So much time has passed since I last shared the story of my sister. I had thoughtfully written things out on my old blog. I deleted my old website/blog years ago. Everything I ever shared there went away. Over the years I have made new friends and my life has changed significantly. Maybe it is time the new people in my life or someone that happened upon this by chance saw it too.
When I started thinking I wanted to re-write and share this story I battled with myself if I truly wanted to go through the process. I guess after I started Googling my sister, or worse…him, I had to dig more than I used to. It was always my plan that her story would never die with her. I don’t share a lot about my personal life with many people anymore.
And then there is the idea that I’ll start hearing all the things people say when they assume you’re religious to try and comfort you. You know, “I’ll pray for you”, or “she’s an angel up in heaven.” Even worse: “she’s in a better place.” I am an atheist and I believe we have one chance to make a good life. I don’t share her story with you because I want pity. I share this because I don’t want you to face this same tragedy. With social media I see more and more kids doing more grown up things at younger ages. The one thing I always say about my sister’s senseless death was that I can never understand how someone at that age can truly know and understand real love.
Alrighty, now that all that shit is out of the way, I obviously decided to write it and share it. I want to avoid arguments or anything weird based on anything I have written here. I just prefer this to be about her. I loved her so much. I still love her.
I feel lucky to be the oldest sibling in my family. I grew up without a lot. My parents didn’t have much and I learned to entertain myself as the only child for six years. I think this makes me the independent person that I am today. But nothing is as exciting as learning you are going to have a baby sister. So much excitement that my school called my dad to request that I be picked up and taken home because I was too much of a distraction the day my mom went to the hospital to have Amanda.
I finally would have a playmate. I talked her into doing so many things. Even up until her pre-teen years I was convincing her that she let me give her a perm or cut her hair. I loved having this bond we had. But I also hated that we fought. A lot. Sometimes we had outright punching and biting fights. It was ugly. But I loved her.
Looking back now I can see how fortunate I was that we did finally have a roof over our heads with a home of our own. My parents did what they could so we could have some of the trendy things we wanted. I had both parents there. I had a cozy routine and just lived in the moment.
On November 1, 1993, my father lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. What I can remember was how quickly it happened. From the diagnosis until we lost him. I felt cheated because I graduated high school in 1991 and was away at college at this time. I didn’t get all of those extra moments with him when we knew that we had such a little amount of time left with him.
I also missed out on understanding what was beginning to happen with my sister. When your dad is sick you feel so helpless. I am sure my dad felt helpless. It was then that “he” (my sister’s boyfriend) started to make his way into my sister’s life and my family’s life even deeper. I don’t want to use his name because he doesn’t deserve that recognition. He managed to convince my dad that he could help out around the house. He even stayed there. When I think back on this I only regret that I didn’t drop out of school to come home and stop things from progressing.
As you can imagine, losing my dad was hard on us all. My mom would now be a single parent. The one to love and punish at the same time. My dad was typically the one that punished while she was the softer one. I believe now that losing him was especially hard on Amanda. She was also at that age where there were peer pressures and just trying to fit in was hard.
Soon, he would begin telling her how she should dress. Baggy sweatshirts, boys jeans, and not cute or in a way that you would expect most popular teen girls to dress. There began to be so much sneakiness and avoiding being with her family. She ended up getting in trouble with him. Being from a small town we were lucky it didn’t become something legal to battle. But it was time something was done.
I convinced my mom to check into admitting her to behavioral hospital. It was a popular one that plenty of kids I knew had went to when they were troubled. I think about how much we hear about how mental health is such a stigma today still. Imagine in 1995 what that was like.
So, Mandy spent time there just after Christmas of 1994. I can’t remember for how long. A month maybe? I had to go back to school after the holidays. I did get a chance to come home after she was released. What a difference. It’s amazing what therapy will do for someone that needs it. I’m so grateful we had this time with her in this mood. If it were going to be very short amount of time I am glad it was her in a happy mood.
But here’s where things get really dark. Writing this hurts my heart so much. But I know that people get stuck in their bubbles. They see situations like this on t.v., but don’t ever think it could happen to them.
During the time Amanda was in the hospital he tried to get her to leave. He came to her room window and tried to get her to walk out. She told him no because she needed to be there. I worry that if it were in the beginning of her stay there that she would have left. She was 15 years old. This was the beginning of his rage and irrational behavior – that I saw. I am sure he had unstable behavior all along, it’s just that I wasn’t around to experience it.
I went home for Mandy’s birthday. She was turning 16 on February 5th. My mom was able to purchase her a used car. We went out to dinner. I can remember her asking me if I would go riding with her since she only had her learner’s permit. She wanted to drive the car. During this time I witnessed him in all of his stalking glory. He followed us. He tried passing us and running us off the road. I was ready to take him down. I didn’t know that he would later be so violent. I had a big mouth back then. I wanted to beat him senseless. This wasn’t the only time I witnessed him behaving irrational.
