A mother’s pain: Son lost to drugs, then to injustice

Claudette Fredericks

“There are always the memories, there are tears sometimes too. Quite a lot of memories, but I console myself with the fact that according to my faith in the resurrection I would see my son again under better circumstances.”

The words of Claudette Fredericks who lost her son just about five months ago. Thirty-three-year-old Marlon Fredericks was shot and killed on January 14. Fifty-year-old City Constable Gregory Bascom has since been charged with his killing and is on $800,000 bail.

Claudette reluctantly agreed to speak to me about the death of her only son and youngest child, which she had witnessed, and also about his years of substance abuse.

She said, “The memories come as soon as I go into my phone because I have a lot of pictures in the phone. Sometimes I try to scroll past but at other times…”

And as if she wanted to demonstrate, she picked up the mobile phone and silently scrolled through. I could not see the screen, but I assumed she was viewing photographs of her son. She remained quiet for a while and I gave her a moment.

“But you know especially with the pictures there would be tears. It is hard not to think about it even though you try sometimes,” she continued.

“The hardest is thing about it is losing him in such a manner. The thing is I was there and even though it was one of the hardest things, I am not certain I would not have wanted to be there,” she said haltingly, pausing between words.

I asked why.

She thought for a moment and then said: “I can’t really find the explanation for that, but had I not been there I would have been wondering about what really happened and how he was at the time of his death.

“…Being there was not easy, and I don’t think it would have been easy for anybody. Even passing the area is hard. I have passed the Regent Street area probably twice since his death and it’s hard when you think about from where he was when he was alive to where he died.

“And you know because of the beating [her son was beaten the day before his death] he was not strong. My son had a lot of endurance, but he was weakened on that day and to know that the guy shot him at such close proximity…”

There were no tears, but her pain was evident. I could find no words of comfort, but we sat in silence for a while longer.

I asked her to speak about her son before the tragedy and before he became a substance abuser.

“Well we had the good days when he was in school. He was doing quite well in primary school and even in secondary school, but it is when he got to fifth form at St Joseph that we noticed his grades begun to drop,” she answered.

“At this time, I can’t really say why but he did not do well at CXC and because the school was not allowing students to repeat fifth form at the time I got him into President’s College. While there I saw a difference, his study habits changed. He would go to bed early and he would wake up early in the morning and study,” the mother said.

It paid off because his grades were much better than the year before, his mother said.

“He then went to the Transport & Harbours and he was there doing a boat pilot programme which was for four years and he was doing well. He actually finish it in two years because he was always ready to write the tests before time and then he applied to do a course in Trinidad and did not get leave but went anyway and do the course for three weeks. When he came back it was a lot of running around, but he did not get back the job.

“He started working at the Ministry of Finance, but then he moved to Tobago and spent some time and he was doing well,” she said.

I asked her when she realized he was abusing drugs.

“There was signs that he was smoking but it was not to such an extent, but it is after he come back from Trinidad [he moved there after Tobago], in fact he was deported, that I realized how bad it was. But even then, we try [she has two older daughters] to help him to get some stuff for him to do buying and selling because that was what he was doing in Trinidad,” she said.

“But eventually I think the substance abuse was too much and it became too much for me and I was forced to provide facilities for him outside of my home. I fixed up the garage and he had his own space there,” she said this sadly as if she regretted making that difficult decision.

“It really got hard at times. I would talk to him and tell him not to make so much noise on the premises,” she said revealing that he smoked cigarettes and marijuana.

Did you get him help? I asked.

“Yes, he went to both places Phoenix and Salvation Army…” she said with a sad shake of the head.

“But you know after a time he kind of became angry at the world. At one time he felt he could sing and he had talent and I even tried to help him with recording and put him on to a music producer, but he was not open to being assisted. He wanted it his way or no way,” she said.

And as if on cue, on her laptop computer Marlon appeared rapping about life, a song he composed. We sat and listened for a while.

I then asked about his father.

“His father and I separated when he was young. He did not really have any relationship with his father and I believed that played a part in him becoming angry at the world,” she answered.

“I had times when I had to show him tough love… I had to call in the police because he was breaking and entering my place. I even approached Ann Greene [Director of the Child Care and Protection Agency] and is she who advised me that I had to show tough love and let him be taken before the court.

“In court, the magistrate asked for a probation report and the probation office recommended intervention and is then he went to Salvation Army. With the help of Ann Greene, we got a 50 percent discount of the monthly fee.

“So, it is not that we didn’t try… Another time I had to call the police again and he was sent for observation and he escaped from Berbice and then his aunt decided to take him. He was living in one room and his father was in another room and I say maybe the bonding would take place then between the two of them, but it was not to be.

“He moved out and come back to me and he became violent again and I had to report it to the police and they came but he run away, and it was then he started to live in Tiger Bay. That was just about November last year and in January he was killed.

“Days before he died he came by me and was apologizing and I said, ‘Marlon I forgive you I just want for you to get better’ and I was looking for a place to rent for him. I would have paid the rent…

“Sometimes I look back and I say maybe I could have done more. But I tried…

“But you know we had detected he had lost the will to live somehow. Though he had dreams of making it big in music industry, he was disillusioned by the difficult times he was getting and he would say people were trying to take advantage of him, especially in his merchandising…

“We tried telling him take different course. He decided that exercising and building to defend himself.  He was on a disciplined exercise regime of his own, neighbours can attest to that….this was one area he was disciplined in but unfortunately not in kicking his smoking addiction”

“Now I am fighting for justice for him, especially where he was beaten up because no one was held responsible and I heard the men are boasting that nothing can happen to them. But if I don’t get justice here I know there is divine justice.”