Jessie Rankins was 10 in 1994 when he and a friend abducted 5-year-old Eric Morse, dangled the screaming boy out a 14th-floor window in a Chicago public housing high-rise, and dropped him to his death, says the Chicago Tribune. Eric had refused to steal candy for them. Rankins and co-defendant Tykeece Johnson, 11, became Illinois’ youngest inmates, literally growing up in custody. In recent years, now in their 20s, they emerged from prison, only to return again and again. With Rankins’ latest prison release March 6, both are free again, facing seemingly bleak futures. They’ve gone years without the counseling some say they desperately needed, and have limited education and job skills.
Given their abusive childhoods and teenage years behind bars, the outcome isn’t surprising. In their most extensive interviews, the two told the newspaper of 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 job except for stuffing newspapers with ad inserts for a month. “Everything was set up for me to fail again once I came home,” added Johnson, 26, who is unemployed and living with his girlfriend and five children in a run-down apartment, surviving on food stamps and public assistance.