ST. PETERSBURG — Seeking shelter from the harsh elements, finding a place to sleep every night and even trying to secure scraps of food for a meal—Jon’Davius Lee Shakespeare knows all too well what it’s like to live the life of a homeless person.
And the man he says was his father was worth millions.
The man who Jon’Davius believes to be his biological father is Abraham Lee Shakespeare, a Lakeland laborer who won $30 million in the Florida Lottery in 2006. Four years later police discovered his body buried underneath a concrete slab in the backyard of a home of his supposed friend, Dorice “Dee Dee” Moore, who was ultimately convicted of first-degree murder.
After winning a lawsuit with the coworker who had actually purchased the winning ticket for him, Abraham bought his first house—a mansion with a $1 million price tag—from a lady Jon’Davius called Mrs. Jackson. It was Jackson who introduced Abraham to Moore, who claimed she wanted to write a book about him. So a meeting was arranged, Jon’Davius, explained, and since Abraham was going through a “financial scuffle because he had miscalculated something,” Moore loaned him some money as a trustworthy friend.
“My daddy was very gullible, he would trust anyone,” the soft-spoken 26 year old said, who shares many facial traits of Abraham. “He had what we call a perfect heart. And in the midst of him having a perfect heart, she took advantage of him. She was a manipulator.”
Offering to help Abraham out with budgeting his money and other financial matters, Moore worked her way into a grateful Abraham’s life. And once she got her foot in the door, Jon’Davius said, she began manipulating everything and putting assets in her name.
Since Abraham could neither read nor write, he trusted Moore and signed off on everything. Judy Haggins, a notary and friend of Moore’s, entered the picture and she and Moore essentially took over Abraham’s finances. He had unwittingly signed over his bank accounts—the realization coming one day when he went to withdraw some of the millions of his own money and the bank informed him that he could not do so without Moore.
“He was confused as to why he could not withdraw any money,” Jon’Davius said. “This should have been a red flag to Bank of America that he didn’t realize what was going on. And Bank of America, being accountable for the money, should have replaced it all back but they didn’t, due to the signature of Abraham Lee Shakespeare that was not actually confirmed as to if he really signed it. But it was a clause in the bank’s policy that states that if fraud has been committed then the money would be replaced, but it had not been confirmed.”
Scammed and manipulated out of millions of dollars, Abraham then contacted Moore and she scheduled a meeting with him at a house that she had bought. Abraham would not come out of it alive.
“My father went late at night to Hillsborough County and that’s where he was allegedly killed,” Jon’Davius said.
Search for identity
It was in 2008 that Jon’Davius left for college at Kentucky State University. One day, Fannie Owen, his foster mother, called Jon’Davius with some news.
“She called and said, ‘Jon’Davius, I think I found your father,’” he explained.
Apparently Owen had spotted a familiar-faced man pushing a stroller down the street and asked him if he knew Jon’Davius. The man—Robert Brown—replied, “Yes, that’s my son.”
Jon’Davius had always thought his parents were Brown and Ericka Sims, yet when Jon’Davius returned to Lakeland for Christmas break, he entered a store and the clerk exclaimed, “Hey, it’s little Abraham!”
“Everyone kind of knew I was Abraham’s child but I didn’t,” Jon’Davius said.
Unbeknownst to Jon’Davius, Abraham was incarcerated at the time, serving a sentence for a driver’s license suspension. It was at Brown’s sister’s house that Jon’Davius was told a startling fact—he was not really Brown’s son.
“You’re not Robert’s son,” Jon’Davius’ supposed aunt had told him, explaining that Robert has a circle face, unlike Jon’Davius’, which is long and oval.
“Even [Brown’s] blind sister felt my face,” Jon’Davius said, saying, “That’s not your child, Robert.”
Overwhelmed, Jon’Davius collected himself and his things and flew back to college on Christmas Day.
“Abraham got out of jail and he went to my grandmother’s house, her name is Kate, looking for me,” Jon’Davius said. “She said, ‘Abraham, how come you keep coming here looking for Jon’Davius?’ meaning he had been there previous times looking to find me. He said, ‘I’ve got to see him, I have to give him something.’ Well, he’s in college,’ she told him, never giving Abraham my phone number, where I was located in college or any other way to reach me, which is unexplainable.”
There was apparently a sense of urgency in Abraham’s tone, Jon’Davius said, “like he suspected something was going to happen to him or something was going to go wrong.” Abraham left a piece of paper with an address on it—written from Abraham to Jon’Davius—with instructions for Jon’Davius to come see him when he got back from college.
“A year after that, I get a strange phone call at two o’clock in the morning,” Jon’Davius recalled. “It was Kate. She said, ‘Jon’Davius, I‘ve got to tell you something. The Lord will not let me sleep. And I keep seeing this man’s face on TV. He came by here looking for you a year ago, and I should have told you then. I want to tell you Robert Brown is not your father. Abraham Shakespeare is your father. Go on Google and look him up.’”
She told Jon’Davius that Abraham had left something for him, and he should come get it when he comes home. On the piece of paper, which Abraham had left for Jon’Davius, was the address to where Elizabeth Walker, Abraham’s mother, lived. Once Jon’Davius came back to Lakeland to visit, he went to see his Grandmother Walker. Jon’Davius knocked on the door and a woman answered:
“Are you Elizabeth Walker?” Jon’Davius asked the woman.
“Hi,” he responded. “I’m your grandson Jon’Davius and Abraham is my father.”
