Sam Strange was granted parole today, after almost 25 years in prison. In my heart, I knew he would get parole but I also was ready for a decision denying it. This was his third parole hearing. Today was not difficult for me. I didn’t have an anxiety-ridden stomach, as I sometimes get; I just wanted to get it done & to get through my statement without crying. I certainly failed at the not crying aspect of my statement. But I got through it & am at peace with what my sister & I said as well as the outcome.
Hearing the gruesome details of how Crissy was murdered is not difficult for me; in fact, I want to know every single detail. I want to know her last moments of life, I think I deserve to know & that I am ready to know. So much was hidden from me because I was a child when it happened, but slowly I am learning more & more about her final moments on this planet. As I listened to Sam describe his role in this crime, things I had known for some time, yet hearing him say it gave it much more weight. I knew he had watched my sister get beaten to death, that he picked up her dead body, cleaned up her blood & dumped her body like trash. But hearing him describe it made me realize just how brutal & graphic it must have been. I have never thought he was completely innocent, since again, I already knew all these things. Just hearing it & fully visualizing what that must have been like, gave me pause. I still forgive him & I stand by my statement.
He talked about some of Crissy’s conversations with him in the last two days of her life; her making fun of white people (she was Mexican), her telling him how rock music sucked & rap music was the best. That the reason they ended up in his room together was because of an Ice T rock/rap album he wanted to play for her. These details, even the graphic ones are healing to me. I stared at Sam throughout the hearing & I saw someone I feel like I know personally, because I kinda do. Through our letters, I have gotten to know his personality, his daily activities & his goals for the future. When I began reading my statement, the correctional officer assigned to our room, couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His jaw literally dropped. The woman assigned to us, as our escort, also had no idea that we were going to speak on Sam’s behalf.
I am super proud of my sister Wendy, who didn’t have to have anything written down & just spoke from the heart. The parole board said that our statements were a weighing factor on granting him parole. As they read their decision, I focused on Sam. He cried as they told him that he would finally get his freedom back. I tried to imagine how he must have felt & what he is feeling now. I am excited for him but also scared. He has so many obstacles in front of him & its not going to be easy but I think he is ready. He has accomplished so much with his time & will be a certified drug & alcohol counselor when he gets out. One organization that will be helping Sam is HealthRIGHT 360, which is one of the organizations we raised money for when my brother Bobby passed away. Very serendipitous indeed.
I think a lot of people will judge my family for our forgiveness & for speaking on Sam’s behalf. For them, I say this; this isn’t your tragedy. People tend to just see the end result & not the last 20+ years of pain & suffering. They have no idea how far we have come & the anger, frustration, rage & revenge we all felt for so many years. I feel like a piece of this devastation has been put to rest. That finally spreading Crissy’s ashes will be another aspect of closure.
I feel for Dawn’s family, who knew Sam well before all this happened & who believe Sam was the sole murderer. I am sure they are devastated & I can only hope, that they find peace & forgiveness as well. But if they don’t, that’s ok too. It’s their journey with the loss of their family member & I send them my love. I am ashamed to admit that I still have residual feelings for Dawn’s mother that I have not fully worked out. I desperately want to reach out to her, so if anyone knows an email or mailing address please let me know. I truly hope Dawn’s family is well.
Sam has a concrete plan for his return to society, as well as a support system in place. He got married last year & his wife has formed a close relationship with my dad. Sam getting paroled was inevitable & it adds to the magnitude of what 2018 will be for me personally. I hope that someday, we both get to a place where we can meet in person & I can look him in the eyes for real. There is a reason why our paths have crossed & I feel fortunate to have been given an opportunity, though a devastating one, to grow as a person. I hope I can someday see Sam fully recovered from the trauma he has experienced & that he lives the rest of his life as fully as he can.