Choose Love Over Hate

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“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; The fruit of the womb is a reward.”  - Psalm 127:3

 

Almost a year ago, my daughter was born.  I fell in love with her from the moment I knew she existed.  Every time I saw her on the sonogram (usually in the middle of her trying to suck on her hand or foot), feel her swift kicks to my ribs, or even just think about her – I felt as if this small family of ours was meant to be.  If you have read my story, you also know that nearly two years ago my son Prince was murdered.  Though I have lived through one of the worst tragedies I can imagine, part of honoring my son is knowing that I must also continue to choose love and happiness.  My decision to have my daughter was one of the first steps I took on my personal journey, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  Many reading this have also been through tragic experiences of all types – ranging from domestic violence, child abuse, and the terrors of Family Court.  Tragedy should make us stronger, but it shouldn’t define us or take away our ability to choose love despite the hate.

Sharing the news of my baby girl was a positive experience, and I have received overwhelming support from my readers.  Many readers reached out with private messages thanking me for telling my news, and wished my daughter and me the best.  One reader in particular mentioned that she, too, had thought about being a single mother by choice.  She worried, however, about the judgments she would receive from negative and bigoted people – some of who were in her own family.  Before responding to her, I thought a lot about what she said and how I felt about mine and my daughter’s own future given the society we live in.

I made the decision to have my daughter knowing that not everyone would accept our alternative family.  For me, the most important part of my decision was making sure that my daughter would come into this world with a lot of love and support.  After thinking this reality over for a significant amount of time, I realized that I had grown up the child of an “alternative” family.  My parents got married in the late 1970s.  Since my parents are not of the same race, their marriage wasn’t even legal in all 50 states.  And many times, even though it was legal didn’t mean it was socially accepted.  I distinctly remember classmates of mine who asked me why I hadn’t come out with spots since my mother was white and my father was black.

I will never forget the day when I first realized my family was different.  The girl next door and I were good friends.  We were both five years old and attended the same school.  She was having a birthday party where everyone had planned to bring their own cabbage patch doll.  We were both excited about this party and had talked about it for months.  On the day of the party, I ran out of the house with my doll and proudly marched up to her garage with the rest of the children.  As I went to walk through the door, my friend stopped me and said, “My mom said you cannot come to the party because you are black and black people steal things.  You are not allowed in my house.”  While the rest of the kids went inside, I stood on the sidewalk alone with my doll.

After that incident, I ran home and told my parents about what had happened.  “But I am brown Mommy!  My skin isn’t even black,” I explained with clear confusion.  I remember seeing the anger and pain in my parent’s eyes as they attempted to explain racism and bigotry to their innocent five -year old daughter.  I am pretty sure the reality still didn’t sink in that day; however, over the years my parents did a wonderful job explaining to me that being different wasn’t a bad thing.  I learned to embrace my unique background and the reality that I would often be forced to be an ambassador for my race and my unique experience.

My daughter was born into a family that is different, and not everyone will always accept the path that I have chosen.  She will likely encounter many bigoted people throughout her life. It is my job as her mother to teach her that her unique story is a blessing, and an opportunity to change the world for the better.   For the reader who was contemplating having another child, and for the many others who believe that an alternative family (be it two moms, two dads, one mom, one dad, etc) is the best choice for their family, my advice is as follows:

Children are a blessing.  They deserve to be showered with love from a strong community of people – regardless of gender, race, or whatever particular label you happen to be using at the moment.  Don’t ever let narrow mindedness, bigotry, or hate factor into your decision to have a child.

And for those of you who are trying to rebuild your lives after tragedy (even if you are still in the tragedy of Family Court), choose to live with happiness and don’t let this tragedy rob you or your children of your lives, happiness, and future.

 

A Miscarriage Of Justice

A couple of months before my son Prince was murdered, another little boy was killed just miles away from where Prince died in Manassas, VA.  His name was Elijah Nealey.  Elijah was only 23 months old when his monster of a babysitter, Jessica Fraraccio, killed him.  Fraraccio had been frustrated because Elijah was crying.  So frustrated that she pulled a chair out from under him, causing him to hit his head on the table and floor.  Elijah cried harder in pain, and Fraraccio carried him around the house upside down, hitting his head on the metal stair rail and other objects.  She then covered his mouth and nose with her hand and suffocated him to death.

