ATLANTA — Robin Moss has gone through the unthinkable.
She has fought, and lost, to keep her granddaughter safe from an abusive situation. She was helpless as her granddaughter, 10-year-old Emani Moss, was starved to death.
She bore the emotional toll of a trial in Emani’s murder that sent her son to prison for life, and this week delivered a death sentence to her former daughter-in-law, Tiffany Moss. Watch the moment the death penalty was read.
After it all, she has just one goal: see that it never happens again.
Robin Moss spoke to 11Alive's Joe Henke Friday, breaking a long silence through the ordeal. She said she wanted to tell Emani’s story, expressed her still-simmering frustrations with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services and, perhaps surprisingly, explained she didn’t actually want to see Tiffany Moss get the death penalty.
Walking by the mantle in her home, where she keeps Emani’s picture and an urn with her ashes, she said she would speak to her granddaughter as the trial neared a resolution.
“I said, ‘Emani we almost done, we almost there, we got another step to go through and then we’ll be home free,’” Robin Moss said. “’Then you can rest in peace.’ Just wanted her to rest, you know, she deserved to rest after five years.”
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STRUGGLE WITH THE STATE
Emani Moss died in 2013, her body found burned inside a trash at a Gwinnett County apartment complex. Authorities said she had been starved to death by stepmother Tiffany and father Eman, in one of the worst cases of child abuse officials said they had ever seen.
Before that, Robin Moss tried to save her granddaughter.
Despite numerous incident reports indicating Emani was abused for years, she was returned to the home by even after Tiffany Moss pleaded guilty to beating her in 2010.
Later incidents, including one in 2012 in which she tried to run away, still failed to spur Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services to action.
"I feel bad because it’s like no matter how much I fought, it was just like no one there to help me, no one," Robin Moss said. "No matter how many times I went down there -- and I took my sisters, I took a lot of people down there to fight. Down to DFCS, to fight them, because they wanted me to give her back and I didn’t want to give her back after the six months.
"And then they put her back in that home, and I knew that when they put her back in that home, that was it."
Robin Moss said she didn’t have faith the state would meaningfully improve its child welfare system.
“They need to know -- and all grandparents need to know -- that the fight is on, and we have to go out there and we have to do what we have to do to save a child,” she said. “I haven’t really seen them really step in and do anything. I heard about all the things they’re gonna do, but I haven’t seen them do anything.
“And when I can see that concept, when I can see that you saved a child, then that changes my mind that you can really do this. But if I can’t see that concept of you doing anything but just talk, I’m not gonna trust that. I need more than just talk. I need you to perform, I need you to go in these homes and save these children, cause not one child deserve what my granddaughter got.”
LOSING THREE GRANDCHILDREN
Meanwhile, Tiffany Moss' own children -- Emani's half-siblings -- were well-fed and provided for.
"I can’t because I don’t understand why these are healthy, Tristan and Emma healthy, and why my granddaughter is in a room starving to death," Robin Moss said. "Why are you mistreating her, and you’re not mistreating any of the other ones? And that’s when I know that nothing’s wrong with you, you’re just a mean person."
With Tristan and Emma since adopted by foster parents, Robin Moss said she felt like she had lost three grandchildren.
"If I can’t have them, then I pray that the Lord will bless them in a loving home, that will teach them how to love," she said. "Because I don’t believe they know how to love. Because their mother didn’t show love. She might have shown love to them, but they’re watching her mistreat another child, so that’s not love, and I don’t want them to get it confused. They need to know what real love is – it’s caring and loving and taking care of someone, it’s not a pretend thing, it’s a serious thing."
'NO TRUTH TO TELL'
While Tiffany Moss was sentenced to death, Robin Moss said that's not the outcome she had hoped for.
She wanted her to feel the same kind of treatment she gave to Emani.
“I trusted him (Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter) to do what he needed to do,” Robin Moss said. “But I wanted her to live and suffer, never ever ever ever get out, cause I wanted her to feel what my granddaughter felt. I wanted her to understand what she had done to a child.”
She said the only solace she got was the sense of justice in the guilty verdicts on all six counts against Tiffany Moss.
"I was happy when she got sentenced for all six counts, that made me feel good, that’s some justice, that’s like, ‘Wow, finally justice after five years,'" Robin Moss said. I was very nervous, I didn’t know what was gonna be what. The whole time I was probably rocking and praying, rocking and praying.
"A lot of times when you saw my hands in my face, I’m praying, asking God to give me strength. Just strength just to carry on, because it’s hard, it’s hard to see the pictures of her, it’s hard to relive all this stuff."
During the trial, she said she prayed, "Let only truth come out her mouth, and if no truth can come out of her mouth, then don't let her say a word."
Tiffany Moss represented herself, and stayed silent throughout the trial.
"Just sitting there, I was hoping she would have said something. But no truth. All she did was grin and smile like everything’s a joke. So I don’t know, I have to go with what I see. The Lord just didn’t let her speak, that’s the way I see it.
"I think she had no truth to tell."
Robin Moss said she was compelled to finally speak to tell Emani's story and to make sure no other child would be failed so badly again.
"Even if it’s taking them out of a home that’s being (abusive), that’s worth it, because that’s still life, and I would rather have a child taken out of a home to keep them alive than be in a home and the next week they’re gone," she said. "So that’s my goal, I just want to see all children living."
Robin Moss said children deserve better.
"I just want people to wake up and look around and notice that our kids are lacking the love they’re supposed to have," she said. "They need attention, they need love, you have kids that’s bullying children for no reason. Why? Because they’re not getting the love that they supposed to have. They might be getting bullied at home.
"I just want us all to wake up to save our children. It’s time."