The Bitch Slap of the Day Goes to…

I have recently wondered why certain people take jobs that require public service if they don’t actually want to help people.  Is it just to say they are serving the public?  Do they expect a gold star?  Well folks, this is not third grade and I am no longer a teacher.  I am out of practice of giving gold stars.
In college, my crew coach told us a story about one of his practices when he had been on the U.S. Olympic Rowing team.  Anyone who knows about crew knows that seven people in the boat could be completely on point with their stroke and just one person having a bad day would throw off the entire boat.  One day during one of the practices, one of the rowers was hell bent on messing things up for the entire boat.  After practice was over, my coach got out of his seat, walked the gunnels of the boat (passing completely over the top of his teammates), and slapped the screw up in the face.  My coach then calmly made his way back to his seat.
I tell this story to make a parallel to Justice in America.  In order for our country to actually work, everyone has to be carrying their own weight.  Especially those who choose to be in the boat.  (i.e. judges, lawyers, police officers, etc)  If you choose to be in the boat, you need to row your best and you can’t expect to get a gold star for doing your job.  If you decide to allow your jaded and corrupt nature to sink the boat, however, you deserve to be bitch slapped by your teammates (the American public).
When I entered Family Court, I was merely a spectator.  I had little to no control over how well that boat rowed.  I could scream and offer encouragement from the sidelines, but I was not handed an oar to help get the boat of justice to the finish line.  Unfortunately, my son’s fate was left in the hands of a sleepy, angry, and disgruntled legal “athlete” – Judge Algeo.  The other rowers consisted of money hungry attorneys concerned about their own reputation over the outcome of the race, scared and timid social workers who had just learned how to row, and corrupt psychologists where were paid to stop rowing and sink the boat.  My son’s boat of justice sunk as a result of this miserable team of rowers.
So the bitch slap of the day, however, still goes to Judge Algeo because he was the team captain.  He signed up for that job.  Our tax dollars paid to put him into that position and he had a civil duty to make sure the boat didn’t sink.
Prince,
Even though you are no longer here, Mama has grabbed the oars in this boat and I will no longer be silent.  People will know your name.  People will know how you died and they will know the individuals who refused to protect you.  I will carry you in my heart and I will speak for you.  I will not be silent.
Love,
Mama

Dear Sgt. Bradford Cavender,

I grew up believing that if I ever needed help, and needed to be protected in an emergency, I could call the police.  I have learned in the past two years that this is not always the case.  In fact, on 17 July 2011, Detective Bradford J. Cavender (Badge number 1683) with the Prince William County, VA police department did the exact opposite – he went after victims and defended a criminal.

As I have stated before, it was my promise to Prince that I would make everyone who had a hand in his death aware of what happened and unable to hide behind a lack of media exposure.  So Sgt. Cavender, now its your turn.

Dear Sgt Cavender,

My name is Hera McLeod.  You might remember me as the woman you labeled as black without asking me my race.  Or maybe you will remember me as the woman who plead with you to protect me and my newborn baby boy.  You may not have heard yet, but my son died in the home of that man whom you protected.  You were the officer on duty that night and were tasked with investigating a report of rape.  This, however, was too complicated and you decided that instead of charging for rape you would arrest the two women who asked for your help.  Right after you did so, you were promoted.  Is that why you did it?  Did you need just two more charges to get that promotion?

Do you have children Sgt. Cavender?  That day we spoke you seemed so sure that Luc wouldn’t come after me and my newborn son.  You had no trouble harassing me over a car Luc claimed I had taken from him.  Did you know that he, in fact, did come after us?

I hope that you never have to watch your children die as I had to watch mine. Even though I blame you for your callous actions in July 2011, I wouldn’t wish my story on anyone.  I do, however, pray that you remember Prince.  I pray that every time you see a case before you that appears “too complicated”…that you take an extra look.  When your police department decided to give evidence to the accused and allow his “friends” to create a video of a sexual act (that was taped via hidden camera without consent), you acted unethically.  You chose not to charge a man who admitted to having committed a crime.  Would you have charged him if it had happened to your family?  Did you dismiss my story because of the color of my skin?

