By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Andre: The fast money I made went to my head. Stopped listening to my grandmother. Eventually I went to live with my aunt, went back to school, but Newark kept calling me back (the block). Needed money to keep up with the others. We wanted to be like the other kids in our neighborhoodsneakers, jeans, leather hip-hop coats.
Andre left prison in the beginning of 2000, and this time he decided to go straight. By now he was 28 and had four childrenages 13, 12, 12, and eightwith three different women. He moved in with his girlfriend Keasha and their eight-year-old son in Irvington, New Jersey. He'd earned his high school equivalency diploma in prison, and now he enrolled in a technical school, where he took classes in accounting, business math, and spreadsheet management.
Over the next year, he held several low-wage jobs: security guard in a Newark homeless shelter, dishwasher in a Maplewood retirement home, forklift operator in a warehouse. To make extra money, he worked weekends selling hot dogs from a cart he parked in front of a barbershop. He also tried to be a good father and spent a lot of time with his children, taking them roller-skating and to the movies.
Despite his good intentions, Andre continued to find trouble. He hung out with friends he'd met in prison. He got arrested twice for drug possession. He got shot in the leg. Then, on January 1, 2001, he slipped on an icy sidewalk and broke his femur. He had to have a rod inserted in his leg and could no longer push his hot dog cart around. Making a living suddenly became much more difficult.
In February 2001, Keasha gave birth to his fifth child, DéAndre. Andre continued to go to school and was on track to graduate in June. In May, he applied for a job with a hazmat cleanup crew. He doubted he would get the job because he heard another applicant had more experience. While he was waiting to find out if he'd been hired, he agreed to participate in one more robbery.
His decision would ultimately end three people's lives and destroy many more, including his own.