Men convicted in ’94 murder of 11-year-old speak out for first time

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As reporters, there are some stories that just stick with us through the years. For WGN’s Tonya Francisco, it was the story of Yummy Sandifer, a young man who at 11 years old had a rap sheet longer than most adults.  He died violently in a gangland execution by 14- and 16-year-old brothers.

Now, for the first time, we hear from both of those brothers about that fateful night, what they’ve learned and their hopes for the future.

At 36, Cragg Hardaway is older, wiser and also a little nervous when it comes to the interview.

Twenty years after a notorious murder that thrust him into the national spotlight, he and his younger brother Derrick are talking about the case that changed their lives forever.

“It took me years to admit and accept my role in it,” Derrick said.

It was an unusually chilly September night in 1994 when Yummy was shot twice in the back of the head in a hit ordered by leaders of the Black Disciples.

Cragg was only 16 years old when his mugshot was plastered on TV when he arrested for the murder of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer.

Cragg’s brother Derrick, who was 14 at the time, was too young for his mug shot to be released.  He was convicted of driving the getaway car.

Cragg, Derrick and Yummy were all members of the same gang, the Black Disciples. And all three would eventually learn that membership in a street gang comes at a high price.

Chicago recorded 930 homicides in 1994, the second highest on record.  Among the dead was 14-year-old Shavon Dean, who shot in the head by a stray bullet during a shooting spree in the city’s Roseland neighborhood that injured two other teens.

Chicago police quickly identified 11-year-old  Yummy as the gunman. Gang leaders decided Yummy needed to be silenced because he knew too much.  So they ordered Cragg to kill him.

Derrick refused to leave his brother’s side.

"A lot of people don’t know that he actually took me home,” Derrick said. “And I could just feel something wasn’t right, so when I asked him, 'What’s going on,' he told me everything. I refused to let him go by himself.”

“I should have been more of a big brother,” Cragg said.  “But at the time, that ain’t the way you think.”

After the murder, both brothers were in custody, and months later, they were convicted felons: Cragg got 60 years for murder and Derrick got 45 for driving the getaway car. They were the only two ever tried in the case even though they say others were involved.

Abandoned by their fellow gang members and isolated from their families, the brothers have spent the past 20 years rehabilitating themselves.  Both have gotten their GEDs and associate degrees.  Derrick is cultivating his landscaping skills by working in the prison garden and Cragg is involved in anti-violence programs.

But for Cragg, there’s one piece of unfinished business: Reaching out to Yummy’s family, who has not responded to him or WGN.

“I’ll answer any questions that they may have, concerning that night, leading up to that night,” Cragg said.

Both brothers say they think about Yummy’s murder every day. The tears, they say, have long since dried up. Instead, they are focused on getting out one day and making sure others don’t end up on the same path that led them to prison.

“I know most people will listen to this and be like, 'What the hell does this dude know, he been in jail for 20 years, he shouldn’t have did what he did,'” Cragg said. “That still don’t take away from the message: Value your life, you matter, looking in the mirror and tell yourself that you matter.”

Derrick is eligible for parole in 2016. Cragg will be eligible in 2024. Neither brother plans to return to the Roseland neighborhood where they grew up, for fear they could be drawn back into a lifestyle that Derrick says will only lead them back to prison -- or to a grave.

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18 comments

  • Jane Carter

    These boys matter too. They were kids and in a certain perverted way, products of their environment & time. I hope they someday are released and make a difference in the free world. Juvenile offenders deserve rehabilitation. Education is the best route.

  • John

    “They were the only two ever tried in the case even though they say others were involved.”
    Still a of code of silence. Why dont they tell the police who else was involved if they are so “focused on getting out one day and making sure others don’t end up on the same path that led them to prison”

    • Braxton

      John are you “stupid” or are you ignorant to what goes on, on the mean streets of gang turf. Third Law of the Black Disciple Nation: “There will be no tolerance of squealing in the Black Disciple Nation.” That law applies to the members and ANYONE who happens to live within the Nation. The then 30 something leaders of these gangs, sent a 14 year-old to kill an 11 year old. To make sure the child couldn’t be coerced to SQUEAL by the police. Now imagine what the same are willing to do to protect their involvement in a crime that carries NO STATUE OF LIMITATIONS.

