It's been 13 long years since charges were filed in Andrew McQuay’s homicide, but the man accused of shooting the 17-year-old to death over a fender-bender in Gary’s Midtown section in 2008 remains a fugitive.
News of an arrest last summer gave the family hope.
But those hopes quickly turned to heartache after Gary police Detective Sgt. James Bond, who secured charges against Antonio "Paul" Yanders all those years ago, determined the man being held in the Lake County Jail in August 2020 was not Yanders.
"They say time heals all, but with us, it hasn't," said Blanchie McQuay, Andrew McQuay's sister. "It hasn't because I feel like my brother's soul is not at rest. We're not at rest. We don't want justice for my brother. We need justice for my brother."
Andrew McQuay was so sweet, so mellow, no one would have expected him to become the victim of a homicide, Blanchie said.
When Blanchie's mother came to pick her up from work April 21, 2008, Andrew — who always enjoyed driving — wasn't with her. He’d gone to hang out with friends, their mother told Blanchie.
About 10:30 p.m., Andrew was riding in the back seat of a friend's car when the friend sideswiped another vehicle in the 2500 block of Connecticut Street, according to Lake Criminal Court records.
People in the car told police they hit another car, so they stopped. As the driver prepared to get out, Yanders ran up and began firing shots at the car and into a nearby crowd, court records allege.
Witnesses told the McQuays that Andrew pushed a friend’s sister down to protect her from the gunfire, then took off running along the side of the house.
Yanders took aim at Andrew as he ran, shooting him several times, records state.
Another man was shot in the foot and thigh as he attempted to take cover.
Andrew made it to the next block, jumped a fence and collapsed in the street in front of a church, his sister said.
A stranger passing by stopped to help him as he lay on his stomach and repeatedly said he didn't want to die, Blanchie McQuay said.
Andrew's biggest fear was drowning, and he drowned in his own blood because a bullet pierced his lung, she said.
"We're grateful he was with someone in his last moments, but it wasn't any of us," she said.
The stranger shared the story with the family in the days afterward, but they haven't kept in touch over the years.
'They took my baby'
Blanchie's mother took her son's death hard.
That night, as people gathered at the crime scene, Blanchie's mother attempted to run into traffic on Broadway, she said.
Her older sister stopped their mother, who fell to the ground, saying she couldn't live anymore. "They took my baby," she screamed.
Blanchie, who was 19 years old at the time, said her mother built a shrine to her late son in a corner of their home.
"She had all of his belongings laid out," she said. "That's when I knew my mother — she wasn't well."
Blanchie, now a mother herself, recalled coming out of her room some nights to find her mother crying on the floor and begging to be back with her brother. She would ask her mother, "What about us? We need you," she said.
"She told me, 'Blanchie, you will never understand my pain until you have children.' And when I beared my first daughter, I understood. I understood," she said. "Death alone. I couldn't imagine either one of my girls not being here. But for them to be taken? I could not imagine."
Blanchie and her youngest brother were home three years later when their mother died from a massive heart attack, she said.
Blanchie's father lost a brother, Amoe McQuay, in a homicide before Andrew was killed. In 2009, Blanchie's oldest sibling on her father's side, Cody Hunt, also was shot to death.
"My father felt like he was being punished," she said.
Andrew McQuay was a pure soul, his sister said.
He was sweet and gentle, and people seemed to be drawn to him.
He was good at basketball and often played in neighborhood competitions, but he wasn't the type of guy who liked to get his hands dirty. He cared about his appearance, so he was popular with the girls.
"He was a child. Seventeen," Blanchie said. "We never got to see him grow as a man, as an adult, as a father. We wish we could know what he would have been."
After losing so many family members, the surviving McQuay siblings faced some dark times, she said.
Blanchie resolved to never allow her children to have to feel what she went through.
She began working in health care, started her own business and bought a home in Merrillville.
Her siblings have all grown and evolved, too.
"We're ready to breathe again. We're ready for this weight to be lifted off our shoulders," she said. "We're just ready to live as close to a normal life as possible."
When violence becomes the norm
Growing up in Midtown wasn't easy, she said.
"We lived in houses that were not the best of the best, so living in a home like this in Merrillville would be unimaginable," she said. "We ever went without, but — food from food pantries. You know, just to make it by. It was rough. It was really rough. Lights off. Water off. It wasn't easy, but for us, my mother and father figured it out every time."
The McQuays were born and raised in Gary, she said.
Her grandparents on both sides lived in Gary. One grandfather, who lived to age 105, moved to Gary when the city still had brick streets, she said.
"He worked at U.S. Steel," she said. "Back then, Gary had a lot to offer."
It's not the same for her generation or her 20-year-old nephew Zion Williams' generation.
In a way, Andrew became a product of his environment, she said.
"It was normal for gunshots to ring out," she said. "If it was close, we were just immune to diving down on the floor and covering each other. That's what we did. It was our first instinct."
Williams, who was 8 when his uncle Andrew was killed, said a large number of kids he went to elementary school with are dead from gun violence or incarcerated.
"A lot of them passed away," he said.
When you live in Gary, trouble will find you, he said. It's how you adjust to it that matters.
"When I was in school, if you came to school clean or something, there's going to be a problem," he said. "I went to West Side High School."
Some of it has to do with jealousy, Blanchie said.
Even when Andrew was alive, her brothers always were prepared to fight when they left the house, she said.
"We were relieved when everyone made it home. That's not normal," she said. "But that became the norm."
Despite all the loss in her family, Blanchie said she knows there's a bigger purpose in life.
She's always pushing Williams and others to look at new opportunities. She wants her children to be wealthy and have the freedom to travel, she said.
"It's their birthright to see more, experience more," she said.
Growing up, adults made it seem like turning 18 and graduating from high school were the greatest accomplishments in life, Blanchie and her nephew said. But those are very low goals.
"There's so many diamonds in the rough in Gary," she said. "They never get that opportunity. They never get that encouragement. They never have that support system. They never get that hope."
'It's time to be held accountable'
There was a time when Blanchie couldn't go over the hill on Broadway into Midtown, she said.
"We lost so much in Gary. So much heartache in Gary," she said. "The crime scene was right there. You could see it from Broadway."
Not a day goes by when she doesn't miss Andrew.
The mix-up last year over whether Yanders had been captured took the family right back to the crime scene, to seeing Andrew lying on the ground dead, she said.
"How could someone hide in plain view this long? This long?" she said. "But I guess it's possible."
Detective Bond said it's sad that Yanders likely has received help over the years in hiding from the law.
Homicide cases are never forgotten, he said.
"We're at the point now where we must be each other's eyes and ears, and the voice for these people, who can no longer speak for themselves," Bond said. "We must come together as law enforcement and the community to bring these cases to a close."
Blanchie said her family never has given up in its quest for justice for Andrew.
"Thirteen years. Now it's time to be held accountable," she said. "You took a human being's life. Someone that was loved. They didn't even have a chance to live life."
Andrew was only 17, she said.
"That's my biggest thing. A child," Blanchie said. "This wasn't a grown man that lived his life and experienced life."
Only when the family gets the closure of seeing Yanders prosecuted can they truly move on, she said.
"Even though we've all evolved as adults, I still have that moment when I was a 19-year-old child that's still just there. That door’s still open," she said. "I’m ready to close it. We had so many bad memories from back then. Bad experiences. I just want it to be over and close it."
Anyone with information about Yanders' whereabouts is asked to call Bond at 219-755-3855. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.
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