Finding Closure – Still Searching.

Last friday was the court date for my best friend’s murderer.

We found out shortly before that he agreed to a plea bargain for life in prison without parol.

After 3 years, at 4:15 pm last friday, Chris plead guilty to 7 counts of
murder, stalking and child cruelty.

I ‘m just now able to publish this post.
I think I just couldn’t wrap my head around all of it.
I really struggled with “how” am I supposed to feel about it.
I’m not sure why I initially felt there was a “correct” way to feel…
but it really bugged me that I couldn’t pin point my emotions.

I went into this thinking it would bring closure.
It would be the first time I would see him and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I guess I was waiting these past 6 days for that closure to kick in.
I suppose there is an ending on the legal side of it…
But all around, it was a sad day. I was sad for shannon’s family and friends.
And I was sad for Chris and his family.
I don’t think I’m ready to have sympathy for him…but I did feel sad.
Is that possible? who knows. maybe those aren’t even the correct words
to express my emotions but at this point that’s as close as I can get.

Ben, Micah and I drove into Atlanta from Charlotte that morning.
It’s an easy boring straight 4 hour drive and micah was a dream baby.
Give him a fruit pouch and forget that’s the worst idea ever and he is happy.
Our car, car seat and baby smelled fruity fresh.
I held onto the scarf shannon had made me one year for christmas.
I had come across it one day earlier this year when I absolutely needed it.
It was a God moment.
In my purse I had these photos and tissues from my mom.

So thankful for my sister in law who watched Micah so ben wouldn’t have to
worry about taking him in and out of the court room.
Ben was my rock that day.

We got there 30 minutes early.
I had knots in my stomach and felt like I was about to do something
I was going to totally regret.

When we got there, shannon’s step brother was coming out of the courtroom and
after a hug and smile he asked if we wanted to go up with him to the holding
room where his parents were. We went through the maze of hallways
and ended up in a small room where they all were.
Everyone looked on edge, happy but sad..anxious. to see it all really happen.

The DA came in to give them a run down on how things were going to go.
I felt awkward and was excusing myself when they said to stay.
I told them just to tell me what to do! She started going through what would happen.
I’m glad she did, I felt more prepared and was able to work through some of the knots in my throat. She said how she had to run through the basic details of the murder and that we had to be prepared to hear it. and that, looking at me, some of the details might be new. we had to be ready to hear them. She went on with more of how it would go…
but I already was wanting to fill up with tears. I squeezed shannon’s scarf and got through it.

As we made our way down to the court room, Shannon’s dad pulled me aside and
asked if I wanted to know details before I heard it in the court room.
That’s when the first rush of tears came.
Her mom had come over at the same time showing me a photo album our friend made up…
so many of the photos were from my parent’s house when she came up to visit.
I was just in those rooms. everything still looks so much the same.
It just felt like too much and I cried. But at the same time I didn’t want them to comfort me.
They had enough on them. 

I really was anxious to see Chris. to just put my eyes on him.
When we entered the court room and all sat down.. his family on the other side..
He walked in with his two lawyers.
Physically he looked the same to me. hair in a pony tail and a wispy beard.
He did a lot of standing and holding his hands together in front of him.
He also bent forward a lot putting both arms on the table in front of him.
Kind of like what you do when you are in a church pew.
He had his head down and to the left or right a lot.
And there were times he shook his head… it looked like the same motion I found
myself doing when they were reading some of the horrible details or affects on the kids.
You just don’t want to believe it’s real.

The DA ran through a lot of questions with him..and he had to answer yes to each.
Mainly to show he understood the laws, his rights, his decision…etc.

I have to say that I found some comfort in knowing more of the unknown.
I know that I’ll never know the conversation they had.. what he said to her what she
said to him.. why he did it.. what he felt after… but knowing more of the timeline and
the autopsy details gave me some peace…she didn’t suffer long.
But just hearing all of it took me back to those first days.
The details of how defenseless she was and how ruthless the killing was.
My heart broke for her family having to listen to it with her murderer sitting so close.
Just a very weird feeling. like…does he hear what we are hearing?

I found myself holding my breath.
ben had to squeeze my hand and remind me to breathe.
The tears came and I tried so hard to make them silent.
I wanted to just flat out ugly cry. but my ugly cry is too loud.
and the judge had made it clear at the start that if we didn’t think we could handle
it to excuse ourselves. I don’t think he meant crying..but I knew I had to keep it
contained or else I would never get it back.
the whole time I felt like water was being poured over me and I was trying
to hold my breath and catch every last drop, not letting it fall to the floor.

