Although Jessie Rankins isn’t a household name, his crime was among the most notorious murders in Chicago history. Just a scrawny boy in 1994, he and a friend abducted 5-year-old Eric Morse and dropped him to his death out a 14th-floor window at a public housing high-rise. Eric had refused to steal candy for them, prosecutors said. Rankins, then 10, and co-defendant Tykeece Johnson, 11, became the state’s youngest inmates. In recent years, they quietly emerged from prison — only to return again and again, says the Los Angeles Times. With Rankins’ release March 6, both are free again, facing seemingly bleak futures. They’ve gone years without the counseling some say they desperately needed, and they have limited education and job skills.
The two recently talked about their regret over Eric’s death and how disorienting it was to be freed to a world they no longer knew. Rankins, 25, has never had a driver’s license, never been on the Internet, never held a real job except the month he spent stuffing newspapers with ad inserts. “Everything was set up for me to fail again once I came home,” said Johnson, 26, who is unemployed and living with his girlfriend and five children in a run-down South Side apartment, surviving on food stamps and public assistance. Johnson said Eric’s killing is “always going to be there at the back of your mind.”