KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- It has been a deadly summer for Knoxville teens, particularly for students of Austin East High School.
In June, Dachanna Dotson, 17, was killed by a stray bullet on the front porch of her Porter Avenue home. And last Wednesday Elizajuan Stuart, also 17, was shot to death in an alley near Magnolia Avenue. Both were rising seniors at Austin East.
Now, Stuart's mother says she has a message for his killer.Taloni Stuart-Lee says she forgives the killer or killers responsible for murdering her son. Even so, she wants justice to be served.
Stuart had just wrapped up football practice Wednesday night, then headed toward Magnolia Avenue. Moments later, he was shot dead in cold blood.
"My first reaction was, 'are you serious, are you sure it's the right person, we just left practice,'" says teammate Charles Holland, who learned of Stuart's death less than an hour after football practice ended.
"My mom was like, you know your friend Elizajuan has just been shot."
The unbelievable news also pierced the heart of Stuart-Lee.
"At the funeral home I was screaming Elizajuan's name after I seen him just to see if he was going to come around the corner. A peace came over me," she says.
She says it was the peace of God, and credits her faith and sweet memories with getting her through the devastation of last week.
"We would dance together from when he was in diapers. We called it the diaper dance."
Stuart-Lee says Elizajuan was a good kid that stayed out of trouble. His coach agreed.
"He was a great teammate for a lot of the other kids. He was well liked by the teachers as well as his teammates," says Coach Robert Gillard.
Stuart's killing is especially hard for the Austin East senior class.
"It's the second person in our class," says Holland. It was just two months ago that Dotson was killed.
"As a class and as a team it has made us a lot stronger."
While classmates prepare to attend another funeral of a friend lost to senseless violence, Elizajuan's mother has this message for his killer: "I can't see Elizajuan again if I don't forgive. You did wrong, face up to it. That's about being a man or woman or whoever you are."
Stuart-Lee says her son was very trusting. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday.
Police say they're reviewing evidence collected from the scene.
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