When authorities asked an 11-year-old, “Why did you kill that 4-year-old?” he gave them a very honest reply. But, that didn’t make it any easier or less disturbing to hear.
Braydan Anthony Trahern was just 4 years old when he was choked to death by an unnamed 11-year-old boy. At the time of Braydan’s death, the two boys lived together with their mothers in a mobile home in Palatka, Florida. The mother of the 11-year-old boy was identified as Vanessa Jones, and the mother of the victim has been identified as Kyra Trahern.
The police were called to the mobile home in the early hours of the morning when a male friend staying as a guest at the residence woke up at 4 a.m. to find Braydan slumped over and unresponsive with blood coming out of his mouth in his bedroom. As the male guest called 911, Jones, the 11-year-old’s mother, attempted to revive the boy.
When police arrived, they noticed “suspicious bruises” on Braydan’s neck as the child was rushed to a Gainesville hospital. Meanwhile, the 11-year-old was taken to a juvenile detention facility and initially charged with aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm. Unfortunately, Braydan later died of his injuries.
After having strangled 4-year-old Braydan to death, police questioned his killer, who reportedly had a history of choking other children and carrying around dead farm animals. When asked why he killed Braydan, the 11-year-old responded honestly, relaying that he was angry at his mother after she told him that she couldn’t afford presents or a party for his birthday.
That anger apparently led to the boy choking his 4-year-old victim, although the boy said he wanted Braydan to “come back to life” during a discussion with police. The boy’s mother, who also spoke to police, admitted that her 11-year-old son attempted to strangle another young child in the past. In addition, she said that, when he was a toddler, he set his crib on fire and caused the house to burn down.
The boy was also said to have a fascination with dead animals and was known to dig them up, cut off their limbs, and carry them around. Disturbingly, child-protective investigations involving both boys were already pending when Brayden died, with the department receiving reports on the older boy and his mother as far back as 2001.
Even though both mothers knew all of this, the troubled 11-year-old was still left alone with a younger, smaller child. This, of course, has left many to wonder what else was going on in that trailer, and the state’s child-welfare chief may have found the answers.
After Braydan’s death, Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll sent a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team, or CIRRT, to Palatka, which is standard operating procedure after the death of a child who has been involved in prior abuse reports over the past year.
According to Carroll, the death of the 4-year-old boy “points to the challenges posed by families in which addiction, sexual abuse, and domestic violence create a perilous environment,” WJCT reported. In an interview, Secretary Carroll added that Braydan’s extended family had repeatedly been involved in beatings, molestations, incarceration, homelessness, prostitution, and drug abuse going back years.
Sickeningly, the accused killer had also just been released from an inpatient psychiatric program for juvenile sexual offenders in Hollywood a month prior to Braydan’s murder after six months of treatment at Florida Palms Academy. So, why would the 4-year-old’s mother allow such a child around her own?
It turns out that Braydan’s mother and the mother of his alleged killer were a romantic couple who had met in a battered women’s shelter, and both boys were thought to have been sexually abused by other adults coming through their various homes.
“These are deep-seated issues within a family, and we have to do a much better job of assessing whether a family even has the capacity to make some of the changes that we want them to make,” Carroll said. “If they can’t, it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we put the assistance in place to help them do that, so that it’s safe for the kids,” he continued.
“And I think the report (by a state team) basically says that we didn’t do that. It was more a case of, we were dealing with symptoms or immediate issues, and not necessarily the depth and breadth of issues that this family had over a lifetime,” he furthered. According to the CIRRT report, the agencies in place to protect children, like Braydan and the boy who became his murderer as well, failed beyond explanation.
“Danger threats impacting the children were significant and clearly observable throughout multiple interventions with the family,” the CIRRT report said. “The behaviors and family condition (were) out of control, and there was nothing internal to the family to control the threat,” it continued.
“In addition to the factors that enhanced the vulnerabilities of the children in the home, both caregivers’ lack of protective capacities exacerbated the present danger threats. Once (the 11-year-old) was placed in the residential facility (in Hollywood), there was essentially no further assessment of necessary interventions for the children in the home upon his discharge,” the report furthered.
Making matters worse, a report to the state abuse hotline a month before the boy’s death alleged that Brayden’s 23-year-old mother was not following a safety plan for her children, which had been created by behavioral-health providers who had been working with the 11-year-old.
While Secretary Carroll faulted communication between the agencies involved with the children, he also said they were dealing with extensive dysfunction. “This was a case where you knew that we were trying to help the child because everybody worked collaboratively to make sure this child was placed in the (Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program),” he said. “So clearly folks understood there was an issue, and people were working to get the family assistance.”
However, according to the CIRRT report, “It is evident that both of these mothers suffered extensive trauma, and that trauma had a significant impact on their ability to effectively parent their children and safeguard them from potential harm,” WJCT adds.
During the Florida Department of Children and Families’ annual child-protection summit, Secretary Carroll reminded attendees that, while their jobs include helping thousands of parents develop the ability to shield children from harm, they must also recognize the point at which parents lack the ability or the will to change. “Sadly, in our system, we have some parents who don’t have the capacity to engage,” he said. “And these kids … they don’t have forever for their parents to get their act together.”