The Down Syndrome Community Is Mourning the Deaths of 3 Children
Please note: This article took four days to write. Not because there wasn’t enough time, but because every time I would sit down to write it I would start crying again 10 minutes later. It’s hard to fully express how saddened our community is by these events without breaking down in the middle of explaining these cases.
Last night I sat awake at 11 p.m. scrolling through articles about three children who had Down syndrome and were murdered. I had no idea about two of them, and the third I was only briefly aware of the current updates after someone sent me the article a couple months ago. After hours of going through every post I could find, I finally gave up and could not read another word. I was laying wide awake in bed, sobbing hysterically and wondering what in the world could make a parent do such a horrible thing.
My own daughter, Charlie, is 4-years-old. She’s made me a mother, taught me about patience, kindness and an unconditional love that I cannot live without. She’s the only one of my kids to give me “nose kisses” and the only one I waited years to hear utter the word “mom.” I’ve had four years to understand that my love for her far exceeds the ability for me to put that love into words of understanding for someone else. Four years to know that, without a shadow of a doubt, my world is far better with her in it than it will ever be without her.
Having said that, I am failing to understand the alleged actions of these family members. I’m failing to understand what would drive someone to do something so horrific. I’m failing to understand why the media isn’t more outraged by these events and why the news on these children, their lives and their untimely deaths is so scarce. I just don’t understand.
As a member of the Down syndrome community, I’m heartbroken and outraged at the same time. As a mother, I’m scared of the world my children are being raised in. As an individual who cares, I’m pissed off that there isn’t more awareness being made focusing on these three kids. Why are these cases not national news? Why don’t they get the same attention as any other murdered child?
For those reasons, I’m going to share the information I’ve found on two of these cases below (you can find information on Kylee Willis here – Adam Hughes , her mother’s boyfriend, pleaded not guilty after being charged with the 4-year-old’s murder.
Willow Dunn, 4-years-old, lived in Brisbane, Australia, with her father, Mark James Dunn, stepmother, Shannon White (her biological mother’s best friend) and 19-year-old stepsister, Taliah White. Willow’s mom passed away from child-birth complications when Willow was born in 2015. Shannon White moved in shortly after and married her best friend’s husband.
Mark Dunn notified the police department on Monday, May 25, that his daughter had passed away. When they arrived, the medical examiner determined that Willow had actually been deceased for about two days, placing her date of death on May 23 or close to that time-frame, according to local reports. This means Mark Dunn let his 4-year-old lay there for two days before notifying the police department. By the time police arrived, it was evident that rodents had gotten to poor Willow’s body. Further investigation also revealed that Willow was badly malnourished. She was already deteriorating due to improper physical care and lack of food and basic necessities, reports indicate.
At some point during Willow’s life, the Department of Child Safety was contacted about her living situation. While it’s apparent DCS didn’t find any wrongdoing at the time, it opens up their agency to serious questions; Who investigated Willow’s case and how come they couldn’t note any wrongdoing at the time? Could they not see she wasn’t being properly taken care of? Why wasn’t the family followed-up on? Why wasn’t Willow removed from the care of her father and placed with other relatives or in a better home? How did she fall through the cracks with this agency? It’s evident that Willow had been suffering long enough to cause body sores, meaning someone should have caught this sooner before tragedy struck.
It’s also been noted that Willow’s father never registered her with Brisbane’s Down syndrome organization (NDIS). He allegedly never sought out resources for Willow and her diagnosis, and he never sought out information that could help his daughter and himself. He was later quoted as telling police that his daughter’s diagnosis was “too overwhelming for him” and he couldn’t handle it, especially after still being depressed over his wife’s death. He started living with his wife’s best friend shortly after her death. He couldn’t have been grieving for long. If he couldn’t handle Willow’s diagnosis, there are tons of families who could and adoption most certainly would have been a viable (and in hindsight preferred) option. Their neighbors said they had no idea a 4-year-old even lived in the house. Willow absolutely should have been given the option to live out her life in a better, more loving home.
Monday evening, just a few short hours after Willow was discovered by the police, her father was charged with her murder in a new definition “aimed at child killers, which includes ‘reckless indifference to human life.’” At this time, the stepmother and stepsister have not been charged. My question is why not? If Taliah shared in the responsibilities prior to Willow’s death in helping to care for the younger children in the household, she had to have been aware of the situation. If Shannon White lived in the household with Mark Dunn and Willow, along with the other children, she would have noticed that Willow was not receiving the proper care she needed while the other children were. Why aren’t either of these two individuals being charged along with Mark Dunn? In the very least Shannon and Taliah should both be charged with conspiracy to commit reckless indifference to human life.
