RIDGELAND, Miss. (WLBT) - The group of five best friends had been like sisters for more than 20 years. So when Dacoda Ray’s 8-year-old son Drake died of apparent asphyxia – she said from choking on a piece of popcorn – they rallied to her side.
We have spoken to some of the friends by phone, but Amy Bullard agreed to talk to us on camera. Their stories are very much the same.
“We went over that night, the day he passed away, and she was just real quiet… Honestly we thought he died in his sleep the night before,” said Bullard.
Then the story began to unfold.
“It wasn’t until a couple of days later I realized he was awake that morning getting ready for school when he died,” she said, her voice choking as she became emotional.
Since everyone grieves differently, there are a lot of things that seemed explainable at the time. But as the case has continued, Ray’s friends began to question her seemingly odd behavior in the days following Drake’s death. Like how she washed her bedclothes while her entire family was still at the hospital, Bullard said.
“As soon as she went home, she didn’t tell anyone at the hospital that she was leaving, she just disappeared and washed everything and rearranged the whole room. Why? That doesn’t make any sense.”
The way she reacted to her dead child’s body was suspicious too, Bullard and other friends said. And the fact that nobody remembers seeing her showing any emotions, except for “about 10 seconds” on the way to the airport to pick up a friend who had flown in for the funeral.
“She was talking about wanting a closed casket, and we said are you sure? You don’t get a do over, and she said, ‘I don’t want to be near him,’ and again, we didn’t want to judge," said Bullard, adding that it seemed like an odd response to losing her youngest child.
And at the funeral, she did stay away from the casket.
“She never cried. I never saw her cry,” said Bullard.
Ray also told Bullard her version of events of what happened that morning, and Bullard’s alarm bells went off.
“I was at first her biggest supporter, I was like, ‘What? No, never.’ And then she told me what happened in the room and it just didn’t add up,” she said. "It just didn’t make any sense of what she was saying happened. That he choked on popcorn. She didn’t leave the room and call for help. She didn’t call 911. It just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t add up.”
It has been a hard pill to swallow, but it has brought Ray’s friends closer as they attempt to comfort each other and make sense of the whole thing.
“This is a nightmare and I wish, I wish none of it were true, and that I could be supportive and believe she didn’t have anything to do with this. But when you line up all the facts and her behavior and everything, and now this… I believe she had something to do with his death.”
So far police have made no comment on who Ray’s alleged victim of sexual battery is, and no official cause or manner of death have been released on Drake. So Ray’s friends carry the torch for Drake … and in a different way, one for the friend they have loved all their lives and the way things used to be.
“I still love her. It’s awful, you’re just torn in two different directions. I think she’s done something terrible but I still love her.”
A Ridgeland mother charged with sexual battery, embroiled in an investigation into her son’s death, posted bond over the weekend.
Dacoda Amber Ray, 32, was arrested June 22 and charged with sexual battery, though the details have been very hazy surrounding those charges. This came two months after the April 25 death of her 8-year-old son, Drake Ray.
Ray allegedly told her family that Drake had choked to death on a piece of popcorn. He was rushed to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Police have not directly linked her arrest to Drake’s death, but authorities are awaiting an autopsy in order to determine cause and manner of death. Madison County Coroner Alex Breeland said he’s fairly certain that the results will not be natural causes.
This is an ongoing story. We will keep you updated as we receive new information.