CHESTER — Knocked down, beaten up, seven months pregnant, blood flowing over her face, her son’s father hovering over her wielding a kitchen knife – and Brittney Jordan felt the baby kick.
It was the last movement the unborn Tavaris Jordan would ever make.
This is the scenario described in court Wednesday morning, 20 months after Jordan was found bleeding from stab wounds and her unborn baby died in her womb.
Tavaris – the last four letters taken from his father’s first name – would die as the oxygen that kept him alive inside his mother ran out while his father stabbed her repeatedly.
Earlier that morning – April 26, 2012 – came the beating.
Brittney Jordan had had enough of Aris Nichols, a convicted felon who stayed out all night high on cocaine, who raged in fits of jealous accusations about Jordan seeing other men.
Due to her pregnancy, though, Jordan, now 23, barely could get out to buy milk, let alone go anywhere else.
The state Department of Social Services already had custody of the couple’s two older sons, ages 4 and 2, because of the problems Nichols had been causing at home.
Jordan had been with Nichols, 40 – a burly guy about 5 feet, 3 inches tall, but more than 200 pounds of solid muscle – since she was 17. He controlled everything, all the time.
Still, she managed to work up the courage to pack a bag and, with her pregnant stomach leading the way, she walked down the dirt driveway leading away from the mobile home the couple shared at 144B Pinkney St. in Chester.
Ahead of her, if she was able to get out, lay the rest of her life and a chance to raise her two – soon to be three – kids.
Nichols charged after Jordan on his bicycle and caught up to her on Pinkney Street. He shoved the pregnant mother of his two children down onto the pavement, face-first. He used her hair as a fulcrum to push even harder.
“If you don’t come here, I got something for you,” Nichols screamed out.
A woman driving by saw the whole thing and called 911. Cops rushed to the scene and found nothing. Nichols had already forced Jordan back home to that little single-wide that sat well back off the street.
Back inside the home, Jordan was thrown to the floor. She begged. She cried out for help.
“If you don’t stop crying, I got something for you!” Nichols screamed.
But Jordan could not stop crying, so out came the knife.
First came the stab wounds to the face. Jordan, her right arm already deformed from birth, felt two cuts mar her cheeks.
Then two cuts to the ear.
“This tiny woman lay there, begging for help,” Doug Barfield, the prosecutor in the case, described the terror.
Nichols did not stop.
Next, three cuts to the scalp. Jordan tried to protect herself, but the blood covered her.
Finally, little unborn Tavaris gave that final kick, and the last thrust of the knife went into the back of Jordan’s neck.
Immediately, her right side went numb. The knife had sliced in between the fourth and fifth vertebrae, where the spinal cord runs in its slender course, carrying with it the ability to walk and move limbs – and feel the belly.
Nichols eventually relented, running next door to tell a cousin that Jordan needed help.
The cousin called 911. Cops arrived and handcuffed Nichols. Although Jordan was rushed by helicopter to a Columbia hospital, there was no helping the baby that had stopped kicking.
“There were no fetal heart sounds,” Barfield said.
The placenta that connects a mother to a baby – where the oxygen and the nourishment is transferred in the miracle of life – was 60 percent torn.
Yet somehow, Brittney Jordan survived.
Nichols claimed in court to have no memory of stabbing Jordan after doing enough coke to keep him up all night, so he pleaded no contest – the same result as pleading guilty, but without admitting guilt.
Circuit Court Judge Ernest Kinard sentenced Nichols to 25 years for attempted murder and for killing an unborn child in utero – his own child.
As the prosecutor pulled out medical term after medical term to describe what had happened to little Tavaris, Kinard waved a hand and said, “The baby suffocated, right?”
“Yes,” said Barfield. “The baby suffocated from not having oxygen.”
Jordan – whose two older kids remain in DSS custody because of the attack and the ensuing partial paralysis that prevents her from being able to take care of them – will be maimed for the remainder of her life.
She had the courage to go to court Wednesday to confront Nichols. She walked in with a limp, after 20 months of therapy and wheelchairs and canes.
She held her face in her hands as Nichols and his lawyer blamed the crime on drugs and poverty and society and Nichols’ growing up so poor that the street where he lived was called “Maggot Alley.”
Jordan – heroic at 4 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing “75 pounds, soaking wet” as Barfield put it – boldly and directly described Nichols as a jealous, violent, controlling monster.
She refuted Nichols’ claims that growing up poor somehow meant he had to be a criminal and stab the mother of his children.
“I grew up the same way,” Jordan said. “My family dealt with DSS, and my parents weren’t perfect. It had nothing to do with the way he was raised.”
She then limped back to her seat on the third row of benches in that courtroom.
No judge who presided in that courtroom ever looked more noble.
Given his chance to speak, Nichols said nothing to the mother of his children. He didn’t speak her name. He didn’t apologize for beating and stabbing her.
Of his unborn child, whose name Nichols did not speak, he said: “If I could take the place of him, I would.”
In fact, nobody used the baby’s name throughout the long court hearing.
But that baby was going to have a name: Tavaris Jordan.
About four miles north of that courthouse, on Darby Road, sits Chester County’s graveyard for the poor, Hillside Cemetery.
Halfway toward the back, within sight of fresh dirt from another grave, stands a tiny sign about four inches by three inches. It runs on solar power, so it glows only in daytime. It was installed by the funeral home 20 months ago.
There are no flowers. There is no headstone.
There are leaves and wet grass and dirt.
All that remains of the life that Tavaris Jordan might have had, and the life that Brittney Jordan might have had, are the words on that sign.
“Infant Tavoris Jordan. Born 4-26-12. Died 4-26-12.”
It’s the only thing on earth to show for the baby who had no shot at life, whose name was not spoken when the father who took his life was sent off to prison.
And even that little sign, it seems, couldn’t bear to say his name.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065