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Detroit woman who lost her only son in a shooting is now raising her grandkids

Posted at 11:11 AM, May 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-11 11:11:49-04

(WXYZ) — For a mother who has lost a child, Mother’s Day is a difficult time. Marilyn Fortner, who lost her only child, says for her, the day is almost unbearable.

“It’s very empty,” she said.

When Fortner lost her son in a shooting last year, she says her world completely fell apart. The tragedy that claimed the life of her only child happened just eight days before Mother’s Day.

“Mother’s Day, now and the future, I have no son to share it with,” she said.

You may remember the story of the triple shooting at the Mobil gas station on McNichols and the Lodge Service Drive on the city’s west side.

Authorities said the clerk locked three people inside the store while arguing with the shooter over stealing something from the store.

The shooter threatened to shoot all three people locked inside the store if the clerk didn’t unlock the door.

Two of the victims survived, but Fortner’s son, Gregory Karlos Kelly, did not.

“He didn’t even know my son,” Fortner said. “My son became a victim, and now I have no son.”

Police say the value of the theft was between $3 and $4.

Fortner says she is grateful that both the clerk, Al-Hassan Aiyash, 22 of Hamtramck, and the alleged shooter, Samuel McCray, 27, of Detroit, have been charged, but that still does not take away the pain that she holds every day.

According to Fortner, the days leading into Mother’s Day are no longer spent with happy thoughts thinking about what she and her son would do. Instead, she now gets sad at the memory.

“I would always fix a Mother’s Day dinner," the grieving mother said. “He would come over and we have dinner together because we would go out a few days before that. And so I would always prepare food and a Mother’s Day meal right at the home.”

Fortner misses her son, but she holds onto the memories he left her with to push through.

“He left me with so many beautiful memories,” says Fortner. “When he graduated from Wayne State University, that was a bachelor’s degree. And then he also received an associate’s degree from Wayne County Community College. So those things made me proud."

One memory Kelly left her with that she will take with her on Mother’s Day is her grandkids.

“That's a blessing to have three beautiful grandchildren from him," she said.

Since Kelly’s death, Fortner has been thrust into a new role caring for two of her son's three children. She says having them brings her some comfort, but a piece is still missing

“We are so used to hearing his voice every morning and the realization of we won’t hear that voice anymore has completely overwhelmed us,” says Fortner.

Now, she says she is working to turn that overwhelming emptiness into strength. While she can’t help but think of other mothers in her position, she says the reality of what they all have to face is heartbreaking.

“This is what we have to look forward to in the future for Mother’s Day."