There were times when Robert Udrow appeared to be in control of the addictions and mental health issues that plagued his family.
But after each sign of progress – a job or a completed college class – those old demons would return.
"He was trying always to get out of the life," said his aunt, Megan Fernandez. "And he had a hard time getting out."
Udrow's life was cut short Friday morning, when police found him about 9 a.m. in an alley near the 8000 block of South Sangamon Street in the city's Gresham neighborhood. He was shot in both legs and in the chest, police said, and later pronounced dead at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
No arrests have been made, and Area South detectives are investigating.
Neither parent played much of a role in his life, said Fernandez, 48, of the city' Jefferson Park neighborhood. Instead, his grandmother raised him from the time he was 10.
"He was a very nice person," she said. "He suffered from bipolar (disorder), but he was a wonderful person."
Udrow's teenage years were spent in and out of incarceration, Fernandez said.
"He was very bright," she said. "He just fell into trouble in his teens, and had a hard time staying out of trouble."
A few years back, it seemed like he was improving, she said. He got an apartment on the northwest side, and took classes at Harold Washington College.
"He stayed out of trouble a while," Fernandez said. "But he never seemed to shake the drugs and alcohol."
Udrow listed his aunt's home as his mailing address, but she said he floated between various friends' places. A recovering addict herself, Fernandez said she would try her best to help Udrow stay sober.
"You always feel like maybe I could have done more," she said. "But we make choices in life. I really don't know what his choices were. I really couldn't help him."
Fernandez said she didn't know, and was "scared to know," why her nephew was in the Gresham neighborhood Friday morning.
"He was really tortured," she said. "He was a good person with a lot of love to give, but he couldn't dig inside and help himself."