Keep It Classy: Portland woman’s journey to redemption

Special Reports

She lost a son and battled addiction. Now this Portland woman is launching a business.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — October is a painful month for Chrystal Davis. For her, the changing leaves take her back to Halloween seven years ago. She was waiting for her two sons to walk home from the bus stop. She expected them to come through the door at any minute. Instead, she heard a knock on the door and opened it to find a police officer. 

“They told me, ‘Jayden’s going to be OK. Jayden’s going to make it.’ It’s kind of like, they tell you that good news because they want to give you the good news before they give you the bad news,” Davis remembered. 

Her sons Jaydan and Jaquis Thornton, ages 8 and 10, had just stepped off the school bus when two cars collided on Southeast Division Street in Gresham and struck them. 

Jaquis died two days later and Jaydan suffered serious injuries and was hospitalized for over a week. 

Davis remembers the day her son died, the doctor praying over him, his heartbeat flatlining, her own consuming grief. And she remembers having to go on caring for her other son, Jaydan, while he recovered. 

“I had no time to really grieve,” she said. “You still got one kid sitting there with two big old casts, smashed face, lacerated liver, all that.” 

From left to right: Billy Davis, Chrystal Davis, and Jaydan Thornton gather around a bench dedicated to Chrystal’s son Jaquis Thornton. Jaquis died after he was injured by a car crash in 2014. Photo taken Aug. 10, 2021. (KOIN)

Davis thought she’d seen the worst part of her life. She had no idea more obstacles lay ahead. 

At the time of the incident, Davis said she was recovering from a knee injury. Her doctor had prescribed her oxycodone for the pain. She soon realized the medication didn’t only help her physical pain, it also helped numb her emotions. She said it gave her the energy to keep going and to take care of Jaydan. 

“I was trying to just take it all so I could take care of my needs, you know? Whenever all this is done, I’ll quit. But when you get into it like that, you can’t quit,” she said. 

Davis’ addiction led to her involvement in a federal case against a Portland nurse practitioner, Julie Ann Demille. On July 28, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Demille was charged in a 39-count indictment. The indictment named Davis as a co-conspirator.  

The Department of Justice said Demille was illegally distributing oxycodone and hydrocodone through a clinic in Southeast Portland. Court records say she wrote thousands of prescriptions for opioids. The indictment claims Davis and others would obtain medical records from prospective customers and use them to get access to controlled substance prescriptions. 

Davis said federal officers arrested her, but in March 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office dismissed charges against her. However, she was still required to attend an addiction rehabilitation program. 

Demille pleaded guilty to charges in December 2018 and was sentenced to four years in prison in March 2019.

Davis went to the Volunteers of America Women’s Residential Center in Portland for rehabilitation. She was assigned a counselor to oversee her treatment and a “big sister” to help get her situated in the program. 

Her “big sister,” Christie Odom, was going through addiction treatment herself at the time. Now, she works at the VOA Women’s Residential Center as the intake counselor. She remembers Davis struggling to adjust to the program at the beginning. 

“She was struggling really bad. I noticed that she was really, like, fighting her own demons,” Odom remembered. 

Davis said sobriety was forcing her to face the grief of losing her son for the first time. 

Odom said when she saw Davis crying, she’d remind her that while she can’t bring her son Jaquis back, she can still change her life. 

“She started going to the classes. She started cheering up and really fighting her battle,” Odom said. “I watched her from the ground up.” 

Davis said the VOA gave her the opportunity to meet other people who were putting their lives back together. It also allowed her to make new friends and taught her to set goals for herself. 

She completed the six-month program, but things didn’t suddenly become easier after that. Davis said she experienced homelessness and was living out of hotel rooms and her car before finding housing. 

Once she had a place to call home, that’s when Davis said she could dive into her true passion: holistic studies. She started making soap and moisturizers. She said her son, Jaquis, was her inspiration. He suffered from eczema before he died and Davis wanted to develop organic treatments for the skin condition. 

Chrystal Davis sits on a chair surrounded by her family members and friends on July 7, 2021. (KOIN)

“At that point, I never looked at it as a career or something that I wanted to do. It was just something that saved my life,” Davis said. “That’s what made me happy. That’s what took all that anger and hurt and pain.”

She said working on skin and hair products kept her busy and helped her stay away from drugs after leaving her rehabilitation program. 

She took courses online and learned how organic materials could be used for hair and skin health. She also took a course on cannabidiol, or CBD, and how it can be used in her products. 

“I was like a secret nerd, but people who saw me, they wouldn’t be like, ‘Nah, she ain’t doing that on the side,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I like,’ you know that was my little niche that I liked doing,” Davis said. 

Chrystal Davis’ mother, Billy Davis, remembers when Chrystal was first experimenting with her products. She said the products were effective and helped regrow her hair, but everyone in the apartment was suffering from the strong smells. 

“The menthol odor was so strong. It was overwhelming, and I was like, ‘It works! But you got to do something about that odor nobody’s not going to buy it,’” Billy said, laughing at the memory. 

Eventually, Chrystal Davis did find ways to minimize the strong scents and in 2020, she launched her brand Keep It Classy LLC. Her son, Jaydan Thornton, who’s now 15, designed the logo. He said he’s proud of his mom for pursuing her dreams and not giving up on her business idea. 

Chrystal Davis makes and sells soaps, lotions, and oils. (KOIN)

“She decided she wanted to be an entrepreneur and owner of business and leave some kind of mark on this world,” Thornton said. 

Davis started selling her products through her Facebook and Instagram pages in 2020 and in 2021, she started selling at markets in the Portland area. Recently, she launched a new website and she said the owner of a local bodega is selling her products at his store. 

This is only the beginning, Davis said. She said she’s not going backwards, only forwards with her brand. She’s hoping to become so successful that she can one day donate part of her profits to VOA. She’s also looking for opportunities where she can support other grieving parents or young women struggling with addiction. 

One day, Davis said she’d like to be a holistic doctor. 

Davis said she took her family “through hell and back,” but now, her family is overjoyed to see how far she’s come 

From left to right: Jaydan Thornton, Billy Davis, and Chrystal Davis sit at their Keep It Classy booth at a market in Portland on Aug. 21, 2021. (KOIN)

“Not a lot of people can say that they were able to overcome that kind of situation,” Thornton said,” and I’m glad that she did.

“I have to give my girl two thumbs up,” Billy said. 

Davis said she isn’t just pursuing this dream for herself and the family she has around her, but also for the son she lost seven years ago. 

“If my son was here today. He would be so happy,” she said. “He would be so proud of me.”

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