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The Brightest Star

Child abuse, we have all seen it come across headlines of computer screens or newspapers. Child abuse comes in many different forms. Depending on what state it occurs in America, punishments vary. In Washington State lawmakers have passed a bill. (Bill 1227) This bill is intended to keep families together and is part of their foster care reform. Past abuse in the home does not stop you from getting your children back. In this story, this is just what happened. Less than two years after this child was taken away from her parents for numerous reasons, she was ripped out of a loving home and put right back into harm’s way. When does it end? Washington?

Hazel Journey Homan

First, I want to thank Light the Way for shedding light on Hazel’s story. I also want to thank Ashlee, the aunt of Hazel, for speaking with me. Although this is very painful for Ashlee, she encourages everyone and anyone to speak Hazel’s name. Our conversation was heartfelt and raw, but she painted a picture of a little girl, the happiest and the brightest star.

Brandon Homan and his girlfriend Medora Pederson met online when Brandon caught Medora’s eye. She messaged him and the two struck up a conversation. Quickly Brandon and Medora became a couple, but the relationship was volatile. Mental health being untreated, coupled with drug abuse, they often argued and physical fights would ensue amongst the two. Brandon and Medora often moved from place to place. Sometimes staying with friends and family or shuffling in and out of motels. Then Medora became pregnant with Hazel. Hazel Journey Homan was born on March 13, 2016, to her parents in Shelton, Washington.

Hazel (2016)

Ashlee describes this moment one she will never forget and always hold close. She affectionately called her angel baby. Hazel made Ashlee an aunt and. She knew that moment she laid eyes on her niece she was in love and vowed that day to always love and protect her. Maybe Brandon and Medora were not ready to be parents. However, one thing is for sure, their relationship seemed to get better. They resided with Brandon’s sister Ashlee until Medora had one of her “mental episodes” (at this time at least, Medora was untreated and never properly diagnosed) and wanted to leave Ashlee’s home. Brandon agreed and the couple moved into his mother’s home where they stayed, but it was shorted lived as well. After Hazel’s birth Medora grew increasingly annoyed with Brandon’s level to provide for her. Medora wanted the more extravagant things in life, named brand, expensive things. She wanted Brandon to go back to his old lifestyle and earn his money from the streets. Without hesitation they packed up and moved three hours away to Bellingham, leaving Hazel in the care of her grandmother Tammi, her husband Dale and Ashlee. Hazel was only a couple months old at this time.

Ashlee holding Hazel. Vowing those promises.

This situation spung on the family that they were not expecting but they did not let that deter what needed to be done. Someone had to take care of this sweet-faced baby, so they took on the responsibilities of caring for her. Although months would have passed the caregiving roles were cut short. Later on, in 2016 Brandon’s mother reached out to the state for assistance to care for Hazel. This decision set off a chain of events. Brandon and Medora found out about this and for some reason became angry with the situation. Father and mother drove from Bellingham to Shelton to retrieve Hazel. Hazel was at Ashlee’s home during this time and when Brandon and Medora showed up, they demanded Ashlee hand her over. Ashlee was not going to do this easily though. She knew Medora and her brother were not fit to take care of Hazel and she fought back to keep her in her care. The police were called to Ashlee’s home, and they told her she had to give them their daughter. She reluctantly agreed to do it.

During the course of a year Hazel resided with Brandon and Medora with no steady roof over their heads. Medora's father, Jason often watched Hazel to help out the couple and he knew her safety was the most important. Brandon and Medora would also leave Hazel in the care of a young teen named Madison. Ashlee explains how much of an angel she was to her niece. Madison loved and adored her very much.

Grandpa Jason and Grandpa Dale with Hazel

Hazel & Madison

In November 2017 Brandon was arrested during a five-hour standoff with police. It started with a possible domestic situation between Brandon and Medora. When the police arrived, Brandon barricaded his family in the home. Five hours later Brandon was arrested, and Medora suffered facial injuries and was treated at the hospital. Hazel was also checked out and then brought to the police station. Once there, the police department called Tammi and Dale to explain everything that happened. Unfortunately, Hazel would be transferred into DCYF care, unless they could come and get her, but they only had a certain timeframe to come. Ashlee and her mother Tammi made the trip to pick up Hazael. Upon arrival the department let them know she was already in DCYF care. The family was infuriated, and confused but concerns grew that they wouldn’t be able to take Hazel home. Finally, after what seemed like forever Tammi and Dale were able to take her home on one condition, she signed paperwork making her the temporary caregiver of little Hazel. Without hesitation Hazel was released into her care along with her aunt Ashlee.

