‘It gives me a kind of peace’: Chambers County deputy killed in the line of duty could see face of unborn daughter three days before crash | Local News

LAUREN JOHNSON

The morning of June 20 started off as a normal Monday morning for Jasmine Gaddist and her fiancé J’Mar Abel, a 24-year-old Chambers County sheriff’s deputy – except there was some exciting news.

The couple sat down at the kitchen table to have breakfast watching 4D ultrasound images which finally showed the face of their baby girl whom they planned to name Gianna.

Gaddist and Abel were talking about the photos and comparing them to their own baby photos to see who she looked like the most. They concluded that she looked like Abel.

After breakfast, Abel did his morning routine of stretches and push-ups with Gaddist’s four-year-old son, Bryson, who laughed with delight as he tried to imitate him.

Later that day, which marked Abel’s second anniversary with the sheriff’s department, he was killed in the line of duty while engaged in a car chase pursuing a suspect.

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During the chase, there was a sharp curve in the road where Abel hit a ditch and overturned his vehicle, police said. Bystanders helped Abel out of the car and performed CPR. He was then taken to hospital where he died of his injuries. The suspect was arrested near the Georgia state line.

The third time is a charm

Three days before the car crash, Abel and Gaddist, then seven months pregnant, went to an appointment at AuBaby Ultrasound Boutique in downtown Auburn to get a 4D ultrasound of their daughter Gianna.

This type of ultrasound gives a very realistic image of the baby in flesh color. Katy Maunz, owner of AuBaby, said you could see every detail of the baby’s face.

Gaddist said she and her fiancé had already tried twice to get a 4D image of Gianna’s face and both times she was either facing Gaddist’s back or asleep.

“We were trying to wake her up,” she said. “We did everything we could and she just wouldn’t budge for us.”

Maunz asked Gaddist to roll over both sides and rub his stomach to try and get Gianna to move into the right position. In cases like this, Maunz said she tries different tactics, including giving the mom a sugary drink or making the mom walk.

After rescheduling for the third time, Gaddist said she was preparing for disappointment again, but Abel was motivated.

“He was like, ‘No, no third time, it’s a charm. We’re going to see her this time,'” Gaddist said. “And of course when we went there (Maunz) had the same energy. She was like, ‘Trust me; it doesn’t usually happen that many times. I think today will be the day.

Bryson also came to every ultrasound appointment and Maunz said he would sit on Abel’s lap, delighted to see his little sister.

“J’Mar was so kind and patient and so supportive of Jasmine,” Maunz said. “The third time when they came in and we got to see it all, he was so excited. I even remember the first time they walked in, every time he heard the heartbeat for the first time, he was so excited. You could tell they were just thrilled about this baby.

As the couple viewed the footage, Maunz said they laughed and joked that the little girl looked like Abel. Gaddist said Gianna had her father’s chubby cheeks.

Initially, Gaddist hoped her daughter would be her “mini-me”, but now she hopes she will favor Abel.

Before leaving the store, Abel, Gaddist and Bryson took a photo with props provided by Maunz and Abel held up a sign that read, “Can’t wait to hold you, kid.”

“We got to see his little face and J’Mar was so excited and so happy and we really talked about it all weekend,” Gaddist said. “Even though he wasn’t physically able to see her and hold her, just the fact that I know he was able to see her face for the first time means so much to me.”

Gaddist said she couldn’t explain how much peace Maunz gave her as she continued to try to capture the 4D image and gave Abel the chance to see her daughter’s face.

Gaddist and Abel first met when they were nine years old in class at Williams Elementary School in Huntsville. They grew up together and have remained close friends ever since.

During freshman year at Columbia High School in Huntsville, Abel’s mother died and Gaddist said they became even closer friends and eventually started dating.

The couple broke up when they went to college, but reunited in 2018 and both ended up in Auburn. Gaddist attends the Southern Union for nursing, and Abel got a job with the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department.

Eventually, Abel gave Gaddist a promise ring and intended to officially propose with the wedding ring after Gianna was born.

Since 2018, Gaddist has said Abel is a father figure to his son Bryson.

“Most people who didn’t know us personally didn’t know that Bryson wasn’t biologically his. Their bond has been so close since he was a little baby to this point,” Gaddist said. “J’Mar was Bryson’s best friend. J’Mar was everything to him.

Gaddist said her son gave Abel a Father’s Day present at daycare this year and she wished he had the chance to see it.

“It’s been pretty tough for (Bryson) right now because he’s four years old, he doesn’t quite understand the concept,” she said.

On June 20, when she received the phone call, Gaddist didn’t think it was real and thought they might have the wrong person. She said that Abel prepared her for how a situation like this would play out and that it happened exactly as he explained.

She got the call from Sgt. Dale Clyde of the Auburn Police Division, who told her what he knew at the time, picked her and her son up and drove them to West Georgia Medical Center in LaGrange.

“I felt a lot of emotions. I immediately prayed,” she said. “I had a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head.”

Since the tragedy, Gaddist said the community and in particular the Chambers County Sheriff’s Department have “poured out so much love and support.”

“They’re part of the family now,” Gaddist said of the House MPs. “That night actually, that same night as the accident, I knew then that they were going to be my family forever.”

House MPs plan to go to the hospital when she goes into labor, and Gaddist said she could not explain what this means for her and what she knows it would mean for Abel.

Maunz said officers graduating from the academy with Abel set up a fund for Gaddist and his children. They sell bracelets on Etsy with her name on them and all proceeds go directly to the family. To purchase one, click here.

Maunz also collects donations of baby items for Gaddist. Before dropping off items, call or text AuBaby Ultrasound Boutique at 334-707-2266.

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