Leon Walker

Leon Walker

Boy's mother hoped new beginning was near

Woman entered church program, then came news of son's brutal death

May 4, 2010

GARY -- Turquoise Walker thought she had a plan that would mark the start of a new beginning for herself and her two sons.

But that changed Wednesday night when 5-year-old Leon Walker arrived at the hospital, covered with welts and bruises, dead from a broken neck.

The boy's father, Leon Burns, 28, and his girlfriend, Rochell Johnson, 32, have been charged with murder and neglect in the beating death of the boy. Police say the boy was bound and tortured in the hours before his death.

Burns has a formal appearance in Lake Superior Court Judge Clarence Murray's court at 8:30 a.m. May 11. He's scheduled for a hearing on June 29.

Johnson has a May 14 court date.

Turquoise Walker, 26, cloistered in a church program for three weeks, is hurt, angry and confused about her loss.

"We planned this baby, we were engaged, we'd been together for six years. I was with this man throughout the all and all, the hard times and the good times. This was his first born," she said Monday from the Good Samaritan Mission home where she is part of a Christian Discipleship program.

"I read that he said he went too far. Yes, you did, you went too far when you beat him daily. What person in his right mind would do that?" she said.

Veteran investigators say the injuries they saw are some of the most brutal they've ever seen. Police accuse Burns of tying the boy's hands and with electrical cord and hitting him with a belt.

Johnson was at the Glen Park home the couple shared during the beatings, court records state. She heard the boy beg to be untied and heard his screams as he was punched. After he fell quiet, the couple called for an ambulance.

Leon died when his cervical spine was snapped. Police said he had a deep ligature mark around his neck.

Walker said she and Leon Burns were a couple for six years, then split. She had been living in Wisconsin, but Leon spoke with his father regularly. Last year she decided to come back to be near her family.

Her grandmother was taking care of Leon and her other son in East Chicago.

"I haven't seen my son in nine months. I've been on my own trying to make my own way; it's been one thing after another," she said.

Little Leon was "energetic. He loved his brother, he was always willing to help. He had the most beautiful smile," his mother recalled.

Mission Pastor Jim Watson said Turquoise Walker had crafted a colorful beaded key chain and a heart to mail to Leon for his sixth birthday on Monday.

"Within an hour of when she was going to the post office to mail the gifts, the police were here," Watson said.

"She came here so she could become the mother she needs to be. She thought her child was safe," Watson said, describing Walker as "fragile" in the aftermath of Leon's death.

Burns was supposed to keep the boy for a weekend visit, but when Walker's grandmother started calling to bring Leon home, "and it was one excuse after another," Walker said.

"Now we know why," she said.

Today Walker will make funeral arrangements for her son.

"I have no idea how to plan one," she said.

Watson said his church is handling the funeral costs. Anyone who wishes to donate in Leon Walker's memory to the program that helps women like his mother can send donations to the Good Samaritan Mission, P.O. Box 64580, Gary, Ind. 46401.


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