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Elam goes home to mourn lost sibling- NY DAILY NEWS

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Jets' safety Abram Elam goes home to mourn another lost sibling



Saturday, May 10th 2008, 9:50 PM

Weissman for News

Jets safety Abram Elam returns to Florida for funeral of his brother Donald, who was shot and killed.

In his crime-ravaged hometown of Riviera Beach, Fla., Jets safety Abram Elam is a symbol of hope. But, in his world, icons suffer, too.

Elam returned home late Friday to bury his older brother, Donald Elam Jr., 33, the victim of an unresolved, broad-daylight shooting. It was the third family tragedy for Elam, who also has lost a 12-year-old sister and an 18-year-old brother to gunfire on the streets of Riviera Beach. All three murders occurred within one mile of their home.

"We're handling it, thanks to the Lord," Elam's father, the Rev. Donald Elam Sr., told the Daily News Saturday.

Elam, an early-season pickup who played his way into the starting lineup, was working out at the Jets' facility when he received the heartbreaking call from home.

"Abe is a remarkable man," said GM Mike Tannenbaum, who signed Elam based on a strong recommendation from former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. "He's had to endure so much in his life. This is another tragedy, and I'm sure, with time, he'll be able to deal with this."

Donald Elam Jr. was in trouble most of his life. At 14, he became the youngest person in Palm Beach County to be charged with first-degree murder. He was acquitted in the drug-related shooting, but three years later, he served two months in prison for carrying a concealed weapon. Last November, he completed an eight-year sentence for assault, robbery and weapons charges.

Trying to straighten out his brother, Abram arranged for Donald Jr. to work with their mother in her cleaning business, sources said. On Friday, he was shot in the lower back while talking to a man in a cream-colored Toyota Avalon, police said. A passenger in the car reportedly opened fire. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Those close to Abram marvel at his resilience.

"He has great faith in God and an inner strength," said Sam Budnyk, who coached Elam at Cardinal Newman High School. "That's what makes him special."

Elam's most horrific moment occurred in 1999, when his sister, Christina Elam, was fatally shot in a nearby park. Elam had just returned home from basketball practice. Upon hearing the news, he raced from his house to the park, where he ran past the police tape and cradled her blood-soaked body.

In 1987, Elam's half-brother, Donald Runner, 18, a high-school honor student, was killed by a gunshot to the head.

"I've grown up in a rough environment, but I've managed to stay focused and know what I wanted in life, and pursued my dream," Elam said last November in an interview with the Daily News.

Just last week, Elam was in Florida and visited Budnyk, telling his old coach how excited he was about the upcoming season. Finally, after years of professional and personal tumult (he was convicted of sexual battery and expelled from Notre Dame), there was stability in his life.

Now he's back home, preparing to bury another sibling.

"Too much tragedy for one family," Budnyk said.

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