TAMPA — A month before he died, 17-year-old Levi Dixon Jr. stood before a microphone in a makeshift home recording studio, headphones covering his ears, and belted out a song of passion, love and loss.
A.J. Crawford was there and filmed a short video forever memorializing some of the last notes his best friend would ever sing. The video is now part of a mash-up Crawford created to accompany a rap song, Dear Lee, that he penned for his departed friend, who was gunned down five years ago today.
The song, posted on YouTube, was the hook Tampa police and Dixon's mother used Friday to draw public attention to July 27, 2008, the day of the still unsolved killing. They hope someone will see the video, hear the song and speak up. Crime Stoppers has also offered a reward of up to $3,000 for information leading to an arrest.
"They still haven't found the person that murdered my friend," Crawford said. "I hope that person realizes that he was a friend. And he was a son."
Angela Pearson has wept for her son every day since he died. Today, Dixon would be 23 years old and, Pearson believes, he would have made it by now. She imagines him competing on American Idol and putting out records. In her mind she still hears him, crooning the gospel music he used to sing in church.
He came to Blake High School to study music. He and Crawford formed a vocal quartet, the Top Prospects. They entertained their peers with homespun rhymes and rhythms.
They were all good, Crawford said. But Dixon was the one whose voice friends used as their cellphone ring tones.
There were many who called Dixon a friend, his mother said. At least one of those people, she believes, killed him.
Dixon went to the pink house at 2556 W Walnut St. in the late evening of July 26, 2008, to visit his friends. At some point they left, but Dixon remained behind, alone in a house that wasn't his. Some time later, an intruder kicked open the front door to the home and shot Dixon, police said. The 9mm bullet pierced his throat and went out his back.
Pearson questions why her son's friends left him alone.
"That just doesn't make sense to me," she said. "If they were really his friends, and they was all at this house, they should speak up."
Police investigated and questioned multiple people. But they lack the evidence they need to charge someone.
"I later found out this was a bad house — a drug house," Pearson said "I believe these boys might have done something wrong and my son's life got taken for their misdeeds."
Sitting on the couch in her West Tampa apartment Friday, clutching her son's photo, she recalled when she first learned of his death. The phone rang at 4:37 a.m. She collapsed.
In the five years since, despite her pleas, no one has told her what happened. Now, she said, she feels alone.
"I know somebody knows something," she said. "I serve a good God. And whoever did this to Levi, they've got to answer to Him. ... I pray, I hope, that before I leave this Earth, it will be solved."