February 20, 2011

Family Copes after Mom’s Incarceration

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Grandmother Delita Starr holds Ja'zalynn Rex, 1, as Koby LeBlanc, center, 9, and Ja'alizah Rex, 3, exit a special transit van at the family's home in Kingfisher, Okla. The children's mother, Patricia Spottedcrow, received a 10-year prison sentence for selling a small amount of marijuana to a police informant with her children present. Starr cares for the children until Spottedcrow is released.

Adam Wisneski/Tulsa World

Grandmother Delita Starr holds Ja'zalynn Rex, 1, as Koby LeBlanc, center, 9, and Ja'alizah Rex, 3, exit a special transit van at the family's home in Kingfisher, Okla. The children's mother, Patricia Spottedcrow, received a 10-year prison sentence for selling a small amount of marijuana to a police informant with her children present. Starr cares for the children until Spottedcrow is released.

Holding back tears by using a whisper of a voice, 9-year-old Koby LeBlanc uses words like “mad” and “sad” when talking about his mother.

Patricia Spottedcrow, LeBlanc’s mother, was sentenced on Oct. 21 to 10 years in prison after selling $31 of marijuana to a police informant in Kingfisher. Her mother, Delita Starr, was also charged with the same offenses and received a 30-year suspended sentence from a judge in a blind guilty plea, meaning no sentence arrangement was in place.

LeBlanc was in his grandmother’s home during one of the exchanges, reportedly making change from his “Christmas jar” so his grandmother could finish a sale, according to court records. He said he remembers the police.

“It was scary because I was asleep and there was a guy standing in the room,” he said. “I started to move and turned around, and they pointed guns everywhere. I went to the room with my mama and sisters. After that, I had to go to school.”

LeBlanc was born when his mother was a teenager. He has three younger sisters ranging from 1 to 4 years old from his mother’s eight-year relationship with a common-law husband.

It was a surprise when his mother didn’t return home one day, he said. He was in school when a judge handed down the sentence.

“It was real sudden,” he said. “I was with my friends when my grandma told me. It was sad. My mama called me the next day, and I got to talk to her. She was crying, and so was I. I didn’t get to talk to her that much.”LeBlanc is already thinking about having a party for his mother and spending time with her when she returns home.

He finally sheds a tear when he remembers what he misses most.

“When I used to go in her room and get to lay down with her,” he said with a pause. “I can’t see her no more.”

LeBlanc has become the caregiver for his sisters on occasion as his grandmother serves as their guardian. Spottedcrow’s common-law husband helps, but an illness prevents him from caring full-time for four children, Spottedcrow said.

“It’s hard, and I have to have Koby help me,” said Starr, 50. “The people in the community have been real helpful. We would not have had Christmas without the donations. I couldn’t do it without the help of the Lord, and we pray every day.”

Starr earns minimum wage working at a gas station and receives food stamps and child-care subsidies to make ends meet. She is paying off her nearly $8,600 in court fines at $50 a month.

She lives in a rural area and cannot drive because her license was suspended after her conviction. She must call a local transportation agency or get rides from neighbors and friends, she says.

The girls will call her “mama” once in a while, and she corrects them.

“These little girls don’t understand why she’s gone or how long she’s going to be gone,” Starr said. “It’s been a challenge to sit down and explain to them she’s gone. There’s nothing like being with your mom.”Starr said the 1-year-old had an especially hard time at first with the separation.

“She woke up pounding on bedroom doors yelling ‘mama, mama, mama,’” she said. “And we’d just cry. We’d cry together. They are missing a lot without her here.”