DALLAS -- Phillip Taylor was seven when his mother went to prison on a drug conviction.
When she was released, he was a hardened boy of 13 already dealing drugs. He was in and out of jail for most of his life.
He was killed, along with his friend Brunshea Johnson, in January inside his Vickery Meadows trap house. The 28-year-old was shot eight times. Johnson was shot more than a dozen times.
Their deaths generated barely a blip in the local news -- just the latest senseless murders connected to the drug trade.
The killing of Taylor, known to his family and friends as “Booda Mac,” epitomizes a deeper problem. It's rooted in the poverty and despair of children who grow up not seeing a life beyond the streets. Too many of them gravitate to the easy money of drug dealing.
Much too often, it costs them their lives or their freedom.
Taylor's mother, Shirley Carter, talked as she much as she cried during an interview in her South Dallas apartment. She's put a Christmas tree up and decorated in the spirit of the season, but there's little joy inside the walls of her home.
In the corner, she keeps a shrine to her only son -- the last Mother's Day card he gave her, his report cards, his chess set, and pictures.
To understand how her son's life ended the way it did, you have to understand his mother's story.
Carter was molested from the time she was eight years old. She stayed longer than she would have otherwise because she wanted to protect her two younger sisters.
“My teachers tried to help me, but CPS wasn't like it is now,” Carter, 51, said.
By 17, she had a 6-month-old baby and a desperate desire to escape. She fled with the first man who was old enough to get her out of her house. He was 14 years her senior.
“He beat me bad,” she said. “He broke my nose, busted my jaw, and busted my head.”
He pistol-whipped her. She went into labor with one of her children after he kicked her. He was the father of her other three children, including Booda Mac. He was also a heroin addict. She left him when her son was just a toddler.
Along the way, Carter drowned her sorrows and despair in a haze of crack cocaine.
“I cry every day because I know my actions led to my child to go out in that street,” Carter said.
A knack for making money at a young age
Phillip was her second born. He was named after his father.
He got the nickname “Booda” because as a little boy he looked like a Buddha doll, his mother said. The “Mac” came later because he was quite the ladies' man.
Taylor was smart as a whip. He showed a knack for making money even at a young age.
“He would make money at seven or eight years old,” she said. “He was knocking on doors, saying, 'Can I take your trash out? Can I do something?'”
In 1995, Carter was convicted on a drug delivery charge. She says she wasn't selling drugs, but to feed her addiction she'd let her name be put on the lease of an apartment.
Then there was a shooting. When police raided the apartment, they found a large amount of drugs.
She was put on probation. It was revoked and she was sentenced to a 10-year stretch. Her sister kept her children while she was in prison.
By the time she was released on parole, Booda Mac was headed down the path that would lead to his death.
“At 13, I found a basket under his bed with bags of marijuana,” she said.
He was in and out of the juvenile system. On more than one occasion, she said she turned him in hoping that it would set him straight.
It was a futile effort.
“How can you convince your child to get out of it when you're an addict?” she said, tears streaming down her face. “You can't. How can I tell him something when I was doing wrong?”
Booda Mac took and passed his GED on the first try at 15 in juvenile lockup.
“That just showed how smart he was and what his potential was, and what he could have been if circumstances were different,” his mother said.
When he was released, drug dealing became his career. She wonders now if perhaps getting that GED was the worst thing that could have happened because she had no way to force him back into school.
Carter quit using drugs three years ago. By then, she had been through nearly a dozen rehabs. She said she made the decision one day that she was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
In the years that followed, she and Booda Mac became closer. They talked every day. She said she wouldn't have survived her son's death if she was still using drugs.
Before he was killed, he had talked of getting out of the drug trade. He was tired of the game. He'd mentioned starting a tow truck business.
His mother said he vowed that he would be there for his children. His father, who died in 2013, was never in his life.
“Not having his father in his life made him angry,” she said. “He didn't understand why his father wouldn't have nothing to do with him – a man he looked like and a man he was named after.”
On the night he died, he'd been with his girlfriend and kids inside his downtown apartment.
“Somebody called him 42 times that day,” she said. “Somebody wanted a big amount.”
She said he was lured into going to his trap house in a violent, drug-ridden area of Dallas they call “Northghanistan.”
He hadn't been there long when a long-time customer knocked at the door.
“They had paid her to get the door open,” Shirley said.
Booda Mac never made it to his gun on the bar in the kitchen. She says he ran down the hallway as they opened fire on him.
“They shot him 18 times,” she said.
She is confident that her son knew his killers.
“If I could have took those eight bullets for him, I absolutely would have,” she said.
Mother shows tough love
On a chilly afternoon this month, Carter held several of her son's five children close. They'd gathered at the cemetery to remember him.
“He was the best father in the world from the day his kids [were born], to their first breath, to the day he took his last breath,” Carter said.
Patricia Allen, founder of the No More Violence Organization, led the prayer.
“We're here to celebrate the life and legacy of Phillip,” Allen said, calling Booda Mac by his first name. “We pray right now that you would wrap your arms around him.”
Allen started the organization in 2011 after one of her students was murdered.
“The day I said my goodbyes, that will be forever in the memory of my heart, my mind,” Allen said.
Allen's organization works with dozens of families.
“When I listen to their pain and see their tears, it stays on my mind," she said. "But that's motivation for me to keep doing, to strive to help another family."
Carter said Allen has given her the solace and comfort she so desperately needed.
“She's walked this journey with me,” Carter said. “She stepped into my life when I needed her the most, and I didn't know anything about this lady.”
Allen had brought a troubled 13-year-old boy to the cemetery with her. She wanted to make an impression on him and give him a little tough love.
“When you fool with guns, this is what you see,” Allen told him. “This is the pain you see.”
The three stood together just a few feet from Booda Mac's grave.
“You don't want your mama to have to come out here,” Carter told him. “Do you want your mama to look like me?”
He nodded no.
“No, you don't,” Carter said. “Just stop. Just stop.”
In that teen, she saw so much of her son.
“He's smart. He listens,” she said. “That's somebody that's teachable and that you can reach, so that his mother won't have to come out here.”
A new life's calling
Carter prays Booda Mac's kids won't end up going down their father's path. His youngest, a little girl, was born several months after he died.
“They have good mothers, so their life will be different,” she said.
She said she won't rest until her son's killers are caught.
“I don't want nobody to hurt them. I don't want no street justice. I want some judicial justice," she said.
Standing by Booda Mac's grave, Allen told Carter, “I'm proud of you.”
Tears streamed down Carter's face.
“We're going to be here for you all the way,” Allen said.
At the cemetery, they released red and blue balloons on the count of three.
“I'm hurt. I'm broken. I'm crushed, but I have a new sense of [how] I want to be there to help somebody,” she said. “I want to be there for somebody, so somebody else don't have to come here to see their child. This is my calling now.”