What happens to the children left behind when their parents commit a crime?
An 11-year-old boy’s world came crumbling down last Saturday. His father killed his mother, then shot 3 police officers who came to the rescue, killing a young policewoman who had just been sworn in the day before.
The boy’s parents had been married for 11 years.
His father, Ronald Williams Hamilton (32) joined the Army at age 18. Hamilton is an active duty Army staff sergeant assigned to the Joint Staff Support Center at the Pentagon. He worked as an information technology specialist and had been stationed at the Pentagon since 2011. Ronald Hamilton was deployed in Iraq twice, from Feb. 2003 to Feb. 2005 and again from Oct. 2005 to Sept. 2006. He received numerous service awards and Army commendation and service medals.
His mother, Crystal Hamilton, 29, was a beautiful lady who shared a special bond with her son. Crystal worked with the Wounded Warrior Regiment, as a Recovery Care Coordinator in the detachment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for the last four years, serving the wounded, ill, and injured Marines and their families.
The year after he returned from his last Iraq tour, (2007) Ronald Hamilton was charged with assault in another state. He was allowed to enter a diversion program to avoid jail time.
One of Crystal Hamilton’s best friends, Shayna Colunga, said Hamilton’s husband was sometimes jealous of the men his wife assisted at the Wounded Warrior Regiment in Bethesda. “He would just tell her that he wanted her to quit her job and that he didn’t want her to work.”
Colunga said Crystal never expressed fears about Ronald Hamilton physically harming her.
On Wednesday, February 24th, the couple celebrated their son’s 11th birthday.
Hawla Donley, another friend, said Crystal Hamilton had been getting over a cold, so she checked in with her Saturday morning. Donley wanted to make sure her friend was still up for a girls’ night out, planned for the evening. Hamilton’s text back read: “I’m not 100% but I’m alive and will make it,” followed by a smile emoji.
The boy was at home with his parents on Saturday, and they became involved in a day-long verbal altercation that escalated physically. That evening, she called 911 for help, but when the officers arrived at 5:40pm, it was too late.
Three officers first arrived. Ronald Hamilton tried to force the door closed to shut them out of the home, then suddenly opened fire, shooting all three officers, and killing one – twenty-nine year old Officer Ashley Guindon.
Police said additional officers arrived on the scene and surrounded the house. Hamilton surrendered without further incident and Hudson said they found his wife’s body inside, in a bedroom.
At some point during the incident, Zacarius Harris, 18, a neighbor, said he saw Hamilton’s son running away from the house, wearing a T-shirt and basketball shorts. He was looking back at the house as he ran down the street. The boy ended up at a neighbor’s.
“He ran so fast I can’t even imagine how scared he must have been,” Harris said. “It broke my heart,” he said.
It is believed that the boy witnessed his mother’s murder. After the murder, he was temporarily placed with Ronald’s family in South Carolina, but his mother’s family are now fighting for custody.
His grandfather, Ronald Whaley Hamilton, a retired major with the Charleston Police Department in South Carolina, said in a brief interview with The Washington Post that he and his family learned about the shooting Saturday night and are shocked.
Prince William County prosecutor Paul Ebert said at a news conference Sunday that he will probably pursue the death penalty against Hamilton, who is facing six charges including capital murder of a police officer, first-degree murder and two counts of malicious wounding of a police officer. Hamilton is being held without bond at the county jail and is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday.
According to Crystal’s co-workers, the most important thing in her world was her son, and just days before her death, she was “beaming with pride” after he made the honor roll at school.
Now, an 11-year-old boy who just celebrated his birthday with both parents, suddenly has neither. Instead, he’s left with the horrific memories of the worst day of his life, and his future hangs in limbo.
His story is just one of the many innocent children who pay the price for their parents’ mistakes.
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