Thursday, January 30, 2014

Police Say Randall Wyers was Out on Bond When Found with Teen

FORT SMITH, Ark. —Police said 36-year-old convicted sex offender Randall Wyers was out on bond when he was found with a 14-year-old girl earlier in the week.

“He’s been charged with sexual assault fourth in Franklin and Johnson counties,” Patton said. “We have two cases pending against him right now.”
Wyers is also charged with interfering with child custody. Patton said she expects more charges to be filed; however, kidnapping won’t be among them.
“We do see her as a minor,” Patton said. “We do see her as a victim, but without going into too many facts of the case, it does appear she willingly went with him.”
Wyers bond has been set at $500,000. He will appear in court Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Franklin County Courthouse for a bond revocation hearing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Kelsey Smith Act Could Be Coming To Michigan

*Note from Rebecca*
God bless the Smith family and the dedication and legacy they have created for their beautiful daughter Kelsey Smith, who was taken away from them in a brutal heartbreaking way. Please say a prayer for them and send love their way. 

In May I wrote a blog about a young lady named Kelsey Smith.  It was the tragic story of recent high school graduate from Kansas who was raped and murdered.  I wrote about her parents, who reacted to this unspeakable tragedy by dedicating their lives to try to make sure other families did not have to go through the same horror that they did.

I am writing today of some encouraging news from State Representative Kurt Heise about this story as it relates to the State of Michigan, but first, I am including an abbreviated version of my story about Kelsey Smith for those of you who do not know about her. Click on this link for the original story.

This is the slightly abbreviated story of Kelsey Smith.

Kelsey Smith was born on May 3, 1989.  She was the 3rd of what would eventually be 5 children, born to her parents Greg and Missy Smith.  From the beginning, Kelsey's parents knew she was going to be a handful.  When she was a toddler, she received a shirt that said, My Name Is No-No.

Kelsey Smith was also a kind child from the very beginning.

When she was young, and went somewhere with her parents, she would not allow them to buy her a treat unless they bought treats for her sisters.  Her brother Zach was born when she was six.  She was so protective of him that she wouldn't allow anyone to take care of him but her whenever she was around.

She was just a normal child growing up in the Midwest.

Throughout her life she was inquisitive, and questioned everything.  She was never afraid to try something new.  At Shawnee Mission West, where she attended high school, this was certainly the case, as she became involved in a whole slew of activities such as, track, theater, writer's workshop, art, and choir.  Her main passion though, was marching band.  Following her passion, she chose to attend Kansas State University, knowing that they have a strong marching band program.

She was just a normal teen growing up in the Midwest.

She was a great student, she was very focused on her future, she had a wonderful sense of humor, and she had a huge heart.  Some of the stories her parents have shared, were wonderfully funny and opened a window into her heart so that others could see inside.  These stories show how caring and kind she always was.

The kindness she showed as a child continued on into high school, as many of her friends would share their stories of her surprising them with balloon bouquets on their birthdays.  Kelsey's talent for the arts wasn't limited to theatre, choir, and band, she was also a very talented artist.

One thing she did that was amazing and heartwarming, was when a family member lost a dog to death, she would draw pictures of their pets, and give them to the family members who had lost their dog.  Today those pictures she drew, must mean so much more to the family members who received them.

She had a beautiful voice, and sang in the Shawnee Mission West Choir. One of the last times her parents ever saw her perform, she surprised them by performing a solo.  She was so excited about it, she could hardly keep it from them.

Kelsey Smith was a funny, caring, talented young lady growing up in Kansas.  She is described as one that makes a difference in someone's life.  She was not unlike many kids growing up in America.  Perhaps she reminds you of one of your own children.

Kelsey was a wonderful teen, blooming into a young lady with a promising future.

Kelsey Smith died just days after she graduated from Shawnee Mission West High School.  She was murdered.  She was abducted in a Target parking lot in Overland, Kansas on June 2, 2007.

