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Mother of Chester teen charged with murder: ‘He’s sick’

By Jonathan McFadden
jmcfadden@heraldonline.com
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Robert Isaiah Graham

CHESTER Susan Graham says no one listened to her pleas for her son’s arrest the last few months.

Aware of his history of violent outbursts, coupled with a years-long bout with mental illness, Susan Graham said she warned Chester probation officials that her son, Robert Isaiah Graham, was dangerous and had a gun.

Officials, she said, told her there was nothing they could do. Upset, she told them they likely would not intervene until he died or killed someone.

Now, according to police, he has.

Police charged Robert Graham, 17, Friday with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime in connection in the shooting death of 16-year-old Shyheim Kennedy.

Kennedy left Chester last year to escape violence, but returned to spend the summer with his family. He was shot on Pinckney Street about 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Unaware of her son’s alleged involvement in Kennedy’s slaying, Susan Graham called the Chester County probation office Thursday to report her son allegedly pointed a gun at a woman two days earlier.

“He talked about killing somebody,” she said Saturday between sobs and clenches to her chest. “He just wanted to kill somebody.”

“Finally,” she said, officials revoked his probation status and issued a warrant for his arrest “too little, too late.”

Court records list Graham as “absconding” from his probation. He was arrested Thursday afternoon, his mother said, at their Chester Homes apartment on York Street. Court records show he appeared before a judge on Friday, where bond was set at $100,000 on the probation violation.

While still in custody late Friday, Susan Graham said, he became a murder suspect.

According to arrest warrants, Robert Graham admitted he shot Kennedy with a .38 caliber handgun.

It’s unclear how Kennedy became a suspect.

During his initial court appearance Saturday morning, a municipal court judge denied Robert Graham’s bond as lower court judges are unable to set bond on murder charges. A Circuit Court judge will make that decision in the coming weeks.

Saturday morning, Susan Graham took refuge in her sister’s arms. Together, they wept.

“He’s sick,” Susan Graham said of her son. “He has a lot of mental problems. We’ve been down a long, long hard road.”

According to Susan Graham when her son was 18 months old, she took him to the state Department of Mental Health. By the time he was 3, doctors diagnosed him with attention deficit disorder with violent tendencies. A year later, she said she took him to a Catholic church for an exorcism. . At 14, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and, later, with antisocial behavior, she said.

“I tried everything ... everything I could,” she said.

Susan Graham said, her son has been arrested 18 times. Two of those times, she said, “he tried to kill me,” once with a butcher knife and a second time when he pushed her from a window. He was placed on probation after he was charged with breaking into his father’s home and stealing $17,000 worth of property from his stepmother and stepbrother. He has since been released from the juvenile court system.

Graham said she’s appealed to the county probation office, asking them to revoke her son’s probation because of his violent behavior, his failure to report to his probation officer, pass drug tests, attend counseling sessions or perform community service.

Still, she said, his probationary status was not taken away. Efforts to reach Chester’s probation office on Saturday were unsuccessful.

Susan Graham grieves for Kennedy’s family. The thought of her son taking a life, she said, breaks her heart. She’s not sure if Kennedy and her son knew each other. All Robert Graham’s told his mother, she said Saturday, is that “dude was stepping up to me like he was going to do something.”

“He had the potential of being a good kid,” she said, adding that there were times he “tried so hard” to change his behavior. “I gave Isaiah everything I had.”

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082
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