'It's not easy to get out of a violent situation on your own': Mother whose son, 3, was shot dead by his father while she listened on the phone shares her heartbreaking story
- Christy Adams, 30, was on the phone with her estranged husband in July 2012 when he killed their three-year-old son, Jesse
- She says that, looking back, there had been warning signs, such as the easy anger of her husband, CJ, and the whirlwind nature of their courtship
- Christy, who lives in North Carolina, also has a 13-year-old daughter 10-year-old son, Christopher - who was deeply affected by the loss of his little brother
- Jesse would have turned nine this month; Christy baked a cake and visited the cemetery as she does every year for his birthday
- Although speaking about the tragedy is difficult for Christy, she says she feels it is her mission to warn other victims and show them there is help and a way out
- She says domestic violence is a particularly important topic to discuss over the holidays, since families spend so much time together ?
Last month, like every year, Christy Adams baked a cake for her son Jesse’s birthday. She gathered up his favorite toys and thought about her dearest memories from his childhood; then she drove to the cemetery, which she has visited every November 5 since 2012.
This is where Jesse now rests; he would have been nine this year. He was stolen from Christy on a horrific night of violence, when her husband fatally shot three-year-old Jesse and then himself – all while she listened on the phone during a desperate drive to reach them.
‘He’s present every day in everything that we do,’ says Christy, now 30, who is also mother to Jesse’s older siblings Christopher, 10, and Faith, 13. She admits, sadly, that she still sometimes sets a place absentmindedly for her youngest child.
‘I don’t know why I do it; it just happens,’ she tells DailyMail.com. ‘I’ll take out the extra plate and fork for him like he’s here, and he’s not.’
The holidays are a particularly difficult time for Christy, who keenly feels Jesse’s absence, though they do offer an opportunity to fondly remember him.
‘They’re hard for me,’ says Christy, who lives in Oak City, North Carolina. ‘I don’t push it on my children; if they want to talk to me about it, they know that they can – and they do, from time to time. I have Jesse’s pictures and the items that he loved sitting all over the house, so … he’s here, but he’s not here, I guess is the easiest way to explain it.
Christy Adams, 30, and her son, Christopher, fondly remember her younger son, Jesse - who was fatally shot by his father, CJ, while Christy was on the other end of the phone call
Christy gave birth to Jesse in 2008; he would have turned nine on November 5 - when she visited his grave, as she does every year
Christy keeps Jesse's toy truck and other favorite items in the household; she say she sometimes absentmindedly still sets a place for him at the dinner table
Christy's husband, Carey 'CJ' Adams, was a family friend she had always had a crush on; they got together when she was pregnant with her older son, Christopher - and she said she initially had 'not even the slightest idea' of his dark side
‘On Christmas, we each give like a memory gift; my mom will give me a memory gift, I’ll give my mom one, as far as something that pertains to Jesse or we would think that he would be into this year.
‘As far as me and Christopher and Faith, we have special ornaments that we put on the Christmas tree every year,’ Christy says. ‘A couple of them have his name on them; one he got when he finished potty training.’
And while it’s often hard to talk about the loss of Jesse, Christy feels she has a mission to share her family’s tragic story and educate others about domestic violence – especially around the holidays.
‘You have families that are home together more often than not and that’s actually when violence of any sort picks up,’ she tells DailyMail.com.
‘I hope that my story, Jesse’s story, our story does help people,’ she says. ‘I hope that they see the timeline, they see everything that I went through, that my children went through, and they know at that point, once I’m done with my story, that there is help. There are people that are standing behind them that will support them in any way, shape or form.’
Christy’s tragic story began in July 2007, when she was heavily pregnant with Christopher. She was at her stepfather’s birthday party, and the single mother wasn’t looking for love – but she reconnected with a family friend, CJ Adams. She’d always had a crush on him, and he convinced her to go on a date. So started a whirlwind romance; he was present for Christopher’s birth in September and they got married in November; by February, she was pregnant with their son, Jesse.
Looking back, Christy now realizes that the pace of their relationship should have been an early red flag.
