Two years after her son, TJ Floyd, was stabbed to death, Debbie Floyd feels she has turned a corner.
“I am on a mission, and that mission is to do something in this community that is needed. No mom, no parent should ever feel this. There aren’t even words to describe what this feels like.”
Floyd said her mission is in honor of her son’s memory. To understand Floyd’s mission you need to understand what devastated her.
Floyd’s son was 19 when he was stabbed to death on Jan. 21, 2012. On April 4, her son’s killer, Travon Walthour, accepted a plea agreement on a manslaughter charge in Liberty County Superior Court. Walthour will spend at least 15 years in prison before he is eligible for parole and then be on probation for two years.
For the grieving mother the ordeal is far from over. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Floyd addressed Liberty County Superior Court Judge Robert Russell before Walthour was sentenced. “(TJ) lived life to the fullest,” she said, “was the kindest soul I ever met, was always willing to help others, wore a big smile most of the time and his presence made people happy.”
Floyd said her son was the 2010 salutatorian at LifeSpring Christian Academy, the school where she spent 13 years as an educator. He was an outdoorsman who loved fishing, boating, golfing, riding his ATV and nailing a triple flip on his trampoline.
Floyd said the weeks after his death are a blur.
“This little house had hundreds of people,” she said. “I don’t even remember them, but hundreds of people were in and out… They said I did great for the most part, until the Valium ran out and I’d start screaming and they would pop another one in me.”
Floyd said about 900 people came to the funeral home during her son’s services.
In 2012, Debbie Floyd said she, her husband Terry and son TJ lived at Lake George in her “dream home.” Her son’s girlfriend also lived there, but had her own room. They had been together since TJ was 14.
Shortly before the death, a series of misfortunes broke the Floyd household apart. Floyd said she separated from her husband Terry and moved back to Port Wentworth. Then, TJ and his girlfriend broke up and she moved out.
“They had all the same friends and you know how that is when there is a breakup, one of the two gets isolated from the group,” Floyd said. “He ended up with a whole different group of friends and I didn’t know them but I knew they were smoking pot.”
Unfortunately TJ started smoking as well.
“I said, ‘TJ do you believe that God would have done all of those miracles to get you here to be where you are right now,’” she said sharing one of their last conversations. “And he said no… He said, ‘Mom, would you get the stuff up for me to go ahead and get into Savannah Tech…’ I said, ‘fantastic.’”
TJ wanted to be a mechanical engineer.
“When he died I had the application up on my computer,” she said.
Floyd recalled she was at a friend’s house, celebrating a birthday on the fateful day.
“I had turned my phone off, and when I turned it on it was blowing up,” Floyd said. Suspecting the news was bad she handed the phone to a friend, went into a bathroom and became violently ill.
“The night that TJ was murdered, Terry got the phone call that TJ had been beat up,” she said. “He rushed down there where they told him he was. And when he got there he said there was like 100 people and police everywhere. He went running up there and he saw TJ and he tried to get to him.”
Floyd said her husband was nearly arrested for trying to cross into the crime scene. He was physically removed by police.
“They apologized later, but they couldn’t have him contaminate the crime scene…. I think he just thought if he could get over there, TJ wouldn’t be dead,” she said crying.
“We were left out there with no resources,” she said. “When we called to try and get help, because I can tell you we needed help, there wasn’t any. And when I called my insurance company they said, ‘We don’t cover mental health.’ I said we are not mentally ill but our son has been murdered and we need help.”
She tried to keep teaching, but lasted until only October 2012.
“I went in and I told the pastor I’ve been trying so hard but it’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to the kids,” she said. “I was good at what I did and she begged me to stay, but I said I couldn’t. It was driving me crazy.”
About a year ago, Floyd found Compassionate Friends of Savannah.
“They are a group that is for the parents, siblings and grandparents of any child that has died no matter what age,” she said. “When I got involved with them it was scary.”
She said she was dumbfounded when she learned many of the members had a relative murdered. She attended monthly meetings, joined the group’s Facebook page and joined another Facebook page for the Parents of Murdered Children, Inc.
“I knew about the group (Parents of Murdered Children) on Facebook and I am part of the group on Facebook but I had no idea until the last week or so that these people are a national group,” she said. “They do all kinds of things…and after looking at everything they had to offer I realized we needed a local chapter.”
Floyd trained with the group to become a grief recovery specialist.
“I went to school in January 2014 right after TJ’s two year ‘angelversary’ as we call it and I became a specialist,” she said.
Now she is creating a Coastal Empire Chapter of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children.
“It’s like I’m on fire,” she said. “I stayed up until 2 a.m. and I read and retained everything. I mean I am soaking it up like a sponge. It’s like God has moved certain things away but said, ‘soak this in. This is what I want you to do.’ You always know when it’s a God thing, everything is just falling into place.”
And she wants to set the record straight.
“TJ was wrong for being there… He had no street smarts... Up until the last year before his death he was with me all the time,” she said.
And while she admits her son was there to buy marijuana, as said in court, she alleges Walthour and co-defendants Jonathan Robertson and Damion Walthour had other plans.
“They were trying to rob them from the get go,” Floyd said. She said Walthour sold her son a bag of cooking herbs and wanted more.
“The robbery didn’t go the way it was supposed to,” she said. “They drive off, but they get pissed off and they come back to get the money.”
Floyd said Robertson held her son’s friend at gun point in a ditch. She said the gun was never found by police so it was never brought up in court.
“Chip says there was a gun, so I believe Chip,” Floyd said about Everett “Chip” Drewery. “I don’t think he would have any reason to lie to me about that. His wife, she was his girlfriend at the time, she ran up on the scene and she was the one who held TJ while he died. That gave me some peace…that he knew he was in somebody’s arms that loved and cared for him.”
She said people have accused her son of pulling a knife on Walthour. She admits her son carried a buck knife since he was in fourth grade. But she said he was small compared to Walthour, a former high school football player. She believes Walthour took the knife from her son’s pocket.
“He stabbed TJ a minimum of 13 times. That is deep rooted rage,” she said.
And the crime was for nothing she said.
“The coroner found the money inside TJ’s shoe,” she said. “He (Walthour) didn’t get anything.”
Floyd said she will attend a conference in August to learn about starting the chapter. She also wants to spread a warning.
“…You hear people say all the time you never hear of someone getting violent over pot so you are not associating violence with marijuana. So I do want people to know that there was no marijuana and how that was set up because I don’t think kids realize how they could get set up like that. Kids don’t need to be out there trying to buy the stuff because you don’t know what you are buying and you don’t know if you are going to come out alive.”