Once I went back to school I was worried. I never thought it would come down to what happened. I was worried that he would hurt her though. I got a call either on the 12th or 13th of February, maybe sooner, from my mom that she attempted to file a restraining order on him. Let me explain: she attempted. When you’re from a small town in the south there is a lot of back scratching going on. It’s very difficult for me to understand that, and I’ll never ever live in a place like that again.
Amanda told my mom that he came to her bedroom window (which happened to be on the back porch that stretched across the back of our house.) So, he not only came onto our property, he walked into our enclosed screened back porch to her window. She said he had a gun with him. And, he told a friend of hers that he would kill her because she was dating a black classmate. Basically if he couldn’t have her no one could. Her friend was smart enough to record it on tape being said.
When I think about this today I can only think about how wrong we are when we are teenagers. We think we know everything. You can’t possibly know love that much. You just can’t.
Remember how I said where we lived was a small town? Imagine how helpless you feel as a parent when you go to the sheriff to get a restraining order and are told “well, you know who his parents are, he would just be released if picked up within a few hours. It won’t do any good.” Let me tell you what that means: your parents are in law enforcement. Kids of cops in our town got away with shit way too often. He was no exception.
My sister fought off his “crazy” for a few days. He came to the nail salon where she was and she stood up to him. She continued karate lessons and even told me she knew how to defend herself. That was our Mandy. Tough as nails.
I was a photographer for my college newspaper and on Valentine’s Day my roommate and I went to the basketball game to take pics for the paper. Then, we would go get some beer and snacks and sit at home and watch movies. We were both single and decided a girl’s night would be best. Except we never got to drink our beer or eat our snacks or even watch our movie.
Not long after we got home from the basketball game my roommate’s mom called. We were from the same hometown and our parents were friends. I watched Amy’s face change while talking to her mom. When she hung up she told me we needed to pack some things and drive back home right away. I was confused. The phone rang again and it was another of my mom’s friends telling me to go ahead and pack some things that something had happened to Mandy. My response: “he did something to her didn’t he?”
I never dreamed he would kill her. I felt he would hurt her, but never take her life. You see, he had been watching our house, waiting for his move. Because my sister was behind in school work from being in the hospital she opted to stay home while my grandma took my brother, Jake to karate practice. She wanted to get her work caught up because she would later be meeting friends at Pizza Hut. She was home alone finally.
He and another boy made their move by coming to the door to talk to Mandy. She refused. He hopped the fence and broke into the back of the house and then shot her as she tried to leave. In the face, twice.
I believe to this day that he did this. There is so much confusion as to what the other boy did and how he was involved. We’ll never know. There were things that were done wrong during the investigation. Our best interests were never at heart by the law there.
What we do know is that the other boy called 911 (believe it or not, her murderer’s mom was the dispatcher that took the call). He did stay with her. While the douche-bag kid fled away, leading police on a high-speed chase through four counties where eventually he was captured in Florida. What you never read online is that he crashed the car into a tree. We’re pretty sure he would have rather died than face what he was about to face. He endangered so many people going through residential neighborhoods, throwing back a beer (according to the officer pursuing him.)
My sister died before she got to the hospital.
Both boys were arrested and charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and burglary. They each tried to claim the other pulled the trigger. The jury deliberated for eight hours and reached a unanimous verdict. He would be sentenced to life in prison for malice murder, 20 years for aggravated assault and 20 years for burglary. The other boy was acquitted.
I did not attend the trial. We had moved to St. Louis after all of this happened. We needed to be near family. My mother feared I would get into trouble if I were to ever run into the other boy (who was out on bail at the time). I am sure I still would if I ever went back there and saw him. She, however, did attend with my aunt and uncle.
I never realized, even 19 years later, how this would change me. I’m fearful of relationships. I have picked real winners, let me tell ya! Dumb ass guys that were all wrong for me. I worry because you never know what someone is truly capable of doing. You never think someone would ever do what he did to my sister, but it happens all the time.
I have so little trust in people because of the help my mom tried to get and it did no good. I also worry that this other boy is free to live out there. I have seen old friends of my own who have befriended him. It’s so frightening to me to know that he is out there doing whatever he pleases.
My one true wish is that this NEVER happens to any of you. That you never have to experience anything like this. If you have kids, talk to them about not being afraid to come to you for help and express their concerns. It’s always better to be safe and address it.
Today is a reminder that 19 years ago, we lost my little sister. Barely 16 years old, she has now been gone longer than she was alive. But I think about her so much. I think about what she would be like today. However, she looks the same, a kid, in my thoughts. She had a heart of gold and was friends with everyone. She didn’t discriminate ever. It warms my heart when I get to hear a new story about her or see pictures of her I hadn’t seen before. Remembering the good times out of such tragedy is a lot harder than it is for me to remember the good with my dad. I don’t know why.