Carly Elizabeth Sawyer was a beautiful little 5-year-old girl with big brown eyes and a bright smile that would light up a room and long brown ringlet curls that would make any parent proud. Carly’s’ parent’s Jennifer Kimery-Sawyer and Joshua Sawyer, met and married in California on November 27, 2003 while she was in the Air Force and he was in the Marines. Carly was born a couple months later on January 24, 2004. They separated when Jennifer was stationed in South Carolina and Joshua was in North Carolina.
In October of 2005 Joshua Sawyer was in Iraq when he found out that Jennifer was under investigation by social services for neglect. Jennifer claimed during an interview that the complaint was filed by a supervisor who was helping her move. She said the supervisor noticed a knife in a roommate’s bedroom and pornography tapes in her bedroom but Carly did not have access to those areas. The Onslow County Department of Social Services dismissed the complaint once Jennifer’s parents removed Carly from the home.
Jennifer and Joshua Sawyer continued having problems after he returned from Iraq and Jennifer decided to move to Georgia. She says she left Carly with Joshua because she needed time to settle down and make room for her. Joshua argues that she just up and abandoned Carly and him. He says at one point she left for a week and then later she moved to Georgia with her boyfriend.
In 2006 things would begin to spiral out of control. While Jennifer was on a visit with her daughter in North Carolina she decided to take Carly back to her parents’ home in Louisiana and give her to them. Robert Kimery, Carly’s grandpa says that infuriated Joshua Sawyer. Jennifer also filed a complaint with Children’s Protective Services against Joshua Sawyer because she believed Carly was not being properly taken care of and was worried for her safety.
Robert Kimerly says he and his wife had been raising Carly to keep Joshua away from Carly up until Joshua obtained a court order granting him temporary custody. Mr. Kimery said when they returned Carly, Joshua told them they would never see her again. Joshua and Jennifer’s divorce was final on June 13, 2007. Carly was 3 years old at that time.
Joshua Sawyer left the Marine Corps in June of 2008. He was last stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He was awarded several medals, including the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and Iraq Campaign Medal. He never received an award or medal for being a good father or protector, the most important job of all for a father.
A court battle for custody ensued and Joshua Sawyer was granted sole custody of Carly. Joshua would then marry Brandy and she would become the evil step mother from hell and they moved to Chesapeake, Virginia while Jennifer Kimery moved back to Zachary, Louisiana. Joshua and Brandy had 2 children they shared together. Brandy had 1 child, Sadie, before she married Joshua. Sadie is now being raised by her paternal grandparents and the other 2 are with Joshua’s parents.
On June 10, 2009 Paramedics responded to a call from the Sawyer home saying that a little girl was unresponsive. Upon arrival they were suspicious of Carly’s bruises and dispatched authorities. Both Brandy and Joshua admitted to “disciplining” the girl. Joshua said he beat Carly with a belt and she “threw herself to the ground”. He also said he was ”using netting material as restraints, restricting the child inside a cardboard box as a form of discipline, withholding food and spankings,” according to the warrants. Police Detective James Thomas said Joshua Sawyer told him that Carly was beaten because she had gone to the bathroom on the carpet. He also told the detective that he tied Carly up so she could not walk around the house and get food from the refrigerator, Thomas said.
She had cuts, bruises and burns all over her body as well as ligature marks on her wrists. She weighed only 34 pounds. Carly was unconscious and had no brain activity. She died at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk on June 11, 2009. Joshua and Brandy Sawyer were arrested the evening of June 12th.
A Virginia County medical examiner said Carly died of blunt force trauma with contributing factors of ligature restraint, medical neglect and starvation. Jennifer found out that her little girl was dead through a phone call. They told her they were bringing her baby home, she didn’t understand and said “What?” that’s when she was told Carly was beaten to death. Jennifer is left to wonder how anyone could possibly hurt her baby girl. She said:
“How could you hurt such a beautiful child?” Kimery questioned. “All she wanted to do was bring love and happiness into this world.” “That baby was just something special. I feel lucky to have been able to be her mother,” Kimery said.
Robert Kimery, Carly’s grandfather reported that he and his daughter, Carly’s mom had very little contact with Carly in the last 2 1/2 years since Joshua was granted sole custody by a court in Jacksonville, N.C. He wasn’t aware that Joshua and Brandy Sawyer moved to Virginia until their family received the phone call that Carly was in the hospital. He also said he knew abuse was going on but didn’t know how bad it was. He also said “Starvation doesn’t just come in a matter of a week or more,” Kimery said. “They’ve both done something to do this to her. It’s not just a one-time incident.”
