I was saved as a child, around the age of 6. I was raised by my Grandmother, who was a God fearing woman, and taken to church every time the door was open. I was raise Southern Baptist. For those of you who don't know what that is, let me tell you. We were not allowed to do anything but eat, sleep, go to school, and go to church. Basically that is what it boiled down to. There was a little more, but that is the gist of it. We were steeped in tradition and religion. I didn't know any better, so I would say that it was ok.
I was told many conflicting stories as a child and teenager. Some stories said my mother didn't want me, others say she did. My dad was a truck driver, so I didn't see a whole lot of him. Some of the stories said that my aunt wanted to adopt me, but my dad said no. Others say that isn't true. Regardless of the real truth, my reality was that of a child who was unloved, unwanted, and pushed aside. When you see yourself in this way, it is your truth. I will never know the real truth behind all these stories, but it's ok.
As I grew up, I was picked on ruthlessly because of my weight. I have always been big and yes, I have tried every diet known to man. Nothing has worked for me. But, it's ok. I love me. People, thought, didn't always love me. They judged me before they knew me. I wanted to be loved so bad. We are born with that need ingrained. God put it there so that we would turn to Him for that love, but as a teen I didn't realize that. So, I looked for love in all the wrong places as the old country song goes. Looking for love in all the wrong places. Looking for love in all the wrong faces. That was me. I always thought that to get a boy to like you, you had to sleep with him. Little did I know that sex was the quickest way to get a boy to leave.
So, when sex didn't work, I drank. I let alcohol be my love. If I had all the money back that I have spent on booze over the years of my life, I would not have a carpayment, a mortgage, or have to worry about my bills. I went from drinking to drugging. Always looking for something to fill up the hollow spot. I know that it was because my Granny was praying for me and by the grace of God that I didn't die at an early age. I tortured my body unmercifully.
Move ahead a few years to age 23. I was working at Pizza Hut as a manager and had just been transferred to a new location. I walk in to the store my first day and I see this guy, with his back to me, making pizza. I thought to myself..."I'm going to marry that boy.." Crazy right...well, that's what popped into my head. I went on to meet with the manager of the store and a few minutes later, the guy walks back into the office and introduces himself. I was stunned by his beautiful blue eyes. I couldn't look away, much less breathe. I can only imagine what he thought that day. As time went on, began a friendship. He was so much fun to hang out with and we laughed all the time. But, there was one problem...he had a girlfriend. Well, being the go getter that I am, I bided my time and lo and behold, they eventually broke up. Our friendship had deepened greatly and I can't say that I was disappointed.
One night, after watching a movie, Jimmy looked at me and asked me to be his girlfriend. I was flying higher than drug had ever made me, but I had to play it cool. I told him I would think about it. Yeah, like there was any thinking involved. I left for work without giving him an answer and he called me about 5 minutes after I got to work. He wanted and answer and my reply was.."Yeah, I guess we can give it a go.." When in my heart I was screaming, "YES, YES, YES...Do you even have to ask?". Well, that was in September of 1996. We moved into our first house together in November of 1996 and got married in my mother's backyard April 19, 1997. It was the best day of my life.
You see, Jimmy loved me. Really loved me. It didn't matter what I looked like, how much money I had or didn't have, what kind of car I drove...He loved ME. The real me. We had an idealic life. We both worked, him for UPS and me for Pizza Hut. I later left the Hut and went to work for a convience store as a manager. Life was good. We worked at trying to have a baby, but unfortunately, it didn't happen. Our life was just about perfect.
We moved to an apartment in July of 1997 and although it was small, it was perfect for us. We settled into a routine and enjoyed being married. We had a gathering for Thanksgiving that year and I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal. It turned out really good. Then, Christmas rolled around. We did our shopping, set up our little tree, and visited family. December 25, 1997..We had left my Granny's house and I was exhausted. Jimmy wanted to go looking at lights. I didn't. I wanted to go home, change into my pjs and relax. Jimmy pleaded with me to go and I gave in. We walked around some of the neighborhoods and stood in awe at some of the lights. Hand in hand we walked down the street laughing. It was a great way to end Christmas night. Jimmy and I went back to work the next day and life began to fall back into place.
December 30, 1997 started as any normal day. I got up for work, at breakfast, kissed Jimmy goodbye and left. Came home from work, cooked dinner, and we watched tv together. Around 11 pm, we went to bed. I know this is going to be a little weird to read, but the sex was nothing like I had ever experienced. I don't know if subconciously I knew it would be the last time, or what, but it was amazing. I couldn't get close enough to him. I felt like I wanted to crawl inside him. Later, he tells me that he needs to go up to UPS to pick up his check. I tried my best to talk him out of it. I told him that we didn't need it, that we could wait. All our bills are paid and we don't need it. He went anyway. I went to bed, leaving the tv on. Jimmy was supposed to turn the tv off when he got back because he wasn't going to be gone but an hour or so.
