A sensitive and thorough portrayal of Yong Jones' struggle to bring her son's murderer to justice against the backdrop of her cultural beliefs. Originally published as a series in the Portland Press Herald, Portland, ME, in May and June, 1998.
A Mother's Journey Begins
The calls came in the middle of the night to an empty, darkened house.
Bangor police had urgent news for Laurence Jones Sr. and his wife, Yong. They called at 4 a.m. At 5. At 6.
No one picked up the phone.
Just after sunrise Yong came home from working the late shift at a local paper mill.
The blinking red light on the answering machine caught her eye. She pressed the Play button.
"This is the Bangor Police Department. Would someone please call us back?"
Yong called, wondering why the police had phoned her at such an odd hour.
The officer who took her call asked her: "Do you have a son?"
''Yes,'' she said, fear rising like poison in her throat.
''He's had some kind of accident,'' the officer explained. He told her to telephone a hospital in Baltimore.
A nurse there told her: ''Your son's been hurt.''
''Can he talk?'' Yong asked.
''No,'' the nurse said gently. ''Is it possible for you and your husband to come down here?''
It was Nov. 20, 1993. Just three months earlier, Yong's only child, Laurence Jones Jr., had moved from Bangor to Baltimore. He'd hoped to get his master's degree in psychology at one of the best schools in the country, Johns Hopkins.
Now he lay dying in a hospital bed, shot in the face during a late-night robbery outside his apartment.
Yong and her husband chartered a plane to Baltimore later that morning. The flight would mark the beginning of an excruciating journey for Yong, a journey for justice that would stretch four years.
In that time she would grow desperate to see her son's murderer caught and punished. Her grief and rage would be intensified by cultural beliefs she had learned long before she came to this country.
As a young girl in South Korea, Yong was taught that the spirit of a murder victim was damned to roam between Heaven and Hell until the killer was brought to justice.
Soon after she buried her son in the cold Maine ground, Yong would become obsessed with avenging his murder and freeing his stolen soul.
Her crusade would test her strength, ravage her health and nearly kill her.
It would be a grueling journey, but it was one that Yong could not abandon. She was a mother. A mother hoping to rescue the soul of her only child.
Barbara A. Walsh is a Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter working on special projects for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. Walsh was one of two principal reporters at the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, who worked on a yearlong series about Willie Horton Jr., a convicted killer and furlough escapee whose crimes drew attention to the flawed Massachusetts prison system. The series won a 1988 Pulitzer Prize.
David A. Rodgers
Rodgers has been a photographer at The Portland Newspapers since 1988. He previously worked for the Rocky Mountain News and the Boston Globe. Rodgers won third place in the National Press Photographers' Association's international pictures of the year contest this year for his work on the newspapers' Island Odyssey series, which ran in the summer of 1996. Rodgers also has won numerous regional and state photography awards.