LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — We are hearing from the mother of 2-year-old Amari Nicholson for the first time since her boyfriend was arrested for Amari’s murder. Tayler Nicholson has stayed out of the public eye after her son’s body was found this week.
“He was an innocent soul,” she said during an interview with the I-Team. “…He was always a happy baby.”
Metro Police say Terrell Rhodes admitted to beating Amari to death on May 5.
Nicholson tells us she showed up in court Friday to follow her now ex-boyfriend’s criminal case. Rhodes faces charges, including murder.
“Because this man betrayed me. He hurt me,” she lamented.
On May 5, Rhodes lied to police and said a woman took Amari from their place at the Emerald Suites near Paradise and Twain while Nicholson was out of town.
The couple then talked to 8 News Now, sharing a similar story.
“What’s really sickening is that people are making assumptions, thinking that I had something to do with it, that I have her manipulated in some way,” Rhodes told 8 News Now’s Joe Moeller.
The Las Vegas community jumped into action to search for Amari.
“Whatever it takes to bring Amari home, we are pleading for the public’s help,” implored Margarita Edwards with Nevada Child Seekers.
But four days after that interview, detectives say Rhodes confessed to killing Amari and hiding his body.
On Wednesday, the toddler’s remains were found.
“My head just fell. I was disappointed,” Nicholson recalled. “I felt betrayed. I just felt my whole insides just fall out.”
The I-Team has learned one complaint was made to Child Protective Services, alleging neglect last June, but the allegations were found to be unsubstantiated. The case was closed.
Now, on social media, Nicholson has received criticism, people raising questions about whether she had any involvement or knowledge about Amari’s death.
At a vigil Wednesday night, an event to remember Amari turned into harsh words for the mother.
Nicholson says she feels like public enemy No. 1. She understands members of the public are suspicious of her, but she insists she’s just a grieving mother.
“I can’t grieve in peace,” she told us. “I can’t grieve properly at all. I’m being advised to stay home because it’s unsafe.” She added, “I’m the one hurting the most. My baby’s gone. I can’t … it’s hard.”
She declined to say why she left Amari with Rhodes while she was in Colorado to help her mother, but she insists she had no knowledge of what happened to Amari.
Vanessa Murphy: “Did you believe Terrell when he said a woman came back to pick up Amari?”
Tayler Nicholson: “I did. I had to trust him, and I would have never fathomed that this would have been the outcome.”
Murphy: “Was there ever a point before his arrest where you didn’t believe him?”
Nicholson: “No, not necessarily didn’t believe, just started being more aware of the signs, until on Wednesday, when we went to Metro.”
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson says investigators have found no evidence to believe Nicholson committed a crime.
“At this point, the information that’s been provided to me by the authorities is that she didn’t lie,” he told the I-Team. “And although some may question some of the judgements and decisions that she made, that doesn’t rise to the level of criminal behavior.”
Nicholson says she is planning private arrangements to mourn the loss of her son.
“You still see him running around; you still see everything. You still hear everything,” she said. “And now, we just gotta live through what he loves the most to keep his spirit close to all of us until that one time we could see him again.”
The I-Team also asked Wolfson whether he will seek the death penalty against Rhodes. He says it’s too early to know right now.
The DA notes his office is considering attempted murder charges against Rhodes after police say he fought with officers and grabbed an officer’s gun.