I woke up on December 31, 1997 to the phone ringing. The tv was still on. Jimmy was no where to be found. My brother was on the phone wanted to know where my husband was. Jimmy was supposed to go over to his house and put a started on my 1977 Camaro. I told him Jimmy wasn't home and that I would call him back. Not too worried yet, I called my mom, who worked at the Waffle House, to see if maybe he was up there. She said no, and I remember telling her, "I am going to kill him. He has stayed out all night long in my new car." We had just gotten a 1997 Ford Escort LX. Mom told me to calm down and call the hospitals just to see if he had been in an accident. I did, and no he hadn't. It was about 9:30 am by this time. I decided to call the nonemergency number to the Chesterfield County Police Department to see if maybe he had been arrested. When the officer answered, I explained the situation...."My husband went to pick up his check last night and didn't come home which was totally not like him. We were newlyweds and he always called. I have already called his family and friends and noone has seen him. Can you tell me if he has been arrested?". The officer asked me his name and what kind of car he was driving. I did. There was a brief silence and then I was asked for the license plate number. I gave it, and after a pause, the officer says, "We are going to put out a missing persons report and the detectives will be at your home shortly." Now, if I had been in my right mind, I would have realized that missing persons reports are not filed for 48 hours on an adult. But, I wasn't in my right mind. I was furious!
About 20 minutes later there was a knock at the door. I, in my pjs, opened the door and there stood two Chesterfield County Detectives, Detective Ruth Baker, and Detective Steve Smith. I invited them in and we sat in the living room. There was a tension in the air that you could have cut with a knife. Detective Baker asked me if I had any recent pictures of Jimmy and if he had any birthmarks. Still not putting two and two together, I pulled out a picture that we had taken Christmas morning and told him about the mole on the bottom of his right foot. Detective Smith took the picture outside where, I didn't know it at the time, there were police officers waiting for it. Detective Baker came over and sat next to me on the couch and asked if there was anyone I could call who could be at my home quickly. I said yes and asked why. The door opened and in walked Detective Smith with the Chesterfield County Police Chaplain. I knew right then that Jimmy was dead. I looked from the chaplain to Detective Baker and she said, "We have found Jimmy and he is deceased." Tears began to stream down my face. I picked up the phone, called my mom and said, "He's dead." That's it. That's all I said to her. She dropped the phone and almost hit the floor. She later told me that she looked at her boss and said, "I'm out of here...they found Jimmy and he's dead." She left Waffle House and made the 30 minute drive to my house in 10 minutes. She ran every red light, stop sign and was speeding. I remember her telling me later that if a cop had got behind her, he would have had to follow her to my house because she wasn't stopping.
The rest of the day was pretty much a blur. My mom walked in and knelt down in front of me and gave me a Valium. I remember her calling my brother and my dad and my Granny. My dad lived in Chesapeak, Va, which was a two hour drive. He said he made it in 45 minutes and smoked two packs of cigarettes on the way. My brother and Jimmy's uncle got to the house and the police wanted someone to identify the body. I wanted to go, but noone would let me. My brother and Jimmy's uncle went and yes, it was my sweet, loving husband that was dead in the backseat of our new car.
The next few days were the worst of my life. I was lost and alone in a crowd of people. The depression was terrible. I couldn't understand what I had done to make God that mad at me that He would take my husband. I was so mad at God. I was mad at whoever had taken Jimmy's life, I was mad at people I didn't even know. The anger was building up and I had no way to let it out.
Going to the funeral home was an experience in itself. Our funeral director was very patient, but I guess that's his job. I had to pick out a vault, and a casket. I knew we didn't have a lot of money, so I tried to be frugal while trying to make sure Jimmy had a nice funeral. I picked out a silver casket with cream lining. Not too frufru but nice. The funeral director went over all the costs associated with a funeral, helped me write Jimmy's obituary for the paper, and helped me plan the viewing.
Because he was killed on a holiday, New Year's Eve, there wasn't a medical examiner on duty so we had to wait 5 days to have Jimmy's viewing and funeral. That is unexcusable. There should always be a medical examiner on duty. Having to punish the family by waiting isn't nice. It's hard enough on the family to have to bury their loved one, but to wait an extra amount of time is torture.
