LAURINBURG — Huddled together under a tree outside the Laurinburg Police Department on a bleak Tuesday afternoon, neither Sheila Baldwin nor Brenda Gibson could explain the tragic circumstance that, in one instant, irrevocably changed both of their lives.
“We’re going to miss our children, but life still goes on because he has three children, he had his brothers, his sisters and people that loved him,” Baldwin said. “He had so much love my son, so much love.”
On Friday afternoon, Baldwin’s 25-year-old son Frederick was found dead by police on a porch after an Aberdeen Road shooting.
Sitting next to Gibson, her cousin and lifelong neighbor, on Tuesday with a television camera trained in their direction Baldwin recalled her son as an artist who loved to rap, sing, and draw. She also described his playful personality and addiction to her homemade banana pudding.
“My hope was for my son to change his life and do his ministry that God gave him, to teach the young men,” she said. “He knew how to draw people in, regardless of who hated him and what they felt for him. My son had an impact on people’s lives.”
Charged with Frederick Baldwin’s murder is 28-year-old Antone Jerome Mack — Gibson’s son. Though Mack had served time for drug and larceny charges, and still worried her with a string of excuses to avoid attending church, his mother knew Antone as a loving, good-hearted father of four.
“I just wanted my son to stay out of the streets, take care of his children, and get closer to God,” Gibson said. “He would never talk to me about anything; I could tell he was worried about something, but he was just the type of person who wouldn’t talk to me.
“All I could do was pray for him.”
Though Frederick Baldwin has lost his life and Antone Mack may spend the rest of his in prison, both of their mothers have moved beyond recrimination. On Tuesday they issued a plea for the abandonment of violence as a means to solve disputes.
Neither fully understands the events that led to last week’s shooting, and relative to the consequences, neither thought them worth discussion.
“You sit there and want to shoot someone, you want to take their lives from the rest of the people that love them,” said Baldwin. “It’s not going to solve nothing; all it’s going to do is cause more problems.”
Even with the benefit of hindsight, both Gibson and Baldwin feel they would have been powerless to change the outcome of what happened between their children.
“I wish I’d said let’s go out to eat or let’s say a prayer together,” Gibson said. “He probably wouldn’t have come, but I wish I would have taken him somewhere. All I can do now is just pray for him. I told him, now you need to be reading that Bible, you need to keep yourself in that Bible while you’re in prison.”
Baldwin last spoke to Frederick on Friday afternoon via telephone.
“The devil is busy,” she said. “We couldn’t have intervened. You think a person is in one place and they’re in another place.”
Realizing that her son’s death will have a ripple effect among his friends and family, Baldwin hopes it can inspire reconciliation rather than perpetuating a cycle of animosity and bitterness.
“Everybody knew both of them, so that’s a community that it hurts,” she said. “They need to look to God, because if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, somebody else is going to be murdered in that spot. Somebody else’s son, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s nephew, or somebody’s brother.
“I hope this wakes up the people around here, because I can’t bring my son back.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.