“He had [lost] so much blood, and they say he broke every bone in his face and fractured his skull. It was so much blood and swelling that the CT scan wasn’t giving them the reading that they needed. The body didn’t look like anything was wrong with it. It was just his head,” says Tracy Betts, Carlvon Betts’ mother, recalling her son’s fatal car accident. “They took him and decided to get the bleeding to stop. At that point he was bleeding out of his ears, out of his nose, his mouth...everything. It wasn’t like just a little blood. It was really like someone turned the faucet on and he was bleeding, and it wouldn’t stop. So they decided to give him some blood, but they needed to give him some medicine to thicken the blood because it wouldn’t clot.”
Tracy says the doctors increased the medicine after the blood still would not clot, but it took a toll on the 17-year-old’s respiratory system. After a while, doctors could no longer force air into his lungs.
“I think maybe after they told us that, it probably wasn’t an hour later they came back and just told us that they did all they could,” Tracy says. “You could tell that he was there,” she continues. “I just felt so bad because I knew he was in so much pain. I just couldn’t imagine the pain.”
“I feel like I’m living in a dream right now. A nightmare that I haven’t woken up from.”
Tuesday afternoon, Carlvon was driving to soccer practice, navigating a road he took everyday. It was all routine to him, except, that day would be his last day leaving his home for soccer practice and traveling down that road.
Born January 26, 1998, to Carlton and Tracy Betts, Carlvon grew up being spoiled by his loving family. He was born the youngest of four until his baby sister, Carsi, arrived nine years later. Tracy says Carlvon – who weighed 10 pounds when he was born – was the cutest little fat baby she had ever seen. It spawned his nickname, ‘Spank,’ which is what all of his eight nieces and nephews call him.
Tracy says that Carlvon had ‘only child syndrome’ despite being the second youngest of five. Carlvon was a good childspoiled rotten, but good. He never got into any trouble; he was on the A-B honor roll and a star soccer player at Newton as a junior. Carlvon had two loves: video games and soccer, which he’d been playing since he was seven or eight years old.
Carlvon started playing soccer when one of his neighbors and now longtime friend, Tyreke Francis, who plays for Eastside, taught him and another friend, Brian, how to play. He’s been doing it ever since. Weekends at the Betts’ household for Carlvon would consist of his friends – Michael, Brian, Terrell and Tyreke – all coming over, hanging out in Carlvon’s room and playing video games all night. They would play each other in different games, but FIFA was a mainstay.
“When he’s in the game...oh my gosh,” Gianna McLemore, Carlvon’s oldest sister, said, speaking of Carlvon’s love for the game. “He’s so passionate about it. If you do something wrong – he’s the captain. A wrong move is like he’s out on the field, ‘I got him. You get over there. You backup. I’m offense now. You go to defense.’ He had it.”
“Me and that boy would sit there and play video games until he falls asleep on the little mic,” Tabb Christopher, Carlvon’s closes brother in age, said laughing. “So I gotta yell while [the family is] asleep. I’m like, ‘Carlvon!’ I’m yelling in the mic trying to be quiet and loud at the same time.”
Tracy is starting a scholarship fund, called the Carlvon Betts Soccer Scholarship, that will extend to schools from Alcovy to Heritage. She says that it will continue on for as long as she lives, and then the torch will pass to her children.
Carlvon wasn’t all about video games and soccer though. He was really interested in culinary arts, something he was studying at the career academy. The family enjoyed hosting their own cook-offs, similar to the popular Food Network competition Chopped. Carsi and Tracy would go pick out random foods and Carlvon and his friends or Carlvon and his dad would try to see who could cook the best meal in the allotted time.
“I loved his omelets. When he came and visited us, I was like ‘I just need you to make me omelets every day’,” said Kanysha Christopher, Tabb’s wife.
If you ask anybody about Carlvon they will tell you he said what he wanted, knew what he wanted, and got what he wanted, especially from his oldest brother, Giovonttie McLemore.
“The other day he called me, ‘[Giovonttie]!’ I said, ‘Carlvon, what you want.’ He said, ‘Dang. Why you doing me like that? You always think I want something.’ I said, ‘You know what, I feel bad now, man. I shouldn’t have did that to you, man’. He said, ‘Nah. For real though, can you send me $50?”
Carlvon got that $50 eventually, after bargaining with Jessel McLemore, Giovonttie’s wife. Tabb says that he was the only one who didn’t spoil Carlvon, and added that he could get almost anything out of Gianna, their older sister. Gianna recalls that once, Carlvon tricked her into taking him to IHOP with the promise that he would pay. It didn’t turn out that way, though; Carlvon made up an excuse about his debit card and got Gianna to pay for him and his guest.
All of Carlvon’s siblings say Carlvon and Carsi were the most spoiled. They recall one recent incident in particular.
