Robert sandifer: A tale of two yummy's

An exploration of the community's response to the tragic events within Roseland during 1994 

Featuring TIME - Murder in Miniature by Nancy Gibbs (2001)

The Forgotten Story of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer &

Hi 8 mm footage by filmmaker Andrew Jones archived at Media Burn

June 2016




The search for an 11-year-old murder suspect ended here today in a dank, graffiti-scarred pedestrian underpass, where the boy was found dead in a pool of blood and mud. He had been shot at least once in the back of the head, apparently, the police said, by the same street gang that put a gun in his small hands and shoved him into the grown-up world of violence and death.

For three days the boy, Robert Sandifer, had eluded the police and saddened the city because he was so young and troubled and because there are so many other lost children like him in big cities and small towns across the country.

Excerpt from NY Times: Boy Sought in Teen-Ager's Death is Latest Victim of Chicago Guns by Don Terry (1994)

 Time Magazine Cover Story:   Crime Murder in Miniature   by Nancy Gibbs (1994)

 Time Magazine Cover Story: Crime Murder in Miniature by Nancy Gibbs (1994)

On Sunday night, the police say, on behest of his gang, Robert fired a semiautomatic pistol into a group of teen-agers playing football on the Far South Side. A boy was hit in the hand and 14-year-old Shavon Dean was struck in the head and killed, a few yards from the steps of her home. Robert lived around the corner from Shavon, and today the neighborhood seemed stunned by the loss of two of its children, one an innocent bystander, the other a child robbed of his innocence a long time ago.

"The boy's death just makes the whole situation sadder," Tawana Thomas, a friend and neighbor of Shavon's, said today. "Him being dead doesn't prove nothing. Shavon's not back. It's just more grief and sorrow for our neighborhood."Shavon's aunt, Ida Falls, standing on a wooden porch two houses away from her niece's home, hugged a friend and told her not to cry, that God was looking out for Shavon and Robert, too. But after the friend left, Mrs. Falls said, "I don't think I can take no more of this."

Excerpt from NY Times: Boy Sought in Teen-Ager's Death is Latest Victim of Chicago Guns by Don Terry (1994)

Excerpt of Ida Falls, the aunt of Shavon Dean, talk about the night Shavon was murdered. The footage (shot on 8 mm film) is in part of a documentary on Robert 'Yummy' Sandifer by Andrew Jones, archived at Media Burn

At 10:30 in the morning on Sunday, August 28, 1994, eleven year old Robert Sandifer, nicknamed “Yummy” for his love of cookies, left his house at 219 West 107th Place in the Roseland neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago. He said he was off to a gas station at 111th & State Street, more than a half mile away, where local children pumped self-serve gas for customers to earn tips before station workers would chase them away.

At first glance, Yummy’s bedroom resembled most other Chicago children of his age. Posters of Michael Jordan and Disney characters were tacked to the walls and ceiling. However, a closer look revealed a boy whose childhood innocence had long since vanished; gang insignia was scrawled above the door, gang logos were scribbled on the woodwork.

Away from his house “playing all day,” according to his grandmother, Yummy, standing 4 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 86 pounds, approached a group of boys standing at 10758 South Perry Avenue near the corner of West 108th Street around 6:30pm. Yummy, a tattooed member of the Black Disciples gang, approached 16 year old Kianta Britten, asking him what gang he was affiliated with; the Black Disciples were warring with the Gangster Disciples, another powerful Chicago street gang.

When Britten said he wasn’t in a gang, Yummy, a member of the Black Disciples set called the “8 balls,” pulled out a 9 millimeter semiautomatic pistol at nearly point-blank range. Britten ran. Yummy opened fire, striking Britten in the stomach with one bullet and striking his spinal cord with another. Britten would spend the next several months in hospitals and rehabilitation clinics, unable to walk for eight months.

Excerpt from the Forgotten Story of Robert 'Yummy' Sandifer

TIME - Archived by   Pardon Me Duke

TIME - Archived by Pardon Me Duke

Yummy was pronounced dead at 2:20am, on Thursday, September 1, 1994. Cook County Medical Examiner Edmund Donoghue, performing an autopsy on Yummy, discovered the physical evidence of his hardened and abusive life. Yummy, with one copper-jacketed .25 caliber slug embedded in his not yet fully formed brain, had a tattoo on his right forearm, “BDN III,” which represented the Black Disciples Nation. Earlier in the week his grandmother had told reporters he had a tattoo that read “I love mommy.”“There were 49 scars,” said Donoghue at the trial of Derrick Hardaway. “I had to use two diagrams.” There were so many scars on Yummy’s body he could not use the one chart typically used by medical examiners.

Excerpt from the Forgotten Story of Robert 'Yummy' Sandifer

Excerpt of the memorial services for Robert 'Yummy' Sandifer. The footage (shot on 8 mm film) is in part of a documentary on Robert 'Yummy' Sandifer by Andrew Jones, archived at Media Burn

From early on, the child welfare workers had little hope for Lorina as a parent. “There is no reason to believe that Lorina Sandifer will ever be able to adequately meet her own needs, let alone to meet the needs of her growing family,” a psychiatrist reported to the juvenile court in 1986. And so Yummy and his brothers and sister were placed with his grandmother, Janie Fields, whom Yummy took to calling Mama. Her prognosis as a care giver was not much more promising. The psychiatric report described Fields as “a very controlling, domineering, castrating woman with a rather severe borderline personality disorder.” 

