Eli Evans' mother, Debra; and two of his siblings, Samantha, 10, and Joshua, 7, were murdered in their Addison apartment in 1995.
Eli and his older brother Jordan, who watched the murders from his crib at the age of 2, survived. Their father, Levern Ward, and two others -- Fedell Caffey and Jacqueline Annette Williams -- were convicted in the November 16, 1995, murders that garnered national attention. A federal judge granted Caffey an evidentiary hearing that could lead to a new trial on allegations that one of the prosecutors in the case bought drugs from a witness.
"It's been mixed emotions for 16 years," Sam Evans said of his daughter and grandchildren's murders. Evans is raising Debra's two surviving children, Eli and Jordan.
"It used to be hard to tell people because when they'd ask and it would just bring up old stuff," Eli said. "Over the years it just started getting easier and easier. Like, my friends would know if someone would make a mom joke I'd start laughing and my friend would jump in and say, 'Man you don't say that kind of stuff!' And I'd be like 'It's alright. I can take it.'"
At 16, Eli is a high school sophomore, a star basketball and football player. Throughout his and his older brother Jordan's life, their grandfather has cheered them from the sidelines from tragedy through recovery. The boys worked as teammates even in those very difficult first months after the murders.
"Jordan was standing beside the crib holding Eli's hand and he's saying - he's assuring him - that we're now safe and that grandpa is not going to let anything happen and you need to know what happened to mommy," Evans said.
While Eli focuses on high school sports, Jordan is preparing to study at the University of Kentucky. Eli said he and Jordan are giving serious thought for the first time to meeting their biological father.
"I'd be a little shocked just to see him in person. I don't even know how I'd react. I could sit here now and say I'd be fine, but something could easily change as soon as I see him. I'd most likely end up asking the question 'Why? Why would you do that to me? Why wouldn't you stay me and Jordan's father?'" Eli said.
Evans is angry about the new round of appeals. He believes two of the three people convicted of killing his daughter and grandchildren may have been executed already -- if former Governor George Ryan hadn't issued a blanket commutation of death sentences.
Caffey's evidentiary hearing is in July.