By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
A few weeks after the fight, Roderick was pulled from classes at Lake Olympia Middle School and put in Fort Bend ISD in an alternative school for students who have been suspended from their regular campus. Out of concern for his safety on the part of school officials, he will remain there until the end of the school year. Other kids report that tensions have grown even higher between the two middle schools.
Fort Bend ISD spokesperson Mary Ann Simpson says that while the school district was not aware of "any particular instances" or "extra tensions between those campuses, that's not to say there isn't."
For middle school boys, tough-guy posturing is a part of growing up. Even so, at 15, Roderick Victor seems to be sincere in his remorse that a death -- albeit accidental -- is on his hands. He also speaks with the nervousness of a marked man: "When I go somewhere, I always gotta look behind my back and stuff to see if somebody gonna try to do something to me."
Samantha Hunter, Roderick's mother, says that following the fight the family received numerous threatening phone calls. One day after school, Roderick was stepping off the school bus and a car tried to hit him and a friend, the two boys rushing into the safety of his house just in time. Later that day, Hunter says, the same car of young men attacked Roderick's brother near a McDonald's in the area. The family says they have started recording their phone lines and have put out extra lights and cameras around the house. More recently, it's quieted down. This is even more unsettling, they say.
Kids his age see him as a killer, Roderick says, especially those who don't know him personally. He speaks simply and softly about wanting to turn back time: "I wish I wouldn't never went there."
In late April, a few weeks after Easter, the Quail Valley Middle School athletics department holds a year-end banquet to give out awards and celebrate the accomplishments of its young Raider athletes.
Summer's coming soon, and in the back of a large cafeteria-type room, teammates have jammed into a low table, squeezing in elbow space for their paper plates of barbecue beef and bread slices. Some fidget in the dressy clothes. A few crack jokes above the noisy chatter.
At the podium in front, a school official congratulates them. Both students and parents should be proud to have reached this moment. A lot of people start the season, he says, but this group has followed it through to the end.
Maurice Canty and Yolanda Conner-Canty have dressed up for the occasion, and they sit at one of the tables full of adults. Fred's little brother is there, too.
They begin reading the names of the students alphabetically: Caples. Castro. Comeaux. Cornett.
Frederick Conner's name is right there in the little yellow program, right there as a member of the eighth-grade football team. If his parents notice the omission, that their son has been forgotten, they don't react immediately. A school official comes over and whispers something in their ears. Canty nods.
After the whole team is announced, they give out the MVP award. Now his name rings out, loud and clear, through the microphone and across the room:
The room explodes with cheers. As Canty and Conner-Canty rise out of their seats, the rest of the parents in the room stand with them, applauding. The kids in back shout out for Fred. Dad smiles. Mom cries and cheers. The ovation lasts a good half-minute, and when they come back to their seats, she clutches the plaque tightly, holding onto something far, far more than just an engraved name.
Frederick Conner was the oldest of seven. His one-year-old sister still wakes up at night and calls out Fred's name. The rest of the children, Canty says, are getting counseling and therapy at school, and they're looking into getting it after school, as well.
Fred's mother doesn't try to hide it -- she can't cope. She's lost her grip on things.
"I really don't even feel like I have a reason to even much" -- she stops short of saying it. "I mean, I know I love my other kids, but that was my oldest child and he did so much for me -- to help my children and us, to where I could do anything -- I could put a roast in a bag and he could put the roast in the oven, you know what I'm sayin'? And doing so much just to help me with me, with my children. My kids can't even see their brother outside shootin' basketball, talkin' about a career, he had a career in basketball, football and track -- and no tellin' what else he wanted to do!"
Her voice is breaking, now again in the darkness of the cul-de-sac, standing beneath the basketball hoop that Fred used to practice on. It doesn't make sense. Not at all. It was just one punch. And it wrecked much more than just one jaw or even two lives. Neither family has felt comfortable letting their children go back to the movie theater since -- perhaps the one thing that they can agree on.
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