Cynthia Glover has arranged her bed so that it faces the front door. On many nights she lies there until the pop of gunfire is replaced by the hiss of air brakes from the first school bus of the morning. Then the 56-year-old can doze off, her pit bull and her husband by one side, a loaded 9mm handgun by the other. It is chrome and holds 17 rounds.
Glover has installed cameras outside and throughout her house, including one attached to her doorbell that takes a photo of everyone who presses it. She keeps a microwave and a deep fryer stacked behind the door to block intruders.
She spends most of the day sleeping and binge-watching movies from her collection of 500 DVDs, staring at a 32-inch flat-screen Sanyo. She can get through 10 in a day.
Glover used to watch the movies with her four children, sitting on the couch as she held them, rocking back and forth. Then they grew up, and three of them were shot and killed in separate incidents. So was one grandson. Now, she worries her last child will be next.
Her walls are hung with crosses and the photos of the dead: Cornell sitting on Santa’s lap, Kendrell holding her niece, Glover’s grandson Dwayne in a sleeveless T-shirt and white shorts grinning out of a large framed photograph over the couch.
She laments that the house no longer smells of pancakes, Dwayne’s favorite, and that there are no more children asking her to cook for them.
“Every day is a struggle to wake up in this world,” she said. “My house is quiet and it’s still. There’s no children running around; there’s nobody say, ‘Oh, Ma, give me five dollars. Oh, Ma. Oh, Ma.’ I don’t hear nothing. I hear pure silence.”
Cynthia Glover lives in an America that many people will never experience, a world where young men settle their disputes with guns, where police fail murder victims more often than they succeed and where justice is often elusive.
The killings of Glover’s children and grandchild took place on the streets right outside her homes in Algiers, a section of New Orleans.
Police make an arrest in only one-third of the murders in New Orleans, the second-lowest rate among 55 cities that responded to a Washington Post survey about homicide arrests. Glover’s neighborhood has one of the lowest homicide arrest rates in New Orleans, with only two of 23 killings since 2010 resulting in charges. Only one person has been charged in her children’s cases.
The low rate of arrests allows many murderers to remain in the community. Many residents can’t afford to leave and instead must endure awkward encounters with suspected killers and their families at corner stores, local bars and churches no larger than houses.
“In this city, young men have been choosing to solve their problems in a violent way, mainly with guns,” New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael S. Harrison said. “So when you see large numbers of crimes with guns, you can point directly to the fact that there are a lack of consequences, or a lack of fear of those consequences.”
Harrison said families may know who the killers are but are often unwilling to work with police to make a formal statement, much less testify. “Let’s be honest, the legal requirement based on the Constitution says that a person has a right to face their accuser,” Harrison said. “People, whether they are a victim or a witness, are still . . . deathly afraid of that.”
People in Glover’s community know who killed their loved ones, she said, but feel torn about what to do.
“You sit at a person’s table, and you eat with a person, you laugh and talk to him, and the moment they walk out the door, you blow they brains out,” Glover said. “It ain’t like nobody don’t know. Somebody done saw.”
The lack of justice has left Glover feeling alone, the vivid memories of her children’s deaths playing in an endless loop in her head.
“You got countless mothers like me who have lost their children, and nobody have done nothin’,” Glover said. “They give you a candlelight vigil. They let go of some butterflies and some balloons and feed you some cake. But at the end of day, that don’t change the fact your child ain’t never coming back here.”
Glover is a petite woman at 5 foot 4, with almond-shaped eyes and a bright smile that flashes when she talks about her children. Most people know her as “Ms. Cynt.” She grew up on the city’s East Bank but raised her children in the Fischer public housing projects, a 13-story development on the West Bank of the Mississippi in Algiers. Now demolished, Fischer was known for its drug activity and as one of the most violent projects in the city.
She saw her first murder when she was 10. Two men dressed as Mardi Gras Indians, in canary-yellow headdresses and matching loincloths, began cursing in a crowded street. One pulled a gun. Seconds later, bloodied feathers lay on the ground.