Joshua Sawyer was charged with 2nd degree murder and felony child neglect in the death of his 5 year old daughter Carly Sawyer.
Carly’s step-mother, Brandy Sawyer, was charged with 1st degree murder and felony child neglect.
Bond was denied for both Joshua and Jennifer. During Joshua Sawyer’s bond hearing Prosecutor Stephanie Pass told Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Rufus A. Banks Jr. “This was long, systematic abuse of this child.” Prosecutor’s also described Carly’s abuse and how she was kept tied up so she wouldn’t have access to food.
Defense Attorney Greg McCormick told the judge that Joshua should be granted bond because he had no previous criminal record and served in the Marines including serving in Iraq.
Police confiscated two cardboard boxes, one bloody paper towel, a roll of blue mesh, a video camera, two insurance documents for Carly, photos of Carly, and a black leather belt. They also looked for computers and computer equipment.
Brandy and Joshua both entered Alford Pleas, meaning they are not admitting guilt but know there is enough evidence against them for a conviction. As part of a plea deal Joshua Sawyers was sentenced to life in prison on October 25, 2010. If he is ever granted “geriatric leave” he will be on supervised probation for 3 years. He said nothing and kept his head bowed while he was being sentenced.
During the trial Dr. Wendy Gunther, assistant chief medical examiner testified:
Carly’s autopsy showed she had been beaten all over her body, including her head. She had been abused for some time, as evidenced by the range of bruises under her skin, some of which looked like she had been hit with a belt buckle.
Carly also had suffered nutritional neglect, Gunther said. She had no food in her small bowel, had a shrunken liver, and had light hair on her body like that typically seen on an anorexic.
Joshua Sawyer’s mother, Carolyn Sawyer testified that “her son was a good student who, as a boy, volunteered as an altar server in his Catholic church.” She also said he suffered from PTSD and she and her husband were trying to adopt his other two children.
Brandy Sawyers was also sentenced to life in prison on December 10, 2010. During her sentencing hearing she told the court that she was a coward and she “loved Carly like her own and wish she could go back.”
Judge Randy Smith said, “This is one of the most horrible cases could come before the court. A child has been tortured to death. This is one of the most horrific murder cases a court can consider.”
While on the stand Brandy testified that she herself was a victim of abuse handed down to her by Joshua Sawyer. She also said her mother physically and emotionally abused and she was a drug addict. She said she smoked crack with her mother when she was a teenager. She also blamed Joshua for abuse and said she just went along with it to make him happy.
Author’s Note: I have to wonder what Brandy Sawyer’s mother is thinking right about now. As adults we are responsible for our own actions, I know this and I believe it, however, if these two were my kids I would feel like a failure as a parent. She has one daughter that IS a murderer and another daughter that might be.
On her Facebook page, Brandy Sawyer complained recently of being depressed and stressed. In April, she wrote that she was 10 weeks pregnant and in another post said she “just wants to run away from life.”
In May, she wrote that she was feeling “really down and depressed.”
She also wrote on Facebook and in a comment on the Web site of the Jacksonville Daily News about a criminal case involving her sister, Dana Leigh Browning.
Browning, 19, was arrested in November in Onslow County, N.C., on charges of concealing the birth of a child, failure to report a death and obstruction of justice. She is accused of putting her dead newborn girl in a plastic bag, then putting the body in the garbage and not notifying anyone, the Jacksonville Daily News reported. A court hearing is scheduled for June 30.
Sawyer also joined a Facebook cause called Stop Child Abuse.
In her most recent post, at 12:10 a.m. Friday, she wrote: “Carly passed away. We need prayers, holding onto nothing I feel like.”
Just as I was about to finish this story up I decided I would look one more time to see if there was anything I was missing. This story had many aspects to it and it confused the hell out of me but I’m not one to give up on something I believe in.
Interestingly enough I came across this article from hamptonroads. It’s an interview with Shari Evans, the paternal grandmother of Sadie. It’s heart breaking how she talks about Sadie missing her sister and the survivors guilt that she lives with at the tender age of 4. It also mentions Brandy’s sister, Dana and her upcoming trial.
Author: M. Stone, Unforgotten Angels