Boys saw parents overdose and had night terrors for months, grandparents say
Grandparents now raising three boys after parents overdose on the side of I-4
(WKMG) -- It was New Year's Eve when Heather and Daniel Kelsey's car was found stalled on the side of I-4 with hazards flashing.
Dashcam video from a Florida Highway Patrol trooper's car has the heartbreaking audio of their three young boys crying, while a dispatcher says there are two adults laying outside the vehicle, and three babies inside.
Troopers took the three crying boys in the back seat-- boys Mike Belisle said he still can't believe are his grandsons.
The parents slumped were his 30-year-old daughter Heather and her 32-year-old husband, Daniel.
"They actually were druggies, but it's probably not what you typically think of as a drug addict," Belisle said. "They didn't look like the crackheads you see walking down the street, looking kind of like zombies. They looked fairly normal and everything, but the part about Heather and Daniel was ... the chaos it created."
The Kelseys were married in 2010 and soon enough were proud parents of Joey, Aiden and baby Nicholas.
But Belisle said problems seemed to follow his daughter, and looking back, said he believes Heather may have been fighting a mental health battle.
"Not horribly, I always thought there was something, a little, a little off. That was something I really never could put my finger on, but yeah, I always had some concerns," Belisle said. "I know people look at stuff and they're like, 'Well, why didn't you do something?' Well, sometimes you can't do anything. There are people who just shut the world down and you can't help them."
He said he also worried about his grandsons.
"I kind of forced the issue with them, you know? 'These kids are, you got to take care of these kids,'" Belisle said. "I mean, I made the statement to her, 'You and Daniel have got to start taking care of these kids, you're feeding them but you're starving them to death. You're feeding them all junk, it's all sugar and junk.' I said, 'These kids are hungry all the time, you're starving them to death.'"
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In 2016, the Kelseys moved into the home Belisle shared with his wife, Lynne, in Quincy, Florida.
"I knew that both of them were withdrawing from something, the only thing I didn't know was drug of choice," Belisle said. "That month they were living by themselves, I said, I actually said, 'You know what? They've done it. They've made it.'"
They spent Christmas at the Kelseys' new home, and days later, as the family gathered at Belisle's brother's home in Gotha, they got the call.
"We found out on Saturday and then the social services people called us," Belisle said. "Everybody's talking about, what are we going to do? And I said, 'I'm 58, I have to think about this, you know? I don't really know if we're able to do this or not?.' And Sunday morning I called and said, "Yeah, we're going to take all of them.' It takes a while, a little bit for it to sink in and then it's like, yeah I got to do this, there's no, there's not a choice here."
It was a choice Belisle admits he never prepared for.
"There's more people out there like Lynne and I than everybody likes to think," Belisle said. "There's a lot of grandparents, older grandparents, actually older than us, that are raising these same kind of kids, they're orphans. I mean, basically they're orphans. They don't have any parents."
It was months before autopsy reports were released. Fentanyl - as in so many other deaths-- was to blame for the Kelseys' overdoses.
Eight months later, 5-year-old Joey, 2-year-old Aiden and baby Nicholas are still living with their grandparents. Lynne Belisle said their recovery has been a journey.
"When they first got here, they had something called night terrors. Every single night for that first month, Aiden and Joey, were constantly screaming in their sleep," Lynne Belisle said. "So it's not like anything sparked it, but [Joey] would say, 'You're killing my mom, you're killing my mom!' One night he woke me, or I went in there and woke him up and he wouldn't wake up, and he just was talking in his sleep and he would say, I see your eyes, I see your eyes, I'm so sorry, it's all my fault, it's all my fault.' For the longest time, he'd always say, 'It's all my fault,' everything was all his fault, and so again, it was just trying to figure out what they seen.
"But maybe since Heather was found slid down against the van, that maybe when she was convusling or whatever she was doing, that Daniel might've been trying to shake her or whatever. And Joey's carseat was there to where he could see it, and maybe thought, 'You're killing my mom,' you know? And watching her go down. And then maybe Daniel looked at him and realized what he just saw and could've been looking through the window saying, 'Look at my eyes,' trying to get his attention, and saying, 'It's all my fault, I'm so sorry.' We only can speculate."
"They've started calling us Mommy and Daddy," Belisle said. He said by the time the youngest of his grandsons is 18, he will be 75. He still hasn't forgiven his daughter for her choice that forever changed his life.
But he won't let his grandsons forget their parents. Belisle said they have pictures of the Kelseys, and he wants to make sure that when the boys are old enough and ready, they learn from their parents' mistakes.
"Yeah, I'm mad at them, but should I put it out there to (the grandchildren) that way? No. I need to put out the information to them, here's what happened, be compassionate about it, say 'Here's what happened to your mom and dad, and I don't want to see this happen to you,'" Belisle said. "I want the people that are doing heroin, fentanyl, crack cocaine, even alcohol, all the stuff they're doing, I want them to see exactly what they're doing to their family. Particulary the children, but their entire family. It's total chaos and destruction. This is not how anybody wants to get their grandchildren or their niece or nephews, this is not how it works. Their parents are never going to get them back. They're gone. And people need to quit being nice ... and they need to start saying, 'You're a drug addict and you need to get some help,'"
Lynne Belisle is hopeful her grandsons won't follow the path their parents did, but said it's going to be a long road.
"I think they've blossomed and come a long way and I think that they just have so much more to do, and to grow with and they're just going to be awesome little beings."
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