There is no greater pain to a mother than the loss of her child. It is even more devastating when the child just vanishes without a word. For four months now, Victoria Gray-Tillman has been in agony since her 34-year-old son André Gray disappeared last October from his Lawrenceville apartment. She and her family continue to search for him with hopes that they will find him and receive closure.
“It’s been the most exhausting, miserable, depressing, heartbreaking experience I’ve ever encountered in my life,” Gray-Tillman said of the whole ordeal. “Andre wasn’t involved in anything negative. Nothing can take away the pain that my son is gone. I just want closure; I’m staying prayerful. The only way to get closure is to see his hand.” She said Gray’s hand bears his first tattoo—her name.
Gray’s mother discovered he had gone missing on Oct. 25, 2014 after his stepsister called her, saying she had been unable to reach him. They went to his apartment not knowing that they would walk into a horrific sight. According to Gray-Tillman, the apartment had been ransacked—electronics had been taken, duct tape was found, bleach had been poured on the carpet and Gray’s dog was gone as well.
Days later, Gray’s burned up vehicle was found in the North Side area of Pittsburgh.
Gray-Tillman said her life has changed drastically since her son’s disappearance. She said she cannot eat, for the first time in her life she is taking medication and she is no longer the outgoing person she used to be.
“We had our lunch dates, our date nights—Andre was always there for me. He always took time out for his family,” she said.
Although there have been no new leads recently, Gray-Tillman believes the police are working hard to find her son. “They (detectives) do have a few leads and they reassure me that they’re working really hard on finding my son.”
Carla Miles, Gray’s cousin and godmother, describes him as funny, loving, family oriented, caring and loved by so many people. She said she couldn’t imagine why this would happen to her godson. “I was extremely shocked. I couldn’t even tell you how it felt that day,” she said of her learning of his disappearance.
“We just want him home. Whatever happened, I’m sure it can be taken care of. We’re prayerful, faithful and we’re forgiving. We can’t forget, but we can forgive. We just want closure, whatever the situation may be.”
Since Gray has gone missing there have been searches held around the area and several local organizations have stepped up to assist in one way or another with bringing Gray home.
Gray, an openly gay male, worked with Project Silk, a program that assists African American and Latino young men and transgender women in the Greater Pittsburgh area who are between the ages of 13-29.
Mackey Friedman, principal investigator of Project Silk, said Gray had been a part of the organization since it began in February 2014, dealing with their planning and recruiting.
“We were all very close to André and we’re all saddened and hope there’s an opportunity for resolution,” Friedman said. “He was a tireless advocate for LGBT youth of color in Pittsburgh.”
Sue Kerr, editor and founder of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, a blog that covers LGBT issues in the region, has joined the family to assist with the fundraising appeal for the reward money being offered to anyone with information leading to the return of Gray. While Kerr said she never met Gray, she said she still felt compelled to help.
“He is part of our community, and I mean that on multiple levels—as another person living in Pittsburgh and as part of the LGBT community…I felt the LGBT community had an obligation to lend our support to his family and to try and bring him home,” Kerr said.
Donations for the “André’s Missing” fund are being managed by the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation and can be made at their Penn Avenue location, in Garfield. Kerr said there is also a fund set up at PNC Bank.
“I am really pleased (with the fundraising). I know there are people out there scrapping money together to donate that don’t necessarily have it to give. Each person who donates is another gesture of support for Andre’s family and I think that that’s really important, (We’re saying), ‘we want to ease this burden and that he (Andre) does matter,” Kerr said. “I never met André, but I just hope I get to.”
As for anyone with information, Gray-Tillman said she is prayerful that someone will find it in his or her heart to come forward.
“God is a forgiver, he’s a healer, he’s a comforter and he will forgive those that have sinned. I’ve forgiven them,” she said. “For this mother to receive closure, (I pray) that they have it in their hearts to please come forward. They don’t necessarily have to have played a part, but if they know anything, just please come forward.”
(Anyone with information concerning the disappearance of André Gray, please contact Pittsburgh Police at 412-323-7141.)
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