On Feb. 2, 2007, mother-of-two Charity Lee left her two children home with a babysitter while she went to work for the night.
Around 10 p.m. that night, 13-year-old Paris, her abnormally bright son with an IQ of 141, convinced their babysitter that she could go home for the night.
His younger sister, Ella, 3, was already asleep for the night. After the sitter left, he grabbed a knife from the kitchen and went to do the unthinkable.
The teenager snuck into her bedroom, where he proceeded to strangle and beat his sister, stabbing her 17 times with the knife.
According to records, Paris first made a six-minute phone call to a school friend before contacting emergency services.
When he finally did call 911, he reported the murder to the operator. He pretended to follow the operators instructions to begin CPR, but when cops arrived, they found no evidence that he had attempted first aid.
By midnight, police arrived at Charity’s work to tell her that her daughter was injured. “[The police] told me that my daughter had been hurt,” she said. “And I was saying, ‘You need to take me to Ella now,’ and they were like, ‘You can’t go … she’s dead.’”
Still understandably confused, Charity began to ask about Paris, unprepared for what the police would say next.
“And that made no sense, because I knew that I’d left her at home with a baby sitter and her brother, so I said, ‘Is my son OK?’” she continued. “And they said, ‘We have him.’ … That’s when everything stopped making sense.”
Paris was taken by police and later told investigators that he originally planned to kill his sister first, and then kill his mother when she returned home from work.
“He said the first reason he didn’t go ahead with it was because it was a lot harder to kill someone than he thought,” Charity said. “The second reason was the realization if he’d killed me, I only would have suffered for five, 10, 15 minutes. But, if he left me alive [without Ella], I would suffer for the rest of my life.”
Paris hoped to punish his mother for her relapse in her recovery from an addiction to drugs when he was 12 years old. The mother explained that she put her habit before her son, and that he wanted his mother to himself.
Six months after the tragedy, Paris was sentenced to 40 years in jail, the maximum for a juvenile for murder in Texas. Since Ella’s death, Charity has remained sober.
And although her son did the unimaginable, she has forgiven him. “I hate what he did, but I can’t hate my son,” she said.
“I have forgiven Paris for what he did, but it’s an ongoing process,” Charity explained. “If he was free [from captivity], I would be frightened of him.
“The fact that he is incarcerated gives me peace of mind, but I worry about his own safety.” After being sentenced, psychological evaluators told Charity that her son was a sociopath.
The teen had had homicidal thoughts since age 8, and if he had been a legal adult as the time of his sentencing, he would have been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder (sociopathy).
In an interview in jail behind glass for an Investigation Discovery documentary, Paris denied his insanity or mental illness. “I chose to do my crime and I take full responsibility for my crime. And I wouldn’t say there was a predisposition to what happened,” he said.
The night of the murder, Paris explained to authorities that he’d had a hallucination of his sister in a demonic state laughing at him. But later, he revealed that he’d simply woken up that morning with a desire to murder someone.
Regardless of his actions, Charity chooses to visit her son in jail in Texas, four hours away from her Georgia home. “I sometimes have to say to myself [during visits]: ‘Okay, Charity, take a breath, you know how Paris is wired,’ ” she said. “But I am not going to be that parent who abandons their kid.”
In 2012, Charity gave birth to a baby boy named Phoenix. She is thankful that the prison Paris is in does not allow visitors under 17, and that Paris cannot see Phoenix since he killed a child. “If Paris wasn’t in prison or was able to meet Phoenix, I would have to do a lot more soul-searching.”
“On the night that Ella died, I vowed to do something meaningful in her memory,” concludes Lee. “It also gave me a place to direct my rage, other than at my child.”
In 2011, Charity started the ELLA Foundation, a nonprofit standing for Empathy, Love, Lessons, and Action to help those “involved in the criminal justice system and those affected by trauma.”
“I am convinced, beyond the shadow of any doubt, the only reason I survived my personal hell is to share my love and my family’s story with anyone who needs it or is willing to listen,” Charity writes on the ELLA Foundation Facebook Page.
“I survive to offer my time and heart to all victims of violence I meet,” she continues. “I survive to rattle the bars of the criminal justice system a bit by advocating for justice and humane treatment, rather than punishment, for those who do us harm.”
Now, Charity is thankful to have Phoenix, who gave her new life after her world was torn apart. “Because I was living with the dead, I was barely living,” she finished. “Phoenix really brought me back into the moment.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.