‘It was extremely quick – and that is one major warning sign: fast-paced, everything moving quickly,’ she says. ‘Alcohol was involved; he was kind of agitated all the time to begin with – hot-headed, if you want to say. And I didn’t think anything of it … that’s obviously a warning sign, being angry about little things.’
The change in CJ’s behavior began right before the wedding, she says; before that, she had ‘not even the slightest idea.
‘He seemed like a nice, normal person,’ she says.
‘The emotional and verbal abuse started right before we got married,’ she says. ‘We got into this huge argument the night before our wedding day, and then it just gradually increased from there. He never really physically abused me, [except] the one time; most of his abuse was emotional and verbal.’
The one incident to which she refers – which prompted her to take her children and leave CJ – occurred in January 2010. CJ, a neat freak, got upset that Christy had left a pile of books on the table. Even though she was holding her two sons in her arms, he threw her onto the floor. She hit her head on the air-conditioning unit, and then he smacked her head on the microwave.
Terrified, Christy ran upstairs with the kids and locked them all in a bedroom.
‘The next morning he acted as if nothing had happened,’ Christy says. ‘I went to the police and I filed a restraining order against him, then I took the boys to live with my mother Tammy.
‘I stayed with mom and CJ was devastated. He bombarded me with calls, promised to change, told me it would never happen again… So a few months later, I took him back in because I could see the man I had fallen in love with.’
They moved into a home next to CJ’s mother, and everything seemed relatively fine for about a year – until CJ, who worked as an electrician and did landscaping, lost his job. His drinking picked up and Christy, who was studying for her associate degree in healthcare management, worked two jobs to support the family.
‘I could see things deteriorating at that point,’ she says. ‘I was working on saving up money to actually leave.’
CJ, she says, ‘was depressed; he was always ill and ornery. He was always drinking. He would definitely yell; he wouldn’t get violent unless something upset him – but it was also very easy to upset him when he was drinking. If you looked at him wrong, that’d upset him … When he was in a bad mood, he was going to make sure everyone else around him was in a bad mood.’
When she eventually had a weekend off, she took her children to visit her father – and CJ started a massive argument over the phone. So she decided enough was enough and didn’t return to their shared home; instead, she got started on filing legal paperwork in June 2012. She arranged joint custody of Jesse with CJ.
‘I never thought he would hurt Jesse, and that’s why I was okay with joint custody,’ she says.
During the last family holiday before the deaths, Christy, right, and CJ, center, took their children to visit the set of a televisions how called Lizard Lick about towing and recovery
Jesse was Christy's third child and her only with CJ, whom she married after only four months of dating; she became pregnant with Jesse three months later
Christopher, right, and Jesse were only 14 months apart; the older brother underwent four years of counseling following Jesse's murder and has 'separation issues,' his mother says
Christy also says she has difficulty trusting following the murder-suicide; she says she's very careful about whose care she leaves her surviving children in
The following month, however, she would be faced with unspeakable tragedy after CJ unraveled. Jesse was staying with his dad and Christopher had been scheduled to be there, too, but he was with Christy’s mother instead.
‘I called CJ to say goodnight to Jesse but he was in an argumentative mood,’ Christy says. ‘He called me a stupid bitch and he was angry that I wouldn’t take him back again.
‘I told him that I wasn’t going to talk to him like that and that I would call the next morning, so I hung up. I had two cell phones at the time and my mom called me a few minutes later.’
CJ had called Christy’s mother and threatened to kill himself and Jesse – so Christy jumped in the car and drove furiously to the home they used to share. On the way, she called the police – but then CJ called her back on the other phone.
‘He told me that if I didn’t take him back within a week he was going to kill himself and Jesse. I begged him not to harm our son,’ Christy says.
‘Suddenly, Jesse was on the phone. “Mommy, I’m going to die tonight,” he said, and I started screaming down the phone. “Jesse, I love you, it will be okay.”
‘Suddenly, there was a loud popping sound and then CJ got on the phone. “I’ve just killed Jesse and it’s your fault,” he said and I lost it. I was hysterical, screaming for Jesse.
‘CJ told me that he was on the bed bleeding to death. He was so calm.’
She was in disbelief that CJ had actually harmed Jesse, hoping that the noise she’d heard was just her husband dropping the phone – and the authorities had warned her not to approach the house when she pulled up.
