Jenna Ciccotelli

Standing on the front lawn of her Smith Street home, Veda Bennett, 57, stared with disgust at the intersection that connects her street to the busy Parker Avenue. She pointed towards the cars racing past and pleaded for more stop lights and streetlights to protect the children in the neighborhood.

Now a homemaker and mother of grown children, Bennett was raised in Mission Hill with her parents and five siblings. She enjoys hosting cookouts for her neighbors and “whoever wants a burger.”

“This is all I know,” she said, gesturing toward the neighborhood. “There’s good things out here. You might hear a little bad things, but it’s good things. A lot of good things out here besides all that bad stuff.”

And Bennett would know.

In October 1989, Bennett’s brother Willie was wrongly framed for the murder of Carol DiMaiti Stuart and her unborn son, Christopher. Several months later, police discovered Stuart’s husband, Charles, had committed the crime. The case against Willie Bennett was dropped. Charles Stuart committed suicide in January 1990.

“I just hope what we went through back in 1989 never happens to anybody else,” said Veda Bennett, waving to the neighboring children who had rounded the corner onto Smith Street on their walk home from school. “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”

But nearly three decades removed from the tragedy, Veda Bennett remains proud of her lifelong home. “It’s not a bad community, it’s a good community,” she said. “Every day is my favorite day. I’m still alive. I’m still alive.”

About this project 

The Scope’s student journalists spoke with community members in Mission Hill. #MissionHill100 is a collection of their stories. 

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