ELIJAH NEALEY – JUSTICE NOT YET SERVED – CCA0114 – UPDATED 01.23.2014
ELIJAH NEALEY – JUSTICE NOT YET SERVED
It’s hard to look at this beautiful little man and not smile. The love, joy and excitement that radiates from him is intoxicating and fills your heart with delight. This little man surely has a bright future, full of incredible moments and great achievements. He has the whole world laid out in front of him, no dream is unreachable, and he is surrounded by a family that absolutely love and adore him.
This my wonderful family, is Elijah Nealey.
I wish I could tell you how Elijah is growing up, how he is finding his way in this crazy world, but I can’t. Elijah was 23 months old when his life was ripped from him in a moment, at the hands of someone that was trusted to take care of him. Jessica Fraraccio, 22, was Elijah’s babysitter. For seven months she watched this little boy, and for seven months things seemed to go well. Elijah’s parents, Mike and Jennifer Nealey, say that she was a very nice person, quiet and a little introverted, they never imagined that their precious baby boy would die at the hands of Fraraccio.
In August of 2012, the nightmare began when Elijah supposedly “slipped in a bathtub and hit his head” – according to Fraraccio. A horrible accident, tragic and heart breaking. For months the Nealey’s actually believed that it was an accident. Losing a son like this would be unbearable, now imagine losing your son and learning that there was no accident, that your son, your baby boy, was murdered. For seven months after Elijah’s death, his parents’ mourned his loss never even imagining that the woman they entrusted with looking after Elijah was responsible for this loss. In fact, right up until the day that Fraraccio was arrested, the Nealey’s never questioned how their son was fatally injured. Had investigators not been persistent and took note of Fraraccio’s changes in the telling of her story over time, it’s hard to say if this little man’s murder would ever have been uncovered as just that, murder.
Fraraccio initially told police that Elijah was in a great mood that day. She stated that when she was feeding him his lunch, he didn’t eat much and instead was smearing food on his face and in his hair. Fraraccio then took Elijah upstairs to have a bath, which she claims he was excited about. At some point during the bath, Fraraccio says that Elijah splashed his hands in the water, lost his balance, hit his head on the tub and quickly lost consciousness. At first, Fraraccio claimed that she was in the bathroom the entire time Elijah was in the tub, later she changed her story saying that she had left to get one of his favorite hooded towels when she heard a scream and a thump, and assumed he had hit his head. Months later when police again interviewed Fraraccio, she said that Elijah actually hit his head downstairs at the table while he was eating.
One year after Elijah’s murder, Fraraccio finally pled guilty to murder and told the entire truth of what really happened to Elijah that today. On August 22, 2012, Elijah’s grandmother went to the Nealey home to pick Elijah’s older sisters, Olivia and Sophia, up to bring them to the park. Elijah understandably wanted to go with his grandmother and sisters, however his grandmother only had two car seats, so Elijah was left at home. Before leaving, Elijah’s grandmother picked him up and covered him with kisses, not knowing that this would be the last time she ever saw her grandson alive. Elijah, who had been eating lunch, was upset and crying as any child would be. Frustrated with his crying, Fraraccio kicked his chair out from under him, causing Elijah to hit his head on the table, and then again on the floor. Elijah began to cry harder and Fraraccio’s frustration with this innocent baby boy turned to rage. She picked Elijah up with one arm, holding him as though he were a football, covered his mouth with her hand and slammed his tiny head on the stair railing. By the time Fraraccio released Elijah, she had smothered him to death. She then placed Elijah’s limp body in the bathtub and called 911. Elijah was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced deceased, it was too later for medical staff to save him. Immediately after Elijah’s death, the medical examiner was unable to determine the exact cause of death, he did however rule out drowning, head trauma, poisoning and natural causes. After Fraraccio had confessed, the medical examiner stated that suffocation was probably the cause of death.
