On Monday, a young black mother whose 1-year-old son, Kaiden Lee-Welch, drowned tragically in the floodwaters of Hurricane Florence, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, which carries a potential sentence of 13 to 16 months in prison if she’s convicted.
The New York Times reports that 20-year-old Dazia Lee told reporters in the immediate aftermath of Florence, which caused the deaths of more than 40 people in the Carolinas and Virginia, “I did everything I could as a parent to save him and protect him.” The sheriff’s office of Union County, North Carolina insists Lee has been charged on account of driving around barricades onto roads authorities had closed due to flooding. Kaiden was in the car.
Lee told the Washington Post in September that she’d noticed orange barrels along the highway (she was reportedly visiting relatives), but they didn’t block it and she observed other cars on the road before heading that way herself. The car was quickly hit by floodwaters. Per the Post’s report:
“She’d been holding Kaiden to her chest. But now he was only holding into his forearm. The waters whooshed by with surprising force, pulling him away. She had his wrist. Then his hand. Then his fingers. Then he was gone.”
Here’s a local news clip of Lee speaking hours after the accident:
Sheriff Eddie Cathey said in a statement on Monday, “The tragic death of this child and the circumstances surrounding this case are heartbreaking. We continue to pray for all those suffering as a result of this child’s death. However, after a very thorough investigation and taking all facts into consideration and applying the law, we feel that these charges are appropriate.”
But what if instead it’s an inordinately cruel and unwarranted threat against a black woman living out the worst nightmare of any parent, whose family is suffering through the aftermath of a tragic accident? What if it’s actually that.