I have never been subtle about my desire to fight for children’s rights.  Little Elijah, sadly, has suffered a miscarriage of justice in addition to his brutal murder.  Elijah never lived long enough to celebrate even his second birthday.  The 22 year old babysitter who killed him, however, will only serve 5 years in jail.  She will likely go on to have children, and if she doesn’t kill them she will have the opportunity to enjoy the many firsts that Elijah’s parents will miss.  In a decision that shocks the hell out of me, and likely just about anybody with a soul, Judge J. Howe Brown sentenced Fraraccio to 50 years but suspended 45 and required that she send a check of at least a dollar to a charity of her choosing on the date of Elijah’s death every year after her release.  So when the she devil is writing a check for a dollar to the charity of her choosing, Elijah’s parents will have to live with the fact that not only was their son brutally murdered, but that the woman who killed him is allowed to live a full life.

This shocking sentence had me thinking about the value our system puts on the lives of children.  Had this woman murdered an adult, I suspect she would have had a longer sentence.  What will this judge think when this monster gets into a bar fight and kills someone else, or maybe even goes on to kill another child someday.  I didn’t read any part of this sentence that ordered the woman to have her ovaries removed, so I suspect that she will have children and they, too, will cry.  Someone who is evil enough to suffocate a child to death because she cannot handle their cry cannot be rehabilitated and should not be let out amongst the general population after serving a mere 5 years.  This reckless decision, however, does not appear to be an isolated move.  Poor Elijah seems to be yet another victim of our broken system – more evidence that children in our country do not have the right to live.

Virginia is not the only state that is lenient on child abusers.  Back in 2007, a Prince George’s County, MD judge sentenced a man to only 18 months in jail after he shook his month old son to death.  Both Judge Brown and Judge Ronald D. Schiff cited that harsher sentences wouldn’t bring the children back, as if this fact made giving their killers light sentences make any more sense.  It is true that nothing can bring a murdered child back, but there are several reasons for sentencing a child murder to the full extent of the law.  (Note:  I recognize that the below points don’t take a rocket scientist to recognize, but clearly there are some in our justice system who need a reminder.)

1)  Once A Killer, Always A Killer:  Someone who is capable of murder has more than just a few screws loose.  The two murders I described above were not unfortunate accidents.  They were the result of two people who snapped and killed children merely because the children were crying.  Now think about this for a moment.  Even if these people never went on to take care of another child, would you feel safe even standing next to this person in the grocery store?  I sure as hell wouldn’t.  A few months in jail is not going to give this person those extra screws they need to be not dangerous!  In case you still don’t believe that some time in jail makes these killers remorseful, check out this story.  Daron Davis, another one of these child killing monsters, spent 11 years in jail for beating his daughter to death just a month before her first birthday.  After he was released, he killed a second daughter.

2)  Justice:  These children who were murdered by people who should have been caring for them took away lives.  Having to spend a short amount of time in prison does not bring justice to the victims, and it certainly doesn’t bring justice to the families of the victims either.  How would you feel if someone killed your child, and then a few years later you had to run into them in the grocery store laughing and chatting with their friend about how great their life is?  Possibly more insulting might be having to celebrate the birthday of your dead child, and wondering what charity his killer would be sending her one dollar check to that year.

3)  The Message:  Part of what is important about our criminal justice system is the message sentences send to the community.  In the cases I have highlighted here, it seems the message is that the life of a child doesn’t hold as much value as that of an adult.  Those who kill children are allowed a second chance at life because we assume that they feel the remorse they should feel after committing such a vile act.  (News Flash:  A psychopath does not feel remorse.  They often know what goes against society norms or is immoral, but they don’t care.  These people don’t have souls like the rest of us.)

