DALLAS—After the kidnapping and killing of 4-year-old Cash Gernon in Dallas last week, neighbor Jose Alvarado checked his security cameras for any footage that might help investigators.
What he found sent a chill up his spine.
The video is from 10 weeks before little Cash was left dead of stab wounds on the ground. But it shows the teenager charged with abducting him, Darriynn Brown, skulking down the street, opening Alvarado’s backyard gate and peering in before quickly walking away.
“It’s really scary,” Alvarado told The Daily Beast. “I have two kids, one girl and one boy, and they play basketball in the backyard.”
Alvarado’s house shares a back alley with the home of Monica Sherrod, 35, who was taking care of Cash and his twin, Carter. She has said she was dating the twins’ father, Trevor Gernon, a 31-year-old construction worker, until he reportedly left town in March when a court ordered him to report to rehab.
That left Sherrod to care for the boys for the next two months—unbeknownst to their mother, Melinda Seagroves, who lives in Houston.
Early on the morning of May 15, a young man crept into the twins’ bedroom, lifted a still-sleeping Cash out of the toddler bed he shared with Carter, and walked out—a chilling scene captured in grainy black and white by a baby monitor.
The footage, obtained by the Daily Mail, shows the intruder returning about two hours later, hovering over the bed where Carter remained in slumber, before abruptly leaving as though he was startled by something.
By then, Cash was already dead.
Antwainese Square, a Dallas teacher who lives in the area, was out for her morning walk around 6:45 a.m. when she saw a clump of hair on the ground she thought belonged to a dog.
“I was on the phone with my mom,” Square told The Daily Beast. “As I got closer, I could see an arm and a foot and I just began crying, saying, ‘Mom, I think I’m coming up on a body.’ And I started, ‘Mommy, it’s a child! It’s a child!’ And the baby had blood all over his face. At that point, my mom told me to get off the phone with her and immediately call 911… The baby had ants all over the bottom of his feet. So I pretty much knew that he was gone.”
Square said she remembers “being in denial,” and hoped Cash was actually just sleeping even though he was obviously dead. “I was just trying to put together all possible stories; there was no way in my mind that I would think somebody would do that to a kid,” she said, adding that she stayed with Cash’s body until police and paramedics arrived so no one would run over him.
“One couple that was leaving out of their garage, I had to stop them to let them know that this baby was on the ground,” Square said.
More than three hours later, Sherrod reported Cash missing. “The day that he was missing, I got up late and thought it was weird,” Sherrod would later tell the Daily Mail. “I was like, ‘It's 10 o'clock already, you guys.’ So I figured Cash was still in bed.”
Later that day, police arrested Brown, 18, who lives with his parents about a half-mile from where Cash’s body was found, according to court documents. He was charged with kidnapping and burglary, but not murder because police said they are waiting for the result of forensic tests.
Held in lieu of $1.5 million bail, Brown could not be reached for comment and does not have a lawyer listed in court records. His mother, Mimi, has told reporters that she believes her son is being framed.
A tangled web of relationships, criminal records, and an unknown motive hangs over the case.
Sherrod, the mother of several children, has a criminal record that includes assault and DWI. Trevor Gernon, who has an extensive rap sheet, appears to have vanished; a phone number listed under his name was disconnected. Darriynn Brown, meanwhile, is reportedly a friend of one of Sherrod’s children and had been seen playing with children in Sherrod’s care.
Sherrod initially characterized any relationship she or her kids had with Brown, who attended the same high school as at least one of the boys living in her house, as minimal. She later told a reporter that Brown had visited her home two days before Cash’s murder, but she was out grocery shopping at the time.
According to multiple neighbors, Brown was definitely not an unfamiliar face around the neighborhood. One told The Daily Beast the teen regularly played football and basketball with some of the kids who lived with Sherrod. Others said they had spotted Brown on their Ring security cameras hanging out in the area.
Little information has emerged about Seagroves, who now has custody of Carter. Seagroves did not respond to multiple interview requests, but her mother, Connie Ward, told The Daily Beast this week: “We are not ready to give any kind of statement. My family is broken. It has been a nightmare listening and watching the news about our baby and stories being reported that are false.”
Seagroves does not appear to have had any brushes with the law, but court records show both Sherrod and Gernon have records that include arrests for assaulting their own parents.