She was last seen on surveillance video purchasing a gift for her boyfriend to celebrate 6 months being together.  Outdoor surveillance footage showed her being abducted and being forced into her car.  Her car was found abandoned approximately 2 hours later in the mall parking lot across the street.  Upon searching video surveillance, police noticed a suspicious 70's era pickup truck that had been parked in that same lot.

The search for her picked up steam almost immediately, and those searching became known as Kelsey's Army.

Almost immediately, authorities contacted her cell phone company Verizon. They wanted them to pinpoint her location by checking where her cell phone pings went to.  All cell phone companies have the technology to do this.  Under federal law, they are allowed to provide location information to authorities, without a warrant, in an emergency such as an abduction or missing persons case.

The problem is that while they are allowed to do this, they are not necessarily forced to provide this information to authorities.  In Kelsey's case, Verizon did not have a current policy on such a thing, and it ultimately took 4 days before they provided the police and the FBI the information.

They ended up telling authorities to search and area exactly 1.1 miles north of a particular cell phone tower.  It took all of 45 minutes from the time authorities received the information to find Kelsey's body in a wooded area by a lake.  So on June 6th, after four days of trying to get the cell phone records, and 9 days after she graduated, Kelsey was found.

Forensic evidence reports revealed that Kelsey Smith had been sexually assaulted, and then strangled to death.  Her body was found at 1:30 PM, and the animal that did this to her was arrested that evening.

At Kelsey's memorial, her father Greg Smith shared that Kelsey could walk into a room full of strangers, and come out with a room full of friends.

Instead of just fading away, Kelsey's Army moved forward, and transformed into the Kelsey Smith Foundation.  Greg and Missy Smith wanted something good to come of their daughter's death.  They wanted to change things in order to maybe save someone else in the future.

The Kelsey Smith Foundation today does many things.  They do safety Awareness Seminars, and they also work with outside organizations, to provide self defense training, and among other activities, they also promote nationwide, the Kelsey Smith Act.

The Kelsey Smith Act provides law enforcement with a way to quickly ascertain the location of a wireless telecommunications device if a person has been determined, by law enforcement, to be at risk of death or serious physical harm due to being kidnapped and/or missing.

The Kelsey Smith Act, named in memory of Kelsey was signed into law on April 17, 2009, by then Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.  The act was proposed my Greg and Missy Smith.   Kansas State Representative Rob Olsen sponsored the legislation, and worked with Kelsey's parents to get it passed.

Greg Smith, after serving in the United States Navy for ten years, and as a law enforcement officer for 17 years, ran for, and won a seat in the Kansas State Legislature.  He is now a State Senator.  He has sponsored and co-sponsored several laws aimed at protecting children.

He stated, " Nothing I can do will bring Kelsey back but what I can do is use that event as the impetus to make a difference in the lives of my other children, my grandchildren, and in the lives of members of my community."

Greg and Missy Smith travel the country to speak about keeping our children safe, and also the Kelsey Smith act.

Since Kansas adopted the Kelsey Smith Act, Nebraska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Missouri, Hawaii, Tennessee, and Utah have also adopted the Kelsey Smith Act.

The Kelsey Smith Act is simple.  It seeks to mandate that cell phone providers provide location information to law enforcement in such emergencies.  Text messages are still protected, phone calls made and received are still protected under privacy laws.  All the Kelsey Smith Act mandates is that the location of the cell phone be given, and only in an emergency where a life is at stake, or physical harm could be done.

I spoke on the phone with Kelsey's father Greg, and he told me these two stories.

He told me about one instance in Tennessee, one month after the Kelsey Smith Act was enacted, a six year old boy disappeared.  Authorities acted quickly, and immediately became strongly suspicious of a convicted sex offender in the area.  They were able to track his cell phone down, and rescue this child before the man could molest him.  This man had been convicted in the past of molesting at least 10 children.  Thanks to the Kelsey Smith Act, this young boy did not have to go through that life changing horror.

