Amarillo, TX - An area woman said child abuse in the panhandle is becoming an epidemic as the number of cases reported is on the rise.
Quietly placed on the southeast side of Amarillo sits the garden of angels. There you will find Kati's tombstone. It's not a representation of who she was, but a representation of what she is.
The face of hope for all children who are fighting abuse.
Shelley Blevins puts on a smile. One that's welcoming and can make anyone feel at ease. But you'd never know what's hidden in her past, tucked away behind a shattered heart.
"As we found more and more about what had happened to her, how can somebody...how can you look at her," Blevins, a child abuse prevention advocate, said. "She's beautiful. How could you hit and choke and beat and starve a little five year old girl? Who can do things like that?"
Kati was Blevins' first granddaughter, a light in her life that shined brighter than anything. But a nasty custody battle took Kati away, and Blevins didn't know where she had gone for nearly 3 years.
Blevins son, Nelson, did everything he could to get his daughter, Kati, back. And after a long hard fight, it seemed his efforts would pay off.
Kati's grandmother was allowed one visit with Kati before a custody court date, but little did she know it would be her last.
"When I was leaving I was telling her goodbye and she ran out the front door and she jumped into my arms," Blevins said. "And I grabbed her and she kissed me on the cheek and whispered in my ear, 'I missed you.' And I was like, 'I missed you too.' And I said 'Isn't it exciting because I'm going to get to see you and your daddy is going to get to see you?' And that was the last time. The next time I saw her she was in a coffin."
Tommy Castro was Kati's mom's boyfriend at the time. He was convicted of first degree murder for beating, strangling, and starving Kati.
Blevins said at this moment, she vowed to make sure her granddaughter's story was heard. But the hardship doesn't stop there.
Blevins' son, Nelson, tragically passed away in an accident a couple years later. He leaves behind his 2-year-old daughter, Nicole, who Blevins said is a spitting image of Kati.
Nicole said her daddy is in heaven, along with Kati. She said she loves them very much and even speaks to them from time to time.
It's Nicole's face, one so similar to Kati's, that gives Blevins the courage to speak about such a horrifying incident.
"I think that people need to be aware of what's going on within their own families,' Blevins said. "Within their daycare and within the schools. I think that teachers and faculty just need to pay attention to children who aren't bathed. Children who look tired and hungry, all those things are also child abuse. It's not just physical violence."
Blevins is hosting an event this Sunday, Sept. 13 to bring awareness to this rising issue. Registration begins at 10 a.m. at the Broken Spoke Lounge at 3101 SW 6th.
The event is a police escorted motorcade, costing $15 for single riders and $20 for couples. There will be a raffle, fellowship and food.
All proceeds benefit The Bridge and Biker's Against Child Abuse.
Blevins said she hopes the event will bring an actual face to the issue.
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