It was one of those tragedies that come out of the blue. With no one expecting it to happen. Certainly none of the residents were thinking about an evil man prowling their city.

Jen was a normal 12-year-old girl dressed in a pep club uniform. She was standing with friends after a football game, waiting for her stepfather to pick her up.

When a man suddenly pulled up in his vehicle and took her. One of those unthinkable tragedies no one ever expects to happen.

Kidnapped Children:

Most often children are taken and no one sees the crime occur. But this one happened in plain sight.

Bystanders watched as Jen screamed. But they thought it was a father/daughter argument and didn’t want to get involved.

Her stepfather, who was tasked with picking her up, had somehow missed her in the crowd as he drove around the school.

Some men have no regard for others or for the sanctity of human life. Just to show you how they compartmentalize, the kidnapper had just stopped at his brother’s house perhaps an hour before.

The brother’s wife had fed him brownies fresh from the oven. They had exchanged pleasantries, she told authorities later.

Evil That Walks Among Us:

And then the man got up and got into his car and trolled a school. Where a 12-year-old girl in a pep club uniform caught his eye.

None of the bystanders tried to stop him. They would be the last to see her alive.

He took her to his nearby trailer where he did unspeakable things to her. He would choke her until she was almost gone, then let her cough her way back to life. Only to do it again. And again.

At some point, he tired of her. Then he put her in his car and dumped her body at the side of a road. Sans her pep club uniform, which was never found.

The man then stole a car, and early the next morning he was pulled over by a street cop and arrested for car theft.

Already In A Jail Cell For Another Crime:

He was already sitting in jail when they found her body. And then the focus went from his stealing a car to the fact that he had a history of molesting children.

I remember it was November, a few years after this horrible tragedy when I did my legwork and interviewed her mother.

In fact, it was Thanksgiving morning when I took her mother the article I had written. I had promised her she could read it and check all the facts before I gave it to a regional editor for publication.

Meeting The Mother Of The Victim:

I sat in her quiet house, trying to be invisible, while she turned the pages I had given her to read. I seem to remember a clock ticking somewhere in the house.

Her life had been torn apart. Losing her 12-year-old daughter was bad enough in and of itself. But losing her to a random sicko who used her and tossed her in the bushes like a piece of trash was quite another.

I had joint custody of my daughters at that time in my life. They usually spent half of every holiday with their father, the latter half with me.

I left Jen’s mother’s house before noon, and then drove home and cooked a turkey. Made all the fixings. And all the while I could not get that mother’s face out of my mind.

One Day During The Christmas Season:

I recall one day the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the murderer and sent him to Death Row went with me to her grave site.

It had been a very difficult case to prosecute. He was a father just as I was a mother.

When faced with her tombstone, I saw that his emotions were rising to the surface, so I gave him some space. I walked among the tombstones away from him.

Unfortunately in his line of work there would always be another murder. Another child. Another man to prosecute.

Music In The Distance:

Suddenly in the distance I heard the sounds of a school band begin to play a Christmas carol. I stopped walking and listened.

It was likely her school, which was nearby. It was the last place where she was just an innocent young girl, dressed in her pep club uniform, having fun at a football game.

I looked over at the assistant district attorney and our eyes met. He heard it too. The band, amateur young musicians, missed notes here and there.

Just children, whose classmate was no longer among them.

Out Of The Blue:

Last night, out of the blue, I got it into my head to Google the man who went to Death Row. I found that he has been dead for nine years. He died of natural causes.

Which meant he had 20 years to sit in prison. Twenty more Christmases than Jen had in her short life.

I also found out that the lead prosecutor had died just a few years ago. All the principal characters, now gone.

When I turned the lights off, I thought of each one of them for awhile. One a prosecutor, one an innocent 12-year-old girl, her whole life ahead of her. And a monster, who had hurt many children over the years without being caught and punished.

It took the death of Jen to stop him. To put him in a cage until he died. He would not have a chance to hurt another child. But stopping him had cost her her life.