A happy, active, loving family was torn in half, leaving them nothing left but snapshots in their minds of a brighter day when no innocence was stolen. Mike Nealey remembers all the wonderful memories he has shared with Elijah, but they do nothing to dull the pain of losing him. Elijah was obsessed with Spiderman – superhero’s are essential to a boys childhood, as much as Hot Wheels and Lego – and I speak from experience. My middle son went through a phase where he wore his batman costume every day for a month. I’m talking, cape, mask, ears – FULL COSTUME. It’s easy to imagine Elijah’s fascination with a superhero generations have grown up idolizing. Mike recalls, “Elijah was just really becoming a little boy. He was slowly starting to come into his own. Everybody he met was his best friend. He was tough, he didn’t fear anybody.”
Elijah had developed a passion for dinosaurs, and one of Mike’s fondest memories is the day when he took Elijah to a dinosaur themed park. Elijah looked up at the towering statues, his eyes full of wonder and amazement. Watching his son, Mike was filled with joy, and recalled when he had come to the very same dinosaur park at Elijah’s age. Before leaving the park, Mike bought matching dinosaur shirts for his son and himself to remember the day. That shirt, was the shirt Mike wore to Elijah’s funeral.
Elijah and Mike shared a close bond, the little boy would wait at the door for his Dad to get home from work. At the time of Elijah’s murder, his family had been busy planning his 2nd birthday party, planning on holding the event at a local Chick-fil-A as the owners and the Nealey family are good friends. When the day of the party came, there were no children laughing, no cake, no presents, no blowing out of the candles. Instead, on the playroom wall at Chick-fil-A, a photo of Elijah was posted in memory of him.
When the Nealey’s were hit with the news that their son was murdered, and not the victim of an accident, it hit them hard, and all of the grief and pain washed over them in waves as the devastation began to sink in, magnifying the heartbreak they were already trying to navigate. Mike Nealey spoke of Fraraccio saying “She is just a monster. I don’t understand how a person could do that.”
My heart is already broken, and I am already shedding tears imagining the pain that Elijah’s family is going through. Where justice should have been served, the Nealey’s were instead stabbed through the heart as Judge J. Howe Brown sentenced Fraraccio to 50 years in prison with all but 5 years suspended. 5 YEARS. Those who filled the court room were shocked as well, as gasps could be heard as the sentence was handed down. Brown stated “Nothing I can do brings back Elijah or makes (his parents) feel better. Likewise, nothing I can do to punish (Fraraccio) is more important than her memory of what she did.” Mike Nealey was stunned with disbelief, and the reality of what really just happened took days to sink in he says. “Once the verdict was read, I didn’t even fully comprehend it until after I’d left the courtroom and it all started sinking in. The anger has started to really build. It still doesn’t make sense.” Mike continues to share his anger saying “His decision shows no respect whatsoever for me, my family, or the life of my son.” – and that is the most truthful statement I have ever heard. It also turns out that Brown wasn’t the only piece of scum that sat in that court room. Defense attorney Sandra Drewniak stated that Fraraccio had a mental health break and “just kind of snapped, it was a terrible accident and she had no intention of hurting Elijah.” Drewniak arrogantly continued to speak of how ‘wonderful and innocent’ this murderer is, stating the Fraraccio was a devout Catholic with a “submissive personality” who had no prior criminal history. She said that Fraraccio never had so much as a traffic ticket, was a great student, and very active in her church and in her community, all reasons why she received a short sentence. Personally, I think Drewniak needs to be punched in the throat, repeatedly. What Drewniak didn’t mention was that in May of 2012, Fraraccio told Elijah’s parents after he was hurt, that she had found the baby boy sleeping with a moose toy wrapped around his neck, and stopped him from suffocating. However, medical experts quickly ascertained that the injuries Elijah suffered were not from a stuffed toy. Obviously the day of Elijah’s death was not the first day that this precious little man was abused by this monster.