So, the morning of the viewing, the immediate family, me, was allowed to come one hour early. When I got to the furneral home, the funeral director explained to me that Jimmy's face was covered with a veil because of the damage done to his face. The medical examiner had to break his jaw to remove the bullet for evidence and the mortician had to do some extra work to make Jimmy presentable. I lost it. I told that funeral director that he was my husband and I would move the veil because I wanted to see him and kiss him goodbye. He then explained that it was a see thru veil put in place to keep everyone from touching his face. Because of the extra work having to be done on him, too much touching could have caused his jaw to fall. Not a pretty picture that would have been. So, I finally got up the guts to walk into the viewing room. My dad was with me. I stood at the doorway and it looked like 500 miles from there to the casket. It seemed like the more steps I took, the farther away he got. About half way up to the casket, my knees buckled and I remember telling my dad that the person in the casket wasn't Jimmy. They had made a mistake. That wasn't him. With tears flowing from his eyes, my dad assured me it was Jimmy and placed his hand on the small of my back to keep me moving forward. When I finally made it up to the casket, all I could think was they had his hair combed wrong. It wasn't right. He didn't look like the Jimmy I married. He didn't look like the husband that I fell in love with. I cried and cried. I wanted to crawl in the casket with him. I didn't want to be left behind.
The funeral director came in about 15 minutes later to ask if everything was to my liking. I turned around, looking him in the eyes, and said, "No. Nothing is to my liking. Nothing about this is to my liking. His hair is wrong. His lips are wrong. He doesn't even look like my husband." I had seen dead people before and most of the time they look pretty much like they did in life. Jimmy didn't. The funeral director explained to me that because of all the damage the bullets had done, they did the best they could to make him look like himself. They had comb his hair differently to cover the bullet hole in his temple. They did the best they could, but to a grieving wife, nothing would have been good enough. The viewing went on all day. I couldn't tell you who was there and who wasn't. Mom's valium had taken over and I was just a spectator. Looking back, I wish I hadn't taken them. I should have dealt with it then and maybe I wouldn't have had such a hard time later. But hindsight is 20/20 right?
The funeral, what I can remember of it was nice. My mom read a poem that was in my grandfather's daily devotional for December 31. It talked about how when you get to the edge of the cliff that you have to take the next step because either God will be there to catch you or He will give you wings to fly. I had our song played..Truly, Madly, Deeply.. a couple of others spoke, but I couldn't tell you who.
We buried James Michael Lambrecht on January 5, 1998 in Amelia, VA. at the Mattox Cemetary. My aunt, Linda, gave me a burial plot to place him in. At 25, what did I know about preparing for the future. We hadn't gotten that far. That was something you did when you were older. Who expects to bury their husband at 21? I don't remember a whole lot about the funeral, but I do remember throwing a red rose and a handful of dirt into the hole after they lowered the casket. My brother was one of Jimmy's pallbearers, as was his uncle, my best friend's husband, and a couple of Jimmy's friends.
The next step was buying a headstone. Something else I knew nothing about. Social Security gives you a $255 death benefit. So, that's what I had to buy a headstone with. Little did I know exactly how costly they were. My best friend, Wendy, had a friend who did headstones for a living. He agreed to do Jimmy's for the $255. What a blessing. It has two Jeff Gordon #24 race cars in each corner because that was his favorite driver.
Jimmy had life insurance through UPS, but we had never gotten around to changing the beneficiary on the policy. Again, what did we know at 21 and 24? His mother was still listed, and yes, she got all the money. $27,000 because it was a double endimity policy. Meaning that because homicide is considered an accident, the amount of the policy doubled. Now, if I had been in her situation, I couldn't have kept the money with a clear consious, but I guess money makes people do strange things. So, I told the funeral home to send her the bill. I didn't have the money to pay it, she got the life insurance, so she could pay it. When you work for UPS, you have the option of joining the union. Jimmy did. The union had a small $1,000 life insurance policy on him and she tried to get that too. She called the union office, said she was my sister and that I was moving out to California to be with her and could they make out the check to her so that she could cash it for me. The union rep that she spoke to knew Jimmy and I personally and knew that I wasn't moving and didn't have a sister that lived in California. He called me and told me what was going on and I couldn't believe it. She got $27,000 and wanted more. Well, she didn't get it. I did.