I will live with the memory of that night I met you for the rest of my life.  I will never forget how your decisions likely cost my baby boy his life.  I will never see my child grow up the way you will get to see yours grow.

His name was Prince Elias McLeod.  He was 15.5 months old the day he died.  By the time the ambulance arrived he had no pulse, had turned blue, was cold, and was already brain dead.  Prince loved to laugh, sing, dance, and run.  He will never do those things again.  You, however, will be allowed to continue making the same life changing decisions you made that night as a Prince William County Police officer.

May God forgive you – it will take a while before I can.

Sincerely,

Hera McLeod (Prince’s Mama)

Dear Prudence Upton,

I am angry.  A few days ago I wrote a letter to Judge Algeo from the Montgomery County, MD courts reminding him of my son Prince.  The child he trusted in the care of a disordered man.  Today, I have thought a lot about the woman who represented my ex.  Her name is Prudence Upton.  During court, it came out that my ex only paid her about 600 dollars for the entire court case.  I find it baffling that this woman basically represented him pro bono given the testimony against him.  I will not write her a letter and send it to her office, however, maybe she will see this when she searches for her name online someday.  Or maybe someone will find this letter when they look online to see if they should hire her as an attorney.  I will not make a comment on her skills as an attorney, but I do question her morals after how she was instrumental in what led to the events on October 20th when my son passed away.

Someone told me the other day that the courts take “acceptable risks” when it comes to parents.  Even when they know a parent to be disordered, they would rather risk harm to the child than deny access.  What the courts did with my son was not “acceptable” and I am going to keep writing until someone takes notice.

Dear Prudence Upton (of Avery and Upton),

My name is Hera McLeod (also known as Cappuccino Queen).  I know you must have a lot of cases so maybe you don’t remember me.  The last time you saw me was July 12, 2012 when Judge Algeo granted your client unsupervised access to my baby boy.  Did you know that my son, Prince, passed away while he was just on his fourth unsupervised visit with his father?

You probably never got a chance to meet my son.  (Your client barely knew enough about him to even tell you about him.)  Prince was an amazing little boy.  He was a little angel.  He smiled often, loved to dance and sing, and was a proud new walker.  He was the type of child who would run up to hug crying children and was the only toddler I knew who would share his toys without anyone.  Even though you never met him, the decisions and choices you made (namely to represent his father) made a significant impact on Prince’s life.

I know you are a mother.  I can imagine that you are (or will be) so proud the day you see your child off to school, watch him/her graduate from high school and college, get him/her ready for the school dance, or dance with your son on his wedding day.  I will never get to do those things with my son. I am now a mother without a child.  Instead of watching him grow, I will be visiting his grave and imagining how his life would have been had he gotten the chance to live it.

I will never forget how you confidently attacked me on the stand as your client smirked.  Just today I read a letter you wrote Judge Algeo about how you felt your client should have had extra time during the unsupervised visits so that he could bring Prince back to his house.  In case you don’t know, that house was where my son died.  He was dead by the time the ambulance arrived.

Did you know that your client lied to you about having a job?  Do you even care?  Don’t you think that its odd that my son spent less than 24 hours of unsupervised time with this man, yet he ended up having a medical emergency that killed him during one of these visits?

Knowing what you know now, would you still have fought to represent this man?  I hope it was worth the 600 dollars he claimed he paid you.

My son’s life was a job to you.  You will go on and likely feel justified in your actions.  I hope, however, that you will remember my son every time you step foot in the court room.  When you are watching your children grow, I will be mourning mine.

We had a small wake for my son before his funeral.  I went in to see his body by myself and sat with him for a few minutes before the rest of my family joined me.  I read him one of his favorite books, Dr Seuss’ “Oh Baby, Go Baby”.  After I read him the book, I put it in his casket with him.  I also made him a promise.  I said, “My Prince – I will love you forever, I will love you always, as long as I am alive…my baby boy you will be.  I promise you that I will continue to fight for you, I will never let people forget you, and I will hold those accountable who have failed you.”

Ms. Upton – you are one of those who failed my son.