There is another case where a man had a stroke.  He was able to dial his home phone number, but couldn't speak to give his location.  Police were able to quickly locate him using location information from his cell phone provider.  Another life saved.

These are only two stories shared to me by Kelsey's father Greg.  Mr. Smith also told me that he and his wife Missy travel to any state willing to take up this legislation for consideration.

The Kelsey Smith Act is a simple law to pass.  It doesn't cost one dime to implement.It has passed with bipartisan support in 9 states, and I would like Michigan to be the tenth state to adopt the Kelsey Smith act.

In most abduction cases, there is a very limited window of time between the abduction, and harm being done to the victim.  Law enforcement needs to be able to quickly obtain the information on the location of the victim or the suspected perpetrator of the crime.

According to John Ryan, who is the chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing And Exploited Children, "Time is of the essence when a child is missing, the first three hours are critical to recovering a child alive."

Look, I'll be the first one to admit that I am no expert in this field, but from what I know,  the experts all seem to agree that the Kelsey Smith Act would be an invaluable tool in saving lives, and in the worst case scenarios, bringing closure for families.  As someone who has spent some time researching this, I wholeheartedly agree.

I can't begin to fully understand the heartache that the Smith family felt, and the hole in their lives that still exists, but in learning about their story, I know that if I didn't try to do something here in Michigan, I would feel like I let them down every time a child goes missing, and cannot be found.

The last thing Kelsey's father Greg said to me was that if there is a legislator willing to sponsor the Kelsey Smith Act, he would be willing to fly to Michigan and speak about this legislation, and answer any questions Michigan lawmakers may have.

So now that you know the story, here is we stand.

Back in May, I contacted a young lady named Brooke, who works for Patch, it was my understanding that she was the one who helped out the bloggers, or in my case, kept them in line.  I submitted Kelsey's story to her, and asked if she could try to get it on other Patch sites in Michigan.  It was my hope that with the exposure, and many calls to State Representative's offices, that maybe I could get somebody to champion the Kelsey Smith Act for Michigan.

Patch was kind enough to carry Kelsey's story on every Patch site in the state, and I started making calls to State Representatives.  As it turns out, my efforts paid off right here in Plymouth Township.

Our State Representative, Kurt Heise contacted me via email asking for more information.  As it turns out, Mr. Heise is the Chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee, which makes him the perfect person to not only understand the value of having the Kelsey Smith Act, but also the best person to escort it through the legislative process.

Over the course of the last several weeks we've corresponded regularly, and questions have been asked and answered.  Mr. Heise has reviewed all of the information, and has reviewed the specific legislation from other states where the Kelsey Smith Act has become law.

Mr. Heise has also spoken to various communications companies concerning this law, and discussed ways in which he can codify the intent of the Kelsey Smith Act into sensible legislation for the state of Michigan.

My opinion is that he is going about this the absolute best way possible.  He is taking input from the very folks that will be charged with implementing the policies that will make the Kelsey Smith Act work seamlessly for Michigan law enforcement agencies.

When both parties are on board with legislation, you get legislation that is effective, and that is exactly what Representative Heise is seeking to achieve.

Up until now, I have been hesitant to update this story, and Mr. Heise's efforts, because there were never any promises made that he could see this thing through.  It is still not a done deal, but I just felt that there has been enough progress made, where there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, and I really wanted to publicly thank my State Representative for his efforts on behalf of not only the Smith family, but also on behalf of all families who have had, or may sometime in the future have to deal with a crisis like what the Smith family has dealt with.

Mr Heise is to be commended.  He has represented to me what our government was always intended to be.  A government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  I had an issue that I felt strongly about.  He was more than willing to give this issue fair consideration, and he has worked hard to determine if this legislation is right for the children and families in the state of Michigan.

In the end, even if this effort ends up being all for naught, I will know that my State Representative gave it a fair effort, and I can ask no more. Obviously, I hope that the Kelsey Smith Act becomes law in our state, but either way, I thank Mr. Heise, and his staff for all of their efforts on my behalf.

