LAWRENCEVILLE -- Angelo Larocca was not perfect. His mother is the first to admit it.
But, by God, he was trying. And he didn't deserve to die.
"It was him and I against the world since he was born," Simone Larocca-Jordan said Monday, the day jury selection began in the trial of her son's alleged killer. "They took so much away from us, and no matter what they do or say it's never going to make it right."
Larocca-Jordan gave birth at the age of 16, Angelo's father leaving them both to fend for themselves in Long Island, N.Y. The teen mother fought hard to support her small family, never going on welfare and doing "everything not to become a statistic."
The duo moved south to Loganville, away from all of her family, when she got a solid job offer from Verizon. She did everything she knew how to do, Larocca-Jordan said, and raised him as strictly as she could.
She squeezed and twisted a rosary bead Monday morning, the same one Angelo's aunt gave him at his very first funeral, at age 19 -- last February, just a few months before his own.
Angelo wasn't a saint -- he had been arrested in previous years for marijuana possession and left Loganville High School for a "behavior school" -- but he was loved and had good intentions, his mother said. He visited his grandmother every day at a nearby nursing home, and had an undying love for his family in New York.
He was quick with a joke and unabashedly compassionate. He had decided to become a history teacher and was working on his GED.
"He was trying, he was," Larocca-Jordan said. "He was at the point where he was trying to do the right thing ... I know he could've been somebody. He needed a little extra time, he needed a little extra molding or help to get himself there."
But Angelo -- by then working at a local Pizza Hut and just two days removed from taking the test for his GED -- went to The Columns at Paxton apartments in Lilburn on Tuesday, June 28, 2011. He was, he thought, going to buy some Xanax, the prescription anxiety drug that's often used recreationally.
While a brand new girlfriend and two more pals waited in a white Honda Accord, he allegedly met Brandon "Stunna" Mosley, Hunter Mason Davis and two more witnesses in a breezeway. At about 1:55 p.m., an off-duty police officer making his rounds at the complex heard multiple gunshots.
He soon found Larocca's body.
"He made a stupid choice and he got killed," Larocca-Jordan said. "The next person that goes and buys weed or whatever, they don't get killed for it."
"He wasn't violent, he wasn't a thug, he wasn't in a gang," she continued. "He was clean cut. He didn't wear his pants down here. It's just sad."
Authorities believe there were never any actual drugs, that Davis set up a robbery under the guise of a sale and Mosley pulled the trigger. The drug-deal-gone-bad characterization, Larocca's mother said, is misguided.
"There's just so much hate and so much stupidity," Larocca-Jordan said. "What'd they kill him over, when you think about it? A hundred dollars?"
Mosley, an alleged member of the "ABT" gang, is scheduled to stand trial this week on charges of murder, felony murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, gang activity and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Jury selection began Monday.
The death penalty will not be pursued in the case, Assistant District Attorney Christa Kirk confirmed.
Larocca-Jordan will be in the courtroom, reliving the darkest day of her life through testimony, evidence and arguments. She has to.
"I am my son now. I have to be his voice, his face," she said. "If I don't show up, people may think nobody cared."