On March 11, Sheila Henderson begged her son's probation officer one last time for help.
Two years after he was molested by a family friend, Terrence Ca'Pre Henderson's confusion and anger over that sexual assault had grown into a burning rage.
The 16-year-old was dangerous and beyond her control, Henderson said. She didn't know what to do.
She pleaded, yelling at times, for the probation officer to find a reason to take her son into custody and off the streets.
The probation officer agreed that the teenager everybody knew as "Pre" needed help. He said he was trying, but the process was slow. He noted in the files that Pre was "a time bomb." He called a therapist.
It was too late. Pre never talked to the therapist, and four days later he ran away from home.
Shortly after 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, Pre ambushed a young sailor he had never met before, shot him six times at close range and left him to die slumped in the front seat of his Acura.
Pre might never have met Bobby Southworth if the 20-year-old Navy sailor hadn't been looking for a gun.
Southworth, a native of Williston, Fla., was living on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise while it was being repaired at the Newport News shipyard. According to court testimony, he had asked his girlfriend's brother, James Miles, to help him buy a gun. Southworth would soon be transferred to a post in Chicago, and thought he needed the gun for safety, Miles said.
Southworth's mother, Patricia McCammon, doesn't believe much of Miles' account of her son's death. She doesn't question that he might have been seeking a weapon - his family said he relished imitating the gangster lifestyle he saw portrayed in rap videos. But McCammon doesn't know why he would have needed a gun, and she doesn't know why he would have tried to buy it on the streets of Newport News.
His step-father, Norman McCammon, often cautioned Southworth to be careful. Compared to life in the small Florida town where he grew up the Peninsula's urban neighborhoods provided a dangerous array of problems, his stepfather feared.
About 4:30 p.m. on March 16, Southworth called his mother in Florida. She was working at a child-care center in the local YMCA. It was the start of evening rush and parents were picking up their children. McCammon didn't have time to talk.
"I'm with some 'bros,' " she remembers him saying.
" 'We're just cruisin'." It was the last time she talked to him.
At 5:55 p.m. he withdrew money from a Navy Federal Credit Union ATM in Norfolk, according to court testimony. Then he arranged to meet Miles.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Few people, if any, call Pre by his first name, Terrence. His mother hates it. She wanted to name him after Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Pre's grandmother wouldn't hear of it. So Terrence it was. But from a very early age he has been known simply as Pre.
He was raised largely by his mother and, at times, her boyfriends. They lived in poor neighborhoods, including the family's last home on 25th Street. His mother hasn't had steady employment in years. She worked part-time on and off this year cleaning offices in Hampton.
His father, Paul Taylor fostered a reputation as a man to be feared. In 1995 he went to jail for murder.
"Sheila faults the system for failing him, and that may be true," Taylor said, "but I feel it's me, it's my fault.
Henderson also faults herself. She said she routinely punched and smacked Pre and his older brother when they were young.
But Pre didn't have any real run-ins with the law until he was 14. That's when he met the man who would change his life.
Henderson met Johnny Montague through friends.
Montague, known to friends as Pedro, was not the kind of guy she looked at in a romantic way. He was effeminate, Henderson said, leading her to suspect he was gay. But that didn't matter. She trusted him and considered him a friend.
Montague, who was 32 at the time, cut hair at an East End barbershop called Nappy Head. In 2003, he got 14-year-old Pre a job there sweeping floors, mostly on weekends but also on some weeknights.
On Thursday, April 10, Pre got to work a little late because he had stopped at a friend's house. When he got to the barber shop, Montague was alone and on the phone with Henderson, who was annoyed with Pre for not going directly to work.
According to Pre's testimony in court later, there was no work to do so Montague pulled out a bottle of vodka. When that ran out, they went around the corner to buy a couple of bottles of MD 20-20 - a cheap wine commonly called Mad Dog - and some candy.
When they returned, Montague lit a joint. Pre sipped the wine and took a few hits of the marijuana. As he relaxed, Montague gave Pre a Playboy magazine, which the teen flipped through.
Montague then took off Pre's shirt and massaged his back with lotion. Pre's pants came off. Before Pre knew it, Montague was standing naked with his butt up against the teenager's crotch. Pre backed up. Montague turned around and suddenly began performing oral sex on Pre. That's when the teenager made an excuse to use the bathroom and bolted from the building half-dressed.
A DIFFERENT CHILD
From the moment her son came in the door, Henderson was scared. She knew something was terribly wrong.
Pre was drenched. His pants were around his knees. The smell of cheap wine and body lotion was overwhelming. "Sheila," he said, calling his mother, as usual, by her first name. "Pedro tried to put it in my butt."
