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Family of slain children wonders, ''What if?''

4:40 PM, Sep 25, 2012   |    comments
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Zander and Zayden Brown
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- Byron Brown sat quietly on his the front porch of his St. Petersburg home with Sandy Barylski at his side.

From a distance, it appears to be a family enjoying a beautiful, cool fall morning. Up close, they are a family holding back tears and struggling with two words, "What if?"

Early Saturday morning, the grandparents received the devastating news. Their grandchildren, Zander and Zayden, were dead, killed by their own mother, according to deputies.

Brown's son, Murphy, is the father of the murdered boys. Barylski's daughter Dawn Brown, the mother accused of killing her children before hanging herself in her bedroom.

She wonders if her daughter planned it all.

"I went to Michigan to help my daughter-in-law," said Sandy, "I had only been gone one day. My daughter made sure I went to Michigan. She must have planned this, I guess," she said. She broke down before she could finish the interview.

Byron Brown says the family knew Dawn was struggling with depression, but not one person ever thought she would take her own life or the lives of her children.

"In a million years, I wouldn't expect her to do that. But when I look back and look at the circumstances, I can only think that what she did, she did for love," said Brown.

He says she wouldn't have killed her children out of hate, adding, "The problems she faced, she didn't want them to suffer in this world either."

It's the only reason, the family concludes, but even that doesn't explain how a mother who seemed to love her children would decide to end their lives.

"In her mental state, I guess it was just too much. It's just too much for her and she may have felt that was the best recourse, he would be in a better place, she wouldn't have to worry no more," said Brown, "Can you imagine what it takes for someone to do that to a child and the other? She had to do one and then the other. I can imagine the tears in her eyes when she did it."

He put his head in his head and looked up, "I can't imagine, it's beyond my reasoning."

Brown says there were happier times. In 2010 the family had high expectations for the future, when Dawn earned her degree in Education from St. Pete College. She hoped to be a teacher.

"She was happy, I mean real happy. It was all she could talk about," said Brown. "For her to get charged with fraud -- it was only for food stamps -- it just took away her will. It was a spiral, that's when she started changing her behavior."

Brown says she wouldn't clean the house or do the dishes and that she would only take care of her children's basic needs.

"I told Murphy he needs to keep an eye on her, try to get her some help. I don't want to blame no one, because it's a tragic situation and now is not the time to blame anyone, because it won't change anything," he said.

Murphy Brown, the children's father, was too distraught to be interviewed.

"He keeps remembering, going over it in his head, he'll never, he'll never forget it. He'll think about it every day," said Byron Brown.

Deputies say Murphy Brown returned home early Saturday morning to find his wife dead, hanging from an electrical cord on their bedroom's ceiling fan.

When he went to check on their children who were tucked into their beds, he discovered their lifeless bodies instead.

"You know it's going to replay in his mind from now on, 'What if?' I keep telling him, it's not a matter of 'what if,' because it shouldn't happen. You can't keep blaming yourself, but he's going to do it," said Brown.

Brown says Murphy told her that night he was going to leave her and take the children. He left the house that night, never thinking she would harm herself or their boys Zander and Zayden.

"It's hard to imagine... it's hard for me to imagine what it took for her to do it," said Brown.

The family spent most of Tuesday morning making final arrangements for the three.

He says the public is welcome to say goodbye to the family.

Funeral information:

Location: New Mount Olive Primitive Baptist Church, 3001 18th Ave South, St. Petersburg

Friday: Visitation: 3pm-8pm, Wake: 7pm-8pm

Saturday: Funeral Service: 1pm 

Donations to help cover the burial can be made at Achieva Credit Union locations in the name of: Brown Family Fund.

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