“Friday, June 26th was like any other Friday. I had Ja’Kari, and he was going to spend the weekend with his dad because he’d asked to keep him. I had to work both of my serving jobs all weekend anyway, so I agreed it would be better for him to just stay, rather than me picking him up and dropping him back off again a few hours later. I got Ja’Kari and myself ready for him to go to his dad’s and me to go to work. I packed him a few outfits and his lion stuffed animal, put him in his car seat, and we were off.
His dad met me at our apartment complex, with his girlfriend. This was odd in itself, due to the fact he had always insisted we meet at the gym not too far from both of our apartments. Even though it was odd, I didn’t think too much into it. Maybe they were just on this side of town. I got Ja’kari out of his seat with his lion and told him to tell his daddy what it was. ‘Liiiiiiiiiion,’ he said. ‘What does the lion say?’ I asked. ‘RAWR,’ he whispered, as he always did. I was so proud, as lion was his first favorite animal. His dad took him to his car. I waved bye-bye and said, ‘Mommy loves you so much.’ That was the last time I held, saw, and kissed my one-year old son.
Later that night, while at work, I got a phone call from Ja’kari’s aunt, who lives in Alabama. She said, ‘Since the baby is already down here, can I keep him for a few days for the 4th of July?’ Already down here? ‘Already where?’ was my response. To my knowledge, my son was going to be with his dad in Bowling Green for the weekend. Not in Alabama. She continued on to say my son’s dad had brought him to Mobile, where he is originally from, and that since he was already in Alabama, she wanted to keep him. So, my son’s dad had left the state of Kentucky with my baby boy and taken him to Alabama without my knowledge or consent… Co-parenting with a narcissist is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.
I contacted him and we had an argument while I was working about how I should have at least been informed. ‘What if something happened, and I didn’t know where he was?’ What a strange thought to have: ‘What if something happened?’ As a mother, I’ve constantly had to make choices that hurt me in order to see my children happy, to watch them thrive and have the things they deserved, even when I couldn’t be the one to provide them with it. This situation was no different. For the 4th of July, I had to work. Why deny my baby of time with cousins and family, fireworks and cookouts, just because I don’t have those things to give him? Looking back, it was the single worst mistake I’ve made in my entire life.
I gave his aunt my permission to keep my son for the 4th of July. On June 31st, my son’s dad dropped him off in Sweet Water, Alabama. The entire weekend he was with his dad, I cried every day. I missed my baby so much it was causing problems with the people who were around me. The next few days he was with his aunt, I lay in my bed feeling sick, like something just wasn’t right. I even went to the doctor, thinking maybe I was really sick, because something was wrong. I didn’t feel good at all. Starting that Sunday, I would message his aunt multiple times a day to have her send pictures and video chat me. He would get upset when we video chatted because he missed me, and I missed him. So, toward the end of the week, she stopped letting him video chat because she was ‘afraid he would get upset.’ But, I never stopped messaging to check on him or asking for pictures to see how he was.
The conversations got smaller and things became even more odd. My son was supposed to return home Sunday night or Monday morning at the latest. On Saturday, July 4th, I messaged her earlier in the afternoon. ‘Good morning. How is my baby? Happy 4th of July!’ I didn’t get a response until 7 p.m. that night. And then, it only said, ‘He’s gud.’ I replied with a message asking if he had fun and if he had liked the fireworks or not. No response. Sunday, I didn’t wake up until around 12:15 p.m. I was late taking my oldest son to meet his dad. So, I jumped up, got in the car, and took him to meet his dad. At 12:30 p.m., I sent a message that said, ‘Is my baby okay?’ At 1:12 p.m., my phone rang. It was my baby’s aunt.
‘Tara, I need you to come to the country.’
Me, under the impression my son was being brought home by his uncle who lives in Louisville, responded, ‘Why? What’s wrong? What’s going on? Is my baby okay?’
