3-Year-Old Charlette Dawkins Died When Mom’s Boyfriend Swatted Her Down the Stairs

Charlette James Dawkins, literal angel.
(NJ.com)
Charlette and her NeNe
(Facebook)

Charlette James Dawkins was born on December 11, 2013 in Voorhees, New Jersey to young parents Kaitlin Roysdon and Anthony Dawkins. By the age of three, she was the embodiment of an angel on Earth with her cherubic cheeks, her long, glowing blond curls, her big blue eyes, and her radiant smile. She was, as her grandmother Renay Rodriguez described her on Facebook, “tiny but she was mighty and so lovable!” Renay affectionately called her “NeNe’s Baby,” and her husband, Javier, called Charlette “Abuelo’s Baby.” Her godmother, Keirstyn, called her “Little Babe.” Her vast extended family doted on her. She adored both princesses and superheroes. “She liked tiaras,” Renay told NJ.com, “but she liked to dress up like Batman. Everyone who met her loved her.”

Unfortunately, one person — her mother’s then-21-year-old boyfriend, Travis Graham — lacked the love and caring for Charlette that everyone else in her life possessed. Instead of spoiling her, adoring her, teaching her, and helping to raise her, he put a violent end to her short life.

Travis Graham and Kaitlin Roysdon in February 2017.
(Facebook)

According to Travis when he first spoke to police, on March 13, 2017, he was watching Charlette alone at the house he shared on Bittersweet Drive in Gloucester Township, New Jersey with Kaitlin, to whom he had proposed marriage just two months before. He claimed that after Charlette cracked the screen of her iPad, he told her to go to bed. As she headed upstairs toward her bedroom, he overheard her fall down the stairs but was able to catch her before she hit the bottom. Travis told police that Charlette was upset for about 30 minutes afterward and then fell asleep. When he tried to awaken her from her nap, he said, he noticed traces of blood on her mouth; he claimed he attempted to perform CPR on the child before he drove her to Jefferson Stratford Hospital.

Charlette was airlifted to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where doctors in the pediatric intensive care unit found her pupils fixed and dilated, indicating a brain injury. They also discovered multiple healing rib fractures and bruises on her forehead, chest, abdomen, and legs. Several times, Charlette went into cardiac arrest, and she was diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury. A physician’s evaluation concluded that “the history, physical examination, and diagnostic studies are diagnostic of child physical abuse to a medical degree of certainty.”

According to the Charlette’s Voice Facebook page, which is maintained by Charlette’s godmother, Keirstyn Myers:

Charlette’s family allowed her organs to be donated. At least one small bit of good came out of this precious baby’s death.

Charlette and her Aunt Keirstyn
(Charlette’s Voice Facebook page)

Shortly thereafter, authorities began to investigate Charlette’s death, which Travis claimed was a tragic accident but which family members and law enforcement suspected was caused by something more ominous. The Medical Examiner’s office ruled the manner of Charlette’s death undetermined at the time, but it would not remain that way.

Travis and Kaitlin.
(Facebook)

Despite the dubious circumstances surrounding Charlette’s death and Travis’s suspected involvement, Kaitlin continued to defend him, at times butting heads with her mother and other family members over her support of the man her family felt had murdered her daughter. On October 10, 2017, about seven months after Charlette died, Kaitlin gave birth to another daughter, who, not long after, was removed from the young couple’s custody and placed with a relative. In February of 2018, Kaitlin and Travis Graham were married.

When detectives detained Travis in July 2018 on charges of taking part in five separate armed robberies, they questioned him again regarding Charlette’s death, and this time, his statements contradicted his initial account of the incident.

Travis Graham’s mugshot.
Is it just me, or does he look like a thumb with ears?
(NJ.com)

Travis now said that Charlette, standing at the top of the staircase while refusing to take a nap, pinched him. In retaliation, he backhanded her in the forehead with so much force that she spun around and fell face-first down the stairs, where she lay, unresponsive. He claimed she had wet herself, so he changed her soiled clothing and took her to the hospital five minutes after the incident. However, text messages he sent to Kaitlin indicate he actually waited three hours before he walked into the emergency room carrying Charlette’s “lifeless body,” according to the probable cause statement for his arrest.