The day Hazel was reunited with her Ashlee after the standoff.

Making the transition to settle back in her grandmother’s home, Hazel took to it without any issue. Although physically she had to be taken to a childcare physician. It is unknown if Hazel had ever seen a doctor over the last year or so while living with her parents. She was timid in her personality at first but quickly warmed up to being back at her grandparents’ home. Her papa (Tammi’s husband, Dale) made her feel safe in his presence, and they shared a special bond. Hazel enjoyed dancing and singing. Her papa always wore his earphones to listen to music, Hazel insisted she also have a pair. On repeat Havana by Camila Cabello, one of her favorites. On the weekends Ashlee would have Hazel over for sleepovers and trips to museums and shopping were plenty.

Hazel with her cousins & uncle at a zoo trip

Her personality bright, and she had so much empathy towards her loved ones. She knew when her auntie was upset about something and insisted on comforting her. She very much enjoyed it when her Ashlee would pray her to sleep, so much so she would put her ear up to Ashlee’s mouth randomly hoping she could hear a prayer, just one more. The imagine is precious, isn’t it?

Hazel with her Auntie Ashlee

In 2018 Brandon and Medora ended their relationship. Medora moved to Iowa. Brandon stayed in Washington state. Brandon met and started a relationship with Kamee Dixon. Kamee was a mother and almost as soon as their relationship started, she tried to help Brandon in every way she could to help him win custody back of Hazel. Eventually DCYF concluded Brandon was fit enough to parent three-year-old Hazel, in June 2019. Kamee moved into Brandon’s home, although she did keep her Bellingham apartment to still feel independent from Brandon. Something just in case…. Everything seemed to come together and now Hazel had a mother figure and the absence of Medora faded.

Hazel with her grandparents (Tammi & Dale)

After Brandon regained custody of Hazel the household was very routine. Brandon’s employer had him working long days, which left him absent from the home quite often. Kamee was there to pick up the pieces and take care of his daughter as well as her child. A social worker was to make two health and safety visits per month at their home. With Brandon’s work schedule for most of these visits Kamee was the adult in the present when the social worker arrived. Hazel would still have visits with her grandparents and her aunt Ashlee. It was in one of these visits, in August 2019, Hazel’s teen cousin was attempting to give her a bath when Hazel refused to allow her to take off her shirt. When her cousin was finally able to undress her, she realized suspicious bruising on Hazel’s chest and shoulders, as well as a semi healed cigarette burn. Unbeknownst to Ashlee, things in Bellingham were changing rapidly in Brandon’s household. Hazel was supposed to attend daycare every week and if not then it was to be reported. Hazel was not attending daycare regularly and no report was ever made about her absences. On one occasion Kamee, her son and Hazel attended a birthday party for another child. There Kamee became angry that Hazel was receiving more attention than her son. Kamee was so angry she left the party. At the end of September 2019, a new case worker called Brandon for a scheduled a health and safety visit, during this call Brandon let the case worker know Hazel had burned her hand about a week prior. The case worker paid a visit the following day and was able to see Hazel’s burn on her hand. Kamee told the case worker that Hazel put her hand on a burner one day when she was cooking. The burn covered her whole hand, palm and up her fingers. The couple told the case worker they did not seek medical attention for Hazel’s burn, in return she advised them they had to go to the hospital immediately. On October 3, 2019, Hazel’s doctor had a visit with Hazel and explained to Kamee the severity of her injury, the doctor also reported to CPS about this appointment. That report was given right back to DCYF case worker due to staffing shortages in CPS. On October 14, Hazel had an appointment at Seattle Children’s Hospital for her injury. On October 15, Brandon called the case worker to inform them Hazel had sprayed something in her eye. The case worker met the family at the emergency room where Hazel was treated for an alkalis chemical burn to her eye. Hazel was treated but the family were to follow up with an eye doctor weekly to make sure there was no permeant vision damage. When the case worker asked Brandon how this happened Brandon stated he believed Hazel had sprayed hair spray in her eye. In late October Kamee’s friend invited her, Hazel, and Kamee’s son to carve pumpkins. During this visit the friend witnessed Kamee’s son push Hazel to the ground, making her cry. Instead of disciplining her son Kamee punished Hazel for the incident. On November 13, the case worker conducted another visit to the home. At the visit Brandon let them know he started using a new shampoo for his daughter because her hair was thinning. The case worker left the home without any follow up report about her burned hand or eye injury.  Kamee’s friend later reported she once visited Kamee at her apartment. There she witnessed Kamee strip Hazel of her clothing and stick her in a cold shower. This was apparently due to her “wetting” herself. Kamee refused to let Hazel out of the shower until her friend stepped in and told Kamee to let her out. In a report made later, Kamee’s friends suspected Kamee had relapsed into drug use. Everything seemed to be escalating to the point of no return.

