Families band together to ‘Save Our Children’s Future’

Reward in Paige Stalker case increases again

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 3, 2015

 Hundreds attend a vigil on Paige Stalker’s birthday last month.

Hundreds attend a vigil on Paige Stalker’s birthday last month.

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DETROIT — Within a few days of each other, right before families would gather for Christmas, two young girls were murdered in Detroit — two girls whose families are coming together to try to make positive change and unite communities.

Grosse Pointe Farms’ Paige Stalker, 16, and Detroit’s Christina Samuel, 22, didn’t know each other. They were in different parts of Detroit in vehicles with friends when they were gunned down. Both incidents are still under investigation.

“It has been a very hard time for both of our families,” Stalker’s grandfather, Dave Lawrence, said in an email. “Both similar girls, straight-A students. Paige was first in her class, and Christina had graduated from college and was to begin law school this past week.”

“Both had a bright future ahead of them,” Samuel’s father, Christopher Samuel, said.

The families want to see those responsible apprehended, and the families hope someone who knows something will come forward with the vital tips to solve the crimes.

“Somebody needs to step up,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence and Christopher Samuel have become friends in the face of tragedy, comforting each other, both saying it’s been helpful in a time when many tell them there are no words.

“It truly has helped,” Christopher Samuel said. “A lot of days, it keeps the blues from being blues. We talk about the girls. … The friendship there has just been wonderful.”

Likewise, the Grosse Pointes and Detroit have become allies in a fight to keep their communities and their children safe.

The communities will come together for a march on Mack April 25.

“We’re trying to bring communities together to stop this violence,” Christopher Samuel said. 

He said his objective is to get justice but also send a message that people need to stop taking the lives of other people.

They want to bring the neighborhoods together, teach about starting block clubs, getting to know neighbors and being aware of one’s surroundings to create safe communities.

Young lives end in tragedy
On Dec. 22, a man got out of a vehicle armed with an assault rifle and started firing at a car full of teens in the area of Philip and Charlevoix in Detroit.

One of those teens was Stalker, a University of Liggett student.

A couple of days later, Samuel was in a vehicle with a friend in the area of Gratiot and Eight Mile when two men shot at their vehicle, killing Samuel.

Their families describe the two as people who wanted to help others and make the world a better place.

Stalker had plans to become a doctor and had already called the University of Michigan to see what steps she would need to take for admission. She also volunteered at a local hospital.

“You think of all the lives she would have touched; all the lives she would have saved,” Lawrence said.

She loved children, was close to her family, including her young cousins, and would spend time in the summers in South Carolina with family.

“Paige would go down there in the summer and teach Bible school,” Lawrence said.

Samuel was getting ready to start law school after receiving a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice last May.

“Christina was the kind of person that always was willing to help somebody,” Christopher Samuel said.

She was a 2010 graduate of King High School in Detroit.

Samuel was close to her family, including her grandmother and her mother, and she enjoyed spending time with them.

“She wanted to help the criminal justice system,” Christopher Samuel said of his daughter.

Reward increases
Anonymous donors have given money for rewards through Crime Stoppers and the Detroit Crime Commission in the Stalker case. The reward through the Detroit Crime Commission recently grew from $100,000 to $150,000, and the reward through Crime Stoppers is $12,500.

“It is our hope that the overwhelming generosity of these private donors will spawn an outpouring of support that will aid in bringing the person(s) responsible for this heinous crime to justice, and provide closure to a grieving family,” Detroit Crime Commission Executive Director Andy Arena stated in a press release.

“We are working very hard to bring justice to those responsible for the death of this young woman. The unwavering support of the community at large has been and continues to be invaluable, as is relentless dedication of our investigative team,” Police Chief James Craig stated in the release.

There is also a reward for information leading to the apprehension of suspects in the murder of Samuel. Crime Stoppers offers a $2,500 reward in homicide cases. Anything above and beyond that comes from outside donations.

Lawrence said he and Samuel had met with Craig and the head of the homicide department in Detroit, among other staff.

“They are very actively pursuing the case and the many leads that have been coming in,” Lawrence said.
 
A website, a march to bring communities together
While justice is on the minds of the families, with hopes that those responsible will be caught and taken off the streets so they can’t hurt anyone else, the two families have their sights on something more for their communities — peace, safety and working together for that common goal.

They’ve launched a website, www.saveourchildrensfuture.com, and they are raising money to help fund a march and other efforts.

The march is planned for April 25 along Mack.

“(Detroit) Mayor (Mike) Duggan advised that he would march the entire route with Mr. Samuels and his family, as well as myself and the Stalker and Lawrence family,” Lawrence said.

The march will be another way to remember the girls, and to take steps toward uniting the communities.

“In earlier days, residents of Grosse Pointe and other communities knew our neighbors,” Lawrence said. “Now, we seem to communicate with our cellphones. Text messages have replaced talking. We need to reclaim our neighborhoods. No one deserves to live in fear. We used to be concerned about our children being out at night. But we didn’t worry about them playing in the neighborhood. We didn’t worry about them being harmed or murdered. We need to reclaim our neighborhoods, we need to educate our children. Both parents and schools need to make our children aware of the dangers. We need to make certain that our older citizens are safe.

“Citizens of both communities need to work together,” he said. “Those that are living in fear need to speak up. Dr. (Martin Luther) King once said, ‘We begin to die the day that we stop speaking up on things that matter.’”

They are looking for volunteers for the march and participants such as school bands, churches and other organizations.

They are selling hats and ribbons in honor of the two girls. The hats cost $20 with half going to charity. They can be purchased at Albatross Embroidery, 14927 Charlevoix, and Farms Market, 355 Fisher.

Another upcoming event is a program with a professional speaker for local high school girls, which also will benefit young adult women, about staying safe.

The event is planned for March 1 at Greek Assumption Center, 21800 Marter.

Remembering two inspiring girls
The lives of Stalker and Samuel will not be forgotten through the efforts of their families and those who loved them.

Part of an agreement between Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit includes naming a pocket park near Kercheval and Alter for Stalker and Samuel.

Because of Stalker’s love of Disney World and children, the family has set up a fund to help young children who have chosen Disney World as their Make-A-Wish trip.

Lawrence said the Grosse Pointe community has been supportive. Recently, more than 350 people came out to a birthday celebration for Stalker at the Christmas Tree in the Village.

Anyone wanting more information on how to help or participate in upcoming events, including volunteering, contributing funds for the march or to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, can visit www.saveourchildrensfuture.com.

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