published Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Glimpses of Landon Robbins: Student. Brother. Victim.

  • photo
    Landon Robbins was a little boy who loved life, his family said. The boy's mother and her boyfriend are charged in his death.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Landon Robbins was an energetic boy who could eat corn on the cob, one ear after another.

He liked to write and color, and tractors and mud fights.

He loved to ride his bike and eat pizza and watch “American Ninja Warrior.”

His obituary says he was “a young boy who enjoyed life.”

Landon’s young life ended on Aug. 30, but memories of him will live with family still reeling from the tragedy.

The sandy-haired, blue-eyed 5-year-old died that day from what authorities say were “multiple blunt-force” blows to his head. He also had been forced to ingest dish soap and cigarette butts, all while in the care of his mother, Jessica Robbins, and her boyfriend, Bradley Adcox.

Until that day, Landon and his younger sisters, Brooklyn and Samantha Wells, lived in a 25-foot camper on Cawood Road north of Spring City, Tenn.

Adcox and Jessica Robbins are charged with child abuse and murder in Landon’s death.

Landon liked the challenge of newspaper coloring contests, said Sherry Robbins, his grandmother on his mother’s side. She was too emotional to talk about him further.

“He wanted to play football but he didn’t get to,” his aunt Jennifer Thompson said after her mother handed her the phone. Thompson, from Marion, N.C., last saw Landon on July 4 when she came to visit and camp in Spring City for the holiday. She’s the sister of Jessica Robbins.

Rain canceled the fireworks, but Landon and company happily played in the mud, Thompson said.

She wrote a tribute to Landon in an attempt to express the family’s loss and love.

“You had so many years to look forward to, like finishing elementary school, middle school, graduating high school, college, marriage, and whatever else in between,” she writes.

Every member of Landon’s family is searching for a way to deal with his death.

Jerry Wells, Landon’s grandfather on his father’s side, said Landon’s father, Gerald Wells, has dealt with his son’s death badly. The boy’s father already had serious addiction problems, and they have only worsened with Landon’s death, he said.

Wells said Landon’s sisters stayed with him last weekend and told a chilling story about Landon easing their grief.

“They was both telling a story about Landon and he had come to see them and they went to play with him. They were both telling the story at the same time,” Wells said.

“‘Landon come and put wings on us and took us to play and brought us back and put us in bed,’” Wells recounted.

“One of them said, ‘He gave me a hug and kissed me goodnight and told me he loved me.’

“The other one said, ‘I’m mad. He just put me in bed and told me he loved me, but he didn’t give me no kiss,’” Wells said, shaking his head. “Her sister said, ‘Well, two kisses next time.’”

And Landon’s death struck a chord well beyond the family.

On media and social networking sites, hundreds of people have expressed anger, confusion, dismay and horror. The little boy who was whipped and forced to eat soap and cigarette butts because he wouldn’t go to sleep will never wake again.

A caller to the Times Free Press on Friday said, “I cannot comprehend that little boy’s life. It’s … it’s troubling. …” and then she could only cry.

SCHOOL DAYS

A line of kids, pre-K kids, filed off a little school bus every morning in front of Spring City Elementary School. Landon’s face — the one now all over the news — passed by. A normal day.

Landon’s class, Dorothy Myers’ youngsters, walked by the bulldog statuette at the front doors. They crossed the red bulldog rug.

7:50 a.m.

That’s when Landon and Brooklyn, his 4-year-old sister and classmate, usually arrived.

But not this year.

During the phase-in and full-time transition in mid-August, Landon attended only one day of school out of nearly two weeks of classes before his death, according to police testimony at a preliminary hearing for his accused killers.

“It’s very tough,” Principal Tammy Boles said.

It’s very tough to be a first-year principal and lose a 5-year-old student. It’s very tough to know he may have been the victim of abuse at home. It’s very tough after watching him grow taller month by month and to now be faced with his death.

Explain that to a classroom of kindergarten students.

“We compare it to the circle of life,” Boles said. They tell students to think about a pet they lost. Or a grandparent. Or a loved one or friend.

No clause in the school handbook addresses the early death of a little boy who had his whole life before him.

“There’s nothing that can guide you through this,” she said.

Some of Landon’s classmates knew what had happened. The depth of some children’s understanding was disturbing, but the news was everywhere in the media, Boles reasoned.

She and other school administrators found themselves in a tough spot in the first days after Landon’s death. The school tried to broach the subject while respecting parents who didn’t want their kids to talk of what led to their classmate’s death.

And Landon was everybody’s friend in Myers’ class.

“Everybody liked him,” Myers said. He smiled a lot. He had good attendance last year, was quiet and never did anything to really stand out.

Last year, Landon won the “self-discipline” character education award. Brooklyn won “perseverance.”

The irony isn’t lost on Myers and school administrators.

“That’s fitting,” Myers said.

“That’s fitting,” Boles echoed.

Stifled tears and sniffles, followed by silence.

FINDING SOLACE

Barbara Robbins, Landon’s great-grandmother, said she last saw Landon and his sisters earlier this summer when they visited her and her husband, Ray, in Marion, N.C.

“He was just a sweet little boy,” she said softly. She loves her granddaughter, Jessica, too.

“I know she’ll have to be punished for her part in it, but I love her and I want her to find salvation before she dies.”

Landon’s death has been “very hard,” Barbara Robbins said.

She says she must believe that God had a hand in events and that “something good can come out of this tragic situation.”

“My sister told me that God took one to protect two.”

“I am praying for all three families,” Barbara Robbins said. “I know they’re all hurting.”

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@times freepress.com or 423-757-6569. Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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