Biography of Joshua Puckett
Joshua Puckett was born on the west side of Detroit to a lesbian couple, Christine Puckett and “Michelle,”
Joshua Puckett was born on the west side of Detroit to a lesbian couple, Christine Puckett and “Michelle,” who were intentional in their decision to have a child. Joshua’s father, Joseph Creedon, was a gay man who consented to donate and be “Uncle Joe.” Christine’s relationship with Michelle didn’t last and she soon found herself a single mother.
Christine was a troubled woman who struggled with bi-polar disorder and the social condemnation of being a single mother and a lesbian. She ran a modest real estate business in which she and Joshua moved into a house, fixed it up, rented it out and moved on to the next house. Because of their transient lifestyle, Joshua rarely had the opportunity to develop childhood friendships.
While Christine and Joshua were struggling to make it in Detroit, Joseph Creedon was living in Seattle where he worked for Boeing Aircraft and became very active in Seattle’s gay community. In 1985 Joseph contracted HIV. Shortly following his diagnosis Joseph sought a relationship with his only child. Joshua’s mother took him to Florida where he met his father for the first time. Joseph celebrated the following Christmas with Joshua. What followed were fun-filled Washington summers shared between Joseph and Joshua; hiking, sailing, gatherings with Joseph’s friends and the forming of a true father-son bond. Joseph had established a chosen family from within Seattle’s that also embraced Joshua and treated as a surrogate son.
As Joshua’s and Joseph’s relationship flourished during their summer visits, Christine’s relationship with Susan Pittmann soared. With Susan in her life, Christine’s disposition improved and their real estate business grew stronger. Joshua witnessed their love for one another during their commitment ceremony in Detroit. Even though the State of Michigan didn’t recognize their marriage, for the first time Joshua was overjoyed for the sense of normalcy that came with being the son of married parents.
Beautiful albeit Brief
In Seattle, however, Joseph sank deeper into his terminal illness. With mortality staring him in the face, Joseph’s desire to be Joshua’s full time parent grew. Eventually, Joseph fought for custody of Joshua and won. Joshua was too young to understand his mother being declared an unfit parent; he just wanted to be in the place and with the person who made him the happiest. Joshua not only enjoyed spending time with his father, he admired him greatly. Joseph was everything Joshua wanted to be: successful, charismatic and intelligent.
Over the years, Joseph’s health went from bad to worse. When the part-time hospital stays became full-time, custody of Joshua was given to a loving gay couple, who were friends of his father. Joshua visited his father in the hospital several times a week. Each visit was more painful than the last. Joseph’s condition worsened and he became a deteriorated version of the man Joshua knew. Joshua struggled with his emotions and began acting out. It was more than any family was prepared for. When his new family were at a loss for how to deal with Joshua’s emotional issues and acting out they were forced to turn him over to the state’s foster care system. Where he was bounced from home to home. When the foster care system lost his file, Joshua was left to fend for himself. He spent most days wandering through the streets of Seattle, because he chose not to burden the chosen family his father had created when Joshua first came to live with him. His family would have gladly cared for Joshua but Joshua never reached out to them for help. Instead he ate meals at the Orion House, slept on park benches and even squatted in abandoned houses with other homeless kids.
Thanksgiving 1991: Joseph lost his battle with AIDS.
Although the 14-year old was suffering the devastating loss of his father, Joshua was forced to take on Washington courts to get back in his mother’s care. Because she couldn’t afford to live in Seattle throughout the custody battle, Christine resolved to send money to a PO Box so Joshua could sustain himself and appear in court on his own behalf. The abuse he witnessed and suffered while living in foster homes was far less appealing than being a vagrant on the Seattle streets.
Back to Michigan, Mom & Murder
In February 1992, Joshua returned to Michigan and the care of Christine. She made a considerable attempt at giving Joshua a “normal” life. Christine enrolled Joshua in a Lutheran school in Huron Township where he did well socially and academically. They lied about their home life; Christine even went so far as to wear dresses and attend church. Joshua settled in nicely and was happy to have a home again.
May 5, 1992, just six months after watching his father perish; Joshua experienced another life-altering event that would prove to be more difficult to bounce back from than the death of his beloved father.
James Brooks, the family’s next door neighbor had been on ongoing source of annoyance for Christine and Susan. The neighbors squabbled over foliage that bordered the property line. However, Christine and Susan were unaware that Brooks’ anger went far beyond overgrown trees and brush; Brooks was a homophobe and disapproved of Christine’s and Susan’s lifestyle. On that ill-fated day in May, Brooks gunned Christine and Susan down in their driveway in broad daylight – with little concern for their lives, their families or Joshua Puckett. “I had to do it,” is all Brooks offered as an explanation.
For Joshua, however, May 5, 1992 was far less inconsequential.
It was a typical spring day. Following track practice, Joshua was surprised when his grandfather showed up to pick him up instead of Christine. His grandfather escorted him back into the school where Joshua was informed that his mother had died. Joshua was advised that “all things happen for a reason” and “everything is God’s plan.” Those words were the only counseling/guidance the grieving boy received subsequent to the murder of his family.
Joshua’s grandfather took him “home” to gather what he needed to start yet another new life. When they arrived, Joshua bore witness to a horrific site no child should ever have to see. News crews were scattered about. In front of Joshua, the driveway displayed bloody chalk outlines delineating the place where Christine Puckett and Susan Pittmann spent the last seconds of their lives. That moment etched into the 14-year old boy’s memories forever. “My heart stopped, my life stopped, my hope for anything normal stopped. I was alone in this world.” – Joshua Puckett
Alone in the World
Joshua began his new life in Livonia, Michigan. He lived with his grandparents for a short time before he moved in with his uncle and prepared for high school. His uncle was a bachelor, didn’t have experience with children and was not equipped to deal with the grieving teenager. Desperately trying to protect Joshua, his grandfather shielded him from James Brooks’ trial and anything to do with the deaths of his mothers.
Joshua made his best attempt at adjusting to his new life and his remaining family did what they could. His aunt took him to Washington DC to see the AIDS Memorial Quilt which included panels memorializing Joseph. Joshua also appeared as a guest on the Gordon Elliott Show where the topic was having homosexual parents. As Joshua pushed through the pain, he began acting out and his behavior became something the family couldn’t gain control over.
Joshua dealt daily with feelings of anger, rage, regret and despair. He started getting in trouble, skipping school, chasing girls, drinking and drugs. It wasn’t long before Joshua ended up in an outward-bound program in Idaho for troubled youth. He was successful in the program, however, when he returned to Michigan, his uncle had kicked him out.
Where the Outcome is Nearly Always Death or Prison
With nowhere else to go Joshua went back into a “system” merciless on teens nearing adulthood. At age 17, Joshua permanently moved in with an older “friend” and was introduced to a lifestyle where drugs and guns were as typical as toilet paper. When the “friend” stole his truck, Joshua knew he could no longer stay there. He turned to another acquaintance who introduced him to a group that agreed to take Joshua in.
For the first time in a long time, Joshua felt he was part of a family. Indifferent to the fact that his new family was a gang (referred to as the IGMs or Insane Gangster Mafia), Joshua belonged. He had spent many years living in chaos and struggling to find acceptance and love. The gang lifestyle boasted many qualities that were very attractive to the nomadic teen. But Joshua’s motivation was simple, if not conventional: instant family/best friends and steadfast loyalty. Joshua immediately developed the mind-set that, in exchange for the complimentary acceptance furnished by the IGM’s, Joshua would do whatever it took to fit into gang.