A paralyzed Kayla Atkins told her convicted former husband Monday that he took more than her baby away when he shot her when she was pregnant in June 2012, resulting in the death of their child five weeks later.
“I can’t interact with my (two young) kids,” Atkins, 26, said to Frank Atkins from her wheelchair in state District Judge Trudy White’s courtroom. “I can’t do nothing for myself.”
But Kayla Atkins said her children, ages 6 and 4, are strong for her, even though they often ask when their mom will be all better. “I tell them only God knows,” she said outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse after White sentenced Frank Atkins to a mandatory term of life in prison for his second-degree murder conviction in the death of Charitee Shyne Atkins.
Frank Atkins, 28, also was sentenced to a concurrent 50 years in prison for the attempted second-degree murder of his then-wife on June 19, 2012.
Charitee died of respiratory failure due to prematurity on July 26, 2012, lying on her paralyzed mother’s chest. Kayla Atkins was unable to hold the newborn.
Charitee lived for about an hour after being born just 23 weeks into the pregnancy.
Still, Kayla Atkins told her ex-husband that she forgives him even though he never apologized to her.
“I actually forgive you because you have to answer to the Lord,” she said.
Frank Atkins’ attorney, Jarvis Antwine, told White he still objects to the second-degree murder conviction. Antwine had argued at the June trial that the killing was a feticide, which would have carried a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
“Our hearts certainly go out to both families,” Antwine said Monday inside the courtroom. “This goes far beyond one or two people.”
Outside the courthouse after the sentencing, Kayla Atkins summed up her feelings this way: “It’s a closed chapter now.”
The shooting occurred a day after she obtained a temporary restraining order against her then-husband.
Prosecutor Louise Hines had told jurors that Frank Atkins tried to strangle his wife three times just two days before the shooting and caused her to lose consciousness on the final attempt. He was arrested that day and booked into Parish Prison on a count of domestic abuse battery.
A temporary restraining order was issued June 18, 2012, requiring Frank Atkins to stay away from his wife, court records indicate. Kayla Atkins said in the petition for the order that her husband also had been violent toward her on several previous occasions.
Frank Atkins was released from jail the same day he received the restraining order, after posting bond of $7,500. Hines said he had threatened to kill his wife if she did not bond him out of jail. Kayla Atkins did not post the bond.
Hines said Atkins called his wife on June 19, 2012, and asked her to bring his cellphone to his grandmother’s house on Bay Street. Hines said Atkins lured his wife to that location, and a witness heard Atkins tell her, “You think I’m just going to let you leave me.”