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Family rift may have led to tragedy in Hyde Park

Woman accused in uncle’s slaying

Kay Francis held a photograph of her brother Clive at her home in Boston. Francis’ niece Yvonne Lewis allegedly shot her uncle to death in Hyde Park on Saturday afternoon.
Kay Francis held a photograph of her brother Clive at her home in Boston. Francis’ niece Yvonne Lewis allegedly shot her uncle to death in Hyde Park on Saturday afternoon.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Before drugs apparently drove a wedge between them, Clive Francis and Yvonne Lewis were the inseparable uncle and niece.

Family members say Francis, born 13 years before Lewis, would watch over her and shower her with warmth. And for years, their family said, Lewis returned the affection, calling the gregarious Francis her “favorite uncle.”

Until she allegedly killed him.

Lewis, 36, was arrested Saturday in Peabody after police said she shot Francis, 49, in the head in a Hyde Park split-level home at 239 Wood Ave.

What happened in that home will be the subject of an arraignment Monday in West Roxbury District Court, where Lewis will be charged with murder.

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Family members Sunday described an unusually close uncle-niece relationship that was ruptured by a downward spiral in Lewis’s life, which Francis tried, but failed, to stop.

Lewis had seven uncles, but Francis, especially , guided her through childhood and comforted her after the death of her brother 17 years ago.

Francis, a 49-year-old truck driver, was a man other family members also looked up to and leaned on. So it made sense that Francis was the one called in Saturday afternoon to calm down his niece.

According to family members, Lewis was fretful, angry. She broke a mirror and was flinging the glass around in the attic. She was upset. Her mother thought that Francis would be a calming influence, and called him; he agreed to come to the house to see what he could do to help the niece he had adored.

It is not clear what happened next. What is clear is that minutes later Francis lay mortally wounded, with a gunshot to his head, and Lewis fled the Wood Avenue house. Francis’ 11-year-old son, Kahari, was at the house at the time of his death, family members said.

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Lewis drove a red Nissan Pathfinder to Peabody, evading police for about five hours and sparking a statewide manhunt by Boston and Peabody police before she was captured.

At the Mattapan home of Francis’ parents Sunday, the mood was equal parts anger, surprise, and disbelief.

“I am shocked,” said Kay Francis, the sister of the shooting victim and his alleged killer’s aunt. In the basement of the house, Inez Francis, Clive’s mother, was inconsolable.

A photograph of Clive Francis hung in his family's home.
A photograph of Clive Francis hung in his family's home. Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Herbert Francis, the victim’s father and the grandfather of the alleged shooter, broke down as he spoke Saturday night in Mattapan, holding pictures of his son.

“He was a happy-going guy, very friendly,” Herbert Francis said, adding that his son was the person to call in a crisis.

Lewis grew up on Wood Avenue in Hyde Park, in a quiet family that neighbors describe as hard-working and ambitious. Once known by her family as a loving and kind relative, Lewis struggled after her brother Royford B. Lewis Jr. died in a car crash in February 1998, killed in a flash by a man fleeing police in a stolen vehicle. He died one week before what would have been his 22d birthday, her family said.

Now, 17 years later, the pattern repeats: Francis’ death Saturday came one week before what would have been his 50th birthday on Oct. 31.

After her brother’s death, family members said, Lewis was never the same.

During her nine years as a civilian employee of the Boston Police Department, she was the subject of at least 10 internal affairs complaints, according to a Globe database. Eight of the complaints, which were brought by others alleging untruthfulness and unprofessional conduct, were sustained by police officials.

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She resigned from the Police Department in February 2012, and after that, family members said, Lewis was a shell of her former self.

The once-motivated woman who called herself an aspiring actress began to smoke crack cocaine and moved to Georgia with a new boyfriend, her family said.

Court records show she was evicted from a home in Riverdale, Ga., this year.

“[Yvonne] was a beautiful, intelligent young lady. She was smart and had a lot of ambition,” Kay Francis said. “Drugs can take you over. This is not who she was.”

Lewis was in police custody Sunday. A Boston Police spokesman would not confirm the family’s account of what happened or that Lewis struggled with a drug addiction.

In a statement, Police Commissioner William B. Evans called the incident a case of domestic violence.

“[Clive] knew more about what was going on with [Yvonne] than anyone else,” said Terrion Francis, the victim’s sister-in-law.

And he saw what was happening to her. Two weeks ago, Clive Francis phoned his sister and expressed concern about his niece’s condition. Said Kay Francis: “He told me, ‘I can’t believe it. Yvonne is messed up.’ ”

Police tape surrounded the home where Clive Francis was allegedly shot to death by his niece.
Police tape surrounded the home where Clive Francis was allegedly shot to death by his niece.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH. Jan Ransom can be reached at jan.ransom@globe.com.