• Child abuse victims honored in Shelby County

    By: Kristin Leigh


    A flag is flying in Downtown Memphis during the month of April honors the lives of six children who died due to abuse and neglect last year in Shelby County.

    The annual flag raising ceremony is hosted each year by the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.

    In addition to raising a flag, doves are released after each victim’s name is called at the annual event.

    “Six children are six children too many,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said at the event. “The goal is to one year make this a celebration, because there’s no children to mourn and no doves to put up in the air.”

    Four of the six victims are the Gardner Siblings.  Tallen Gardner, 4, Sya Gardner, 3, Sahvi Gardner, 2, and 6-month-old Yahzi Gardner were stabbed to death by their mother, Shanynthia Gardner, last July, according to Police.

    Shanynthia Gardner is charged with first degree murder and child abuse for her children’s deaths.

    The fifth victim is 4-year-old Zamiya Taylor-Evans, who died in a Memphis motel after police say she was beaten by her father, Richard Lassister. The 25-year-old is charged with aggravated child abuse.

    Cedric Barr, 24, is charged with first degree murder and child abuse for the drowning death of the sixth victim. Police say 10-month-old Cayden Vaughn was left unattended in a bathtub.

    “Children are the innocent ones,” Terre Fratesi, a magistrate for Shelby County juvenile court, said. “They do not ask to be born. They certainly do not ask to die at the hands of a loved one, a member of their household, or someone they depend on for love and nurture.”

    The Memphis Police Peacemakers sang at the event, which was attended by several community leaders, including Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, and District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

    “Every time I read in the paper about the death of one of the least among us – the babies, the children – a little bit of me dies with [them],” Luttrell said. “It’s events like this that remind us there’s still much to be done.”

    Four children die every day in the United States due to neglect and abuse, according to the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.

    Anyone who suspects child abuse is required by law to report it to police.

    If you or someone you know needs help, the city has a line to connect parents and caregivers with resources. Simply dial 211 to get started

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    Child abuse victims honored in Shelby County