Closure for family of murder victims is a long cold road that never end.
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Murder in the First?
It should have been murder in the first but the woman who committed the heinous crime of killing my mother with seven blows to her head walked off with a 4 1/2 years prison term with time already served taken into account. It was a tap on the fingers for a brutal crime perpetuated on an elderly woman but criminals it seems walk to a different beat these days. Gone are the days when they had almost no rights but those days are somewhat of a bygone era. These days they flaunt what they have done and the justice system panders to their rights. This is my story or rather, this is her story.
It has been almost 15 years since her death. Some years the anniversary of her death goes by quietly without an onslaught on my memory but today it is a different story. As another anniversary draws near, thoughts of her cross my mind and my mood reflects that of the rain-washed streets outside and the grey and dingy skies above. A tear rolls down my face for the injustice she suffered not only at the hands of her perpetrator but the justice system as well. Even after all these years, it hurts.
She was a small woman but that didn't stop her from giving birth to eight children. When I think of her, it is of a busy woman. She was always in motion. Cooking, cleaning, patching up a wound or simply being a mother. She didn't have time to sit around and have a moment to herself. Her days were filled with us and we weren't an easy bunch. I know because as a mother of one, I now realize just what a gigantic task she must have had of raising us. I never heard her complain and if she did, it was done in silence. I remember she didn't have time to coddle us either with love and her voice was tinged with harshness but we knew without a doubt that this woman loved us unconditionally. She was a church-going woman, God was first in her life as it was with dad. They brought us up as God-fearing children and our growing up years were spent at church most Sundays learning how to be good god-fearing children. Somehow it worked. She managed to raise eight good and loving children but since there was no crystal ball to show us the future, we were unaware of the pain she would endure before she took her last breath.
It was a sunny day in May when I got the call. The voice on the other end was raw and all I heard was, "Come home, it's mum." I felt a chill run down my spine as I held on to the phone and gripped it tightly. I hadn't seen her in almost two years and our conversations had been far and few in between. It was my brother on the other end and he didn't tell me what had happened and I didn't ask. In retrospect, it seems strange now. It was as if I knew without knowing that whatever had happened, it would tear me apart.
I managed to get a flight and flew home two days later. I remember it was unbearably hot as I stepped off the plane. I won't say where home is because it is not important but what happened to her is. We, my husband and I, took a taxi to the funeral parlor and as I walked in, my eyes were drawn to the flower drapped casket close to the altar. It looked small and forlorn if not for the flowers. Roses, she would have loved them I thought, they were her favorite flowers. However, I was disappointed. I had wanted to see her face one last time and say my goodbyes and I felt anger towards my family for having a closed casket. Why couldn't they have waited?
The service droned on as hymns were sung. I sat in the front pew and watched the casket as tears rolled down my face. All I could see was this little woman giving me her favorite advice and how I had huffed with impatience. "If you fall off a horse, don't wait too long, dust off, pick yourself back up and get back on that horse." I screamed silently, "Say that again mummy, I'll listen this time." Somehow I felt my shoulders straighten and I felt strength course through my body as I held my head up high, more for her then for myself. I was her daughter and those words of hers have stood the test of time.
After the service, I walked outside into bright sunshine and learned the truth about her death. She was found bludgeoned to death in her bedroom. My sister-in-law found her in the dark blood-splattered room. She had been dead for almost 8 hours according to the coroner's report. Her skull was crushed with a blunt object which later turned out to be her telephone. She suffered broken fingers and bruises from trying to protect herself but this 67-year-old woman was no match against her 26-year-old assailant. The bedroom door was locked so if she had been alive at the time, there was no way she could have called for help because the assailant took the telephone with her as she left my mother bleeding profusely from her wounds, her life seeping away slowly. The murderer then went into the bathroom and had a shower washing my mother's blood off her. In her words, "I was covered from head to toe with her blood." She then proceeded to dress herself in one of my mother's outfits, took the money, the jewelery, the murder weapon and left locking the door behind her. She took a taxi to a river close by and disposed of the murder weapon and later that day went to a pawnshop and pawned two gold chains for an undisclosed sum of money.
This demon was caught a week after my mother's funeral. I was back home in Germany when I got the news. She was my mother's maid, a woman who had come from a distant land and whom my mother had taken in as another daughter. The newspapers splashed pictures of the assailant everywhere but I refused to see what she looked like and to this day I don't know what she looks like. I didn't want to give her a face. I wanted to kill her with my own bare hands! These feelings of revenge shocked me. I am a gentle person and didn't believe in such thoughts or the death sentence but I found myself wanting just that. She had to pay for what she had done. I wanted to see her die!
I had my own demons to fight. On that May morning, she didn't just take my mother's life but in doing so, she had set a chain of events in motion. I can't speak for my siblings but I found myself on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. I would cry uncontrollably and when I went to bed, I would find myself facing off with her murderer. It was as if I was blaming myself for her death. Why wasn't I there to protect her? Those words would haunt me for years to come. I found myself being afraid in underground park houses and afraid to let anyone in to the house. I was suffering inside and no one could help me. She had killed her so brutally but that was just the beginning of things to come.
The trial was a somber affair as trials go. I refused to be there because I didn't want to see her and besides I was sure she would get the death penalty, I was dead sure. I was dead wrong. A week into the trial, the verdict was handed out. She walked with 4 1/2 years and hung her head in relief as the courtroom rumbled with disbelief. I got the message and felt the pain shoot through me all over again. All I could think was, "they killed her again." I tried appealing but to no avail. It was a closed case and the message was clear, "We are sorry for your loss but the verdict is in." Why? I don't know and I will never know.
I mourned all over again. I could have been wearing sackcloth and ashes for all I cared until one day, my four-year-old turned to me and said, "Don't cry mummy, I know something terrible happened to grandma but she is in heaven now," and he hugged me tightly and looked up at me with those big brown eyes of his. He had only seen her once in his lifetime and I remember how she was taken with him. She spoke to him in English and he spoke back in German and I made a mental note to teach him English so that they could communicate the next time. Now, it was too late. I looked at this dear little boy of mine and knew that my life must go on, she would have wanted that. Afterall, she raised us to be strong individuals.
Three years after her death, I let her go. There was nothing more I could do for her. However, I won't let her death go as just a case number. She was more than that. She had a name and it was Angela and she was a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a friend to many. She was a God-fearing person and didn't deserve to die the way she did, alone in that dark room. She died because she had shown kindness to a stranger. Some may say she had been too trusting, perhaps they are right. She lived her life in a different world, in hers you help those in need and that was what she did when she took this woman in. Whatever the case maybe, victims have rights too. I think we forget that in our rush to protect perpetrators and forget those that lost their lives to them. This has to change.
In my opinion, my mum didn't get the justice she deserved and her murderer is out on the streets again, perhaps to kill again. Why not? She paid very little for what she had done. A lesson learned? I don't think so.
Rest in peace mum.