As beloved American Idol singer Syesha Mercado asks fans and advocacy groups for support in the heated legal battle to regain custody of her children in the state of Florida, the 34-year-old mom-of-two is receiving more love and admiration from fellow Season 7 runner-up, David Archuleta. While in conversation with PopCulture.com about his new single, the 30-year-old expressed how he is in awe of Mercado's strength amid the devastating situation that has found her children, 1-year-old Amen'Ra and 10-day-old Ast with partner Tyron Deener, in child protective services.
"[She's] always been very level-headed, very mature. She's always had this elegance and grace to her sophistication," Archuleta told PopCulture.com exclusively. "It pained me to see her going through this and I was just devastated. I was shocked. Because I'm like, Syesha's such an intelligent, strong human being — a powerful woman and a powerful human."
Archuleta went on to share how he believes Mercado's character aids the circumstances in part to her defiant voice and vigor raising awareness on the matter led most questionably by CPS and Dr. Sally Smith in Manatee County. "There was no one better for this to happen to because the way that she can say, 'This is not right' and to show people — I don't want to see it happen to her, but if it's going to happen, how fortunate, because look at how she's been able to show like, 'Hey, this is happening. This is going on, and we need help,'" because she does it with so much tactfulness, and with her elegance and grace that she does everything with. And it's allowed people to stand by her and support her."
Archuleta, who previously voiced his support to fans and followers via his own social networks including Twitter and Instagram, further praises her strength, admitting he's been keeping her in his thoughts through the heartbreaking ordeal. "I'm so glad that she is strong and I've been praying for her and I'm just glad that it is gaining national attention because it needs to, and I love her. I admire her so much because she's handled it so much better than I sure would have, And I think anyone else. She's incredible."
On Wednesday, Mercado made an emotional plea in a virtual news conference, denying allegations made by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office that she and Deener had mistreated their children, resulting in Mercado and Deener first losing their son, Amen'Ra in mid-March over claims of "severe malnutrition," followed by CPS conducting a roadside welfare check and taking daughter Ast earlier this month. The first-time parents state they have "no criminal background" and "no history with DCF [Department of Children and Families]," while also clarifying they have done "nothing wrong." The couple further shares how their lives revolve around "health, balance and doing what we can to guide our children" and that means "nothing" that is "detrimental" to their infants.
As both Amen'Ra and Ast remain in state protection, Capt. Dennis E. Romano Jr. of the MCSO's Child Protection Investigations Division told PEOPLE that CPS "does not shelter children from families with the intent to keep them separated for long" as the "last thing anyone in this business wants to do is shelter children from their parents, but sometimes it is the only direction we are forced to take." Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has previously criticized the MCSO for "publicly dehumanizing" a Black family with their actions, has taken up the case. Mercado has also created a GoFundMe to help pay for legal costs. The page has raised more than $425,000 as of this writing.