Suspects in court as Ind. couple laid to rest

October 26, 2009 8:25:50 PM PDT
Family and friends gathered in a northwest Indiana church on Monday to remember Milton and Ruby McClendon.On the same day as their funeral, two teenagers appeared in court on charges connected with the couple's death.

Reo Jonta Thompson, 17, of the 900-block of Morris Street in Hammond, and Gregory Brooks Jr., 18, of the 800-block of East Highland Street in Hammond, are charged with two counts of burglary, two counts of confinement, two counts of robbery and auto theft.

Although police have yet to file murder charges, they say the teenagers have admitted to the crimes committed in a botched robbery.

Authorities said Monday the homicide investigation is ongoing.

Under a cloudy sky with light rain falling, more than 1,000 mourners came to St. Paul Episcopal Church in Munster, Ind. to say goodbye to Ruby and Milton McClendon, parents their sons call superheroes. The McClendons have been called innocent, contributing members of their community who, their own sons say, were killed by thugs.

"Imagine somebody going in and killing Ward and June Cleaver. That's what happened. If you let that happen, America can't stand," said Theodore McClendon, victims' son.

Theodore, Duane and Garrard McClendon all spoke at their parents' service. Later, they went to the police station, where charges against Reo Thompson and Gregory Brooks were announced.

The Hammond teenagers were arrested last Friday in Chicago. They appeared in court on Monday morning, the same time the McClendons' funeral was underway. While they were charged with robbery and burglary, murder charges have yet to be filed.

"We're in the first quarter of a four-quarter investigation. We have a ton of physical evidence to go through," said Chief Brian Miller, Hammond Police.

Thompson shared a house with his mother and uncle. ABC7 has learned that his uncle is Marlon Pendleton. Three years ago, Pendleton was let out of prison after DNA evidence cleared him of a 1992 rape case. But he's been back behind bars since last December, now charged with murder for allegedly killing Danette Adkins. She was brutally beaten in the very same house.

Danette lived just down the block with her father.

"I'm glad they got caught, glad they got caught," said John Adkins, victim's father.

Adkins has a barber's chair in his house, and says he recently cut Reo Thompson's hair.

"There's something wrong with him, I don't know what if he got it from his uncle or what, but he's listening to the wrong people talk," said Adkins.

And the next block over, on Highland Street, is where 18-year-old Gregory Brooks lived with his parents until recently.

"His parents threw all his things out by the curb in the driveway and he just got kicked out," said Norma Ocasio, neighbor.

Ocasio says she doesn't know why Brooks was kicked out of his parents house, but says it happened shortly before the McClendons were murdered.

The bodies of 76-year-old Ruby and 78-year-old Milton McClendon were found in a Calumet City forest preserve a week ago. Police say the couple were dumped after they were shot to death inside their Hammond home in what police were calling a robbery that went too far.

"My parents did not deserve this. But we forgive those who did this to my parents," said TV host Garrard McClendon, victims' son.

The McClendon sons say they are not about to drown in anger, but instead will remember their parents as people who made education a priority, something they doubt the teens responsible for their parents' death ever had.

"It's the lack of education , they're being taught by thugs, they're being taught by thuggish music. Education is not popular in the black community or in struggling communities. If it were popular, these types of things wouldn't occur," said Theodore McClendon.

The McClendon sons say they will continue to spread the message of the importance education.

ABC7 spoke with Garrard McClendon on Monday night and he says he remains hopeful that murder charges will be filed eventually.

Police say more charges are possible.


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