At one point Shannon’s mom, dad and step mother were able to give a statement
to the judge. Most of their words were to describe to the judge who shannon was…
Lots of memories and details about the beautiful person she was.
These stories brought lots of tears to all of us in the courtroom.
When they talked about some of the memories that I was a part of…
It was like we were back there.
It was especially hard hearing the affect this tragedy had on shannon’s children.
Just heart breaking experiences and conversations.

Shannon’s mom shared about how Shannon had finally recently “met the love of her life.”
and the night before had spinned around her mom’s kitchen just so
happy from a fun night with him and friends. How she said,
“mom, I was the prettiest girl in the room!”
It made my heart just want to burst. Because she was able to have that moment,
of realizing how amazing she was again. She was free. She was whole.
That was something he couldn’t take from her.
Her babies were baptized..and she saw her worth and beauty!

You will never see me share, until I am told it’s appropriate, current photos of shannon’s kids.
We want to keep them as safe and private as possible.

At one point the judge asked all of Shannon’s friends and family to stand.

The DA had told us before in the holding room, that Chris’ lawyer said he was not going to make a statement.
But, when the time came, Chris said he wanted to say something.
He pulled out of his pocket a white piece of paper and read
a bible verse, Psalm 23: “the Lord is my shepherd…..”

The DA listed the counts against Chris…and he had to respond to each one.
Guilty.
He only hesitated at one..I don’t remember which it was.
And can’t assume to know why he hesitated. I would like to think
it’s because of the gravity of the crime that was hitting him,
and not that he wanted to back out of his plea.

He never looked over at us. Just at his parents the few times he
turned around when sitting or leaving.

The judge never hammered down his gavel like I pictured always happened in a court room.
too much tv for me I guess.
But the judge accepted his plea and said some kind words to all of us.
It seriously felt like we should have been in a movie.
It didn’t seem real.
I remember at one point looking around and going…how did we get here?
I felt like I could just close my eyes tight enough and
open them we would be in another time.

It was just a sad day. all around.
Happy to have this earthly justice. But there is no profound sense of peace.
just lots of sadness right now.
I’m not angry.. so I suppose that’s something. I’m glad that her family
doesn’t have to go to another courthouse or the suspense of the pending court dates.

A blog reader messaged me earlier this week…. she had gone through a
cross and losing someone she loves.. she told me how she is like a cup now.
that you come to a point where you can keep filling up day to day but then
something will happen and you will overflow. and that’s that hard day. I feel like a
cup right now. Some days you are ok and you are just filling up but getting through.
but then you hit that point where you overflow and need to cry…
and then you are ready to be filled again.

Thank you for all the prayers for us there that day.
They were felt.
I felt a grace in the room, that her parents were able to stay so strong.

Please continue to pray for Shannon’s children and family.
And all of us who miss her every day.
Shannon’s wish was granted, that her children be safe from him.

I’m putting my faith in God right now and loving on my family.
Praying He will help heal my heart and help me to forgive and not be filled with regret.
I still struggle regularly thinking about how shannon would have loved this, or we would have done this.
I know I should be grateful for that last voicemail she left me..
But in my mind I just wish it would have actually come through on
my phone BEFORE instead of after she was taken from us.
I wish that that trip to meet in charlotte with our kiddos would have actually happened…
just weeks away. I hold onto that still. And I hold onto a lot of regret for not being present
in atlanta. Not being there enough. I know that it is useless to burden my heart like that,
but I’m just not there yet to let it go. praying for that peace.
I know it’ll come.
I just have to give it up to Him. 
We love and miss you so shannon.







The Busy Budgeting Mama

10 Comments on Finding Closure – Still Searching.

  1. Melanie
    April 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm (6 months ago)

    So heartbreaking. I too went thru a best friend being murdered in 1999. She was a young mom, dating a really good guy, when she was just about to go to see her family for spring break her ex fiancé murdered her. She was thrown like garbage off a road. I still to this day have not been able to forgive the ex fiancé and his aunt who were the ones who killed her. Her aunt was found not guilty yet she drove the car while he stabbed her to death. She I as guilty as him. He is in for life as well.

