Lydia Smith, of West Palm Beach, speaking for the family, said they’re doing the best they can as they prepare for the funerals of the five who died.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 27, police said, Patrick Alexander Dell, 41, stormed into the house of his estranged wife, shot and killed her and four of her children and turned the gun on himself. Another child, Ryan Barnett, 16, was shot but survived and was released from the hospital last weekend. He is now with his biological father, Michael Barnett.
Dell’s biological children with Whyte-Dell – Natasha Precious Dell, 3, and Patrick Alexander Dell Jr., 1, were unharmed and are in the custody of relatives.
The deceased include Whyte-Dell; Bryan Barnett, 14; Diane Barnett, 13; Javon Nelson, 11; and Daniel Barnett, 10. The children attended Palm Beach County schools.
Smith said she has known them all their lives.
“I remember vividly when each of them was born,” she said, adding that she watched them develop into great kids. “They were all such respectful children, and manageable. You would not believe how respectable they all are. Their mom raised them that way.”
Two of the children wanted to be doctors, one wanted to be a lawyer, and the only girl wanted to be a Registered Nurse like her mother.
Family members friends and teachers will remember them in a memorial service Friday.
Ryan, who suffered a gunshot wound to the neck, turned 16 just days after the tragedy, spending his birthday recovering in the hospital. Smith said he did manage to smile on his birthday and he was talking. Visitors didn’t focus on the tragedy; instead, they tried to bring him a slight measure of joy to mark the occasion.
Dr. Joseph Lee, principal at William T. Dwyer High School where Ryan is an honors student with a 3.5 GPA, took him gifts.
“He was in good spirits, pretty upbeat and doing the best he can,” Lee said. The school is organizing fund-raisers to make sure he is able to go to college, he said.
“It’s easy to take a downward turn after something so tragic occurs,” said Lee. “So we want to make sure he is able to continue his education. That’s our focus. But he is going to need some emotional and mental support. He knows that I’m there for support.”
Smith said the family has been receiving such support from relatives and friends and the wider community. Some Jamaican and wider Caribbean organizations have formed an alliance to help the family with counseling and financial support. The alliance also intends to host forums on domestic violence.
Smith said education on this issue is crucial because if people were more aware of how and when to step in when they witness a domestic violence situation, perhaps this family’s lives could have been spared. She said she has seen news reports that at least 34 calls were from Whyte-Dell’s house to police.
Police say Whyte-Dell obtained a restraining order against Dell but friends say he stalked her anyway.
“There are so many signs. And this is a lesson for so many people,” said Smith. “Love doesn’t have to hurt. Love isn’t supposed to hurt.”
The funeral is something they all have to face but it will be with great difficulty, she said.
“I’m not looking forward to the weekend. This was unimaginable.” she said.
Smith said the family is not involved in the planning of the funeral for Dell.
A memorial service for Whyte-Dell and her four children will take place at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, at Palm Beach Gardens High School, 4245 Holly Drive, Palm Beach Gardens. A viewing will be held from 5 to 6 p.m.
Funeral services will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday at Christ Fellowship Church, 5343 Northlake Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens.
A trust fund has been established for the surviving children. Those wishing to donate are asked to do so to The Natasha Whyte Memorial Family Trust, c/o delancyhill Trust Account, 200 S. Biscayne Blvd., Suite 2750, Miami, FL 33131.
For wiring funds: send donations to FEI:651133134, SABADELL UNITED BANK, 1751 W. 19th
St., Hialeah, FL 33012, ABA #067009646, FOR CREDIT TO: Account Name: delancyhill, P.A. (c/o Natasha Whyte Memorial Family Trust), Account Number: 0065052824.