Crushed like a spider

My son knew nothing of the baddies in the world

Published by: Sharon Ward and Jean Jollands
Published on: 13 September 2012

They were like two peas in a pod. My heart melted as I watched my kids, Skyler, two, and Heavyn, four, running in tandem across the living room, arms outstretched.
‘Get Daddy!' Skyler laughed, sporting a mini Spider-Man costume and pretending to fire out an imaginary web.
He was obsessed with the superhero and rode his special Spider-Man bike everywhere.
‘Wow! You caught him, Spider-Man!' Heavyn whooped as I pretended to get caught in her brother's web.
But, as I headed into the kitchen to make dinner, a pang of sadness hit me. It wouldn't be long before they were heading back to their mum Carrie, 33.
We'd divorced the year before after five years of marriage.
Carefree and adventurous, Carrie, a former dancer, felt trapped at home with two little ones. Too often, I came home from my decorator's job to find her knocking back vodka.
‘You can't do this!' I begged.
‘I'm stuck in here all day!' she raged. ‘Why won't you let me have a little time to unwind?'
Terrified for the kids' safety, our marriage was reduced to bitter arguments, and I filed for divorce. We were given joint custody and it seemed to work.
But, just a few days later,
I was left reeling when I dropped the kids off at Carrie's. Her breath reeked of alcohol.
‘You're meant to be going to Alcoholics Anonymous!' I fumed.
Carrie had promised me she was going to beat her addiction.‘Just leave me alone,' she spat, ushering the kids inside the house.
I sank to the floor and put my head in my hands. Where did we go so wrong?
Sitting there, I thought back to our whirlwind romance.
Just months after meeting, we were married at the Little Church Of The West wedding chapel during a trip to Las Vegas.
‘This is madness,' Carrie giggled to me. I couldn't take my eyes off her, though. She was wearing jeans and a top, but I thought she was the most beautiful thing on two legs. How had it come to this?
I tried to keep the peace between us and pray she'd get help but, a month later, Carrie drove off smelling of booze with Heavyn on her lap.
Horrified, I wrote to the family judge asking for full custody and for Carrie's time with the kids to be supervised, for their safety.
I'm only trying to stop someone being killed, I wrote. The most important thing to me is Skyler and Heavyn.
But the judge refused. I had no choice but to keep my feelings to myself and protect the kids as best as I could.
Then, one day, Carrie arrived to pick up the kids. I clocked the dark-haired, stocky guy in the front seat of her car.
‘Another boyfriend, Carrie?' I sighed.
‘Yes... Todd,' she nodded, quickly turning away.
‘I wouldn't mind, but this is the fifth bloke in the 18 months since we split,' I complained to my sister Jamie, 30.
‘I wish I knew what you could do,' she sighed.
The truth was, we were all at a loss at what to do.
I begged the courts again for Carrie's time with the kids to be supervised, and we were summoned for a court hearing.
She turned up with Todd - he seemed bored and frustrated, and Carrie jumpy. ‘It's like she's more worried about pleasing him than our kids,' I thought. My appeal was refused again and, days later, as I picked the kids up from outside Carrie's house, a little frown appeared on Skyler's face as we drove home.
‘Todd...' he began, struggling for the right words. Nervously, Heavyn tried to interrupt. ‘No... let Skyler speak,' I insisted. But, being three, he just couldn't find the words.
Back home though, I was stunned when Heavyn rushed to change Skyler's nappy. ‘You don't have to do that, sweetheart,' I hushed, taking the nappy away. ‘That's a grown-up job.'
Heavyn shrugged her shoulders. ‘I do it at Mummy's,' she said, matter-of-fact. I bristled with anger. Why was my little girl acting like a mini-mum and what had Skyler been trying to tell me in the car? It was really bugging me now.
But the following day, we forgot all about it as Skyler babbled away excitedly about his fourth birthday.
‘Are we going camping, Daddy?' he said excitedly. ‘We'll see,' I teased. I'd actually planned a surprise party with my family, and had already hidden the Spider-Man four-wheel truck I was going to give him in a cupboard.
By now, relations were so bad between me and Carrie that the police had intervened and we had to meet at the station to hand the kids over to each other.
A few days later, Heavyn was at school when Carrie came to the station to pick up Skyler.
As she took him off me, I smelt alcohol yet again.
‘I'm not letting you take my son in that state,' I raged. But, before I could stop her, she fled out of the door with Skyler in her arms. She jumped into a waiting car driven by a friend. ‘Follow her!' I begged the police.
‘She's drunk!'
The police eventually agreed to go to her house as I sat anxiously outside in my car. But when officers came outside... ‘Skyler's fine,' they insisted. ‘We suggest you go home, sir.'
Frantic, back homeI tried phoning Carrie but she refused to answer my calls.
‘If I go to Heavyn's school and collect her, I'll be in contempt of court,' I raged to Jamie. Instead, over that next night, all I could do was pray my kids were okay.