At 16, Glover became pregnant and dropped out of high school.
The next year, she was walking down a street holding hands with her boyfriend when a man sprang from behind a car and began firing at them. She recalled the bullets striking her boyfriend’s body and sending it spinning. Glover, who was not hit, remembers hugging a nearby tree until police arrived. She later testified in the trial that sent the gunman to prison.
She eventually enrolled in a nursing program at a nearby college, where she met her husband, Alfred Scott. In 1990, they graduated and became certified as nursing assistants.
By 24, Glover had given birth to the last of her four children. The young couple raised the children in Fischer because they couldn’t afford to live elsewhere. Crime was all around them, and the Glovers and their cousins were close and protective of one another. They enjoyed cookouts, game nights, Sunday dinners.
Glover’s firstborn, Dwayne, was quiet and nicknamed Red because he was light-skinned. At 18, he fathered a son, called Lil D. The only girl was Kendrell, nicknamed Katt, whose demeanor was always serious and who battled drug addiction before getting sober. She loved makeup and dressing up to hang out with her girlfriends at the club. She was closest to her younger brother Cornell, nicknamed Bacon, after one of his favorite foods.
The baby of the family was Alfred, called Funny because he made odd faces. Glover called him “the walking Bible” as an adult because of the scripture tattooed over his body.
They grew up in an atmosphere that lacked jobs and opportunities but had an abundance of violence. In 1996, when she was 34, Glover’s brother Ernest was shot in the back of the head behind a nightclub.
All of the children would serve time in custody, some for drug offenses and assault charges. Both Bacon and Funny would be charged with possession of a firearm by a felon.
But in Cynthia’s eyes, they were all Glovers, and she taught them to be proud of who they were. “I ain’t never been ashamed of my children,” said Glover, who has no criminal record of her own.
On a Thursday night in 1997, seven days before Christmas, Glover and the children were finishing up the decorations on the Christmas tree at their apartment. Glover was stringing apples to hang from the tree. Red, 18, had left 45 minutes earlier to visit a friend.
She recalled what happened next as if no time had passed.
A neighbor banged on the door.
“Why you beating on my door like that?” she told the neighbor.
“Ms. Cynt, your baby dead,” she recalled him saying.
“My baby, what? Boy, you must be crazy; my boy just walked out here.”
Another neighbor approached.
“Ms. Cynt, you need to come outside; your baby laying out on the front, and he’s dead.”
Red was lying facedown on the grass. A single gunshot had pierced his left side. Glover, with Katt by her side, didn’t see any blood. If he was dead, why was there no blood? He looked as though he was asleep. Katt, then 14, told him to get up: “Momma said, ‘Let’s go.’ ”
Glover and Katt returned to the apartment, crying. Glover embraced Funny and Bacon.
“He gone, ya’ll. He gone.”
Red left behind 4-month-old Lil D, whom Glover would raise. She took him to the funeral on what would’ve been Red’s 19th birthday.
Three weeks later, police arrested a man on suspicion of second-degree murder in Red’s killing. Two months later, prosecutors declined to charge him. Glover said police told her there was a problem with a witness.
Even though no one has been charged in Red’s death, police said they consider the case cleared by arrest and have closed it because there are no additional suspects.
“How many people got to die before the city do something?” Glover asked. “How many? How many? I guess they’ll do something when it hit they house. Because to me, it’s like we don’t matter.”
A few months after Red’s slaying, Glover learned that his former probation officer was selling a house two miles away, in a small, tightknit neighborhood of modest homes. It was a chance to take her family out of Fischer.
Glover bought the five-bedroom double-shotgun house for $25,000, putting down $10,000 from Red’s life insurance.