Update:  Representative Heise just recently sent me an email detailing further progress.  It states that he has decided to have a bill drafted by the Legislative Services Bureau, and that he intends to file the bill in the fall, if not sooner.  That my friends, is great news!

Again, I would like to thank Mr. Heise for all of his work, and the timely emails detailing his progress on the Kelsey Smith Act...
This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Missing Oark Girl Found. Sex Offender Arrested.

A Johnson County 14-year-old girl was found by authorities after she went missing over the weekend and was last seen with a sex offender, according to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department.
Rebecca Lynn Rogers, an Oark girl, was last seen Sunday with Randall Joseph Wyers at an Ozark Walmart, according to an alert put out by the sheriff’s offices for Franklin and Johnson counties.
Wyers, 36, was arrested after he and Rogers were found in a vehicle just north of Ozark, according to Franklin County Sheriff Anthony Boen.
Wyers is being held at the Franklin County Jail.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Morgan Nick Amber Alert Issued for 9-year-old Little Rock Boy Terrell Maurice Holloway

Morgan Nick Amber Alert issued for 9-year-old Little Rock boy Terrell Maurice Holloway

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - According to Arkansas State Police, Little Rock police have requested a Level 2 Morgan Nick Amber Alert for a missing 9-year-old boy.
State police said the alert is for Terrell Maurice Holloway, who according to LRPD, came home after school on Monday, took off his jacket and has not been seen since since around 5:40 p.m that evening. 

According to State Police, he is alone.
The boy was reportedly last seen wearing a red shirt, red jacket, khaki pants, red hat with "Chicago" in black letters on it, and red and white shoes. He was last known to be at a home on the 1900 block of Spring Street.

Terrell stands 3'10" tall with medium complexion, weighs between 47 and 50 pounds, and has black, short hair
If you have any information about Terrell Holloway's whereabouts, please contact police at (501) 371-4829.

Deputies: Missing Teen Could be with Registered Sex Offender

JOHNSON COUNTY —The Johnson County Sheriff's Department is searching for 14-year-old Rebecca Lynn Rogers of Oark, Arkansas.
She is 5'4", and weighs 100 lbs. Her hair is brown, but deputies said it could be dyed blonde.

Deputies said Rogers is believed to be with 36-year-old Randall Wyers of Franklin County.
He may be driving a 1986 white Ford Dually with Arkansas plates 304-TIX.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Court Date Rescheduled for Killer Charged in Jersey Bridgeman's Murder

Bentonville, Ark. —The court date for Zachary Holly, the man charged in 6-year-old Jersey Bridgeman's murder, has been reset due to scheduling conflicts.
In August, Holly was found fit to stand trial after a mental evaluation. 
On Nov. 20 2012, 6-year-old Jersey Bridgeman was reported missing from her home. Within minutes, her body was found in a nearby vacant home. According to police, she died between midnight and 6:45 a.m.
Holly, 24, was charged with Bridgeman's death. According to a police report he and his wife babysat Jersey the night before.
Holly has pleaded not guilty to charges of capital murder, kidnapping, rape and residential burglary. 
The young girl's death ended a short life marred by abuse. Her father and stepmother were sentenced to prison after being convicted of chaining her to a dresser in 2011.
Jersey lived with her mother, Desarae Bridgeman, in Bentonville

*Note from Rebecca*

Please continue to pray for this family as they go through the difficultly of a capital murder trial. God bless them and be with them. 

The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Help Police Catch This Rapist: Cold Case

The case involves an elementary school teacher who told police she was raped at the Frank Tillery Elementary School located at 621 West Elm St. The incident occurred on Sunday, Nov. 9, 1997and remains unsolved.

ROGERS, Ark. —The Rogers Police Department is seeking help from the public on a cold case from 1997.

On Nov. 9, the teacher went to her classroom one Sunday morning to clean up and complete lesson plans. That Sunday, there was a church service being held in the cafeteria of the school with about 250 people, according to the police report released.

