The picture Michelle Stephenson takes with her into the new year is the last Snapchat image her slain son sent out before he died.
Colby Stephenson, 16, a rescuer of dogs, and the nephew of former Kansas City Chiefs lineman Donald Stephenson, currently with the NFL’s Denver Broncos, was gunned down in what appeared to be an ambush outside of a party in Blue Springs Dec. 18.
The picture shows him smiling — probably laughing — eating his favorite snack, macaroni and cheese, moments before he would be the first one out the door when gunmen opened fire on him and at least two other friends.
What Michelle Stephenson believes, and what friends and families who knew Colby have affirmed, is that Colby was not a teenager anyone would expect to be gunned down.
She waits for police to do their work. They tell her they think they are close to making arrests, she said. And her family struggles with burial expenses and emotional scars they have felt before. Colby was Michelle Stephenson’s fifth child. Her firstborn was killed when he was hit by a truck when he was 4.
“I have to be strong,” she said New Year’s Eve. “I have to find (Colby’s) killers.”
Colby would have turned 17 Jan. 4. He was a junior at Blue Spring’s Valley View High School.
When Michelle Stephenson looks back through her pictures of Colby, many of them show him with dogs he rescued. He would take in strays and then keep them until he could find someone to give the dog a good home.
“He’d say, ‘Give me a week, mom,” Michelle Stephenson said. “He would interview them (prospective owners of his rescued dogs). He’d see how they were with the dogs. I don’t know how many strays I had in my house.”
She has also found out, since his death, how he was a friend to teenagers who had some difficulties in their lives. Parents she barely knew have reached out and told her how Colby had comforted their children. One parent had a child with autism who said Colby had been his friend when others were not. Another told how Colby had come and comforted their child when he had been thinking of suicide.
“He touched many lives,” Michelle Stephenson said.
Colby was a big Chiefs fan. His uncle played for the Chiefs from 2012 to 2015 before joining the Broncos. The NFL player is helping the family with some of the funeral expenses, but they are seeking more help with a GoFundMe.com page.
Many of the families and friends reaching out to Colby’s family have helped, Michelle Stephenson said, and so has the national support group Corey’s Network.
Blue Springs police are investigating the shooting. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 816-228-0151.