The one thing I have told all my friends about living in small town Florida is that “nothing bad ever happens here” but like any city in America there is always something. Back in 2008 before I moved here there was the case of Denise Amber Lee who was taken from her home while her two young sons were home with her. And I am still uncomfortable with that tragedy as I stay at home alone every day. Denise did everything right to save her own life but those who were sworn to protect her failed her. The police in 2 different counties and 2 different dispatch offices failed her. Its a sad reality. Slowly, the city moved on from the tragic death of Denise Lee until recently we were hit hard with the missing child report of a 9 week old baby named Chance.
In the early morning hours of September 16 in a duplex in small town North Port, a couple argues. According to Kristen Bury, the mother and one of the suspects, her boyfriend and father of baby Chance starts beating his son and tells her that he is going to break his fucking neck. Also according to Kristen, Joseph said that he was going to bash the baby’s head into the ground. Joseph reportedly shoved the pacifier into the baby’s mouth so hard/far it caused him to bleed. He took him into the bathroom and came back saying there was a baby wipe stuck in his throat. They had trouble dislodging the wipe and caused even more trauma to Chance trying to remove the wipe from his mouth. In the probable cause affidavit the detective conducting the interview chose “hand/fist/feet” as the weapon used in the murder. At the point Chance died the couple then decided not to call for help. Kristen reportedly told her love that she didn’t want to lose both the people she loves in one day. They placed Chance in his crib and left him there where over the course of the next few hours he gasped for air. Over the course of the next couple days he started to decompose and smell… it was then that she told Joe that he needed to do something with the baby. He was placed in numerous trash bags and his body placed in the closet. On September 24th before the sun rose and brought with it the Florida heat, the couple went and dug a hole in a remote location among trash and overgrown land. They went back to their home and retrieved the body of their son and took him to the hole they dug for him and buried his remains. Joseph Walsh was wearing blue latex gloves and Chance was wearing nothing but a diaper. They took more care in the things they had on than what they put on their child.
Over the next couple days they ignored visitors and prepared to leave the state to “start a new life”… they made it as far as South Carolina before they ended up getting into a car accident and having to explain where their son was. On Oct 4th the step mother of Kristen Bury called police to tell them that she hadn’t seen her grandson in about a month and her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend told conflicting stories about a car accident they were in. When the couple was in an accident in South Carolina they called home to tell the family about their wreck. They told one set of parents that the baby died in the accident, and another set of parents that the baby was hurt in the accident. They also told others that they had left the baby with someone in Georgia. When police tracked down the lady in Georgia, they were told that Kristen tried to sell her some baby clothes and was told that the baby had passed away a few weeks earlier. All of this was part of their attempt at a new life somewhere else where no one would know that they had a little boy that they beat to death.
As a result of the phone call by Kristen’s step mother, the police made a visit to the home of Kristen and Joseph. It was there that they found blood spatter believed to be that of baby Chance up the wall and on light fixtures in the room. This would have one to believe that he suffered a painful and horrific death at the hands of his parents. Even if it was just his father who beat him, his mother did nothing to stop him. Her reasoning for not calling 911 was that she didn’t want to lose both people she loved in the same day. In talking to those close to Kristen and in my research for this article, I believe the reason she didn’t call 911 is because she didn’t want to lose the only one she loved. She had told others that she thought Chance would be her saving grace to get over the death of her son Duane who was only 2 weeks old when he died a year before Chance was born. But Chance tho named with the best intentions, was not given a chance. He was named in irony.
Just a short trip up I75 in a city called Bradenton, just days after the body of Chance was discovered the news broke the story of a missing 11yr old girl named Janiya Thomas. Keishanna Thomas a mother of 5 was in court on a Friday afternoon to respond to an order to surrender her children… the only problem was only 4 of the 5 children were available. When she was asked where her daughter was she refused to answer any questions and was subsequently held in contempt of court. The judge thought that doing so would get her to respond to questions regarding the whereabouts of her 11yr old daughter.
One of the 5 children (Janiya is the only one who has been named) who is a 12yr old boy called DCF to complain of abuse at the hands of his mother. It was then that DCF started looking into the behavior of Keishanna and what was going on in the home. It was then they decided to proceed with a court order to remove the kids from the home. The last contact that DCF had with Janiya was in August of 2014. Could her daughter really have been missing for over a year? Reports from the children is that they haven’t seen their sister in that long either. They went to school one day and they came home and their sister was gone.
Their sister Janiya suffered from a condition that affected her GI tract and her intestines. This condition has yet to be named specifically but it has been linked to the death of Janiya’s father. This condition made it difficult for Janiya to be able to tell when she needed to go to the bathroom and would soil herself all the time. Because of this medical condition her mother kept her in the bathroom as part of systemic abuse against her and the other kids. Her 12-year-old son told police and DCF that his mother slapped him, punched him, and threw him against a mirror. She is being charged with aggravated child abuse in regards to the abuse against her son.
