Adrian Peterson_Death of Son

Adrian Peterson’s son is gone from here—the 2-year-old victim of a senseless beating, allegedly at the hands of Joseph Patterson, the boyfriend of the little boy’s mom. And I can’t get that baby, the circumstances surrounding his death and especially his mother off my mind.

Details of what happened last week are scant; no one is even 100 percent certain, as news organizations have reported, if the toddler’s name is Ty and the mom’s name is Ann “Ashley” Doohen, or if it’s true that Patterson beat and choked the child after the mother left her son in the boyfriend’s care at her Sioux Falls, SD, home, or if there’s any truth to the rumors that Adrian Peterson, an NFL MVP running back who plays for the Minnesota Vikings, didn’t even know that child was his until three months ago or that he saw him for the first time on Friday, while the baby was on life support, fighting for his little life.

What we do know, though, is that Joseph “Joey” Patterson, 27, has a history of violence against women and children: he was indicted just over a year ago on charges he hit his former girlfriend’s 3-year-old son for misbehaving in church, then grabbed the girlfriend by the throat when she tried to intervene. That girlfriend had a protection order against him, one in which she claimed Patterson threatened “multiple times” to kill her. Another Sioux Falls woman, the mother of Patterson’s son, also took out two orders of protection against Patterson, claiming he’d choked and punched her, threatened her with a knife and held her in the bedroom against her will. The mother chose not to pursue permanent protection orders, and voluntarily dropped them in 2010 and 2011, but last year, Patterson was charged with simple assault against that woman and ordered to stay away from her until he completed family violence training. Yet another woman applied for a protection order against Patterson in 2004.

Which leads me back to why I just can’t get Adrian Peterson’s son and his mother off my mind. Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, and this woman is dealing with the death of her child at the hands of what seems to be a psychopath. Yes, the boyfriend should be held accountable if he is, indeed, the person who beat the life out of that baby, and obviously this is the most difficult time in this mother’s life and I’m not trying to implicate her in her son’s death. But I’m sure I’m not the only one asking what, exactly, was she thinking leaving her young son with a man she clearly didn’t know?  In this age of smart phones, social media and, good God, Google, it’s almost too easy to get a hold of public records on most anybody—records that can show you every… little… thing… about a person you’re considering letting into your life. Type in a name and—bam!—you got the basics. Take a whirl in your local court records—which, by the way, are available online in most jurisdictions and easily retrieved at local courthouses if tooling around the internet isn’t possible or too confusing—and you can find out a mess of stuff about folk. If you’re really being fancy, pay the $29.99 or whatever for one of those official background checks that are advertised from here to kingdom come on practically any site with AdSense on it.

Maybe this doesn’t feel like it’s worth it for a guy who’s taking you out for coffee or a quick cocktail. But I’m thinking that an investment of $30 and a couple hours of time is certainly worth your life—and that of your child’s—if you want more than a quick, public date.

Due diligence. It means something. It’s important. And necessary, especially if your children are involved.

I certainly had this on my mind when I decided I might want to be more than just friends with Nick. When we started dating about 18 years ago (!), we were both political reporters at newspapers in New York City. I’d already known him for a year and considered him to be a sound friend and colleague, but when it came time to date him, I did that due diligence. Now, I didn’t do any official background checks on him (though this would have been quite easy for me as a New York City reporter), but I definitely directed enough questions about him to people I trusted to get a sound read on who I was dealing with. And even though everyone I asked vouched for him, my due diligence didn’t stop there; I watched him, saw what he was like around other women, how he interacted with and treated his young son, what his demeanor was when he got a few drinks in him, what he was like when he was mad. Only after I was thoroughly convinced he wasn’t a sociopath did I let him in. After all, I love me some me. And I’d never faced off against an abusive boyfriend—and I wasn’t about to start with him.

I do that same diligence with my girls—something I wrote about in my post, “Not So Social Butterflies.” Ironically, I caught a lot of flack from readers at, where I shared the post—had folks calling me the “B” word and saying that my girls would rebel and sneak out of the house and run away and blah, blah, blah if I didn’t stop all my investigation and digging into the families of their little friends who invite them for sleepovers. Whatevs. I’ll be that “B.”

I wish the mother of Adrian Peterson’s son would have been one, too. We don’t know if this could have changed the fate of that little boy. But hindsight is 20/20 for us, too. Mothers: be careful out there. Watch your babies. Don’t leave them in the care of just anyone. Know—I mean really know—who you’re fooling with. It might mean the difference between life and death.

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Denene Millner

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.


  1. I was heart broken to hear of the death of that baby. So many questions come to mind but, they don’t matter now. The baby is gone, the killer is jailed, the mother father and family are grieving. It should have been another way.

  2. Amen to that! Where my kids are concerned all bets are off! If that means your feelings get hurt cause I ask too many questions then so be it! And if something does not feel right that’s it for you and my babies! I love them too much to for that!

  3. Will the mother ever understand her own complicity in her son’s death? Will she make better decisions in the future?

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