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  1. Oh Brenda, How I wish we could keep our children safe from all these evil people. I have a 12 year old grand daughter, a brilliant girl with long beautiful blonde hair. She has never met people like that and I'm not sure she would believe it if we told her there were people like that in this world. I pray for her every day, as I know many people do pray for their precious children.
    Heartbreaks such as this are just too much.
    Hugs, Cindy

  2. A very sad story , thank you for sharing. That's one sob down maybe by spreading information like this many more people will be aware as to what kind of inhumane people lurk the streets and prey on children. Laws should be more strict for registered child molesters. Many parents are not aware that they can pull files up on line in their area on registered child molesters. Thanks again! Lisa @ Sweet Tea N' Salty Air

  3. Brenda, I can only imagine how difficult this "story" was for you to cover. After reading this post, I'm sure you handled Jen's story with compassion and love–and that her mother knew you cared. 20 years (Do you know, is her mother still alive?) Twenty years on death row and "natural causes" were too good for that monster–at least we know that he won't harm anyone ever again.

  4. You are a gifted writer, and I know the family of the young girl clung to your words as their way of telling her story. Bravery is needed by people everywhere to warn of dangers when you least expect them.
    How tragic the bystanders didn't react in a different way at the initial abduction. We should all take this as a lesson to speak up! Say something! Pay attention! Keep an eye on all children!

  5. One of my former students who was also a family friend, was abducted, not by an older man, but an older boy who complimented her and made her feel "grown up". He tired of her, killed her and threw her in a drainage ditch. He was part of the search crew along with the police and friends and family. But, his family had money and her family did not. He finally confessed and led them to the body, and his parents paid off someone so he got off.

  6. I do not know how people can work in cases like this and remain sane. Truly. I admire(such an understatement) those who can. I googled the details of the last post you wrote of the two girls who vanished and think I found the case you spoke of. Tragic.

    Though I live in a country without capital punishment, I fully believe there are some crimes for which there is no other acceptable punishment.

  7. Maybe fate stepped in when he stole that car that morning and was arrested. Just maybe another innocent child was spared from this animal. I reported several of these cases when I was working in Superior Court here, and believe me you never forget them. You wrote a beautiful tribute to Jen, thank you for doing so.

  8. Unreal where people are in our world today. As a parent and grandparent, I grieve for anyone who would have to deal with this kind of situation. Humanly, one can never forget what this person has done to this girl and others. The only peace I can bring to my mind is knowing God will bring His justice one day.
    You take care.

  9. What is our society doing to create so many perps?

    Why is it easier to catch someone for stealing a car than killing a girl?

    You bear witness Brenda. I have no idea why G*d has given you this skill. We need your grace in telling these stories.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  10. Oh Brenda, who can understand these horrible things…your work must have been so draining and difficult in that you had to live them alongside the victims and families 🙁 It is hard to fathom losing a child, let alone to something like that. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it 🙁

  11. Brenda,

    Your recounting of this horrible tragedy made me stop – smack in the middle of reading it – to try and grip the reality of your previous career. You must be a very strong individual to be able to interview parents of victims, write about the facts, and with each edit, repeat the monstrous crime in your mind, the torn faces of the parents and the eery and haunting experience of the victim. Work experience such as yours, I imagine, never takes a leave of absence, for it is simply too embedded in your mind and your heart.

    Thank you for this story and its accompanying images. And, although I couldn't read it fast enough, it made me slow down to appreciate the health and safety of my loved ones.


  12. This was a hard one for me to read tonight. My girl is 12 years old now and starting to enjoy some of the freedoms that come with being in middle school and I just can't imagine how horribly painful it must have been for her family. I remember you writing about her before but now it hits a little bit closer. I am glad that you keep her memory alive when so many of those who fought for her are now gone.

  13. This is so unbelievable sad. As a mother, this would be my worst nightmare. I don't know how any parent goes on after the death of the child, especially in an instance such as this, knowing how she suffered in the end.

  14. Can you tell us the child's name? Maybe just her first name? I believe that a person is never forgotten if someone remembers his or her name.
    Is the mom still alive? I'll pray for her.

  15. This is a cut and dried case for a quick death penalty if I ever saw one. The fact that we have to house these monsters makes my stomach turn. I pray for peace for the mother and a future happy reunion in Heaven with her beloved daughter.

  16. Such a sad time for you I me the chills someone could do this to an innocent sweet young girl…God Bless her sweet soul and damn him to hell!!! where I am sure he is…so many predators in this world anymore its scarey…no one is safe anywhere today 🙁 Carol

  17. What a sad story. It is a reminder of the world we live in. Things and people are not always as they seem. It's a shame that people sit on death row so long. Is there ever really any justice?

  18. WOW! I tink that this would stay in my mind forever if I were involved in any way. I didn't know that you worked for the media. You really saw the good and bad of life didn't you?

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