'I'm Not A Monster'
It was supposed to be a normal day for Sheree Brown. On August 18 she left work, did some marketing, came home at around 8:30 p.m., showered and was getting ready to relax and spend a quiet evening at home after a hard day's work. She thought her son, Jashya, 2, was asleep, and was about to start cooking dinner for her other two children and her boyfriend. Instead, that day of normalcy and routine was invaded by a tragedy that would change her life forever.
The New York City Chief Medical Examiner's autopsy determined that Jashya had been beaten to death earlier that day; internal and external injuries covering his young body. However, because the autopsy places the time of death several hours before Brown returned home from work, there are still many unanswered questions as to what happened that day while Brown was at work.
"I started cleaning up the house like a normal day," Brown said. "I was getting dinner ready when I went by the door of his bedroom and his brother told me that Jashya had thrown up."
"When I touched my baby's leg he was stiff and ice cold. I called 911 immediately and tried to pump on his chest, but blood kept coming from his mouth."
The 20-year-old mother, who never experienced death first-hand, before her eyes, was trying to resuscitate her son, who had already been dead for several hours inside their Beach 31 Street home.
While "who" and "why" are still questions surrounding Jashya's death, a mother sits in mourning trying to overcome the pain of losing a child. The pain of burying a child is a feeling most parents will never have to experience. However, Brown finds herself in a unique situation. She has to mourn the death of a child while, at the same time, trying to clear her name as a careless or evil parent that would intentionally put her kids in harm's way.
Drenched in her own tears and despair, Brown tells The Wave that she is a loving, caring, and devoted mother who always put the interest and well-being of her children ahead of herself. While she does admit that her home was not perfect, one thing of which she is convinced, no matter what anyone says, is that she loves her kids with all her heart and would do anything to make their lives better.
Brown wants people to know that Jashya was a good kid who enjoyed life and was always happy.
Her daughter's father, Daquen Williams, 23, who lived with Brown for nearly three years, watched the three kids that day, like he always did. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except for one thing.
"He told me he had just put them to sleep," she said. "Any other day he usually tells me everything that went on that day. That day he simply said he just put them to bed."
Brown is afraid that people are characterizing her as a bad mother. However, she says, she made unlimited efforts to get her three kids back when the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) initially took them away in 2006 for alleged abuse. She says she took anger management courses, family counseling and individual counseling. She was placing her kids in day care, got a new job, and was packing up to move into a better apartment. She felt her family had turned a corner for the better and that they were becoming whole again as a family after receiving full custody of all three children on July 3.
"I would do nothing to hurt my kids; everything I do is for my children," she continued. "I take care of my kids and make sure they are as healthy and safe as possible."
This leaves Brown wondering why people would paint her as a villain who could care less about the welfare of her children. Brown, who has been living on her own since she was 16 years old, feels she's worked hard all her life. At 13 she left her foster mother and decided to move in with her biological mother, Deshawn Purrington. She says she wanted to be with her mother because she loved and missed her, but still retains a healthy relationship with her foster mother who lives in the Bronx.
However, it was the biological mother who released the photo of her posed with her two sons, which is the photo that Brown says has painted a false representation of her. The photo, seen on all local media outlets, shows Brown with a rather careless and malicious look on her face that has caused people to judge her in ways that she says is untrue.
"I'm not a baby killer. That is what the photo makes me look like, as if I don't care. When my babies were away from me, I went and saw them as much as I could. I missed them. I learned from my mistakes."
Brown says she did all she could to get her children back into her care. Her daughter's father was watching the kids that day and Brown says she never doubted his love for her children. They had their occasional problems like most families, but they always got through them.
"I don't know what he was thinking at that moment," she said. "In my eyes I saw him as loving and he helped me take care of them, but I don't know what happened when I wasn't home that day."
"There is no reason for this to happen to a two-year-old," she continued. "They are making me out to be some kind of monster. I did everything I was supposed to do. Just because I had an ACS case, that doesn't automatically mean I murdered my son."
Although she worked a lot during the week she would always take the three kids out on the weekends and spend time together with them. They were no different than any other family. She says that no matter what, people will always judge a person, but that she must worry about her family right now and make sure they can move forward together and continue to heal as a family.
"He didn't deserve this," she said. "He was a good kid. Right now I have to think about the safety of my other children and make sure that nothing bad ever happens to them again."
If Brown could say one thing to Jashya today it would be that she loves him and promises to find out what happened to him that day.
In the meantime, the investigation continues and so does the grief for Brown, who laid her child to rest this week.