In hindsight, the romance between Roberts and James was probably doomed from the start. She had previously dated a younger guy named Rey Hernandez, and the relationship haunted her new life. While pregnant with Jae, she even claimed on Facebook to be carrying Hernandez's child.
"this is me n reys bby soo stay out of my damn bisness we will get tested n ill prove to all u guys how dumb u r," reads one post from May 22, 2014.
At some point, James realized Roberts was sending someone else racy photos of herself using a cell phone he'd given her, his mother says. He shut off the phone, but he didn't break up with her.
"He stayed with her, because he wanted a family," Peggy says.
But even the birth of the couple's son got off to a rocky start. James arrived at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for what he thought would be an intimate, private event and found Roberts' room crowded with her relatives, including cousins. He was so angry, Peggy had to walk him out to another part of the hospital, where they waited until Jae arrived. He finally saw his son, who initially struggled to breathe, in the neonatal intensive care unit about six hours after the little boy was born.
The new parents eventually returned to James' house and settled into an uneasy alliance. But trouble was coming. Hernandez was never far from the picture, and his mother, Jessica Garcia, says he truly believed Roberts was carrying his child.
"My son was prepared to take care of a little boy that he was told was his," Garcia tells the RFT.
When Jae was five months old, in February 2015, Roberts dumped James and returned to Hernandez, Peggy says. And while under other circumstances the couple might have just gone their separate ways, they now had a child together, as a court-ordered paternity test would later prove.
Co-parenting didn't get any easier after the breakup. Roberts and the baby had moved into a Gravois Avenue apartment with her younger brothers, her mother Dana Burkett and Burkett's boyfriend, 33-year-old Jerome "Lucky" Ingram. But the Cobbs suspected Ingram of using and dealing drugs out of the crowded apartment, endangering Jae. They made a series of complaints to the state Division of Family Services in the spring of 2015. Those concerns prompted the agency to make a welfare check on April 13.
Escorted by city cops, staff members climbed the stairs to the second-floor apartment and met Ingram in the doorway. Upon entering, officers quickly spotted a bag of marijuana on the couch and a bottle of pills on a table, according to a police report.
When they asked Roberts about the baby, she pointed them to a back bedroom. Burkett told police it was where she and Ingram slept.
"I opened the door and immediately was overwhelmed by the smell of raw marijuana," an officer wrote in the report. "I observed the baby in a bouncy seat next to the bed."
The officers searched the room and found more than a dozen clear plastic bags of marijuana, a rock of crack cocaine, more pills and three pistols – a Taurus Judge .45-caliber, a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver and a Llama .45.
Ingram was charged with seven counts of drug and weapons possession. Despite the felony charges, he was sentenced in October to just two years of probation.
And while the report indicates that police planned to stick Roberts with endangering the welfare of a child, charges were never filed. A spokeswoman for the Circuit Attorney's Office agreed to look into the case and others flagged by the RFT for this story, but she hadn't provided any answers as of press time.
The police report notes the complaints to family services were anonymous, but Peggy is positive Roberts and her family knew that the Cobbs were responsible for sending the police to their door. She was even more sure when someone called the cops two weeks later and claimed to have seen James flashing a pistol out of the window of his Cadillac. Police arrested him in early May on a gun charge, but the complaint was quickly dropped when an investigator couldn't reconnect with the supposed witness.
Peggy believes Roberts was angry about the family services raid and filed a bogus police report to get back at her son.
"That was their retaliation," she says.