A Tale of Two Wes Moores

There are two Wes Moores from Baltimore.

One is a Johns Hopkins University graduate, a military officer, and a Rhodes Scholar. The other is serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison for murder.

It`s hard to imagine a more unlikely pairing: one a celebrated student, college football hall of famer, White House fellow; the other, in a maximum security prison serving a life sentence for murder.

But how did they become aware of each other?

"There was this-- this terrible robbery of a jewelry store. And an off duty policeman was killed," Wes Moore's mother Joy Moore told CBS Sunday Morning.

Joy called her son, who was studying in South Africa. She said police were looking for a man in Baltimore with his name.

The posters read: "Wanted Wes Moore: Assumed to be armed and very dangerous."

"Part of me, when I first heard it, was, wow, I`m glad Wes is so many thousand miles away that they weren`t looking for my son," said Joy.

The studious Wes Moore couldn`t get the other Wes Moore out of his mind.

He began visiting him in prison and found a man who was troubling and complicated, but also, more reflective than he`d expected.

"I learned just how much we-- we had in common, and more than just our name," said Moore.

Both men grew up in nearly identical drug-ridden areas where both were making names for themselves on the streets and as behavior and academic problems at school. Also, both men were raised by single moms.

On the face of it, they were living parallel lives, but in reality, they were heading in very different directions. Here are their not so simple stories.

Wes Moore #1

Before Wes Moore was four-years-old, his world unraveled. His father, Big Wes, as his family called him, a thirty-four-year-old television journalist in Maryland, died suddenly as his young son watched.

"I started hearing him come down the stairs and I ran to the stairs. And then he collapsed. I remember my mother running in from-- from the kitchen and a pot falling and-- and just chaos all around me," Moore said. "And I just remember just staring."

In the years following her husband`s death, Joy struggled emotionally and financially. She was a widow and a single mother supporting three children.

She saw their neighborhood outside Baltimore turning more and more dangerous. So she moved her family to live with her parents in New York.
But their Bronx neighborhood would prove to be worse than the one they`d left.

There were a lot of opportunities to get into trouble.

"There were some times I really did feel like I was losing my son," said Joy.

Wes Moore #2

Back in Baltimore, the other Wes Moore barely knew his father.

His mother, Mary Moore, had goals for her children: To finish school and go to college and to get a good job.

It was a hope that Mary herself had grasped but couldn`t hold. She was the first person in her family to go to junior college and was accepted to nearby Johns Hopkins University.

But when her funding fell through, she had to work full time instead, often leaving Wes with his older brother.

"I had to be on the streets and-- and be in the life of crime. I thought that was my only real talent," said Moore, via phone from prison.

He was very close to his brother, Tony.

Over the years, Mary says she knew Tony was becoming a well-known drug dealer. But she thought he was taking a "do as I say not as I do" approach with Wes.

"Tony was streetwise and all that," said Mary. "And he knew what was out there and he didn`t want that same thing for his brother."

But by the time Wes was thirteen, he was already following in his big brother`s footsteps. Soon, he says, he started making thousands of dollars a day and never looked back.

"You know I-- I thought everything was supposed to come to me at-- at light speed," said Moore. "But when I was given opportunities to-- to take my time and be patient. I-- I brushed passed them."

Wes Moore #1 - A Second Chance

Around the same time, up in the Bronx, eleven-year-old Wes Moore, like the other Wes, was looking to the streets for a sense of belonging.

"It starts off with little stuff. Walking into a corner store and stealing a candy bar," he said. "It's just amazing how fast that graduates to much more serious stuff."

He even had a nickname in the neighborhood: Kid Kupid. He tagged up the walls around the Bronx with the initials "KK."

"There are quite a few Bronx walls that had a-- had the two Ks next to it," he said.

But one day, he got caught.

"A cop car turns the corner and you hear that distinctive, like whop-whop, you know the-- the cop sirens," he said. "They grabbed me put the cuffs on me. And next thing I know I was in the back of the police car. And I`m terrified. I couldn`t even imagine that phone call to my mom telling them, well, you need to come pick up your son."

That call never came. The cops undid their handcuffs and told them to get moving.

"All I was looking for was acceptance," he said. "And if that meant spray painting some walls, skipping some classes and getting into fights, that's what I was going to do."

Joy was worried her son was headed down the wrong path.

"I said, no, not again. I lost my husband. I`m mot going to lose my son," she said.