Neighbors in the black working-class neighborhood called Roseland still remember the day Janie Fields moved into a two-story, three bedroom house with her brood: nearly all her 10 children and 30 grandchildren lived with her at one time or another. “They are dirty and noisy, and they are ruining the neighborhood,” complained a neighbor. Residents launched an unsuccessful petition drive to force Fields out. “All those kids are little troublemakers,” said Carl McClinton, 23, who lives down the street. “This is the kind of neighborhood where we all look after each others kids, but they are a rougher breed.”

Excerpt from TIME: Murder in Miniature by Nancy R. Gibbs (2001)


Excerpt from the Forgotten Story of Robert 'Yummy' Sandifer

TIME - Archived by  Pardon Me Duke  

TIME - Archived by Pardon Me Duke 

The neighborhood kids describe two different Yummy Sandifers. There is the bully, the extortionist, the fierce fighter who would take on the big kids and beat them. “Yummy would ask you for 50 cents,” says Steve Nelson, 11, “and if he knew you were scared and you gave him the money, he’d ask for another 50 cents.” Erica Williams, 20, a neighbor, says, “You really can’t describe how bad he really was. He’d curse you completely out. He broke in school, took money, burned cars.”

Others recall a sweeter side. Lulu Washington sells discount candy out of her house, just across from Yummy’s. “He just wanted love,” she says. For that, he could be disarmingly kind. “He’d say thank you, excuse me, pardon me.” He loved animals and basketball and had a way with bicycles. He once even merged two bikes into a single, working tandem. Those were the good times. “It always meant trouble when he was with a group,” says Ollie Jones-Edwards, 54. “If he was alone, he was sweet as jelly.”

Excerpt from TIME: Murder in Miniature by Nancy R. Gibbs (2001)



Yummy averaged a felony a month for the last year and a half of his life; 23 felonies and five misdemeanors in all.

Maybe Yummy figured out that the gang's protection was not worth much. Janie Fields last spoke to Yummy Wednesday afternoon before he died. "He said, 'What is the police looking for me for?' I said, 'I'm coming to get you.' I had clothes with me 'cause I knew he was probably filthy and dirty. My heart was racing. I said, 'You ain't done nothing wrong, just let me come and get you.' " The phone went dead. She went to 95th Street, where he said he would be. "He wasn't there."

But he appeared that night on a neighbor's porch, visibly frightened, asking that she call his grandmother so he could turn himself in. He asked if they could say a prayer together. The neighbor went to make the call, and when she came back, he was gone. The police can only guess what happened next. Derrick Hardaway, 14, and his brother Cragg, 16, both honor students and fellow gang members, found Yummy and promised that they could help him get out of town. They drove him to a railroad underpass, a dark tunnel marbled with gang graffiti. Yummy's body was found lying in the mud, with two bullet wounds in the back of his head.

Excerpt from TIME: Murder in Miniature by Nancy R. Gibbs (2001)

Conversations with the older sister of Cragg and Derrick Hardaway. The footage (shot on 8 mm film) is in part of a documentary on Robert 'Yummy' Sandifer by Andrew Jones, archived at Media Burn

Now it's the Hardaway brothers' turn. Authorities say gang leaders, who can easily order hits in any prison in the state, may have the Hardaways targeted next. Both boys were arrested and are being held in protective custody. As for the other children in Yummy's neighborhood, when they are asked what would make them feel safer, most give the same answer: getting a gun. Among other things, it would protect them from the children who already have them.

There were those who were missing Yummy last week, those who had seen the child and not the killer. "Everyone thinks he was a bad person, but he respected my mom, who's got cancer," says Kenyata Jones, 12. Yummy used to come over to Jones' house several times a month for sleep-overs. "We'd bake cookies and brownies and rent movies like the old Little Rascals in black and white," says Jones. "He was my friend, you know? I just cried and cried at school when I heard about what happened," he says, plowing both hands into his pants pockets for comfort before returning to his house to take care of his mother. "And I'm gonna cry some more today, and I'm gonna cry some more tomorrow too."

Excerpt from TIME: Murder in Miniature by Nancy R. Gibbs (2001)


A collection of newspaper clippings from the footage (shot on Hi 8 mm film) by Andrew Jones, archived at Media Burn


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

WGN-TV follow-up story & video by Tonya Francisco (2014)

A graffiti memorial marks a wall in the South Side viaduct where Robert “Yummy” Sandifer’s body was found. (Chicago Tribune)

A graffiti memorial marks a wall in the South Side viaduct where Robert “Yummy” Sandifer’s body was found. (Chicago Tribune)

Completing the portrait of youth snuffed out were Cragg and Derrick Hardaway, the boys convicted of Yummy's murder. The crime cost them the balance of their youth and then some. Cragg, the triggerman, is 34, and he's expected to be paroled when he's 46. Parole for his brother, now 32, is expected in 2016.

If they return to the crime scene, they'll find it isn't there. Concrete caps the tunnel's entrance on one end, grass on the other, creating a tomb of sorts around the place Yummy died.

Half a block from there one recent afternoon, Jerry Stokes sat on his front steps. He and Yummy were the same age, and they knew each other. Stokes said little has changed on his strip of Cottage Grove Avenue since Yummy died.

Excerpt from Chicago Tribune: 'Yummy' Sandifer's case still resonates by Dan Hinkel (2012)

"That shocked the world," Stokes said. "Then it faded away."