The teacher told police that she left her classroom to use the restroom and she was approached by a man disguised in a knit stocking cam and sunglasses carrying a pistol. She told police she was raped by the suspect and he quickly fled the scene.

A police sketch was drawn based on the suspect's description from the victim. Police described the suspect as:
• At the time of the incident, the suspect was believed to be between the ages of 20-30 years old. Now, the suspect would probably be between 37-47 years old.
• The suspect was unshaven and appeared to have reddish blonde facial hair.
• The suspect was described as being between 5’6” and 5’9” tall at the time of the assault.
• The suspect was described as having a “beer belly” but not overweight.
• The suspect was described as having a flat, wide nose.
• The suspect was most likely right handed.

If you have any information, please contact Rogers Police Department at (479) 636-4141.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Online Predators Know What They Are Doing

Sex Offender Alert

West Fork Sex Offender Fails To Register, Deputies Say
Posted on: 3:35 pm, January 21, 2014,
by Shain Bergan

Deputies on Monday night found and arrested a West Fork man accused of running off after failing to register as a sex offender in Washington County, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Michael Roth, 39, was arrested on suspicion of failure to register as a sex offender. He remained Tuesday in the Washington County Detention Center on $10,000 bond. His arraignment is set for Feb. 3, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Sex offenders are required to register with the Sheriff’s Office every six months to verify their home locations. Roth began registering with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in March 2012, but failed to re-register with the county the following year, according to an arrest warrant for Roth.
A detective with the Sheriff’s Office attempted to contact Roth at his West Fork home after his failure to register, but was notified by the landlord that Roth had not lived there in about a month. Authorities later located Roth and arrested him, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Roth was arrested in 2002 on suspicion of incest and other felony charges. As part of a plea deal, he pleaded guilty in 2004 and was sentenced to four years in state prison, according to court documents.
The suspect fled from authorities following the plea deal, but was located and arrested in 2007, court documents show.
Roth’s only other appearances in Washington County court records are in two protection order cases. Roth had two domestic abuse protection orders placed against him by two women, one in 2003 and the other in 2007, records show.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

AMBER ALERT THROWBACK - Bush Unveils Upgrade of Amber Alert System

Bush Unveils Upgrade of Amber Alert System

Published: October 3, 2002

President Bush listened with tears in his eyes today to wrenching stories from the parents of missing or murdered children, then announced that the federal government would spend $10 million to improve the Amber Alert systems set up to notify the public about abducted youths.

Mr. Bush also said that the Justice Department would name a new Amber Alert coordinator, and that it would develop a national standard for Amber systems -- which include broadcasting messages on television and radio stations and posting information on electronic freeway signs -- to try to accelerate the dissemination of alerts.

''The kidnapping of every child is a parent's worst nightmare,'' Mr. Bush said at a White House conference on missing, exploited and runaway children, with a large backdrop of photographs of missing children behind him. ''Yet too many moms and dads have experienced this nightmare across America.''

Mr. Bush added that he and his wife, Laura, had just met with parents ''who have had the most precious person in their lives suddenly and brutally taken away from them.''

Those parents included Rebecca DeMauro Petty of Oklahoma, whose 12-year-old daughter, Andria, was abducted, raped and murdered by an uncle in Arkansas in 1999. Ms. DeMauro Petty, who wore a lapel pin with her daughter's photograph, told Mr. Bush of how the killer even took part in the search for her daughter.

''God bless you,'' Mr. Bush said.

The president also heard from Sharon Brooks of Lancaster, Calif., whose 16-year-old daughter, Tamara, was kidnapped in August with another teenager, Jacqueline Marris, in a nationally publicized abduction. The two were later found through the Amber Alert program, and their abductor, a man identified as Roy Dean Ratliff, was shot to death after resisting when sheriff's deputies pulled over his car and ordered him out.

''The Amber Alert system is, I'm sure, what saved Tamara and Jackie,'' Ms. Brooks said.