Finally, these examples can shed an interesting light on what is happening to children in the Family Court system as well.  Decisions are made on a daily basis that negatively impact children for the purpose of parental rights.  How do we expect that judges are going to hold the best interest of our children in any sort of priority when even those who kill children have their rights respected at the expense of their victims.  America is in crisis.  We are having what appears to be a war on children.  Children are being physically and emotionally abused, and children are being killed.  When children are supposed to be seen as the future of a country, I ask you – what is to become of our future when we don’t protect our nation’s children?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Child Of A Football Player

In the past week, many of you have likely heard about the murder of Adrian Peterson’s two year old son.  Though the brutal murder of this innocent toddler should have made headlines regardless of who his father was, the fact that his father plays for the Minnesota Vikings became a center piece for the story.  At first, I wondered why the media was referring to this child as Peterson’s “secret child”.  After reading more, I learned the sad reality that Peterson didn’t even know this was his child until a couple of months before the child’s death.

Even though it appeared that Peterson had been robbed of the chance to know this little boy, some internet trolls had no problem throwing him under the bus for continuing to play football despite the news.  Before I move on to the real issue here – the child – let me just say some words in support for Adrian Peterson.  Peterson is one of the victims here.  He lost a child he never even had the chance to know (and not through fault of his own).  If he felt the need to dance on top of Mount Everest or run naked on the beach as a coping mechanism, I would have no judgement.  People grieve in all sorts of ways.  Many people choose to throw themselves into their careers in order to keep living.  This man also has two other children for whom he is financially supporting.  Keep living Adrian – it’s what your son would have wanted and it’s what your other children need.

Under The Media Frenzy:

While many of the articles I have read focus on Adrian Peterson being a football player, as if the death of his child is somehow more shocking than the thousands of other children who die after being abused, this story can serve as an example of many disturbing trends in our society.  Just weeks after my own son’s murder (at the hands of his own father), I continued to say that I hoped my son would be the last child who had to suffer in this way.  Though that was my hope, I knew that would never be the reality given the current state of affairs in America.

Adrian Peterson’s son, whom family members called “Ty”, was a happy and vibrant two-year old boy.  His mother had left him in the care of a man named Joseph Robert Patterson.  Without details about how much the mother knew about this man (or more importantly how much information the system allowed to be public information), I will refrain from judging her for the moment.  I will, however, come down harshly on a system that allowed this abuser to roam a free man long enough to kill a child.  It is now known that Patterson was indicted in June 2012 on several counts of simple assault involving an ex-girlfriend and her 3-year-old son.  He was also later charged for violating a no-contact order.  While he was sentenced to one year in jail for both of these cases, his time was suspended upon the condition that he attend domestic violence counseling.

Abusers and Deadly Plea Bargains:

In December 2010, my son’s father was arrested for violently assaulting his then 11 year old son.  To avoid a conviction and criminal record, Luc agreed to family counseling and the child was put back in the home.  Child Protective Services issued a report that the abuse was founded, however, records disappeared and Luc was allowed to go on as if this assault had never occurred.  Luc, just like Patterson, is an abusive man who prays upon women and children.  A few months of family therapy didn’t turn Luc into a loving non-abusive father, and “domestic violence counseling” clearly did nothing for Peterson either.  If Luc had served the mandatory year in jail for abusing his older son, Prince would likely still be here.  If Patterson had served the two years in jail that he was sentenced, I wouldn’t be writing about this story because little Ty would be here too.

My son, Prince McLeod Rams, and little Ty were both brutally murdered by men who shouldn’t have been free to walk amongst us.  While Prince and Ty had  different circumstances leading to how these men obtained access (Prince was forced into the custody of a killer by the courts and Ty was left with his mother’s abusive boyfriend),  the two cases have frighteningly similar roots.  Both killers found dangerous loopholes in a broken system.  Both killers had previous run ins with the law where they were able to convince psychological professionals and court officials that they could be rehabilitated and should be given another chance to behave.  As long as society remains in denial about personality disorders, more children will be at risk for deadly child abuse.  It is not possible to rehabilitate a sociopath.  My son, Ty, and all the other children who have been victims of our broken system (and those who will be victims in the future) deserve better from us – they deserve justice.

