When a Child Dies

Family Interview

In 2009, 8-year-old Jeremiah Williams was shot in the head by his mother's boyfriend, who had a long record of domestic violence in the house. At first, the story was reported just like so many others — another senseless death of a kid in a low-income housing project in Indianapolis. Then, Tim Evans of the Indianapolis Star started asking questions. His article, “Jeremiah Williams' Story” gave Jeremiah a face. It put his death in a context of failures by the child welfare system. And it gave voice to his great-aunt and uncle, who lovingly had raised Jeremiah for most of his life in the suburbs. The Rev. Arthur Sample III and his wife Barbara needed people to know who Jeremiah was. They needed to say he had a family who loved him and a future full of promise until his mother came and took him back five months before his death. Most of all, they needed to express their outrage.

The Samples weren't ready to talk the day Jeremiah died. They were too busy for an interview during the days they were planning his funeral. But Evans waited. He gave them time and then called back.

“We're so glad he stuck with it,” says the pastor. “Jeremiah's story needed to get out.”