» A mother’s ‘angel’ dies, but a hero emerges,
PALM BEACH GARDENS — On Sunday night, Karen Abreu took her son, Jovanni Sierra, to play paintball. He was a day short of his 13th birthday. Later, the family grabbed a big table at a Palm Beach Gardens Italian restaurant.
Jovanni Sierra noticed some friends who hadn’t gone to the paintball place. He’d be doing a sleepover with them later that night. He asked if he could invite them over to the table. Sure, the family said. One of the boys, Karen said, was Corey Johnson. Hours later, by his own confession, Johnson brutally stabbed Jovanni Sierra to death as the boy slept.
“He was my angel for 13 years,” Karen Abreu said Tuesday, the day police formally charged Johnson, 17, with murdering her son, as well as slashing one other boy and the woman hosting the sleepover.
On Sunday night, “I said, ‘Please come home. It’s your birthday tomorrow. I want to give you a hug and a kiss,’ ” Karen recalled.
“He told me, ‘Mommy, I love you. I want to hang out with my friends.’ ”
One of those friends — Dane Bancroft, Jovanni Sierra’s classmate at Watson B. Duncan Middle School — was a hero to his own mother. The 13-year-old fought with Johnson after he had attacked Elaine M. Simon and pushed him off the 43-yearold woman.
Simon, a family-law attorney based in Palm Beach Gardens, sustained a serious stab wound to her face and other major lacerations to her neck and wrists, said Lucas Bancroft, from whom Simon was divorced.
“He’s a hero,” his father, Lucas Bancroft, said Tuesday. “He saved his mom.”
Dane was also left seriously wounded after being stabbed 32 times during the attack; afterward, he climbed out a second-story window and scaled down to ground level. His father said he had a kidney removed, sustained liver damage and had undergone two surgeries through Tuesday at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, but is expected to recover.
Karen Abreu said she came from Colombia and lived briefly in Missouri, where Jovanni Sierra was born. She said he played soccer in a youth league and aspired to be a marine biologist. She said Jovanni Sierra has an 8-yearold sister, Isabella. Karen said her husband, Oliver Abreu, a construction worker, “loved him as his own son.”
“My son was an amazing soul,” she said. “He had the biggest personality. He brightened up a room. He always told jokes and made people laugh. ”
Kyle Bancroft, Dane’s 15-year-old brother, was uninjured in the attacks. He said he woke Monday morning after hearing Dane call out Jovanni Sierra’s name, but that he did not witness the stabbing.
Kyle Bancroft said he and Johnson have been best friends since they met in elementary school around nine years ago. Johnson, he said, had not taken his anti-depression medication for a week before the attack took place.
For the past couple of months, Kyle said, Johnson had repeatedly told him that “I would never hurt you,” but didn’t exhibit any violent behavior.
Abreu’s Facebook page briefly showed a photograph of her son with the words, “Rest in Peace.” One person posted in Spanish, “There are no words.”
Karen Abreu said services for her son are pending, but are tentatively set for the end of this week at Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens. On Tuesday, Karen Abreu’s former employer set up a money-raising page to pay for Jovanni Sierra’s funeral. By Tuesday evening, it had raised $300 of its $15,000 goal.
“They’re an amazing family,” Maria Pishos said Tuesday. She said Karen Abreu worked for about a year and a half as a receptionist at Jonathan T’s Hair Styling in Palm Beach Gardens, which Pishos owns with her husband.
“God has taken an angel, but you know, he’s in a better place and doesn’t have to suffer,” Karen Abreu said Tuesday.
“My last words to my son were, ‘I love you and have fun,’ ” she sobbed. “I never imagined that was the last time I would see him.”
Lucas Bancroft said Dane is “a little bit conscious” but he was awake enough to speak to his mother on Monday.
“I’m sorry,” the boy told his mother.