“It was just another Friday on June 26th. Ja’Kari was with me, and he was going to spend the weekend with his father, who had requested to keep him. I had to work both of my service jobs all weekend anyhow, so I agreed that he should just remain instead of my picking him up and dropping him off again a few hours later. Ja’Kari and I were getting ready to go to his father’s house, and I was getting ready to go to work. I packed a couple of clothing for him and his toy lion, strapped him into his car seat, and we were on our way.
His father and his girlfriend came to see me in our apartment complex. This was strange in and of itself, because he had usually insisted on meeting at a gym close to both of our apartments. Even though it seemed strange, I didn’t give it much thought. Maybe they were only passing by. I helped Ja’kari out of his seat with his lion and advised him to inform his father. ‘Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii ‘How does the lion respond?’ I inquired. He murmured, ‘RAWR,’ as he always did. I was ecstatic because the lion was his first and favorite animal. He was driven to his automobile by his father. ‘Mommy loves you very much,’ I said as I waved goodbye. My one-year-old kid was the last person I held, saw, and kissed.
Ja’kari’s aunt, who lives in Alabama, called me later that night while I was at work. ‘Since the baby is already here, can I keep him for a few days for the Fourth of July?’ she asked. Are you already down here? ‘Already where?’ I exclaimed. My son was supposed to spend the weekend in Bowling Green with his father, as far as I knew. In Alabama, no. She went on to claim that my son’s father had brought him to Mobile, Alabama, where he was born, and that she wanted to keep him because he was already in the state. So, without my knowledge or approval, my son’s father had left Kentucky with my baby child and taken him to Alabama… One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do is co-parent with a narcissist.
I contacted him, and while I was at work, we got into a fight about how I should have been notified at the very least. ‘What if something occurred and I couldn’t find him?’ ‘What if something happened?’ is an odd notion to have. As a mother, I’ve had to make difficult decisions in order to see my children happy, to see them succeed, and to provide them with the things they needed, even when I couldn’t be the one to do so. This instance was no exception. I had to work on the 4th of July. Why should I deprive my infant time with cousins and family, fireworks, and cookouts just because I don’t have them? In retrospect, that was the single worst decision I’ve ever made.
I granted his aunt permission to keep my son on July 4th. My son’s father dropped him off at Sweet Water, Alabama on June 31st. I sobbed every day for the entire weekend he was with his father. I was missing my baby so terribly that it was bothering the others around me. I slept in my bed for the following few days while he was with his aunt, feeling nauseous and uneasy. I even went to the doctor, believing I was seriously ill since something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t in the best of moods. I began messaging his aunt many times a day on Sunday, requesting that she give me images and video chat with me. When we video talked, he would get agitated because he missed me and I missed him. As a result, she stopped letting him video chat toward the end of the week because she was ‘afraid he might get offended.’ But I never stopped emailing him to see how he was doing or to ask for pictures to see how he was doing.
The chats became more intimate, and the situation became even stranger. My kid was due to be home late Sunday night or early Monday morning. I messaged her early in the afternoon on Saturday, July 4th. ‘Good morning, everyone. How is my child doing? ‘Have a wonderful 4th of July!’ That night, around 7 p.m., I received an answer. Then it just said, ‘He’s good.’ I responded with a message asking if he had a good time and if he enjoyed the fireworks. There was no reaction. I didn’t get up until 12:15 p.m. on Sunday. I was running late for my oldest son’s meeting with his father. So I leapt to my feet, leaped into my car, and drove him to meet his father. ‘Is my baby okay?’ I asked at 12:30 p.m. in a text message. My phone rang at 12:12 p.m. It was my baby’s aunt who called.
‘Tara, I require your presence in the country.’
‘Why?’ I said, thinking my son was being taken home by his uncle, who lives in Louisville. What’s the matter? What exactly is going on? Is my child all right?’
