Father shares grieving experience after son's slaying - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Father shares grieving experience after son's slaying

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Mike Sakal’s column runs on Fridays. Contact him at (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com, or write to Mike Sakal, East Valley Tribune, 1620 W. Fountainhead Pkwy., Suite 219, Tempe, AZ 85282

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Posted: Thursday, September 1, 2011 2:44 pm | Updated: 4:46 pm, Thu Sep 1, 2011.

In his father’s mind, Zachary Marco always will be a young man, but Dan Marco isn’t quite sure how he will mark his son’s 22nd birthday this month as he faces a difficult season watching nearly every Cleveland Browns football game without his son at his side.

Ever since Zach was a baby, he and his father, a native of the Cleveland suburb Medina, watched Browns games together. Most recently they were interested in seeing how the team’s quarterback, Colt McCoy, developed.

But Zachary, an Arizona State University student who had aspirations of following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and entering law or politics, was shot and killed in the 1100 block of East University Drive about 9:30 p.m. Oct. 17 for his laptop computer and cell phone. He was walking home to his apartment after a night of studying at a nearby library.

In November, 20-year-old Louis Eugene Harper and 17-year-old Marion Anthony Patterson, gang members with criminal histories, were arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder and armed robbery in connection with Marco’s death. Twelve days after Marco was killed, Tempe police recovered his computer bag and said it had Harper’s and Patterson’s fingerprints on it.

“Will he be 22, or will he always be 21?” Dan Marco said of his son while sitting behind his desk in his Mesa office surrounded by enlarged photos of Zach and a famous sports photograph of Muhammad Ali knocking out Sonny Liston in the first round of a heavyweight championship rematch bout in 1965.

“I haven’t decided how we’re going to handle his birthday, yet. It’s been a year of mixed emotions, one of intense grief and an occasional re-ignition in my faith in people through all of the support we have received.

“I have a nagging feeling that he’s just at school, but he’s never coming home.”

Marco, who would have turned 22 on Sept. 20, was dedicated to his studies but also had his favorite team on his mind the night he was killed.

“That was one of the last texts he sent to me,” Dan Marco said. “He said, ‘How’s Colt lookin?’ We watched a lot of games together.”

Daniel Marco, who lives in east Mesa, is continuing to find his way as he grieves for his son, knowing Zach will not be a part of the law office he opened in Las Cruces, N.M., where he had planned to have his Zach work.

Marco practiced mostly criminal defense law for nearly 25 years, but now he is representing families in wrongful death civil lawsuits.

Marco said he quit practicing criminal defense cold turkey the day his son was killed.

“I don’t plan to focus on why Zach was shot, but on why he lived,” Marco said. “His death doesn’t have to be representative of what was bad, but can be representative of what is good.”

Marco started the Zachary Marco Light of Day Foundation, which helps families of younger murder victims, and he now believes he has found a perfect fit to partner with: 1 Teen Youth Mentoring, overseen by retired Detroit police officer Jamal Johnson and retired Mesa police officer Steve Dunn, who both live in Mesa. It’s a program that will target marginal high school students who are in school sports and help them enroll in college — and remain a success once they are there.

“These are kids who are usually ignored because they are borderline, but the kids will have to earn their way,” Marco said. “They have to do some kind of work such as by helping to run a sports camp or do some kind of community service.”  

He also has stayed busy speaking before civic and community organizations about Zach and a parent’s experience with the grieving process. Marco also blogs about it at www.mysonzack.wordpress.com

“I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with myself,” Marco said. “I used to hide my emotions, but I don’t anymore. When I speak before groups, I sometimes get emotional. For men to see another man grieve, it helps them to know it’s OK for them to be able to grieve as well.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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