Grandchildren saw grandma beaten to death by her mentally ill brother, relatives say

Jamie Abernathy adored her grandchildren and dreamed of starting a catering business, relatives say.

That dream was cut short Sunday night when Abernathy, 58, was found on the porch of her home in the 5200 block of Franklin Avenue, severely injured after she was allegedly beaten by her brother. Abernathy later died from the injuries.

Relatives say her brother, James E. Reed, 63, suffered from mental illness. Reed was charged Monday with second-degree murder and domestic assault.

According to court documents, when police arrived at the home Sunday night, Reed was uncooperative and officers used a taser to detain him. While he was being arrested he yelled things such as, "I would cut that b----'s throat if she touches me again," and "pimpin' ain't easy."

Reed also injured his and Abernathy's mother Anita N. Reed, 85, in the incident. Both she and Abernathy were taken to the hospital, where Abernathy died.

In a police report, Anita Reed said James Reed began beating Abernathy after she accused him of stealing her cigarettes. James Reed left the room and returned to continue "beating her (Abernathy) for all she was worth" two or three times.

Anita Reed returned home from the hospital Monday afternoon, relatives say.

Jameisha Jackson, Abernathy's daughter, was away when things escalated Sunday around 9:30 p.m.

Seanna Butler, who is the partner of Abernathy's nephew, said James Reed mostly lived with his family and that he loved them.

Seanna Butler, a family friend of Jamie Abernathy, said the two had talked of starting a catering business together. Cortlynn Stark The Kansas City Star

"If he was in his right mind and under medication, this wouldn’t occur," Butler said. "It was an accident."

Jackson said Monday three of her children, Abernathy's grandchildren, were in the house at the time. Her 10-year-old daughter witnessed everything and called her screaming. By the time Jackson got home, Abernathy and Anita Reed were on stretchers and her daughter was shaken from the incident.

Abernathy loved her four grandchildren "more than anything in the world," Jackson said. The day before, Abernathy spent the evening with them, talking football with the 13-year-old boy.

"She said 'I don't have to worry ‘bout nothing because my grandson said when he make it big, he gonna take care of me,'" Butler said. "And I know he's going to do his best to live up to that, to do whatever he can do for football because that was her wishes."

Abernathy, who lived with Jackson and her kids, spent a lot of time with the children, from throwing a football with them to organizing Christmas.

"She was a damn good grandma," Jackson said.

Not only was Abernathy a good grandma, she was a good cook, Butler said. She and Abernathy had discussed starting a catering business together.

Abernathy's specialties included baked beans, mac-and-cheese with nutmeg sprinkled on top, neck bones and rib tips.

"I can remember when we were sitting in church and the service was lasting a long time and she was hungry," Butler said. "She started singing, 'I'm hungry, collard greens, fish bones, chicken, I’m hungry,' and the preacher looked down at her and was like, 'I'll be just a minute because I know some of y'all is hungry.'"

With seven cars outside the family home Monday and people moving between the front porch and inside the burgundy house, Abernathy's family is working to pull together and support one another like she would have wanted.

"She had a big heart. Anything you needed she'd give her life," Butler said. "She'd want everybody to know, turn up, keep her spirit alive. Keep the support going. Keep the family together."

James Reed is being held on a $250,000 bond.

Homicide on Franklin Avenue
Jamie Abernathy lived with her family in the burgundy home at left. Cortlynn Stark The Kansas City Star