Four-year-old Mason Acton has spent the past three days fighting for his life. And though he hadn't woken up yet, his family said Tuesday, they were hopeful.
Acton and his mother, 24-year-old Katlynn Jones, were both shot Saturday at their home on Juanita Lane, near the border of Weaver and Jacksonville. Jones was found dead but Mason, who had been shot in the head, was still alive.
Weaver police identified the shooter as Alex Haynes, 21, of Oxford.
Medics took Mason to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. Crystal Hanford, Jones’ mother and Mason’s grandmother, said she and her husband haven't left his side since.
Mason has shown brain activity and has moved his toes, Hanford said. When staff at Children’s Hospital briefly removed his ventilator to check for signs of life, she said, he coughed and flinched.
“Today has been a good day,” Hanford said.
Still, she said, she and the family were struggling to come to terms with what happened to the mother and son.
“I still can’t accept that my baby is gone and my grandbaby is suffering,” Hanford said.
Weaver police said they had been called to the home to perform a welfare check at Jones’ home, where they found her dead and Mason injured.
Haynes confessed to his mother that he had killed Jones, then led police on a chase through Anniston and Oxford to a Talladega field, where he shot himself, police said. Haynes later died.
Hanford and her husband, Michael, married 15 years ago, when Jones was 10 years old. Crystal and Michael Hanford each brought three children into the family, and Jones was in the middle of the bunch. It’s a close-knit family.
“She was my baby,” he said.
The Hanfords described Jones as fun-loving and outdoorsy, taking Mason fishing every weekend and often paying visits to friends and family.
“She was my best friend and daughter,” Crystal Hanford.
And she loved Mason more than anything, they said, and constantly strived to raise him independently. Though she was a single mom, they said, she didn’t receive any child support or government assistance.
“She didn’t ask us for a whole lot, but we helped when they needed it,” Michael Hanford said.
Jones’ family said authorities had erroneously announced Haynes had been her boyfriend and her death was the result of domestic violence. But the truth, they said, was much worse.
“This was not a domestic dispute. He was a stalker,” Michael Hanford said. “We don’t want people to think she was romantically involved with him.”
Crystal Hanford said Jones first met Haynes when she took a job three or four months ago at his grandparents’ chicken farm in Munford. During the first two weeks, she said, Jones hadn’t been paid, but Haynes did give her enough money to pay her rent.
Because she hadn’t been paid properly, Hanford said, she took a new job shortly after. But he continued to visit her home. She was friendly toward Haynes, Hanford said, but it was clear he wanted more.
Things had gotten to a point, about a month earlier, where Jones had blocked his phone number and social media accounts. But he made new Facebook accounts to contact her, Hanford said, and she’d keep blocking him.
Haynes had evidently lied about her to several people, the Hanfords said, including telling people she was pregnant with his child and contacting Mason’s biological father, who hadn’t been in the picture for years, and telling him she was an unfit mother.
There was an incident at Dee Ford’s in Anniston where he became rude to her and the bouncers kicked him out and banned him permanently. Jones had planned to take out a restraining order on him on Monday.
“The next thing I know, this happened,” Crystal Hanford said.
Because Jones didn’t have life insurance, a relative set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the funeral and medical experiences. Michael Hanford said he and the family have been overwhelmed with all the support they’ve received.
He couldn’t thank every single person who helped, he said, because there were so many, but he wanted everyone to know how thankful they were.
“The whole family is very grateful for what everybody has done for us and how they have supported us,” he said.
The Hanfords on Tuesday were awarded temporary custody of Mason, meaning they will be able to make all of his medical decisions. Crystal Hanford said they’ll remain by his side, only leaving to attend Jones’ funeral soon.
“The next 72 hours is critical for Mason,” she said.
In about a month, the Hanfords will be able to try to get permanent custody of Mason. Jones had planned to change Mason’s last name to hers, and they plan to change it for her.
They hope he doesn’t remember what happened when he wakes up, they said.
“We don’t know if he’s going to remember his mama or not,” Michael Hanford said. “Everybody say a prayer for him.”