Shocking Statistics:

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services analyzed data that showed that 80 percent of the 1,570 U.S. children who died from abuse were 4 years old or younger.  In 87 percent of these cases, the perpetrators were biological parents of the victims.  The Every Child Matters education fund reports that 15,510 children are known to have died between 2001 and 2010 from child abuse related incidents.  This is about 2.5 times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Though these statistics are shocking in and of themselves, the U.S. Government Accountability Office states that these numbers are underreported because there is no national standard for reporting.

When my son arrived at the hospital, nurses and doctors immediately called police and Child Protective Services as his injuries were consistent with child abuse.  Though every person who encountered my son in those initial hours after he arrived at the hospital was likely horrified at the scene, my son’s death went unreported for nearly a month after the incident.  Police didn’t release a press release of any sort and my son’s killer wasn’t arrested for over three months after the incident occurred.  I often wonder how many other cases where children have been murdered go completely unreported.  For months after my son’s murder, I was told that the case was “under investigation” and that authorities were not releasing the cause of my healthy little boy’s sudden death.

Ty’s story was reported because his father is a football player.  Perhaps my son’s story was reported because I am loud, and continue to scream at the top of my lungs.  Perhaps my son’s story was told because a brave reporter from The Washington Post Editorial section took a chance and reported about a case that officials seemed dead set on burying.  The sad reality, however, is all the cases that go un reported – all the children who are born into this dangerous world with no weapons to protect themselves – no Civil Rights – no voice – and no future.

 

 

 

 

 

Rest In Peace Shawn Katrina Mason

On March 19, 2003 Shawn Katrina Mason was murdered in her Manassas, VA condominium.  Shawn had been attempting to move on with her life despite the violent relationship she had with her son’s father.  Just days after her murder, Shawn was due in family court to finalize a custody agreement with Lucifer for their young son.  Shawn never made it to court.  Instead, the prime suspect in her murder (Lucifer himself) got custody of their son by default, and began to receive social security death benefits as a result of her murder.  At the time of her death, Shawn’s son was only three and a half years old.   For the past ten years, her murder has gone unsolved and is now what is considered a cold case.  

While many of you know that Shawn’s murder is somewhat connected to my son’s death, what you might not know is how the murder of a woman I have never met has impacted my life.  I never had the chance to meet Shawn, but I do believe that our lives have become somewhat intertwined.  For the first several months that I lived with Luc, he had me thinking that Shawn had left her son by choice.  I imagined that maybe she was a deadbeat mom or possibly had some sort of illness that rendered her hospitalized.  It was the topic nobody in the house ever seemed to want to talk about.

 

Suspicion:

A few months before Prince was born, I began snooping around Luc’s house.  I had a feeling that something wasn’t right when Luc’s story about Shawn went from “she left” to “there was an accident” to “she lived in a bad neighborhood.”  In one of my searches, I found her baby journal tucked away in one of Luc’s closets.  In this journal, she wrote about how excited she was to have her son, and all about her hopes and dreams for him. Almost hauntingly, I felt as if I was reading something that I would have written about my own son.

 

Over the next few months, despite how I felt about Luc and my growning anxiety about the future of our relationship, I worried about Shawn’s son.  What had happened to this woman and why didn’t anyone want to talk about it?  The night I left Luc, I had to make a decision to save Prince, but I knew that in saving Prince I would be leaving Shawn’s son behind.  I felt terrible about this, but I knew that I had no rights to the child as he wasn’t biologically mine.

 

As I walked out the door that night, clinging to Prince tightly in my arms, Luc’s eyes went cold as he said, “If you leave I will kill you just like I killed Shawn and I will end up with Prince anyway.”

 

 

Chilling Discovery:

As the weeks skipped by after I left Luc, I eventually learned what really happened to Shawn.  It wasn’t an accident at all – someone went to her house intending to kill her.  In fact, about six months before Shawn died, Luc had his name changed to his son’s name (making his son a Jr…or maybe making his son a Sr.?) and subsequently claimed that Shawn’s life insurance policy (that had been in her son’s name) was for himself.  For the past ten years, Luc has been actively trying to get his hands on Shawn’s life insurance policy which luckily the state was smart enough to block from him.