Mike has stated what we all are thinking – “They keep saying “accident’, it was NO accident. I know no punishment is going to bring my son back, I know that. I definitely know that. But five years? That is not a punishment. And it will be even less time, because she’s already been in jail for nine months.” The only people that have received a sentence is the Nealey’s. Elijah’s older sisters, 6 and 7, have not been told the truth about their brothers’ death. When Elijah died they were told he had an accident and slipped in the tub, because that is what the entire family truly believed happened. When the truth came out that Elijah was murdered, the Nealey’s did not change what their daughters believed, which I completely understand. “That’s the story we’ve told them and we haven’t changed it. They’re not old enough to really comprehend it yet. We’ll tell them one day, but not anytime soon,” said Mike.
I wish this ended here – I wish I could say that things didn’t become even worse, sinking to a level that no one ever even conceived possible, but I can’t. I can’t. Justice has not been obtained, in fact it has been pushed even farther away. This disgusting excuse of a Judge went even further to slap the Nealey’s in the face and disrespect the memory of their son by ordering that upon her release, Fraraccio will be required to donate $1.00 to a charity of her choice on each anniversary of Elijah’s death. $1.00. I want to see this judge thrown to the wolves. The audacity this bastard had to insult a family grieving for their murdered baby boy is beyond any I have seen in my life. This piece of shit not only did nothing, he made everything WORSE. I am trying really hard to contain myself, and you may be noticing that I am failing miserably. I want to scream, I want to cry, I want this knowledge to go away. I don’t want to see how bad our society has gotten to even elect this asshole as Judge, let alone allow him to make rulings like this. I want to undo the knowledge of this very event, because my mind can’t wrap around the outrage that is boiling over. I want to forget – but I NEED TO REMEMBER. I will not turn my back on the Nealey’s and Elijah simply because my own heart is broken, I will not allow them to feel any more isolated, disrespected and uncared for as they already do. I will stand, and I will plead with each of you to stand with me, to stand for Elijah and his family, to fight together united, and to send the message loud and clear, that we will not tolerate disgrace such as this any longer.
The Nealey’s are speaking out about this complete slap in the face, and we need to get behind them and show the world we support them completely. Mike says that the continued anguish he and his family feel lies on Brown. “I want the get the word out to as many people that will listen, what kind of injustice Elijah received from the courts. To me, it’s a total failure of our justice system. I want everyone to know what the judge thought my son’s life was worth … which is pretty much nothing, according to him.”
It also turns out that Brown has a history of allowing criminals and murderers to get off lighter than a shoplifter in the dollar store. In 2011, Brown actually overruled a jury’s recommendation in a 2009 malicious wounding case. After stabbing Aragon Olievar, Anthony Lee Perry, 23, was sentenced to two years, not the five in which the jury recommended. Olievar was stunned saying “He deserved five years. I don’t know why the judge made that decision.”
An online petition has been started in an effort to permanently remove Brown from the bench. I have signed it, as have thousands of others. I am asking each of you to take a moment and sign the petition for Elijah. Sign the petition and share Elijah’s story – this little man deserves justice – and Brown needs to be stopped. Follow the link below, take the 30 seconds, sign it and pass it on. We can’t turn our backs on Elijah and the Nealey’s, I can’t live with myself if I don’t do and say something to bring this family the justice they deserve and need.
There is always the talk of how forgiveness starts the healing after a horrific nightmare such as this. Personally, I don’t believe that. Say what you may about me, but any person that ever even thinks of hurting my child, deserves no mercy and NO forgiveness. Mike Nealey shares my thoughts, “There’s no forgiveness. I don’t care what other people say, there’s no forgiving something like that.”
What happened to Elijah, to his family, is horrific, and unacceptable. We need to make our voices heard to ensure that another child doesn’t lose their life at the hands of Fraraccio, and to ensure that Brown never allows these monsters to get away with the crimes they commit again.