She heard another loud pop, which she later found out was the gunshot CJ inflicted on himself.
‘He told me on the phone when he saw the sheriff that he wasn’t going to jail as a babykiller, and he shot himself,’ she says. ‘After that I was just sitting on the side of the road waiting for the deputy to come and get me or bring my child out to me.’
When she was approached by an officer, however, he told her to get in his car and rushed her to the hospital.
‘He told me he was going to try to get me there to say my final goodbyes to my son,’ she says. ‘I got to the hospital and I was five minutes late. He had already passed.’
She says: ‘I remember I sat with him on my lap in the rocking chair, not wanting to let him go. I kept whispering to him how much I loved him and how sorry I was that this had happened to him.
‘As the sun came up, I went home. All I had of my treasured little boy was his blue teddy bear that the police had given me.’
She tells DailyMail.com: ‘After Jesse passed and we were outside the hospital, I promised him that I was not going to let his name die in vain – and that’s one of the reasons that I do the work that I do as far as telling my story.’
Christy, who has since earned her bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration, has also learned a huge amount about domestic violence and is determined to use her story – and her loss – to help other families from experiencing the same pain.
Christopher, left, still has a box of Jesse’s clothes in his wardrobe that he gets out every now and then and he still sleeps with his younger brother's pillow
Christy says that she never imagined that her husband CJ would ever Jesse, center
Christy says that she and Christopher, right, talk about Jesse 'all the time and we can smile now. Christopher wonders what Jesse would be like now, what he would be into, and it breaks my heart to think he’s gone forever’
Christy initially hoped that a loud sound she heard while on the phone with her husband simply meant that he had dropped the phone; she did not immediately believe that he had shot Jesse
Christy says that many domestic abuse victims hide the violence or feel ashamed - but reminds them they have done nothing wrong and should seek help
‘It’s not easy to get out of a violent situation on your own – and the main thing is for people to know that there are people behind them that are here to help them in any way that they can,’ says Christy. ‘I’ve actually offered a few ladies my home a few times.
‘At the same time, in most cases, the person doesn’t see that they’re in a violent situation or doesn’t want to see it. The biggest thing that people do – and they don’t realize they’re doing it until after the fact – is they hide the violence. They hide the issues. People are ashamed of it. I was ashamed of it, too, but it’s okay to be ashamed of it; I mean, there’s nothing really to be ashamed of.
‘That’s the main thing people don’t understand – that you have no reason to be ashamed. You’ve done nothing wrong.’
She says: ‘About two weeks ago, I had a friend of mine contact me. She has a friend that was in a violent situation, but she doesn’t see it – so she wanted me to go and talk to this friend and try to get her to see it. And that’s, unfortunately, that’s really all you can do, is wait for that person that’s in that situation to see that they are in it – because you can’t help someone that doesn’t want help.’
As horrible as her story is, she reiterates that there is hope and there is help. It’s been difficult for her and her children; Christopher lives with Christy and her new boyfriend, while Faith lives with her biological father but spends every other weekend with the family.
‘He went through about four years of counseling to help him get through it,’ she says of Christopher. ‘So he talked with his therapist a lot more about it than he did me, for the simple fact that I was also healing. So every time I talked about it, I would get upset – and he didn’t like to upset me. But now me and him talk about it when he wants to talk about it.’
While the 30-year-old mother has found a new relationship, she says her history of abuse and the loss of Jesse makes it hard for her to trust.
‘It’s an everyday struggle,’ she says. ‘I’ll put it to you this way: I don’t leave my children with anyone at all unless [it’s] my mom, his grandma on his dad’s side – because I’m very cautious about who my children are around at this point.’
Christopher, she says, ‘has separation issues.’
‘He worries that if I leave him anywhere, I won’t pick him up,’ Christy says. ‘He thinks that I will leave him, just like Jesse did.
‘He has a box of Jesse’s clothes in his wardrobe that he gets out every now and then and he still sleeps with Jesse’s pillow.
“We talk him about all the time and we can smile now. Christopher wonders what Jesse would be like now, what he would be into, and it breaks my heart to think he’s gone forever.’
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