April Jones can still remember being in a high-speed police chase as a child with her drunken mother behind the wheel. She recalls her and her twin sister running into the house, trying to hide from the police.
She can still remember her twin, Erica, being thrown off the bed so viciously that it broke her shoulder, a visible injury that pains the 21-year-old to this day. She recalls supervised visits with an alcoholic mother who died from cirrhosis of the liver and an abusive father who was in and out of jail too many times to count.
But most of all what April and Erica recall about their childhood and growing up was a woman — Pat Jones — who fought all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court to get custody of them and the love this God-fearing woman had, taking them out of Dalton, Ga., to Cleveland and fulfilling their lives as a dearly beloved mother.
For all of the confusion, intimidation and pain the twins and their siblings suffered at the hands of birth parents who did not know how to love them, April and Erica found a simple life without fear or frustration, but rather comfort and contentment, in the loving arms of Jones and her late husband, Bob, who had two children of their own, but whose hearts were large enough to love two little girls in need of nurturing.
“We were taken away when we were 6 weeks old so we don’t remember that far back,” April explained. “But growing up we had visits every other weekend. So we got to experience their mistreatment. We stopped visiting when we were 12. My sister was thrown off the bed when she was an infant. Her shoulder is still broken.”
April said she still remembers a few days before her 8th birthday, when one hair-raising experience occurred involving her alcoholic mom who was in trouble with the law. Court documents confirm that on May 1, 1999, Dalton Police saw their mother, Teresa Marie Kersey, driving a van and recognized her as someone who habitually violated the law and whose driver’s license had been revoked. After police pulled in front of the van, she almost rear-ended the patrol car, kept driving through two stop signs and refused to stop until she got home.
“I can remember being in a high-speed police chase which is still on the Internet,” April said. “I Google my birth mom a lot, just because she’s so fascinating and crazy. I can actually remember the chase. She was driving me and my sister to the video store. But she was drunk! She didn’t have a driver’s license or tags on the car. I remember going to the video store, but I mostly remember coming back — running in the house from the police and trying to hide. It was always something.”
The intoxicated Kersey was arrested while hurling obscenities and threatening the officers. She was found guilty of driving under the influence, obstruction of a law enforcement officer and habitually violating the law. She and her husband, George, had notorious reputations with the law, fighting a few cases all the way to the Georgia Court of Appeals.
According to public records regarding the state of Tennessee, Department of Human Services v. George Lewis Kersey and Teresa Marie Kersey, the couple appealed the decision of the Bradley County Juvenile Court, which terminated their parental rights to twins April and Erica Kersey, as well as an older son and daughter. The disfunctional couple fought it all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court, only to lose custody of all four children.
“Our brother — I don’t think he came out as well as we did,” April said. “Mark was 5 at the time, so he remembers a lot of it. We did some counseling up until we were around 15, so that helped. Our (adopted) mom was great. We were brought to Cleveland at 6 weeks old and never left Cleveland. We had the same foster mom the entire time. It took nearly 12 years to adopt us! We were the only case in Tennessee to go to the Supreme Court to be adopted — the Jones-Kersey case. Our birth mom drank so much she had no liver left and died four Thanksgivings ago.”
The twins said they were overjoyed when the case was finally over. Erica recalls, “We learned she tried to abort us but it was too late. I remember when our real dad would crash our heads together when he had visitation. He’d turn around in the car and just knock our heads together! Our foster mom had to take us to the hospital so many times with a concussion. It was terrible.”
Getting out of that environment and settling down into a peaceful home with family values made all the difference in the way April and Erica turned out, according to the twins.
“My adopted mom is a sweet, sweet lady,” April said. “She was 51 years old when she got us. She’s 73 now. It’s hard to be bitter because of her. She adopted five kids, had two of her own, had over 300 foster kids in her house within 15 years. I now have lots of brothers and sisters! My adopted family look at us like their own.
“Had she treated us differently we may not have turned out OK. She lives here in Cleveland now. We went to church two or three times a week. We had Sunday, Wednesday and a Friday service and we went to all of them. My mom’s sister’s husband was a pastor, so every week we had a prayer meeting at the house. That’s where our neighbors would come. We knew them all. We would cook dinner and have prayer meetings, and that would last all night.”
Born May 4, 1992, Kylee April Jones and Kalee Erica Jones graduated from Bradley Central High School. The twins moved out and started life on their own at age 18, without a hint of hatred or bitterness toward their birth parents. Instead, thanks to their adopted parents they were filled with love, forgiveness and acceptance. For Erica, this has translated into being a caring, loving, responsible mother of her own infant child.
“I have a 7-week-old son named Benjamin Franklin Phiropoulos,” Erica said. “I am so excited about being a good mother and raising my son with the kind of love and care April and I received from our adopted mom. She is such a wonderful mom. She set a good example for us.”
April agreed, adding, “My goal is to buy a house and pay it off. I also want to get married and have two great kids.”
While both said they look forward to being the kind of unselfish mother Jones turned out to be, they shared some advice for parents who are abusive, neglectful or have lost interest in raising their children responsibly.
“Give your children to someone who wants them,” They said. “They deserves better. Our (adoptive) mom was a single parent, elderly, who already had two kids of her own, but she took us in. Bob, our adopted dad, died when we were 11. So she raised five kids on her very own. She did it just fine. If you don’t feel like you can take care of your child, give it to somebody who can. There’s people out there who can’t have kids or maybe want more kids and can’t have them.”
April and Erica, who work at Fuji Teriyaki Express in Cleveland, insist they do not want anyone to feel sorry for them, because both feel there has been more good in their lives than bad, more blessings than hardships.
“I’m not a charity case and I don’t want anyone pitying me,” April said. “People are so good to me! If I need anything, someone will help. Erica is the same way. We’re exactly alike. Everything we do is the same. If we have something someone needs, we’ll give it. We’re both happy and pretty content.”