King Quan is what Alisha Johnson called her 14-month-old son the day he was born, and that's how she referred to him Saturday when he was eulogized six days after authorities said he was beaten to death by a 9-year-old boy.
Taquan A. Willis died last Sunday after he was found beaten, allegedly by a member of the family they were living with in Cahokia. The 9-year-old was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday in juvenile court, but authorities did not release his name nor any specifics about the case when they announced the charge Friday.
Family members attending Taquan's funeral Saturday said they are not sure what happened in the house in the 300 block of Isabell Road, where the boy was found unconscious on the floor. Relatives say he was in the home with his two brothers, ages 2 and 3, and a friend of his mother's, along with her boyfriend, a 12-year-old boy and the 9-year-old charged in Taquan's death.
Johnson's aunt, Jessica Jackson, said the 9-year-old boy is a relative of Melissa Wilbourn, whom family members say Johnson had lived with for about a month.
Jackson said Wilbourn told relatives she heard a groaning sound and went to check on the kids, who were in a back room, asleep on the floor. She went back to bed, then heard the sound again and went back into the room and called out to Taquan.
"She said she picked him up and he was limp," Jackson said.
Jackson said Wilbourn said she told her boyfriend something was wrong with Taquan and called 911. Taquan was then taken to a hospital, she said.
Jackson said she knows the 9-year-old and doesn't think he would have beaten Taquan to death. Wilbourn could not be reached for comment Saturday.
After the funeral service at New Jerusalem Pentecostal Ministries in Centreville, Taquan's father, Todd A. Willis Jr., said he would always remember two special things about the boy.
"I loved his smile and the way he poked his lips out to give me a kiss," he said softly after helping to carry his son's small white casket with white flowers and blue ribbons to a white hearse.
Johnson said she nicknamed the boy King Quan because he was her "King." He was the youngest of her three children. His smile was on her mind on Saturday.
"He was just a happy baby," she said. "He would bring a lot of joy to you. He smiled and danced." She said "SpongeBob SquarePants" was his favorite television show.
She said she didn't want to talk about how he died. She was out with a friend when she received a call telling her to get to the hospital. She said her baby never regained consciousness.
She said she had only known Wilbourn about a year and hasn't talked to her since the day her son died.
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