Conyers resident Kimya Motley and her daughter Corrine Williams, both shot by Motley’s husband in an attack, have since recovered and are doing well. Here they are shown participating in the Race Against Violence, a 5K which supports efforts to reduce domestic violence. (Special Photo)
It was raining that morning when she pulled under the covered shelter in front of the day care center. Rushing to get out of the car and get her daughter inside so she could make it to work on time, Kimya Motley stopped short when her 10-year-old told her she needed her mother to sign a paper for school.
Motley reached back into the car to get the paper as her daughter got out and sat on the ramp nearby to put on her socks and shoes. Leaning back out of the car and turning around, Motley found herself standing toe to toe with the husband she had left and gone back to four times. He shot her in the face with a .38 caliber pistol. His second shot hit her in the neck.
As Motley fell to the pavement, she saw her daughter on the other side of the car. The girl’s head dropped down, as if she were looking away from the shocking sight of seeing her mother being shot. Struggling to get up, Motley fell back down as her husband came and stood over her and shot her one last time in the back.
Motley knew she had to get to her daughter to tell her, “Mommy is going to be OK.” Miraculously, after being shot three times, she was able to get to the other side of the car. It was then she saw the blood and realized her husband had also shot her beautiful daughter in the head.
Picking her daughter up, Motley struggled to get to the door of the day care center.
The shooter was gone and police and paramedics were on the way.
Motley cradled her daughter in her arms, crying and praying out loud for God to keep her alive. As the paramedics arrived, young Corrine Williams drifted in and out of consciousness.
Mother and daughter were rushed to the hospital. Physicians told Corrine’s father and grandmother that the girl would not live 24 hours. Twenty-four hours later, they said she would be gone within 72 hours. Again, she defied predictions.
When they said she would be paralyzed on her left side, she began moving her left leg. When they said it would be her right side, she moved that leg, too.
Hours after the shooting as officers were still hunting for him, 36-year-old Terrence Sherod Roberson of Stockbridge walked into the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and surrendered.
It was a violent end to a marriage that had seemed so promising.
Introduced by friends, Motley and Roberson dated for a year before they married. She already had a son and daughter from a previous relationship and the young family seemed happy. But just about the time when the couple celebrated their first anniversary, Roberson learned he had developed sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease.
“Because he was a man who worked with his hands — he was a carpenter — this disease was really debilitating for him,” Motley said. “He couldn’t go out and work and that really messed with him. He couldn’t do what he loved doing and so he was very angry…
“People deal with illnesses in different ways. Some have strength and bravery and have a good demeanor, but not him. He couldn’t mask his behavior any longer. He started being verbally abusive and that escalated into physical abuse.
“I had a 2008 restraining order on him. We went to court. He told the judge he wanted his family and he wanted counseling. I believed him, not knowing the dynamics of abuse, so I took him back.”
She said she thought things were somewhat better because he knew if he physically hurt her again, she would call the police. But that was not to last.
Roberson didn’t seek treatment for his disease and it began taking its toll. He started becoming abusive to her teenage son, who has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. There was a soda-throwing incident after which Motley said she again left her husband.
They were separated a month and he promised to get help and go to the doctor. Motley went back to him.
Roberson got treated for his sarcoidosis. Motley said he went back to work and his mood improved.
“The rest of 2009, things were fine,” she said. “He held it in as long as he could.”
In 2010, there was a fighting incident with her husband and son and the police were called.
“He was removed from the home and we never lived together again,” she said.
It was her fourth time leaving him. Motley, who has now become a passionate advocate against domestic violence, said, on average women return to an abuser seven times before they leave permanently.
Despite his being gone, life was far from peaceful. The court had ordered Roberson to attend family violence classes and every week, he would call Motley to tell her he had been to class.
In fact, he was not going to class. In May 2011, he was arrested for failing to follow the court order and attend classes.
“At that point, I said, ‘You’re not going to do anything to get better,’” Motley said. “The kids and I had gone to counseling. I felt like I had enough courage to file for divorce. Any time divorce was mentioned, he would get very angry…
“He would never outright say, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ but he would say, ‘We’re not going to get a divorce because God doesn’t like divorce. It says from death do us part.’ Some abusers use your religion against you. I would back off and say, ‘OK, just go to class.’”
Motley said that finally by July 2011, she had reached her limit.
“I was tired of living in fear and had had it,” she said. “One of my girlfriends confronted me on it, saying, ‘How much you love God and you’re walking around in fear?’
“I was sick of it and went to seek a divorce. Once I stuck with the plan, there was stalking behavior. He broke into my home and stole my car. Because we were still married, there was nothing the police could do because it was marital property…
“It was a horrible, horrible ordeal that escalated worse and worse up until the day he shot us.”
During her recovery from the shooting, Motley said she was placed under tight security and friends and family even had to know certain passwords to reach her. However, she said somehow complete strangers began contacting her and stopping by to see her. They told her that after hearing what happened to her, they had left their own abusive relationships.
“I said, ‘Where are these people coming from?’” Motley said. “I thought ‘This shooting is taking on a bigger purpose than I originally thought’ …Because it was very obvious something was going on.”
Motley said when she was in the throes of her own abusive relationship, she didn’t know what help was available to her and shelters were often full. She went into a period of hiding at one point and had to live with a friend.
After she and her daughter were shot, Motley said she was given a booklet on domestic violence.
“I said, ‘Really? I could have used this months ago,’” she said.
In May 2013, Motley founded Haven of Light (www.haven-of-light.org), a nonprofit organization that works to equip women with the tools to rebuild their lives spiritually, physically, emotionally and financially after physical, emotional, verbal and or sexual trauma.
For the men who are willing, she said Haven of Light partners with local programs to help them transform from perpetrators to protectors.
Motley said Haven of Light is still a “baby organization,” in need of everything from volunteers to donations. The goal is to someday have a house to be used as a transition place for women as they leave the shelters, which can only accommodate women for a limited length of time.
Motley said her organization seeks to partner with other local organizations to help educate people on domestic violence and to offer assistance.
“There are some who would go forward in life if they had the tools,” she said.
Helping these women is the purpose God has now placed on her life, Motley said.
With dual degrees from the University of Georgia in education and family and consumer sciences, Motley is a longtime school teacher who now teaches in Gwinnett County.
After school each day, she is busy with her children, but she stays up most nights until midnight on the phone counseling women who are in abusive situations. What troubles her greatly, she said, is that so many women think they are not in danger when they are. Their judgment is often shaky.
“I realize wholeheartedly I’m not supposed to be here and neither is my child,” Motley said. “Doctors said we wouldn’t make it. That’s why I want to live my life to help other women and children not live like we did.”
After the shooting, Corrine had to learn to walk and talk again. Today, the seventh-grader plays basketball, runs track and participates in Girl Scouts. Motley’s son is a 19-year-old college freshman.
In addition to being a mother, teaching and growing Haven of Light, Motley is also busy as a guest speaker. She will discuss the topic of forgiveness at a women’s breakfast at the Branch Worship Center in Conyers on March 22 at 8:30 a.m. The church is located at 2285 Iris Drive. Call the Branch at 770-602-1888 to register.
As for Motley’s husband Roberson, he pleaded guilty to all the charges against him, including two counts of criminal intent to commit murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
“The understanding of the hows and the whys is going to take time,” Motley said. “The bottom line is, men kill because it’s the ultimate form of control. ‘If I can’t have you, no one will.’ Period.”
Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.