A North Carolina mother is speaking out about the perils of domestic abuse after surviving a heartbreaking tragedy of her own, the Daily Mail reports.
Christy Adams’ life changed on July 2012 when her estranged husband shot her 3-year-old son Jesse Ray Adams to death and then turned the gun on himself.
Since then, Adams, now 30, has been telling her story in the hopes of preventing future tragedies.
“I hope that my story, Jesse’s story, our story does help people,” Adams told the newspaper.
“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.”
It’s not always easy to recognize when to seek such help, Adams says.
Looking back, she said the signs of domestic abuse were there but she didn’t recognize them at the time.
She met her husband Carey “CJ” Adams in July 2007. They were married by November and she was pregnant with Jesse by February of the following year.
The rapid pace of their courtship should have been a red flag, Adams says, in addition to CJ’s seemingly constant bitterness.
“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.”
But Adams hadn’t seen that side of CJ until just before they got married. Until that point, she says he “seemed like a nice, normal person.”
They got into a big argument the night before their wedding. CJ would go on to abuse Adams verbally and emotionally, but at that time there had only been one instance of physical violence.
It was in January 2010. CJ got mad that Adams had left books on a table. While she was holding Jesse and another son from a different relationship, CJ threw her to the floor. Her head would strike an air conditioner before he hit her against a microwave.
The following morning, CJ seemed to forget about the entire incident, but Adams was shaken. With the violence and terror seared in her memory, she contacted police and sought a restraining order. She then went to live at her mother’s home with the kids.
The separation devastated CJ, Adams says. He would constantly call her. He would promise to change.
Several months later, the couple reunited after Adams says she “could see the man I had fallen in love with.”
They would eventually move into a home next to CJ’s mother, and for a year, everything seemed okay.
Then CJ lost his job and he began drinking more, while Adams took on a second job.
“I could see things deteriorating at that point,” Adams said. “I was working on saving up money to actually leave.”
One weekend, Adams took the kids to visit her father. After an argument with CJ on the phone, and so Adams decided she wound not return to the house they shared, and filed for divorce.
Within a month, her life would be turned upside down. Adams shared her story with the Washington Post’s The Fold.
One day in July 2012, Jesse was staying with CJ. When Adams called to say goodnight, Jesse was being argumentative.
“He called me a stupid bitch and he was angry that I wouldn’t take him back again,” she said.
“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 then called Adams’ mother and threatened to kill Jesse and himself.
When Adams got word, she sped as fast as she should to the home she used to share with CJ. She also dialed police.
CJ then called her en route. He told her that if she didn’t take him back within one week, he would kill himself and Jesse.
Adams said she begged CJ not harm their son. CJ then put Jesse on the phone.
“Mommy, I’m going to die tonight,” Jesse said.
Adams began screaming: “Jesse, I love you! It will be okay!”
She heard a loud pop. CJ got back on the phone.
“I’ve just killed Jesse and it’s your fault,” CJ said calmly, even though his son was on the bed bleeding to death.
She then heard another bang – a gunshot CJ inflicted upon himself after he saw a police officer.
CJ told her “he wasn’t going to jail as a baby killer.”
Authorities warned Adams not to enter the house when she arrived, so she sat along the side of the road near the home.
An officer approached her and told her to get inside his car so he could rush 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 said. “I got to the hospital and I was five minutes late. He had already passed.”
Her last words to her son were of regret.
“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.”
Adams went home as the sun rose that morning. All she had left of Jesse, physically, was a blue teddy bear.
But Adams felt there was something more: “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,” she said.
She now is using her story to help other victims of domestic violence.
“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,” Adams said.
People often don’t realize they are in a violent situation or they deny it, Adams says. Victims don’t realize it at the time, but they hide the violence. They hide the shame. And there’s no reason to be ashamed, she says.
“You’ve done nothing wrong.”
Adams says she wants victims of domestic violence to know there is hope. Her other son lives with her and her new boyfriend, while a daughter lives with her biological father but spends every other weekend with Adams. Counseling and communication have been key to healing, she says.
Still, trust she says is “an everyday struggle.”
“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,” she said.
In November, just as she has done every year since the killings, Adams has baked a cake for Jesse, gathered his toys and visited his gravesite for his birthday.
He would have been 9 years old this year.
“He’s present every day in everything that we do,” Adams says.
[Feature image: Facebook/Jesse Ray Adams]