CLEVELAND – The mother of a 9-year-old girl who was killed by a stray bullet is fighting for legislation that places responsibility on the parents of juvenile criminals.
“I’m broken, I’m devastated, I’m torn and ever since June 20th I don’t even know who I am anymore,” said Marshawnette Daniels, the mother of 9-year-old Saniya Nicholson.
Nicholson was sitting in her mother’s car with her older sister at the corner of Lee Road and Cloverfield Avenue on June 20 when a gunfight between teens erupted around her. A stray bullet hit Nicholson and killed her. Daniels mother had run inside to a boxing gym for just a few minutes to pick up her son, Saniyah’s older brother.
“Babies killed my baby. 16 and 17-year-olds outside, of the adults. When do parents become parents?” said Daniels at a press conference, held just a few minutes away from the murder scene, on Saturday.
Six people face multiple charges in the case, including murder. Three of them are under 18-years-old.
“When you don’t raise your children and you don’t train them, my Bible tells me that if you train them in the way they should go, there is a possibility my daughter would still be alive,” Daniels said.
Daniels and the women of The Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County want a state law that puts the parents of juvenile criminals in the spotlight.
“I believe that if we make parents held accountable for the violent acts that their children commit it will make better parents be better parents,” Daniels said.
The proposed state legislation would require parents of young criminals to face jail time and have to pay for crime cleanup, property damage, medical bills, funeral expenses and counseling for victims and their families.
“If your child commits something like a heinous crime as such, what’s wrong with you paying for the funeral, right? That’s only right,” said Kimberly Brown, who is leading the efforts of the commission.
Brown and Daniels say if parents know they will have to pay their own money to clean up after their kids they will become more engaged and more focused on keeping their kids on the right track.
The proposed legislation would also require children who are 13-years-old and up, and are charged with murder, be bonded over as an adult.
“We understand policy implementation, we know how to introduce a bill, we know how to garner support. It’s here. We know who our state rep is. We are very familiar with our state senator,” said Brown.
They also want to see change at the murder scene. More than a month after Saniyah was killed, there is still a memorial of stuffed animals, balloons and signs next to what appears to be bullet holes in windows.
Daniels wants a secondary street sign on Cloverfield Avenue to replace to makeshift memorial that currently stands.
“They need a constant reminder every day, this is what happened here. I’m not going to be one of them mothers they're going to sweep everything up under the rug,” Daniels said.
Browns says she and the commission understand passing a law is not easy and won’t happen overnight, but they are determined to honor Saniyah and make their community safer.
“In this case that sign is going up. In this case that bill is going to be presented on the floor. And, in this case, if they turn it down you’re going to see a whole lot of folk on a whole lot of buses riding down to Columbus demanding that this law is passed,” Brown said.
Brown says the commission has the support of several local female politicians and says her next move is to take the proposal to Cleveland City Council.