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A tragic life (15-year-old girl accused of stabbing her brother to death)

AT the age of 15, the girl suspected of stabbing to death her six-year-old brother at their father's home on August 2, has experienced more life-altering trauma than most people go through in a lifetime.

"People are crucifying her but they don't know the half of it, to know what she was going through. She go through it for a little girl," her mother Marcia Campbell said amid tears and lengthy pauses, during an interview with the Sunday Observer last week.

"For a little girl now 15 going to 16, she go through [a lot]."

Ever since six-year-old Howard Johnson Jr was stabbed to death at his home along Nelson Street in the Kingston 12 community of Jones Town last Tuesday, those affected have struggled to understand how such a tragedy could have occurred.

But a close look at the accused teen's tragic background — which includes her witnessing violence in her home at a tender age, being raped twice, losing a brother to murder — could provide some insight.

The teen's first experience with tragedy was when she was little over a year old when she reportedly witnessed a knife fight between her parents during a domestic dispute.

Her father, Howard Johnson, in an interview with the Sunday Observer on the weekend, did not deny that the fight happened and even expressed remorse, claiming that he had been defending himself. But Campbell, who had to be hospitalised as a result of her wounds from the fight, claimed the attack was unprovoked. Johnson was never charged.

As the years went by, other traumatic events affected their daughter, two of which were especially life-altering.

The first came at the age of 12 years, when she was reportedly raped.

"Is like she no business 'bout nothing [after that]," said Campbell, who said her daughter went into a decline and became rebellious.

Despite counselling, the teen became withdrawn and did not speak much. She kept a diary, however, in which she would make frequent entries, said Campbell.

The teen, according to her mother, began harbouring thoughts of killing her rapist — thoughts she would share with her counsellor, even as the rape case lingered in the courts.

The teen's rebelliousness resulted in her mother having her placed in the SOS Children's Home in Stony Hill. The girl was sent home when her attitude quickly improved. But tragedy would find her again.

Over a year ago she was again raped while attending school in downtown Kingston, her mother said.

"She did not talk, but you could see that she was mad at all time," said Campbell. A suspect has not been held for the second assault.

Shortly after the incident, the teen moved in with her older brother Germaine Bailey, who lived in Hellshire, St Catherine. Campbell said that Bailey was adored by his sister and that he was always there for her. But a month after the she moved in, Bailey was murdered by gunmen, dealing another emotional blow to an already traumatised young girl.

"When my son dead mi just feel she go through it more than me," said Campbell, adding that her daughter never cried over the killing, not even at the funeral. "All she asked was, 'Mummy, Kirk dead?'"

She then started performing poorly in school and had to be transferred from one institution to another. According to her father, she would get into fights at school, but only when provoked. Before long she started running away from home.

Counselling psychologist Dr Joan Rhule said that the teen would have been affected by her experiences.

"Psychologically, she has been traumatised; she has learnt aggression. If you look at the whole thing of her seeing her father hurting mummy, looking at what happened to her brother and everything at the surface, it's the tip of the iceberg," Rhule said.

"Because of what happened, what you believe is that aggression is the way of the environment, and this is how it plays out," said Rhule in reference to the fatal attack on six-year-old Johnson.

According to the doctor, the teen girl's psychological problems would have been further compounded with the emergence of adolescence, and its changes in hormones and periods of stress.

"Based on what she had gone through before, she would not have been able to negotiate her teenage years. She needed help," Rhule added.

The last time the teen ran away from her mother's home in June, she stayed away for a week. After she was found at a friend's home, her father took her in to live with himself and his now wife, Claudette Graham-Johnson, and their children.

But according to Campbell, her daughter did not want to go, as she complained that she would not be treated fairly.

"She said if she go there she is going to kill herself," said Campbell recalling that her daughter also declared she would rather be placed in a children's home.

Campbell said she told the police that she (Campbell) was sickly, and did as such did not want the child to stay with her, because she could not take care of her.

She suggested that she be placed in a children's home, but the teen's father insisted on keeping her. Close to two months later, Howard Johnson Jr would be stabbed to death, allegedly by his half-sister; plunging the household into mourning.

Johnson's five-year-old sister is said to have witnessed the incident, which took place at the back of the house.

Campbell reported to the Sunday Observer this frantic telephone conversation with her daughter shortly after incident:

"Mummy, come now! Come now, mummy, Junior dead. Junior get stab and dead.

"Who stabbed Junior?"

"Come nuh mummy, come nuh mummy," was all she could get her daughter to say on the phone at the time.

