Court ruling leaves family with open wounds

Published 12:01 am Saturday, June 30, 2012

LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Rebecca Atkins, center, holds a photo of her 1-year-old son, Anthony, who died last December after being struck by a passing vehicle. Her father, Billy Lee; mother, Tanya; sister, Haley and nephew Bentley, 11 months, are searching for justice. The family has set up a memorial on Cowan St. in Ridgecrest, where the accident occurred. “He should still be here right now,” said Billy Lee Atkins about his grandson.

VIDALIA — Where is justice for Anthony Atkins?

That’s what the family of the 1-year-old who died in a December traffic accident is asking after a grand jury chose not to indict a Ridgecrest man who was charged with negligent homicide.

“We just can’t move on until we get justice,” Anthony’s mother Rebecca said through tears. “He was such a happy baby.

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“Everybody was his friend.”

On Dec. 14, Rebecca was walking down Cowan Street holding Anthony, when a passing vehicle’s side-view mirror struck the back of his head.

While Rebecca immediately knew her son was hurt, Tanya, Anthony’s grandmother who was just down the road, didn’t know what she had just heard.

“It sounded like a dog had been hit or something, but it was loud,” Tanya said. “I heard (Rebecca) start screaming and thought she got hit.

“When she started screaming Anthony’s name, I knew it was going to be bad.”

Rebecca and her father, Lee, rushed Anthony to Natchez Regional Medical Center, where shortly after he was airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

“That baby fought the whole time, but he didn’t have a chance,” Lee said. “The impact was so hard that it bent the guy’s mirror and broke the glass.”

After four days of intensive care at the Jackson hospital, Anthony took a turn for the worse and died. But not before a lullaby and some last words from his grandmother.

“I leaned in and sung him his favorite song ‘Where is Anthony?’” Tanya said. “And I told him not to worry, because we were going to fight until the end to get him justice.”

Morris Brandon Davis, the driver of the vehicle, notified the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s office after the accident and eventually turned himself in to the sheriff’s office.

Davis was charged with negligent homicide and was released on $10,000 bond shortly after his arrest.

On Wednesday, the grand jury issued a “no true bill” in reference to the negligent homicide charge, which means the charges had not been sufficiently supported by the evidence.

The Atkins family, who had been following the investigation and court proceedings closely, said they were shocked to hear the grand jury’s decision.

“I guess you can just drive around killing people, say it’s an accident and get away with it,” Rebecca said. “I guess killing is just an accident here.”

And with medical bills still piling up and no money for legal counsel, Tanya said they are unsure of what else they can do in the case.

“We just ask everyone to put themselves in our shoes and ask, ‘What would you do?’” Tanya said. “We can’t just give up.

“I made a promise to my grandson, and I’m going to keep that promise.”