Her response was, ‘I need you to come to Alabama as fast as possible.’ And she hung up the phone on me.
I called back multiple times, back to back to back, and got no answer. I messaged multiple times asking what was going on. She wouldn’t respond. I knew something had happened to my baby, even though she wouldn’t tell me. I finally said, ‘I need the address. I’m on my way. Please tell me my baby is okay.’
She responded with her address, and again, my heart sank. I called around trying to find my boyfriend for him to drive me, because I was a nervous wreck and knew something was really, really wrong. How could I make that 6 ½ hour drive alone? As I’m trying to get in contact with him, my phone rings again. This time it is from an aunt who lives here in Bowling Green.
‘Tara, who hurt your baby?’
‘What? What do you mean who HURT my baby? No one will tell me anything!’
‘They said there was an accident.’
‘I don’t know. No one will tell me what’s going on. Someone needs to tell me what happened and if my son is okay!’
‘No one has told you anything?’
‘No, please tell me what’s going on! Is he okay?’
‘They said he died.’
I immediately hung up the phone and kept calling his aunt who had him in her care. I couldn’t believe it until someone who was there told me something. I called the baby’s dad and asked him what was going on. Again, I got told he didn’t know. I called, messaged, cried, begged, and pleaded, but no one would tell me anything. I finally found my boyfriend and headed to Alabama. On the way, the entire way, I messaged and called and asked what happened. What was going on? Was he okay? And no one, not one person, would give me an answer.
Finally, I sent the aunt a message that said, ‘How can you do this to me? How can you not tell me what happened to my baby? I trusted you. Where is he? Where is the hospital? What happened to my baby?’ This time, she finally responded with the address to the hospital, which I looked up and called. I told them I didn’t know who I needed to speak with, but I thought they had my son, and I wanted to know what was going on. I was put on hold. The doctor answered the phone, and I repeated my statement again.
‘Yes ma’am. You mean to tell me no one from the family has contacted you yet?’
‘No sir. No one will tell me what’s going on. Will you just tell me if he’s okay?’
And then, just like that, everything went silent. The whole world stopped turning. It was dead silent.
‘I want to start by telling you your son was beautiful. My nurses and I did everything we could to save him, but your son drowned in the pool, and I pronounced him dead at 1:00 p.m.’
At 1:00 p.m., my son’s life was pronounced over. At 1:00 p.m. on July 5th, 2020, my life ended too. I asked the doctor to please keep my son until I could get to him, and said it would be another couple hours before I could get there. I knew if the coroner took him, I would never get to hold my baby again. He said he would try, and I hung up the phone. Again, I sent a bombard of messages asking questions and pleading for answers from his aunt, who refused to say anything other than, ‘When will you be here? How far out are you?’
So, here are the stories.
Aunt’s story to me:
‘The little girl came to the door and asked for some chips, so I brought her in and shut and locked the front door. I took her to the kitchen and got her some chips. Then, I went out the back door and asked, ‘Where is Kari?’ They all said he wasn’t out there, so I went back in the house looking for him. My daddy said they are going to try to take my kids for neglect, so I have to get them out of here. I’m sorry but I can’t lose my kids too.’
Uncle’s story to me:
‘I woke up around 11:30 a.m. and all the kids were already outside, which seemed odd because we all usually wait and go outside at the same time. I woke up and went to the bathroom. I was in there about 30 minutes, and then, I went out the back door where the kids were. I was only out there long enough to look around, and then, she (the aunt) came out and asked where ‘Cori’ was. I had to ask her who. And she said, ‘Nephew.’ I ran to the pool first thing, and he was in there floating. I got him out and tried to do CPR until the first responders got here and took him from me. I asked her afterwards what happened. She told me she just saw him on the porch with my daughter. I don’t know Tara, I think something else happened, but I don’t know what.’
