When Bradyn Smith was 4, his father put him in time-out and his mother got mad.
He said he heard his parents fighting. He said he saw his father shove his mother. Then, he said, he watched his mother grab a knife, drive it through his father’s chest and toss it into the sink.
His father, Robert Takach, died at the hospital at age 25.
His mother, Shannon Smith, now 29, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence in the 2009 slaying. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Smith appeared Wednesday in court in Warren County, Ohio, to ask for early release. In anticipation, her now 10-year-old son, Bradyn, penned a letter to the judge, asking him to keep his mother behind bars.
“Dear Judge Peeler: I feel that my mom should stay in prison because I seen her stab my dad clean through the heart with my sister in his arms,” Bradyn wrote in pencil. “…Life for me would be 10 times better if mom didn’t kill my dad because that took a big amount of happiness out of mine and my sister’s life.”
At Wednesday’s hearing, the judge set Smith’s release date for December 2016, marking seven years of incarceration, her attorney, Charlie Rittgers, said. For three years after her release, she will be on community control, which is similar to probation, and she will be on house arrest the first year.
“We’re happy that the decision was made to let her out early,” he said. “We know it was a difficult decision for everyone involved. Hopefully she can start to mend her relationships and reunite with her children.”
Takach’s mother, Patty Todd, said in an interview after the hearing that she was still in shock.
“The judge said she needed to be out to be there for her children — but her children are afraid of her,” Todd said. “She took a life in front of her children. The court just disregarded the children’s lives, my son’s life.”
By most accounts, Smith and Takach had a rough relationship. The two met when they were children and, in 2004, had one of their own: Bradyn. The new parents moved in together and, in 2007, had a girl, whom they name Brooklynn.
But violence, drugs and alcohol kept coming between them.
In 2008, Takach was ordered to undergo treatment at a rehabilitation center in Ohio, according to a 2011 court opinion.
Three months later, Takach went home. Smith, however, had moved on and was pregnant with another man’s child.
Regardless, in January 2009, Takach was at her doorstep with his belongings.
“Smith did not want Takach to move back in, because she wanted to start a new life,” according to the 2011 opinion from now-retired Judge William Young of Ohio’s 12th District Court of Appeals. “However, she did not ‘say anything because [she] didn’t want there to be a problem’ and so she agreed to let Takach stay for a day so he could spend some time with their children.”
It was Jan. 29, 2009, and the two were fighting in the apartment in Franklin, about 20 miles from Dayton. Smith later told police that Takach started “pushing” her on the stomach, asking, “How could [she] do this to him?” according to the court document.
She said he grabbed her throat. She said she could not breathe or tell him to stop, so she pulled a knife and swung it, intending to cut his arm, the court document said.
When investigators arrived at the scene, then-4-year-old Bradyn told them that “his mommy stabbed his daddy and put the knife in the sink,” according to the document.
Smith was charged with murder, voluntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. At trial, she was acquitted of murder but convicted on the other two charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“The jury found in the case that the crime was a result of serious provocation, which is a mitigating factor but not an excuse for Shannon’s actions; she realizes that,” Rittgers said before Wednesday’s hearing. “She has spent every day thinking about her wrongdoing, and she’ll think about this regardless of the outcome.
“She’ll think about this until the day she dies.”
Still, Takach’s family feared an early release.
“She knew when she did this it would devastate the people who once loved her. She did it to her children. She did it to her family,” Todd said before the hearing. “It’s just not justice. At least we should get the justice that was handed out.”
“In another five years, Bradyn will be 15; Brooklynn will be 13,” she added. “They’ll be older and better able to handle the situation. They’re afraid of her, and I don’t want them to have to go through that.”
Several weeks ago, Todd told Bradyn that his mother was trying to get out of prison.
“I don’t believe in keeping secrets from Bradyn,” she said. “I felt the need to tell him his mother may be able to get out of prison. When I told him, he wound up crying in my lap for an hour.”
Bradyn told Todd that he wanted to talk to the judge. Instead, the court encouraged him to write a letter.
The letter, scribbled on two pages torn from a notebook and shared with The Washington Post, is filled with Bradyn’s memories of his father — and mentions of the new memories he would have made if his father “was still here.”
“I think it would be better for me and my sister if my mom would stay in prison,” he wrote in the letter, “because I am afraid of her because I have seen what she did to my dad.”
Todd read the letter at Wednesday’s hearing. Asked what the judge said, she replied: “Nothing. Nothing.”
But Smith’s attorney said the letter rattled his client.
“She cried throughout the hearing,” Rittgers said. “It was difficult, obviously, to hear the pain people have gone through. It was difficult hearing that letter, as it would have been difficult for any mother to hear.”
But Rittgers said that in the presence of Smith’s family, Bradyn shows a different sentiment.
“Obviously he’s nervous, but he has told them he’s excited to see his mother,” he said.