Local organization helping children who lost parents to homicide

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- One local organization is helping children who have lost parents to homicide.

In a week-and-a-half span in 2019, Healing Pathway Victim Service Agency have already had three newborns who lost their fathers come into the program.

"It is very unusual that we’ve had so many newborn babies at one time," Monica Roberts, the founder of Healing Pathway Victim Service Agency said. "Children are innocent. They deserve to have parents in their lives. A lot of the children in our program have been cheated of that."

Ciara Freeman's daughter is one of the babies in the program. Freeman's world changed on Oct. 30, 2018 -- the day her daughter Raelynn was born.

"I'll be staring at her and I just see his face," Ciara Freeman said.

Less than a month after a new life came into the world, another was taken away. Freeman's boyfriend and Raelynn's father, RJ Marks, was shot to death near 10th and Ohio in Kansas City, Kansas.

"He was so in love with her," Freeman said. "Just staring at her. Smiling at her."

Carolyn Marks, RJ Mark's mother, cradles Raelynn just like she used to cradle her son when he was little. Police say the man charged in Marks death killed him right in front of her.

"I try not to think about it," Carolyn Marks said. "Every night I go to bed, I see my son. He was my baby."

Marks only had weeks to spend with his baby girl. They first realized she looked like him through a 4D sonogram.

"It was like one little second it just like flashed on the screen," Freeman said. "And I was like OMG it was just like his face. Everything. His eyes, his nose, his lips, his cheeks, just everything."

When Healing Pathways Victim Service Agency learned about Marks' death, they reached out to Freeman. The nonprofit offers support to even the youngest children who lose parents to homicide.

"They provided diapers and formula," Freeman said. "Some wipes, some clothes and things like that."

Only two weeks into 2019, Healing Pathways already took in three newborns. Like baby Raelynn, all of their fathers were killed.

"It’s definitely an issue," Roberts said. "It’s definitely an issue. It is impacting a lot of families. There are a lot of innocent children that have already been cheated by violence."

With all the support Freeman gets from friends, family and Healing Pathways, she says raising her daughter her been less of a challenge. But watching her daughter grow up without her father because of someone's bad decision is hard.

"He's not here to do it with me or see the moments that I get to," Freeman said. "That part has been difficult."

The man charged in Marks' death, Zshavon Dotson, will be in court next month. He's in the Wyandotte County Detention Center on a $250,000 bond.

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