Matthew McCree’s mother Louna Dennis couldn’t even sit in the courtroom during the trial for the alleged killer of her son. She said the mountain of alleged lies about her late 15-year-old son was too much to bear.
Two years after he fatally stabbed a student in class, Abel Cedeno’s trial has begun to determine if the gay teen acted in self-defense because he was allegedly bullied by classmates or if he–Cedeno–is a cold-blooded killer.
“For two years I cry almost every day,” Dennis said during a recent interview. “There are times when I’m trying to sleep and it will hit me. Even in the courtroom I’m sitting and I’m saying to myself, ‘I’m not supposed to be here. Why am I sitting here? Why is all of this going on?’”
As the trial begins, Dennis said she’s getting support from her mother, sister, cousin, aunt and McCree’s friends.
“My son was a loving kid. He was happy, energetic. My son loved to play sports. Once he loved, he loved. My son made friends with anybody, no matter if you were gay or straight.”
In September 2017, Cedeno was repeating the 12th grade at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation. He said he was the victim of years of harassing and bullying because he’s gay.
Cedeno said he “snapped” when he whipped out a 3-inch switchblade he’d purchased online and fatally stabbed McCree and injured another teen, 16-year-old Ariane Laboy. Cedeno was initially charged with murder, however, a grand jury
downgraded the charges to manslaughter taking into account his claims of years of harassment. He pled not guilty.
Facing up to 25 years in prison, Cedeno’s case is a bench trial and his fate will be decided by Judge Michael Gross.
Since the stabbing in 2017, Cedeno’s family, lawyers and supporters have defended his actions saying he had no other choice and that he was merely defending himself. During a news conference last week outside Bronx Criminal Court, lawyers accused McCree of being homophobic and involved in gang activity. They claimed to have discipline records of McCree going back to the fourth grade.
Many have accused Cedeno and his lawyers of using race as a factor. Cedeno is a white Latino and McCree was Black. Dennis said that while she’s happy that Cedeno is finally on trial, she wants justice for her deceased son.
“I just can’t wait for it all to be done with so we can really deal with his death the way we really need to,” she said. “Going back and forth to court for two years, we haven’t really been able to deal with it. Once everything is said and done, at least we’ll have some kind of closure.”
Dennis said during the trial, the lies being told about her son are what bothers her the most. She says they range from her son being a “troublemaker” to initiating violent attacks.
“My son was never the child to initiate anything,” she said. “He was never the child to swing the first hit. He’s not that type. My son was loved by many; he had no need to be aggressive toward others because he had nothing but love.”
Reports indicate that during their defense, Cedeno’s lawyers are accusing McCree of being homophobic and saying that he harassed Cedeno because he has an “effeminate gentle soul” who was trying to stay away from the school’s alleged gang culture.
“My two best friends are gay and my son would refer to them as his ‘gay parents,’” Dennis said. “He had men gay friends and female gay friends. At the end of the day if he was homophobic, he wouldn’t like any gays. It doesn’t matter if they are male or female. I have gay family members and when I say gay I mean men. My son didn’t care about that. My daughter’s Godmother’s nephew is gay and he and Matthew were very close.”
As far as being a bully, Dennis said her son was more of a protector. Being a victim of bullying herself, Dennis said that she instilled into all of her children that bullying anyone was
“When I had them I was strict on that. I told them, ‘If I ever find out you guys are bullying anyone I will kick y’all’s a–.’ No bullying. Period,” she said. “I’m against bullying because I experienced it so I know what it feels like.”
Along with bullying, Dennis said she instilled into her children that being in gangs wasn’t tolerated either. A proactive and involved parent, Dennis said she would go to the school if she received any reports of her children behaving badly and warned them about disrespecting teachers.
“We have no gang members in my family. Not saying my family is perfect, but we don’t do that. Where I come from we don’t do those things. I always taught my children don’t be a follower, you be a leader.”
Dennis’ attorney Sanford Rubenstein said she’s filed a civil suit against the department of education for their lack of handling the situation and school safety that resulted in her son’s killing and violating the state’s Dignity for All Students Act. The now closed-Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation didn’t have metal detectors and lacked supervision. Dennis also filed a wrongful death suit against Cedeno.
“[Cedeno] didn’t belong in my 15-year-old’s class. He would have been turning 19 in my 15-year-old’s class. If he kept getting left back, send him to alternative school or a GED program. He should have been out of the school. Not having metal detectors in the school knowing the school has a history of people
Aside from the justice she wants for her son, Dennis told the AmNews that she wants her son’s good name restored and for the world to know that he wasn’t a violent, homophobic gang member as he’s being portrayed as.
“My son was not a bully. My son doesn’t hate gay people. My son was very loving, affectionate and he loved to the fullest. He was just an amazing kid. Everyone he came in contact with, loved him. He’d leave a mark. Not a bad one, but a good one,” Dennis said.