"What?" Henderson said. "Stop playing." Her son reached out for a hug. Henderson stepped back. He fell to the floor. "When he hit the ground he just started kicking," she said. "It was like he was swimming."
Instead of holding her son, Henderson yelled. She screamed for help. She smacked Pre in an effort to calm him down. She called Montague and yelled at him. Then she called the police.
Things got worse as she waited for the officers to arrive. Pre went on a rampage through the house. His mother turned the blame on him. "How (expletive) could you let him do that to you?" she remembers yelling at him repeatedly.
"Are you a (expletive) faggot?" she asked. Henderson still can't forget the devastated look in her son's eyes. "He really would say nothing no more," she said.
"He just turned into a whole different child."
ABUSER IS CONVICTED
The first police officers to arrive at the Henderson home called for back-up. They were followed by more police. It eventually took five or six officers to get Pre out of his house and over to Riverside Regional Medical Center for observation.
When Detective Anthony Tutone arrived at the hospital, police were still struggling to keep the lean 14-year-old still. "He was out of control," Tutone said at Montague's trial. "Some of the officers had to physically lay on top of him to try to get him to calm down."
DNA tests taken at the hospital showed almost beyond any doubt that Montague had sex with Pre.
Three months later, Montague was convicted of two counts of forcible sodomy.
He was sentenced to 60 years in prison, with 16 years suspended if he behaves behind bars.
Montague denied the charges against him and appealed the conviction, but the sentence stood.
As far as the court was concerned, the case was closed.
Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn said his office doesn't just put molesters behind bars. They also help victims of sex abuse receive therapy.
But Pre never received much treatment.
After he was molested Pre got into trouble regularly and was ordered to participate in personal and family counseling, according to records maintained by his probation officer that were provided to the Daily Press by his mother.
He ran away from home frequently.
He got into fights on a regular basis.
He joined a gang.
He cracked a car windshield with his fist.
He broke into homes, mugged people and got mugged.
Pre received counseling from a private firm called Agape Counseling and Therapeutic Services, which was hired by the city to help handle the workload.
During a two-month period in the summer of 2004, Pre attended 10 one-on-one sessions and six group meetings with a therapist. The records also show he skipped four appointments. His counseling stopped on Aug. 16, 2004, after Pre was returned to juvenile detention for fighting.
Even in detention, he continued to cause trouble, getting into fights, refusing to follow orders and, on one occasion, throwing Kool-Aid at a guard.
On Jan. 25, 2005, Pre's probation officer, Ron Roussel, wrote in a memo that the teenager was "just now receiving in-home (treatment) to address his anger, shame and hurt" from the sexual molestation. "He is extremely confused and is a threat to others," Roussel wrote. He recommended that Pre be put in a group home where he could receive therapy and work on the anger stemming from the sexual abuse.
On March 1 - 15 days before Southworth was killed -- a team of social workers from various local agencies, called the Newport News Interagency Network, rejected Roussel's recommendation. Instead, they ordered a psychological evaluation to determine whether Pre needed to be in a group home.
"They knew his frame of mind. They knew he was hurting. They knew he was a threat," Pre's mother said. "And they did nothing."
MISSED ACTION, TIMING
Probation officials declined to discuss Pre's case, as did a representative of the Newport News Interagency Network.
Designed to craft comprehensive care for troubled children, the network brings together representatives from various government agencies that deal with children, including schools, probation offices and social services.
Christie Smith, who supervises child welfare services at the Newport News Social Services Department, said the network reviews paperwork on about 25 cases each week. But they don't meet the children.
That's done by others who make recommendations, Smith said. And it's not uncommon for the group to review files that include stories like Pre's, that involve guns, fights, anger, sexual abuse and a family history of criminal behavior.
Smith said it's customary for the network to order an evaluation before placing a child in a group home, which can cost taxpayers as much as $15,000 a month.Group homes have professional staffs around the clock and provide therapy in a structured setting. But they're not secure facilities like detention centers. Children can and do run away, Smith said.
Robert Shepherd, who teaches law at the University of Richmond, is an expert on juvenile justice in Virginia.
He said the "risk factors" Pre had - a violent home, violent parents, sexual abuse - don't necessarily predict violent behavior. It would be impractical for the courts or social services to become involved with every case like his, Shepherd said.
But there were clearly opportunities in Pre's case where help could have made a difference, Shepherd said. "If there had been the right kind of intervention at the right time ... two lives could have been saved."
A MOTHER'S LAST TRY
Nobody was more aware that Pre was capable of killing someone - or being killed -- than his mother.
Even though she admits to her share of mistakes, Henderson pushed public officials to do something. "I knew if I got him locked up I don't have to worry about him dead or other people dying."
