Gregory Caver was beaten to death with a belt by his mother’s boyfriend, Vonta McClellan, on July 26 at the house right next door to the church on Wilmer Avenue, authorities have said. His mother, India Kimble, and McClellan were both charged with capital murder.
Robert Fuller, Caver’s father, said he was thankful to the Anniston community taking the time to remember his son.
“Every day is a hard day,” Fuller said.
Fuller, who lives in Mobile, said he took his two daughters home two weeks ago and expects to get full custody of them soon. The father said his girls are also struggling with the loss of their brother.
“They’re missing him. They know he’s supposed to be there and he ain’t there,” Fuller said.
During the service, the Rev. Charles Gregory said he remembered seeing the 5-year-old standing in the front of the church, singing and playing with other children. Gregory said he was told after Caver’s death that the boy had wanted to be a pastor.
“He said to his mother, ‘Mom, my name is Gregory, just like the pastor’s. Can I be a preacher like him?’” he said. “He’s preaching right now.”
City leaders, law enforcement officers and Caver family members all spoke about the child and about what Anniston could do to prevent this from happening again.
Millie Harris, Anniston City Councilwoman, told the crowd that she believes there are other ways to discipline children than by hitting them. She encouraged everyone to speak up if they see an interaction that is “not right.”
“It is our business. Our children are our business,” Harris said. “Let’s stop this vicious cycle.”
Lt. Jon Garlick, a mental health officer with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, said law enforcement officers are tired of showing up after something bad has happened, but that’s what they are limited to.
“We want to be proactive and we want to help everybody prevent things from happening,” Garlick said.
Garlick encouraged people to seek help for themselves or a loved one if they have uncontrolled anger.
Anniston police Capt. Allen George said it’s important for parents to “know their limit,” when a child makes them angry. It’s better for a parent to walk away, George said, than to discipline a child when they can’t control themselves.
Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart said child abuse hurts the whole community.
“We must join in. It takes a village,” Stewart said.
Stewart said he’d like to work with Pastor Gregory to recreate the symposium held Friday evening and go to every city in Calhoun County.
“Let’s not let little Gregory die in vain. Let’s make his life count,” Stewart said.
Claudette Kimble, India Kimble’s mother, sobbed at the pulpit as she spoke to the church about her grandson’s death.
“I wish she had called me. I wish someone had said something to let me know what was going on,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”
Rhonda Sturkie said she thought the evening was emotional. She has two college-aged children and said it hurt her heart to learn about Caver’s death. Sturkie said she couldn’t understand why someone would hurt a young child.
“What could they have possibly done to make you hurt them to the point that you took their life?” Sturkie asked.
Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.