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.

03.03.17 gravesites

sinister cat - adventure on

The first time death affected me personally was when my sister was killed. I was 13 going on 14 and had never really experienced death beyond losing a family dog that I wasn’t very close to. Even then, my sister Crissy was cremated and we still have her ashes. I had never experienced visiting a gravesite, where you stand there knowing your loved one’s body was under the earth you were mourning over. I had visited the site where Crissy and her friend’s bodies were dumped, which now had two huge crosses constructed and felt that sick feeling of imagining her decomposed body lying on the earth I now sobbed over. I never thought about how I would feel standing over her actual body dead and deep in the ground.

As I hiked up that steep hill my heart was pounding and stinging, which I could not determine was because I was out of shape or I was about to visit where we buried Sinister’s body. I felt anxious about going but also felt this need to visit and see it again. It has been almost three weeks since we put his body into that hole and I wondered what I would find. Had an animal dug him up and used his body for food? Would the flowers we left be alive and blooming? Would I feel him near me? As I walked around the path I could see the hilltop in the distance and it was so beautiful yet I cried and felt so sad. I was listening to the Howard Stern show the whole way up, avoiding the feelings and trying to trudge along. As I got to the bottom of the hill Sinister was buried on top of I turned off what I was listening to and made my way up. The closer I got the more anxious I felt and I stopped several times to just cry and clench my aching heart. I finally got to a point where I could see the fresh dirt and did not see much of a disturbance and kept walking.

The earth had settled on top of him as his body is decomposing and the flowers we left were dead and dried. All I could muster was “oh sinders…” I had this plan to sit and write or meditate next to his “area” but there were swarms of little bugs attaching themselves to my arms and back. I walked around and around and shooed them feeling defeated- “well I can’t stay here, there are just too many bugs”. And I knew right away that I was doing what I always do- avoiding the pain. I just keep moving. I keep moving through life because if I stop the pain will overcome me. And as I was pacing around Sinister’s gravesite I became eerily aware of how much these little bugs were showing me. They symbolized all the pain I have experienced and every time I stopped they attached themselves to me, clinging on for dear life and would only let go and disperse once I started moving again. So I stopped moving. I sat down on some rocks, very aware that I kept a certain amount of distance from where Sinister’s body was.

I sat and I cried. I wrote, I cried, I thought of things, I laughed, I blew my nose and I just felt it. The sadness. The pain. With every part of my body; I felt the hard rock under my butt, I felt the pen in my hands, I felt the hat on my head, I felt the sun and warmth on my skin and I felt the pain in my heart. And I no longer felt any bugs landing on my skin. They eventually went away and I sat with that peace for a bit. I stood up, brushed myself off and walked over one last time to that spot of land. I felt grateful that we could offer Sinister’s body to nourish the earth below as he nourished our lives for so many years. I put my hands on my heart and then onto the ground, touching the fresh flowers I had laid there. As I walked down the steep hill carefully, I no longer felt anxious or worried but the sadness remained deep in my heart.

And that’s okay.