July 28 will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Fishtown man Wayne Elliss, Jr.
On that day, the family and friends of the 21-year-old father, emergency medical technician, and husband-to-be will march the same steps they believe he walked before he was shot dead at the intersection of Belgrade Street and Frankford Avenue in 2002.
They are calling the march The Justice for Wayne walk.
It has been 10 years since his murder, and those who knew him are no closer to finding out who took the promising life their friend, their brother, and their son.
On the day of the walk, at 10 a.m., the Elliss family – and anyone who wants to join them – plan to march from Front and Spring Garden streets to the intersection of Belgrade Street and Frankford Avenue.
“We are basically walking the way we think he walked that night,” said Amy Elliss, 32, Elliss’ sister.
On the night Elliss was murdered, he spent the evening with friends at Club Deco, a long-closed nightclub that once stood at the intersection of Front and Spring Garden streets.
After a night at the bar, just one week prior to his 22nd birthday, Elliss called his father, Wayne Elliss Sr., for a ride home, but his father had no car to pick up his son.
Elliss then decided to walk the one mile from the bar to his grandparents’ house at Belgrade Street and Frankford Avenue.
At some point prior to his arrival, at about 3:30 a.m., Elliss was shot once in his left arm and once in his chest.
After he crawled to the steps in front of his grandparents’ home, Elliss, a father to Hayley - then 3, now 13 – died of his injuries.
His grandfather heard the shots.
By the time he got to his grandson’s side, Elliss was dead.
“He still had his cell phone, but he lost his keys and his wallet,” said Elliss Sr., adding that police told the family they believed the murder was motivated by robbery.
In the decade since his death, there have been no arrests made for anyone who might be responsible for Elliss’ murder.
Elliss Sr. said he can’t believe the circumstances of his son’s death.
“He was a hell of a kid,” he said during an interview July 13. “He was an athlete, a paramedic, a really good kid. And, I’m not saying that because he was my son.”
Elliss attended North Catholic High School, Holy Name of Jesus and St. Boniface, and was a consummate athlete. He played in Fishtown’s annual Freddy Adams Sports Tournament and on the softball team for the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 51.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York City, Elliss’ father said the young man drove from Philadelphia to the World Trade Center to provide any help he could.
“He knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life,” said Catherine Hart, Elliss Sr.’s fiancé. “He wanted to be there to help.”
“He was a paramedic, but he always wanted to be a cop,” said Elliss Sr.
A $12,000 reward from the Citizens Crime Commission still stands for information leading to the capture of Elliss’ killer.
The family hopes the Justice for Wayne walk will bring attention to the case and hopefully jog people’s memories to help bring closure to the family.
“It’s disappointing that nobody seems to know what happened,” she said. “The idea is to get this back out there and get somebody to talk.”
Even after years of disintegrating leads, dead ends and time spent waiting, the Elliss family said they never gave up on believing that the man who killed Elliss would be caught.
Amy Elliss said the Philadelphia Police haven’t given up either, and they speak regularly with an officer who is currently working on the cold case investigation.
“The police keep saying they have leads, but it always turns out to be nothing,” said the victim’s sister. “But it would be much more difficult if there was nobody working on it. Like if it was just in a box somewhere.”
Amy Elliss said that they couldn’t get the necessary permit from the city for the upcoming march – the distance was too far, she said – but that’s not going to stop them from walking.
“We are going to do it anyway,” she said.
“We need to keep this alive,” said the elder Elliss. “We need to break the silence.”
As he spoke, Elliss paused to catch his breath and wipe his eyes.
“Hopefully, somebody will know something and say something,” interjected his fiancé.
Star Staff Reporter Hayden Mitman can be contacted at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Justice for Wayne Walk
The Justice for Wayne walk will begin at Club Deco on Front and Spring Garden streets heading to Frankford Avenue at Belgrade Street.
It costs $20 per person to participate, and there will be a beef-and-beer at 3 p.m. after the walk. It costs $30 to attend the beef-and-beer without walking. All money raised will be donated to the AOH Fishtown Division 51.
For info., call Amy Elliss at 267-339-1133, or Wayne Elliss Sr. at 215-913-6437.