UNTO US A CHILD IS GIVEN. AND THEN?
by David Sisler
"Train up a child in the way he should go," the Good Book says, "and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
It is assumed that the from-birth-training a child needs to ensure a life on the "straight and narrow" comes from the child's parents. If a parent is a convicted murderer, is she the best choice?
Judge Michael D. Mason evidently thinks so.
And if the murder conviction came about because the death of another of her children, is she still the best choice?
Judge Michael D. Mason evidently thinks so.
One morning in June, 1992, Nakya Dannyel Scott was doing something that comes very naturally to a six-week-old baby. She was crying. Latrena Denise Pixley, the baby's mother, was annoyed because her daughter would not stop crying. So Latrena picked up Nakya and rocked her to sleep. No. Latrena changed Nakya's diaper and the baby stopped crying. No. Latrena fed Nakya and the happy baby smiled with contentment. No. Latrena Denise Pixley, the baby's mother, smothered her daughter with a blanket.
Now you might suppose that Latrena Pixley would be filled with remorse and seek out a trusted friend, her pastor, or perhaps turn herself in to the police. Or you might suppose that Latrena Pixley, despondent because of her despicable actions, would try to end her own life. Wrong again. Latrena Pixley stuffed the little body into a plastic bag, dropped her dead daughter into a trash bin and spent the rest of the day cooking and finally going out late for some barbecue with her boyfriend.
As outrageous as the story of Latrena Pixley and the death of Nakya Dannyel Scott has been so far, you ain't heard nothin' yet, folks.
When Latrena Pixley finally appeared in a Washington, D.C. court, she plead guilty to a charge of second degree murder. Superior Court Judge George W. Mitchell sentenced Pixley to a term of five to fifteen years and then immediately suspended the sentence, ordering her to spend weekends in jail for three years, a sentence which writes a new definition for leniency. This lunacy was based, apparently, on the defense's contention that Pixley was suffering from postpartum depression.
Nakya's father became so distraught at seeing the murderer of his baby go unpunished, he hanged himself.
Judge Mitchell did put Latrena Pixley behind bars, but only after she committed the heinous crimes of credit card fraud and parole violation. She served 18 months. In November of last year Mitchell decided Pixley deserved another chance, and ordered her released so she could enter a transitional housing program, but not before Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Sines argued — futilely — that Pixley still posed a danger to others.
Somewhere in her hectic schedule of misusing credit cards and spending weekends in jail for the murder of her daughter, Pixley gave birth to another baby, Cornelius. When the boy was four months old, Pixley did what may have been the first decent thing in her life — she placed him with Laura Blankman, a police trainee who filed papers to adopt him.
Now out of jail, Pixley says she never intended for Laura Blankman to keep her son, only watch him while she repaid her debt to society. And she sued in court to have her son returned to her.
According to Montgomery County (MD) Judge Michael D. Mason it would be wrong for Blankman to keep Cornelius because, first of all, it is usually not in the best interest of a child to be separated from his biological mother and adopted. Remember this is the same biological mother who murdered the two-year-old's half-sister.
Second and very importantly, the judge said, Pixley has maintained contact with the child even while in jail and has contributed money to his upbringing. I sent some money to Augusta State University a while back, in the form of tuition payments. Does that qualify me for Dr. William Bloodworth's job as president of ASU?
A third reason, according to the honorable jurist, for returning Cornelius to his mother, to the same apartment in which his sister was smothered to death, is that the Cornelius is African American, and would be better off with an African American parent. Blankman — the woman Cornelius calls, "Mommy," is white. If Cornelius needs an African American parent, could not the judge find one who had not already murdered one of her children?
During her odyssey in and out of the courts and with the child welfare agency, Latrena Pixley has been surrounded by apologists who tell us, Pixley has had a hard life and therefore the standards which count for the rest of us should not count for her. So Latrena Denise Pixley, not Nakya, and not Cornelius, is the victim.
If Cornelius, like Nakya before him, falls victim to his mother's anger, will Judge George W. Mitchell or Judge Michael D. Mason accept any responsibility for the boy's fate? Up to this point, they have not.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 1/10/98
Copyright 1998 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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