As police continue their investigation into the shooting death of a former East St. Louis Senior High School track star, the community, his friends, family and girlfriend want to know why this senseless killing happened.
Sanchez Rhodes, 20, was shot by an unknown assailant Saturday evening while he was driving in the 3000 block of St. Clair Avenue. Illinois State Police Special Agent Scott Wobbe is handling the investigation into the shooting death. He is asking anyone with any information about the shooter or any idea why this shooting may have occurred to call Illinois State Police.
Wobbe said investigators want to help the family get closure.
Monecia Hudson, 20, was Rhodes’ girlfriend of three years and they have a 7-month-old daughter, Ka’Nyla Rhodes.
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“I am so heartbroken. I don’t know where to start. I never thought he would be shot. I feel it in my stomach and it won’t go away. I am angry and clueless about why this happened. I haven’t been home since this happened,” Hudson said as her voice filled with emotion.
Hudson said her daughter won’t get to do the fun things girls do with their dads or have him cheering for her when she accomplishes her life goals.
Sobbing as she tried to express herself through the immense grief she is trying to wade through, Hudson stopped several times and wailed during an interview before she paused to gather herself.
Hudson said Rhodes was her best friend and a remarkable father to his 7-month-old daughter.
The couple’s plans were dashed Saturday when someone shot Rhodes in the head, causing him to crash Hudson’s car into a MetroLink fence along St. Clair Avenue.
Hudson said she and Rhodes worked near each other and on Saturday, he came to her job to borrow her car to hang out with his friends until she finished working. “At 5, he texted me to say he was going to be a little late, but he was on his way and for me not to worry about him picking me up,” she said.
His last text to Hudson came at 5:51 p.m. when he said he was on his way.
“I expected him to pick me up by 6:15. He didn’t show up by then, I called some friends he was with and they said he should be on his way to get me,” Hudson said.
It was cold outside so she went to a nearby business and stood inside. By 6:50 p.m., Rhodes still had not gotten to Hudson.
“My phone died. So, while I was inside of the store, I plugged it in to my phone charger. I was really worried whether something happened. I called the police station and hospitals looking for him. He wasn’t there. I started going crazy,” Hudson said.
Hudson received a call from her cousin who told her Cahokia police officers had been to her house looking for Hudson. She then called the Cahokia Police Department. “They gave me dispatch number and said someone was going to call me,” Hudson said.
She said she became irritated with all of the questions from the police dispatcher about who was driving her car. She was directed to go to the East St. Louis Police Department.
When Hudson got to the department, she was told by an East St. Louis detective to call Rhodes’ mother. After Rhodes’ mom arrived, the detective talked to her first and then with Hudson.
When she learned of Rhodes’ death, Hudson took off running.
After a while, she said she had an unnerving thought when she realized that she and her daughter could have been in the car with Rhodes. The car is a navy blue 2001 Oldsmobile Alero with black tinted windows. “You can’t see in. Somebody had to follow him, “ Hudson said.
“I love Sanchez. He was my best friend. My best friend is gone. We were always around each other. Sometimes Sanchez and his friend Marsean Page would walk miles together so Sanchez could come see me,” she said.
Page said Rhodes “was a brother to me. We hung together a lot. Every day we had fun. He was the funniest person ever.”
The two met “years and years ago on the street playing basketball. He could play,” Page said.
Page described what happened when he found out about Rhodes:
“I dropped the phone and went straight to his mother’s house. I didn’t believe what I heard. I still don’t believe it. I want him to be here so we can hang out, so I can talk to him,” Page said. Through it all, Page knows that he has to move forward with life. But, he says it won’t be so easy. “It’ll be hard, I will pray and do what he would do ... keep working hard.”
Page said Rhodes fell off track a bit, but had gotten himself together and found a job. “He wanted to be in his daughter’s life and do everything he could for her. She was the light of his life. He loved his daughter,” Page said.
Another friend, Damien Smith, said, “Sanchez was like a big brother to me. There was never a dull moment with ‘Scoop’ (Rhodes).”
Smith had known Rhodes since his freshman year at East St. Louis Senior High School. “He had just transferred to East St. Louis Senior High from Belleville East. We started running track together. He was very dedicated. He was my role model in track.”
Raymond Mix, whose grandson was on the track team with Rhodes, said Rhodes enjoyed getting a ride home after school with him when he picked up his grandson because “he always knew I would stop to get them something to eat.”
Mix said he took them sometimes to Cracker Barrel, where they would enjoy dinner. Mix laughed as he recalled that happy time.
Mix said he also served as a mentor to Rhodes and wanted him to be successful. Mix said this is a sad occasion for the community. But, it is also a call for the community to come together to help the young people who live in East St. Louis.
“All of us who are residents still live here,” Mix said. “We’ve got to come together and help these kids. When the track team was not allowed to run in the state championship because of a brawl at a track meet at East St. Louis Senior High, we formed a group and called it ‘We Believe In You.’ We had a fundraiser and raised $2,000 a piece for 11 children. Then we held an event at Power Of Change Church and gave them $500 Walmart gift cards and $1,500 scholarships. We wanted to help them with school.”
The fight at the track meet occurred on May 8 and police said it was linked to the shooting death of Rhodes’ friend and former track team member Roosevelt Davis Jr. on April 14.
Hudson said she and Rhodes had been living together.
“He had just got a job. We were trying to work and do what we could together for our daughter. My 21st birthday is in two weeks and we were saving money to do stuff for my birthday,” she said.
“There are lots of memories. I am going to have to hold on to them.
“He was goofy and always danced. He loved to dance. This was the best relationship I ever had. Nobody is perfect. But, he was good,” she said.
Hudson said her daughter was upset Saturday night.
“She kept seeing all kinds of different faces coming and going and her daddy wasn’t around. This was unusual. He loved her more than he loved himself,” Hudson said. “I think she knew something had happened.”
Hudson is hopeful that the killer will be found and brought to justice.
But police officers say they have difficulty getting people in the community to talk to them when they show up on a crime scene. Without witnesses, police say it is hard to get the people who are responsible for the crimes arrested and charged. Police say people usually tell them they didn’t see or hear anything.
“Because every time something like this happens they never find out who did it,” Hudson said. “I hope they find out who killed Sanchez. I am in so much pain over this.”