MIRAMAR (CBS4) – A Broward judge has removed a 2-year-old child involved in the shooting death of his mother from the custody of his father, ordering that relatives care for the boy while the shooting death is investigated.
The judge placed the child in to the custody of the mother's family. And those family members told CBS4's Peter D'Oench on Friday night that they were doing their best to support and take care of the little boy.
"He is doing fine," said the mother's uncle, Hugh Pearce. Outside the family's Miramar home, as relatives circled the child and watched him play, Pearce told D'Oench, "He is in our care. He is doing fine."
He told D'Oench that the child was not able to communicate what happened to his mother and how she was shot. "My understanding is that he does not understand what happened," said Pearce. "He thinks his Mom has gone to work." Pearce said the child may not even know what happened and that is a problem too for investigators.
"We just want to know what happened," said Pearce. "We'd like some answers but we are not going to second guess the Miramar Police Department."
"I feel the family will get through this," Pearce said. "The family will heal."
The child's father did not appear in court Friday.
The father of the boy called 911 Wednesday saying the child had somehow accessed the gun and accidentally fired the 9 mm semiautomatic weapon, killing is mother, 33-year-old Julia Bennett. He was questioned by police and released, and police have not charged the boy.
The child's great aunt, Marva Anglin, said the boy doesn't understand what happened and keeps asking for his mother.
"He just keeps calling her name," Anglin said. "He keeps calling, 'mom….mom.'"
The child's great grandmother and great aunt were awarded custody of the child.
Bennett's relatives said they had never met the child's father, but told the judge they did not want him in their home for supervised visits with the child because they are afraid of him.
The family said they were shocked to discover it was Bennett that was shot and featured on the news.
Anglin and other family members do not believe the baby killed Bennett.
"We're not buying it," said Hugh Pearce, whose 33-year-old niece Julia Bennett was shot and killed about 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Ashlar apartments off Pembroke Road near University Drive.
"We just don't think it happened that way," said Pearce. "But we want to see police finish their investigation."
Bennett's loved ones spoke out for the first time Thursday night to CBS4′s Peter D'Oench.
"We really didn't expect this," said Pearce. "She was a medical technician who had such a future. Yesterday I saw her doing her wash and her clothing and not I hear about this on the news. This is terrible."
It happened inside apartment number 303. The boy's father called 911 about the incident claiming that the boy used his 9 millimeter, semi-automatic glock pistol. Neighbors say they saw police testing the boy's hands for gun residue but police would not say what they found.
"All I have to say is Julia is a great person," said Tori Whitemore, Bennett's aunt. "She was a great person. She was high spirited. She always made everybody laugh. She loved her kids. She loved her family. All I can say is this is foolishness. This is such foolishness. That little boy didn't do anything."
Whitebroke broke down as she told D'Oench, "She's my cousin. I do love that girl.I loved her so much."
Bennett had three children. Family members said her son was named Troy. They say she had two daughters, Kevesha and Christina.
According to her family, Bennett is from Jamaica. She attended school and landed a job at North Shore Hospital.
D'Oench also caught up with Christina's father, Jean Casimir of Northwest Miami-Dade. Casimir and Bennett had lived together for four years.
"I'm sad," Casimir said. "I don't know what to say. She was a sweet person, very nice, humble. This hurts. I can't believe it."
Inside their home, Casimir's father Jean Sr. broke down and cried out, "I'm very sorry. She was a nice person," he said.
Inside a West Miami-Dade store, one gun owner said he had serious questions about the claim that the two-year-old boy fired the gun.
"It's highly unlikely that this would have been possible because it requires five pounds of pressure to pull the trigger of a nine millimeter semi-automatic glock pistol like this one," said longtime gun owner Kevin Gleason. "Even if the gun was chambered and ready to fire, this would have been very difficult. I don't buy this story."
The two year old boy was placed in to the protective custody of DCF.
Bennett's cousin and uncle told D'Oench that they would be at that hearing. They also said Bennett's father would be coming to South Florida for her funeral, which will be held next Saturday. They also contacted her mother in Jamaica and when she heard the news, they say she fainted.
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