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Benefit held to support family who lost 4-month-old

February 26, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Heavy snow that began to fall early Sunday didn't keep about 150 people away from a benefit to support the family of a 4-month-old boy who a doctor said was shaken to death in January.

The benefit for Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon was held to raise money to cover medical and funeral expenses, and to make donations to The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where Justice died, and The Children's House in Baltimore, according to Sharon Armstrong, a friend of the boy's family.

Armstrong, who helped organize the benefit at the Delmar Inn Lounge, said she and others were fundraising Friday and Saturday, too, and had raised $1,700.

"We're trying to make something good come from something tragic," she said.

Floyd Edward Bingaman III, 20, of Hagerstown, is charged with first-degree murder in the baby's death.

The boy was taken to Washington County Hospital about 11 p.m. Jan. 4 after his mother found him lying in his crib, cold and with a large knot on the back of his head, court documents state.

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The boy was flown to The John Hopkins Hospital, where he was pronounced dead Jan. 6 at 1:20 p.m.

Most of the $1,700 raised Friday and Saturday and the money expected to be raised Sunday came from donations and raffles. Five area bands performed at the Sunday benefit.

Armstrong said those who braved the winter weather were "dedicated" and most knew Justice or knew of him.

Michelle Dutraw, another organizer, said the pair wanted to help raise awareness about child abuse.

Dutraw said there was no life insurance policy for the boy - called Justice Calvin Stotler in charging documents - and the family has started to receive bills for the baby's funeral and brief hospital stay.

"You don't usually think about (life insurance)," she said. "Bills are just starting to come in."

Justice's family is hoping for support on a law they want passed that would prevent brief prison time for those convicted of child abuse that results in death, said Michelle Spessard, the baby's paternal grandmother.

She said the law would require life without parole or the death penalty. A petition was being signed by those at the benefit in support of "Justice's Law."

"These babies are innocent and defenseless," Spessard said.

She and Justice's maternal grandmother, Dorothea Myers, said seeing the many people who came to the benefit to support Justice was comforting, but it didn't ease the pain of losing their grandson.

"It's not easy," Spessard said. "It hasn't gotten any easier."

They said Justice was the first grandson for both.

"Everything we do is for Justice," Myers said. "He was our first grandbaby. It's horrible."

Bob Spessard, Justice's paternal grandfather, said another benefit will be held for Justice March 29 from 6 to 11 p.m. at Always Ron's in Hagerstown. There will be raffles and entertainment, Spessard said.

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