Sincerely,

Prince’s Mama

Dear Judge Michael J. Algeo…

Dear Judge Algeo,

You may not remember me,  but I will remember you for the rest of my life.  I am Prince’s mother.  The Prince who died on October 20, 2012.  The Prince who died on just his fourth court ordered unsupervised visit with his father.  


In case you still don’t remember me, I would like to take a moment to remind you.  I was the woman who came into your court room in March of 2012 (and again in July 2012) begging you to keep my son safe from his father.  You heard testimony from several women Luc had abused.  I told you about how I had fled Luc’s house in July 2011 with my newborn son and the clothing on our backs – that was after Luc had raped my then 19 year old sister.  You heard testimony about all the people who died around Luc (including the mother of his older son and his own mother)  All the horrifying information we presented, however, was still not enough for you to choose to keep my son safe.

I watched my son’s body slowly shut down for nearly two days as I waited for the doctors to officially declare him brain dead.  As I watched my innocent baby boy die, I thought about you.  I remembered how you told us you hated Family Court.  I remembered how you blamed me for falling in love with a con man.  I remembered how you talked about fairy dust and how you explained that my son would need to come home with cigarette burns before you would believe Luc was abusive.  I remember how you rolled your eyes, appeared to fall asleep on the bench, and openned up your computer as if to read your email – you did all of this as I pleaded with you to keep visitations supervised.  


I am now a mother without a child. My heart breaks every time I think about all the things my son will never do.  You never got to meet Prince, but your decisions made a significant impact in his life.  My son loved books.  He loved to smile, to laugh, and was just starting to run.  The week he died, he just started to say “ball”.  It was his first official word after “Mama”.  

Do you have children Judge Algeo?  Grandchildren?  You told us that you made your Custody decision based on what you would do if he was your child.  Would you have given your children to Luc in an unsupervised setting knowing what you knew about him?  Would you have taken a closer look at that psychological evaluation or maybe appointed a psychologist to conduct the test if it had been your child?  Would you have forced YOUR daughter to send her child to this man as punishment for having been lied to?  

One of the hardest things for me to deal with is that I will never again have the chance to protect my son.  Nothing I can do will bring him back to life.  I can’t stop thinking about how my life would be different if I hadn’t trusted you – if I had fled the country – if I had simply refused to comply with the court order.  


I will never get the opportunity to have a talk with my son.  I will never see him have his first day of school.  I will never see him graduate from High School and from College.  I will never dance with him on his wedding day or hear him say, “I love you Mama.”  

You said you hated Family Court – it showed.  I hope you understand the incredible power you have and with that power – the unparalleled responsibility.  If my son losing his life had little or no impact on your future decisions, I pray that you resign.  If you still find yourself rolling your eyes in frustration and looking upon parents who sit before you with distain, I pray for those parents who have no choice but to sit before you.

If the laws are not designed to protect children, then they need to be changed.  In my son’s case, it appears as though death was the only threshold for denial of visitation.  I knew how bad this could get.  I told you how bad this could get.  You didn’t believe me.  Hundreds of scorned women must come through your court room.  Maybe this has jaded or clouded your ability to see the truth.  I was not scorned.  I was afraid.  I was a mother trying to protect her only child.  How terribly sad it is that you have become so jaded that when a mother comes to you pleading for your help, you dismiss her concerns as merely those of a scorned woman.  Prince deserved better.  He deserved to live just as your own child would have.

I have spent my entire career working to protect our country – to protect America.  I wake up each day and fight for America – and fight for the freedoms you enjoy.  I hope and pray that despite the system’s failure, I can continue to take my job as seriously as you should have taken yours.  It was your job to protect my son’s basic human civil right to life.  All the evidence was before you.  All that was asked of you was to be cautious.  You held the life of an innocent child in your hands – the life of my child.  

You will forget me Judge Algeo.  Of that, I am fairly certain.  I will, however, never forget you.  

Sincerely, 

Hera McLeod (Prince’s Mama)

 

Thursday Morning Deep Thoughts

When I first told people about Prince’s death, many people were speechless. For the last few weeks, I have felt as if I am managing other people’s grief in addition to my own.  If I can survive the murder of my son, I think I might just be that strong woman so many people have tried to label me in the last year.  I don’t feel strong, however, because I don’t feel like a whole person anymore without Prince.

