11-year-old boy finally returns home, three years after he was shot in the head by his meth addict mom
The boy refused to give in, fighting against impossible odds to survive what was almost certainly a fatal wound
January 2, 2015: 27-year-old Morgan Slaight, a clinically depressed recovering methamphetamine addict, picks up a .22-caliber handgun, shoots her six-year-old son and kills him, shoots her eight-year-old son in the head from point-blank range, and then proceeds to turn the gun on herself.
The six-year-old, Jaxon Slaight, died on the spot. Morgan passed away from her self-inflicted gunshot wound 11 days later in the hospital, after doctors put her into a medically induced coma. Her eldest, eight-year-old Joey Slaight, was similarly expected to die a few days later. But the boy refused to give in, fighting against impossible odds to survive what was almost certainly a fatal wound.
Now, after 38 months and 29 days in the hospital, and rehabilitation and recovery centers, a now 11-year-old Joey finally made his way back home on Easter, which makes his improbable return from the dead all the more symbolically relevant.
The murder-suicide, which took place in Montfort, Wisconsin, caught national headlines and had the country praying feverishly for his recovery, leading to the formation of a Facebook page which was aptly named 'Joey Strong.'
A heartfelt post on the page marked the momentous occasion of his return home, reading: "It's a BIG DAY here for all of us with Joey Strong!! After 38 months and 29 days.. Joey is coming HOME!!! This boy has fought, scraped, clawed and willed his way to recovery. What a difference and we give all the glory to Jesus."
"We just want everyone to know how your prayers have moved mountains over the last 3 years. As we all said our goodbyes today to the staff who have become family at his neurological rehabilitation facility, Joey smiled and simply said 'I am going home, finally.'
"This is such a wonderful day and we couldn’t wait to share the news with all of you! Again thank you all for loving him as he worked so hard on recovery. We are very blessed. Love to everyone in Wisconsin and to the doctors and nurses who made the choice to save his life that night and made this day a possibility."
Three years later, his story is still an inspiration to millions. Taken to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison with a grievous injury to the left side of his brain, doctors felt that even if he did recover, he would face speech, language, and motor impediments for the rest of his life.
But Joey was already proving all those predictions wrong a year later. While he was developmentally disabled, something not abnormal for someone who sustained a wound to the brain, he was talking in complete sentences, running, jumping, and solving puzzles, and playing games on his Nintendo Wii, baffling experienced neurosurgeons who predicted he could never become a functional person.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, he was taken out of the hospital and moved to a pediatric facility located within a few hours of his relatives' homes near Tulsa, Oklahoma, to further his already rapid rehabilitation. While the family was cautioned that recoveries following serious brain injuries are slow after the first year, Joey's visible progress meant that his healthcare service okayed a six-month stay at the facility.
The tragedy that was Joey's brother's deaths could have arguably been avoided, however, as the warning signs were there for all to see. Morgan was separated from her husband, Tyler, who was also a recovering meth addict and was living with Joey and Jaxon at her sister's residence in Montfort. The severity of the parents' meth addiction meant that the children were even taken away from their custody at one point.
But they were eventually returned to Morgan's care, and things took a turn for the worse when the mother threatened to kill herself on December 22, 2014. She was subsequently admitted to the Winnebago Mental Health Institute near Oshkosh on emergency detention but was puzzlingly released just one day before the fatal shootings.
Joey, who had formed a very close bond with his younger brother Jaxon, reportedly still doesn't know that the six-year-old or his mother are dead.
Andra Munoz, Joey's aunt, and Tyler's older sister, said: "That’s what is so hard about this. I know Joey misses Jaxon so much. I know he knows he’s not there. We know that has to be addressed at some point, but we’re not going to rush this."
While the aim would be for him to be returned to his Tyler, the father is still said to be recovering. He will be under the care of Munoz and her family for the present. For those interested in contributing to the cause, a GoFundMe page has been set up in Joey's name to help raise money to purchase furniture, electronics, clothes, and toys to help set him up in his new surroundings.