Family celebrates life of Chicago Heights woman - Fox 2 News Headlines

Family celebrates life of Chicago Heights woman

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CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

It's been nearly three years since Toya Bradley was shot to death along with her boyfriend Oshay Wells in the parking lot of Thornwood Apartments in Chicago Heights.

Apparently ambushed, they were shot multiple times as they were preparing to go out for the night on July 26, 2010. Bradley was 28, and a mother of four.

Her gristly murder, which remains unsolved, created an irreplaceable void in her family, especially in the lives of her three sisters — Tieshea, Tracey and Mimi.

"It's unbelievable to me because she's gone and we're never going to see her again," Mimi Bradley said.

To heal together and keep her memory alive, the sisters have been hosting an annual antiviolence picnic in Hodges Park, 352 E. 16th St. in Chicago Heights. This summer's third annual picnic will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 27.

About 300 children have taken part in picnics past. The gatherings also offer music and activities including basketball, baseball and volleyball, Mimi Bradley said. She said Chicago Heights Park District Supt. Frank Perez has worked with her family to secure the park for them for the day.

"There are so many different reasons we're doing this and we want to do it to show the kids in the community that violence is not the answer," Mimi Bradley said.

The picnic is put on by the charity the sisters run, Taking Our Youth Above and Beyond. The charity also hosts an annual skating party for youth at the Glenwood Roller Rink.

Paperwork has been submitted to the state to turn the organization into a nonprofit, but the nonprofit status has yet to be granted.

Bradley said she believes Toya's killers were after Oshay Wells — a known gang member — and Toya was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Oshay's cousin, Courtney, was murdered four months later. All three murders are believed to be linked to the murder of Julian Allen, whom police say was a well-known drug dealer. He was shot to death in June 2010. All four murders are unsolved.

Mimi Bradley said Chicago Heights police have told the family the investigation is still open and there is no news in the case.

"I hope we hear they did catch someone for it, and that person is getting help and off the streets so they can't do it again," Mimi Bradley said.

In light of her sister's death, she said Toya's four boys, ages 14, 12, 10 and 8, now live with her sister Tieshea. Twice now, all four children have attended the Illinois Comfort Zone Camp in Frankfort sponsored by the Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation. The camp is for children who have been affected by murders.

"We want to let them know they should continue doing positive things in their life," Mimi Bradley said. "Oftentimes kids can totally go down the wrong road. We want them to know violence is not the answer."

While Toya can never be replaced, Mimi Bradley said her absence has made the Bradley family come together in new ways.

"Our family and friends help us cope with it and our family is thriving," Bradley said. "It didn't break us down. It made our bonds stronger."

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