(Oil on canvas, 72 ins. x 36 ins.) (Interview with Corey’s parents, 4/ 2014)
I was saddened to see that a lot of the links for this story no longer work. Time is erasing the reporting on this tragic death. But families never forget.
Artist’s Note (from 2014)
Love is powerful.
In interviews with the relatives of deceased subjects, love is palpable – like brilliant, blinding sunshine. Its presence is indisputable. Love drives the parents to share the story of a murdered son.
“We want the world to know him” is always the message, spoken or not. And so it was when I interviewed Sheryl and Steve about their son Corey, a young musician who was murdered by a temporary roommate.
The responsibility to a son’s memory weighs on this artist. “Will I get it right?” When I thought Corey’s portrait was complete, I felt an overwhelming feeling I should surround Corey with flowers. By including the flowers, I felt Corey was reaching out to his mother to thank her for the many bouquets she has left on his grave. He was saying “I love you too, Mom.”
I attended the court proceeding in May 2014. The shooter accepted a 3rd degree murder plea deal, 18-40 years in prison followed by 5 years probation. The defendant’s friend received 23 months in jail for hiding the shotgun in a dumpster.
To actually be in the courtroom with the family for sentencing made my palms sweaty. I felt queasy. “This could happen to my family,” I thought.
Murder became real for me that day. Family members shared with the judge what their loss meant in their lives. A beloved son, brother, grandson, friend was gone, no longer on this planet. The hole in the lives of Corey’s family felt like a weepy, raw wound that would never heal. When I was alone, I cried. One of the over 300 million guns in this country was used to kill Corey Kesselman. How does one end up KILLING another human being? On average, 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 140 are treated for a gun assault in emergency rooms. From the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:
• One in three people in the U.S. knows someone who has been shot. • Every day on average, 51 people kill themselves with a firearm, and 45 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun. • The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population. • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
Corey's Story This is the story of how young Corey Brandon Kesselman died. The Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun is “widely used by the public for sport shooting, hunting and self-defense.” Manufacturers of the gun have this to say. “If the Model 870™ were introduced today, it would be hailed as a major advance in pump-action shotgun design - the ultimate in strength, durability, silky-smooth bind-free action, and sleek classical lines. Yet this remarkable shotgun has been around for almost half a century, and has become the best-selling shotgun of any type in history, with over ten million made.” On May 25, 2012 an 18 year old used the “silky-smooth bind-free action” Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun to shoot Corey Kesselman , age 20, point blank in the back in their shared apartment.
I attended the court proceeding in May 2014. The shooter accepted a 3rd degree murder plea deal, 18-40 years in prison followed by 5 year probation.
Corey called 911. The police arrived about 2.45 a.m. “There was blood everywhere”, the officer said. “On the walls, floors, and cabinets.”
“Corey bled out,” his dad said. Corey died five minutes before the ambulance arrived. Corey and the shooter were co-workers and temporary roommates. Corey was moving into the apartment. His co-worker was moving out. The temporary roommate and his two friends, while still in the apartment, locked Corey out. Believing the apartment was empty, Corey roused the complex manager in the early a.m. to let him in only to find his roommate was home pretending not to be. Harsh words were exchanged. A short, biting squabble about marijuana and cigarettes followed. Corey turned his back on the roommate and the nastiness. He retreated to his computer. Unbeknownst to Corey, the roommate got his shotgun from the bedroom closet and retaliated. From a reporter : “Kesselman called 911, telling an operator, ‘help me, I’ve been shot,’ according to police. By the time authorities arrived, about five minutes later, the man was dead. Warminster Police Officer Renee M. Fox testified that much of the apartment was covered in blood when she arrived at the scene about 4:15 a.m.” 20 year old Corey Kesselman bled to death from a single shot in the back from a 12 gauge shotgun in the early morning on May 25, 2012. Corey’s family describe him as a person who loved life. No fears. He thought nobody could do harm. Everybody was his friend. He was not cautious when it came to relationships unless he felt betrayed. He was easy to get along with. He had a many different kinds of friends – preppy, heavy metal, gay, straight, every color. He was very open-minded. Corey thought the world was his. His parents said he had dreams. One of his favorite quotes, “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit. There’s footprints on the moon.”