My car was released from the police impound and taken over to the shop the police deal with to be fixed. My insurance had a $500 deductible. The car, in all actually, should have been scrapped. The front driver's side window was shot out, the driver's side mirror was broken, the passenger side window was broken, the back driver's side window was broken, the back seat had to be completely replaced because of all the blood. The front seats had to be replaced, the carpeting and headliner all had to be replaced. When I got the car back, the whole inside was brand new. When the shop owner found out why the car was there, he agreed to fix everything for what the insurance check amounted too. He didn't charge me the $500 deductible. My uncle Len drove the car home from the shop for me. He took me over to the dealership where we had bought it in October of 1997. 3 months we had the car. We explained the situation and even after hearing what had transpired, the dealership wouldn't trade cars with me because they said I owed more than it was worth. So, there my little car sat, in the driveway, for 6 months.
I moved out of my apartment and back in with my Grandmother. My depression had gotten worse. I was scared to go to sleep. Everytime I would fall asleep, I would awaken at 3 am because that is what time Jimmy used to get home from UPS. I would lie awake and wait to hear the car door shut. I didn't want to go anywhere, or do anything. Nothing made me happy. My life was full of despair. Remember, I was mad at God because He took my husband, so I couldn't even turn to Him. Noone understood me. Noone in my family had been a widow at 24 before. How do you explain to people how you feel when they have no idea? I just wanted someone to listen to me. I didn't want to hear that time would heal me, that I would get over it. That it would get better. No..I just wanted to talk about Jimmy. I just wanted someone to listen. My grandmother was so worried about me that she made a doctor's appointment. The doctor put me on Prozac. Things didn't get better, in fact, they got worse. The dosage wasn't right on my medicine so instead of bringing me out of my depression, it took me deeper in. I felt like I had bugs crawling under my skin. I would walk around and around the house thinking of ways to kill people. It was truly a scary time. I went back to the doctor and told him that if he didn't take me off this medicine that I was going to kill someone or myself. He changed me from Prozac to Effexor. It worked for a while, but we had to keep upping my dosage.
I decided to go into hiding at a friend's apartment. I stayed there for 3 months. It didn't help. I don't think I got dressed the whole three months but for maybe a handful of times. I didn't care. I wasn't interested in anything. Most times I didn't even care enough to shower or eat. My depression was getting worse.
Finally, my grandmother decided to come and get me and take me home. She didn't know exactly what to do with me or for me. She decided to surprise me one Saturday morning at take me up to our local beauty shop and get my nails done for me. Not something I did on a regular basis, but she thought it might help. When we got there, a woman was sitting next to the table where I was sitting. She said she had gotten her nails done the day before, but God had told her that morning that she needed to go back. I looked at with a "Yeah, ok..." expression. She just started talking about nothing inparticular and all of a sudden, tears started rolling down my face. I poured out my whole story to this woman I had never met. She didn't try to stop me, or give me advice. She did something noone else had done. She just listened. She sat there in that beauty shop listening to a depressed, half pychotic woman pour her heart out. She didn't wrinkle up her face in disgust, she didn't get up and leave. She just simply sat there and listened.
After I was finished, she told me her name was Donna and she invited me to come to her church. I told her thanks but no thanks. God doesn't love me and I ain't too happy with Him right now. She said I should think about it and if I decided to come, she would sit with me and introduce me to some of the other members. I had no intentions of going. I thanked her for listening to me and I left.
The next morning, Sunday, I woke up at 7 am and could not go back to sleep. I got up, puttered around the house, and decided what the heck..I might as well go. Maybe God will give me an answer to why He took my husband. I drove myself to Donna's church, Bethesda Church of God. When I walked through the doors, there was an overwhelming sense of peace. It was strange. I had never felt that at any church. I felt like I had come home. Later, I found out that Bethesda means Healing. Yep. It was to become a healing place for me. I saw Donna and when she saw me, her eyes filled with tears. True to her promise, she sat with me and after church introduced me to some people who were to become my very close friends. I began attending regularly and slowing came to understand that God didn't take Jimmy from me. His job here on earth had been fulfilled and it was an unfortunate accident that took Jimmy away. Not God. I was able to release all that pent up anger and began a relationship with God. That is something I never knew about either, but that's for another post.
All this time, Chesterfield Police had been working very hard on Jimmy's case. They had found the culprits and it turned out to be my step father's nephew, Jason Gregory, and one of his friends, Michael Sammons. Now, it is bad enough to have your husband murdered, but to find out that it was at the hands of one of your extended family members.. Give me a break. When asked why they did what they did, the only explanation they provided was.."We wanted to see what it would be like to kill someone." What kind of sick, twisted person thinks that way? Alot of technical, judical stuff went on in the year after his death, but I won't bore you with that. Just know that two weeks after they killed Jimmy, they went into one of the churches in the area and did $50,000 worth of damage to the church while taking pictures of themselves doing it. Dumb right? One of them cut themselves on something so their DNA was all over the church. They turned the crosses upside down, broke stained glass windows, and quite a few other things. They were finally arrested for good around July of 1998.