At 12:38 PM, he texted Kaitlin: “lol nvm char just threw a hissy fit and dropped dead weight while walking up the stairs. I caught her but she banged her head.”

At 1:35 PM, he wrote: “her head is pretty bad with bruises.”

And at 3:26 PM, he texted: “Going to emergency room.”

Charlette and her Abuelo, Javier Rodriguez.
(Facebook)

The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office investigated Charlette’s death for a long 16 months, but in July 2018, prosecutors announced they anticipated filing charges against Travis in Charlette’s death. Renay told NJ.com that as this was announced in court, her husband, Javier Rodriguez, couldn’t resist clapping a few times inside the somber courtroom.

Prosecutors had to wait for a report from the medical examiner, who at last ruled Charlette’s death a homicide — cause: blunt force trauma to the head — in early August of 2018. On August 14, Travis was charged with first-degree murder; an additional charge of endangering the welfare of a child, according to the criminal complaint, stemmed from Travis failing “to timely seek medical treatment for [Charlette’s] obviously serious injuries.”

Renay told NJ.com that she spent a lot of time with her granddaughter until January of 2017, when she confronted her daughter, Kaitlin, about a bruise Charlette had suffered. Kaitlin then cut off contact with her mother. The next Renay heard was on March 13, when she got a call that Charlette was unresponsive in the hospital. Since then, she and many others suspected Travis was to blame for Charlette’s death.

Not mother material: Kaitlin Graham.
(Facebook)

New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency would like Kaitlin to shoulder some of that blame. After Travis was charged, DCP&P investigators ruled that Kaitlin Graham also bore some responsibility for her daughter’s death because she “did not make reasonable efforts to protect her child.”

Lacking physical evidence, prosecutors declined to charge Kaitlin in Charlette’s death.

Now 23 years old, Travis was offered a plea deal in May of 2019 in which he was offered a 40-year sentence in exchange for guilty pleas to both the murder charges and the charges related to his five armed robberies, which took place in two different counties. Travis’s attorney countered with the suggestion that he spend only 15 years in prison, a ridiculous offer that the state swiftly batted down. Failing that, Travis expressed his desire to be tried for the crimes, for which he faced possible life in prison.

A court appointed lawyer defends Travis at a hearing.
(The Courier-Post)

Before he could be taken to trial, on Friday, June 28, Travis accepted a second plea deal, giving some measure of justice to Charlette’s family. As part of the deal, he pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and three counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, thereby admitting he caused Charlette’s death and also took part in a series of robberies to fuel his drug addiction, menacing victims with a knife or an air-soft gun while high on drugs.

When asked about his drug use, Travis explained, “I just wanted to forget a lot of stuff.”

Somehow, the skinny little twerp managed to look threatening. Had to be the weapon.
(The Courier-Post)

Travis is currently also serving a five-year sentence for some of the armed robberies. As part of the June plea deal, the prosecutor’s office said it will ask Superior Court Judge Gwendolyn Blue to sentence Travis to 20 years for manslaughter and 10 years on each robbery charge. The manslaughter sentence must be served before the robbery sentences will begin, and under the terms of New Jersey’s No Early Release Act, Travis must serve at least 85% of each sentence, which means he will spend at minimum 25 1/2 years in prison. Judge Blue will sentence Travis Graham on July 25, 2019.

Keirstyn made this Facebook post regarding this article.
(Charlette’s Voice Facebook page)

From Charlette’s obituary: “Charlette was a princess in her own world. She was so smart and had an out of this world personality. She could light up the room with her smile and cared so much about other people. She is a soul that no one will ever forget.”

That’s why we’re here, everybody. Let’s never forget Charlette’s beautiful presence and sweet smile. She deserved so much more than a mere three years on this planet. As I write this, Charlette should be five years old, preparing to go to kindergarten in the fall, and spending every spare moment with her now two-year-old sister.

On a brighter note, it appears Keirstyn is now caring for Charlette’s little sister and absolutely loves her to pieces, which is beautiful and heartwarming. I have a ton of respect for Keirstyn for the way she has thrown every ounce of herself into loving Charlette’s little sister, just as she did Charlette. Charlette’s memory lives on in those who love her, some of whom still post on the Charlette’s Voice page often.

Rest in peace, mighty little angel.

