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.
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.
I would like to think that if Shannon was alive today,we would be doing this in front of our kids and making them laugh.
Today I went through the Arby’s drive thru.
You might think it’s weird…but it makes me think of Shannon.
I’ve only gone a few times since she was killed.It’s been almost two and a half years..but I still have the hardest time typing out “killed.”A part of me finds it easier to write lost or taken. But the truth is.. she was killed… by an act of Domestic Violence. And sadly, it is the reality of our world, that so many face this.Almost every time I turn on the news there is a story covering domestic violence.They might not use those words…but thattt is the situation they are describing!
As I drove towards ben’s work to treat him with a surprise lunch delivery…
the smell of the curly fries made me flash back to high school days in atlanta…
When we would go to XLT (praise and worship night) at a local Catholic High School.
They would have music, a talk and adoration. It was a weekly thing we all went to.
We would all hang out there for a bit then get in our cars to head to brusters across the street.
It was usually a big group of us. Toni or shannon would usually end up getting a piggy back ride from someone. I remember cramming onto this one bench and the boys would be goofing off making us laugh.
Their was an arby’s next to the
ice cream place..and sometimes we would leave the group and run over for the
curly fries and milk shakes.
The smell made me remember.
Shannon’s curly hair and her pea coat. our matching american eagle jeans!
The scarves she made all of us girls one year,
How we sang in the cars dashboard confessional!
Being silly and just..joyful.
My heart sunk.
It was too close. It felt too familiar.
A second later I felt overwhelmed and partially
regretting the decision to get curly fries…
And I cried.
A song came on k love.
“Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death.
Come awake! Come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake! Come awake!
All I know is that after I heard that song…
I felt peace in my heart that God has already won
He has conquered death.
We can be together with Him again.
I wiped my tears and had a moment where I felt
like my heart had been heard.
So… next time you’re thinking arby’s,
think that. ;) God has already won.
Peace for all of you missing someone.
SPEAK OUT AND GET HELP! or HELP someone else.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
To read all posts related to Shannon you can click here.
Please share her story..donate if you can.
If you have been touched by her story and would like to
visit her Memorial Page you can visit here.
Please Pray for peace in our world
and for all those affected by Domestic Violence.
My heart feels like it’s about to burst.
I am so excited… proud.. hopeful.. in shock..that my dream of
‘Mommy has an Angel – A Children’s Book for Grieving Mothers,’
Actually came to life! With the support of so many of you…
and your prayers and your kind words…
this project of a Children’s book to bring comfort
to grieving mothers has become a reality.
I am so excited to reveal the website I created for the book!
Please visit Mommy Has an Angel.com and watch the video I filmedto share my heart and my desire for this book and how it came to be.You can Pre-Order starting today. Copies will be shipped November 1st!
I wish I video taped the moment I showed my girls the drawings
with their characters come to life in the book…Sophia was like what?!?
I’m on the cover of a book?!? ;)
It seriously melted my heart.
You can also see more of the artwork for the book…
and learn about my amazing Illustrators!!
(love them. love love love them.)
Please share the site among your friends and get the word out.
I already have a long list of mamas that I want to send this
too the second the finished books arrive at my door step.
I’m sure you know mamas that would find
comfort in reading this book to their children as well!
The first copy is going to the parents of my shannon.
So they can read it to her little ones and know that natalie
wrote it about their beautiful mommy.
I didn’t want to put her name in it..because I wanted the focus to be
on anyone’s angel….that when a mom reads this book she can
picture her own angel in heaven.
There are little details throughout the book that are my “secret”
connection to shannon.. a rose on every page. My girls love finding
repeated things on books..so I thought that would be a
special touch for me...and a fun touch for the kids!
The pink sunset is what reminds me of shannon the most.
There have been many occasions I have been feeling sad and
overwhelmed with the complicated phases of grief…and I would
suddenly see the pink sunset and it would make me feel connected to her.
Seeing the pink clouds in the book makes me SOO HAPPY.
Like my heart just.. I can’t even explain it. It’s like something you
envisioned and this connection you feel with someone you don’t know
anymore…it makes you feel close again.
And I needed that. And I hope that moms who feel this same way we
find that connection in this book with their loved one they lost.
When we die we do not become angels. I know that.
But this book is not about the theology..it is about the simple words of
my children who picture Shannon in heaven and talk about her with such
simplicity and trust in God’s plan..that I don’t mind if they have their
theology all messed up…They healed my heart with their words.
And sometimes when you are grieving…
simple words from a child can heal you in your brokenness
more than you ever thought they could.