February 22, 1999 was the first day of trial. I had to testify. They asked me a lot of questions and I gave honest, truthful answers. The Commonwealth Attorney had me seated in the courtroom behind his table. We had to listed to Jason's taped confession. It was like listening to someone sit and read the newspaper. No expression, no fluctuation in his voice. As he told what he did to my husband, it was like he was reading off of a script. I learned that Jimmy had been driving out of our apartment complex when Jason flagged him down. They wanted to know if Jimmy had any pot. Yes, my husband smoked. Jimmy told them yeah, but he had to run to UPS first and would get it for them when he got back. They offered to ride with him to keep him company and Jimmy said sure. Sometime on the ride, with Jason in the front seat and Michael in the back, Michael pulled a gun on Jimmy and told him to do exactly what he was told to do. Michael swears that Jason had a gun pointed on him. Anyway, to make a long story short, they had Jimmy drive up a gravel road back to where the old Boy Scout Camp used to be. Michael fired the first shot and it missed but took out the window and the mirror. Jimmy, thinking he had been shot from outside the car, got out, went around to the passenger side, got in the backseat and begged them to take him home to me so that I could take him to the hospital. Jimmy had no idea that the person shooting at him had been in the car. Jason walked around to the door and shot him twice at point blank range in the head. They stole his wallet but left my purse with a $20 bill lying in the top of it alone. Go figure. As Jimmy lay in the backseat dying, he pulled my leather trench coat up on the seat and hugged it. The detectives later told me that his head was lying on the coat and he was hugging it. So, trying to comfort me, they told me that his last thoughts had been of me.
After listening to the confession, the medical examiner had her turn. The Commonwealth Attorney thought he had me in a spot where I wouldn't be able to see the pictures that the medical examiner had to show the court. Well, I did see them. When I looked up and saw my darling husband laying on the silver autopsy table covered in blood, I lost it. I remember throwing my jacket in my mother's lap and saying, "I'm going to be sick." I ran out of the courtroom and to the bathroom. I got sick and that's all I remember.
Eight hours later I become aware of my surroundings and I knew something was wrong. The last I remembered, I was in the courthouse bathroom throwing up and now I am in this strange smelling room with lots of tables and bars on the windows. I had been transported to the ER when Detective Baker found me passed out on the bathroom floor. I didn't have any congnative response in the ER. My mother and Detective Baker explained to the ER Physician what had happened and he diagnosed me as having PTSD and said that I was in a severe form of shock. The lights were on but noone was home. My mom said she called my name and when I looked at her, my eyes were completely vacant. She said it was the eeriest thing she has ever experienced. So, not trusting me on my own, the ER doctor sent me to Tucker's Pavillion, a phychiatric hospital. I was sent to the crisis unit because I couldn't communicate. I don't remember too much about that first night except that I slept alot. The doctor assigned to my case explained to me that my brain had suffered a traumatic injury. Seeing the pictures in court caused me to realize that the last year of my life had not been a dream. It was the same thing as a car hitting a brick wall at 90. That's basically what my brain did. It crashed. The doctor explained that I had been living in a dream world for the past year and the shock of seeing those pictures made me enter reality at warp speed and I couldn't handle it. My brain proceeded to cut off my vocal chords as a self preservation mechanism. So, not only was I depressed and in a strange place, I couldn't express myself verbally. Add on more depression.
I spent 7 days in the crisis unit at Tucker's. It wasn't a nice experience so I will spare you the details. They transferred me to the "normal unit" and I was allowed to be with others. I was put in the crisis unit for two reasons. I couldn't communicate and they had me on suicide watch. After being moved to another unit, it wasn't so bad. I lost 27 pounds while there..so I guess there was an upside..:).
I went home two days later. After 9 days in Tucker's I was ready to go home. I still couldn't talk, but I was happy to be out. I was able to whisper slightly, but it took too much energy, so I just wrote down what I wanted to say. I found out that the trial was over and while I had been in the hospital, my grandmother had fallen ill to a strep infection that had settled in her blood. Because I couldn't talk, I couldn't work, so I was elected by process of elimination to take care of my grandmother. So I did.
The daily grind of taking care of Granny wasn't so bad. She had physcial therapy to learn to walk again, but she did very well. She said she felt bad that I had to stay there and take care of her all the time so she bought me a computer. My first computer. It was great. I could chat, play games, find friends. I still didn't have a voice, but it was great to be able to communicate with others. I met lots of people online. Even had a couple long distance relationships. But then, one night, I met this guy who changed my life.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my testimony.