A couple of months before my son Prince was murdered, another little boy was killed just miles away from where Prince died in Manassas, VA. His name was Elijah Nealey. Elijah was only 23 months old when his monster of a babysitter, Jessica Fraraccio, killed him. Fraraccio had been frustrated because Elijah was crying. So frustrated that she pulled a chair out from under him, causing him to hit his head on the table and floor. Elijah cried harder in pain, and Fraraccio carried him around the house upside down, hitting his head on the metal stair rail and other objects. She then covered his mouth and nose with her hand and suffocated him to death.
I have never been subtle about my desire to fight for children’s rights. Little Elijah, sadly, has suffered a miscarriage of justice in addition to his brutal murder. Elijah never lived long enough to celebrate even his second birthday. The 22 year old babysitter who killed him, however, will only serve 5 years in jail. She will likely go on to have children, and if she doesn’t kill them she will have the opportunity to enjoy the many firsts that Elijah’s parents will miss. In a decision that shocks the hell out of me, and likely just about anybody with a soul, Judge J. Howe Brown sentenced Fraraccio to 50 years but suspended 45 and required that she send a check of at least a dollar to a charity of her choosing on the date of Elijah’s death every year after her release. So when the she devil is writing a check for a dollar to the charity of her choosing, Elijah’s parents will have to live with the fact that not only was their son brutally murdered, but that the woman who killed him is allowed to live a full life.
This shocking sentence had me thinking about the value our system puts on the lives of children. Had this woman murdered an adult, I suspect she would have had a longer sentence. What will this judge think when this monster gets into a bar fight and kills someone else, or maybe even goes on to kill another child someday. I didn’t read any part of this sentence that ordered the woman to have her ovaries removed, so I suspect that she will have children and they, too, will cry. Someone who is evil enough to suffocate a child to death because she cannot handle their cry cannot be rehabilitated and should not be let out amongst the general population after serving a mere 5 years. This reckless decision, however, does not appear to be an isolated move. Poor Elijah seems to be yet another victim of our broken system – more evidence that children in our country do not have the right to live.
Virginia is not the only state that is lenient on child abusers. Back in 2007, a Prince George’s County, MD judge sentenced a man to only 18 months in jail after he shook his month old son to death. Both Judge Brown and Judge Ronald D. Schiff cited that harsher sentences wouldn’t bring the children back, as if this fact made giving their killers light sentences make any more sense. It is true that nothing can bring a murdered child back, but there are several reasons for sentencing a child murder to the full extent of the law. (Note: I recognize that the below points don’t take a rocket scientist to recognize, but clearly there are some in our justice system who need a reminder.)
1) Once A Killer, Always A Killer: Someone who is capable of murder has more than just a few screws loose. The two murders I described above were not unfortunate accidents. They were the result of two people who snapped and killed children merely because the children were crying. Now think about this for a moment. Even if these people never went on to take care of another child, would you feel safe even standing next to this person in the grocery store? I sure as hell wouldn’t. A few months in jail is not going to give this person those extra screws they need to be not dangerous! In case you still don’t believe that some time in jail makes these killers remorseful, check out this story. Daron Davis, another one of these child killing monsters, spent 11 years in jail for beating his daughter to death just a month before her first birthday. After he was released, he killed a second daughter.
2) Justice: These children who were murdered by people who should have been caring for them took away lives. Having to spend a short amount of time in prison does not bring justice to the victims, and it certainly doesn’t bring justice to the families of the victims either. How would you feel if someone killed your child, and then a few years later you had to run into them in the grocery store laughing and chatting with their friend about how great their life is? Possibly more insulting might be having to celebrate the birthday of your dead child, and wondering what charity his killer would be sending her one dollar check to that year.
3) The Message: Part of what is important about our criminal justice system is the message sentences send to the community. In the cases I have highlighted here, it seems the message is that the life of a child doesn’t hold as much value as that of an adult. Those who kill children are allowed a second chance at life because we assume that they feel the remorse they should feel after committing such a vile act. (News Flash: A psychopath does not feel remorse. They often know what goes against society norms or is immoral, but they don’t care. These people don’t have souls like the rest of us.)
Finally, these examples can shed an interesting light on what is happening to children in the Family Court system as well. Decisions are made on a daily basis that negatively impact children for the purpose of parental rights. How do we expect that judges are going to hold the best interest of our children in any sort of priority when even those who kill children have their rights respected at the expense of their victims. America is in crisis. We are having what appears to be a war on children. Children are being physically and emotionally abused, and children are being killed. When children are supposed to be seen as the future of a country, I ask you – what is to become of our future when we don’t protect our nation’s children?