Amid horrors unfolding around the world, we receive regular reminders that human depravity also lurks closer to home.
Former neighbors of 5-year-old Zoey Felix told KSNT in Topeka, Kansas, that Zoey’s mother recently kicked her young daughter out of her troubled home, along with the girl’s father and teenage sister.
On Oct. 2, according to KCTV in Kansas City, Missouri, Zoey was found raped and murdered in a field near a homeless camp in Topeka.
In the weeks preceding her murder, Zoey apparently lived in the homeless camp with her father and sister. Prosecutors have charged 25-year-old Mickel Cherry with capital murder, first-degree murder and rape.
Another family noticed that Cherry “appeared to be watching Zoey while her father worked at a nearby gas station.” Cherry remains only an alleged perpetrator. Whether or not authorities have charged the right person, the mind of a child rapist and murderer defies comprehension.
As for Zoey, nothing could be more heartbreaking than former neighbors’ descriptions of the little girl.
“It was, like, ‘Hey mom, hey mom,’ and I was, like, ‘Well, hey baby, what’s going on?’” former neighbor Shaniqua Bradley told KSNT. “She was just the sunshine and the rain really.”
Neighbors noticed the neglect Zoey suffered and did what they could to remedy it. “We would clean her up and comb her hair, whatever needed to be done,” Bradley said.
Sometimes the most innocent and impoverished souls prove most generous. On occasions when the little girl had snacks, she made sure others did, too.
“Zoey would come out and share with other kids. It’s all she had,” Bradley told KCTV. Another former neighbor decried Zoey’s cruel fate.
“Zoey did not deserve to be in anybody’s woods,” former neighbor Sharon Williams told KSNT. “This is her home right here. She has one, two, three, four, five people that would do anything for her.”
The police report shed some light on the circumstances of Zoey’s death but left another question unanswered.
At 5:55 p.m. on Oct. 2., dispatchers received a 911 call “reporting a five-year-old unresponsive next to the gas pumps” at a corner store, according to WIBW in Topeka. Zoey was pronounced dead less than an hour later. Whoever discovered Zoey in the field moved her to the nearby gas station and awaited help.
The police report, however, did not say whether this was the same gas station where Zoey’s father worked and where Cherry allegedly watched the little girl.
Neither KSNT nor KCTV could reach Zoey’s mother, Holly Jo Felix, for comment. KCTV did report that Felix’s family members have refuted claims of neglect and even denied that Felix had custodial responsibility.
Under terms of her probation stemming from several charges, including child endangerment, Felix apparently had a “no contact provision.”
Shawnee County Corrections, however, shared different information regarding Felix’s sentencing order. “In this case, neither the Pre-Sentence Report nor the Journal Entry identified that the mother was to discontinue any contact with her daughter.
The Kansas Division of Children and Families did not remove the child from the home and there was no standing order removing parental rights from Holly Felix. In such an instance, the mother has a continuing duty to care for the child,” Shawnee County Corrections told KCTV.
That sort of confusion helps explain why the Kansas Department For Children & Families (DCF) has come under intense scrutiny. “We really need a deep dive on why is the system failing,” Republican state Senator Molly Baumgardner said according to KSNT.
Meanwhile, KCTV reported 23 police calls to Zoey’s former address. These included one call for an overdose and five for domestic disturbance or violence. Yet, only once did Topeka Police conduct a welfare check.
“Officers met with the child who was in good spirits and apparent health. The child was left in the care of their parent, per the custodial agreement. Officers then left the scene,” the police report read.
Ironically, Zoey’s cheerful and generous disposition — her “good spirits” — might have deceived officers into thinking her well.
Otherwise, aside from her former neighbors, every adult in young Zoey’s life failed her. It does a soul no good to dwell on that failure or on the darkness that consumed her rapist and murderer.
Perhaps we would do better — particularly at this moment in world history — to remember an impoverished Zoey sharing her snacks.
If convicted, Mickel Cherry could face the death penalty. https://t.co/8WzNgyh5T7
— NewsRadio 570 WSYR (@WSYRNews) October 6, 2023