Mom breaks silence, reflects on 3-year fight to prove her son didn’t kill himself

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The mother of Nick Clavier, the Chesterfield man who was shot and killed in front of his children while driving, broke her silence on the third anniversary of his murder.

“Nothing compares to losing a child. There’s just an empty spot in my heart that will never be filled,” said Nick Clavier’s mother Barbara Clavier.

“There will always be a little spot in my heart for Nick and it won’t be filled until I see him again.”

With a necklace of her late son and husband close to her heart, Barbara Clavier described the last time she saw her second born child alive and well.

October 24, 2015, Nick and his four children stopped at grandma’s house before heading out on a fishing trip.

“It started out normal. They came over for a few hours because their mom was out of town for the day,” said Barbara.

Barbara would soon find out it would be the final few hours she’d enjoy with her “momma’s boy.”

“I got a call that there had been an accident the children were okay, and Nick was stable so we assumed everything was okay but obviously it was not,” said Barbara.

Less than seven miles from his childhood home Nick was shot in the head while driving on Hull Street Road before crashing down an embankment and into a tree with his kids inside the car.

Newly released photo shows the Nick Clavier crash scene.

Barbara rushed to the hospital and was met by a nurse.

“The first thing she asked me was did I think Nick was suicidal,” explained Barbara. “Right away I just kicked into mother mode. I’m like he did not do this. I don’t know who did this but I know he didn’t do it. I can tell you that 100% he did not do this. He would have never done that especially with children in the car. He loved his children dearly.”

“Did you feel like they believed you?” asked CBS 6 reporter Laura French.

“No,” Barbara responded. “I just feel like they were just stuck on that he did this to himself. They pretty much at the hospital made the decision of what had happened, and I don’t think they were going to investigate it anymore after that.”

“I think it was just unfortunate for our family that the day this happened that the police officers at the scene just made a decision and weren’t going to change their mind had it been other police officers the outcome might have been totally different,” she added.

When Barbara entered into her son’s hospital room she knew right away the situation was grave.

Barbara Clavier

“I walked in and I noticed that his tongue was just moving a lot and the pillow was just covered in blood,” she explained.

“He [the doctor] said he’s gone, he’s not going to survive this and we’re keeping him alive because he had donated his organs,” said Barbara.

Before Nick would take his last breath, Barbara made him a promise.

“I hugged on him and kissed him and told him how much I love him and that I was so, so sorry that this had happened to him and that I always had his back and I always will have his back. I said Nick you know what they think that you did, and I said we know you didn’t even though they don’t believe us.” Barbara whispered to her son.

“I said we will fight no matter how long it takes, and the truth will come out and everyone will know that you did not do this to yourself and that it was not an accident you weren’t playing with your gun and we’ll clear your name. I said if it takes forever we will clear your name.”

That day would come almost three years after that painful moment and close to a year and a half after a CBS 6 investigation revealed ballistics determined the bullet in Nick’s brain did not match the weapon found in his car.

Nick’s daughter Mikayla was in the passenger seat of that car and was just 9 years old at the time of the accident.

Nick and Barbara Clavier

“I saw the guy pointing a gun,” Mikayla explained in a May 2017 interview. “I heard a loud noise. I looked over and saw my dad. He was bleeding and blood was going everywhere.”

After a series of CBS 6 investigations, Chesterfield police announced the shooter’s name September 25, 2018.

Four months after reopening the case as a homicide, police said 21-year-old Jerquell Cheatham fatally shot Clavier during a road rage incident in which both men displayed weapons.

"Somebody in that vehicle pointed their gun outside the vehicle, fired one round which struck either Nick’s vehicle or the weather stripping around his window causing the bullet to tumble striking him in the head killing him," Chesterfield Police Captain Jay Thornton said.

Investigators say Cheatham fired a weapon out of the passenger seat of a car that resembled a sketch Mikayla drew of the vehicle after the shooting.

“When I was told that the car was almost a replica of the picture that she drew I was like oh my God how could she do that after seeing her daddy shot and they’re all covered in blood and she’s able to give this description,” said Barbara of her granddaughter. “I think in her mind, ‘I need to help my daddy! I need to tell them this while I can,’” she added.

Jerquell Cheatham

“They made it a cold case right away,” said Barbara. “I hope that they learn that they need to have more of an open heart they need to listen to family because if they’d listened to Mikayla, in the beginning, this might have been solved right away.”

Barbara says Nick comes from a family of law enforcement and that she has the utmost respect for police. While she was frustrated with Nick’s case she told French she is also grateful to her, Nick’s widow Melody and so many others that his name was cleared, and his case was ultimately solved.

“I’m just so thankful for the new investigators that really went after this and really looked into it and that you were part of that investigation that you helped bring this all to a close. Had it not been for you all’s investigation everything together like that this may not have been solved. If Nick was here he would thank you so much for doing this.”

“It’s been a long very long difficult journey,” Barbara said. “As a mom, I can say this is the hardest thing that I’ve ever been through and I would not wish this on any mother.”

Forensics also linked Cheatham to a murder in Richmond hours after Nick’s.

In January 2016, Cheatham was murdered inside a Richmond nightclub.

Nick and Barbara Clavier

“I remember seeing it on the news shortly after my son was killed and I remember thinking oh my God that mother, I feel so sorry for her because I know the grief that she’s going to have to bear and I did not know that her son was the one that murdered my son but that still does not change that I know she still feels grief,” said Barbara.

“I actually forgave the guy that did it,” said Barbara. “I can’t hold that kind of hatred in me. Before I even had a clue, who did this or why he did it I forgave him for killing my son and because I knew my son was safely in heaven and his name was finally going to be cleared and the rumors would stop. Even the children at school, people were making comments your daddy committed suicide and that just broke my heart.”

Barbara says she also takes comfort in knowing that Nick is with his father.

“I felt his dad was up in heaven being the deputy sheriff that he is, and he was pushing investigators to get this solved because he wanted his son’s name cleared.”

“How will October 24, 2018 be different?” asked French.

“I feel like this year we can finally relax, we can feel better we know that the case is solved.”

The Clavier family says they plan to spend the anniversary together and do a balloon release.

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