Marie Clarke stood there in the morgue, stood there quiet and still and filled with emotions that can't be described with words.

She looked down at a body, at a face she didn't know. It was her 15-year-old son, Antonio Quinton Clarke, who had been missing for two days.

"He was so badly beaten, his face was unrecognizable," she said.

"I told them, 'That doesn't look like my son.' But my daughter, she recognized him. I realized it was actually him."

That moment in the morgue, when Clarke's heart shattered into a million pieces, was three years ago today.

She is still waiting for answers, waiting to find out who killed her only son - and why.

Homicide investigators say solid leads have been nearly impossible to come by.

Clarke's son, a quiet kid whom nearly everyone referred to as "Q," disappeared after he left his Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood Nov. 25, 2007. Neighbors said he had told them he was going to visit a girl.

The following day, the John Bartram High School sophomore was found dead behind Selectronics, a Grays Ferry electronics store.

The scene was beyond horrifying: Police said the teen had been stabbed nine times in the back and his throat had been slashed. He had been beaten, partially stripped and wrapped in cellophane, and his head and feet were covered in clear plastic bags.

"It was absolutely brutal," said Homicide Sgt. Tim Cooney, whose squad has handled the case from the beginning.

Cooney said investigators had a difficult time developing even rumors about a motive for Q's murder.

He wasn't into drugs or guns and had little to do with the street toughs who populated the neighborhood around Bonaffon Street and Woodland Avenue, where he lived.

But as the years have passed, Marie Clarke said, one possibility has loomed large in her mind. About two weeks before her son was slain, he skipped school for three days.

At first, she thought it was over teasing: Her son had a learning disability, and kids sometimes made fun of him for it.

But it was something else this time. Bartram was rife with gangs, her son told her, and lately members of the Bloods had been showing up outside school, trying to recruit members.

"He said the Bloods had been harassing him to be in their gang," Clarke said.

"Then one day, one of Q's friends had a fight with someone in the gang, and he got in the middle of it. He was afraid to go back to school."

Cooney said detectives examined the possibility that Q's death could have been tied to gang activity, but never came up with any definitive links.

Longtime residents on Bonaffon Street said they are still haunted by the slaying of a kid who doted on his then-16-year-old sister, Kwanesha, who has muscular dystrophy.

"Every morning he'd be outside helping her get on the bus to school, and every afternoon he'd be there when she got home," said Paula Colteste, who lived across the street from Q and his family.

"He was never disrespectful and never brought any drama to mother's house," she said. "He was a son you'd want to have."

A handful of older, male neighbors recalled watching football games with Q every Sunday on a TV on one of their porches.

"He was a good little kid, especially compared to the s--- that comes out of this ghetto," said Brian Blango, who was a part of the weekly football parties.

"He had a good chance to make it out of here and make something of himself."

"That's what made it so bad," added Teddy Furman, another neighbor. "He didn't bother a soul, and they killed him like he was drug lord."

Marie Clarke said her family tonight will try to forget the gruesome details of her son's death, when they gather to mark the anniversary of that day in the morgue when she realized she lost her boy.

"I miss everything about him," she said.