DALLAS — It was around 6:40 a.m. Saturday when Antwainese Square, out for an early morning jog, first spotted what she thought was a dog lying in the street of her Dallas neighborhood.
As she got closer, however, Square saw small arms and legs and realized it was something much more horrific: the body of a 4-year-old boy.
Editor’s note: This story contains graphic details.
The boy’s face and upper torso were drenched in blood, and he was shirtless and barefoot.
“That’s when I noticed the baby had ants at the bottom of his feet, so I knew he was deceased then,” Square told the Dallas Morning News. “It was heart-wrenching because this baby could have been no more than 5.”
Dallas police officials on Monday identified the boy as Cash Gernon.
Court records obtained by the Morning News allege that security cameras inside the home where Cash and his twin brother, Carter, were staying show his 5 a.m. abduction. Darriynn Ronnell Brown is accused of breaking into the home and snatching the sleeping boy from his crib.
The motive for the abduction is unknown.
Cash’s body was found lying in the road in the 7500 block of Saddleridge Drive, about eight blocks from where the kidnapping took place. Investigators said it appeared he had been slain with an “edged weapon.”
Brown, 18, has been charged with kidnapping and felony burglary. The teen, who lives a few streets from where Cash’s body was discovered, is being held in the Dallas County Jail in lieu of $1.5 million bail.
Authorities said additional charges against Brown are pending the result of forensic analysis.
Detectives learned that Cash and Carter had been left for some time in the care of Monica Sherrod, a former girlfriend of their father’s. The twins’ mother, Melinda Seagroves, didn’t know their father had left them with Sherrod.
“According to Ms. Sherrod, she has not been able to contact the father since his departure from her residence in March,” Dallas police officials said in a statement. “Meanwhile, Ms. Seagroves, with the help of her mother, Ms. Connie Ward, has been conducting an extensive search for her sons for an extended amount of time.”
Carter has been reunited with his mother, authorities said. The boys’ father has not been located.
The brutal homicide has stunned the Dallas community, including even the most hardened investigators.
“We are shocked,” Dallas police spokesperson Albert Martinez told the Morning News over the weekend. “We are very angry about what has happened to this small child.”
Residents in the Mountain Creek neighborhood, where the crime took place, awoke to police asking if they were missing a toddler. They gathered in groups on sidewalks and in yards as FBI agents and police officers, including some on horseback, searched for evidence in the area, including the nearby Big Cedar Wilderness Trail.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Lila Gilbert, 18, told the newspaper. “It’s so shocking to me that it’s a 4-year-old, someone’s baby. That could’ve been my little cousin or brother or something. It’s just terrifying.”
Authorities said Sherrod contacted police just before 11 a.m. to report Cash missing.
Sherrod was able to identify Brown on her surveillance footage taking the boy, according to an affidavit in the case.
There was initially some misidentification in the case, with Sherrod being identified as Cash’s mother, police officials said. Sherrod’s mother shared a GoFundMe page on social media Monday, asking people to “please help (her) daughter during the loss of (her) grandbaby.”
Dallas police officials made a point to caution the public that fraudulent GoFundMe accounts were being set up on Cash’s behalf, though they didn’t point to any specific fund as being illegitimate.
“Please verify the source before donating,” authorities said in a statement.
Sherrod’s son, Kamron Mori, told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that he considered Cash his little brother. The 4-year-old was a happy child who was into superheroes, the 18-year-old said.
“He loved to play superheroes. He always thought he was Iron Man,” Mori said.
The teen was in tears as he spoke to reporters over the weekend.
“He was the sweetest boy ever,” he told the news station. “Like why? He was 4. Who does this to a 4-year-old kid? For what? For what reason? Because you want to be evil?”
Brown is a former classmate of Mori’s at Duncanville High School. Mori insisted that Brown’s alleged attack on Cash was random.
“No reason for none of this,” Mori said.
Brown’s mother, Mimi Brown, told the Morning News her son was home all weekend and could not have committed the crime. Like the Sherrod home, the Brown home is within a half-mile of the spot where Cash’s body was found.
“That’s not right at all,” she said. “I know my son is traumatized. I know he’s scared, because I’m scared.
“Darriynn is very kind. I feel that he’s being framed.”
Cox Media Group