It is said that angels are among us each day. All around. Whether it is for a season to stay, or just an “in the blink of an eye” encounter. It is said that they bestow us in times of confusion, grief, or sometimes just to teach us something.
When describing Dakota Aryn Burke-Everett, many over many would say she was the truest quintessential angel here on Earth. Her warm spirit effortlessly exemplified unconditional love, light, happiness, innocence, trust and peace. They say nothing is perfect, but if anything or anyone could ever be close, it was her. She entered this world on a mission, touching countless lives and opening up many hearts. This is her story.
Dakota Aryn Burke-Everett drew her first breath in this great big world on Friday, April 19, 2013, at Providence Hospital in Mobile, Alabama. Her parents, Summer Everett and Mitchell Burke were overcome with so much happiness and joy. Dakota was healthy, beautiful and most of all a perfect symbol of change. A change for the better. A change for the future. You see, Dakota’s father, Mitchell Burke had gotten into some trouble in his youth. Like many adolescence who are searching for their way in life, mistakes are often made along the journey. However, when Mitchell saw this beautiful new life in his hands, a change in him took form. In that moment, he was no longer the kid trying to find his way. He was a father, ready to be the rock Dakota would need. Nurturer. Provider. Protector. He was prepared for all of life’s unknown challenges & lived his days for loving Summer and baby Dakota.
No matter how hard we plan, life can sometimes take a detour to a less preferred road. This was the situation presenting itself at hand for Mitchell Burke. Though he was a completely changed man, no longer getting into petty mischief, it seems the past would come back to accost him. The blatant truth? He would have to serve some time behind bars. His past? He could take accountability and responsibly face it. Jail time itself? Okay. Being separated from little Dakota and Summer? This was like taking away the air one breathes.
With Mitchell about to be away for an extended period of time, he and Summer respectfully parted ways. There is no easy way to say it. The couple, though no longer, focused on their love for baby Dakota. She was the center of their Universe. Seasons changed. Winter, spring, summer and fall came & vanished. Time continued forward. Summer Everett would go on to experience new challenges, new adventures in life & meet someone. His name was Christopher Knapp. To this moment in time, Dakota’s complete story is like a book with missing pages. The only people who hold these missing pages are Dakota Burke-Everett, Summer Everett and Christopher Knapp.
On Wednesday, December 31, 2014, at approximately 3:30 p.m., deputies were dispatched to the emergency room at Providence Hospital in Mobile, Alabama. Baby Dakota was unresponsive upon arrival and had to be placed on life support. Her injuries sustained were some of the worst ever witnessed by law enforcement. Sheriff Sam Cochran stated, “This child endured these injuries over a period of time.” In respect of the Burke & Everett families, the specific injuries sustained will not be disclosed here as they only serve to conjure up pain in knowing little Dakota suffered.
For 8 days, Dakota Burke-Everett fought tremendously hard to stay. This baby angel may have had broken wings, but she was not going to give up on their repair, without a fight. The damage was sadly found to be irreversible and Dakota’s name was called to Heaven on Thursday, January 8, 2015.
On Friday, January 9, 2015, word of Dakota’s tragic passing was brought to the attention of social media, news media and the surrounding community. Her story began to spread from Alabama, to Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, California, Maine and many other states. Overnight, she was in the hearts and prayers of thousands, as people from all walks of life came together to demand her justice be received.
Summer Everett & Christopher Knapp were arrested on Wednesday, January 14, 2015. They have not spoken on this tragic matter, so many blanks remain on the surface.
Dakota Burke-Everett was laid to rest on Saturday, January 17, 2015 in Semmes, Alabama’s Valhalla Memorial Garden. Thousands from the community, as well as hundreds of men and women from the biker community united together strongly to pay their respects, by riding in Dakota’s 10-mile procession. Many had driven all night long, from out-of-state. It was clear. Dakota’s story affected many. Parents reported holding their children so much closer and conveyed the heavy impact they felt from this devastating loss of a precious baby’s life.
Today, baby Dakota’s family & friends continue to keep her memory alive, by focusing on raising child abuse awareness and sharing her story. Dakota’s grandparents are especially centered on creating a petition towards a new law, one that would grant grandparents more rights. It is with love & hope for change that little Dakota’s story is told. If you know or suspect that a child is being abused, please tell someone. Get help immediately & be the voice that a child needs. In loving memory of baby Dakota.