02.09.18 Sam Strange Granted Parole...

Sam Strange 1996

Sam Strange 1996

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.

02.08.18 Sam Strange's Third Parole Hearing...

Before you read my parole hearing statement I want you to know where I used to be, how I used to feel & how far I have come. A letter I wrote to the local paper, which was published in 1999.

Before you read my parole hearing statement I want you to know where I used to be, how I used to feel & how far I have come. A letter I wrote to the local paper, which was published in 1999.

Parole Hearing Statement:

My name is Shani Campbell & Crissy was my sister. Sam was accused, tried & sentenced for the murder of Crissy & Dawn almost 25 years ago. I feel the pain & devastation this has caused everyone involved has been explained at great length. And I don’t want to minimize that suffering just because so much time has passed. Because that misery was very real then & is still very real now, for all of us. Suffering such a tragedy, specifically for me, at such a young & compromising age, altered my entire life. And I do feel like expressing that raw reality is still very valid. That my mother’s heart will forever be broken. That my father has spent months investigating his own daughters murder. And that my sister Wendy struggles with a deep feeling of injustice. So I can only speak for myself.

I am grateful for my life. Even the traumatic parts I experienced, for it has made me the woman I am today. I forgive Sam for his involvement in my sisters murder. The last two times we were here, the parole board stated that Sam needed to show remorse for what he has done. And I believe, for the Parole Board, that involves Sam confessing to the actual killing of Crissy & Dawn, which he has never admitted to. I wanted to express to you all today, how I feel Sam has shown me remorse, personally, without outwardly admitting his guilt. Which, by the way, I do not need. I don’t seek his confession to anything in regards to my sisters death, as my forgiveness & compassion for the man who sits before you right now, is not contingent on any of those things. He could admit that he brutally beat my sister to death & I would still forgive him. I would still have compassion for him. And I would still believe in second chances.

Sam has expressed his remorse to me through allowing me into his life. Which he didn’t have to do. Through written letters for the past several years I have gotten to know Sam as a person. Which was extremely important for my own recovery. To see him no longer as a monster but as a human being. Through our correspondence I have learned more about what Sam has done to better himself while incarcerated. He has expressed his hopes & plans for the future. He has never asked anything from me nor have we ever discussed these parole hearings. I have simply shared my life, interests & thoughts with him as he did with me.

I think Sam has come very far from where he started & through some intense & less than ideal circumstances, he has improved his life vastly. I feel he has accepted his role in this crime & accepted the punishment. He has used his time in prison to the best of his ability & I believe, will come out a better man. I know Sam has a family & now a wife, who surely love & miss him. I think about Sam’s younger brother & how he also lost his sibling. How he has a chance to get his sibling back. Something I don’t have. I know how painful losing a sibling is & knowing that they could have a second chance with their relationship, makes me happy.

I respect the board & the medical professionals who can better analyze & judge someone’s ability to be successful in the real world after spending so much time in prison. But I ask, that if Sam admitting he did this crime is the one thing holding him back from his freedom, for you all to rethink that request. Because nothing will bring Crissy & Dawn back. I do believe in consequences, not necessarily the current prison system, but Sam has certainly suffered some pretty immense consequences for his actions. Years he can never recover. And believe me, I realize the irony in all of this, as my 16 year old sister Crissy & Dawn as well, lost their life so brutally & tragically- losing out on so many precious experiences. But again, nothing can change that. Their suffering is over & it’s up to us as individuals to determine how we allow this tragedy to further effect us. No matter how you play this out, it’s just not fair.

So I try to determine, how can we somehow make this terrible situation a more positive one. And for me, locking someone away for the rest of their life, isn’t a positive outcome for anyone. Perhaps it is completely foreign for anyone to understand why I would be asking the parole board to give Sam a second chance. Turning something so inherently negative, into something positive, is what I have always strived for. My suffering was lessened because I chose to make my life better, not because Sam was spending his days behind bars. I leave this decision up to the parole board but please, do not use my suffering as a reason to keep Sam here. So I ask, if you believe Sam is ready, give him a chance to make something positive of his life & perhaps be able to help others that are on the wrong path. He in turn, could quite possibly, save the lives of many people.

Thank you.

03.26.17 I was sexually assaulted…I think…

teenage me...

teenage me...

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even recognized that what I had experienced when I was a teenager was a sexual assault. The fact that I did not even consider it an assault against my body is more offensive to me than the actual assault itself. That what happened to me was so normalized and that for so many years I took on the responsibility of what those two men did to me. That I believed all men just behaved in that way. I blamed myself so heavily that I was convinced that I was in fact the guilty one, not them, and even further, that I caused it because of my reckless behavior.

Because I was suffering so immensely, physically and emotionally after my sister’s murder, my main goal for many years was to just not feel like I wanted to die every single second of every single day. I was emo long before it was cool except I didn’t have black hair and wishing for death wasn’t something I just wrote in my sad journal, it was something I genuinely thought I wanted. The only way I escaped my misery was to not be sober, therefore to escape my own reality. It started with drinking here and there, smoking weed, the occasional joint laced with who knows what and some persistent self harm.