The neighborhood was safe and well manicured, mostly inhabited by senior citizens. At 36, Glover was among the youngest living there. On weekends, residents spent their time tending to their ivory palms, yuccas and caladiums that resembled elephant ears. “Good morning, neighbor,” they would say. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
After seven years, while Glover was still in her early 40s, her health began to fail. She was told that she had contracted hepatitis C while working as an aide at a senior care facility in the late 1990s. Doctors treated the disease but couldn’t repair the scarring to her liver.
Months later, on Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit. Her neighborhood didn’t flood, but the winds ripped her roof off. In the chaotic aftermath, a cousin of Glover’s was killed by a New Orleans police officer, and another officer burned his body, one of several incidents of police misconduct in the wake of the hurricane.
Glover fled to Houston with Bacon and Lil D and secured temporary housing and a job working as a cashier and stocking shelves at Walmart.
After 10 months in Texas, 9-year-old Lil D begged to return to Algiers. He missed the house back in the West Bank, where Mama Jeanna ran the candy shop across the street and would open up just to give him a hot dog. She loved how the puffs of air would escape from his cleft lip when he said the word “cookie.”
“He was the neighborhood’s baby. And he thought everybody in the neighborhood was dead,” Glover said.
They moved back to their old house in June 2006. But things had changed.
“I started noticing all different kinds of people in the neighborhood I’d never seen before,” Glover said. “As the new people moved in the neighborhood, fights started breaking out. Gunplay started going on. And I’m like, ‘Where these people come from?’ ”
As the violence escalated, Glover grew fearful. She obsessed over the whereabouts of her remaining children, who were now in their late 20s. Only Katt, now the eldest at 29, still lived with her.
“Katt, where is you going?” Glover would ask.
“Momma, you gonna worry yourself to death,” Katt would say.
In March 2013, Katt was with her friends at a bar in Jefferson Parish, just south of New Orleans, Glover recalled. A man was shot in the forehead in the bar’s parking lot, according to a police report. As Katt came out, she recognized the slain man as someone she had known since preschool, Glover said. When police asked who he was, Katt told them. Rumors spread that she was a rat. Glover worried, but Katt didn’t.
Glover remembered Katt saying, “I’m not worried about that. ’Cause I know I don’t rat. I know ain’t nobody gonna fool with me.”
Two months later, Glover said, Katt left to go to Vick’s, a bar up the street from their house, to meet some friends who planned to go to a graduation party.
Sometime later, Glover heard gunfire as she stepped out of her bathtub. She wrapped herself in a towel and looked out the back door toward the little brick Baptist church behind her house. She saw a black truck speed away.
“Well, Lord, somebody child done been shot,” she said to herself.
Soon, she heard pounding on the front door. It was Pumpkin from across the street.
“Boy, what the hell you beating on my door like that for?”
“Ms. Cynt. Katt been shot!”
“Boy, stop lyin!”
“Ms. Cynt, I’m not lyin’. Katt around the corner. She dead.”
Glover ran off the porch, still draped in a towel. She recalled seeing Katt on the ground in front of the church, still breathing. A paramedic was leaning over her, asking: “Who shot you? Who shot you?”
Katt tried to talk, but no words came out. Glover looked at her and didn’t see any blood. Just like Red. As Katt tried to stand, the paramedics laid her back down.
“Katt! Katt! Katt!” Glover screamed. To the paramedics, she yelled, “Man, do something!”
Glover stood in the street as Katt was hoisted into the ambulance and driven away. Though Glover’s towel had fallen off, she hadn’t noticed. Pumpkin draped his shirt around her.
Surrounded by family and friends at the hospital, Glover paced and smoked cigarettes.
When they said Katt was dead, Bacon leaned against the wall and wept — it was the first time Glover had seen her adult son cry. He had just turned 29. Katt’s 30th birthday was in two days. Bacon was now the eldest.
Detectives recovered video of Katt at the bar. And a person outside had seen a black truck approach her.
