WILMINGTON — Patty Proutey’s maternal instinct didn’t die when her 19-year-old son, Josh, was gunned down by a band of robbers in Wilmington on Dec. 13, 2012. It has only grown stronger.
While she couldn’t save her own child, Proutey has channeled a mother’s love into saving someone else’s by creating Journey 4 Josh, a nonprofit group that aims to fund extracurricular programs for at-risk children in Wilmington.
“I can’t help Josh with his journey anymore, but if I could take that thread of promise and entwine it with some other children’s lives, maybe I can help them,” she said in the parking lot where her son died next to the Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center.
Two assailants, Christopher Cromartie Jr., 24, and triggerman Quintell Grady, 23, pleaded guilty. Cromartie received 44 years in prison and Grady was sentenced to life. The remaining defendants, Jasmine Dottin, 20, and Daniel Henry, 18, are expected in court.
According to police, the four were stalking other victims before targeting Josh, who’d just left work at the community center. They confronted him as he sat in his truck parked in the gravel and grass lot between Second and Front streets. When Josh didn’t do as ordered, Grady shot him.
Since Josh’s death, Proutey moved from Vermont to Wilmington. In that parking lot, she finds comfort and strength.
“I came here to Wilmington to start a foundation to honor Josh’s memory, to take this tragedy and make something good from it. Joshua loved Wilmington . and I was determined I was going to live in downtown Wilmington,” she said.
The goal of Journey 4 Josh is to fund performing arts and other enrichment programs for children whose families might not be able to afford the costs.
The theory is that if children between the ages of 5 and 8 are given an outlet to express their creativity, they won’t turn to streets for self-esteem and self-worth.
Somewhere along the line Josh’s killers went astray, and perhaps if they’d had other options all of their endings would be different, Proutey said.
“His death is not a reflection of downtown. It had everything to do with four kids who thought it was OK to kill someone for $10,” she said. “I don’t know what their upbringings were like, but something went terribly wrong.”
Proutey often visits the lot where Josh died, placing her hands on the ground where she imagines his body lay. That her baby died alone echoes in her head.
Proutey apologized to her lost child as she ran her hand along the dirt.
“Josh, I’m so sorry that you died all alone. . I’m so sorry,” she cried. “If I could change one thing and the outcome would still be that he died, it would be that I was here to hold him.”