THE village that nurtured Abigail Jones-Chapman as a child, failed her as an adult when they stood silently looking on as she faced two successive abusive relationships.
Her cousin, Alana Jones, lashed out yesterday in grief while delivering the eulogy at the funeral for Abigail and her daughter, Olivia at the La Brea Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church. Abigail’s estranged husband, who spoke before Jones, had asked the congregation not to judge him and to allow him to grieve as they did. He said had he been there the night Abigail and Olivia were killed, he would have been prepared to lose his own life if it meant saving theirs.
Abigail, 41, Olivia, 16, their landlord, Michael Scott, 69, and Olivia’s schoolmate 14-year-old Michaela Mason were killed on March 13 when a man, said to be Abigail’s estranged lover, attacked them in Scott’s house. Abigail’s throat was slit and she was beaten until her face was unrecognisable. The two caskets remained closed because of the extent of the injuries. Scott was also beaten to death, while Olivia’s and Michaela’s throats were slit. The suspect is in police custody.
The service lasted close to four hours and the church was packed to capacity with many mourners left standing outside in the heat peeping through the windows and doorways to catch a glimpse of the proceedings. There were many musical tributes to the mother and daughter with members of the church’s steel orchestra weeping as they played a hymn in their honour. Father and grandfather Everton Charles (to Abigail and Olivia) moved many to tears with his rendition of My Life is in Your Hands. Students of the Point Fortin East Secondary, led by their principal Ainsley Gopaul, also sang a song in tribute to Olivia who attended the school. La Brea MP Nicole Oliverrie and elders in the SDA community were also present. Pastor Clive Dottin urged the grieving families not to seek revenge but to pray to be able to forgive the killer.
While Jones said even in their grief her family is rooted in their faith, she believes the community failed Abigail. “Growing up in this community, I was told that it takes a village to raise a child. But somehow we forgot that when that child moves into adulthood, they still need that village.
“Abigail needed that village as a young mom. She struggled to make ends meet to provide for her children. She was married but not ever adequately provided for… the village still wasn’t there.”
She said Abigail single-handedly provided for her three children, Olivia, 11-year-old Kasey and eight-year-old Amy.
In honour of Abigail’s memory, Jones said there needs to be a change in the way communities think and behave where domestic violence is concerned.
“I ask that we become agitated in this journey, ask the right questions, support beyond lip service and challenge societal norms and don’t stay silent. Regroup and reset your thoughts around the definition of a supportive community. Don’t be confined to religious best practices that you miss the reality of your members’ position.”
Olivia, meanwhile, was described by her teachers as an extraordinary student and person. Teachers Beverly Sinanan and Katie Deokaran were moved to tears as they recalled finding out Olivia was selling penna-cools during class time to help her mother meet expenses.
Abigail and Olivia were later buried at the La Brea public cemetery.