Children Lost Both Parents In Wreck
I'd like to thank you for taking the time to read this. I am a State Trooper with the Georgia State Patrol. Our purpose is to work cooperatively with all levels of government to provide a safe environment for residents and visitors to our state. We are primarily focused on the enforcement of traffic laws, as well as the investigation of crashes - which brings me here.
This past Halloween (October 31st 2015), I overheard an operator going over the details of a wreck with a trooper that was a couple counties away. "Single vehicle wreck with possible fatalies" she regretably informed. I urgently typed the provided address into my GPS - the wreck wasn't but twenty minutes away. I started making my way down the road, letting dispatch know I would be en route.
After a drive that would feel like an eternity, I could see a display of blue, red and amber lights in the distance. I exited my patrol car and felt the stillness in the air - the emergency personel weren't scurring and a crowd of witnesses were covering their mouths off to the side. I approached the horrific scene to validate what I had already suspected. We conducted our investigations and were now responsible for contacting the familes of the two occupants involved. They had matching addresses, which was less than a mile away.
A county deputy, the deputy coroner and myself made our way to the house that was backed into the woods. You could hear dogs barking behind the wooden door as we knocked with desperation. The door hesitantly opened and there behind the locked screen door stood four children in full costume - a 13-year-old Freddy Krueger, 10-year-old daughter of a Dracula, 8-year-old wizard and a 6-year-old that appeared to be a firefighting ninja turtle. We were lost with words. The deputy then asked the eldest boy if anybody was home, hoping for a 'Yes' but the boy would unknowingly disappoint us. "My parents went to the store to get more face paint. They told us not to open the door for anybody, but they should be back soon."
We would stall for the next hour while we frantically search the national databases for the closest relative. We were able to reach the kids' paternal grandmother. She had wished for my call to be a cruel Halloween Prank. I urged her to please come to the house and claim custody of the children. She informed me that she lived in south Florida, but would be on her way. During my phone conversation, I watched through my windshield as the three youngest children ran around the yard, laughing.
The sun was set and their grandmother wouldn't arrive for seven hours. I'm nearly a quarter century old in age; I've never been responsible for a child's life and suddenly I was the custodian of four. I didn't know what else I could do, so I squeezed the talk button on my radio and asked radio to notify the Department of Family and Child Services.
I immediately fell ill. Not only would these children discover they lost both parents, but would spend their Halloween in a county jail until somebody could tend to them; it just wasn't right. I pulled the deputy coroner to the side and told him that I was split. I wanted to preserve these kids' Halloween and the ones to come. I suggested that I'd care for them until their family was able to. Being a retired commander with the state patrol, I desired his approval, which he eagerly gave.
I ran over to the kids and asked if any of them would like to go eat with me. Again, they mentioned their parents would be arriving soon. It was important to me that I would not lie to them. I acknowledge their statement and threw out that their grandmother would be meeting with us later that evening. They piled into the unit and buckled up. I activated the emergency equipment in a poor attempt to occupy their minds. The eldest son told me that he thought my campaign cover and two trooper ball caps were cool. I thanked him for his compliment and told him he could wear them, if he chooses. When I asked where they liked to eat, I was bombarded with four seperate suggestions. They all had two cravings in common; Ice cream and candy.
The three youngest, who were sitting in the back couldn't control their excitment. The little girl mentioned that going out to eat was rare in their family because her mom is such a great cook. Another part of me torn. We stopped by McDonald's to grab the 10-year-old a large fry and the 6-year-old a Happy Meal, as requested. We then drove several miles to the nearest Burger King; the 8-year-old desired a Whopper with onions on it. I ordered us all milkshakes, again hopping to absorb as much time as possible.
As the group enjoyed their meals, I slipped away to answer a call from my Corporal. He had called to check up on me and was made aware of the situation. I have the best supervisors in the state, so I wasn't suprised when he told me that he was bringing his wife and their son to meet us. The manager suggested that we stayed as long as we needed to, but it was time for us to get going. She gave the group some crowns to wear and said her goodbyes. The eldest son hugged her tightly and said, "We give hugs in our family." as the younger siblings followed the lead.
I asked the children if they were wanting to find some candy. They all cheered and load back into the car. The girl asked if I was a fan of Law and Order: SVU. I couldn't help but laugh. I joked that she couldn't possibly enjoy that show at her age. She interjected that she was a fan of many police shows, but "nobody was better than Olivia and Stabler". She stressed that she records every episode but her DVR no longer has space. She had plans to help clear the reruns with her mother.
