The Four Block gang was so frightening that two years ago, three girls killed themselves after losing their main protector and being forced to face the gang on their own, they wrote in MySpace postings before their deaths.
They couldn’t escape the abuse, no matter where they went. They stopped going to school, but gang members hunted them down on the streets, their parents said. One by one, they succumbed.
The spiral of violence began when Kuanna Farrell, 17, killed herself in November 2008, partly over grief for her dead father.
Kuanna had guided her friends to what they said seemed like a cool partying crowd — a gathering of young men on Hamilton Hill who welcomed the girls and kept them supplied with alcohol and marijuana.
But when Kuanna killed herself, everything changed.
Her friends filled her MySpace page with pleas for help.
“i just wish yu were here to put bitches in their place,” one girl wrote.
Another girl wrote, “Kuanna, you always had my back. And I really need you now.”
A third girl, Jalissa, posted that she couldn’t get through the day without Kuanna. Three days later, she killed herself.
Then Mary, one of Kuanna’s friends, became pregnant with what others believed to be the child of a Four Block member. Mary decided to keep the baby. But the gang members — and the boy’s mother — harassed her for more than a month, trying to get her to have an abortion, her mother said.
“She was scared. She was badgered, bullied, threatened. Two kids called her all kinds of things,” Mary’s mother, Carolyn Turner, said. “The [boyfriend’s] mother called my daughter a slut. I tried to talk to her as one mother to another.”
It didn’t help. Mary killed herself while she was three months pregnant.
Several other friends tried to kill themselves, using the distinctive, slow method of death that Kuanna and the other girls had used, but they were found and resuscitated before it was too late.
The community began to believe the crisis was over. Although at least one parent told school officials that the Four Block gang was deliberately targeting and harassing certain girls, no one publicly linked the suicides to the gang. School and local officials said the children were merely bullied, not harassed by an organized group.
Then one more girl killed herself.
It began with a late-night beating. Cherelle, 14, staggered home with two broken ribs and a concussion. She told her mother that the Four Block gang had attacked her, but she refused to turn the boys in to police.
Family members never knew whether she was scared of repercussions or afraid that her friends would get in trouble, but her journal indicated that she might have been trying to escape the gang.
“I just don’t want to be involved in that gang crap,” she wrote.
She may not have succeeded in getting out of the gang, but her death on April 2, 2009, galvanized the community. A story in The Daily Gazette linking her death, and the other suicides, to the Four Block gang led the district attorney to begin investigating. The school district called in national suicide specialists. Local doctors and counselors mobilized, searching for signs of suicide among their patients. Community groups held events training parents in warning signs — and in how to get their teenagers to talk to them.
The change gave Cherelle’s mother, Lisa Seymour, some satisfaction.
“She didn’t die in vain,” Seymour said. “She brought so much awareness of suicide to the community.”
She doesn’t care how the gang members are punished.
“There’s no punishment that could bring back my daughter,” she said.
But she does want to ask them one question, the question that parents said has plagued them ever since they learned of the abuse their daughters suffered.
“What went through their minds?” Seymour said. “How could they have done what they did?”
Categories: Schenectady County