Two teens slain in three days in Far Rockaway

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The families of two teenagers murdered within three days of each other in Far Rockaway made desperate pleas Tuesday for information that could help find their killers.

Authorities were still searching for suspects in the shooting that killed 15-year-old Brendan Bethea Saturday night, when she was hit by a stray bullet as she walked through the courtyard of the Redfern Houses.

Two days after her murder, 16-year-old Tyrese Johnson was shot and killed near 10-75 Beach 21st St., police said. That investigation was also ongoing.

At least a dozen SUVs and motorcycles drove through the Rockaways "to reclaim the streets" as part of an anti-violence rally Monday night at Redfern, where Doris Jacobs, the director of the Redfern Tenants Association, called for cameras to be installed at the housing project.

She said cameras would have helped police in their investigation to find Brendan's killer.

Both families of the slain teens rallied in Far Rockaway Tuesday morning, asking anyone with information on the murders to come forward.

City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) said he had heard that Tyrese, who lived at 22-12 Regina Ave. in Far Rockaway, resembled a family member who may have been the intended murder target.

Brendan, 15, of 110-05 175th St. in Jamaica, was at the Far Rockaway housing project attending a party with her boyfriend when the bullet struck her head around 11:12 p.m. Sunday, police said.

Brendan was taken to St. John's Episcopal Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said.

Her stepfather, Robert Drakeford, said Brendan and her family moved from Redfern to Jamaica about 1 1/2 years ago after a friend of Brendan's was shot and killed.

"I moved from that place because of [violence], and it still finds a way to touch us," said Drakeford, 42.

He said Brendan's mother, Tineen Harris, "is holding up."

"Instead of going out to find a prom dress, she's going out to buy a funeral dress," Drakeford said.

Brandon's funeral was scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Gilmore's Funeral Home at 191-02 Linden Blvd. in Jamaica.

The 15-year-old attended IS 53 and was set to graduate from the Jamaica school next month. She had plans to enroll at John Adams High School in the fall.

"We're taking it one step at a time," Drakeford said about his stepdaughter's death. "She was an outgoing girl. She would smile all the time and loved school."

Brendan also had a passion for step dancing, Drakeford said, and was a member of the All Stars Dance Group.

Brendan's death was part of a violent weekend in the Rockaways during which five men were shot outside a restaurant near Beach 21st Street early Sunday, police said.

The victims in that incident, identified only as black men ages 20, 22, 25, 44 and 66, were listed in stable condition Sunday, police said.

A 1995 white Jeep Cherokee was stopped near the shooting at Beach 21st Street and Mott Avenue, police said, and six men were arrested.

Two days before Brendan's death, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) held a youth town hall meeting in Far Rockaway to help young people find jobs.

The session was also a place where students could inform Smith and city Department of Education officials about what they could do to improve schools.

"We take this opportunity to hear from the young people," said Pat Rubens, Smith's chief of staff.

Children were able to sign up for the Biz Kids program, where teens 15 to 18 work for local employers for six to eight weeks in the summer.

Christina Santucci contributed to this story

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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