The teen, who is yet to be charged, was held moments after the killing and placed in a police service vehicle. While there, according to residents and family members, she stared blankly into space and repeatedly burst into laughter. "This is me second brother dead," the girl is reported to have said to no one in particular.

Those who knew the 15-year-old girl were familiar with her blank stare and habit of laughing without any obvious source of mirth. Persons who live in the yard where the teenager resided with her father, said she would often sit by herself, "just staring into space while rocking back and forth, biting her nails and smiling. The bizarre behaviour also drew her father's attention, but he said when he spoke to her about it, she would just laugh.

According to Dr Rhule, this behaviour is evident that something is amiss.

Asked if he thought that she needed professional help, Johnson said the teen had been getting counselling.

As for the teen's assertion to her mother that she was not being treated fairly at her father's house, both her father and stepmother said the only reason she did not want to live with them was that she was not allowed to do as she pleased. They said they did their best to make her comfortable and wanted a good life for her.

During our interview, the couple broke down in tears on several occasions, lamenting the death of their son.

"He was loving and playful," said Graham-Johnson. The family started receiving counselling on Friday.

Meanwhile, Campbell insisted that her daughter had never been a violent person.

"You can ask anybody in the community. She is not the type of person who is a 'war boat'. She is not a violent child. She is someone anybody can talk to. If she was not over there this would not happened," said Campbell.

At least one person from the Gem Road area said he had never seen the teen involved in any fight. He noted: "Sometimes kids bottle up things in their mind. It's hard to believe, really hard."

In some way, Campbell blames herself for the tragedy.

"People say I must not say it, but everything cause [because of me]. I'm sick, mi don't have it [money]. You see if mi did a work..." she said, choking on her tears mid sentence.

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Comment by Kim Wilson on August 12, 2011 at 12:15am
May peace come to her in her lifetime.
Comment by Antoinette Dixon on August 11, 2011 at 5:36pm
This stuff happens to every group not just Jamaicans. I don't get why certain groups always have t be stereotyped for only negative things.
Comment by Mishka on August 10, 2011 at 6:26pm
your aunt being raped by a "money man" i wont even comment on that, the people whom you said beat her maybe know something you dont know thats why they resorted to doing something like most country people are sympathatic to rape victims..jamaica is one such country...the resources are not there to afford certain things like an intense investigation like the USA and some other countries and thats a pity, because many crime goes unsolved, but that dont mean that Island is cursed...
Comment by Mishka on August 10, 2011 at 6:14pm
@LIVEANDIRECT is obvious that your are small minded, you are trying to be a smart ass by trying to mispronounce my name....go read the newspaper, go listen to  the news on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and other news network, surf the internet and be learnt...right now this very minute every second of every day people are being raped, robbed, murdered and killed right around the WORLD; well i guess you need to now blog that the "WORLD is a CURSED place" ... take my advise you need to get out of this world may not live in JAMAICA so u can curse the country, if you were jamaican you would be thinking about your family and friends that live there.... instead of pronuncing disaster and curse on the land of  your birth "I'll say it again, go pray"
Comment by ann rowe on August 10, 2011 at 12:38pm
My heath goes out to the little 15 year old I know what she go thru been rape and its up in your head just prayer for her cause if you never been there you don't know her pain you live it every day god bless her family
Comment by mone j on August 10, 2011 at 12:37pm
it has nothing to do with JAMAICA itself.look at america.crazy things happen here everyday.people rape their own kids and kids kill there parents.people make no sense.but this story is heartbreaking.i dnt think there's any hope for her.
Comment by Dreys P on August 10, 2011 at 12:15pm
So very sad.  What a tragedy!
Comment by evolution on August 10, 2011 at 11:07am

Saying that the country is curse is a little bit over the top, as I said before it’s a very small percentage of persons who do all the wickedness in that country. I do believe that the police have their hands full and could really use some help from other Caribbean islands trained crime professionals.

Comment by reka22 on August 10, 2011 at 10:59am
What the hell the video have to do with the lil girl.. Bout that this lil girl have been through sonethings in her life wow I thought I gad it bad God be with you sweetheart
Comment by Mishka on August 9, 2011 at 11:30pm
@ LiveandDirect u are not a jamaican, you are one of the many jamacian wanna b's, and if you are indeed a jamaican people like you are the reason why us true JAMACIANS have to keep praying for the land of our birth because its painful obvious that you are unintelligent, ignorant and unlearnt... if Jamaica is CURSED its because of people like you... go learn fi pray fi you birth land, its leaders and it people..

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