Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation
Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation
Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation
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Death of Innocence: Chapter 2

The Betrayal

Around the beginning of the year 2000, my son and I rented a place just outside of Lower Lake, in a mobile home park called Sleepy Hollow. Libby's mother and stepfather, Jim and Dolly, had claimed to have given up their involvement in drugs, and were going to church regularly. Plus they both had good jobs and were buying a 12 acre ranch in Lake County on Big Canyon Road. I felt it would be better to raise my son in a small-town environment, and around family members. My son seemed to get along very well with his brother Jake, and Jim and Dolly had been encouraging me to move to the Clearlake area so they could be a part of my sons life. This seemed logical, as Dolly is my sons biological grandmother. My son and I lived at sleepy Hollow for several months, and then we ended up moving to Kelseyville, because the school in that neighborhood was a better school. Plus the rent was a lot less than the rent at sleepy Hollow. My son and his brother Jacob had become very close and were spending a lot of time together.

My son was very much into his bicycle and loved riding. The bicycle that he had was not a very good one, and I wanted him to be as safe as possible. On September 21, 2000, 4 1/2 months prior to his death, my son and I went to Wal-Mart and purchased new bicycles for the both of us. With my sons ultimate safety in mind, I splurged and bought him the top-of-the-line bike. It had shocks in the front and back, and high-tech brakes. He also got a brand new helmet and knee and elbow guards. With regard to bicycle safety, the rules that my son was required to follow were not negotiable. First of all, he was never allowed to enter any road without me riding next to him on my bike. Although my son did not like it, he was never allowed to get on his bike without his helmet on. I had taught him to hang his helmet on his handlebars when he got off of his bike, so that the next time he went to ride it he would not have to look for his helmet.

After purchasing the bikes, my son was eager to show off his new bike to his brother Jacob, so we drove out to the ranch on Big Canyon Road, where Jacob lives with Jim and Dolly. Upon arriving at the ranch, the rules were immediately discussed with Jim, Dolly, and the boys present. It was firmly established that the boys would NEVER be allowed NEAR the road, and they ALWAYS had to wear their helmets. There were several other occasions when the safety of the boys was discussed between Jim Carreker and myself, during the months prior to my sons death. There were many occasions when Jacob would spend the night with my son and I. We only rode our bikes within the city limits of Clearlake, where the speed limit does not exceed 25 or 30 mph. Plus, most of the streets were equipped with bicycle lanes or wide shoulders, which made it safer for cyclists. On many occasions my son and his brother and I, would ride our bikes around the city streets of Clearlake. I never dreamed of allowing the boys on any road by themselves, and they always had to have their helmets on, this included Jacob.

In the last week of November, 2000, my son and I had been invited to Jim and Dolly's for Thanksgiving dinner. We ended up spending the night, and the following morning after waking, Jim and I were standing on the front porch, which faces Big Canyon Road. As we stood there talking, we witnessed a vehicle speed by. The vehicle was going well over 55 mph and was over the double yellow line. I looked at Jim and said," Man did you see that guy?" Jim replied," yeah they drive like maniacs out here, I can get them to slow down." I said to Jim," I don't want TJ to EVER be allowed even NEAR that road." I will never forget Jim's response, he said," oh no way, we would NEVER let the boys go near the road, it's too dangerous out there." I had no reason to believe that this man would deceive me about something as important as the safety of my son. There was nothing more important in my life than my son, and making sure that he would always be kept out of harm's way.

The next time Jim and I talked about the boys safety, was several weeks later. My son had once again spent the night with his brother at the Carreker Ranch. The following day when I drove out to the ranch to pick up my son, the boys were riding their bikes in the driveway without their helmets on. I was very upset that Jim was allowing the boys to ride their bikes without helmets. I parked my car and went up to the house to confront Jim. After calling him outside, I told him that this was not acceptable. Once again, I told him that I did not want my son to be allowed to ride his bike without his helmet on. Jim scolded the boys like it was their fault, and promised me that it would not happen again. Then I also had a talk with my son, and made him promise me that he would always wear his helmet and stay away from the road.

On Saturday, February 3, 2001, my son spent the night with his brother at the Carreker Ranch. I told my son before he left that I would take him and his brother riding in town, Sunday morning. Saturday evening around 8 p.m. , I called the Carreker's to talk to my son to tell him that I would see him the following morning. Dolly answered the phone and told me that the boys were in bed and already asleep. I told her I would call back in the morning. The next morning was to be the worst day of my life. On the morning of February 4, 2001, I received a phone call from Dolly. She said that TJ had been hit by a truck and was on his way to the hospital, via ambulance. At first I thought he was only injured. Dolly didn't give me any other details. A few minutes later, my brother Larry and I were on our way to Redbud hospital. It took us about 20 minutes to get to Redbud hospital from Kelseyville.