Not a day goes by when I don’t realize that it could have been me instead of Shawn.  In fact, I believed it would have been me instead of Prince.  I would have wanted it to be me instead of Prince.  I never imagined that Prince could have been Luc’s next financial target.  Since the day I left Luc in July 2011 and began fighting for my son’s life and my own, I have felt as though history would repeat itself in some way.  Since Shawn, two others associated/related to Luc have died violently and Luc has standed to gain financially from both.  If we are to believe that Luc killed all three of these people (Shawn, Alma Collins (Luc’s mother), and Prince), that qualifies him as a serial killer.  All three motives would have been the same – life insurance proceeds.

 

The Future:

I have said this before, but I believe that Shawn had a hand in my son’s legacy – like maybe she sent Prince to protect her son and to protect others.  I believe Shawn is an angel just like Prince.  Shawn knew that it was likely police would never charge Luc for her murder, and that Luc would continue to terrorize and possibly even kill others.  If I had died at the hands of Luc, and my son had been left behind, I would have sent an angel as well.

 

It’s been ten years since Shawn was murdered, and Luc is finally in prison where he belongs.  It is troubling that it took this long, and it took something this bad happening, before he was locked up.  When Prince was still alive, not a day passed when I didn’t pray police would catch Shawn’s killer and I would receive a call that he was finally in prison.  I knew that if Shawn’s killer were behind bars, we would finally be safe.  That prayer was never answered.  Instead, I received the call I feared the most – that someone else had been killed and this time it was my little boy.  Police told me not to worry, because they would get him this time.  These words brought little to no comfort, because I didn’t  want my son to be their this time.  I wanted the police to protect us before my son got hurt, instead of promise justice after he was already gone.

 

All of Luc’s victims remain on edge awaiting the conviction.  I understand the risk I took coming forward and fighting this monster.  I was chosen to be Prince’s Mama for a reason, however, and I believe its because its not in my nature to just let this one go.  I will hold fast until the bitter end.  If my son had to be the one to bring Luc down, then he better stay down this time…right beside big Bubba where he belongs.

 

Rest in peace Shawn Katrina Mason.

 

 

Justice for baby Prince

True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Over the past two years, there have been many moments in which I have been ashamed of my country.  I grew up believing that if I was an honest person, who worked hard to positively contribute to society, I would always be able to turn to our justice system for help in dangerous times.  When I needed help, however, the justice system was not there for me.  The justice system allowed my sister to be assaulted and for the criminal who assaulted her to walk free, for me to be falsely arrested instead of protected from my abuser, for the Family Courts to ignore the dangerousness of my son’s father, and for several public servants to place my son in the hands of a disordered man who I believe murdered my 15 month old baby boy.  I have lived a nightmare since the day Luc walked into my life.  This nightmare reached epic proportions the day I left him, and since my son’s death has reached the unimaginable.

I am not alone in my quest for peace.  Every person (man or woman) who has found themselves in the grip of a psychopath comes to a point when they also crave peace.  As MLK Jr. stated so eloquently, peace does not only come with the absence of tension.  To a large degree, the tension I had with Luc no longer exists – Prince is gone and Luc has no more control over the person I cared most for in life – my son.  The tension was also reduced the day I realized that Luc was a lost cause, and that I truly didn’t care what happened to him (beyond justice for my son).  Though I will never again be in family court with this demon, it is impossible to truly have peace until justice is served.  While many men and women who have dealt with a psychopath may never receive the justice they deserve, today me and my son received a part of justice I feared may never come – Lucifer was arrested this morning.

The medical examiner report ruled my son’s death a homicide and that he was drowned.  Since my son was only 15 months old, Lucifer could be facing capital murder charges and the death penalty.

This piece of justice feels bitter sweet.  Had the justice system been there for us before now, my son would be here to celebrate this moment with me.  I am not sure that I will ever be able to forgive my country for the terrible injustices that led to the death of my son.  I am not sure if I will ever forgive myself for following the law and waiting for justice my son would not live long enough to see.  That being said, I realize that if I sit back and merely complain without attempting to change the system – I become part of the problem.  When I read the words of MLK Jr., and think about the incredible legacy that he left behind, I feel hopeful.  While many of the injustices he felt during his lifetime have improved, it was not without struggle.  Right now, we are facing new injustices and new problems.  We are facing a crisis directed at our children.  It has become part of my legacy (and the legacy of my son Prince) to see to it that no other child faces the same fate and no other mother will have to bury her son in this way.

