FIVE months after MINDY McCREADY’s tragic suicide, the father of her oldest son has vowed to begin healing the boy’s broken heart.
Country singer Billy McKnight now has custody of the couple’s 7-year-old son Zander – and in an exclusive ENQUIRER interview, McKnight says he’s determined to put the youngster on the road to emotional recovery.
“Zander often asks me, ‘Did you love my mom?’ ” McKnight – lead singer of the popular country group Soul Circus Cowboys – told The ENQUIRER.
“I’ve told him that he was deeply loved by both his mother and me, but we don’t focus on how Mindy died. Zander understands what happened and says he knows that his mother’s in heaven. I tell him that his mother still loves him and she’s watching out for him. Those are the thoughts that Zander needs to hold close.”
Zander had been living with a foster family since his mother’s Feb. 17 suicide at her home in Cleburne County, Ark. An Arkansas court recently awarded custody of Zander to McKnight, who had a rocky relationship with McCready.
The youngster now lives with Mc Knight and his wife, music promoter Corey Rena-McKnight, in Florida.
“Zander finally has a real chance in life,” McKnight, 47, added. “He’s got a new bike and new friends. He’s rebuilding his life and becoming a very happy boy.”
That’s a huge step forward for the youngster, whose childhood with McCready was a wild roller-coaster ride.
By the time Zander was born, McCready’s once stellar career – topped by the number one hit song “Guys Do It All the Time” – had already flamed out, and she was spiraling downward.
She was arrested numerous times and attempted suicide three times – once while pregnant with Zander. She served two stints in jail for probation violations and publicly battled her drug problems on TV’s “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”
Meanwhile, she and McKnight battled for custody of Zander, and in December 2012 an Arkansas judge awarded her full custody of the boy.
Zander was living with McCready, her boyfriend, music producer David Wilson, and their baby boy Zayne when Wilson committed suicide in their Heber Springs, Ark., home in January. Zander was in foster care when his mother died at age 37 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on the porch of the same home.
McKnight now admits that his own past – including serving jail time in 2005 for assaulting McCready – made it difficult to gain custody of Zander. He’s since gone through rehab and has been sober for seven years.
“I’ve become the man I’ve always hoped to be, for my son’s sake as well as my own,” McKnight told The ENQUIRER.
Zander’s half-brother, 15-month-old Zayne, is in the custody of McCready’s relatives on her father’s side, and McKnight said income from McCready’s continuing record sales and other royalties has been placed in a trust for the boys.
“While Mindy and I had our issues, we all need to forgive her and find some peace with all this,” McKnight said.
“Her legacy is her music and the fact that people enjoyed it.”