HILLSBORO, Mo. | A Missouri mother is facing charges, but drawing sympathy, for attacking with a baseball bat a man she believed was supplying her teenage son with heroin.
Sherrie Gavan of Imperial, near St. Louis, was arraigned Monday on charges of third-degree assault. The judge refused to dismiss the case.
Gavan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she tried everything to protect her son, Clayton, confiscating his cellphone, drug testing him frequently, even sending him to live with relatives and attend a different high school. When those efforts failed, she drove to the home of 21-year-old Joshua Loyd, whom she believed supplied the drugs, and struck him with an aluminum bat.
"I don't know if I can say that what I did was right," she said. "But it was the only thing I could do in the moment."
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A Facebook support page, "Stand with Sherrie Gavan," sprang up anonymously and has generated nearly 350 "likes." Several people held signs outside the Jefferson County courtroom on Monday in support of Gavan.
"I think it's ridiculous," said Nicole Vaporean, 20, of House Springs. "The police should have done more."
Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer said he understands Gavan's frustration but that police can't ignore her crime.
"How can we as law enforcement turn our backs on someone who has been assaulted?" he said. "I understand her intentions, but we have laws."
Gavan said she learned in September through text messages on her 18-year-old son's phone that he was using heroin. She turned the messages over to police but said none of the drug dealers have been charged.
She sent Clayton to live with a relative to get him away from friends who were using, but he relapsed.
Loyd, one of his friends, called him four times within 21 minutes in December. That night, Gavan and her husband, Bryan, went to confront Loyd, but were turned away by Loyd's father, Steve.
The next day, Sherrie Gavan took Clayton with her to the restaurant she manages and saw Joshua Loyd pull into the parking lot, she said.
"I felt like they were hunting my son down," she said.
Gavan watched Loyd drive away then left her son at the restaurant and drove to the Loyds' home. She pulled up as Joshua Loyd was getting out of his car. Gavan, 4-foot-11 and 115 pounds, told him to leave her son alone.
Gavan said she reached for her bat when she saw Loyd reach inside his car. "He had something in his hand," she said. "I didn't know what it was."
She used the bat to strike Loyd twice in the elbow.
Steve Loyd said his son gave him a different version of events. He said Gavan slammed on her brakes, jumped out of the car and immediately started swinging the bat at Joshua's head. Joshua used his arm to block the blows, Steve Loyd said.
Joshua Loyd has since moved out of the family home and his father didn't have any contact information.
Steve Loyd said he didn't understand how Gavan could be so sure that it was his son providing the drug and not the other way around. Still, he couldn't help but offer grudging respect.
"She's a good parent," he said. "She's a very concerned parent."