MIAMI — As kids, Jamarco Stafford and James Adams shot hoops on the basketball courts of an Overtown housing project. Lifelong friends, they attended the same Head Start program, and helped win football games for the Overtown Rattlers — Stafford sporting number 88, Adams wearing 50.
Some nights, Adams slept at Stafford's house.
Now the teens, both 17, spend their nights in detention cells, facing murder charges for killing each others' brothers.
Adams is accused of fatally shooting Jamarquis Stafford, 16, on July 17 after Jamarquis went to get a gun he lent the teen. Jamarco Stafford is accused in the Sept. 15 slaying of Lavoris Adams, 32, after a confrontation over the earlier killing.
In the Culmer Place project, two families living less than two parking lots apart grieve for four sons lost to the violence of an area struggling under the weight of high crime and poverty.
"I feel for both families," said Natalie Ogletree who, as a Miami police officer patrolling Overtown, has seen too many young men fall on the troubled streets.
But this time she has a unique perspective: She's great-aunt to the Stafford brothers.
"It's really puzzling to a lot of people because of the friendship that came with this. It wasn't two enemies out on the street. These were actually friends," Ogletree said.
Neither family was eager to discuss what happened, wary of making a bad situation worse. "I'm going through a lot," said Adams' mom, Cendonia Adams, 48. "I got to bury a child. I've got one in jail."
"I don't want any of the families to go through any more turmoil," added her daughter Selinda Adams, 25.