Out Of The Blue

She was a normal 12 year old girl in a pep club uniform. She was standing with friends after a football game, waiting for her stepfather to pick her up.

When a man suddenly pulled up in his vehicle and took her.

Bystanders watched as she screamed. But they thought it was a father/daughter fight and didn't want to get involved. Her stepfather somehow missed her in the crowd as he drove around the school.

Most often children are taken and no one sees the crime occur. But this one happened in plain sight.

These men have no regard for others or for the sanctity of human life. Just to show you how they compartmentalize, the man had just stopped at his brother's house perhaps an hour before. The brother's wife had fed him brownies fresh from the oven. They had exchanged pleasantries.

And then the man got up and got into his car and trolled a school. Where a girl with dark hair in a pep club uniform caught his eye. He was very daring in his crime. No one tried to stop him. Those bystanders would be the last to see her alive.

He took her to his nearby trailer. Where he did unspeakable things to her. Where he choked her until she was almost gone, then let her cough her way back to life. Only to do it again. And again.

At some point he tired of her. He drove a ways and dumped her body at the side of a road, sans her pep club uniform, which was never found.

The man stole a car, and early the next morning he was pulled over by a street cop and arrested for car theft.

He was already sitting in jail before they found her body. And then the focus went from his stealing a car to the fact that he had a history of molesting children. They didn't even have to hunt him down.

I remember it was November, a few years after this horrible tragedy, when I did my leg work and interviewed her mother and started putting the puzzle pieces together to write about this.

In fact it was Thanksgiving morning when I took her mother the article I had written. I had promised her she could read it and check all the facts before I gave it to a regional editor.

I sat in her quiet house, trying to be invisible, while she turned the pages. I seem to remember a clock ticking somewhere in the house. The empty house.

Her life had been torn apart. Losing her 12 year old daughter was bad enough in and of itself. Losing her to a random sicko who used her and tossed her in the bushes like a piece of trash was quite another.

I had joint custody of my daughters. They usually spent half the holiday with their father, the latter half with me. I left her house before noon, and drove home and cooked a turkey. Made all the fixings. And all the while I could not get that mother's face out of my mind.

I recall one day the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the man and sent him to Death Row went with me to her grave site. It had been a very difficult case to prosecute. He was a father just as I was a mother. I think this case nearly undid him.

When faced with her tombstone, I saw that his emotions were rising to the surface, so I gave him some space. I walked amongst the tombstones away from him. He at least deserved that bit of time to try and put this behind him. For there would always be another murder. Another child. Another man to prosecute.

Out of nowhere I heard the sounds of a school band begin to play a Christmas carol. I stopped walking and listened. It was likely her school, which was nearby. The last place where she was just an innocent young girl, in her pep club uniform, having fun at a football game.

I looked over at the assistant district attorney and our eyes met. He heard it too. That was what did me in. The music. The band, amateur young musicians, missing a note here and there. Just children, whose classmate was no longer among them.

I never went back there again. I moved away a few years later and never saw the prosecutor again.

Last night, out of the blue, I got it into my head to Google the man who went to Death Row. I found that he has been dead for nine years. He had died of natural causes.

Which meant he had 20 years to sit in prison. Twenty more Christmases than Jen had.

I also found that the lead prosecutor had died just a few years ago. All the principal characters, gone.

When I turned the lights off, I thought of each one of them for awhile. One a prosecutor, one a 12 year old girl, her whole life ahead of her. And a monster, who had hurt many children over the years without being punished.

It took the death of Jen to stop him. To put him in a cage until he died. He would not have a chance to hurt another child. But stopping him had cost her her life.

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  1. What a tragic story Brenda and hauntingly beautiful photos.

  2. WOW! I tink that this would stay in my mind forever if I were involved in any way. I didn't know that you worked for the media. You really saw the good and bad of life didn't you?

  3. What a heartbreaking story, but thank you for sharing it all the same. There really are no words to say, just sadness over such a tragedy.

  4. What a sad story. It is a reminder of the world we live in. Things and people are not always as they seem. It's a shame that people sit on death row so long. Is there ever really any justice?

  5. Such a sad time for you I bet..gives me the chills someone could do this to an innocent sweet young girl...God Bless her sweet soul and damn him to hell!!! where I am sure he is...so many predators in this world anymore its scarey...no one is safe anywhere today :-( Carol

  6. This is a cut and dried case for a quick death penalty if I ever saw one. The fact that we have to house these monsters makes my stomach turn. I pray for peace for the mother and a future happy reunion in Heaven with her beloved daughter.

  7. Can you tell us the child's name? Maybe just her first name? I believe that a person is never forgotten if someone remembers his or her name.
    Is the mom still alive? I'll pray for her.

  8. Gulp.

    Whew. Heavy.