Here are some links to news articles about Willow Dunn’s story:
JAMAL ANDERSON JR.
Jamal Anderson Jr., 5-years-old, lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his father Jamal Anderson Sr. On Saturday, Feb. 8, Jamal Sr. called 911 stating home invaders had robbed him and shot his son in the stomach, local reports show. During the investigation, police found the handgun used in the shooting in a backpack outside and Jamal Sr. eventually admitted to being the owner of the gun. During the 911 call it took Jamal Sr. over two minutes to tell the dispatcher that his son was the one who was shot.
A news article posted on Feb. 8 says two people were taken into custody, one of them being Jamal Sr. but the other person arrested was not identified. The police have also not confirmed who actually shot the gun that killed Jamal Jr. On Feb. 21, Jamal Sr. pleaded not guilty to the charges of child neglect resulting in death along with several drug charges.
Jamal Jr. leaves behind a younger brother, a mother and stepfather who love him unconditionally.
My questions are: Why is there so little information on Jamal’s case? Why are all of the news articles we find so short and filled with very little detail? Who was the second person arrested and who actually fired the shot that killed Jamal Jr.? Are they being charged with murder? Why was this not on the national news? I live in Illinois, fairly close to Milwaukee, and I didn’t see anything mentioned on our local news stations, nor did I see Jamal’s story on the national news. I can’t even find any articles beyond Feb. 11. How is this OK? Why are we not giving Jamal the attention he deserves?
Clearly Jamal Jr. was well-loved. His school wore yellow, Jamal’s favorite color, to honor him the Thursday following his death. His stepfather poured his heart out in a Facebook post grieving the loss of his stepson. Hundreds of people donated to his mother’s GoFundMe in order to give Jamal the funeral and celebration of life he deserved. Yet … the news isn’t following his case as closely as they should, or at all anymore.
Here are some links to news articles about Jamal Jr.’s story:
I’m not the only person whose heart has been broken over the news of these children.
Alicia Choate, mother to 1-year-old Cruz who has Down syndrome, said:
“My heart is absolutely broken for these three beautiful, innocent kids. My son is my whole world and I would stop at nothing to keep him safe and protected, healthy and happy. Every child should feel unconditional love and accepted for who they are. As parents, we are our child’s voice, their advocate, their protector … and it is so unfair these babies didn’t get the same love and care. Who were these kids second line of defense? Another family member, a friend of the family, a therapist, anyone? Why won’t we hear about this on the local and national news? These poor kids were tragically murdered by the people who were supposed to love and cherish them the most. These kids needed us. They needed SOMEONE. THIS HAS TO STOP!”
Kate Manduca, mother to 4-year-old Hope with Down syndrome, stated:
“The tragedy that has hit the T21 community lately has weighed heavy on my heart and soul. The abuse and murders of these precious souls will haunt me for the rest of my life. I truly believe that people with Down syndrome are angels on earth, given as gifts to families to help teach the world what true love looks like. I’m so incredibly sorry that their families didn’t see the gifts they bring to the world, that they weren’t treasured, valued, and loved the way they deserved to be, and that no one who knew what was happening didn’t care enough to give them a voice and potentially save their lives. They were failed by everyone who knew them and paid the ultimate price. When I read, most recently, Willows story, I spent the entire day crying for her, crying for the pain and suffering she endured in her little life, crying because child protective services was involved and failed her, crying because the people who were supposed to protect and love her were absolute monsters and I cried knowing there are thousands of families out there who would have embraced her as their own in a heartbeat, including mine. It’s time to take a stand against child abuse in any form, it’s time to speak up, protect, and give a voice to the vulnerable. Our children matter.”
To know better is to do better. As a community and as parents we should be outraged that these kids aren’t getting the attention and national coverage that they deserve. We should be pissed off that those responsible aren’t being held accountable or aren’t being charged with murder.
If you would like to help spread awareness and help advocate for these children, please visit Logan Christy – Save Down Syndrome. If you click on each child’s photo you’ll be taken directly to their page which includes facts about their cases, as well as examples of letters sent and information on where you can send your own letters pleading for action.
Together, we can make a difference.
A version of this story originally appeared on savedownsyndrome.com.
Photo credit: izzzy71/Getty Images