CASA plans ‘Light of Hope’ walk Oct. 14
by By GREG KAYLOR Banner Staff Writer
Sep 12, 2010 | 3560 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Melisha Gibson
Melisha Gibson
Thirty-four years and two days will have passed when CASA walks in memory of Melisha Gibson. She was 4 when she died on Oct. 12, 1976.

The Court Appointed Special Advocates is forming a walk Oct. 14, to honor the memory of the victim of one of the most heinous child abuse cases ever recorded in the state of Tennessee.

Gibson’s death was also responsible for changing child abuse and reporting laws across the nation.

She died at the hands of her mother and stepfather, Ronald and Wanda Maddux.

The “Light of Hope” Moonlight Walk for Melisha Gibson is being spearheaded by CASA Executive Director Suzanne Wisdom.

“Give a child a voice,” said Wisdom.

CASA represents abused children in the court system and was introduced into Bradley County in 2008.

The organization is at present, grant and community funded including private funding, according to Wisdom.

“CASA is a voice for children of abuse and gets them out of an abusive environment if necessary,” said Wisdom.

Agencies such as CASA were not around when Ronald and Wanda Maddux reportedly made Melisha walk in circles, beat her and force her to drink hot sauce.

Dr. John Appling, who was a prominent Cleveland pediatrician, Richard Fisher, former District Attorney General and Robert Lawson, former detective and Bradley County Sheriff were all in attendance during a planning meeting for the “Light of Hope” walk.

They tearfully remembered the days and months after discovering Melisha’s body.

According to Appling, the child had been removed from the home months before after child abuse was discovered. After serving jail time, the Madduxs were able to regain custody of Melisha.

Appling was threatened with contempt charges for attempting to keep the Maddox from regaining custody. The Tennessee Department of Human Services and Bradley County Department of Human Services didn’t keep up with the happenings within the Maddux household, from giving custody back to the Maddoxs. Appling recognized the repeated signs of abuse which had been occurring to Melisha.

Appling, Fisher and Lawson agreed the agencies then just concentrated on getting children back in the home, not considering if child abuse was an issue.

Now, with CASA in place, the child has that voice, according to Wisdom.

“There has been a great many things done to prevent child abuse, but there is so much more that needs to be addressed,” said Sandra Rowland, who was a reporter with the Banner at the time.

Also involved in planning the walk are local attorney Ann McCoin, Michelle Baker of Wellington and Clarebridge, Suzanne Appling Wood of Cleveland State Community College, District Attorney General Steve Bebb and former TBI director Larry Wallace.

“CASA is in need of sponsorship for this very important walk to honor Melisha’s memory and for the future of our children who may get caught up in an abusive family relationship,” said Wisdom.

The “Light of Hope” Moonlight Walk and related programs are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., on the Greenway near Cleveland High School.

Participants will travel the Greenway to the Prayer Garden at the Church of God International Headquarters.

For additional information, contact Wisdom at CASA at 716-1844, or e-mail, suzannewisdom@aol. com.

Donations are being accepted and walk participant information collected.