By NICK CHILES
It breaks my heart to consider not just the last minutes of 16-year-old Shania Gray’s life, but also the last two years of her time here on earth.
Gray was murdered last Thursday in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton by Franklin Davis, 30, who killed her to prevent her from testifying against him in his upcoming trial. He is being held on $2 million bond.
See, Davis raped Shania two years ago, when she was just 14, while she babysat for Davis’ two children. When Shania finally got up the nerve to tell her grandmother about the rapes—after repeatedly turning down his requests for her to babysit again—Davis was arrested in July 2011. But he was able to make bail the following month and has been walking the streets for the past year.
As a dad with a 13-year-old daughter in the house who has been pestering me and my wife Denene for the past year about her desire to babysit, this is one of those stories that reaches deep down into my gut. Just like the Trayvon Martin story did earlier this year because I could easily picture my 20-year-old son as Trayvon, in this case it’s even easier to picture my little girl having to suffer through the hell that Shania did. I have a hard time even looking at her sweet face in the picture accompanying this piece. I feel enraged, helpless and so sad when I think about her final moments.
Thanks to a confession by this monster of a man, we are able to draw a picture of what happened to her in the moments before she died:
Davis said he picked up the girl on Thursday at her school after arranging a meeting by posing as another teen on a social media site and winning her trust. He used a prepaid phone to call her and set the meeting up. He said she was surprised to see him when he showed up at her school, but she still got in the car with him. (One wonders how willingly the girl got into the car.) She spotted his .380 pistol while he drove and asked if he was going to hurt her. He told her he just wanted to talk about the case. But he lied. Once he reached Trinity River, he led her down a trail and shot her twice with the pistol.
He told police that she asked him “Why, Wish?” using his nickname as she fell into the river, still alive.
Davis then stepped on her neck until she stopped breathing.
I pause for a second to allow that image to sink in. How much disrespect this father of two could have for young human life to act so brutally toward a child? The thought is unbearable.
In a jailhouse interview with WFAA-TV, Davis said he tracked Gray down because he wanted to prove his innocence in the sexual assault case.
“I needed to get some kind of evidence, some kind of proof myself to show I did not have sex with her and that she’s lying,” Davis told the television station. He said he didn’t intend to harm Gray but was overcome in the moment.
“I was fighting demons,” Davis told the station. “It was like a different person was in me. It wasn’t me.”
First of all, she had to go through her days with the knowledge hanging over her head that this man was out on the street—that at any moment he could pop up and hurt her. He warned her that he would kill her if she told anyone, so she had to live with that terror in her heart. Silence and fear, hand in hand, eating away at her soul. After a year of the silence, the guy wouldn’t go away, still requesting her as a babysitter. That sounds like the actions of evil, torturing her, teasing her, terrorizing her. So finally she told her grandmother.
And once she told police and he was arrested, soon he was back on the street. This man that had threatened to kill her if she told anyone. Walking free. Able to come get her at any moment. And she had to go on with her teenage life, attending school, doing homework, playing JV basketball. Knowing that “Wish” was out there somewhere. How did the adults around her allow her to be so vulnerable, so accessible?
Then one day she walks out of school, eager to meet her new friend. And it turns out to be Wish. This is the man who threatened to kill her—are we to believe she willingly got in the car with him? She sees the gun and knows that her life probably is short. What did she think about during that car ride—her parents, her grandmother, her friends at school, the college she would never attend, the boys she would never kiss, the places she would never visit?
As she falls into the water, she asks him, “Why?”
His only answer is a foot on her neck. Her final seconds were likely filled with the image of her killer’s face.
At a candlelight vigil for her outside of her former school at 7 p.m. Monday night, her stepfather Dwayne James told the crowd, “Thank all of you. It means a lot to me and my family, and it means a whole lot to Shania. God bless Shania.”
“I miss Shania so much. It’s just not fun without her here, because she made everyone laugh and was just so happy. It’s going to be so different without her here,” said 10th-grader Destinee Harris, who fought back tears of grief before school. She said Gray had a huge effect on her friends in her two years at Horn High.
“I’ll miss her smile,” she said. “She always came to class smiling. She was just so energetic. She loved to sing. She was a beautiful singer.”
I am not an advocate of the death penalty, but I must say that of all the states for Mr. Franklin Davis to commit such a heinous crime in, he picked the one most willing to strap a black man to a table and stick poison in his arm. Texas has executed 37 people in just the last year and a half.
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Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.