A couple of days before the order was put into effect for DCF to come take her children, Keishanna and a male friend dropped off a pad locked freezer with the only instruction being that it needed to stay plugged in. When news circulated in the area that Janiya was missing, one of the family members broke the lock on the freezer only to discover the body of the 11-year-old missing girl. Janiya was pulled out of school in 2013 and Keishanna told the school she was going to be home schooled from now on. In January of 2015 she notified the school that they had moved out of their district. No one ever checked in with the family to see how Janiya was doing in school. No one checked on them when the other DCF cases were opened.
Where did things go wrong with these two families? Was it really the fault of Department of Children and Families for not stepping in sooner and saving these kids? Kristen had 1 child die before and was forced to put another up for adoption when she tried to sell it for drugs in the past. Joseph Walsh was no stranger to the system as he had his rights taken away from multiple children before. And Keishanna had her run in with them on many occasions as well. So what happened that made them think THIS time was different? What made the department think that THIS time the kids were going to be ok? When Kristen was in the hospital someone called DCF and told them that Kristen was using drugs and was homeless.. this was before she even took Chance out of the hospital! DCF called and spoke to her nurse and was told she didn’t show signs of someone using so she was allowed to go home. No one came to check. No one came to see where she was taking him to. The same was the situation with Janiya. No one came to check on her when she was suddenly pulled into being home schooled. Knowing she had a medical condition, no one checked on her. How many kids are falling thru the cracks that no one remembers to check on?
I understand that the system gets bogged down with so many children and not enough social workers… but also what about the families? Why does no one bang down the doors? Why aren’t they demanding to see these kids? Why is no one helping to take care of these children? When I attended the vigil for Chance, I didn’t hear anyone say “I wish I could have done more” “I wish I had broken down the door when I went to visit” “I wish I called sooner”… In both cases the kids were missing for a substantial amount of time and no one did anything about it. In the case of Chance, the family says they hadn’t seen him in a month when they called police. And that was only AFTER the parents left town and gave conflicting stories about where the baby was. What were the stories BEFORE they left town as to why the couldn’t see the baby? Kristen’s stepmother Sally told police she hadn’t seen Chance since September 9 and called police on October 4… Chance didn’t die until September 16 and was buried around the 24 with the parents leaving town around the 26. So what were the stories during that time when they were still in town? What were they being told then? Janiya hadn’t been seen by DCF since August 2014. The kids hadn’t seen her since then either. What were the stories being told to the family? Why did no one know something was wrong? What about her doctor? The child suffered from a condition… was no one monitoring this?
There are so many people who are to blame for the death of these children who were both discarded like trash. Abandoned by the ones who were given the duty to protect them above all else. Earlier this year I wrote an article titled Filicide, the definition of which is a parent killing their child. I will never understand, no matter how much research I do, how a parent can harm their child. I will never understand how a parent can throw them away like trash among overgrown brush and trash. Or throw their body in a freezer and walk past it every day knowing someone they carried for 9 months, named, fed, and took care of for 11 years was laying in there.
I will never understand these women because I am not them. I have never lost a child so I don’t know what its like to hate another born to take his place. I have never had a drug problem that I have put in front of my child. I have however had someone beat my child… his own father. And I made sure his ass sat in jail for every possible day the law would allow. I didn’t choose him over my kid. The day I came home from work to see my child had been hurt and abused was the day I immediately sought help and did what I needed to do to make sure my baby was ok. 12yrs later I haven’t given that decision a second thought. I would do it all over again if given the chance. I would go to every court date again with my son so the judge giving the sentence could see there were real victims and we didn’t want him out. I would testify again and again. I would NEVER choose a man over my kids… EVER!!!! In the case of Janiya… I don’t understand because I don’t know what its like to have a child constantly soil themselves at the age of 11… I don’t know what its like to constantly have to take care of a child that is old enough to help out. My kids are relatively in good health. I don’t know what went thru her mind. I do wonder if she had healthcare for her daughter. I wonder if she had help. I wonder a lot of things about her situation. But at the end of the day I will never understand because I am not these mothers. All I can do is hope that the next time a child doesn’t show up to school that someone calls to find out why. I hope that from here on out people utilize the resources available to them when things get really hard. Sometimes putting pride aside and asking for help is what needs to be done.
If you or someone you know needs help please contact the national Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-422-4453
If you are a parent in need of assistance or someone to talk to, you can also call the number above or go to the ChildHelp website where information is available. Click HERE for resources such as a safety plan, important numbers, how to deal with difficult behavior, and other informational items. There are people willing to help and listen, you just have to reach out. You are not alone!!!!
And remember, we here at BCE would rather hear from you than hear about you. If you don’t know where to turn email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make sure to find someone in your area to help you.