A baby-faced alleged killer reportedly turned himself in on Monday, Dec. 12, after being sought in the death of a 16-year-old girl in Harlem.
The killing highlights two torturous NYC issues—youthful misdirection and domestic violence.
“When are we gonna make domestic violence a hate crime?” asked Stephanie McGraw almost rhetorically. The founder and CEO of WARM: We All Really Matter said, “Raising awareness in the community about domestic violence. This is getting worse.
“Silence hides violence. If you’re silent you are part of the violence—because what you see or say might save a life. So many people saw her abused by that little boy,” said McGraw.
For a tense and gut-wrenching day from Sunday, Dec. 11, to Monday night, 18-year-old Zyaire Crumbley was being sought in the death of his girlfriend Saniyah Lawrence, 16.
The NYPD circulated video of a shadowy figure walking away from the scene of the crime where the teenage girl had been stabbed in the neck in a transitional building on 135th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard in Harlem, just after neighbors said they heard arguing. Reports said that Crumbley felt that the young lady was seeing someone else, and that was the cause of the fight.
The NYPD press statement said that at about “5:40 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, police responded to a 911 call of a female stabbed inside of 2306 Adam Clayton Powell Apt 1A…Upon arrival police discovered an unidentified female who was stabbed in the neck at the location.”
Lawrence was taken to Harlem Hospital where she was pronounced dead. She lived with her mother in Harlem, who McGraw says “was working, working hard to get her away from him.
McGraw said that Saniyah’s mother, Sharisse Jackson, “is devastated. She does not know how to navigate this tragedy, she doesn’t know what to do,” but hailing the all-too-familiar steadfast nature of Black women under pressure, McGraw, who has steered many an unfortunate family through such loss, added, “That’s what we as Black women do. We help our sisters and their families through this dramatic time. This is a baby. She is a minor. This is awful.”
Having worked for years on domestic violence cases, now retired NYPD detective Marq Claxton told the AmNews, “Every year many of our young people fall victim to Intimate Partner Violence. It is harder to identify and prevent these fatal encounters because the victim and offender may not be cohabitating, but the emotions and passions may be just as intense.”
The director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance continued, “For teens and young adults the emotional immaturity and limited coping skills could add layers of danger to relationships. Families and communities need to pay close attention and immediately intervene in these volatile relationships because just like traditional domestic violence cases, the risk of fatality is always present and requires direct intervention and support services. Many of these senseless IPV deaths are avoidable.”
Stephanie McGraw hosted a rally on Tuesday night in Harlem that initially was planned to seek out the killer. Once Crumbley was arrested on Monday, the community vigil became a memorial for Saniyah Lawrence. Harlem activists and community members gathered with her family in front of dozens of lit candles, fliers and photos of Saniyah.
“It was overwhelming. Her mother Sharisse stood with us, but it was too much, it was heart-wrenching, and so she went back into the car.”
Saniyah’s family came out too though: her father, aunts, her grandfather and her great grandfather.
“Domestic violence affects all sides of the community. These children are out here drinking, smoking and experiencing all kinds of traumas. Something must have happened to this boy,” said McGraw. “His eyes are vacant, that’s the only way you can take someone’s life. His eyes were vacant because of the violence he suffered as a little boy, both of his parents were in jail—hurt people hurt people.”
Claxton continued, “My experience as a domestic violence investigator in the NYPD, is that most of the teen dating IPV cases weren’t classified as domestic violence because the parties typically didn’t live in a familial setting or cohabitate and had no children in common. That classification difference results in a different law enforcement response and focus.”
Mayor Eric Adams’ office did not respond to a request for a statement.
“Domestic violence doesn’t just happen to the intimate partners, it has a ripple effect,” domestic violence survivor and activist Rosalyn McIntosh told the AmNews. The founder and president of Sisters Building Sisters in Brooklyn, Inc., said, “Domestic violence affects their family, loved ones and a host of others.”
McGraw told the paper, “The family is definitely going to be doing a fundraiser. Aside from general funds, we want to start a scholarship in Saniyah’s name, so that she will never be forgotten. We need to have a conversation as a community too about the need to talk about insurances, and death. There is a great need.”
She added, though, that in the depth of the despair, the community has come out to support the family.
“We are some loving, supportive Black people. We are warm and loving, and that showed when we heard about this family and people came out to show their love and support. We are amazing.”
The funeral service for Saniyah Williams will be held Dec. 20 at Unity Funeral Chapel, 2352 Frederick Douglass Blvd., Harlem. A veiwing will be held from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. The funeral will be held at 10 a.m.