Ok. Where was I..oh yes.. I met a man online. At this point, I still had no voice, and was living with Granny taking care of her. It was right around the first of March, 1999. I was still faithfully attending church and had made some close friends. My closest friend at that time, Margaret, had lost her husband to cancer the same day I buried mine. We had alot in common. I was able to talk to her in ways I hadn't been able to talk with anyone else.
Over the course of the next few months, the man I met online, Tim, and I began a friendship. We talked about everything under the sun. We liked the same things..music, tv, sports, food, etc. We came from two totally different backgrounds though. But, they say opposites attract, right? Our friendship grew and became stronger. I had explained the entire situation to Tim throughout our many chats. He knew all about my PTSD, my loss of voice, the investigation, the trial, my stint in Tuckers. It didn't matter to him. He knew what we had the sentencing faze coming up soon.
I had no intentions, and I mean NO intentions of falling in love again. I didn't want to. I was totally enjoying talking to people online and living in my little, self-made, safe cocoon. Well, lo and behold, God had other plans. Tim and I did fall in love. Online no less. We had the same ideas about marriage, children, religion, money, etc, and our friendship was going great, so it I guess is was logical to take the next step.
In the meantime, I am still dealing with court. Because we had a bench trial, meaning that only the judge heard the case and not a jury, the death penalty had been taken off the table. Now, if it had been completely up to me, I would have given both of them the death penalty. Yes, I believe in the death penalty. I believe if you take someone's life, your life should be taken in the same manner. The Bible clearly states an eye for an eye. But, to be fair, it also says that "Vengence is mine, saith the Lord." But, the Bible also tells us that we are to abide by the laws of the land. So, I had to abide by the laws set forth by Chesterfield County Courts.
Because we had a bench trial, I was not required to stand up in court and say anything. I had the option of writing a Victim Impact Statement. That is the option I chose. In this 5 page letter to the judge, I explained exactly what Jimmy's death had done to my life. I wrote about being a happily married woman when I went to bed on December 30, 1997 and waking up 8 hours later a widow. I explained to the judge how it felt to have to be institutionalized for 9 days because I had a phsycotic break. I let him know how my heart felt like it had been ripped out of my chest, stomped on, put in a blender, poured back into my chest and was expected to function correctly. I explained to him the lonliness, aloneness, despondancy, and heartbreak I was feeling. I told him how it felt to know that I wouldn't grow old with the man I had married and how I would never be able to look into my child's face and see Jimmy. I let the judge know how angry I was that all my options to a future had been taken away because two people decided to play God. I had to explain the financial impact Jimmy's death had caused. I wasn't able to work because I couldn't focus, talk, concentrate, or stand to be around people. I explained the fear that comes with PTSD. I explained the depression and anxiety that comes along with it too. I was grateful that I didn't have to stand up in court and read this letter. It was for the judge's eyes only. And I would hope that it had an impact on his sentencing choices.
Chesterfield County Court system has a program called Victim/Witness Advocacy. They assigned me a case worker and her first idea was for me to attend a support group. Ok...logically I knew that others had been through the same thing, but my feelings were mine and I wasn't sure I was ready to share my experience with a bunch of strangers. I did take her advice though, and went to a meeting. Big mistake. I was the only widow there. Everyone else had lost a child to homicide. No one had a clue how I felt. I sat there listening to everyone talk about how painful it is to hold your dying child in your arms, or to have to go identify your child's body at the morgue. I couldn't relate even one iota. I didn't have any children. Jason and Michael took that option away from me when they shot my husband. I never went back to that or any other group. I guess, in theory, it's a good idea. But if you are going to send someone to a group session, you need to make sure that there will be someone who has been through the same thing. I have often times thought of approaching the Victim/Witness Advocacy program and volunteering to counsel widows of homicide , but haven't felt led to do so.
Sentencing was scheduled for late 1999. I had decided to move up here to Pennsylvania to be with Tim and in November of 1999 I did just that. We moved into a little house across the yard from his parents. Now, I know what you are thinking..."Are you crazy? Moving that close to your mother in law." My mother in law is the most amazing woman ever. I couldn't have hand picked a better one. She is like a biological mom to me. She and I have a wonderful relationship. I would go over every afternoon around 3 and have coffee with her. We would talk and talk and talk. In the past 12 years she has been a lifeline.
