(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Salem, Mass.) - Sitting in his sister's sun-dappled Dorchester home, Wayne Cox said, "I'm dazed. I'm still dazed. I don't understand it."
Cox drove 18 hours, through the night, from Georgia, trying to make sense of it. His cousin, 25-year-old Tanicia Goodwin, is accused of slitting the throats of her two young children, dousing them in lighter fluid and then setting her Salem, Mass. apartment on fire before turning herself in.
"I'm dying. I'm dying a thousand deaths because I knew in my heart he was not gonna be safe," Cox said.
Cox says 3-year-old Erica is hospitalized in stable condition, while 8-year-old Jamaal - who, prosecutors say, Goodwin cut down to his trachea - remains in critical condition. In 2007, the single mother on welfare gave Cox custody of Jamaal to get her life on track, but in 2010 fought to get him back and won.
"He's been battered and now his throat is slit," said Cox. "So yeah, I'm angry as hell with Massachusetts courts because you're not protecting these children."
Cox says he warned judge Joan Armstrong that Goodwin suffered bouts of depression and was schizophrenic. He says he loved her like a daughter, but she wore two faces and beat her son.
"One of the sweetest girls you'd ever want to meet. But there's that flip side of her which is rage," he said.
Goodwin's 17-year-old brother, Derek Goodwin, says that rage was unpredictable and often focused on him.
He said, "It would be from bats - I remember once she beat me with an extension cord."
Her cousin Deborah Cox says Goodwin recently shared her mental health struggles with family.
"She said, 'I know when I don't take my meds, I don't know what's going on and my world is distorted.'" Cox said.I
Cox testified in favor of Goodwin getting Jamaal back, not suspecting anything like this could ever happen. She shudders to think of Erica and Jamal seeing their mom coming at them.
"I just wonder what that little mind is saying ... 'Mommy, mommy.' I don't know," she said.
Despite what Goodwin stands accused of, her family says she's a victim too.
"My sister, I don't want her to be in jail, I want her to get help, from a mental hospital or something," said Derek Goodwin.
A spokesperson from the Department of Children and says they had recent history with the family. They investigated an allegation that Goodwin was abusing Jamaal and found it credible. The spokesperson says they got Goodwin help and counseling and didn't consider the children in continued danger.
As for Wayne Cox's allegation against the court, a spokesperson for the state tells us he entered into an agreement to give Jamaal back to Goodwin voluntarily and, according to court documents, never raised any objection.