‘I need you to come to Alabama as soon as possible,’ she replied. She then abruptly hung up on me.
I called back several times, back to back to back, but received no response. I messaged her several times, inquiring as to what was going on. She was deafeningly silent. Even though she refused to tell me, I sensed something had happened to my kid. ‘I need the address,’ I finally said. I’m already on my way. Please reassure me that my baby is fine.’
My heart plummeted once more when she replied with her address. Because I was a nervous wreck and sensed something was seriously wrong, I called around to find my boyfriend and ask him to drive me. I didn’t think I’d be able to make the six-and-a-half-hour travel by myself. My phone rings again as I’m attempting to contact him. It’s from an aunt who lives in Bowling Green this time.
‘Who injured your baby, Tara?’
‘What? What exactly do you mean by “who harmed my baby”? Nobody is going to tell me anything!’
‘They stated it was an accident,’ says the narrator.
‘I’m not sure.’ Nobody is willing to tell me what is going on. Someone needs to inform me of what happened and whether or not my son is safe!’
‘Hasn’t anyone told you anything?’
‘No, please tell me what’s up!’ Is he all right?’
“They said he died,’ says the narrator.
I instantly hung up and continued contacting his aunt, who was caring for him. I couldn’t believe it until I heard anything from someone who was present. I called the baby’s father and inquired about the situation. I was informed he didn’t know yet again. I called, texted, wept, pleaded, and cried some more, but no one would listen. I finally tracked down my sweetheart and made my way to Alabama. I texted and called throughout the journey, inquiring as to what had happened. What exactly was going on? Was he all right? And no one, not a single person, would respond.
Finally, I addressed an email to the aunt, asking, “How can you do this to me?” How can you keep me in the dark about what happened to my baby? I had faith in you. What happened to him? What is the location of the hospital? ‘Where did my baby go?’ She finally responded this time with the hospital’s address, which I looked up and dialed. I explained that I didn’t know who I needed to speak with, but that I believed they were holding my son and that I needed to know what was going on. I was put on hold for a while. When the doctor picked up the phone, I repeated my remark.
‘Yes, ma’am,’ I replied. ‘Are you saying no one from your family has contacted you yet?’
‘Sir, no. Nobody is willing to tell me what is going on. Will you just let me know if he’s all right?’
Then, all of a sudden, everything fell silent. The entire universe came to a halt. It was completely silent.
‘I’d like to begin by complimenting you on your son’s beauty. My nurses and I tried everything we could to save him, but he drowned in the pool, and I declared him dead at 1:00 p.m.’
My son’s life was declared over at 1:00 p.m. My life came to an end at 1:00 p.m. on July 5th, 2020. I requested the doctor to please keep my son until I could get there, and I told him it would be another couple of hours. I knew I’d never get to hold my son again if the coroner took him. I hung up the phone after he said he’d try. I sent a barrage of messages to his aunt, asking questions and crying for answers, but she would only repeat, ‘When will you be here?’ ‘How far out do you think you are?’
So, here are some of the tales.
Aunt’s story to me was as follows:
‘When the little girl came to the door and asked for chips, I took her in and closed and locked the front door. I escorted her to the kitchen and procured some chips for her. ‘Where is Kari?’ I inquired as I exited the rear door. They all stated he wasn’t out there, so I returned home to search for him. They’re going to try to remove my kids for negligence, so I have to get them out of here, according to my father. Sorry, but I can’t lose my children as well.’
Uncle’s story to me was as follows:
‘I awoke at 11:30 a.m. to find that all of the kids were already outside, which seemed strange because we generally all wait and go outside at the same time. I got out of bed and went to the restroom. I stayed for around 30 minutes before exiting by the back door, where the kids were. I was only out there for a few minutes before she (the aunt) came out and inquired about ‘Cori.’ I had to inquire as to who she was. ‘Nephew,’ she added. I dashed to the pool first thing in the morning, and there he was, floating. I helped him out and attempted CPR until the first responders arrived and carried him away. Afterward, I inquired as to what had occurred. She informed me that she had just seen him with my daughter on the porch. I’m not sure, Tara; I believe something more occurred, but I’m not sure what.’
