The church bells tolled inside the University of St. Mary’s Annunciation Chapel on Tuesday as students, faculty and family members of a Kansas City man killed over the weekend gathered in remembrance.
A former University of St. Mary basketball player who was twice named the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Defensive Player of the Week, Marcus Mondaine was finishing coursework for a health information management degree at the school after competing for the Spires the last two seasons.
Throughout a life that had been occasionally tinged with pain, Mondaine found clarity in keeping focus.
He stayed busy working at the university’s Lawrence D. Starr Center for Peace and Justice and kept close with his family, a sister who had been in a devastating car accident and is still recovering; his mom, Evette Moore; and other family members who had made sure to attend his basketball games throughout the years. Graduation was close.
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“In the last 4 years I than lost two close cousins to guns, two grandmas to cancer, a uncle to cancer, and almost lost my lil sister in a wreck, and still find a way to keep my head in the right direction just waiting on my blessing to come,” Mondaine posted on Facebook in August.
Mondaine was killed in the bedroom of a Kansas City apartment early Saturday morning when the ex-boyfriend of the woman he was staying with allegedly barged into her apartment and shot him as he slept. On Tuesday, Jackson County prosecutors charged the former boyfriend, Damon Hammons, 21, with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in Mondaine’s death. Hammons has not been apprehended.
Moore said she’s had a difficult time accepting news of her son’s death.
“I haven’t processed this at all,” she said.
Moore struggled to find the words to describe her son.
“Positive,” she said. “He was very positive.”
A classmate at Saint Mary, Korianne Kaleikini of Lawrence, said Mondaine was a “kid that did everything right.”
“There are a lot of emotions,” Kaleikini said after Tuesday’s memorial. “I’m sad, I’m angry. He had a lot going for him. A lot of us don’t know why, and we don’t understand and we’re at a loss.”
Mondaine “did everything in his will to stay out of problems in Kansas City,” said Lincoln College Preparatory Academy classmate and friend Katharine Ahrens, who met him in French class. “That’s not what he was about. In high school, he didn’t have problems with anybody, ever.”
The shooting occurred early Saturday in an apartment in the 4000 block of East 56th Terrace. Police found Mondaine dead from a gunshot wound.
A woman who said she was Mondaine’s girlfriend told police she was in the bedroom with Mondaine and her 1-year-old daughter when she heard the front door close. In the hallway, she said, she encountered Hammons, who is also the father of her child. She told police Hammons forced his way into the bedroom and shot Mondaine once as he slept beside her daughter.
When the woman grabbed her daughter from the bed, Hammons allegedly turned the gun on the woman and her child.
“Are you going to tell on me? Are you going to tell on me?” he said, according to the woman. She told police she begged Hammons to let her call 911 to help Mondaine, but Hammons had taken her cellphone. He fled the scene when the woman retrieved her phone and called police.
Prosecutors have asked for a bond of $250,000.
Troy Brown, the University of St. Mary head basketball coach, was at Late Night in the Phog at the University of Kansas on Saturday when a friend texted him about Mondaine’s death. He contacted a friend and teammate of Mondaine’s, Grant Greenberg, and the news quickly spread among teammates. The team met Sunday before its first practice was held Monday.
“We talked about how the best medicine for this would be to get on the court and play,” Brown said. “The guys are dedicating the season to him.”
After graduating from Lincoln College Preparatory Academy in Kansas City, Mondaine received his associate degree from State Fair Community College in Sedalia., Mo.
Brown discovered him during a summer ball game in the 2014.
“His offensive game wasn’t the greatest,” Brown said. “But his strength was playing defense, and he had a knack for rebounding the basketball. I knew he would lead the team in rebounding.”
Mondaine also was unselfish and kind, both on and off the court, said Greenberg. The pair shared the highs and lows of the basketball season together.
“Personality-wise, he was probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” Greenberg said. “He was so quiet, so humble. Everybody loved him around campus.”
He spent Friday nights at Greenberg’s parents’ house for “Pizza Fridays,” almost always taking leftovers home. He loved to eat, Ahrens said, and often posted messages on social media about his love for Chinese food.
He was shy, friends said, but once he trusted you he could be quietly funny. In his spare time, he enjoyed playing NBA video games with a couple of close pals and showing up to the basketball team’s open practices.
Karenbeth Zacharias, the director for the Lawrence D. Starr Center for Peace and Justice, supervised Mondaine through a work studies program at the center. She said Mondaine was hard-working and quiet. The pair recently talked about Mondaine’s future.
“We were talking about how classes were getting tougher, and he was excited to get done,” Zacharias said. “For him, he was definitely focused on getting to the other side and being a graduate.”
Services will be held starting at 11 a.m. Saturday at Calvary Chapel Church of God in Christ, 5101 Bristol Ave. in Kansas City. Visitation is at the same location from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
“Marcus was a humble, gentle soul who always thought of others first. We stand in prayer with his family as we mourn his loss,” University of St. Mary President Diane Steele said in a statement.
Ahrens, his high school friend, said the Lincoln College Preparatory Academy community is also reeling.
“People are hurting,” Ahrens said. “Marcus was an awesome person. Nobody would have expected this.”
The Star’s Toriano Porter contributed to this report.