244) Burial Details Unknown, .