STREETSBORO- 13-year-old Elijah Lishing will be sentenced Friday for the murder of his brother, Caleb.
The 11-year-old was shot and killed last April in Streetsboro. The boys were adopted as babies, taken from a young mother who struggled with addiction. In an exclusive interview with Fox 8's Stacey Frey, Ashley Hayes said, "I feel cheated. I feel robbed."
Ashley was 15 when she gave birth to Elijah. Two years later she had Caleb who was born prematurely. A failed drug test after his birth landed the boys in the custody of Portage County Job and Family Services. In Ashley's words, she "had some issues."
Ashley was allowed to visit her boys in their new home but that ended when she signed away her parental rights and Dena and Marty Lishing adopted the boys.
"They told me the only way to make sure they stayed with that family was to sign my rights away."
A troubled, teenage mother with little in the way of family support, she thought she was giving her sons a better life. Ashley now regrets ever letting go. She said she was never the same, "It broke me and then to find out, it broke them."
Over the years, Ashley tried to keep track of the boys through court records and social media. What she came across last year shook her to the core.
Elijah had been arrested for Caleb's murder. According to police, he stole a gun from his grandfather's gun cabinet and shot his little brother.
It made Ashley sick to her stomach.
At a hearing last week in Portage County Juvenile Court to determine how long Elijah should spend behind bars for murder, psychologist Amy Thomas testified that Elijah already had suffered significant neglect by the time he was placed with the Lishings. He was born to a teenager mother with addiction issues, a father with mental health issues, and he suffered more in the Lishings home. His adoptive mother, Dena never really wanted Elijah and focused all of her energy on a premature Caleb who had critical medical needs. Elijah told the doctor that he was berated and beaten and suffered harsh punishments which included being locked in a dark garage for hours at a time and forced to kneel on rice when he was as young as five.
Dr. Thomas testified, "The event," meaning the murder of Caleb, "took place because he thought it was a way out of the home of his adopted father."
According to the doctor, Elijah suffers from reactive attachment disorder. He never formed emotional bonds with his parents or his brother. He acted out in ways that got him into trouble; stealing, lying and lighting fires. He twice tried to commit suicide and has received intensive counseling and mental health services but, according to the doctor, it came too late.
Stacey asked the boys' biological mother, "Do you blame yourself?" And she said, "I do. I feel like I should've done more." Now at 29 years old, Ashley wants to reach out to Elijah.
"At least I have a direction I can move in. Like maybe I can help him. I want to see him. If he wants to see me. Whatever is best for him."
Stacey asked, "What will you tell him if you get to see him?" She said."I'm sorry. "