    Reply
  2. Kimberly
    April 17, 2014 at 1:34 am (6 months ago)

    Thank you for being so open and honest about your thoughts and feelings!!! I’ve followed the posts and stories you’ve shared about her for quite awhile now. I have to admit I’ve shed many tears for her and her kids. I love the analogy of being like a cup. That explains it so perfectly well. I lost my best friend very unexpectantly 5 years ago this past December. That was an extremely tough month for me this year. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, wish I could share something with him or have a moment of regret. It’s tough. My ugly cry it mighty loud as well!!!! You continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous
    April 17, 2014 at 10:58 am (6 months ago)

    I couldn’t stop myself from crying while reading this. I lost my rock, my soulmate, my best friend to cancer four years ago, and I still don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about her and my own grief – all I know is that you feel the way you do because that’s what God intends. Some days are hard, and others are harder, but they’re there for a reason. You have more strength than you can imagine – just keep reminding yourself that and rely on God. He will show you the way.

    Reply
  4. David Caron
    April 17, 2014 at 11:00 am (6 months ago)

    Love you little sis

    Reply
  5. Anonymous
    April 17, 2014 at 12:12 pm (6 months ago)

    Firstly, thank you for posting such a raw post. You have shed light onto the reality of what it feels to go through this first hand. Too many women.. young mothers.. are being killed by their husbands boyfriend and like.. just two days ago a beautiful young mother in the prominent beneighborhood near Denver University.. she had three very small children. I commenter on your IG recently, about my best friend’s childhood best friend who was killed by her daughters father. He spent just 4 years in prison for the heinous MURDER of his daughters mother. He walked out of jail a free man on the very day your friend’s murderer was being sentenced. How ironic. Life will never be the same without these beautiful young mothers in this world.. my heart breaks for the young children that will never know just how incredible their mother’s were. You an read mote about our friends death. It is beyond me how he was able to commit such a horrendous act and walk free after just four years. UN.REAL. http://www.startribune.com/local/north/786915282.html
    RIP to your sweet beloved friend.. and RIP Tasha Waalen

    Reply
  6. Megan C
    April 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm (6 months ago)

    That must have been so hard. You are such a strong women and I am glad y’all have had a close on the case and it is over in that aspect. Prayers to your family.

    Reply
  7. Kaylee
    April 17, 2014 at 10:59 pm (6 months ago)

    Natalie–Thanks for posting this! Having known Shannon, this also helped me to understand the crazy process that has gone on since she passed. Happy to know that justice is being served, and I take comfort in knowing Shannon is at peace right now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts–Kaylee

    Reply
  8. Denise Ross
    April 19, 2014 at 1:28 am (6 months ago)

    I feel very sad for you right now. I don’t know what exactly you’re going through as I’ve never been in your place. I did lose both my parents nearly 20 yrs ago now, and know what it feels like to miss those moments of sharing, spending time together, having time. I pray for healing for you and Shannon’s family and friends and for every other person who has lost a friend, parent or sibling in such sad and tragic circumstances. God is with you, and we will continue to pray.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous
    May 1, 2014 at 7:24 am (5 months ago)

    What a beautiful young woman your friend was. Putting her story out there, it’s certainly made an impact with me. One in three. Children left without a mother. It makes me angry.

    Reply
  10. Micky
    June 29, 2014 at 1:11 pm (3 months ago)

    Unfortunately domestic abuse numbers still do not appear to be on the decline. I experienced it in actually both of my marriages the first one more than the second. However, I rarely, if ever, talk about it. The first marriage I was so young, just 19 when I married him and actually I married him out of fear. When I finally did work up the courage to leave him for good, one night he wanted me to visit and talk and I was going to go, but unexpectedly out of town family dropped by so I could not go. I called him to let him know I would not be by and that I was just going to file for divorce. The next day he shot and killed himself.

    Looking back I know even then the Lord was protecting me because I believe had I gone over the previous night, I would have been shot. There were so many times he put that gun to my head, and had he survived his own gunshot he would have never given me a moment of peace.

    The law still doesn’t do enough in my opinion, to protect the victims, whether they are male or female. But there is also so much brainwashing that goes along with abuse, that sometimes the victims don’t assist the cops like we should. Domestic abuse really is a terrible cycle that cripples the victim and binds them in fear. :-(

    I will be praying for your broken heart to mend from the loss of your girlfriend, as well as her family.

    Reply

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