Saturday, May 7, 2011

With verdict, a mother gets her daughter back

Johnnie Mae could sing. Lord, she could sing. Gospel or blues or whatever came into her head and crossed those lips. “Didn’t matter what it was,” says her mother.

In fact, Edna Shine says proudly, a teacher once told her that music and Johnnie Mae always went together beautifully.

Then, with a small smile only a mother is allowed, she adds: “But she didn’t believe in doing much homework.”

Edna got her daughter back this past week. After 10 years of waiting for police to find and arrest
Johnnie Mae’s killer. After one year of waiting for a murder trial, then one week of having to relive Johnnie Mae’s addiction and stabbing. Finally, on Wednesday, Tyrone Johnson was convicted in Charlotte and sent to prison for life.

And all of it ended the week leading up to Mother’s Day.

Johnnie Mae “Coochie” Shine was the first of seven girls Edna raised in Charlotte. She gave each the same foundation, took them all to church every Sunday. But like any parent, she came to know that they may be our children, but they become their own people, often so different than each other – and us. “You just never know why,” Edna says.

Coochie was different, for sure. Edna knew it from the time she looked over and saw her 6-month-old dancing to the music in the room. Even when six other sisters filled the house, it was Coochie who stood out. “She was the oldest, the smallest, the shortest,” Edna says. “Everything you say about Coochie, you just put an ‘est’ on it, and that’s about right.”

It was in her 20s that Coochie started to get high. She would go on binges and stop eating, and her family would pray. She would come out of it, start eating again, and give her family hope. And always, she lit up a room, still singing and dancing, still generous and impulsive. “God protects the fools and babies,” she liked to say.

Early in the morning of May 29, 2000, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police found the body of Johnnie Mae Shine, 40, near her Plaza Midwood home. Police immediately had a suspect in Johnson, but it wasn’t until years later that the department’s cold case unit was able to link him to the murder through DNA obtained from a 2006 arrest in South Carolina. Last May, they made an arrest.

At the trial, Johnson described the same Johnnie Mae Edna knew – the one who made everyone laugh. But he also described them smoking crack together, and prosecutors told the jury that he chased her to a neighbor’s porch and stabbed her 10 times. “They showed that tiny body with all them holes in it,” Edna says, and she covers her mouth and turns her head from the thought of it.

Edna decided not to go to the final day of the trial Wednesday, but shortly before noon, her daughter Clarissa called and said, “Mama, we got him.” Then Shirley called, then all the others, and everybody got to crying.

Edna Shine did, too, because now Coochie could rest. She cried because she loved Coochie like all of her daughters, six of them with good lives and families. That’s what mothers do, which made Edna cry for one more person.

“I felt sad for his mama,” she says of Tyrone Johnson.

“It’s her child. And you love your children.”


Lynne Stevenson said...

Thank God, Edna and her family got the closure they deserve. This is one of those times where the justice system worked properly...