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Boy who died in stolen car did wrong, but was still a boy, mom says

Shalanda Marshall, Jimmie Goshey's mom, displays a recent photo of him on a phone at her mother's home in Clearwater on Tuesday evening. Jimmie, 14, was one of three boys who died Sunday in the crash of a stolen car.  "That is what I'm going to miss the most, the smile on his face," Marshall said. "He always had a smile on his face." [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
Shalanda Marshall, Jimmie Goshey's mom, displays a recent photo of him on a phone at her mother's home in Clearwater on Tuesday evening. Jimmie, 14, was one of three boys who died Sunday in the crash of a stolen car. "That is what I'm going to miss the most, the smile on his face," Marshall said. "He always had a smile on his face." [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Aug. 10, 2017

She closes her eyes and sees them clearly, the first moments of Jimmie Goshey's life.

Shalanda Marshall had gone to the hospital early, throwing up, the baby pushing hard. But the doctors said he was hours away, so she sent her daughters home to get things ready for Jimmie.

Then, all of a sudden he was coming, fast. "You better get back here or you're going to miss it," she told her daughters, but by the time they got up the elevator and to the door, Jimmie was born.

It was Nov. 19, 2002. She marveled as he cried in her arms. He was Marshall's first boy, her only son.

What a hurry he'd been in to enter this world.

• • •

Jimmie Goshey died on Sunday in the backseat of a stolen car. He was riding around with three other boys. They topped 100 mph before running a red light and crashing into a Camry, their car flipping down the street in flames.

PREVIOUS STORY: Three boys died in a stolen vehicle Sunday; here's how it unfolded

The death of Jimmie and two others in the Ford Explorer was a tragic consequence of an auto theft epidemic sweeping Pinellas County, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. On Monday, the sheriff pulled out freshly printed poster boards with mug shots of the boys and a list of their crimes.

"They're running around out there, driving fast, running red lights, wreaking havoc, stealing as much as they can steal," the sheriff said.

Marshall, 52, wasn't naive. She knew Jimmie had messed up a few times, and she had picked him up from the Juvenile Detention Center more than once. He shouldn't have been in a stolen car, wearing winter gloves on an August night in Florida.

PREVIOUS STORY: Teens in stolen car crash had 126 arrests; murder charges possible

But he was also a 14-year-old boy, she says. He liked football and hated taking out the trash and wanted desperately to fit in.

She wants her son to be remembered as more than a rap sheet, she told the Tampa Bay Times. He wasn't a hardened criminal, but a kid who made some bad choices.

He was a happy baby who learned everything quickly and was hard to contain. Instead of crawling, he "Spidermanned" around the house, his knees never touching the floor as he scuttled across the room. Jimmie wanted to know what everything was. His sister, 32-year-old Britteny Dixon, called him "Curious George." It didn't help that his ears stuck out.

Britteny's son Zacchaeus was 14 months older than Jimmie, who would pass bits of food down from his high chair to Zach. The kitchen floor was covered in oatmeal, chicken legs and yellow rice.

Jimmie could spell his name by 2 and started flag football at 5. He was a running back, defensive end and linebacker. His mother took the Spiderman sheets off his bed and replaced them with footballs. But sometimes he still asked her for Spiderman.

She split up with Jimmie's father when the boy was a toddler, but the relationship remained positive. Jimmie spent weekends with his father.

School could be hard. Jimmie was diagnosed with ADHD, his attention span short and the medication mood-inducing. He was suspended from Sandy Lane Elementary for storming out of a classroom. Marshall worked with a counselor to make sure her son could take walks to cool down.

At home he played video games like Madden, Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto. Any time a game came out, if she had the money, she would buy it for him. All he had to do was say, "Ma, Ma, Ma" until she gave in, she remembers.

She'd try to take his video games away when he didn't obey her, as punishment, but he'd say "Ma" until she'd let him go play. He'd smile, and she'd forget why she was mad in the first place.

