Smeared bloodstains mark a symbol of what should have served as the beginning of baby Davon Scott Jr.’s life.
His mother’s handprint can still be seen on the box of a light-blue stroller purchased for her unborn son. She grasped the box just before she bled to death.
The father, Davon Scott, can’t help but cry at the irony.
“There’s blood all over the box,” he said. “We just bought it for the baby. She left her mark; she let us know that’s hers.”
The stroller was among the gifts that should have been opened during a baby shower scheduled for Saturday. Instead, mother and son will be laid to rest that day in a dark beige casket with cream-colored lining.
Angelese Ladson, 29, eight months pregnant, was shot in the neck June 26 during a drive-by shooting just after midnight. Three men pulled up and fired several shots toward the home at 18048 NW 40th Pl. in Miami Gardens.
Ladson died at the scene, police said. Paramedics rushed her body to Jackson Memorial Hospital, but by the time the baby was pulled from his mother’s womb, he, too, was dead.
“They will be buried together,” said Ladson’s mother, Sharron Ladson. “Mother and son; he will be wrapped and put in her arms.”
Ladson will wear a turquoise, mid-sleeve, pleated top, with a black, knee length skirt along with a black and brown belt.
“Baby DJ,” as the family refers to the child, will be wrapped in a blue blanket that bears his stitched initials.
“My sister was always in my closet . . . so I know she would have wanted me to pick out her outfit,” said Ladson’s older sister, Traveotta Sheffield, 31, as she glanced with moist eyes toward the closet. “I didn’t want her wearing black. She was a colorful , bright person. I need to make sure my sister goes to heaven looking amazing.”
Investigators said they have no leads or persons of interest in the shooting. No one on either side of the family has a criminal record, and relatives have no idea why the house was targeted. Ladson was on maternity leave from her job as a customer service agent for AT&T. Scott, a former UPS driver, is currently unemployed.
The gunmen were last seen driving a four-door, silver Toyota Camry. The slain woman’s family members said there would be extra security at the wake and funeral.
Joseph Zellner, the lead detective on the case, said the department is “desperate” for answers.
“That night we only got one valuable tip from a caller — the type of car they were driving,” he said. “We are patrolling the home every night and passing out missing-persons fliers.”
Two shell casings were found at the scene — one from a large-caliber handgun and one from a rifle, Zellner said.
“Someone knows something, and they need to speak up,” he said.
The night of the shooting, Ladson was standing on her boyfriend’s porch with her friend Krystal Tillman when the shots were fired. Ladson was handing Tillman an invitation to her baby shower. Tillman was shot in the leg and remains at Jackson Memorial Hospital in stable condition.
Prior to the shooting, “that night was a good night,” Scott said. “She glowed. She was pregnant and so happy. It was a family day.”
Hours before, Ladson had just finished fixing dinner — hamburgers, white rice and pork and beans.
Everyone cracked jokes at the table as they planned to watch two movies they had rented — A Thousand Words and Ghost Rider 2.
Just before meeting up with Tillman on the porch, Ladson looked at 3D ultrasound images of her unborn son on the computer. Earlier that day, Scott was designing a baby shower T-shirt online.
“After eating, she went on the computer to look at photos,” Scott said. “When Krystal passed by, I was about to get in the shower. “
Scott said he quickly put his clothes back on and walked Ladson outside. On the porch, he hugged Krystal and went back inside to take the shower.
“As soon as I turned the knob, I heard the gunshots. Screams,” he said. “I ran to the hallway and see her holding her neck. Blood came out her mouth, out of her neck. I saw her lips turn purple . . . her veins thickening . . . I saw her die.”
Scott said Ladson had been living at his home for about two years. She would go back and forth from her parents’ house.
Ladson leaves behind her 6-year-old daughter Zhariya Williams, who will remain in the custody of her grandparents. Scott fears that because he is not her father, he won’t be able to spend time with her.
“I’m not her dad, but she calls me daddy,” he said.
Ladson’s mother said she is anxious to get answers from investigators.
“I need these devils off the streets,” said Sharron Ladson. “People should feel comfortable knowing that you can sit on your front porch and not have to dodge bullets.”
Gerard Ladson, Ladson’s father, says he “cries a little less every day.”
“You try to forget, and then you see all the photos of her. It’s hard,” he said. “Now,” he says of his granddaughter, “I have to raise another butterfly.”
On a recent Friday, family and friends gathered at Ladson’s cousin’s home. More than 50 people wore T-shirts in memory of Ladson. There was a collage of Ladson’s portraits with a cross and white dove. Music blared as people approached a donation box to help pay for the funeral costs. They lit Tiki torches. Pink and white balloons adorned the single-story house’s front yard.
“We let go of the balloons so they can reach her and the baby,” said Sheffield, Ladson’s sister. “Her daughter, my niece, asked me yesterday if she can call heaven to talk to her mommy. What do you say to a 6-year-old?”
Many of the baby items that had been purchased for the baby shower by family members and friends will now go to others in need.
“We are putting everything in boxes,” Sharron Ladson said, as she took a deep breath. “Most of the baby clothes will be donated to Goodwill or friends with children.”
Scott, the father-to-be, said everything around him feels “undone; everything was left standing still.”
“We never got to use the stroller, never got to have the baby shower, wear the shirts, have the baby,” he said.
“My family is dead. I don’t sleep. I stay staring in the dark until the sun comes up. I wake up, and then reality hits all over again.”