“We’ve got witnesses that said that they had seen a black Nissan truck,” said Cmdr. Doug Eckert, who oversees the New Orleans Police Department’s criminal investigations division. “We know that someone yelled her name. And we know that at least one person exited the truck and shot Katt.”
But the witnesses had not seen the actual shooting. Police found the truck and recovered DNA that was traced to someone with an alibi.
“What is wrong with this city?” Glover said. “What’s wrong with these people? These people done forgot God somewhere along the way.”
Four months later, Funny visited Glover. It was around lunchtime, and he went to the store before heading to the family Labor Day cookout two miles away at Glover’s mother’s house. After he left, Glover watched her favorite movie, “Imitation of Life.” It was about two single mothers — one white, one black, and their struggles with race, class and their children. Glover had seen it more than 30 times. As she watched, the phone rang.
“Is this Funny momma?”
“Yeah,” she answered.
“Your son, he been shot.”
Funny had left the store after buying cigarettes and a Sprite. At least two men in a car with an assault weapon chased him down the street and shot him in the leg and the foot, he later said. His mother arrived at the hospital while he was still in surgery.
The doctors finally came to the waiting room and told her he was recovering. “I said, ‘Lord, thank you, Jesus. Lord, thank you,’ ” Glover recalled.
Funny later told The Washington Post he does not know what motivated the shootings. But he said it started when the rumor spread that “Katt was a rat.” Shortly after her death, a man was killed. Funny said people spread rumors blaming him for the man’s death, which he said he had no part in.
“If I’ma set you up, I might as well kill you myself,” Funny said.
The real issue, he said, began much earlier, involving long-standing allegiances and rivalries dating back to their first neighborhood. “It was only ’cause we was from the Fischer project,” he said.
Police said some illegal activity connected to guns and drugs — which police would not specify — may have precipitated the killings. “That still doesn’t give anybody a right to get killed,” said Eckert, the commander overseeing investigations.
Eckert also said that police aren’t sure if the Glovers are involved in gangs and don’t believe that the killings are connected. “I don’t necessarily think they’re linked,” Eckert said.
Glover denies that illegal activity played a role in her children’s deaths. She said her children did not belong to gangs and that there weren’t gangs where they lived, mainly just drugs and turf wars.
“Everybody who has been arrested before they get killed, they want to say it’s illegal activity,” she said.
After Katt’s death and Funny’s shooting, Glover got a gun. She instructed Lil D not to answer the door if someone knocked.
She had purchased cast-iron hurricane shutters a few years after Katrina. They made her feel safe, even though they darkened the house. Sometimes she would stay inside so long that her eyes had a difficult time adjusting to the light when she stepped outdoors.
She avoided tasks that would take her outside. When it was time to pay the mortgage, her mother, Rebecca Glover, picked up her debit card and gave it to her younger brother, who took it to the bank to get a money order that he dropped off at Stanley Mortgage.
One unseasonably warm night in late November 2014, Glover was on her porch chatting with a neighbor one porch over. Bacon, who had come to visit Glover, was talking with people in the street in front of the houses.
A pair of men walked past.
Glover thought it was odd that one was wearing a puffy winter coat on such a warm night.
“Y’all better be careful walking out here this time of night,” she called to the men.
“Okay,” one said. “Good night.”
“Good night,” Glover said.
As she stepped off the porch to grab a Kool cigarette from her neighbor, she heard a gun go off, multiple shots.
She turned and saw Bacon on the ground.
“Stay with me,” she yelled, as she slapped his face. “Bacon, wake up!”
As people began to gather, Bacon repeatedly shouted the name of the man he said had shot him, according to an arrest warrant.
A neighbor with a truck rushed Bacon, still conscious, and Glover to the hospital. Four bullets — Glover would find the casings the next day and give them to detectives — had torn through his back, buttocks and upper thigh and ricocheted through his abdomen. One exited through his chest.
When the doctor came out hours later and Glover saw the look on his face, she knew: “Don’t say it. Please don’t say it.”