When I arrived at the E.R., I inquired about my son Tyler, expecting him to already be there, and was told that he had not arrived yet. Then I was told that he was being transported by reach helicopter and would arrive any minute. I fell to my knees and began to pray, and I asked God to please not take my baby boy. Frantically I asked the nurse what my son's condition was. A couple of minutes later, a doctor came out to tell me that he received a dispatch from the reach helicopter, and that my son had not had a heartbeat for 20 minutes . I grabbed the doctor and screamed, "ARE YOU TELLING ME MY SON IS DEAD"? I ran outside only to see several ER staff members huddled around a golf cart that was approaching. As the golf cart went past me, I took one look at my son and I knew that he was dead. I screamed as loud as I could, "NO GOD NO". I was flipping out so bad that a few minutes later, the cops showed up. My son was taken into a room where several doctors and nurses began working to try and revive him. During this procedure, I watched his chest move upward as if he was trying to breathe. I screamed out, "HE'S ALIVE, HE'S ALIVE, HE'S BREATHING".

After about 10 or 15 minutes a doctor came out of the room and told me that my son was dead. I was devastated... I began calling some of my family members to tell them what happened, and I was so hysterical that they couldn't understand what I was saying. Finally, I managed to speak two words that they could understand, "TJ'S DEAD". Then I went back to the room to see my son, and I was holding him and sobbing hysterically. It was the worst moment of my life to look into my son's eyes and see that sparkle gone. I noticed a large gash in the middle of his forehead that was at least an inch deep. His chance of survival would've been better had he been wearing a helmet. A minute or two later Jim Carreker walks into the room and I looked at him and said, "WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED"? His reply was," it's my fault, I told the boys they could ride up to Perrini road."

For the next 20 minutes or so I held my son in my arms while sobbing hysterically. After the coroner got some information from me, I drove out to the scene of the collision to try and find out why this happened. Upon arriving at the scene, the CHP had already finished their work and were getting ready to leave . I asked one of the officers where the point of impact was, and the area she showed me is about 50 feet from where Jacob said the actual impact happened. Then I was informed by the officer, that because the driver of the vehicle was the only person to see the actual impact, that they had to take his word for it. I began studying the scene where my son lost his life. I noticed that the skid marks were close to 100 feet long, and began when the vehicle was over the double yellow lines. The skid marks clearly prove that the vehicle began skidding and continued skidding for 30 feet, with both left wheels nearly a foot over the line, a vehicle code violation. I got a camera and took a series of photos of the collision scene, not knowing that the CHP had already done so.

The next morning I went back out to the scene to talk to Jim, Dolly, and Jacob. I asked Jacob to come out to the road with me and explain what happened. Jacob told me that he and his brother were headed down the right side of the driveway towards Big Canyon Road on their bikes. Jacob was well ahead of TJ, and Jacob entered the road first. Jacob said the first thing he saw as he entered the road was a black truck, some distance up the road, and that the truck was way over the double yellow lines and going very fast. Jacob told me that as the truck continued its approach toward him, that it stayed over the double yellow line. When the truck went past Jacob, it was still over the line, and partially into Jacob's lane. Jacob noticed the face of the driver, Mark Shiflett, looking at him as he sped by. Jacob said the truck was going really fast when it went by him. The wind from the truck almost knocked him over.

I asked Jacob to show me the location where TJ came out of the driveway and entered the road. Jacob showed me the right side of the driveway where it meets the roadway. Jacob told me that TJ came out on the roadway and into his own lane, just like Jacob had. I asked Jacob if he had told this information to the officers. He told me that the officers had not even talked to him. I drove to the CHP office in Kelseyville to get some answers. I was very angry and wanted to know why the officers had failed to properly investigate the collision that resulted in my son's death. I ended up getting thrown out of the CHP office by three officers, after I called them a bunch of incompetent, idiotic, morons. When I got home I called the CHP office and talked to a sergeant. I explained that the officers failed to question my son's brother who was on the road and was an eyewitness to many events, including the vehicle that killed my son driving over the double yellow line in a reckless manner. I was appalled by the fact that the officers had allowed the driver of the vehicle to leave the scene of the collision without citing him for driving over the double yellow line. Especially when the location of the skid marks on the roadway proved it.

On February 6, two days after the collision, one of the officers came out to talk to Jacob. What Jacob told the officers, is the same thing he told me the day before. Jacob told the officers he saw Shiflett driving over the center line, and that the left wheels of Shiflett's vehicle were 6 to 8 inches over the line. The officers failed to act on this information. Except in the statement they gathered from Jacob two days after the collision, it is not mentioned in the CHP report that Mark Shiflett was in fact, driving over the double yellow line. If Mark Shiflett had a reasonable excuse for being over the double yellow line, it should have been stated in the report. The officers failed to investigate the matter any further.

