It's been almost three months since family and friends of Terrell Mayes Jr. have been able to see the 3-year-old's trademark grin.
But soon all of north Minneapolis will only have to look up to bask in Terrell's smile. Five billboards bearing his photo are being erected in an effort to find out who fired the shot that killed the toddler inside his north Minneapolis home in December.
Police hope the billboards will stir up some fresh leads in an investigation in which they have made no arrests.
"By putting this child's face forward, people see this victim as more than a name," said Sgt. Melissa Chiodo of the Minneapolis police.
The billboards are going up in north Minneapolis thanks to a partnership between Clear Channel Outdoor, Crime Stoppers and the Minneapolis Police Department.
Clear Channel donated the billboards, which collectively cost about $6,000 a month, said Tom McCarver, vice president of real estate and public affairs for Clear Channel Outdoor's Minneapolis division.
"When we're asked to help, we will," he said.
The first two billboards went up Tuesday; the rest should be erected within the next two weeks, McCarver said. The billboards may be up for more than a month, he said.
The large signs feature a smiling Terrell Mayes with the oversized words "Help find my killer." Also advertised prominently, for those who may need some financial encouragement, is the reward being offered by Crime Stoppers: up to $10,000 for tips that lead to an arrest.
Terrell was hit by a stray bullet the day after Christmas as he and his brothers were going upstairs in their home to seek safety from the gunfire. Terrell died on Dec. 27. He was the youngest homicide victim in a year that also saw the deaths of boys ages 13, 14 and 16.
This isn't the first time billboards have been used in the city to aid murder investigations. Four billboards were put up shortly after the 2004 death of Tremaine Finley, 20, who was killed during an attempted carjacking in the Longfellow neighborhood. Two years after his death, no arrests had been made in the case. Five billboards that went up after the 2000 death of 11-year-old Kevin Brewer, who was shot three times when he stopped to watch a fight among men who had been gambling near Cottage Park, produced zero calls to police.
But in the 1996 case of Byron Phillips, also 11, who was hit by a gang member's bullet while sitting on a north Minneapolis porch, a billboard did help bring forward a person with information that eventually sent three men to prison.
Anyone with information about Terrell's death is encouraged to call 1-800-222-TIPS (1-800-222-8477).
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495; Twitter: @stribnorfleet