Sources: NJ.com, The Courier-Post, USNews.com, Facebook, Charlette’s Voice Facebook page, McGuinness Funeral Home

15 comments

  1. Thank you for letting me know, Anthony. I will correct it ASAP. I am so very sorry for your loss. Charlette’s story has touched me deeply.

  2. Thank you. And thank you for shedding light on how terrible a person Kaitlin was. Kaitlin is just as guilty as travis and i wish charges would filed against her but i don’t think that’s going to happen. And thank you for doing your research. This was well put together and i respect that someone would actually took the time to get all the details and not going off of word of mouth. I respect you and thank you again.

    • That means a lot to me; thank you so much! I do a ton of research for each post, and as hard as it is to write these stories, I started this blog to give these sweet babies a voice and bring awareness to the unfathomable crime of child abuse. I’m so glad you think I did Charlette justice. She sounded like an absolute doll with a heart of gold, and her outside beauty reflected that. I’ve cried many tears over her, and I never even had the opportunity to meet her. I can only imagine how this loss has affected you and everyone who loves her. The strength and grace her family and friends have shown for the past two and a half years is incredible. May your sweet girl rest well now that Travis is locked away for at least a quarter century.

  3. Renay, I am very sorry if anything I reported was inaccurate. I would be more than happy to make any necessary corrections. I only use information and photos that are publicly available and accessible. I most definitely had no intention of offending you or any of Charlette’s loved ones; my only intention is to tell her story to the best of my ability and to honor her memory. Please email me at sufferthelittlechildren.blog@gmail.com, and I’ll be glad to make any necessary changes.

  4. Renay. First off. Charlie was kept from me and the entire family. I fought so many times to see my daughter and Kate made it impossible…. I never went to a court date or a hearing because all of you guys are pieces of shit. You support your daughter who let your grand daughter walk around with broken ribs for over a week without medical attention. The reason I never went to a a hearing is because I will not and cannot be in the room with a man who murdered my daughter without snapping tf out and fighting someone. And if I see Kaitlin I will also snap out…. if I was a piece of shit dead beat father then Kaitlin wouldn’t be calling me at least once a month trying to talk to me or having her friends call me saying she wants to have sex… which is disgusting. I do not want to see any of you guys and I do not like any of you guys. Your pos daughter married the man who killed her daughter and your on good terms with her?? You guys can say what you want but months before Charlie passed no one was allowed to see Charlie not even you. I even was going to go to court for you to see Charlie. And I’m the dead beat? No renay your crazy… don’t speak on what you have no idea about if you have anything to say you can call me I’ll be glad to speak.

  5. Laine this post is accurate. The detectives knew and kept me up to date with everything going on and knew my reasons for not going and understood. I support this post. And can insure you it is accurate and renay its all public records. This post is allowed to stay up. Shouldn’t post on fb and call those news Channels who used your pictures… which made it possible for the creator of this page to use..

  6. Wait i read this wrong….sorry laine.
    RENAY I NEVER SAID ME AND KATE WERE ON GOOD TERMS 6months prior to her death i was fighting to see my daughter i was going to court with you.. so we could make that possible…

  7. Anthony you are so funny. I have the screenshots of you contacting her oh and trying to get with her cousin. I am not doing this. Lanine, I am very sorry this has turned ugly here. Anthony is a irrelevant human being. He didn’t even have rights in the hospital. Keirstyn has more rights then he did. As for speaking to detectives you haven’t since April 2017! So stop trying to act like you know anything. Because if you spoke to them then you would know a lot more and you don’t. Infact the little info you got about no medical attention would be corrected but see you don’t know. And where were you when we had our meetings with the prosecutors? Ummm not there. So you do you Anthony. Your in a delusional world. So Laine, we had a talk and this seriously undermines her memory and the respect issue we talked about. Please delete his comments. He is no one!

  8. I know your first statements within this article was correct, there’s so much more you need to know.

  9. Hello my name is james Mceneaney im charlette’s grandad. I just wanted to say thank you for the article. What you do for the kids is awesome helps get there stories out so people know.

    • Thank you so much, James. I’m so sorry for your loss. The more I learn about Charlette, the more my heart breaks for her family. What a special little girl she was.

Leave a Reply to Laine Cancel reply