Family speaks out after mother, infant killed in act of domestic violence
Despite having previous arrests for domestic assault, the family says police still didn’t arrest him after he beat Keli and took the baby. Thirteen days later, they were dead.
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Keli Mornay is described as being bright and bubbly, a shining light in the lives of those who knew her. On June 6, that light was dimmed when she and her seven-month old son were killed.
The man accused of killing the mother and her infant was no other than the boy’s father, Keli’s ex-boyfriend Byrain Johnson, who reportedly took his own life after shooting Keli and Brixx.
Keli’s story is one that is not uncommon. In the U.S., intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner on average. One in four women and one in seven men have been been victims of severe physical violence at the hands of their partner. 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner. In those cases, females are the victims 94% of the time.
While those statistics are staggering, they can be difficult to fully realize. Keli’s parents are now sharing their daughter’s story in the hope of putting a face to the reality of domestic violence. It’s often hidden out of shame or fear, but has a widespread impact on victims and their families.
For Robert and Renata Patterson, domestic violence has taken their daughter and grandson away, leaving them only with the memories.
According to Keli’s family, she and Johnson had a tumultuous relationship for two years. Shortly before her death, Keli had cut the relationship off. In fact, she had started taking legal action to keep Johnson away from her and her children. Police reports reveal multiple complaints and arrests filed with authorities during that time.
“She had a protective order in place, which he had been served with. She had a six-foot wrought iron gate with a lock, which evidently he hopped or whatever to get in the yard. So with all of those precautionary measures that she had taken to protect her children and herself, it didn’t matter. He still found a way because he was just that angry that he did not have anymore control,” said Renata Patterson.
On May 24, 2021, just two weeks before Keli and Brixx died, a report was made with Biloxi Police accusing Johnson of simple domestic assault.
“There was an incident at her home where he came to her house and he beat her up and took the baby,” said Renata Patterson, referencing the May 24 incident.
In a petition for a domestic abuse protection order, Keli wrote: “On the evening of Monday, May 24th, 2021, Byrain Johnson came to my home, not upon the request of me. He came into my home and began an argument with me that escalated to him physically assaulting me in front of my ten-year-old son.”
The petition continues in Keli’s own words, saying Johnson screamed in her 10-year-old son’s face and “scared him to death.” She said Johnson then left her home with their son, Brixx.
“When Biloxi PD called to obtain the child from him, he made threats that he would kill himself and our infant child,” stated Keli.
Audio of one of the 911 calls was given to WLOX by the family. In the call, the voice of a man the family identified as Johnson is heard saying: “Y’all show up over here, you and the cops show up over here and we gonna have a repeat on I-10.”
On the other end of the line, Keli replies: “He’s talking about that baby that got killed.”
Johnson was referencing an incident that happened just a few weeks before when a Louisiana father killed his child’s mother then took the infant on a multi-state police chase. That chase ended in gunfire on I-10 near the Jackson County line. Both the suspect and the four-month-old boy were killed during the standoff.
The May 24 incident between Keli and Johnson ended with police successfully negotiating to have baby Brixx returned safely to his mother. Johnson was not arrested that night but was instead taken to a hospital for what Keli believed was a 72-hour psychiatric hold.
“He was never arrested that night. He was not held at the hospital for the 72-hour psychiatric evaluation. It makes no sense. He had priors. He had a prior history of abuse,” said Renata.
Johnson was arrested in 2014 for aggravated domestic assault, spending six months in Harrison County Jail.
Her parents say they later learned that Johnson was released after refusing to sign documents taking responsibility for the hospital bill. Within six hours, Renata said he was back to harassing her daughter once again.
“If he would have been in jail during that time period, he wouldn’t have had that opportunity during the week to go and kill her,” said Renata.
Four days later on May 28, Keli sought a protective order against Johnson. The temporary emergency order was granted and was set to expire on June 7, with a court date to issue a more permanent one set for June 22. One day before the emergency order ended, Keli and Brixx were dead.
Police reports from that night indicate Johnson broke the glass on a back door to gain entry into the house where Keli and her three sons were.
Unbeknownst to Keli’s parents, a horrific tragedy was playing out. Shortly after, Renata Patterson received a phone call from her eldest grandson, 14-year-old Aliyanno. Not answering the phone in time, Renata immediately tried to call him back.
“He wasn’t answering and then I called (Keli’s) phone and, the perpetrator answered. He said, ‘I just killed your f*****g daughter.’ He said, ‘Y’all tried to play me, now I’m playin y’all,’” recalled Renata. “I was just like, ‘Byrain, where are my babies?’ And he said, ‘They are about to be dead and so am I.’”
Robert and Renata raced to Keli’s house.
“It’s like a movie scene. There are police cars everywhere,” said Renata, recalling that moment. The fearful parents were directed to wait at the neighborhood’s clubhouse to await word about Keli and her kids. Soon after, they were reunited with Keli’s two older sons, Aliyanno and 10-year-old Diovanni.
Both boys had been in the house when their mother and baby brother were murdered. In those moments afterward, the Pattersons said Diovanni stayed quiet for about an hour before breaking down.
“Finally, after about an hour, the younger one, the 10-year-old, started crying. He was in shock, he wasn’t crying, wasn’t saying nothing,” recalled Robert Patterson. “He started crying so I knew when he started crying that he was releasing some pressure, so maybe he would say something. So, I asked him again, ‘Dio, what happened?’ And he said, ‘He shot my mom.’ I said, ‘Did you see it?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I saw it.’”
Diovanni also told his grandparents he saw his mother put herself on top of Brixx in an effort to protect him. The 34-year-old mother was was pronounced dead on the scene. Baby Brixx was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he later died.
For Keli’s surviving sons and parents, life will never be the same. Now, all they are left with are memories of the mother and daughter, the brother and grandson, that they all lost.
“Keli was the light in everyone’s life. She really was,” said Renata Patterson.
While Keli brought light and love into everyone else’s lives, it was her three boys that brought light and love into her own. She loved being a mother to her three boys: Alliyano, Diovanni and baby Brixx.
Keli’s youngest son - Brixx Nola Mornay Johnson - was born in October 2020. His grandparents say he was a joyful baby that always smiled.
“He was so happy, bright, just like Keli. He was so happy. He was the light of our lives. He was the epitome of joy, just pure joy,” said Renata.
In addition to being a mother, Keli had an entrepreneurial spirit and was always coming up with new business ideas, said her parents. Her latest idea was a lawn care company called Sassy Cuts. She came up with the idea shortly after Hurricane Zeta when she saw all of the damage done by the storm.
The 34-year-old single mom was also working hard to establish an event planning business and to get her real estate license. Her dreams are now all dreams that will never happen. Her parents and two sons are now coping with the trauma while trying to navigate a new life without Keli and Brixx.
“At least five times a day, sometimes more, I hear this voice in my head that says, ‘You really killed my daughter and my grandson. How could you do that?’ Sometimes I go through the day and I get a flash as if I was right there,” said Renata.
Alliyano and Diovanni left the Gulf Coast after the murder to move in with their father. A GoFundMe has been set up to be used for the boys’ education.
Since the murders, Renata and Robert Patterson have made it their mission to learn more about domestic violence and use Keli’s story to help other victims.
Watch Thursday night at 10pm to hear more about their mission and how they intend to honor Keli and Brixx.
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