A good friend of mine came to visit me this past weekend.  I was telling her how strange I have been feeling lately.  I feel like its been a year since I have seen my baby.  I struggle to remember the tone of his cry.  I also feel this overwhelming sense that Prince was not just a baby.  He was here for a reason and he knew it.  I feel like he wasn’t mine to have forever.   My friend said, “CQ…I wasn’t going to say anything, but now that you said something…I think Prince has been here before.”  At first, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but then she explained that he never looked like just a baby.  Prince was always a wise soul.  While he was still largely non verbal, that little man knew how to communicate and he wanted to make sure we all knew how much he loved us.

So maybe Prince picked me to be his Mama, but our story hasn’t ended yet.  I want desperately to escape his psychopath father.  I want to remember my son without thinking about his disordered father.  My son, however, still hasn’t gotten justice and until that happens…I cannot let it go.

Interesting things happen when you experience tragedy.  Friends you never knew were close come out of the woodwork and come through like rock stars.  On the other hand, people tend to show you their ability (or inability) to care.  A few months before my son died, I met a man.  While I had decided not to date him, we became friends (or so I thought).  Initially after this experience, he appeared to have the emotional capacity of a normal person.  It has been two weeks since my son died, however, and this man believes that I should have “snapped out of it” by now.  His behavior scares me as it feels as if he is no longer trying to help, but that he is attempting to take advantage of my pain.

So let me end this post by saying to him:  (and if he is reading this he will know I am talking about him)

Lose my number.  I don’t want to go dancing with you now – nor ever.  You clearly don’t have the emotional capacity to understand how much losing a child changes a person and hurts them to their core.  Given this inability to understand, you are exactly the same type of person I so desperately want to run away from.  While I am hopeful that there are men out there who have the ability to care and love in the depths that I do, you Sir are not one of those and this experience has proven that to me.

 

And Ladies – don’t settle for men who don’t treat you right.  Don’t make excuses for their poor behavior.  Good women deserve to have good men.  I refuse to disrespect Prince’s memory by allowing his death to become a red carpet moment for another souless creature to move into my heart.  I love you son.  I will remember you always and I will continue to pray for justice on your behalf.

Time Didn’t Stand Still, but My Heart Is Still Broken

Tonight as I drove through my neighborhood,  I saw toddlers all dressed up with their parents walking around excited and playful.  I had forgotten it was Halloween.  Prince was supposed to be a monkey.  The costume is still hanging in the closet.  He will never wear it, nor will he wear any other Halloween costume.

On October 20th when I learned my son had died, it felt like the world stopped, like my heart stopped beating, and like time stood still.  As I watched the little people walking around my neighborhood, I felt like I was being punched in the chest.  Time hadn’t stood still and other people would go on to keep raising their children.  I, on the other hand, now had to learn how to be a childless mother.

A few days ago, I went to a doctor and asked for some anxiety medication.  While I had been fighting taking medication for the past 15 months (because I was breastfeeding baby boy), I no longer had that excuse and I needed to find a way to sleep.  I hadn’t eaten in five days since I had seen Prince alive.  I felt like I was dying.

After hearing my story (the five minute version), the doctor gladly wrote me a perscription and said, “This might sound insensitive, but your child dying sounds like it could have been just the thing to get you away from this monster.  You need to see the silver lining here.”  As the tears streamed down my face, I stared at him in shock and horror.  ‘He couldn’t possibly be a father’, I thought.  How could he say something like this to a mother who just lost her child.

I hate Luc.  He is the devil in human skin.  I believe with all my heart that he is the reason my son will never get to say “I love you”, bring me home a report card, graduate from kindergarten, or do just about anything people tend to take for granted.  I hope I never have to see Luc’s ugly and villainess face again, but this reality doesn’t give me an ounce of comfort when the cost is my son.  I would have been happy to fight Luc for the rest of my life if it meant my son getting the chance to live a full life.