For 11 months after my son's death I was led to believe by Jim Carreker, that the day of my son's death was the first and only time that my son was given permission to ride his bike out onto this dangerous highway. Although hard, I found it in my heart to forgive Jim Carreker for this treacherous betrayal that cost my son is life. Jim's excuse for allowing my son on the road that day was, that on a Sunday morning there wasn't much traffic, and he thought it would be OK to allow the boys on the road.

Approximately 11 months after my son's death, I received a phone call about a car I had for sale in the newspaper. After conversing with this person, I offered to drive the vehicle to his house, so he could see the car and test-drive it. He told me that he lived on Big Canyon Road, and asked if I knew were it was. I explained to him that my son was killed on Big Canyon Road earlier that year. He told me that he lives across the street from Jim and Dolly. He went on to explain to me that he was sitting on his deck having coffee the day of my son's death. He went on to say that he just couldn't understand how anybody could allow a seven or nine-year-old child on such a dangerous highway as Big Canyon Road. He went on to tell me that he had witnessed both boys riding their bicycles on Big Canyon Road, unsupervised and without helmets, on many occasions.

I decided to drive out to Big Canyon Road to meet this man. He told me that as he sat on his deck that Sunday morning, he heard Mark Shiflett's truck under hard acceleration as it merged on to Big Canyon Road from Siegler Canyon Road. He said he heard the truck continue accelerating at a high rate of speed until he heard a loud crash, followed by skidding. He said the impact was so loud that he thought the vehicle had hit a tree. I decided to talk to some of the other residents who live in the area. I drove about a half a mile up Big Canyon Road to the next resident. I pulled into the driveway and got out of my car and went to talk to a lady who was standing in the driveway. At first the lady seemed kind of irate as she asked who I was and what I wanted. I told her that I was the father of the little boy who was killed 11 months earlier. She turned white as a ghost. I asked her if she would be willing to answer a few questions for me. I began by asking her if she had ever seen my son and his brother riding their bikes on Big Canyon Road. She told me that she had seen both boys riding their bikes on Big Canyon Road, unsupervised, on numerous occasions. She went on to tell me that she had NEVER seen either of the boys wear a helmet. She went on to tell me that she had not spoken to Jim Carreker since the day my son was killed, and that she felt Jim Carreker was a coldhearted person and showed no regard for the safety of the boys. She told me that she had warned Jim that if he kept allowing the boys on this dangerous road, that one of them was liable to get killed. She said that Jim told her to "F##K OFF and mind her own business." She told me that a cyclist had told Jim that he saw Jacob playing chicken with vehicles on Big Canyon Road, and that Jim spanked Jacob and continued allowing the boys on the road, unsupervised and without helmets, despite this warning.

Jim Carreker's betrayal was much more treacherous that I thought. Over and over again, in the months prior to my son's death, Jim Carreker gambled with my son's life. What makes this betrayal so sickening is that Jim Carreker convinced me that my son would never be allowed even NEAR this dangerous highway. If Jim would've instructed the boys to stop at the edge of the driveway and look both ways before entering the road, my son might still be alive. If Jim would've taken five minutes and drove the boys and their bikes the short distance to Perrini Road, which is a dirt road, my son would still be alive. It is hard to believe that a person could do such a dastardly thing. It is even harder to believe that the authorities in Lake County blamed my innocent son for causing his own death. When I found out the extent of Jim's betrayal, I called the Lake County Sheriff to try and file a report, and asked them to investigate Jim for child endangerment. They told me there was nothing to investigate! They said I needed counseling. I told them," I don't need counseling, I need justice." Then I wrote a letter to child protective services, explaining that Jim was guilty of child endangerment, and that it cost my son his life. In my letter, I asked child protective services to go to the school and talk to Jacob. Child protective services called to tell me they had no intention of investigating this at all. They refused to even go talk to Jacob. Then I decided to go to the district attorney. The district attorney told me that without a police report, there was nothing he could do.

I almost lost it. My anger and frustration nearly got the best of me. One day as I drove by the Beacon Station, I saw Jim walking towards his car. The only thing that stopped me from pulling into the station and attacking him, was the fact that Jacob was there. Suddenly, I realized that I could not carry out this assault. God must have shined his light on me. Besides, what would it do to Jacob, if I were to attack Jim. I can tell you though, it's impossible for thoughts of mayhem not to go through your head, against the person who cost your son his life in such a deceitful manner. One thing was for sure, I knew that I had better stay away from Jim Carreker.

I began studying the child endangerment laws. I found out that any person who fails to provide a safe environment for any minor child is guilty of criminal neglect and child endangerment. Jim Carreker's deceitful neglect, goes beyond failing to provide a safe environment. Jim Carreker didn't just fail to provide a safe environment, he instructed my son, that it was OK to enter what he KNEW was a dangerous roadway for any child to ride a bicycle on. When you factor in the deceitful way he committed this heinous crime that ended up costing my my son is life, it clearly shows willful neglect on a grand scale.