Three days after the shooting, police arrested the person whose name Bacon had yelled as he lay dying in the street. Three witnesses told police that they heard Bacon say the name Jeremie Bailey, the warrant states.
The investigation revealed that Bailey had complicated ties with the Glover family.
The day he was arrested for shooting Bacon, Bailey was also arrested for the shooting three years earlier of Bacon’s cousin, Michael Glover, who had survived. Bailey had not been identified at the time as the shooter in the 2011 incident, but after Bacon’s shooting, Bailey was picked out of a police lineup for the prior case.
While incarcerated awaiting trial, Bailey was placed in the same jail at the Orleans Justice Center as Michael Glover, who was awaiting a court date on a probation violation. According to court records, jail surveillance cameras in August 2016 captured Bailey attacking Glover, who was hospitalized.
When police asked Michael Glover why he was attacked, he told them that Bailey had not only shot him in 2011 but had also killed his cousin Katt in 2013 and his cousin Bacon in 2014, according to a police report.
Bailey’s attorney, Michael Kennedy, said his client has “steadfastly maintained his innocence” and was never investigated for Katt’s slaying. “That’s just talk,” Kennedy said.
Since Bailey’s arrest, there have been 70 court dates in the case — including motions, hearings and conferences — but no trial. Officials said one could get underway in December.
Kennedy said Bailey has been jailed more than four years awaiting trial. He blamed the delays, in part, on having several different prosecutors.
Prosecutors said scheduling conflicts and continuances have set back the trial. “Several other delays have occurred as the defendant cycled through five different defense attorneys,” said Ken Daley, a spokesman for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office.
The trial was recently pushed back because Kennedy asked the appellate court to separate the alleged assault and attempted murder of Michael Glover from Bacon’s murder case.
Funny was shot a second time in October 2015. Again, he was visiting Glover, and as he walked out of the house, someone from a passing vehicle began to fire at him and hit him in the leg. He left the hospital a few days later on crutches. There has been no arrest in the case.
Funny moved out of the area and began recovering in a house with his girlfriend in St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans.
Three weeks later, Glover went to spend the night with Funny. After Glover returned home, Funny’s parole officer stopped by his house — Funny was on parole for attempted possession of a firearm by a felon, according to a court transcript.
The parole officer smelled marijuana. The officer searched Funny’s home and found a .380-caliber handgun wrapped in a blanket on the shelf of a bedroom closet.
Glover said it was hers, obtained for her protection, and that she had forgotten to take it with her after her visit. But Funny told police it was his gun, court records show, and he was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
At the trial in April 2016, Glover testified that she was the gun’s owner and that she had obtained it because “my life is in danger.” Glover said she arrived with the gun in her purse and put it away because she was spending the night and there were children in the home.
“The word was that, ‘They gonna kill you once they kill all your children,’ ” she told prosecutors. “They ain’t just gonna walk up on me and just gun me down like they did my kids. So what you want me to do, just put a sock in it and say, ‘Okay, here we is, come and kill us?’ That’s why I had the gun. And if I had it to do all over again, I’ll do it again. I’ll do it again because I ain’t gonna let nobody kill my child. That’s my only child.”
Glover said she believes, as Michael Glover told police, that Bailey is behind at least two of the killings, with her family drawn into long-standing bad blood and misunderstandings. Bailey’s lawyer insists that he is innocent.
Funny was convicted on the weapons charge and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He said he didn’t want to see his mother punished for the gun incident.
“I wouldn’t allow that to happen,” Funny said.
It was springtime, and a neighbor started banging on the door:
“Girl, it’s been three months, and you have not been out this house.”
“What you in there doing?”
One night in June 2017, Lil D, then 19, was shot to death after leaving home on his gray moped. According to police reports, he was found in the middle of the street one block from Glover’s house, his body face-up, eyes open, shot in the back of the head. A neighbor alerted Glover, and by the time she arrived, police were on the scene. As she approached, they attempted to hold her back. But even from afar, she could recognize the short dreadlocks and the parked moped.