I remember being so excited for this New Years Eve party because it was going to be at Noah’s house and his parties were the best! Or so I had heard, since this was really, probably, most likely, one of my first parties ever. So as most 15 year old newbies do, I drank way too much too soon and was hell bent on doing more and taking risks. Even through my many drunken stupors I still had that death wish buried deep inside, drowning in that alcohol, wanting to put myself in dangerous situations to test the universe and its ironies. I somehow ended up in the company of two older boys who wanted to go buy more drugs. Mixing drunk driving and “magic” mushrooms, for some particular reason, felt like a good idea at the time. Death wish, remember?

I tried to climb into the back- they either had a truck with a camper shell or one of those hideous car/truck vehicles, where it was a car with a truck bed attached to it. Perhaps a ford ranchero, which I just had to google image search using “ugly car truck combo” in order to refresh my memory. …It was a station wagon- bad memory refreshed like a rotten.com web page. My friend Liz and another guy were in the back and I at least had a little sense to want to be with her. The two guys in front shoved me in, making me “sit bitch” which was an appropriate title in regards to their intentions.

Before we left they told me to eat these mushrooms they had and though I had never done mushrooms before, they didn’t have to ask me twice. Honestly, I cannot remember if they pressured me to eat them or not, all I know is that I did. I had no idea where we were going or who I was even with, except I sort of knew Shane, who ended up dating one of my close friends years later but that’s a whole other story. As we drove down those winding and deathly dark Grass Valley roads, I was so out of it and swirling with every turn. My body was numb until I felt both of their hands on my legs. It seemed as if they both were in perfect pervert unison as they worked their way higher and higher up my leg. It did not take long for them to begin rubbing my vagina- one would do it while the other patiently waited for his chance. If one took too long, the other would slap his hand to assert that it was his turn to assault me. They were fighting over violating me. I remember sitting there, not wanting it to happen, yet also not being able to get my body to function well enough to say no or to physically stop them. Their hands were all over me and I just sat there and let them do it. I was scared, drunk, dizzy, mortified and stunned. The only reason they stopped was because we arrived at our destination.

As soon as they turned the engine off and began getting out I felt whatever was brewing in my stomach wanting to desperately be free. I vomited all over their dashboard and floor. I couldn’t quite discern if I had thrown up because of the alcohol, the mushrooms or what I had just experienced or perhaps a combination of all three. On the way back to the party they allowed me to get into the back with my friend and as usual, I began sobbing. Most Bear River high school parties didn’t really start to kick off until Shani got drunk and started sobbing, in case you were wondering. They drove down those dangerous dark scary roads so incredibly fast that I thought for sure my death wish was going to come true. All of a sudden I wanted nothing more than to live- funny how that works. While they drove insanely recklessly and as I sobbed, I could hear them laughing and asking me over and over again, “why don’t you come back up here.” No thanks guys.

I legitimately didn’t realize until this very moment that these two men were the first to ever touch my vagina. I had gotten to first base, or maybe second base without my consent. I’m not really sure since I’m not a baseball fan and honestly, I have always fucking hated baseball, never want to “play” again and would much rather opt for women’s volleyball or something.

Its sort of disturbing that what I was dealing with at the time, my sisters murder, was so overwhelming that two men violating me wasn’t that big of a deal in the long run. I feel this guilt inside me, though I no longer blame myself for what happened, I now blame myself for not being more traumatized because of it. I certainly was bombarded with extreme emotions at the time, as I reread what I wrote about that night in my journal:

“… I deserved everything they gave me. Their faces wont get out of my head…I just want to crawl in a corner and die. Am I stupid? YES! YES! YES! Ill never forget this, never.”

The normalization of sexual abuse and assault against women is rampant and I would hope that it’s gotten better for young women. I not only wrote about my experience with these two boys in my journal but I was shocked to read and remember all the other onslaughts I experienced in just one night, as a teenage girl, at a high school party. There were three different boys trying to force me to kiss them, one trying on two separate occasions to get me alone with him, and one grabbing my vagina after I pushed him away when he tried to force me to kiss him. Yet the sad reality is that what I experienced is nowhere near what other women have survived. That the sexual abuse of women has gotten so egregious that many diminish their own trauma, as I am doing now and while outsiders do the same. We have come to a point where “grabbing women by the pussy” is simply “locker room talk” yet what I experienced was not in a locker room and was not just talk. It actually happened and it actually was pretty traumatizing.

I never realized how much that experience shaped my sexuality, my sometimes shitty sexual and platonic relationships with men and even more disturbing, my sexual fantasies. This experience and the many others I have lived throughout my life have altered how I view my body and its worth in this universe. It took many years and many obstacles, but I reclaimed my body and my sexuality in many different ways, throughout many varied and complex years of personal struggle and growth. I reclaimed my existence through self-abuse, self-love, realizations, actualizations, modifications and alterations. Just to begin to love my own skin, beyond the intricate soul inside of me. No, not just my soulful spirit but to genuinely adore the meat and bones of me. And honestly, I am still learning to love and accept both through this universe that constantly forces you to question your own worth as a woman and sexual being. My body is not a temple…

”… temples can be destroyed and desecrated. My body is a forest—thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. I will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly I am devastated.” Quote by Beau Taplin