Mom Forgives Her Boy for Intentionally Killing His Baby Sister as 'Payback'

Charity Lee
The ELLA Foundation/Facebook

Charity Lee was working at her waitressing job on Super Bowl Sunday in 2007 when police arrived to tell her the devastating news that her little girl was dead. But what made this unthinkable discovery even worse was what she found out after fainting over the initial shock: Ella didn't die because of an accident. Her older brother already admitted to stabbing her to death

  • Paris admitted to stabbing his sleeping little sister to death as revenge on his mom.

    Before killing Ella on February 4, 2007, 13-year-old Paris convinced their babysitter to go home. He then approached his 4-year-old half sister who was sound asleep in bed, sexually assaulted her, and repeatedly stabbed her. After the brutal killing, Paris called 911 and told them exactly what he had just done.

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  • The 13-year-old was mad at his mom for briefly relapsing a few years before, and he murdered Ella as payback.

    Lee had been addicted to heroin but got clean before getting pregnant with Paris. However, she relapsed with cocaine for six months when Paris was 11 and Ella was 2 before she got clean again. During that time, Paris stepped up to help take care of Ella and this is something the boy resented so much that he couldn't forgive her. Now that he is 24, it's Lee who has been doing the forgiving and continues to support her child despite his horrific crime. 

    "Paris was an incredibly smart child. He was artistic, creative, and he never displayed violent or disturbing tendencies, until one day in 2005," Lee told Good Housekeeping. After being scolded, the child stole a knife from the kitchen and ran down the block sobbing. She brought him to the hospital where he was held for a week, but everything seemed fine after.

    "Of course, we had our issues: He was a teenager and I was maintaining sobriety, but Paris never threatened to hurt me or anybody else," she said. "I was honestly more worried about him hurting himself. I never, at any point, had any indication that he could kill."

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  • Before they took Ella's body away, Lee promised her girl that something meaningful would come from her death.

    Lee was shocked to learn what happened that night after the babysitter left without her consent. "In [the babysitter's] absence, Paris beat and attempted to strangle Ella. He ultimately stabbed her 17 times with a knife. She died, but not quickly, as I'd later find out," she said. 

    When she faced her son two weeks later in the district attorney's office, all she could do was wonder why he would do something like this to his own sister. "He had positioned himself in a chair in the back of the room when he looked up at me. 'You used to say that you would never be able to kill anybody unless they hurt one of your kids,'" Lee recalled his saying. "'I bet you didn't think it was going to turn out like this.'"

  • Paris was diagnosed with conduct disorder with "moderate psychopathic traits."

    Despite Lee's hope that her son would get help in a mental institution, Paris was sentenced to 40 years in prison. After moving from a juvenile center when he turned 19, Paris is now in an adult prison where he will likely remain into his 40s.

    "Only once I understood what Paris is -- a predator -- was I able to forgive him," Lee said. "For instance, if I was swimming in a beautiful ocean, enjoying myself, and a shark came up and bit my leg off, hopefully I would not spend the rest of my life hating that shark. Hopefully, I would understand that sharks are what they are. And, for better or worse, Paris is a shark. If you want to dwell on hating the shark, more power to you, but you're not going to get very far. And in an effort to forgive the shark, you need to figure out what makes the shark work." 

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  • Lee frequently travels from Georgia to Texas to visit her son in prison.

    "I sometimes have to say to myself [during visits]: "Okay, Charity, take a breath, you know how Paris is wired,"' Lee told the New York Post. "But I am not going to be that parent who abandons their kid. I have forgiven Paris for what he did but it's an ongoing process."

    However, just because Lee forgives Paris doesn't mean that she will ever forget what he did. She welcomed another baby boy, Phoenix, in 2013 and isn't sure if she'll ever allow the two to meet. "Paris writes letters to Phoenix, which he wants me to give to him when he turns 12 or 13. But I question letting the person who killed my daughter talk to my son," she told Good Housekeeping. "I'll never be comfortable with Paris, and I'll never forget what he did to Ella."

  • Just because Lee has forgiven Paris doesn't mean that she's blind to his actions -- or has healed from them.

    "While I've learned to forgive Paris, you don't ever fully heal from something like that. You learn to live with it," she told the magazine. "He could've made 10,000 other choices that night and I'll never understand why he did what he did. My son is a predator, but if I spent my whole life hating him, what good would that do? I can't double guess the past. No one can."

  • Shortly after her girl's death, Lee started the ELLA Foundation to help others.

    ELLA stands for empathy, love, lessons, and action, and this nonprofit strives to prevent violence as well as advocate for human rights including criminal justice reform and victim advocacy. "Being the daughter of a murdered father and the mother to both a murderer and a murder victim, has only served to increase the amount of love and compassion I feel for each person I encounter," Lee wrote on the foundation's Facebook page. "Every moment I have experienced thus far has led me to one unassailable belief: the most important thing I do in this life is to help anyone, anyone at all, to remember life is meaningful and, no matter how untrue this may feel at the time, they are meaningful to life."