When I heard Crissy’s loud rap music muffled through her closed door, I knew she was venturing out that day. Like most summer days, I had been up already for hours, laying in the sun, playing volleyball, watching TV and eating cereal that was entirely made of sugar. I was almost 14 years old and about to enter high school while Crissy had just finished her sophomore year. My mom was at work for the day and my dad was working in San Jose during the week, which was a seven hour drive round trip. I remember this day like it was two years ago. I cant say, “I can remember it like it was yesterday” because I cant even remember what I did yesterday, or the day before or even last week for that matter. Its curious how days pass so quickly and without meaning, until something catastrophic happens that makes that particular day, special. Special is probably a terrible way to describe the last day you saw your sister alive, but I do look back on that day fondly. It was the last day I would ever see my sister Crissy and the last few days of my innocence. I cherish that moment of not knowing what murder really meant to a family. I cherish that moment of seeing my sister as a whole human being rather than a person I once knew over 20 years ago. I cherish the stillness of the thick summer air, the quietness of my mind which would soon tumble into a dark downward spiral and I cherish the carefree feel that which summers were made of. Where I was once just Shannon Campbell, a silly privileged white girl with little concern for anything beyond my simple life and that, which surrounded it. To Shannon Campbell, sister of murdered teen Cristina Campbell, victim of violence and terror.
I looked out from my entirely too hot bedroom, which was made even more unpleasant because of the vaulted ceilings, huge bay window and broken air conditioner. Grass Valley summers were very hot and dry, with prickly weeds blanketing the desolate landscape of the boonies where we lived. I hardly went anywhere, especially during the summer months, with most of my friends living too far away. Where we lived, an unplanned trip to the grocery store, which took 30 minutes one way, was as exciting as it got, even for most summer days. I was half jealous and half happy that Crissy was going to “town”; that’s what you call civilization when you live in the middle of nowhere, “town”. Even though I was stuck at home with no future plans of adventures, I knew Crissy had been held up in her room the past week or so after her boyfriend broke up with her, so jealously turned to gratefulness that she was getting out. We fought relentlessly, like most siblings who were just two years apart would, but she was also my best friend, my anchor and the person who would go to the bathroom with me in public places because I was, for some reason, too scared to go alone. She would yell at me for using her make up or stepping foot into her room, unless I was performing some ridiculous dance or doing my Jim Carry “Fire Marshall Bill” impression. Her room had stayed pretty silent for that week of hibernation and I remember bringing her dinner a few times because she didn’t want to come down.
The last few weeks of her life and even the few weeks after her body was found are a blur, but that day, the day I last saw her alive is very clear. I was familiar with Dawn, one of her on again off again friends, as she had stayed at our house a few times. Yet I had never heard of Sam before and didn’t know anything about him except that he was going to pick Crissy up that day with Dawn. At this point in my life I would have been labeled a goodie two shoes, someone who didn’t break rules, thought sex was gross and certainly wouldn’t be drinking or smoking. Every time Crissy talked about sex I would gag and squeal yet also be amazed at how grown up she was compared to me, even though only two years separated us. She had started smoking cigarettes a few months prior and I just thought it was the worst thing she could do. Even though I was a brat and annoying as hell, I never once told on her and she would freely smoke around me and tell me when she was going to do something she wasn’t supposed to do. As we stood in my bedroom she proudly gloated how a boy was picking her up and how she was going to smoke weed for the first time. She grabbed a tiny bottle of alcohol my aunt had given me, purely for decoration as drinking in my opinion was just wrong, and started sipping it like the badass older sister she always lived up to be. We only stood there for several minutes before a little truck pulled up beside our property. I look back at those moments now and want to scream at her to not go, to not get into that truck. I can picture myself galloping down the staircase and out the front door, tripping on our long gravel driveway and grabbing her tightly, never letting go. It never crossed my mind that she would be dead and gone within 48 hours of that moment and that our lives would be forever altered. If only I had known. Instead of the movie worthy scene of me saving her life, she quietly yet excitingly turned away from me, grabbed her backpack and stepped out the door. I watched from my window as her tiny 4 foot 9 inch frame, dressed as always in her big long baggy “gangster” white pants and black t-shirt, walked towards a little yellow beat up truck. That same truck would eventually hold her and Dawns badly beaten dead bodies to be dumped like trash and the man driving, Sam Strange, would forever be a part of our narrative. The last thing I remember seeing was Crissy’s long brown hair, flowing in the mild summer wind, walking away from our safe home and into the presence of the man who would soon witness her violent murder and not save her life. I cannot tell you what I did the rest of that day or even what I was doing the night she was murdered. My next vivid memory was being on my knees in our dark living room 12 days later, praying as my mom spoke to police on the phone, regarding two girls’ decomposed bodies that had been found on a mountain side.