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Family, Friends Remember Woodbine Teen Killed 10 Years Ago

Zharia Young

By Eric Conklin

WOODBINE – A group congregating around a small tree along the Woodbine Bike Trail at approximately 4:30 p.m. Oct. 6 came to remember the date’s significance despite the pain it bears after a decade. 
Family and friends of Khalil Wallace, a 2011 homicide victim, held a vigil to remember his life on the date his fate was learned 10 years ago, after he’d been missing for several weeks. The gathering was similar to one in 2016 that recognized five years since his death. 
Wearing a mix of black and yellow t-shirts, with Wallace’s photo on the front, the group bowed their heads in prayer, hugged, cried together, enjoyed tunes from singers like Marvin Sapp, and released balloons to the county’s overcast sky, remembering someone they proclaimed a “true friend.” 
Wallace, who was killed at 19, was a standout football player for Millville High School, having played wide receiver for the Bolts before graduating, in 2010.  
A call to the Millville High School Athletic Department for this story was not immediately returned.  
He also spent his winters playing basketball at the school. He decided to use his athletic ability for Rowan University’s football program.  
His family and his closest friends, however, remember him most for his character, as a young man who would go out of his way to help others, like buying sneakers for children and bringing elderly residents’ trash cans to their front yards on trash day.  
“He was just that person,” Wallace’s mother, Natasha Hawkins, of Woodbine, told the Herald. “He would go anywhere he could be of help.” 
Wallace gained regional attention after Sept. 20, 2011, when he was last seen leaving a Woodbine dollar store in a minivan and was later reported missing. Evidence in his disappearance continued appearing days later, when the vehicle’s charred remains were found in Philadelphia, along with Wallace’s phone. 
Weeks later, his fate was learned. 
Investigators retrieved Wallace’s body from a Cumberland County lake Oct. 6, 2011, having suffered three gunshot wounds. He left behind his family, friends and an infant daughter, Iyonna.  
Justice for Wallace was served in 2015, when three men, Andre Gross, Norman Gray and Boris Curwen, were charged with his death. As part of a plea agreement, Gross and Gray were sentenced for manslaughter and illegal body disposal charges. Curwen, having assisted investigators in the case, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter, but has since been released, according to the state Department of Corrections website. Gross and Gray, however, remain incarcerated but are each eligible for parole in 2028 and 2031, respectfully, the website states. 
Those gathered in Woodbine didn’t speak of Wallace’s death. Instead, they remembered him as a teen devoted to sports, friends and family. Attendees were given a program filled with pictures of Wallace throughout his life. Some showed him as a joyful newborn, while others showed him with the stern look of a dutiful student-athlete preparing for college in his class portraits. 
There was even one with Wallace cradling his newborn daughter. 
Iyonna never met her father despite family memories and photos of him, some of which show a smiling young man in his Colts football gear and a white tuxedo he chose to wear to a prom. She’s now 10, but she’s persevered without his physical presence, something for which Hawkins credits the girl’s mother. She also credits those who remained close with Iyonna’s family after Wallace’s death. 
“Her (Iyonna) family has always been supportive from each side, and she has a village of loved ones,” Hawkins said. 
Iyonna’s taking after her father, too, as a young basketball player. Because of the people around her, she knows her father as a man committed to others and his passions. 
“When you look at his life and you want to honor his life, and you want to remember his life, whatever you put your hands to, be successful with it,” said Pastor Thomas Dawson Jr., of Soar Church, in Woodbine. 
Before the group separated for supper that evening, they released black and yellow balloons brought in memory of Wallace’s love for the Pittsburgh Steelers. There were also candles in the same colors. 
Each person took their turn lighting a candle under the tree along the bike path, clustering them together, leaving them at the mercy of the wind. 
Most importantly, they left remembering Wallace’s memory has no end.
To contact Eric Conklin, email econklin@cmcherald.com. 

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