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EAST CHICAGO — A heartbroken Niyeshia Shaw first reached out to "Case Files Chicago” on Facebook — wondering if the television show might highlight her son’s August murder in hopes the publicity would lead police to his killer.

“It would mean the world to me and maybe I’ll be able to sleep more at night, knowing that my son has justice,” Shaw, of Hobart, said during a one-on-one interview Thursday with Lisette Guillen, the show’s executive producer and on-site host.

Being before cameras and beneath bright lights to talk about the tragic death of a loved one can be intimidating, but Guillen said she and the television series’ production crew prioritize the comfort of victims’ family members.  

“If you need to take a break, we’ll stop and we can pick it back up,” Guillen quietly said to Shaw moments before the start of filming in the Police Department’s darkened conference room.

Jamaris "JJ" Frierson was only 16 when he was gunned down in the early morning hours Aug. 11 outside of a home in the 1100 block of Delaware Street in Gary.

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At age 16, Jamaris Frierson was shot and killed Aug. 11 in Gary.

Frierson had been hanging out with an older acquaintance, Nathaniel Bobo, 25, of Gary, early that morning outside Bobo's home. Bobo was also shot multiple times and later died at the hospital. A third person — a female — was wounded in the shooting but survived.

The boy’s grandmother, Elmer Shaw, said she worried she would “die of a broken heart” when she got a call from a relative saying her grandson was dead.

She said she doesn’t believe Jamaris was the killer’s intended target.

“This guy he was with, he also got killed,” she said. “I guess they were planning this, the other people were planning to kill this guy, and my grandson got caught up in it.”

His mother described Jamaris as "the life of the party, always cracking jokes." 

The teen struggled in school but his grades had been improving at the time of his death. He was protective of his younger sister, and a ladies' man who loved basketball, she added. 

Guillen, a Northwest Indiana native, said the show — now in its sixth season — features cold cases in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

The "Case Files" series began in 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio, and since has spread to cities like Miami and Los Angeles. The Chicago series launched in 2012 and aids local police agencies in solving cold case homicides.

Marc Wilkinson, the show’s director, and Andrew Smith, cinematographer, spent about 30 minutes setting up camera equipment, lighting and backdrop before Guillen and the family arrived.

Wilkinson, who is part of the television show’s core production team, jotted notes down during the family’s interviews Thursday. He said the team is scheduling an interview with the case’s lead investigator, Detective Cpl. James Bond, of the Gary Police Department.

Once the team gets the facts of the case from Bond, actors are cast for the reenactment scenes — which are filmed at the crime scene or in Chicago or Northwest Indiana.

Guillen said the team always gets approval from the lead investigating agency before agreeing to feature a cold case on the show.

“That is protocol because we don’t want to mess with or jeopardize the case and we always want to protect the integrity of the case,” Guillen said.

Bond said he hopes the new publicity leads to a break in the case.

He said he received tips from the public early on. He urged those people to come to the police department and offer a formal statement — a crucial step that may help solve the murders of Bobo and Jamaris. 

"When something happens to someone's loved one, no matter what life they lived, they are still someone's brother, mother, father, and we must become the eyes, ears and voice for someone no longer able to speak for themselves," Bond said Thursday.

"To the friends or associates who knew them, sometimes you have to take the leap of faith, and give yourself a reason to trust the police."

Guillen said the television show can’t possibly take on all the cases they are presented with — “If we did, we would be (a 24/7 operation).”

Often, there are scheduling conflicts or a family gets cold feet and backs out, she said.

The team was drawn to this case because of Jamaris' age and the number of shooting victims. 

"He was 16. I mean, he hasn't even begun living. He was caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time," Guillen said. "There was another person who was killed with him, and then also a third victim. That tells me that somebody was willing to commit pretty much a triple homicide." 

The television show plans to feature Jamaris’ case during an upcoming episode. The episode’s air date was not yet determined as of Thursday.

"Case Files Chicago” airs 11 p.m. Saturdays on the CW.

Anyone with information about this cold case should contact Bond, of the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit, at 219-755-3852. To remain anonymous, call the Crime Tip Line at 866-CRIME-GP.


Region Cold Case Files from The Times

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Public safety reporter

Lauren covers breaking news, crime and courts for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet covering government, public policy, and the region’s heroin epidemic. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.