The eldest son, who sat to my right would carry on in convesations that were beyond his age. We discussed topics such as the observable universe and his father's service with the military. He explained to me that his father served in the United States Army for eight years, completing two tours; one to Afghanistan and the other in Iraq. He told me how intelligent his father is, even sharing some of his idea for inventions to better the lives of fellow soldiers. He further explained that his father was honorably discharged after tearing his ACL.
I was amazed at the maturity level of the "Kids". I asked how'd they get to be so smart. They gave credit to their parents, whom homeschooled each of them. The eldest stated his mother was the teacher, but his father was the principal. We both chuckled.
As we made our way to the post, the boys celebrated me "being the best cop ever". They didn't know I was bearing terrible news, so I struggled to accept the praise. We made it to the post and I gave them a tour. I explained to them how we accept each other as family and that the post was a shared home. I further explained that being that it was our home, they shouldn't be surprised should other people drop in. That was my attempt to disspell any suspicion they may gain after my Corporal arrived.
It was now about 10PM. My Corporal arrived with his family, bringing some candy, popcorn and a variety of Disney films. The three youngest sat on the couch, while the eldest read a magazine. I had to excuse myself after receiving a phone call from a number I did not recognize. It was the Sheriff of the county where the family was from. He had heard about what occured and asked if there was anything he could do to help. I told him they children wanted candy and I that we were running low. He stated he would do his best and would be in touch.
As we watched Monster House, there was a knock at the door. It was three residents that heard the news and felt the need to help. In their hands were decorated goodie bags made up of candy and small toys! The kids were absolutely delighted and the visitors helped with entertainment. Shortly after they left, the Sheriff arrived carrying four holiday buckets full of candy! The kids were so excited, especially the lilttle girl that loves cop shows. She stood on the couch and explained how she never met a real sheriff before. The sheriff was touched by the children. He held conversations with each beofre pulling the 13-year-old to the side and presented him with a miniature deputies badge, made of metal. I could tell the boy admired the gift.
The night continued and it would be another five hours before their grandmother arrived. We have several bedrooms on location, each with their own bathroom. We suggested they stay the night until their grndmother arrived; they agreed so we escorted them to their rooms. After their showers, they were tucked into bed. The little girl grabbed my attention when she said "You turned an F-Minus day into an A-Plus night!" I can't begin to explain how hard it was to hear that, considering the night would be memorable but for reasons that were yet to be disclosed to them.
Grandmother arrived just before dawn. We discussed the mechanics of the crash, her role as their guardian and options availble when it comes to funeral arrangements. We both agreed that it would be best for the children to finish sleeping and to be told of their parent's fate the next day. We hoped that they would then relate the tragedy to November 1st, rather than Halloween. After the kids woke up, we walked them to the truck so that they could head home. The 13-year-old would remind us of the task ahead by saying "Hopefully mom and dad will be home by now." I wanted to remain in these kids lives, so I took one of my trooper ball caps and on the bill, I wrote a note telling the eldest to never change. I also wrote down my number so that he could contact me if he needed support.
I told you all that to help you understand the series of unfortunate events:
The children lost both parents.
They children will now be moved from Georgia to Florida.
Due to the move, they will be placed into public schools.
And they would have to rid of their pets (they have about six dogs; two of which are pregnant) because their guardians are unable to tend to them.
I was contacted by the 13-year-old this morning; I was glad he felt comfortable reaching out to me. He told me that it is going to cost his grandparents $7,000 dollars to transport his parents to Florida and the remaining funeral costs.
The Georgia State Patrol as four core values: Trust, Fortitude, Professionalism and Compassion. Although, you may not be a Georgia State Trooper, I'm hoping you could help me with the compassion part. All sums donated will be given directly to the family to be used for funeral costs. Any additional donations after our initial $7,000 goal is reached, will be placed into a trust fund that is setup by the family and will be used to provide higher education to the four children involved.
This is important to me because I have bonded so closely with this family. We weighed out other options and I strongly disagree with the parents being left in Georgia, while the family remains in Florida. These children must be able to visit their parents' graves during their adolescent years and well into their adult years.
Considering the circumstances, the need for donations is urgent. Any donation amount will help, but if you are unable to donate I appreicate you taking the time to read and share this message.
I hope this post reaches you without delay. I'm sorry there hasn't been a formal GoFundMe update. I hope you understand how busy I've been between the upcoming wedding and planning this trust fund.
I have had several meetings with attorneys and the judge about setting setting up a conservatorship with an unbiased, third party guardian of the funds. I was told that the guardian may be declared this upcoming Monday. The conservatorship will allow the family to make use of the funds for general spending, while they await a finalization of a trust fund.
Again, the guardian MAY be declared on Monday. Meaning if one is NOT declared, then the funds still won't be available.