At nine in the morning on November 27, 2019, police responded to a 911 call and found three-year-old Hazel Homan unresponsive. Hazel was unclothed and wet. Kamee told the first responders Hazel was choking on food and suddenly went limp inside her apartment. When she realized Hazel was still not responding she ran to her neighbors for help. Hazel was taken to the hospital where medical staff realized Hazel was suffering from hypothermia in addition to bleeding on the brain. She was air lifted to Habor View medical center and once there, doctors had uncovered Hazel was suffering from injuries similar to shaking baby syndrome. Doctors suspected Hazel had been abused as there were numerous bruises and cigarette burns on her body. On November 30, Hazel was declared legally brain dead due to the period of time of lack of oxygen to her brain. Hazel tragically never woke up.

The stunned medical examiner’s office performed a skeletal overview of Hazel’s body. To their horror they uncovered many bone fractures and broken bones and in various stages of healing. Including a broken finger, wrist, knee, hip, and multiple vertebrae. All of the fractures occurred within six months of her death, and all showed signs of healing.

December 5, 2019, Kamee Dixon was arrested and charged with second degree murder. After Kamee’s arrest, Brandon defended her believing she did not harm his daughter. Brandon hoped to bail Kamee out of jail while awaiting a court date. That did not happen and for good reason. On June 30, 2022, Kamee Dixon was found guilty of homicide by abuse in the case of Hazel Journey Homan. Brandon moved on and cut ties with his family. Medora is currently serving time in an Iowa prison (charges unknown).

Kamee Dixon circa 2022

This was a hard story for me to write about. They are all hard but this one hit differently. Maybe because everything is known, and the amount of abuse little Hazel Journey suffered. While her remaining family would much rather have her on this planet with them, she did not die in vain. Her aunt Ashlee strives every day to bring more light to her niece’s story. Almost immediately after her death Ashlee changed careers and is now working as a social worker with children and families. Although her path in life has changed up, she is not done yet. Not done fighting for Hazel and all the other children out there. Ashlee is working to change legislation in Washington State. Bill 1227. Currently Washington State allows children to be returned to a once abusive home with minimal requirements. The state also allows parents to use substances outside and once they are done, they can come back inside to parenting. Yes, that is real, among other things. Washington State is one where the courts want to reunite the child no matter what but, we’ve witnessed countless children being ripped away from loving homes. Homes where they live healthy and play freely and for some reason they are put back in the line of danger. At some point this has to stop. Until then families such as Hazel’s will keep fighting for change.

All for The Brightest Star

On March 13, 2024, Hazel would have celebrated her 8th Birthday.

“She would be eight years old; I just hate that I don’t know what she would look like today or what she would like to do or be like. I hate it”. -Ashlee

Every few months, Ashlee travels to Bellingham outside of the home Hazel took her last breath. She decorates a pole in honor of her birthday with all things girly. She wants Hazel to be remembered for the little girl she was.

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

My heart breaks for little Miss Hazel Journey and Miss Ashlee. I'm so proud of Ashlee and how she's handled her life since this tragedy happened. Be the change you want to see in this world. Hopefully, SOON, the State of Washington will reconsider their actions of trying to reunite families that are beyond repair.

RIP Hazel Journey ❤️

Carry on Aunt Ashlee, you've got this❣️

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