LOUISVILLE, Ky.(WDRB) -- The mother of two sons killed Sunday in the Shawnee neighborhood told WDRB the man who killed them preyed on them and was hoping to recruit them in his gang.
Her oldest son came to her for help but by that time, it was too late.
"My sons were trying to earn stripes in the blood gang, and they had to put in work," Elizabeth Wren said. "If they didn't put in work, they were knocked off. And that's why they were knocked off, because they were scared to put in work."
Her sons, 14-year-old Larry Ordway and 16-year-old Maurice Gordon, were stabbed, burned and left for dead Sunday afternoon.
Police arrested Brice Rhodes, 25, in the gruesome killings of the teens, and their mother is not surprised.
"He goes through the neighborhoods, and he just picks up teenagers he sees and asks them, 'You wanna sell this? You wanna sell that?' He kept sneaking and picking my son up," she said. "He bribed them with designer clothes and shoes. He would even take them out to eat."
Wren said her sons witnessed something they wish they'd never seen, the murder of Christopher Jones earlier this month on 41st Street. She said her eldest feared for his life.
"My son told me what was going to happen to him. He knew this. I did everything I could do to prevent it. They said, 'Mama, if you tell we're going to die, you're going to die, sis is going to die, my brother's going to die,'" Wren said. "I know my sons left with him."
Rhodes pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of murder, assault, tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse.
The brothers' bodies were discovered near an abandoned home near River Park Drive. Police say the teens were never reported missing, so they released sketches to help identify them.
"Why put a missing report out on a person that left Saturday night and got killed Sunday morning," Wren asked. "You would not think that in that matter of time your child is getting murdered."
Since Wednesday's arrest, Facebook photos of the teens and their mother with guns have surfaced, leaving many people with a lot of questions.
"They had to put on a front and show big guns so other people could back off," Wren explained. "As for me, being a parent and having a gun, what's wrong with that? Who says we can't have a gun? Don't focus on me and what I'm doing. All I'm saying is pray for Reece and Larry."
Hoping this never happens to anyone else, Wren leaves a message to all parents raising their kids in poverty.
"Pay attention to your teenagers. Watch them. It's crazy out here."
Rhodes has also been charged in the shooting death of Christopher Jones.
On Wednesday night, despite a downpour, dozens of people turned out in large numbers at Wyandotte Park for a balloon release to honor the two teenagers killed.
Two Mickey Mouse dolls were placed in the center of the park’s tennis court beside several candles. Event organizers say the dolls represent childhood, while the candles show eternal light.
“The two best boys you’d ever meet in your life,” the victim’s great uncle, Duane Crutcher, told the crowd of the teens.
The boy’s grandmother, Debbie Wren, also released new information about the boys’ mother trying to get in touch with them the same day they were killed. Debbie Wren said someone else had their phone.
“She called them on Sunday morning, and they were already dead then, but one of the boys answered their phone,” Debbie Wren said. “They said, ‘we’re going down to the store to get some candy. I’ll have them call you back when I get there.’”
Debbie Wren also described the man accused of killing the two brothers as “a predator”.
“He lured these kids in by buying them shoes, taking them to the mall, taking them out to eat. Yeah, he was a predator.”
Elizabeth Wren was only at the vigil briefly. She spoke, then appeared to collapse after she was overcome with emotion.
Debbie Wren also addressed Facebook photos of the teens and their mother with guns.
“Those guns that they posed with were toys,” Debbie Wren said. “Them boys, they acted bad and hard, but they weren’t bad and hard. They were scared, really.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to take care of the victims' funeral expenses. Wren said she has nothing to do it.
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