Over the Fourth of July weekend we learned two high profile Baltimoreans, connected intimately to the criminal justice system lost loved ones to violence.

Baltimore Police spokesman, T.J. Smith delivers the horrific news of homicides, that devastates families, because it is part of his job. But, tragically for Smith on July 2, it was his turn to receive the dreaded news nobody wants to hear. Smith was actually working when he found out his younger brother, Dionay Smith, 24 was fatally shot.

Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)

“Of course I’m upset, angry, mad, and all those things. But, I can only channel the negative into the positive and pray for the soul of the person responsible for this,” Smith said via Facebook.

“He (the murderer) ruined his life for something small and petty, no doubt. So, many young people lack the foresight to understand the gravity of their poor decision making,” Smith added.

According to Smith, his younger brother had three small children and was working two jobs to support his family.

The day before Smith was murdered, yet another young Black man was gunned down, shot in the back in the early hours of July 1. And this one hurt me to my heart.

The media has seized upon the fact that Louis “Cody” Young, 22, was the stepson of skilled defense attorney Warren Brown. And I’ve covered Brown’s notable career for several years. But, I met Cody’s family even before I began reporting on Brown.

I visited the house Cody grew up in, the morning of July 5, and sat with his grandfather, veteran attorney William Dorsey. His wife, Cody’s grandmother Betty (Ms. Betty to me), was still asleep. I sat in the family room of their home and stared at the walls filled with photos of their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. There he was; Cody, that rambunctious little boy, with the mischievous grin and round face that lit up like the moon when he smiled broadly.

Also, among the family photos on the Dorsey’s wall were numerous photos of Cody’s mother Donyelle Brown; from the time she was a baby, to a teenage beauty queen, a young bride and a young mother. Cody and his older sister Leah, were and still are the shining lights of her life.

Cody, the rugged little boy with the mischievous grin, grew up to be a big, strong young man and an outstanding football player. Donyelle was so proud of him. Now, the mother has to bury her only son because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Behind every homicide “number” there’s a story and a family somewhere, whose world has been torn asunder.

Almost exactly 13 years ago, June 22, 2004, me and my family found out my beloved mother, Leslie was murdered in her home. Her killer is unknown, her murder remains unsolved.  Tragically, our story is only one of hundreds, thousands of families that have lost loved ones, irreplaceable, to the wanton violence Baltimore is now famed for.

Behind every homicide number, there’s a story…

I still remember our first Thanksgiving (her favorite holiday) without my mother. I almost died of heartbreak. Since then, I have prayed that nobody I know, nobody that I love would have to endure that type of pain. Because the ebbing away of that pain is a slow, often tortuous process.

But, the pain does subside, eventually and you move forward. But, the pain never fully goes away. You just learn to live with it.

Yet, that is little solace to those experiencing the first waves of catastrophic heartbreak, when a loved one is snatched away because of violence.

Homicide is not a numbers game.

Sean Yoes is the Baltimore editor of the AFRO and host and executive producer of, “First Edition,” which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA, 88.9.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor