Thursday, April 19, 2012

Leslie's Victim Impact Statement

Here was Leslie's statement at he sentencing.  It was very powerful. 

I have been waiting a year and 10 months for this moment. I don't even know where to begin. I could try to think of something profound and meaningful to say, but when I look at your face and hear your name I feel nothing nothing but anger and rage. I know I have to forgive you, but I am not there yet and I don't know when or if that day will come. For almost two years now I have put on a mask. I appear strong, I appear to be holding it together, I appear to be healing. Truth is, I am terrified of taking off that mask and facing myself in the mirror, facing the grief, facing the reality, facing the guilt. The reality and the guilt of knowing it was ME who let you in my home. Its was ME who trusted you. It was ME who let you completely take over our lives. It was ME who let you change me into someone I can't imagine being now. It was ME who believed all your lies. It was ME who didn't run for the hills the minute I learned you had a protective order against you no matter how old or how believable your explanation was. It was ME who believed you over my own son when he tried to tell me you shook him but he was 2 years old and didn't know how to explain himself. It was ME who left you alone with my son that night. In June 2007 when I took care of Jace for the first time and he was so sick that nothing I could do would make him breathe better and I just begged him to live and not die, I never thought I would be his mother 3 years later at his bedside in an ICU and once again be begging him not to die. I never thought I would be facing a world without him. I never thought I would be bargaining with God to take my life and spare his. I never thought I would be begging God to just let Jace wake up. He HAS to wake up. No matter how neurologically impaired or handicapped he would be I promised him I would make him better like I did before. I still have dreams about Jace. That he is alive, but hurt in some way and I can't fix him no matter how hard I try. These dreams are hard, but I cherish them, because for those few minutes he is still with me and it feels so real. Then I have to wake up and face the reality. The reality that my child is dead. And he is not just dead. He was brutally murdered. Murdered by a man who claimed to love him as his own. Murdered by a coward who won't man up and take responsibility for his actions. Murdered by a man who won't admit he took another life. Murdered by a man who will continue to lie until the day he dies and never give us an ounce of closure. How dare you. How dare you prey on women with small children who you know are physically and emotionally weak and you can control. How dare you manipulate every one in your life no matter who you hurt as long as Cody gets his way. How dare you continue to lie to your family and manipulate them into believing every word that comes out of your mouth just like you did to me. How dare you take from this earth the only thing that ever mattered to me. The only person that loved me unconditionally, gave me purpose, made me feel alive and gave me something to live for when I felt hopeless. How dare you take from this earth the spark that ignited life into every person in my family, who changed us, brought us together, made us laugh, made us smile even when we didn't want to, made us proud. How dare you take from this earth the miracle that was Jace Burgess. The 1.5 pound being that fought so immeasurably hard to beat all the odds when no one thought he would make it. Day after day he proved us wrong. He was a testament to what the power of love and determination can accomplish. My parents were born to be grandparents. How dare you take away my mothers joy and light. How dare you take away my fathers will to fight the cancer that took his life. How dare you took from my sister the little boy she helped raise, loved like her own, taught to be silly and shine the light of Jesus to all around him. But most importantly how dare you hurt an innocent child who can't defend himself. And not just one child but two. You looked me in the eyes over and over and fed me lies, acted like the perfect parent, knowing behind closed doors when no one else was watching you were hurting Jace. The only thing that matters to you is Cody. Have you stopped for one minute to think about how your actions affect the lives of others? And not just affect us but change us forever? Have you not once stopped to think about what you took from this world? As we sat in the St. Francis ER waiting room on June 13, 2010 in the middle of the night, before we even knew the extent of the injuries, before we knew what happened and before anyone was being blamed you cried in my arms saying you prayed so long for a son and a family and now it was being taken away from you. All you cared about was Cody, what was being taken from you. Not the fact that a little boy was laying in a coma, dying by your hands. You took a miracle from this world that proved he had so much potential and would do great things. He touched everyone around him. He had a glow surrounding him that was infectious. But he was no match for you. He was a fighter, but he couldn't fight the force being thrown against him of Cody Sartin. The hard truth is I know in my heart you will never take responsibility for your actions. You will never be an adult and take responsibility for murdering a child. Despite all the evidence and truth glaring at you in the face, despite a jury finding you unanimously guilty, you will never admit you killed my son. People think a Life sentence brings my family closure. Your life sentence means nothing. Because I have a life sentence without the joy of my life. The only thing that will start to bring me closure is you taking responsibility for your actions and murdering my child. That is what I will pray for. Instead of me lashing out in anger towards you or your family like you and your family have done to mine I will pray for them to see the truth. The hardest part is knowing it was my poor decsions and judgement that let you into my life, let you control me, let you near my son. I will live with the unbearable guilt of what I did and didn't do for the rest of my life. But I refuse to let it destroy me. It may cripple me, but when I fall I will get right back up and keep walking. I will continue to fight because Jace can't. I will be his voice. I will take the mistakes that I have learned from and armed with the education I now have and I will fight for children who don't have a voice and I will fight for women like me. I will do what it takes to not let this happen again. I am living proof that people can make horrible mistakes, ask for forgiveness, receive forgiveness even when it isn't deserved and live a blessed life. Despite my mistakes I have been blessed with a wonderful, humble, God-fearing, hard working husband and a precious son who has reminded me who I am and the power of love. Jace has a little brother he will never get to meet, but I will make sure my son knows all about his big brother Jace. I was not able to sit and listen in the trial and it is probably best I didn't, but someone who was in the courtroom the entire time summarized my thoughts perfectly, "No description of anger could describe the rage, no emotion could describe the sadness, and no sickness could diagnose the disgust." There will be no more fake sickness attacks, no more attempts at a mistrial, no more postponements from an unprepared attorney, no more excuses. You have been found guilty and will spend the rest of your life in prison. A sentence I believe is too easy on you for what you really deserve. But I take solace in knowing you will never have the opportunity to hurt another child, never be able to manipulate and control another woman and I don't ever want to speak your name again. I want to celebrate Jace's precious, perfect little life. Celebrate his accomplishments. Celebrate his impact. I don't want to focus on how he died. I want to remember him and cherish the memories of his life. And from this day forward that is exactly what I will do.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Victim Impact Statements

Today was the sentencing in which we got to read victim statements.   At the last minute the defense objected to me and mom reading our statements, and so the judge asked us to just summarize them.  That was pretty frustrating for me, because I was not at all prepared to "summarize."  Who knows what I actually said, but here is what I planned to say:

God tells me that I have to forgive you.  I don’t know what that kind of forgiveness looks like.  I know how to forgive someone who honks at me while I’m driving.  I know how to forgive people who are having a bad day and take it out on me.  I even know how to forgive the man who shot me as a teenager.  He didn’t know me.  I didn’t feel like it was personal.  I don’t know what it means to forgive someone who did something so personal to me.  Does that mean I have to be willing to shake your hand or visit you in prison? Does it mean I have to stop being angry? 

A part of me wishes that we could have helped you.  A part of me wishes that my family could have been Christ to you and taught you about what real love and a real family looks like.  I wish we could have broken through the layers of hurt and lies and abuse that have ruined you.  But part of me knows you were too far gone.  You made choices a long time ago that took you down this path. 

I have never loved anyone like I loved Jace.  I have never been loved by anyone like I was loved by Jace.  He was light and salt in the middle of a difficult life.  No one has ever brought me more joy, and I am grateful for every day I spent with him.  He made all of our lives better because we knew him, even yours.  He was willing to love you even though you were incapable of truly loving him back.  No matter how many times you hurt him he was willing to forgive you.  He was able to look past your flaws and love you.  In return you murdered him.  You murdered him.  You murdered him.  Listen to those words and let them sink in.  Stop lying to yourself.  You murdered him.  You saying you didn’t do it doesn’t make that any truer than you telling me you worked for a rich uncle, went to Paris, and almost finished college. 

I said once that you had sentenced all of us to a life sentence of unhappiness, but that isn’t true.  You don’t deserve that kind of control over my life.  I refuse to stop living because of what you did.  I will love even more fiercely, pray more fervently, laugh more hysterically, give more unselfishly and work more diligently to help others from having to suffer pain in their lives.  I will be a better person because I knew Jace, and I will not let hatred take away what I have left.  I will be happy.  I will be happier than I have ever been and when I cry and hurt and miss Jace, I will let myself feel that pain, but then I will remember this promise, and I will not let you ruin me. 

I will also forgive you.  I will forgive you again every time I start to hate you.  I choose to forgive you because Jesus forgave me.  I choose to forgive you because Jace forgave you time after time.  This doesn’t mean that I want you to leave prison and come over for Christmas Dinner, but this means that I pray that you face the truth about yourself, your past, your depravity, and what you have done.  I pray that that truth will set you free in some sense.  Not free from incarceration, but free from the evil that has taken hold of you.  I pray that you find some sort of peace and find a way to turn from that evil and do good with your life.  I forgive you.   

 I will try and post here what my mom and sister had to say at the sentencing.  My sister was AWESOME!  There were also letters written from his previous victims that I will try and get a copy of it to post here too if I can.