When he was 10, Jimmie told her he didn't want Spiderman or football sheets anymore. He wanted a solid color. He had a girlfriend at school. His mother teased him about his first kiss. He scarfed down Checkers bacon double cheeseburgers and shot up like a weed.

Marshall remembers the first time she picked him up from the detention center. He was 12. Jimmie had smacked the "STOP" sign that a crossing guard was holding and it had popped her in the face.

That's around the time Jimmie started testing door handles, trying to get into cars, she said. He fell into a different kind of crowd, hanging with kids he met in the neighborhood and at middle school. "I just think the peer pressure of wanting to fit in with the clique of the boys and what have you," she said. "That's how that kind of happened."

In 2013, Marshall lost her job as a medical assistant. She struggled to find work. Her new husband suggested they move to Ohio, where he had family, and try their luck in a new city.

Jimmie packed up all his things. But on the day of the move, he couldn't stop crying. He didn't want to leave his sisters and his friends. He had never been on an airplane. He was scared to go.

Reluctantly, she gave in. Jimmie stayed in Clearwater with his father. Marshall says she wishes she could go back and make Jimmie come with her.

"He turned into a whole different person," she says, "really quick and fast."

Jimmie had loved watching sports with his mother and her husband, but when she came back to visit, Jimmie wasn't interested. She would ask him about things he had liked, and Jimmie would look up from his phone only long enough to say, "I don't like that anymore."

He was secretive about his friends. She didn't know anything about his Facebook page, where he flashed money and gang signs, posed with new cars and even a gun. In 2016, he was arrested several times over burglaries.

She would get Jimmie on the phone and ask, "Why are you doing this? You have everything you could want." He didn't have to steal. He had a cell phone, a brand-new X-Box, a brand-new iPad. He knew he'd get $500 every birthday.

"How would you feel if somebody did that same thing to me?" she said.

"I wouldn't like that," she remembers him saying.

After two years in Ohio, Marshall decided she needed to come back to Clearwater and get a handle on whatever was going on with her son. Her plane landed the day before his 14th birthday. She got a call from the emergency room. A police dog had bitten Jimmie, arrested over a stolen phone.

He cried and told his mother he was sorry. The charges were later dropped, she says, but he spent the night before his birthday in JDC. She thanked God she had come home.

By the summer, she felt like things had calmed down. His last court date was in late August. Jimmie told her he was ready for a fresh start in high school. He was done messing around, she said he told her: "I'm done. I'm not doing it anymore."

He was smiling again at her. He played with his little cousins in the pool and played video games on the couch. At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, he was going to try out for the Clearwater High School football team.

She took him to get his back-to-school haircut. They shaved the sides, and he bought a special sponge to get his hair to twist up at the top just right. The barber shaved his mustache.

They picked out clothes at City Trend and put them on layaway. She bought him two new pairs of Puma sneakers, black and white.

On Saturday morning, Marshall slipped into her son's bedroom. He was asleep, wrapped up in his sheets. She and her husband were headed to Orlando for the night, to celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary. She kissed Jimmie and woke him up.

"Be a good boy until I get back," she said. "Don't get in any trouble."

She made him open his eyes. "Look in my face and tell me you promise," she said.

He promised.

• • •

She closes her eyes again.

This time, her mind goes to the final moments of her son's life.

What were his last words, she wonders.

"I know that he was thinking about me," she says. "I know he was, I know he was."

Did he call out for her? "Ma"? No matter what happened, he knew she had his back. How she wishes she could hear him say it now. "Ma, whatcha cooking? I'm ready to eat."

She hopes he said the Lord's prayer. She taught it to him, as her mother taught it to her.

She knows he wasn't perfect.

But he also wasn't a rap sheet.

"I tell Jimmie's side," she says, "because he's not here to tell it."

Contact Lisa Gartner at Follow her on Twitter @lisagartner.

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