But, at 8.30pm the next evening, there was a furious knock at the door.
It was Mark, 28, a friend of Carrie's. ‘Carrie and Skyler have been murdered. Heavyn's fighting for her life...' he shrieked, hysterically.
My blood ran cold. ‘Go away!' I raged at him shell-shocked, calling the police.
‘There's a man here telling me my son's been killed!' I yelled down the phone. ‘What the hell's happening?'
It felt like an eternity, but within minutes, two police cars screeched up outside ‘We'll take you to the hospital,' an officer insisted. ‘At the moment, we don't know any more than you do.'
I prayed it was some horrible mistake but 10 minutes later, the officers received a radio call, stopped their car and talked outside quietly.
‘Why won't you tell me what's going on?' I pleaded. But instead, they took me to a friend's house as I phoned my dad Carl, 66.
‘Dad, I need you,' I sobbed. He rushed straight there and was holding me as a call finally came in from the police.
‘I'm sorry...' a detective began. ‘Your ex-wife and son have been killed. Your daughter's at the hospital. We've arrested Todd Pink on suspicion of murder.' Carrie's boyfriend? Why? None of this made any sense...
‘No!' I screamed. ‘My beautiful boy's gone.' Nausea swept over me as Dad took me to Heavyn's bedside.
She was in intensive care. ‘She's lost a lot of blood,' a doctor warned me before we saw her. ‘If the paramedics had got there just three minutes later, she probably wouldn't have made it.'
My legs buckled as I saw her bandaged head, her blonde hair shorn. She had knife slashes all over her body. ‘Daddy...' she sobbed. ‘Is Skyler here? Is Mummy here?' Tears choked me.
‘No...' I hushed. How could I tell her that half her family had been murdered?
In those next few days, I sat rooted to her bedside. Detectives had told me that on that fateful Saturday night, Todd and Carrie had taken Heavyn and Skyler to a local dance but came home early after a huge argument.
‘Todd went to his dad's house, stole his gun and went back to Carrie's,' an officer explained.
Jimmy, Carrie's friend, had seen Todd approaching and tried to lock the door, but he smashed his way through.
‘He shot Jimmy point blank in the face and Carrie in the head,' the officer continued.
‘Todd aimed the gun at Heavyn next, but miraculously it jammed.'
Heavyn had screamed ‘Run, Skyler, run,' but Todd, 37, had followed him, stabbing Skyler in his head, neck, chest and back with a knife, a fork and a meat cleaver.
‘Oh Skyler,' I sobbed. ‘Todd tried to kill Heavyn too, stabbing her before fleeing to his sister's house and admitting everything,' the officer trailed off.
The only thing that kept me going was Heavyn and three days later, at her hospital bedside, I finally broke the terrible news.
‘Mummy and Skyler have gone up to the sky to be with Jesus,' I began. ‘But I want them back,' Heavyn sobbed.
She was finally allowed home with me a week later - on what would have been Skyler's fourth birthday. But instead of the surprise party I'd planned, we released blue and red balloons into the air and prayed for him.
I visited my boy at the funeral home. He looked so peaceful as I held out two identical Spider-Man figures and placed one gently in the palm of his hand. I took one home with me. ‘We'll both have one each,' I whispered.
We buried Skyler a week later. As his little coffin was lowered into the ground, I tried to focus on the happy memories.
Though I mourned Carrie, I was angry with her, too. Friends of hers confided that Todd had attacked her before. ‘He grabbed her by the throat and threw her to the ground once,' one sobbed. Is that what Skyler had been trying to tell me?
‘Why didn't Carrie get out of the relationship?' I raged to Dad.
Heavyn was a lost soul as she rattled round the house, her arm in a cast, a scar snaking from her left eye to the back of her head.
All I could pray for now was justice for my son.
In April 2011, Todd Pink went on trial at Macomb County Court, Michigan, accused of 14 counts - including two of first degree murder.
He admitted being responsible for the deaths and injuring Heavyn and Jimmy, but claimed his gun had gone off accidentally and he hadn't planned it.
‘Heavyn and Skyler are in my prayers every day,' he insisted, without shame. But a jury took just 30 minutes to convict him.
I was allowed to address the court before Todd was sentenced and begged the judge to give him the maximum term. ‘He should rot in hell,' I said.
The judge agreed, sentencing him to life in prison without parole. ‘You butchered an innocent little boy,' he told Pink.
But he also butchered mine and Heavyn's hearts.
She misses her mummy and I feel guilty, too, that I never asked about Todd. I just figured he'd disappear like her other men.
We try not to focus on that, though. Instead, we think about Skyler and the foundation we're trying to set up in his memory.
It's been two years now, but we still miss him so much.
The other day, we spotted a Spider-Man belt in a shop window. ‘Skyler would have liked that,' Heavyn smiled.
He was our very own little superhero but Todd Pink was one baddie he couldn't beat.

*Some names have been changed

Chad Seils, 38, Muskegon, Michigan, USA