Family members fight to keep 4-year-old’s memory alive after overdose death
LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - It’s a call no parent wants to receive but is one that came for a Laurel man — his daughter had died.
Jan. 31 is a day Wesley and Kathy Byrd will never forget.
“Around noon, my brother came into the room, woke me up... He asked me to sit up and he told me, he said, you know, ‘Rhiannon’s dead,’” said Wesley Byrd, father of Rhiannon Byrd. “And I mean I fell apart.”
“I walked down the sidewalk and I screamed as long as I could scream,” said Kathy Byrd, grandmother of Rhiannon.
Rhiannon was just 4-years-old when she died from allegedly ingesting drugs illegally obtained by her mother, Taylor Corley, and her mother’s then-boyfriend, Michael Stevens. About 9:30 that morning, Laurel police officers responded to a call of an unresponsive child.
“The little girl was pronounced dead at the scene,” Laurel Police Chief Tommy Cox said.
More than three months later, the toxicology report was released.
“You don’t know sometimes how long that’s going to take to get an autopsy report, how long it’s going to take to get the blood work back,” Cox said.
Now, they only have memories to hold onto.
“I said, ‘Rhiannon, Lottie’s not playing with you. You need to go to sleep,’ said Kathy. “And she said, ‘You’re not happy. I need you to be happy.’”
“One of the funniest things about her was whatever you called her, that’s what she called you,” said Wesley. “And ever since she was a baby, I always called her pumpkin. I would say, ‘there’s pumpkin.’ And so, she would always come up to me, ‘Hey pumpkin.’”
Wesley and Kathy are fighting to keep the little girl’s vibrant spirit alive.
“Always smiling, she never stopped,” Wesley said.
“Just pure sugar,” Kathy said. “I mean, she lit up every room she walked into. She got all the attention, and she was just precious.”
Rhiannon’s mother and Stevens are charged with child abuse. Their bail is set at $250,000.
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