Newsmakers: Number of child deaths from homicide and abuse up in 2012Written by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
In 2012, as of press time, 34 people have died as a result of criminal homicide in Toledo. Seven of those people were children, according to a Toledo Police spokesman.
The number of those who died in 2011 as a result of criminal homicide was also 34. That number includes three juveniles: Timothy Blair, 14, Deadrick Rocker, 17, and Montelle Taylor, 17.
Among the children who died in 2012 were Paige, Logan and Madalyn Hayes, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a November murder-suicide by the children’s grandmother and uncle.
Also among the seven children is Ke’Ondra Hooks, 1, who was shot in the head Aug. 9.
She and her sister, Le’Ondra, who survived, were in their home at the Moody Manor complex when bullets came inside and struck them.
Sgt. Joe Heffernan of the Toledo Police Department said it’s possible that the shooters believed someone from a different gang was inside, but added, “Why they were shooting into the home, I don’t know if we’ll ever fully know why.”
Toledo-native rappers Jason Jensen and Sik Da Don Sikosa composed a song, “I Thought They Cared,” about the Hooks children and also performed at HipHop4Peace, a benefit for the victims’ family.
Sikosa said he wished more people would have come out to support the family.
“We can’t take life when life hasn’t even started. We have to give these kids an opportunity. … We could have killed somebody who would be the next president or would have cured AIDS,” he said.
Heffernan said that overall, there seems to be a decrease in the number of deaths from gang violence but an increase in deaths from domestic violence.
At press time, nine children had died in Lucas County as a result of abuse or neglect in 2012, said Dean Sparks, Lucas County Children Services (LCCS) executive director.
Every April, LCCS organizes a memorial for the children who died from abuse or neglect in the previous year. Although the three teens who died from street violence in 2011 were remembered at the most recent event, “At our last memorial, we didn’t have any children that had died of abuse or neglect,” Sparks said.
Many of the children were not connected to LCCS, so it’s hard to figure out what happened or why the number spiked from zero to nine, Sparks said.
Many of the children who died from abuse or neglect in 2012 were 1 or younger, he said, adding that many babies who die from abuse are shaken.Usually, parents who shake babies are reacting to “stressors,” Sparks said.
“Babies cry and it’s normal sometimes to get frustrated with them. What’s not normal is to shake them,” he said.
Sparks advocated intervening in a nonconfrontational way if you see an overly frustrated parent or calling 911 if there are indications of abuse or neglect. For parents, he recommended seeking support if they become too frustrated.
“Call a friend or a relative and have them come take care of the baby or give them the baby,” he said. “We’re at the point where we’re saying, ‘Bring the baby to us if you’re so frustrated.’”
Sparks added, “Clearly, not all these kids were shaken. We had the [Hayes] murder-suicide. I don’t know how you make sense of that. … I don’t know how you make sense out of a gang shooting into an apartment and hitting two babies.”
“We as a community need to mourn those losses … just as we see in Connecticut, which has prompted us as a nation to think about how we deal with guns, how we deal with mental illness,” he said.
“We really want people to reach out to each other. We want people to call us if they’re concerned and if a parent finds themselves with no other options but to hurt their babies, bring them to us we’ll take care of them. … Our community can’t take any more child deaths. Our nation can’t.”
To reach LCCS, call (419) 213-3200.