We received our letter in the mail about sentencing the first part of November. They postponed it until early 2000. The Victim/Witness program paid for our hotel, and reimbursed us for the gas that it took to come down for sentencing. As I sat in the courtroom again, nervous, all the old memories assailed me. I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with emotion. I began to feel as if I was going to hyperventilate. Tim, the sweet man that he is, asked me if I needed to go out and get some air or water. He took hold of my hand and began to rhythmically rub the top. That was the most calming thing he could have done. As we waited for our case to be called, I looked around the room and saw Jason's and Michael's families. Because of all this drama, there had been a huge rift develop in my mother's relationship with my step father's family. They wouldn't speak to her. They just couldn't believe that their sweet Jason would ever do anything this horrible. They even bailed him out of jail twice during the past two years. His sister put up her house with the bails bondsman to get him out.
The stress of the situation had led to the death of my step father in January of 1999. He was so torn between my mother and I and his family that he didn't know which end was up. He had some major health problems, but the stress is what killed him. He told my mom before he died that he didn't know where to sit in the courtroom for the trial because if he sat with my mom his family would be hurt and if he sat with his family my mom would be hurt. Thank God that he didn't have to make that decision because God, in His infinite mercy, chose to take Larry home before the trial began.
So now, sitting in the courtroom, with Jason's and Michael's family looking at me like I had three heads, it was time for sentencing. Jason's was first. When he walked out of the prisoner holding cell in his beautiful bright orange jumpsuit, handcuffed and chained, my heart dropped. I knew he was going to be there, but seeing him was something totally different. He sat in front of us at the defense table. I felt the need to jump the wall and beat him to a pulp. Even though I had Tim, the wounds were still very raw. Seeing him was like slashing them open again and pouring in salt. I could still invision the ideas I had for torture for him. It wasn't pretty. As I set there, trying to get a grip on my runaway emotions, he turns and looks at me. Nothing..no emotion, no regret, no compassion, no remorse. Evil. That is the only way to describe the eyes that looked at me from the defense table that day. Pure evil.
As the judge began, tears began to flow down my face. The judge, doing his job, slowly rehashed every charge that Jason had incurred. Capital Murder, Brandishing a Firearm in public, Committing murder with a deadly weapon, theft of personal belongings, leaving the scene of a crime, failure to report a crime, and a host of others. Before the judge sentenced him, Jason was given the chance to speak any last words. Did I want him to turn around and look at me and say sorry? Did I expect him too? Did I want to hear the lies? NO and YES. I felt angry because he didn't and angry because he had the audacity to. But in the end, he chose not to say anything. The judge sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole plus 55 years to be served consecutively. You could feel the air being sucked out of the room. The wails that went up from his family was deafening. They had hoped, as I guess I would have had the situation been reversed, that the judge would have compassion and leniency. Jason's lawyers had spoken their last statements right before the judge gave his verdict. Compassion, they asked for, so that Jason could have a chance to see his daughter grow up. What about compassion for Jimmy so he could have had a chance for children to watch grow up. A light at the end of the tunnel the lawyer said. Jimmy has no light at the end of his tunnel. Be merciful to Jason, the victim of an abusive stepfather and a mother who died of cancer. What about the lack of mercy he showed to my husband. No, the judge decided fairly. He metered out the correct punishment for the crime.
Next, Michael Lee Sammons, your turn. Same charges, but to a lesser extent. The judge didn't believe that Michael was the mastermind. He gave him the benefit of the doubt although the judge did say that he didn't believe all of his testimony. Michael, too, had a child and was expecting another at the time of sentencing. The judge sentenced him to life with the possibility of parole. So, he can go up for parole when he is 78.
Now, let me explain a few things. Jason was 19 and Michael was 18 when they killed my husband. Both were into drinking and drugging. Both had hard childhoods. Jason was married with a beautiful daughter, Michael was engaged with a beautiful son and one on the way. Not even legal to purchase alcohol, they both made a decision that forever impacted many people's lives.
Many times I have thought about requesting a sit down, face to face with Jason. What would I say to him? Would I want the answers he would give? Would he tell me the truth? Would I really want him to? As of yet, I haven't done it. I don't think I ever will. I have come to a place in my life where I am ok with it.
So, in my next post, I will fast forward a few years and continue my testimony.
Thanks for accompanying me on my journey,