Airman Ready To Care For Orphaned Sibling

ELYRIA, Ohio (AP) - Recently, Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin Crisp, who is single and without children, was preparing for his next military assignment. Now Crisp, 25, is thinking about diapers, child care and a college fund for his half-brother.

Last week, Elyria police found their mother, Karen Crisp, 44, dead in her apartment. Police also found her son, Allen Shackleford, toddling about. The 21-month-old survived for four days on chips, cookies and possibly toilet water.

On Monday, Karen Crisp was buried. While grieving his mother's death, Kevin Crisp is rearranging his life. He began doing that as soon as he started driving from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to Elyria. Disbelief about her death was followed by fear for Allen (pictured with his late mother, above).

"I was scared for him, but relieved when I heard he was OK," he said, jostling Allen, who was tucked in the crook of his arm. "And I was proud. He was so smart."

Karen Crisp, a friendly but fiercely private single mother, apparently died of natural causes. Her asthma and a scarring-lung disorder may have contributed to her death, according to the Lorain County coroner. Tests are still being conducted.

She left work early Jan. 15 and never returned. Worried co-workers at GMAC in North Olmsted alerted her father, Elyria Councilman Herman Larkins. Accompanied by police, he made the grim discovery.

Lorain County Children Services has temporary custody of Allen while the family works out arrangements for his permanent care, said Gary Crow, executive director.

Kevin Crisp said he wants to become Allen's legal guardian.

"This would just be like raising a little piece of my mother and myself," he said. "I'm the one who gets to shape him into a man."

He is readying himself to become a single parent living in the supportive environment of a military base that becomes a second family.

"I sing in the church choir, go to work, lift weights, play sports," he said. "It's not like having him is going to change any of those things. I just have to be more focused."

Until the guardianship is arranged, Allen is staying with his aunt, Lisa Godbolt, of Elyria.

On April 24, Allen will celebrate his second birthday. Kevin Crisp hopes that soon after, he and Allen will begin their new life together.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)