I can’t wait to reveal more of the book to you…
and share some of the words.
I think you are going to love it!
Please share! All of the hard working on this project will be worthit if this book can help heal hearts of mothers whohave felt grief like I have felt.
I wanted to have pre-orders begin now so that when I order
the books I can order a big batch to make sure you
have them for the holidays. Night time..and the holidays/big
occasions can always be hard on those grieving.
I can’t wait to read this to my girls at night!
And think of shannon. and think about the other moms out there
reading it and feeling a little bit of a connection with their
loved one and with me and my family.
I need to stop this post before I start sobbing… ::emotional:: ;)
Excited to be connected with you as we heal together!!
we filmed in my kitchen :) I wanted to share the heart behind the book.
I’ve been putting off this post for a month…
I recently was back home in atlanta and was able to visit my best friend, Shannon’s, children.
The estranged father of her children shot her during a custody exchange in a bank parking lot. the horrific details and what followed I don’t wish to write out again.
I had seen the children before since the tragedy…
but this visit was the first one to her house.
The last time I walked through that door…was with shannon.
—I had photos to share of us from my phone.. but I was asked to remove them to protect the kids. I guess their father’s parents are trying to get photos of them for him. The fact that I cannot even share them in my life right now makes me sooo angry.He continues to take from us. But I am trying to understand and will not post photos of them to protect them from him and be happy to have those memories and photos for myself.—-
My stomach was turning in knots. so many emotions.
I was so excited to see their sweet faces and so scared to relive moments at her house.
As I walked in the door and was hugged by these two cuties and by shannon’s dad and step mom.. I fought back the tears.. till the kids were away jumping on my brother.. and then I cried. and Karen told me it was ok to cry. I told her I didn’t want every memory the kids had of me to be me crying. I wanted to be strong. but I needed that moment.
A hug.. and some words of wisdom from her and then I was quickly whisked away by emma to see her new room!
I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to make that trip until we were turning into her neighborhood… luckily I was going with my brother
(who was also best friends with shannon) and his wife mary.
They made me feel stronger.
These sweet beautiful children are so joyful. so full of life.
and good huggers. :) and will take pictures for cookies.
I felt like I was in a dream… I was standing in the family room holding micah smiling, watching the kids wrestle with david.. and as I looked up I saw the balcony.. and remembered walking up those steps with shannon. or her running up to grab something and then standing there looking down.
Her daughter was so excited to show me her new room
(that some very generous wonderful friends, and strangers, had made over for her.)
It used to be shannon’s room.
The new space was freshly painted. It was so beautiful..with a huge cinderella carriage bed.. one of a kind art work.. beautiful details. She had photos of her mommy on the wall next to her bed. many of them from my wedding day. (she was a bridesmaid)
Pretty sure the last time I was in her room… We had been out toilet papering and shaving creaming our friend’s car in the target parking lot (he was the target security guard. he caught us. I ended up hand cuffed to his car. haha.)
we ended the night at her house making cookies and singing and dancing in her room.
We laughed so hard that night.
Below we were in shannon’s room… I’m wearing the scarf she made me.
one year for christmas she made all of us girls one. :)
My sophie talks about shannon a lot.
“mama you know your sister.. your friend..who is in heaven..
and is an angel now…I can’t wait to go there too and be an angel!”
(she thinks she is my sister even though I’ve explained it many times.)
When Emma was holding micah…meeting him for the first time..
it made me think back to when I would come in town and Shannon and I
would get together and smile over our babies together.
(black and white photo was our last time together.. introducing our little babies.)
for shannon’s sweet children,
your mama was amazing.
she was beautiful.
she was funny.
she loved to laugh and be silly.
she was creative. she always loved when my mom would
give her yarn from our basement that was always stocked with it.
she was spiritual. I remember staying up late talking about our faith our relationship with God..and about boys.. about respecting ourselves and wanting that guy that would treat us right.
she had a sweet tooth. I remember always getting arby’s chocolate milk shakes (and curly fries) after XLT (adoration night at a local high school)
she liked to sing into hair brushes.
she was adventurous and we would always go to a rock climbing place and she would zoom up the mountain. usually attacking me at least once with the chalk for your hands.
she was kind.
she loved you.
she LOVED you.
and talked about you all the time.
every phone call revolved around you both and my girls.
about how you guys were growing so much.. how much or how little you slept..
how amazing you were……..
I’ll never forget your mama.
and I’ll never let you either.
I love you both so much… and know that one day when you are older you will read this…
and I hope that I can bring her to life for you through these memories.