The account of a first responder:
‘I was listening to my radio when I heard the call. I wasn’t working, but I knew I was near by. I hoped that if I arrived quickly enough, I would be able to assist. When I arrived, there were a large number of children and people present. They appeared to be enjoying some sort of get-together. When I arrived, the infant was face down on the couch, with a man with dreadlocks pressing on his chest and back, attempting to extract water. I got him away from the man and began mouth-to-mouth and CPR right away. ‘How long has this baby been down?’ I inquired. There was no reaction. So I inquired once more. ‘Has he been breathing for a long time?’ I need to know because I’m attempting to save his life.’ ‘I just went around the house for a minute,’ the aunt said. We had to tell them to relocate their vehicles to make room for the ambulance because there were so many. ‘Your mama and daddy love you,’ I continued telling your baby. Please, baby, return.’ No one ever said anything about there not being his parents. The uncle didn’t say nay until after he had passed away, claiming that they were not his parents. His folks have arrived from Kentucky. It was even necessary for me to inform the doctor that they were not his parents. At the hospital, there were several grownups. I stayed as long as I could before leaving at 3:46 p.m.’
The sheriff informed me that the aunt had informed the deputy that all of the children were outdoors, and she had summoned them for lunch. She noticed he wasn’t with them as they entered.
Right there, the aunt has told four separate stories. Since these stories were revealed to me, the aunt has called to say she didn’t do anything to damage him and, despite the fact that I’m going through a difficult time, she has asked that I not criticize her or her children since I suspected one of the kids might have thrown him in the pool. Since then, I haven’t heard from her. I need to quit criticizing and accusing them of being the evil that would harm my son, and the uncle changed his tale and said he never said he thought something else happened.
The investigating deputy called the first responder, who was basically frightened to the point that she won’t speak to me unless we record the conversation or communicate via text message so that information isn’t construed. They phoned her shortly after I called, saying they needed to check into it more because the tales didn’t line up and my son couldn’t physically climb the pool stairs alone. They told her she should never have spoken to me or ‘gave her hope that her baby was not killed in an accident.’ They claimed she shouldn’t have told me his hair was dry, which was one of the secrets she kept from me. This information was unknown to me until he revealed it to me.
Because we lived in Kentucky, Alabama child protective services sent me on a wild goose chase, telling me that they had to investigate it, not them. When I finally reached out to the woman in charge, she told me it was blatant negligence and that she would have to report it to the DA. The DA’s office, on the other hand, claims that neither the police nor DHR have handed them anything. I phoned a private investigator, who said he could handle the case for a $5,000 retainer and $8,000 to $10,000 to finish. I’ve spoken with a few lawyers who say there’s not much they can do because there’s no money to be made because these people don’t have insurance coverage.
I’m being played for a fool, stonewalled, and lead on a merry-go-round. ‘Perhaps she was traumatized, which is why all of her stories are different,’ I was told. There’s no way to verify my daughter didn’t climb the pool stairs by herself, I’ve been told. No one will assist me in getting Kar Kar the justice he deserves. So, if you know anyone who might be able to assist, either send them my way or send me theirs. These people appear to be going about their daily lives normally. They don’t even post photographs or thoughts about my son on social media, yet they still have custody of their children, despite the fact that mine is 6 feet beneath. Someone, I believe, threw my baby into the pool. Please assist me in obtaining justice for Kar Kar.
My son was 15 months old, 2 feet 7 inches tall, and weighed 31 pounds. This pool had three stairs, each measuring 12 inches apart. The pool was four feet deep and twelve to fourteen feet in diameter. He didn’t get in there by himself. “It’s not possible.”
The story and photos: Courtesy of Tara Shaw