First responder’s story:
‘I overheard the call on my radio. I was off work, but I knew I was close to the area. I hoped if I got there fast enough, I could help. When I got there, there were many children and adults on scene. It looked as if they were having some type of get together. When I arrived, I ran in the house and the baby was face down on the couch with a man with dreads pushing on his chest and back trying to get water out of him. I took him from the man and immediately started mouth-to-mouth and CPR. I asked, ‘How long has this baby been down?’ No one responded. So, I asked again. ‘How long has he not been breathing? I’m trying to save his life, and I need to know.’ To which the aunt responded, ‘I just went around the house for a minute.’ There were so many vehicles there, we had to tell them to move them for the ambulance. I kept saying to your baby, ‘Your momma and daddy love you. Please come back baby.’ No one ever corrected the fact they were not his parents. Not until after he had passed did the uncle say no, they weren’t his parents. His parents are on their way from Kentucky. I even had to tell the doctor they were not his parents. There were multiple adults at the hospital. I stayed as long as I could and left around 3:46 p.m.’
The sheriff told me the aunt had told the deputy all the kids were outside, and she called them in for lunch. When they came in, she realized he wasn’t with them.
The aunt has told four different stories, just right there. Since these stories were told to me, the aunt has since called to tell me she didn’t do anything to hurt him, and even though I’m going through something, asked that I don’t talk down on her or her children, because I suggested maybe one of the kids had put him in the pool. I haven’t heard from her since. The uncle changed his story and said he never said he thought something else happened, and I need to stop blaming and accusing them of being the evil that would hurt my son.
The first responder was contacted by the investigating deputy, and basically intimidated to the point where she doesn’t want to speak to me unless the conversation is recorded or through text message, so information isn’t construed. They called her right after I called, telling them they needed to look further into it because the stories didn’t add up, and my son wasn’t physically capable of climbing the pool stairs alone. They told her she should never have talked to me, or ‘given her hope something other than an accident happened to her baby.’ They said she shouldn’t have told me his hair was dry, which is one of the things she didn’t tell me. I was unaware of this information until he gave it to me himself.
Alabama child protective services sent me on a wild goose chase, telling me Kentucky had to investigate it, not them, since we lived here. When I finally did get in touch with the woman responsible, she told me it was obviously neglect, and she would have to turn it over to the DA. But, the DA’s office says they haven’t been given anything from the police or DHR. I contacted a private detective who says he can take the case for a $5,000-retainer fee, and $8,000 to $10,000 to complete. I’ve spoken to several lawyers who say there’s not much they can do because there is no financial gain to be obtained because these people didn’t have insurance policies.
I’m being played for the fool, stonewalled, and sent running on wild goose chases. I’ve been told, ‘Maybe she was experiencing trauma, and that’s why all her stories are different.’ I’ve been told there is no way to prove my baby did not climb the pool stairs alone. No one will help me get the justice Kar Kar deserves. So, if any of you know anyone who can help, please send them my way, or me theirs. It’s clearly evident these people are living their lives normally. They don’t even post pictures or thoughts of my son, and still have custody of their children, while mine is 6 feet underground. I do believe someone put my baby in that pool. Please help me get justice for Kar Kar.
My son was 15 months old, 2′ 7″, and weighed 31 lbs. There were three stairs to this pool, all measuring 12 inches apart. The pool was four feet deep and 12-14 feet around. He did not get in there alone. There is no way.”
Support Tara’s journey here.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tara Shaw. To support Tara, please donate here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more stories like this:
‘Momma, I ‘dopted now!’ My son was bitten, strangled, and starved. He had 15 broken bones.’: Couple adopt Shaken Baby Syndrome survivor, ‘he was always ours, now we have the papers to say so’
‘I ran to the laundry room. Something told me to put my hands in the washing machine. I resisted. No way. Are you kidding me? Of course he is not in the washing machine.’: Infant son dies from drowning in washing machine
SHARE this important story to help gain justice for Kar Kar.