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Grieving families seek answers as Indy's rising violence has youth in the crossfire

Dec. 15 is a day Tonya Hegwood will never forget. It was that day in 2020 her 17-year-old son was fatally shot.

BROWNSBURG, Ind. — As Indianapolis marks another record year for homicides, we're seeing young Hoosiers stuck in the middle of all the gun violence.

On Monday, a 10-year-old boy was shot as he slept in his bed on the east side of Indianapolis. Police said the gunfire came from outside his home. He survived his wounds. Unfortunately, other recent shootings in the area had a different outcome.

Tonya Hegwood knows the pain well. Dec. 15 is a day she will never forget.

One year ago, her 17-year-old son Darnell was shot and killed as he sat in a parked car in Hendricks County. 

It was the worst day of Hegwood's life.  

"Trying to figure out how to live in a world without him sucks," she said. "I don't want to live in a world without him. The pain feels just as deep as it did the day I got the phone call. I still cry every day."

One year later, she spends her days grasping for anything just to feel close to him.

"Instead of kissing my son goodbye every morning, instead of hugging him, I hug his urn. I talk to his urn a lot. My whole life has turned upside down, all because four boys decided to follow him for 20 minutes, then decided to murder him in front of a bunch of school kids," said Hegwood.

She said she misses the simple things the most. Darnell was active, loved sports, had a lot of friends and was set to graduate early with his Core 40.

"He wasn't perfect, I'll be the first to admit, but he had the right heart. He was very giving and kind," Hegwood said.

RELATED: Police union, community leader want new laws to fight Indianapolis violence

For the grieving mother, there is some peace in knowing the four men accused of killing her son were caught after Tonya spent months helping investigators in the case.

"I just kept watching all their posts and learned who their friends were and watched their friends and eventually I was able to give that information to the police," said Hegwood.

That's why she has made it her mission to keep his legacy going by sharing his story.

RELATED: IMPD chief reflects on soaring homicides, encourages community to report violence

"He is forever a legend. He is forever remembered. Even though they took his life, I refuse to let them take his greatness," Hegwood said.

She hopes others will help remember him as well on a Dec. 22. There's a 7 p.m. vigil at Northwestway Park to mark the year since his passing.

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