Wellsville family struggles to make sense of toddler’s deathBy JO ANN BOBBY-GILBERT Staff Writer
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WELLSVILLE - Surrounded by the paraphernalia of childhood - white baby shoes, fluffy teddy bears, a grinning Elmo - the photograph of a laughing. blue-eyed toddler was overshadowed by the evidence of a life cut short too soon: white crosses, funeral bouquets and tears.
The Danbury Avenue home of Kathy and Thomas Joy became a shrine Tuesday for their 18-month-old grandson, Christopher Joy Jr., who died at his Richmond home early Monday morning.
Along with the baby's father, Christopher Joy Sr., the couple tried to find comfort in the hugs and words of other family members and friends at the makeshift memorial for the toddler, but comfort was hard to come by while waiting the findings of the child's autopsy to determine exactly how he died while in the care of his mother's boyfriend.
"We were going to have this down there (in Richmond), where he died, but the lawyer told us not to," Kathy Joy said, gesturing to the photographs, balloons, flowers and other tributes to her grandson.
"The lawyer doesn't want us to say much," she said.
Nonetheless, she held on her lap an album of photos taken of Christopher in February when he was found to have a broken toe and March 11 when the baby's mouth was covered by purple-colored blisters and his eye was blackened.
"That's our baby up there in that photograph," his grandmother said, pointing to the laughing toddler's picture on the memorial. "I don't know who this is," she said, pointing to the photos of the disfigured child.
She said Jefferson County Children Services was called about Christopher's condition, and his photos were shown to a representative, to no avail.
"We had him Christmas day and he was just fine. When he was up here, it was like he was ours," his grandmother said before breaking into tears.
Her son, Christopher Sr., called his estranged girlfriend every day, sometimes four and five times a day, in an attempt to keep in contact with his child, according to Kathy Joy.
"They usually told him Christopher was sleeping, but he could hear him in the background. He'd just babble, babble, babble," she recalled.
She has custody of her two other grandchildren, ages 5 and 10, and Kathy said, "I just wish I could have gotten (Christopher)."
A child support hearing was scheduled March 26 at which Christopher Sr., was going to ask for legal visitation with his son because without that, he was permitted to see the baby only sporadically.
"(The baby's mother) pretty much had control of everything," he said. "It wasn't very often I got to see him, and every time I had him, she called the cops."
He took his son to the hospital in February due to his injured toe and a 103-degree temperature, and doctors diagnosed a broken toe, recommending he see a specialist.
Christopher Sr. said the baby's mother called Wellsville police, and he was ordered to return his son or face kidnapping charges.
"He never saw the specialist, I know that," he said.
While the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department's investigation is ongoing Christopher's family has been advised by its attorney not to say much about what they think caused his death, but they shared some of their thoughts.
Both Kathy and Christopher Joy said they don't believe the baby's mother was directly involved in his death, with Kathy saying, "I would hope not. She's always been a wonderful mom."
Christopher said he doesn't believe she hurt their child but implicated her boyfriend, saying, "I think she knew something and could have prevented it. But I think she was scared. I hope he gets what he deserves. He killed my son in cold blood. I tried everything to prevent it. I called Children's Services; they did nothing."
Sheriff Fred Abdalla said the baby had bruises when found not breathing.
The boyfriend is in custody at the county jail but not charged. Kathy Joy said he and Christopher's mother had been seeing each other since December.
Trying to make some sense of a senseless tragedy, Kathy said her own mother died on the same date in 2002.
"I know that's where Christopher is. He's sitting on her lap. That's what gets me through: She's up there holding him."