There was no arrest in Lil D’s killing. Police said they received no information about the killer except that he was a 5-foot-tall black man with a low haircut.
Lil D had planned to enlist in the Army in two weeks and leave the area. He lived to be only a year older than his father, Red.
“He ain’t going nowhere. He in the graveyard now,” Glover said. “They murdered my babies. And nobody did nothing? Nothing? If I kill somebody, they’ll put me in jail and keep me there until I die.”
Funny is no longer just Glover’s youngest child; he is her only child. At 32, he has also done what none of his three other siblings had been able to do — reach 30. In prison, he has outlived his brothers and sister.
Three years after he was last shot, Funny is incarcerated at Dixon Correctional Institute, two hours from the Algiers neighborhood where he grew up. He lives in an off-site minimum-security dormitory hidden in the woods.
On a humid September afternoon, he is dressed in a pair of faded jeans and a blue prison shirt.
He says he regrets not spending enough time with his siblings before they died, recalling a memory of Red when they were young — Funny was 11 and his older brother was 18. They were playing a fighting game on their Sega Saturn system. Funny had given his brother the broken controller so he would lose. It was the last time he recalled everyone together as a family. Then, after they trimmed the Christmas tree, Red was dead. Funny stopped celebrating Christmas after that.
With good behavior, he could get out as early as 2024.
“I ain’t scared,” Funny said, struggling to find the right word. “I’m cautious. I ain’t gonna, too much, say scared. But I’m nervous. You know, I get the jitters when I think about it. But I know the only way that can happen is if I make the wrong moves again.”
Glover admits that she is worried. “If I stay here, then [Funny] gonna die. My last child gonna die here,” she said. “And then I’m going to lay down, and I’m going to die.”
Glover thinks of moving, but she can’t afford it.
She receives $800 each month from disability payments, for her liver failure and arthritis in her legs. The money doesn’t go far: $300 for the mortgage, $180 for the electric bill and $94 for a life-insurance policy purchased earlier this year. She owes $19,500 on the mortgage.
Her 53-year-old husband, Alfred, does odd jobs such as cutting grass. When he isn’t working, he plays chess in the evenings with a nephew at their living room table.
She stays in darkness, comforting herself with ice cream or red beans and a hot-sausage sandwich. Her hair had begun to fall out, so she went to a local cosmetology school and had it cut. She has aches that come and go and has begun to pick at the skin on her arms until sores appear. “My husband say, ‘You gonna go crazy in here,’ ” she said.
She has packed all of her dead children’s belongings in totes and set them in their rooms.
Katt’s favorite clubbing shoes, a pair of gold peep-toe ankle boots, remain next to her bed, where she last took them off.
“The last time I saw them, they were saying something to me,” Glover recalled. “And then in the next 10 minutes, my children were dead.”
It’s been three years since Glover last saw Funny. She feels guilty about his conviction and regrets returning to New Orleans after Katrina. But now she is reluctant to leave the city where she grew up, raised her children and buried them. She fears that after Funny is released, she may have to bury him, too.
His slain siblings are all in Holt Cemetery. The children are in unmarked graves next to a headstone for Ernest, her slain older brother. Fresh yellow carnations and weathered roses are planted where headstones would have been if she could have afforded them.
Red, killed in 1997, is buried next to Katt, killed in 2013. Next to her is a plot for three caskets stacked on top of one another. Deepest in the ground is Bacon, killed in 2014. On top of him is Lil D, killed in 2017. And on top of him is a space reserved for Glover.
As she looks down at the graves on a recent summer afternoon, she says: “I’m going to see them again. And I’m going to be running behind them, ‘Come kiss your momma.’ ”
Wesley Lowery, Steven Rich, Ted Mellnik, Teddy Amenabar, Shelby Hanssen and Elizabeth Weber contributed to this report.