By Jueseppi B.
Two Lives Extinguished: Child Commits Suicide with Dad’s Illegal Gun – His Mother then Takes Her Own Life
By Alexandria Bodden & Moms Demand Action
On January 14, 2013 my world was completely shattered when I was told that my 13-year old brother, Michael “Mikey” Graham, had taken his life. His death rocked the community of Putnam County, New York. There were an estimated 1500 individuals who went to Mikey’s wake. Most of those people waited in line for hours just to pay their respects.
Mikey was a popular kid in school. He had many friends and was the type of person who would befriend the new kid and introduce them to his friends. He loved to play videos games. He was an expert bowler who mastered the two-handed shot. He also played basketball, lacrosse, and was quarterback of the Brewster Bears football team. His jersey, #7, has been retired in his honor. It was a shock to believe that this beautiful happy boy committed suicide.
We do not know exactly what drove Mikey to take his life, although we have probable cause. We do know that he used one of three illegal handguns our father, Douglas Graham, kept loaded and unsecured in his home. Sheila Graham, Mikey’s mom and stepmother to me, had asked my father for years to please get rid of the guns he kept in his home or at least lock them up so Mikey wouldn’t find them. My father and Sheila were divorced and shared joint custody of Mikey. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, she told him several more times to lock up his guns but he would not listen and Sheila’s worst fear ended up becoming a real nightmare.
That is not where this tragedy ends. On October 14, 2013, exactly nine months to the day of Mikey’s death, Sheila took her life as well. She was so grief stricken over the death her son and the guilt of not being able to protect him was something she could no longer live with. Now two beautiful people are gone because of one man’s negligence.
Three months after Mikey’s death my father was charged with felony possession of illegal handguns as well as tampering with evidence. It is illegal in New York to have a handgun without a permit. It was said that the tampering of evidence charge was due to my father trying to hide the other two illegal handguns he had. However, that has since been denied and the tampering of evidence charge was dropped with a plea bargain. On January 22, 2014, my father was sentenced to five years probation even though he admitted to having those illegal, unsecured guns in his home for more than a decade.
My father has done everything he possibly could to avoid accepting responsibility for his negligence. After he was arrested he said to me, “Out of all the guns I had in the house, Mikey had to use an illegal one.” Not once has he apologized for or acknowledged his negligence. He has also never tried to warn other gun owners to be more responsible with their weapons so their kid doesn’t have access to them. When Sheila was alive he repeatedly said to her, “I just want to let you know that the gun was not readily accessible to Mikey.” If that were true, then Mikey would not have had access to it.
My world will never be the same without my little brother and other Mom. Their deaths have destroyed the lives of those that were close to them. Both of their deaths could have been easily prevented if my father had kept his guns locked up, away from the hands of my 13-year-old brother who I truly believe made an impulsive decision that day. The Putnam County Court system failed Mikey and Sheila. This is why Child Access Prevention laws should be in every state. Irresponsible adults need to be held accountable for their negligent actions that lead to the deaths of innocent children.
About Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Much like Mothers Against Drunk Driving was created to change laws regarding drunk driving, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was created to build support for common-sense gun reforms. The nonpartisan grassroots movement of American mothers is demanding new and stronger solutions to lax gun laws and loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our children and families. In just one year, the organization has more than 130,000 members with a chapter in every state in the country. The group recently joined forces with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country. For more information or to get involved visit www.momsdemandaction.org. Follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/MomsDemandAction or on Twitter @MomsDemand