I was contacted by Justin this morning saying they are in need of clothing. If anybody has some clothes that they plan to donate at their local center, please send a couple articles to the kids.
If you haven't already, please find and follow the 'Operation Howard Kids' Facebook page. This page is being managed by Kendra and Pete with the Student Veterans of America. Those two have my personal cell number and are able to reach me should the need arise. They are doing a fantastic job at posting updates and contacting me with questions. The page is in not affiliated with myself or my department. However, they allow me to have admin status so that I can view individual messages/posts and assist in providing answers.
I want to continue to give thanks to all the donors and those that have been sharing the endless articles on the story. The children have buried their parents yesterday and reality is beginning to set in.
I want to also give praise to GOD for he is good and all is done through Him.
Thanks for being involved and as always, Stay safe.
I just received the sizes you all have been requesting. Please review below:
Trayvion (6yo, male)
Born: February 18th, 2009
Daimean (8yo, male)
Born: January 12th, 2007
Amiah (10yo, female)
Born: January 13th, 2005
Justin (13yo, male)
Born: March 5th, 2002
Pants: 32 waist, 29 inseam
Crystal was born March 5th and Donald was born October 12th. Their anniversary was June 9th.
Remember, if you plan on sending donations use the following information:
Operation Howard Kids
PO Box 21199
Bradenton, FL 34204
'Operation Howard Kids' now has their own Facebook which was created and operated by Student Veterans of America.
I want to remind you all that none of this could have been possible without the help of your donations and sharing. I am so grateful that you all have reached out and took care of this family. Thanks for keeping this all about them and continue to be great!
As always, stay safe.
Please continue to keep this family in your prayers. Grandma Stephanie has been admitted to the hospital once again. This time with a more serious condition. There is just a lot for them to be taking on right now, considering the burial isn't planned until late in this upcoming week.
Tomorrow, the parents will be departing from Gregory B. Levett and Sons funeral home here in Georgia. They have been a great help during this process and I can't thank them enough for their understanding while we continue to work on the trust fund.
The family's attorney, Diana Rugh Johnson, PC is filing a petition for an emergency conservatorship here in Georgia. The conservatorship will allow the attorney to make a withdraw on behalf of the family and use the funds when necessary, until the trust fund is finalize. Because courts are not open on the weekend, there is a delay.
Many have asked about the trust fund being set up. I have a meeting with an attorney from Florida, who was referred by the Sarasota County Sheriff. During our meeting, the rules to the trust will be discussed and hopefully finalized.
It is important to all sides of the family that the funds are directly deposited into a trust, rather than a personal checking account.
Please keep the family in your prayers. As you can tell there are many moving parts.
Topics covered is the condition of Grandma, the trust fund, address for donations to be sent, birth dates and clothing sizes.
Thank you again for keeping this family in your prayers and supporting them through this loss.
As always, stay safe.
If the 10 year old girl was dressed as the Daughter of Dracula then she must be a Monster High fan. I have worked on that brand for 8 years. I would love to be able to send her a care package of MH goodies. If that's possible please let me know where I could send it.
Because the children might read this I want to say something to the 4 of you. I have a little girl, her name is Brooklyn and she is 7.As a mommy I thought about if I had to leave my little one what would I want her to know.. By the sound of what the police officer wrote.. You are amazing kids! Keep Hugging each other ( because you "give hugs in your family") remember all the love. Remember the little things they taught you. Your parents have raised some pretty special children ❤️. Keep growing in that direction. Be good to each other and I promise they are right next to you, everyday every minute .
This story is almost unbelievable !!! The passion this trooper and others who were involved are ANGELS! TRUE HEROS! My heart breaks for these children and the grandparents. God has a plan and this trooper was part of this plan. His true passion and selflessness is an inspiration ! God Bless him GA State Trooper Post employees and members of the community who came to the aid of these children without hesitation. What an amazing story!!!!! My prayers are with the family and anyone who was involved.
If you will read the updates, it states that there will be new interviews tonight. As a matter of fact, I just watched Fox 5 Atlanta's interview and it in fact stated these victims names. The fact that some would even question this heartbreaking story is absurd to me. I hope you both take into consideration the realness of this tragedy and pray for this family.
It is heartwarming to see how quickly the good people of FB have stepped up to help this family. Grandma has her hands full though, and may even need a bigger house, car, or whatever to accommodate her now expanded family. I suggest not stopping at the cost of moving the parents to FL and think a little additional is in order. Just my opinion.....
This is heart breaking! I hope these kids find peace and I hope there will be more donations! Somebody should probably contact some TV shows maybe extreme makeover for a bigger home 4 kids need a lot of space, and maybe the Ellen show ! ? Just a thought! I wish these children all the best for their future!