Ohio Newspaper Apologizes After Running Cartoon Making Fun of Murder Victim

An Ohio newspaper has apologized after running an editorial cartoon that seemed to make fun of a 12-year-old girl shot dead in Cleveland last week.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer made the apology in Friday's edition after it ran a cartoon by Jeff Darcy that showed a little girl running from a convenience store wearing a T-shirt that said "Don't Shoot: I'm a friend of a friend of a friend of Mayor Jackson's daughter."

On Sept. 1, Asteve'e "Cookie" Thomas was killed when she was caught in the crossfire of a gunbattle as she left a corner store. Her mother is a friend of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and high school classmate of the mayor's daughter.

Jackson, fighting criticism that he has taken a low-profile during a recent surge in homicides, went to the Slavic Village neighborhood where Cookie was shot to embrace the victim's mother this week.

"I think they're making fun of the death of my daughter," her mother, Karen Elliott, told MyFOXCleveland.com. "They're taking stabs at Frank Jackson, but my daughter was not a politician, she was a little girl."

Click here to watch MyFOXCleveland.com's report.

The paper ran an Editor's Note in Friday's edition that read in part: "We very much regret any pain the cartoon has caused in the community or, most especially, to family members and friends of Asteve'e Thomas."

Meanwhile the Plain Dealer reported that one suspect still sought in the shooting was released from police custody despite having an outstanding warrant out for his arrest.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the wanted man, Eric Romel "Big Willie" Wilson, was freed in 2006 because of a computer glitch.

He was released, the paper reported, because the warrant was removed from the computer system that tracks wanted criminals.

Click here to read the Plain Dealer's story.

He called WOIO-TV and offered a tearful apology to the girl's family, the station said.

"This guy put a gun to my head, took my property. I took it back," according to the taped phone conversation broadcast by the station. Mentioning the girl's family, Wilson added, "I'm so, so sorry. I'm so sorry."

Police have arrested a second suspect, James Yhonquea, 20, of Cleveland.

Groups, schools and churches in Slavic Village plan to fight back with programs to buy back guns, offer job training and rid the neighborhood of graffiti.

Cookie's funeral was scheduled for Friday morning at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Cleveland. A memorial fund has been opened at National City Bank to help the girl's family with funeral costs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.