    May she rest in peace awaiting the Coming of Our Savior.

  9. So very sad. I can't imagine even waking up in the morning after losing a child like that.

  10. This is so unbelievable sad. As a mother, this would be my worst nightmare. I don't know how any parent goes on after the death of the child, especially in an instance such as this, knowing how she suffered in the end.

  11. Beautiful are the photos!
    Greetings, RW & SK

  12. This was a hard one for me to read tonight. My girl is 12 years old now and starting to enjoy some of the freedoms that come with being in middle school and I just can't imagine how horribly painful it must have been for her family. I remember you writing about her before but now it hits a little bit closer. I am glad that you keep her memory alive when so many of those who fought for her are now gone.

  13. Brenda,

    Your recounting of this horrible tragedy made me stop - smack in the middle of reading it - to try and grip the reality of your previous career. You must be a very strong individual to be able to interview parents of victims, write about the facts, and with each edit, repeat the monstrous crime in your mind, the torn faces of the parents and the eery and haunting experience of the victim. Work experience such as yours, I imagine, never takes a leave of absence, for it is simply too embedded in your mind and your heart.

    Thank you for this story and its accompanying images. And, although I couldn't read it fast enough, it made me slow down to appreciate the health and safety of my loved ones.


  14. Oh Brenda, who can understand these horrible things...your work must have been so draining and difficult in that you had to live them alongside the victims and families :( It is hard to fathom losing a child, let alone to something like that. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it :(

  15. Such a horrible story and a reminder that we need to be more and more vigilant when it comes to child predators. xo Laura

  16. What is our society doing to create so many perps?

    Why is it easier to catch someone for stealing a car than killing a girl?

    You bear witness Brenda. I have no idea why G*d has given you this skill. We need your grace in telling these stories.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  17. Unreal where people are in our world today. As a parent and grandparent, I grieve for anyone who would have to deal with this kind of situation. Humanly, one can never forget what this person has done to this girl and others. The only peace I can bring to my mind is knowing God will bring His justice one day.
    You take care.

  18. How tragic and so very sad..We all need to keep our eyes open

  19. Maybe fate stepped in when he stole that car that morning and was arrested. Just maybe another innocent child was spared from this animal. I reported several of these cases when I was working in Superior Court here, and believe me you never forget them. You wrote a beautiful tribute to Jen, thank you for doing so.

  20. I do not know how people can work in cases like this and remain sane. Truly. I admire(such an understatement) those who can. I googled the details of the last post you wrote of the two girls who vanished and think I found the case you spoke of. Tragic.

    Though I live in a country without capital punishment, I fully believe there are some crimes for which there is no other acceptable punishment.

  21. Thank you for keeping her memory alive. Beautifully written.

  22. One of my former students who was also a family friend, was abducted, not by an older man, but an older boy who complimented her and made her feel "grown up". He tired of her, killed her and threw her in a drainage ditch. He was part of the search crew along with the police and friends and family. But, his family had money and her family did not. He finally confessed and led them to the body, and his parents paid off someone so he got off.

  23. Brenda, I can only imagine how difficult this "story" was for you to cover. After reading this post, I'm sure you handled Jen's story with compassion and love--and that her mother knew you cared. 20 years (Do you know, is her mother still alive?) Twenty years on death row and "natural causes" were too good for that monster--at least we know that he won't harm anyone ever again.

  24. You are a gifted writer, and I know the family of the young girl clung to your words as their way of telling her story. Bravery is needed by people everywhere to warn of dangers when you least expect them.
    How tragic the bystanders didn't react in a different way at the initial abduction. We should all take this as a lesson to speak up! Say something! Pay attention! Keep an eye on all children!

  25. So sad and especially when we consider this isn't a one time event, it happens all too often. Gorgeous photos Brenda...

  26. A very sad story , thank you for sharing. That's one sob down maybe by spreading information like this many more people will be aware as to what kind of inhumane people lurk the streets and prey on children. Laws should be more strict for registered child molesters. Many parents are not aware that they can pull files up on line in their area on registered child molesters. Thanks again! Lisa @ Sweet Tea N' Salty Air

  27. Brenda what a horrible event and your moving story helps us all realize how this kind of thing changes lives forever. I admire your writing and your strength!

  28. Oh Brenda, How I wish we could keep our children safe from all these evil people. I have a 12 year old grand daughter, a brilliant girl with long beautiful blonde hair. She has never met people like that and I'm not sure she would believe it if we told her there were people like that in this world. I pray for her every day, as I know many people do pray for their precious children.
    Heartbreaks such as this are just too much.
    Hugs, Cindy

  29. Oh, Brenda. What a heartbreaking story. There's nothing more I can say. Words simply fall short. Gentle hugs, Nancy


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