Memphis Child Advocacy Center Raises Four Flags to Honor Children Allegedly Fatally Stabbed by Mother

The flags will fly for a week

Photo: Source: Michael Quander WREG/Facebook

They were the picture of youth and hope, with their whole lives ahead of them.

But on July 1, their potential was cut short when, police say, their mother, Shanynthia Gardner, 29, of Memphis, Tennessee, allegedly slit their throats with a butcher knife at the suburban apartment where they lived.

On Friday, more than 100 community members and leaders looked on four children’s memorial flags were raised in honor of the tiny victims: 4-year-old Tallen Gardner, 3-year-old Sya Gardner; 2 year-old Sahvi Gardner and six-month-old Yahzi Gardner.

The flags will fly for a week. They were raised by two detectives and the prevention director of The Memphis Child Advocacy Center.)

The Memphis Child Advocacy Center raises the flag every time a Shelby County child dies as a result of abuse or neglect; since 2005, it has raised 69 children’s flags. Friday represented the first time four flags will be raised at the same time.

“We raised these flags to honor these four sweet children, and to be a reminder to everybody in our community that we have lost four children who should still be here with us – and we all have a role to play in keeping children safe,” Memphis Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Virginia Stallworth tells PEOPLE.

“We know these are children who were loved, and that they will be missed,” she adds.

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During the brief but poignant ceremony on the front lawn of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, Stallworth and Attorney General Amy Weirich addressed the crowd.

In a statement released before the ceremony, Weirich said, “It is natural to ask ‘Why?’ when children die. I find myself asking ‘What?’ What did someone see that they didn’t report? What did someone hear that they didn t report?”

The statement added: “In Tennessee, every child is our child. The law requires every citizen to report if they suspect a child is being abused. Not just the citizens with badges and guns, but every citizen. So, if you want to feel less helpless, make the decision today to put the DCS hotline number in your phone.”

As the flags wave in the Memphis breeze in honor of the children, their mother, Gardner, remains in a mental health facility where she was taken on Tuesday after a court appearance.

She was arrested July 1 and is charged with four counts of first-degree murder associated with aggravated child abuse, four counts of first-degree murder in association with aggravated child neglect, and four more counts each of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect or endangerment.

Gardner’s oldest son, 7, was able to flee the apartment and was unharmed. He remains in protective custody.

“The loss of these children is catastrophic and a reminder of the vulnerability of all the children in our community,” says Stallworth.

“It’s very sad, but we hope the sadness or perhaps the anger that people are feeling can turn into positive action and hope for our children.”

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