MIRAMAR(CBS4) – The 2-year-old child whose alleged involvement into his mother’s shooting death is being investigated has been removed from his father’s custody.
Instead, a Broward judge has ordered that the boy reside with the slain mother’s family until the entire incident is investigated.
The family members caring for the boy spoke to CBS4’s Peter D’Oench on Friday night and said the child was “doing fine.”
The mother’s uncle, Hugh Pearce, stood outside the family’s Miramar home as relatives circled the child and watched him play.
“He is in our care. He is doing fine,” Pearce said.
Pearce also said that the child was not able to express what happened to his mother or how she was shot.
“My understanding is that he does not understand what happened,” Pearce said. “He thinks his Mom has gone to work…I feel the family will get through this. The family will heal.”
What police say they do know is that the child’s father called 911 Wednesday saying the child had accidentally fired the 9mm semiautomatic weapon killing his 33-year-old mother Julia Bennett. Bennett was shot and killed about 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Ashlar apartments off Pembroke Road near University Drive.
No one has been charged in her death. The child’s father was not at the custody hearing on Friday.
Marva Anglin, the child’s great-aunt, said the boy continues to ask for his mother.
“He just keeps calling her name. He keeps calling, ‘Mom, Mom,’’’ Anglin said.
Bennett’s relatives said they had never met the child’s father, but told the judge they did not want him in their home for supervised visits with the child because they are afraid of him.
The family said they were shocked to discover it was Bennett that was shot and featured on the news.
“We saw it on the television, but we didn’t know it was her,” the boy’s great aunt Valerie Thompson said. “It was when the detectives came to the house and told us…I mean we were so devastated.”
Anglin and other family members do not believe the baby killed Bennett.
“We’re not buying it,” Pearce said. “We just don’t think it happened that way. But we want to see police finish their investigation.”
Police did question the father for a long time before releasing him.
“We really didn’t expect this,” said Pearce. “She was a medical technician who had such a future. Yesterday, I saw her doing her wash and her clothing and not I hear about this on the news. This is terrible.”
It happened inside apartment number 303. The boy’s father called 911 about the incident claiming that the boy used his 9 millimeter, semi-automatic glock pistol. Neighbors say they saw police testing the boy’s hands for gun residue but police would not say what they found.
“All I have to say is Julia is a great person,” said Tori Whitemore, Bennett’s aunt. “She was a great person. She was high spirited. She always made everybody laugh. She loved her kids. She loved her family. All I can say is this is foolishness. This is such foolishness. That little boy didn’t do anything.”
Whitebroke broke down as she told D’Oench, “She’s my cousin. I do love that girl. I loved her so much.”
Bennett had three children. Family members said her son was named Troy. They say she had two daughters, Kevesha and Christina.
According to her family, Bennett is from Jamaica. She attended school and landed a job at North Shore Hospital.
D’Oench also caught up with Christina’s father, Jean Casimir of Northwest Miami-Dade. Casimir and Bennett had lived together for four years.
“I’m sad,” Casimir said. “I don’t know what to say. She was a sweet person, very nice, humble. This hurts. I can’t believe it.”
Inside their home, Casimir’s father Jean Sr. broke down and cried out, “I’m very sorry. She was a nice person,” he said.
Inside a West Miami-Dade store, one gun owner said he had serious questions about the claim that the two-year-old boy fired the gun.
“It’s highly unlikely that this would have been possible because it requires five pounds of pressure to pull the trigger of a nine millimeter semi-automatic glock pistol like this one,” said longtime gun owner Kevin Gleason. “Even if the gun was chambered and ready to fire, this would have been very difficult. I don’t buy this story.”
Bennett’s father is expected to come to South Florida for her funeral, which will be held next Saturday, relatives told D’Oench. They also contacted her mother in Jamaica and when she heard the news, they say she fainted.