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Telling the tragedy

South Philly native Antonne Jones conquered his own demons to become an accomplished author whose latest book chronicles the worst mass murder in Philly history.

By Lorraine Gennaro
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Jul. 26, 2007

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Weeks after Antonne Jones' third book and documentary DVD, "The Lex Street Massacre," was released June 18, an interview with one of the four convicted killers serving a life term came through -- proving timing is indeed everything.

As the 35-year-old sat across from Shihean Black, formerly of 17th and Siegel streets and now incarcerated at SCI Greene Prison in Waynesburg, he asked the 25-year-old if he was sorry for what he had done. His face cradled in his hand, Black slowly shook his head "no."

Jones' interview with Black will appear in the next printing.

The worst mass murder in Philadelphia history is chronicled in chilling detail -- from the night it happened, to the wrongful imprisonment of four men, to the trial's conclusion when the real killers were brought to justice -- in Jones' latest book.

It wasn't a macabre fascination with the killings, but a personal history of crime and drugs that influenced, in part, the author's decision to tackle the story. "I was that 15-year-old kid in that house," he said of teenage victim Malik Harris. "I saw myself in that."

The sensitivity needed in writing about the Lex Street massacre did not intimidate Jones. "One of the challenges for me was to remain neutral and not allow my personal feelings to overshadow the facts and become persuasive. I didn't want to play the blame game or become dogmatic toward anyone that was involved. It was and still is a very emotional and tragic story, so I took extreme precaution when writing the book and producing the documentary," he said.

The journey started for Jones -- who spent his life in South Philly before moving to Fairmount last year -- decades ago.

C.P. Mirarchi 3d, an attorney who helped Jones with the book, and the author got to know each other some 12 years ago, and not under the most idyllic circumstances.

While attending Roman Catholic High School in the late 1980s, Jones fell in with the wrong crowd. Discounting peer pressure, Jones said his bad decisions were solely his own and he knew exactly what he was doing. "I was a good kid who got temporarily derailed. I was a bad kid who became a good kid again," the writer said.

Jones began selling and using drugs and even did court-ordered rehab in the now-defunct Mount Sinai, formerly of Fourth and Reed streets. Arrested three times, in '91 he was nabbed for trafficking in Delaware. After making bail, he missed upcoming court dates, which rendered him a fugitive.

But, as if leading a double life, Jones was pursuing an education while pushing, he said. Majoring in criminal justice, he spent close to two years in college at three different institutions, University of Akron, Arkansas State and Cheyney, but never graduated.

In '95, he decided to get clean, a move inspired by the birth of his first daughter, Shatora, now 16. Daughter Amani, 11, and wife Tamara round out the family. "That was my golden girl," he says of his first born. "I really wanted to make changes. I was tired of living like that. It wasn't progressive. I knew I had a lot more intelligence than that and I wanted to be around to see my daughter grow up."

Jones got a job with Home Depot on Columbus Boulevard. But soon his past caught up with him. One day, two South Detectives showed up at his work. Allowing some dignity, they did not cuff the fugitive, but quietly led him off the premises, Jones said. "It was very embarrassing. I was actually a very good employee," he added.

In need of representation, Jones found Mirarchi through an ad in the Review.

The attorney got his client a year non-reporting probation. Commenting on the young man shaping up, the attorney said, "He's an example of what you can do if you say, 'I rethink this and want to change my life,'" Mirarchi said.

In '97, Jones wrote his first book, "The Family -- A Philadelphia Mob Story" and published it two years later. "The Family II" was written in 2004 and published the following year. Despite their "Godfather"-like titles, the books actually chronicle the black mafia that rose at 20th and Carpenter streets in the '60s and '70s, Jones said. Though fictional, the books are based in truth and are still required reading in many junior high and high schools in the state, Jones added. To date, both have sold more than 150,000 copies.

As far as his position as a one-time delinquent turned successful entrepreneur, Jones is modest. "I do not feel as though I am a role model, but rather a person who turned a negative situation into a positive. As an imperfect person, I do not feel as though I qualify for such a lofty title," he said.

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1. miss.perrin said... on Sep 25, 2008 at 01:50PM

“well i think the wrongfully acused should have had the oppurtunity to have their record terimanated with those insaulting charges. i wonder how do teh people feel . those even have over 175 restrining oders against them . i think they should be able to sue again for that reason .”

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2. sasha242 said... on Apr 12, 2009 at 03:41PM

“i grew up with the victims and first suspects and it still hutrs after almost 10 years ”

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3. Mee Lin Youk said... on Jan 5, 2011 at 03:31PM

“Although, I feel this book was an attempt for Mr. Jones to vindicate his own life
Much of what was alleged to be written by Mr Jones was pretty much a no brainer because it was every thing that was in the transcript and the discovery.. I feel that the proceeds should have went to a bigger cause like to the kids who were left and affected by this heinous crime I feel their should have been a educational or community fund set up with the proceeds to help at risk children to prevent them from taking this kind of road that Mr Jones describes about his own life.. if money was made out of this story and video then it was made off the lives of innocent victims..I could not live with myself if I cashed in on a story knowing that one dime did not go to the victims family or to help prevent another Lex street .
I thought the book had a lot of typos and it was a rewrite of the court material for those who wanted something to chew on and to be preety much nosey..It really did not touch on much”

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4. Marvin said... on Oct 21, 2011 at 10:03AM

“As I read in the new book for Lex St, Mee Lin is Sacon's aunt. Sacon wqas one of the four first suspects. Seems she is confused. How could or why would the author "add" new information? Why dont she demand money from the Daily News and other media outlets who made big bucks from reporting? She lived in the neighborhood all her life, what has she done for the community past or present? Mr. Jones was the only person to have guts to get the truth about the story and share with others. Kudo's Mr. Jones.”

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5. Rodney D Evans said... on Dec 22, 2011 at 11:46AM

“My name is Rev. Dr. R. D. Evans and I am the cousin of Ronette Abrams. I still remember the night I received the call that my cousin had been brutally murdered in this Lex St house. I came to Philadelphia to deliver the Eulogy and was shocked to see so many young people filling this church and u began to realize that this massacre awoke the city and its residence to the dynamics that made this tragedy possible. Poor inadequate housing, mis and undereducated youth, rampant drug sales and use, disproportionate unemployment and a total disregard for a created permanent underclass . I pray for my family, the victims and their family, those who were wrongly incarcerated and their families. I even pray for those who are now paying for this crime and their families. Finally I pray that the City never forgets Lex St.”

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