When Carlvon was 15, after getting his learner’s permit, he told his parents that it was time for him to get a car. When he turned 16, he got one from his godparents, just not the one he wanted.
“He said, ‘I don’t understand why you and daddy could not go out and buy me a BMW or a Mercedes. Why do I have to drive that used car?,” Tracy recalls, smiling.
Gianna and Tabb get a kick out of talking about that story now.
“Anybody else in the world would be happy they just got a car. Ain’t have to do nothing for it. You in the 11th grade and you got a car, be happy and grateful,” Tabb said laughing. But not Carlvon; he wanted a new car.
Gianna says Carlvon told her, “The windows not even electric. You still gotta roll ‘em with your hand, man. I’m not getting in that car. I’m not driving that car.”
Gianna tried to convince him that he car was OK, and that he should drive it. Carlvon told her, “If you like it so bad, why don’t you trade me then,” Gianna said.
That was one of the few things Carlvon couldn’t swindle Gianna out of. She was not going to give up her car. Still, the 2004 Honda Accord that his godparents gave him sat in the driveway and Carlvon either drove the family’s BMW or truck.
Carlvon’s family describe him as sarcastic, nice, spoiled, kind, and easily frightened.
“This man has slept with my momma ever since he was two, and he just stopped sleeping with her last week,” Giovonttie said laughing.
Apparently, Carlvon didn’t like the dark or thunderstorms and whenever it thundered or he just didn’t want to be alone, Carlvon would go and sleep with his parents. At one point, his parents had a lock on the door, but Carlvon had a key and Tracy says she would wake up to find him in bed.
“He just has to have somebody in that room with him. I could never understand why he did that,” Tracy says.
Even when his friends slept over, Carlvon would have them sleep on the floor in his room instead of sleeping in the other two rooms that were available. Tracey says that Brian told her he had once gotten mad and slept in the other room, but when he woke up, Carlvon was in the bed with him.
The Betts have many fond memories of Carlvon, from the cook-offs to his refusal to eat anything without hot sauce, to a bike accident that badly messed up his toenail.
“When he was, like, four he used to like to ride his bike outside, but he never used to like to wear shoes. He never liked to wear shoes for some odd reason,” Tabb says. “So one time he was riding his bike, just riding around in circles, and just really getting close to the edge with his toes. And he just scrapes his whole toe and he just runs in the house yelling, ‘My toe! My toe!’”
Gianna remembers that day vividly.
“He was outside with his underwear on riding his four-wheeler like, ‘I ain’t got no panties on! I ain’t got no panties on!’ I couldn’t do anything but laugh,” Gianna said, recalling one of her favorite Carlvon memories.
Thinking of her brother, who she calls her baby, Gianna remembers his huge smile and his laugh.
“I can’t think of anything other than that smile right now and that laugh,” Gianna says as she imitates the infamous Carlvon laugh. “Every memory is a favorite,” Gianna adds.
“We were riding around just looking to play basketball,” Tabb, who lives in Minnesota with his wife Kanysha, said of the last time Carlvon came up to visit him, which is also Tabb’s fondest memory of his baby brother. “In the car we were just talking and this was the first time I told him – cause I used to be real mean to him, [trying to make him] tough, and I didn’t realize that I was really messing up my relationship with him. When he came up there, I told him, I explained to him that was the dumbest thing I could’ve did. I should’ve been trying to do this and that.”
Tabb says they had an emotional conversation and talked for two hours. Looking back, Tabb says opening up was the best decision he could have made. The two grew a lot closer after that, even prompting Tabb to say he was Carlvon’s favorite, an assertion that Gianna denies.
Everybody can claim to be Carlvon’s favorite now, but they’ll never know for certain. The truth is, Carlvon was everybody’s favorite. Carlvon’s youngest sister, Carsi, the one he fights with the most, would call him ‘B.B.’ says Tracy Betts. ‘B.B.’ stood for best brother.
“She [Carsi] doesn’t know all her brothers are going to pick up and have to go back home,” Giovonttie said. “She’s going to wake up and Carlvon’s not gooing to be beside her like he always is. His feet on her; their feet on each other. I don’t think she realizes it yet.”
Carlvon Betts will live on forever through the many cherishable memories his family has of him, his friends who play soccer, his teammates, his scholarship fund and the community. At Newton, in one of Carlvon’s classes, his friends have a poster full of names and messages surrounding his name in big font and a huge #2 under a bouquet of flowers where Carlvom used to sit. Tracy says when people from around the county see her in Carlvon’s letterman jacket they tell her they’re sorry for her loss, but many of them she’s never met in her life. If you simply search his name on Twitter or Facebook, a massive amount of overwhelming thoughtful messages, support and love bleeds on to the screen. He touched many lives during his time and you can see it through the love on social media and out in the community. Carlvon Betts always told his family that he would be famous, and now he is.