Jim Carreker had been endangering Jacob's life also. The truck that struck and killed my son, flew past Jacob while driving over the double yellow line, nearly killing Jacob too. Jim does not allow Jacob out on the roadway anymore. Since my son was killed, he doesn't feel that it is safe. So my son paid for Jacob's safety, with his life. That's a pretty stiff price to pay. Since I found out the extent of Jim's betrayal, Jim has alienated me from Jacob. Jim Carreker denies that he promised me my son would NEVER be allowed near the roadway. Jim Carreker ended up doing some cruel things to me even after my son was killed. Several months after my son's death, before I found out the extent of Jim's betrayal, Jim and I had a discussion, where he tearfully apologized for my son's death. I told him l didn't understand why he allowed my son out on Big Canyon Road. This is when he told me that he figured it would be okay on a Sunday morning, when there is little traffic. During this tear filled conversation we discussed the obvious failure of the California Highway Patrol to properly investigate TJ's death. I told him that I had filed a complaint against the California Highway Patrol. I told him that I wanted to go to Sacramento and visit the local MADD office there.

Sacramento is almost 100 miles from Clearlake. After his tearful apology Jim offered to help me in any way he could. He offered to give me his credit card and or whatever money I needed in my endeavors. A couple weeks later, after planning my trip to Sacramento, I called Jim to take him up on his offer. I asked him if he could give me $50 to make my trip to Sacramento. He said he was broke, and accused me of trying to extort money from him, and ended up giving me $20. I was shocked and appalled by his attitude. Jim Carreker was certainly turning out to be a devious character. As chance would have it, about a week later I talked with somebody who had seen Jim at the local bar the previous Saturday night. She said he was buying drinks for everybody, and spending money like it grew on trees. This really hit home, considering his attitude just a week earlier. It was very disturbing to have Jim offer me what ever I needed in my plight for justice, and then accuse me of trying to extort money from him. Especially since he's the one who caused my son's death.

There's a very important message here to anyone who is raising children. Be very very careful about who you trust with your child's life. I never dreamed I would be deceived in such a devious manner. Especially by someone who claimed to love my son with all their hearts. Jim Carreker didn't just destroy my life, he ruined Jacob's life too. My son was loved by many, many people. He brought sunshine into the life of everyone he met. Thanks to Jim Carreker, Jacob witnessed his brother get slaughtered all over the roadway by criminal. What really gets me, is how the authorities in Lake County could find it in their hearts to blame an innocent child for causing his own death, when clearly, he was a victim of criminal neglect and child endangerment.

All in all, the investigation of my son's death was handled very poorly. It's difficult to explain the intense sorrow, grief, disappointment, anxiety, depression, anger, the sense of injustice and the mixture of other emotions that I feel on a daily basis. To begin with, the most difficult time I've had since my son's death was the first year. For seven years, my son was the focus of all of my attention. Every decision I made, every thought that went through my head involved my son. The depression and anxiety that I suffered directly after my son's death, is the worst thing I have ever experienced in my life. Every thought that went through my head after my son's death or every decision that I would attempt to make, would automatically involve thinking of my son. Then once again, the realization, my son is no longer here, he's dead!

There's no escaping the grief , the depression, the sorrow, there's no escaping thinking about someone who you love with all your heart....... its automatic. Every time I see a little boy, who is close to my son's age I wonder, what would MY son look like if he were still alive. I can't even count all the times I've broke into tears and cried. Twice a year I go through an extreme amount of depression and heartache. July 15 was his birthday, and there's no escaping thinking about him during the whole month of July. February 4th., he was tragically killed. There's no escaping thinking about the horror I suffered on that tragic day. There's no escaping the hell that I live every day since my son's death, the hell that I will suffer until I feel a sense of justice regarding my son's needless death. There's no escaping the empty hollow feeling that lives in my heart. There's no escaping the dreams that I have on a recurring basis. There's no escaping the conscious fantasies I have about all the horrible things that I would like to do to Jim Carreker..... and with good reason. No one deserves to escape justice when the needless loss of innocent life is involved. It's a hard thing to live with...... knowing that two criminals got away with causing my innocent son's death. There are many unanswered questions that I have the right to have answered. I have the right to know what Jim Carreker was thinking when he was deceiving me in such a treacherous fashion. I have the right to know why he did such a horrible thing..... to deceive me about my son safety and well-being. I have the right to know why the authorities in Lake County feel that it's OK for two criminals to cause the death of an innocent child, and then blame it on the child. I will never give up my plight for justice.... I will never give up trying to find the answers to these questions.

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