She remembers a heated argument with his probation officer on March 11, five days before Southworth was killed. "You just don't know, something's going to (expletive) happen," she remembers saying.
According to documents obtained from Henderson, Roussel understood and agreed. He was trying to get Pre into a group home where he might be taught to cope with his anger. But unless Pre violated his probation or committed a crime, there was nothing Roussel could do.
Four days later, on March 15, Pre didn't come home. Henderson reported her son to the police, this time for missing his curfew, a probation violation. An arrest warrant was issued.
Henderson considered it her last chance to get her son into the relative safety of a detention center. Pre considered himself on the run.
INSIDE THE ACURA
Shortly after 8 p.m. on March 16, Bobby Southworth picked up James Miles and Pre on Jefferson Avenue just outside the Dickerson Court apartments.
During his testimony in court later, Miles said he was just looking for a ride from Southworth, and that Pre had asked to come along. Miles said he didn't have any ill intentions. Pre said the plan all along was to rob the sailor.
Southworth turned right onto 21st Street and right again onto Terminal Avenue.
Pre testified that Miles asked Southworth if he had the money. "You know I got it," Southworth said. "You got the junk?" Southworth asked, referring to a gun.
"I got it right here," Miles said, as he raised the 9 mm Luger to Southworth's head.
Pre said the plan was for him to run through Southworth's pockets. Suddenly Southworth smacked the gun from Miles' hand and a fight started in the front seat.
The car slowed. While it continued to roll forward, Southworth pinned Miles against the passenger door, Pre testified. The gun had fallen in the backseat. Miles screamed for him to shoot Southworth.
At Miles' trial, Pre said Miles was a higher-ranking member of their gang, the Bloods, so he felt he had to follow Miles' frantic demands.
Pre grabbed the gun and pulled the trigger repeatedly. He said he didn't know how many times. He just kept firing as he climbed out of the car.
According to the medical examiner, five of the six shots that hit Southworth were serious enough to kill him. But, the sailor might have struggled to fight off his attackers or get out of the car before internal bleeding killed him.
Although Southworth's door was open when police arrived, there was $120 in his back pants pocket and another $160 in the center console of the car.
Once out of the car, Pre realized Miles was gone. He said he fled to a friend's house and went upstairs without telling anyone what happened. Alone, he broke down in tears.
GETTING A CONFESSION
Henderson found out her son had been involved in a shooting and tracked him down the next day.
Pre told his mother that Miles pulled the trigger. He said he watched, but had nothing to do with the shooting. She told him to go to the police. If he did nothing wrong, Henderson said, he had nothing to fear. Pre resisted, and left after just a few minutes.
His mother walked home in tears.
The next morning, on Friday, March 18, she went to police herself. She said her son was a witness to the murder. She also told them where he was hiding. Police arrested him later that day and found the murder weapon in the house where he was staying.
At the police station, detectives weren't buying Pre's version of events. Henderson didn't believe him either. "You know your child," she said later. "I was sitting there listening to him and I said 'Can I have a moment with my child?'" She talked to Pre with the video cameras still rolling from the other side of a one-way mirror.
"If you did this," she remembers telling him, "don't send nobody to jail for something you did." For several minutes she encouraged Pre to confess. He insisted he didn't shoot Southworth.
"I was like 'Pre don't lie.'"
"He'd nod his head.
"I was like 'you did it.'"
Finally, Henderson said, Pre told her, "'I did,' and he just started 'I did it. I did it. It wasn't supposed to be like that. The only thing I was supposed to do was run his pockets."
Pre broke down in tears.
The lead detective, William DeJesus, credits Henderson with playing a crucial role in solving Southworth's murder. "She deserves a medal," DeJesus said. "The woman has more courage than any mother I've dealt with."
In October, Pre became a witness against Miles. Prosecutors agreed to give him a reduced sentence in exchange for his testimony.
They told jurors that Miles arranged the deadly meeting and that his order to Pre to shoot Southworth made Miles just as wrong and dangerous as if he had pulled the trigger.
Pre admitted he was the shooter, but said he was simply following the directions of a higher ranking gang member.
Miles offered conflicting testimony about Southworth's death. He said Pre saw a silver chain Southworth was wearing and decided it was worth killing the sailor for.
Miles was acquitted.
A few nights before the trial, someone fired several shots into Henderson's house. Police put her and her family in protective custody.
Less than two weeks later, Terrence Ca'Pre Henderson was sentenced to 35 years in prison, with 16 years of his sentence suspended as part of the deal he made with prosecutors.
He can't be released until 2024. He'll be 35.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times