While Ebony Archie shopped inside a Jackson, Mississippi, grocery store, her 6-year-old son Kingston slept in the car.
It was just after 1 a.m. on Thursday and Archie, a mother of two from Jackson, had left the Toyota Camry running and the doors apparently unlocked. She was buying medicine, her family said, and Kingston had asked to stay in the car.
In just a few hours, Kingston was scheduled to graduate from kindergarten.
Instead, he was driven away by carjackers. After nine hours, police found his mother’s stolen vehicle abandoned on a dead-end road. Kingston was in the back seat, fatally shot in the head.
Authorities later arrested three teenagers. Capital murder charges are pending, authorities said.
“This is a 6-year-old that’s gone,” Kingston’s cousin, Kolby Irby, told reporters at the crime scene as the boy’s anguished family wept nearby. “His mother has to deal with it. That’s her baby.”
At several news conferences Thursday, visibly emotional authorities offered few details to equally unnerved reporters about why the suspects killed Kingston rather than let him out of the car. It’s unclear if they knew the boy was in the Camry at the time it was stolen.
Security footage from the Jackson Kroger showed two men in a two-door Honda Civic pull up beside Archie’s parked Toyota Camry shortly after she entered the store, authorities said. The passenger jumped out of the Civic and into the Camry, where Kingston slept.
Both vehicles sped away.
Authorities offered conflicting timetables of the early hours of their investigation. A spokesman for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office told the New York Times that Archie left her son in the car at about 1:15 a.m. and that the Camry was stolen during the 10 to 15 minute window during which she was inside the store.
But at an afternoon news conference, Hinds County Sheriff Victor Mason said a deputy stationed at the Kroger saw Archie exit the store at about 2:30 a.m. She approached the deputy and said her car was missing, but did not initially report that her son was inside, Mason said.
What began as an auto-theft investigation became a kidnapping case, and at 4:30 a.m. the Mississippi Department of Public Safety issued an Amber Alert, reported the Clarion-Ledger.
Later in the morning, law enforcement and family pleaded with Kingston’s kidnappers to bring the boy home.
“We’re just asking, regardless of who you are, what you are and where you are, if you could just return the child,” the child’s uncle, David Archie, told the Clarion-Ledger. “Leave him somewhere, find a way to get him to a store, to a gas station, to a restaurant, Walmart, anywhere people are and just drop him off.”
“He doesn’t even know what was going on,” David Archie added.
Just before 10 a.m., authorities canceled the Amber Alert. During another news conference about 30 minutes later they announced that a man in Madison County had discovered the missing Camry. The body of the boy was inside.
Apparently unaware of the horrible news, some of the boy’s family members arrived at the crime scene during the news conference - and that’s how they found out that Kingston was gone forever. A family member screamed “No!” and “He was a baby!” Authorities cut short their update.
Across town, at the district attorney’s office, another heart-wrenching scene unfolded as the rest of Kingston’s family, including his mother, learned he had died. They had been misinformed that the child was safe, reported the Clarion-Ledger, but cries rang out as one by one they absorbed the truth.
Ebony Archie, barefoot and crying, was almost catatonic. A cousin carried her limp body from the office building, according to the Clarion-Ledger. “Kingston?” she asked. “Where is Kingston?”
Police there wiped tears from their eyes, the newspaper reported.
By Thursday night, all three suspects were in custody at the Madison County Jail. Two were 17 years old. The age of the third was unavailable. All are being held without bond pending formal charges. If convicted they could be subject to the death penalty.
One of the juveniles in custody is a senior at Ridgeland High School, a football player until he was dismissed from the team last year, Superintendent Ronnie McGehee told the Clarion-Ledger.
“Everyone that was praying for us, that we would find Kingston alive, we want to thank everybody for that, but this is, really, this is, it’s hard to know that people out there are evil, that would kill a child. That’s evil,” the boy’s great aunt, Velma Eddington, told the Clarion-Ledger. “That baby hadn’t done anything to him. That baby hadn’t done nothing. They could have left that child on that back seat, asleep. They didn’t have to kill him. Those people are evil. Evil.”
Family members described Kingston as a warm, fun-loving child who loved to be spoiled by his uncles and “aunties.”
“Even if I was mad at the world, I couldn’t do this to a 6-year-old,” David Archie told the Clarion-Ledger. “To me, it’s hatred. There is nothing out there worth taking a 6-year-old’s life.”
Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber said that his city needed to make clear there was “no tolerance on any level for acts of violence against children.” In a statement on Facebook, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant called Kingston’s death “senseless.”
“There are no words to express the anger and sadness over the loss of Kingston Frazier,” Bryant said. “The innocence and life of a six-year-old child have been taken by a horrific crime. It is time this senseless violence end.”
At school on Thursday, the kindergarten graduation ceremony in which Kingston was meant to participate went on without him.
“He was everybody’s baby,” the school’s principal, Kimberly Smith, told MS News Now. “He was a sweet child to be around. He was Kingston.”