Teal Baptiste felt a knot form in her stomach when her 8-year-old son came through the door without his older brother by his side.
Young Ahmad had gone off to play Sunday afternoon with his 12-year-old brother, Corion, and two other boys during a family visit to North Charleston's Union Heights neighborhood. Now, Ahmad had returned alone, wet and dirty.
She asked him what happened. Ahmad wouldn't say. He seemed out of sorts. He kept asking for a blanket, though it was 100 degrees in the house.
Baptiste took to the streets to search for her missing son, the sensitive boy she called her hero. Hour after hour, calling his name, looking in yards, asking others if they had seen him. Sunset came, then darkness. Quickly, hope began to fade for the single mom of six.
"I could feel it in my stomach, like a mother's intuition," she said, a tear sliding down her cheek. "I just knew something bad had happened to him."
When North Charleston police finally found Corion Baptiste shortly before midnight, the boy had been dead for hours inside a locked shipping container facility off Spruill Avenue. He had been crushed by a piece of heavy equipment while playing with friends, police said.
Corion, Ahmad and two other boys had sneaked onto the property of California-based ConGlobal Industries looking for something to do around 5 p.m. on a steamy summer afternoon. The sprawling site is loaded with containers, transport equipment and other industrial gear -- just the type of stuff that would attract curious boys.
Though the lot is surrounded by chain-link fence topped with barbed wire and "Beware of Dog" signs, the boys managed to crawl beneath the fencing and get inside, police said.
There, they found two top loaders, forklift-like devices used to load containers. Corion climbed aboard one, while another boy mounted the other.
They were able to start the machines and were driving around the yard when the machine Corion was on suddenly tipped during a maneuver and threw him to the ground, police spokesman Spencer Pryor said. The other boy didn't see Corion and ran him over with the second top loader, he said.
From the extent of his injuries, Corion likely died on impact, the county coroner's office would later say.
His friends and Ahmad soon scattered and ran home. Afraid they would get in trouble, they kept quiet about the accident for hours, Pryor said.
Baptiste said Ahmad finally told her that "Bubby" -- their nickname for Corion -- had been hurt. He told her that one of the other boys had threatened to harm him if he told anyone what had happened, she said.
The mother of one of those boys called police at 11:41 p.m. to report Corion missing. The Arbutus Street woman told a 911 dispatcher her 11-year-son was claiming Corion "was driving a truck or something" and had crashed.
"This was way earlier, hours ago, and we can't find the little boy and we don't know what it is," she told the dispatcher.
The 11-year-old agreed to lead police to the scene and showed the officer just how he had crawled under the fence earlier, according to a police report.
The officer found Corion on the ground next to a running top loader. Corion appeared to have been crushed and had been dead for some time, a report stated. The officer used bolt cutters to remove a gate lock and let other emergency workers into the site.
Pryor said he didn't know how the boys got the machines started. Baptiste said she was told the machines were left with keys in their ignitions.
Police have made no arrests in connection with the incident, and investigators plan to consult with the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office before deciding whether to bring charges, Pryor said.
ConGlobal representatives declined to comment Monday, and a worker asked a reporter to leave the property.
A couple of miles away, Baptiste grieved with family and friends at her mother's house as they struggled to make sense of the episode and accept that young Corion was gone.
Baptiste said she recently moved from Union Heights but took her children back there often so they could see friends. Sunday's visit seemed like any other and she thought nothing of it when Corion went off to play around 3:30 p.m.
"He waved and said 'Bye Mama.' That was the last time I saw him."
Baptiste said Corion had long been her helper and faithful supporter. She called him her hero after he woke her and helped their family escape when their Iris Street home caught fire in 2005. He had also tried to take on the role as man of the family after two of his older brothers went to jail about a year ago in connection with a shooting, she said.
It was not always easy for Corion, a student at Sixth Grade Academy. Over the years, kids at school had often picked on him and called him names because he had light skin and hair, Baptiste said. But he was smart as a whip, inquisitive and good with computers. She always figured he'd become a lawyer someday.
"He really was my hero," she said. "He felt everything I felt. And whenever I was having a bad day, he would know just what to say to make me feel better."
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556.