4 years later, police renew calls for help finding child's killer

Marsha Mayes, Terrell Mayes, Jr.
Marsha Mayes and her son Terrell Mayes, Jr., 3, who was killed Dec. 26, 2011, when a stray bullet passed through the exterior of Mayes' house and hit the boy in the head.
Courtesy of the Mayes family

Updated 5:01 p.m. | Posted 8:45 a.m.

On the day after Christmas, 2011 — when so many children were playing with their holiday toys — Terrell Mayes Jr., age 3, heard gunfire.

He and his siblings ran upstairs for safety. But Terrell didn't make it. A single bullet came through the house and killed him.

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Marsha Mayes and her remaining children will mark this year's holiday with a somber new tradition.

She and her three children "shouldn't have to give Junior's gifts to another child," she said, but "this year, that's what we're doing. We can't give this to Junior, so we're going to give them to a child that's here."

Mayes has moved out of the house where Terrell was shot, but said she goes back to the neighborhood every month to place flowers near the scene of the shooting.

His killing has also created a somber tradition for Minneapolis police. Several times over the past four years, police officials have repeated pleas to the community for help in finding the boy's killer.

Police Chief Janee Harteau, who was sworn in nearly a year after Terrell Mayes was killed, has made some of those pleas herself. Harteau said she is still saddened by his death and frustrated that his killer is still at large.

Harteau says police still looking for Mayes killer
Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau announces at a press conference Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 that police are still actively searching for the person who fired the bullet that traveled through a wall and struck 3-year-old Terrell Mayes Jr. Joining her was Mayes' mother, Marsha Mayes, center, and police commander Catherine Johnson, who heads the Violent Crimes Investigation Division. Terrell was killed on Dec. 26, 2011 as he was running up the stairs in his north Minneapolis home to hide from the sound of gunfire. Marsha Mayes says she's upset that her son's killer is still on the loose. Harteau says she keeps a picture of Mayes on her desk.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

"So I keep Terrell's picture on my desk every day, to remind me our work's not done," she said. "As a parent, frankly, I can't imagine burying a child. And so this one's close to the heart."

Lt. Rick Zimmerman, the head of the Minneapolis police homicide unit, said investigators have received numerous tips and leads, but none has led to the killer. Investigators have even turned to state prisons for help. The department has distributed posters to prisons, Zimmerman said, and some inmates have reached out with information.

Even though some of those prisoners are behind bars for murder, they still want to help, he said. "When it comes to a 3-year-old boy killed, they agree with us. They want justice too for this family — and for the child."

The police department recently launched a new website that contains short videos on unsolved or so-called "cold" cases, like Terrell's.

Marsha Mayes said it's unnerving to hear her son's killing referred to as a "cold case." She's glad police are still working to solve her son's murder, but she's angry that there's been more community outcry for a man shot and killed by police last month than for her son.

"The same way Black Lives Matter and everybody was out here for Jamar Clark," she said, "they should have been out here like that for Terrell Mayes."

A $60,000 reward is available to anyone who provides information that helps police solve the case. Tips can also be sent anonymously to Crimestoppers of Minnesota by calling 1-800-222-8477.

The Minneapolis Police Department produced this short video on the case.