      Mighty White of you to think any one isn’t expected to protect themselves and their family FIRST.

      • Amberly Romero

        Mighty ignorant of YOU to assume they didn’t say WHO. The article can’t publish others accused based off hearsay. This article does not say they didn’t identify the others. Why do you think they don’t want to return to their old neighborhoods? Oh, that’s right, so they aren’t drawn back into that lifestyle…..OK!

      • Lynn

        Lets hope parole is DENIED! Forget black or white, if you want to change, you can. So tired of hearing excuses, even today as with the Demario tragedy, young black men NEED to stop killing each other, and it is the OBLIGATION of the parents to do whatever they have to, in order to teach their kids right from wrong, and know what they are doing. If you need to move to get them away from bad influences, then do it!! BE INVOLVED!!

    • Trece

      They have done 20years for this crime. Tell now is not going to lessen or give back any time already spent. The law enforcement know there where others involved do you really think they care. They were happy that someone got time for the murder.

  • Arlene GrownUp Jones

    If they have truly rehabilitated themselves, then they should form a group of felons who put the message out to the fools on the street that the one thing those fools don’t want to do is to come to prison with them. Until our young people fear jail from those incarcerated, it is the only thing that can now get through their thick skulls!

  • Lynn

    Sadly, Robert “Yunny” Sandifer’s parents are just as much to blame as these 2 brothers for his death. At just 11, he had a long rap sheet…are you kidding me!! Had his parents done their job, he might be alive today. Hopefully they have accepted their part in all this.

  • Hope

    I pray that a lesson was learned , just know Jesus died for us because of sins but u have to forgive to be forgiven amen ,best wishes,

  • NICHOLE LEWIS

    We all grew up together , never seeing or acknowledging the path we were taking. Some took life more serious than others, had to help out without doing any harmful things, but by working !!!! I hurt all of us so bad, waking up getting ready for 1st day of high school without our friend/ hairstylist among us. There will always be a missing feeling for all of them and we’ve always been praying for the families of Shavon & Yummy , but also for the Hardaway bros. All are missed !!!!!!

  • shaw

    Shavon was my 7th grade class mate at van v
    Like two student next to each other in a row that was a wild feeling…year around school….I miss her just to think of her wow that was a long time ago
    🇳🇪r.I.p shavon……..from Nelson

  • Zephyr

    It looks like this world has got enough ignorance to go around… I agree rehabilitation should be “OUR” (The Nation) first priority after during and after sentencing especially for juvenile offenders we need to do some SERIOUS research into what works and what just simply doesn’t (Like Min. Mandatory Sentencing). However as for Amberly Romero’s comment. Just because they may not go back to their old neighborhood does not mean a whole heck of a lot. It seems a lot of people still get the wrong idea when they hear “Street Gang” these are not the same just “neighborhood” gangs as we are used to. Yes they might actually be in your neighborhood but they are also in 100’s of other neighborhoods! Much, much larger than you think more like unified organizations with tens, more likely hundreds of thousands members nation wide & they are here to stay. There is however a silver lining here because as with any organization, surviving means growing & becoming WISER and in this case a change not only in the message but their actions now and in the future. That which once was only feared may now also become revered! Trading what may have once been fighting, drugs & guns etc.. For a Positive Message(s), community outreach & neighborhood improvement!

  • Sam

    I remember way back in 1995/6 or so in High School in The Bahamas my English teacher brought the Time Magazine and had us read about this, always stuck with me. Crazy that they’ve been in jail so long.

  • Nicole

    These two were children when this happened, and while they knew it was wrong, they didn’t know any different. We don’t know anything about them; what type of household they grew up in, if they were neglected, abused, etc. People have no idea what it’s like to grow up where you feel unwanted and only know one way of life. They have lost the chance at a decent life as well, but did they ever really have a fair chance to begin with?