Alerted by a 12-year-old boy, police found his 5-year-old brother and his 31-year-old mother shot to death in the Back of the Yards neighborhood early this morning.

Officers found Chavonne Brown and her son Sterling Sims around 2:30 a.m. inside a three-flat brick apartment in the 5300 block of South Winchester Avenue. The 12-year-old boy was inside the house at the time and called police and his grandmother, saying his mom and brother had been shot.

Thelma Jackson, the boys' 80-year-old great grandmother, arrived with their grandmother and great aunt. They walked to the red tape and started toward the yellow-brick apartment building, searching for answers.

The grandmother, who asked not to be named, struggled to get information from detectives. As the boy and his mother lay dead inside, she and others asked police, "What hospital are they at? What hospital?"

"Is my grandbaby alright?" she begged. "Just give me an answer."

John Brown, an uncle of the dead woman, walked away from the three women and turned toward the the scene. He leaned against a white Buick Century a few doors down and lit a cigarette and watched.

Fay Smith, Chavonne Brown's 36-year-old cousin, said she hoped the shooter's conscience would give him a "whooping" that would drive him to surrender.

"I'm not hiding from nobody," she said. "He needs to reveal himself."

She and other relatives and friends stood in a small circle and prayed before heading south across Garfield Boulevard where the family gathered to mourn.

She said Sterling was a playful child who loved computers and was on his way to kindergarten.

"I'm praying, asking God that your conscience whoop you, whoop you like it ain't never whooped you before because I'm a praying child," Smith said in a plea to the gunman. "Please come forward, whoever you are. You did not have no business taking a life. None at all. 

"You took something from us we cannot get back, two lives, two precious lives that we cannot get back. So whoever you are, reveal yourself, please reveal yourself. "

Smith said the brother who witnessed the shootings is "devastated. His momma and his brother are gone."  She wasn't sure how he survived the shootings.

"We got him, we got him. We're a close-knit family, we're going to make sure he's straight."

Police were releasing few details of the shooting, including information about any possible suspects.

Sterling's godfather, Tyrone Otis, said there had been no signs of trouble recently.

"I couldn't believe this," he said, his eyes red. "She's a sweetheart. She and her son.

"He just graduated from pre-school. He's the best -- I can't believe this -- he's the best little boy. I can't understand this. I was just there yesterday, me and my son were over there."

A neighbor, Charles Sullivan, said Brown was "devoted to those boys. She was real sweet."

"I don't know what happened or why it happened. I can't believe it," he said.