Family, community speak out after tragedy

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, November 30, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---News 12 talked with Sandra Hawes, the aunt of Shakayla and Jordan Hawes. Sandra saw the toddlers shortly before they were killed.

"If I only knew, I would have got them kids, but I didn't know."

Sandra is the last family member to see Shakayla and Jordan Hawes alive. Sandra is a bus driver who spotted the kids and their mother walking along Lumpkin Road Thursday afternoon.

"They was just looking at me, when I was sitting on that bus, and I wish I could have got them. If I could have got them, I would have rode them all through my whole route if only I knew."

But she had no way of knowing that Jeanette would be charged with murdering her two children. "She had got a nice job at the post office, she had bought a brand new car...I mean she was just doing good."

But things changed about a month ago when Jeanette lost her job. Family members say she drove to Atlanta Tuesday in that new car, but returned Wednesday on the bus. Officers had to force her to get off, and then Jeanette went missing.

"They found the baby's jacket at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Aiken, and my mom and my brother brought the jacket back home, and we hadn't seen or heard from her at all that Wednesday night," Sandra said.

But Thursday became a day Sandra says she will never forget. "Lord my heart...Jesus my heart just fell to my stomach, I just can't believe it."

"Look like they was just begging you know out for me to get them, but I know I couldn't have did that. You can't just pick nobody up off the street and put them on the bus," Sandra said.

She is the last relative to see the children alive Thursday.

Sandra and other family members say something went terribly wrong.

"The person who did that wasn't Michelle. It could not have been. Me and her grew up together side by side. My cousin would never do anything like that," says Latoria Bussey. "She had a moment of insanity, and we just want to get help for her. That's where we at now, we're at a place where we just want Michelle to get help."

"It was so real to me when I heard it, and I knew what the family was feeling because they are the ones left with the pain," said Emily Hyatt, who has 24 great-grandchildren. She says she felt compelled to do something. "I thought right away that I have a cemetery lot over here in Hillcrest that's not being used, and I thought that I could offer that to the family."

The family is now struggling to understand why this happened. "Prior to this, Michelle never abused her kids. She didn't even spank them...You might as well say she spoiled them rotten. She spoiled her kids."

Local radio host Helen Blocker Adams says, "I've never done anything like this before, but I know the people who can make things we're in the process of setting up a memorial fund at Georgia Bank and Trust."

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