In 2013, Sherrod pleaded guilty to attacking her mother, Lezlee Pinkerton. According to a criminal affidavit signed by Officer Glenn Burkheimer-Lubeck of the Harris County Constable’s Office, Sherrod “intentionally struck” Pinkerton in the head and chest with her hand and pulled her to the ground, then “cause[d] bodily injury” to Pinkerton “by stomping on [Pinkerton’s] toes with her feet.”
“Complainant reports that she believes her toes are broken,” the affidavit says. Sherrod was sentenced to two years of community supervision, participation in a domestic violence treatment program, a $100 donation to a family violence center, and a $200 fine.
In 2018, Gernon was arrested by deputies from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for assaulting his father, Roger Gernon, during a dispute over a credit card bill, Texas court records show. When Roger Gernon told his son that he was going to call the police, Trevor grabbed the phone away, bloodied his dad’s arm with his fingernails, and elbowed him in the chest. Charged with misdemeanor assault and interference with an emergency telephone call, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 68 days in county jail.
In addition to the assault of family members, both Sherrod and Gernon have a history of theft, fraud, and drug possession.
Sherrod’s most recent arrest was for DWI; she has also pleaded guilty to identity fraud charges, meth possession, driving without a license, and misdemeanor theft.
Gernon’s most recent arrest was for the possession of narcotics in 2020. He was previously charged for possession of methamphetamine in 2016. His rap sheet includes a range of other crimes.
Neal Flanagan, who co-owns a corrosion-proofing business, told The Daily Beast he met Gernon in high school, then reconnected in 2016. He gave Gernon a bit of work because he was struggling. Then things went sideways.
“My ex-wife and I were married at the time,” said Flanagan. “We had started having issues. She separated from me in January 2017. That’s when Trevor and her started seeing each other.”
“I never did see him after,” said Flanagan. “A couple years later, he messaged me on Facebook. Like, ‘Hey buddy. How you been?’ Like nothing ever happened."
When he was sober, Gernon “was as good as you could ask for,” Neal’s father, Johnny Flanagan, said. But he added that he wasn’t surprised Gernon took off without his boys.
“He’s one of these guys that kind of goes whichever way the wind blows, you know, and he'll do good for several months and then do bad for several months and you know, just up and disappear,” Flanagan said.
Gernon’s whereabouts are unknown. Following his indictment on felony drug possession charges last November, he failed to appear for a March 29, 2021, hearing and thus forfeited a $10,000 bond payment. There is now an open warrant out for his arrest.
His sister released a YouTube video with a recording of an apology from him. In it, he says he left town looking for work, and did not want to disturb the boys’ routine so left them behind.
“I have paid the most ultimate and painful price for my poor judgment and I have to live with this devastation every single day,” he said.
“I will never forgive myself. If I could, I would go back and do everything different. This is a nightmare that doesn’t go away once I open my eyes in the morning. We just don’t understand how this could happen to such a bright and cheerful kid.”
None of the various defense lawyers who represented Sherrod or Gernon in court have agreed to speak, citing attorney-client privilege.
Cash’s death has raised many questions about those responsible for him. But in the neighborhood where he spent his last months, the overriding mystery is why would someone kill a defenseless child and leave him on the street like trash.
The solidly working-class Mountain Creek section of Dallas is a quiet place, bordered on one side by the 600-acre Cedar Ridge nature preserve. Houses are in decent shape, and yards are clean. On the street where Cash’s body was found, locals have been stopping at a shrine to leave toys, flowers, and other mementos.
The woman who found Cash’s body, meanwhile, has been struggling with her emotions since that morning.
“It's been difficult. It really has been difficult,” Square told The Daily Beast.
“I have a 3-year-old and as we’re dealing with this and processing this, I’m learning that I have little triggers. If I see a little boy, 4, 3, 5, I will burst out crying. It’s just a trigger for me. My own daughter is like a trigger. Sometimes she’ll say something and I’ll cry.
“Because even though I didn’t know that baby, he was just robbed of his life. So, it’s been really hard. It’s been really hard to just process this. And no matter how much you try to move on, you can’t unsee what you saw.”
Rohrlich reported from New York, and Monacelli from Dallas.