She’d stood there in awe and very confused, Jon’Davius explained, and said it was like a ghost of her son had appeared. She was even scared. Walker told him that she would have the sheriff contact him, and needed him to leave his name and number. Jon’Davius left his number and a week later Abraham’s older brother, Archie Powell, called him.
“Is this Jon’Davius,” Powell asked.
“Yes,” Jon’Davius answered.
“You should be about 25 years old.”
“In St. Pete?”
“We knew about you but couldn’t find you,” Powell admitted.
Failed by the system
“My grandmother had married twice,” Jon’Davius explained, so there are two Shakespeares—James and Abraham—and there’s Archie Powell. And two daughters that she had with the Powell name. So it’s three Powells, two Shakespeares.”
Archie had told Jon’Davius: “My brother told me about you a long time ago. Robert’s a habitual liar. That’s not your father.”
Jon’Davius laments the fact that he could never have known his actual father: “It was very sad because I never had a chance with my father,” he said. “Never.”
He blames the Department of Children and Families (DCF) where social worker Brenda D. Tice worked, not only for failing to do a paternal testing and finding his biological parents but failing to file a statutory rape report that would have revealed at the time that Robert Brown was not the father and Abraham was. Ericka Sims, the mother of Jon’Davius, was 13 when Jon’Davius was conceived and therefore a minor, and when she turned 14 she’d already been four weeks pregnant with him, Jon’Davius said.
“This is because the proper protocol was not used to identify a rape, which had occurred and traumatized 14-year-old Ericka Sims,” he said. “I would have not been adopted out because Elizabeth Walker said that had she known about her grandson and properly notified, she would have raised me herself. She said, ‘I raised his cousin, my other grandson who is 23, you do the math! And Jon’Davius would not have had to fear for his life or be molested at age of 14.’”
“They failed to do a diligent search, they failed to do a background to find any other family members, they failed to follow their own protocol,” Jon’Davius said stoutly.
Instead, at age five he found himself placed in the household of Ron and Loretta Snow, who had given up their own biological daughter for adoption in Pinellas County.
“When I was adopted out to them there was another child there named Charlie,” Jon’Davius said. “Shortly after I was adopted Charlie went missing. Every time I asked about Charlie they said his paperwork never came through. I came to find out Charlie was red flagged because he was from Pinellas County. So when they put their own child up for adoption, it was a red flag and they put Charlie out of the house, not to mention they could not get Charlie’s father to sign over his rights while in prison.”
Jon’Davius believes that since Tice and Ron Snow worked together at the DCF, “a lot of stuff got swept under the rug” and went purposely unnoticed.
Shortly after that Tice retired. According to Jon’Davius, Loretta was Baker Acted after having a mental break down and tried to overdose on pills, and Ron, who had been unfaithful to her, also was eventually Baker Acted for drinking and trying to kill himself with a gun.
One man, many names, no home
“Technically I’ve had three different lives.” he said. “I’ve been Jon’Davius Sims, Jon’Davius Snow, now I’m Jon’Davius Shakespeare. So basically I got lost in the system. I was molested when I was 14; my whole life has been very tragic. I’m at the point now where all I have is my grandmother.”
He has been back in St. Pete now for about a year, he said, and though he does stay at his Grandmother Walker’s house in Lakeland at times, he is still technically homeless.
“I’ve slept on concrete, I’ve slept at shelters,” Jon’Davius said. “I’ve slept in my car for over seven months while trying to pay off my college degree. I’ve slept anywhere I can lay my head down, where I can get a room here and there. I’m by myself; I’m alone. Yeah, I have a college degree but I’m getting laid off from my job because of cutbacks. So it’s like, what am I going to do now? Homeless and without a job.”
In September 2014, Jon’Davius went for a DNA test, and received the results within three days. According to this Bio-Gene test, there is a 99.09 percent probability of kinship between Jon’Davius and Elizabeth Walker. When he made the decision to meet with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, they apparently were not surprised that he had finally come to them.
“I met with the sheriff’s department and I informed them that I was the older son of Abraham Shakespeare,” Jon’Davius explained. “They said to me, ‘we knew about you, but we didn’t have a name. We knew you were coming.’”
After subsequently trying to contact those in charge of Abraham’s estate, Jon’Davius realized they wanted no part of him. They had been making money from running the estate, Jon’Davius said, and that would stop if he were to step in to take the reins.
Shortly after he contacted them, they sold both of Abraham’s houses. The one Abraham had bought for $1 million dollars they sold for less than half—$489,000, to be exact, Jon’Davius said who is convinced they had been trying to “run the money out” so there wouldn’t be anything left.
“When I came into play that changed the whole thing because I’m over 18 and that would make me the legal heir over the estate and they would have no rights. They must replace anything they had spent,” he explained.
On the first of May, Jon’Davius plans to go to court to officially vacate his adoption, which will lawfully claim Ericka Sims as his biological mother and Abraham Shakespeare as his biological father. All this could have been avoided if he had been added to the estate in the first place as he should have been, Jon’Davius believes, since he has the DNA test. He plans to run another test using Abraham’s actual DNA, which he wants to secure from the Hillsborough County medical examiner.
Should he accomplish his aim in court, he plans to take steps to secure what he feels should be rightfully his in the first place.
“I will file for a petition to be the heir over the estate,” he said. “And anything that is missing I will end up suing the estate lawyers.”
Jon’Davius believes things will work out for him in the end, allowing him to finally begin a new life of stability he thinks he deserves. He is not alone.
“I feel very confident,” he said. “I have a lot of people backing me.”
To reach Frank Drouzas, email firstname.lastname@example.org