One of the most vivid memories I have of my son happened on one summer day (a few short months before he died) when I was dancing with him up and down the driveway in front of our house.  I looked into his beautiful brown eyes and asked, “Are you going to dance with Mama on your wedding day Mr. Prince?”  Prince was laughing hysterically as I spun him around in circles to the silent music both of us imagined.  While my son was not verbal, if he could talk his answer would have been “No”.  It would have been “no” because Prince would never have a wedding day.  He would never be old enough to get married, and we would never again dance together.  I tell this story not to ask for pity, but to ask for your help in finding the justice my son, and every child, deserves.  Justice does not come from one mother screaming at the top of her lungs about what happened to her son – it comes from the power of many.  The civil rights movement was not a movement based on the words of one brave man; it was a movement afoot in a country that was tired of living in the shadows of injustice.  I am tired of living in a country where the courts allow children to be abused and killed by disordered parents and caregivers.  How about you?

Today was a big day for justice, but it was only a piece of the story and a pebble on the path of justice for our children.  I have often told you that this blog is not about Lucifer (that is one of the main reasons that I don’t use his true name).  Today, however, I want to share a letter with all of my readers that I have written to Luc (but will never send).  I imagine this letter could be used over and over again for many woman (and some men too) who have escaped (or hope to escape) a psychopath.  I encourage everyone to share their “goodbye letters” in the comments of this post.  Say goodbye and good riddance to the psychopath in your life and pledge to have “no contact” with this person in both the physical and in thought.  This is the first time I will address Luc – and it will also be the last.

 

Dear Lucifer,

I regret a lot of things in life, but I will never regret leaving you.  While we were together, I wrote love letter after love letter – hoping and praying that you would one day prove to me that you were the man I wanted you to be.  You never proved anything, because being that man was impossible.  You have taken a lot from me, but you have not ruined me.  I was strong before I met you, but now you have assisted me in becoming wiser and stronger than I ever believed I could be.  Prince was an angel.  I have always known that he saved my life, but now I realize that he likely saved many others.  Sometimes I think Shawn sent him here to protect her son from you.  Maybe your mother Alma sent him so that you would stop killing, conning, leaching, and abusing.   Prince’s true mission was one that I will never completely know until I am in heaven along with him.

Today is the beginning of the rest of my life.  After this moment, I will begin to forget about you.  I will move on, fall in love again, have more children, and one day remember Prince without remembering his unfortunate sperm donor.   I am fairly certain that you will remember me forever.  You are likely thinking that your current situation is my fault.  Don’t be confused Luc, this is part of your disorder.  You always said that you wondered if you were being punished for the bad things you had done in a past life (because you didn’t have money, were not a successful singer, or whatever thing you chose to complain about that day).  I am here to tell you the honest to God truth – you are being punished for the terrible things you are doing in this life.  Everything that is happening to you right now is of your own doing.  That very large and angry man who wants to make you his girlfriend (or maybe already has) is sharing that jail cell with you because of what you have done to the people who tried to love you.

You have destroyed everything that could have been good in your life.  Now, you have nothing.  You have become what you have feared the most – powerless and utterly irrelevant.  In jail you will probably still tell stories about how you believe you were in concert with Brittany Spears, Rihanna, or whatever other artist you will claim to personally know at the time.  The difference, however, is that now everyone knows how delusional you are so these stories will be nothing more than the stories of a crazy man who sits in prison for the rest of his miserable life.

Enjoy the media attention and the televised trial because it will be the last stage you will perform on.  Eventually, you will disappear along with the average news cycle, and nobody will think about you as you rot in jail where you belong.  And remember – you are sitting there because of the things you have done.  You took Prince’s life after only 15 months.  My little boy touched more people in a positive way than you will have in your lifetime.  In fact, I would challenge you to find just one person who will admit (after they learn who you really are) that you have touched their life in a positive way.

Good riddance Lucifer.  You are finally where you were meant to be – in chains, powerless, and forever in jail.

Truthfully and finally,

Prince’s Mama