Mr. Bush met with Ms. Brooks and the other parents a few blocks from the White House at the Ronald Reagan Building, where the conference was held. Mr. Bush announced the conference this summer as concerns about a rash of kidnappings heightened across the country, even though statistics show that the number of child abductions by strangers has fallen in recent years.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, about 100 children are abducted by strangers each year, down from a range of 200 to 300 during the 1980's.

Amber Alert programs have been adopted in at least 20 states in recent months, including New York, New Jersey, California and Florida, and in dozens of smaller areas. The system was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped six years ago from Arlington, Tex., and killed.

Last month, the Senate passed a bill to provide $25 million to help establish a national Amber Alert system. Mr. Bush urged the House of Representatives to pass a similar measure.

Overcoming Victimization Through Empowerment and Education

By Rebecca Petty

The abduction of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. In the event of a child abduction, that child can be taken away from their family at the rate of a mile per minute. Within an hour of an abduction, a child can be as far away as 60 miles, staggering if you think about it in those terms. In the event of a child abduction, swift action must be taken and law enforcement called immediately. Many people are still under the misconception that law enforcement cannot be called in until the 24 hour mark is reached, but this is simply not the case anymore. Sadly, we have all learned that time is of the essence in the case of a missing child. In 76 percent of child abduction murders, the victim was killed within 3 hours of the reported abduction, and in 89 percent of child abduction murders, the victim was killed within 24 hours. (Gregoire, C., US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention. 2006)

The importance of contacting law enforcement cannot be stressed enough. In the event of a true child abduction, a myriad of people will become involved in the search for the missing child including the community in which the child lives. The people in the community can help immensely in the return of a missing child by holding candlelight vigils to bring awareness to the missing child and by assisting in the search for the missing child. Community involvement is sometimes the key in the return of the child, whether alive or deceased.

May 15, 1999, 12-year-old Andria “Andi” Nichole Brewer was babysitting at her father’s rural Arkansas home when a knock came at the door. Her two younger stepsiblings said it was “Uncle Karl,” and that he said her grandparents were ill and she must immediately come with him. Brewer left under the assumption that she was going to her grandparent’s house. A three- day, state-wide search ensued, which included local and state police, the FBI, and hundreds of community volunteers who collectively scoured the rural area in the Ouachita Mountains. The frustrated Sheriff, Mike Oglesby, commented that Andi seemed to have disappeared off the planet.

The nightmare is not knowing what happened to your child and not knowing who did these terrible things to your child. (Walsh, 1997). “Uncle Karl,” an uncle by marriage, confessed to kidnapping Brewer and taking her ten miles away to Cove, Arkansas. He drove her down an old logging road west of town where he brutally raped and strangled her to death. He then covered her nude body with scrub brush and threw her clothes in Buffalo Creek. He then proceeded to his parent’s house where he shared a cup of coffee with his father and then, upon a frantic call from his wife, returned to help search for Brewer. He assisted in the search for her for three days and finally confessed to the state police and FBI upon the failing of a polygraph test, shortly thereafter, he led authorities to her body.

Andria “Andi” Nichole Brewer was my daughter. Her short life set my own life on a path of creating a legacy for my daughter and made me realize that the only way to overcome victimization was through empowerment and education. It became my passion to ensure that this sort of thing never happened to another child. However, first on the agenda was something that only stood in line behind burying her. That was to attend the capital murder trial for the man who murdered her.

Abduction and Capital Murder
On Tuesday, May 18th 1999, Karl Douglas Roberts was charged with the capital murder of 12-year-old, Andria Brewer. He pled not-guilty in front of a stunned Polk County Circuit Court in the small town of Mena, Arkansas. Prosecutor Tim Williamson was set with the task of not only dealing with Brewer’s family, but also with the task of controlling a community who wanted to hang Roberts on the front lawn of the courthouse. Death threats were coming in for Roberts and even his own family cowered in fear in their homes. Williamson did his job to the best of his ability considering he had only prosecuted one capital murder case and never a case involving a young child. This quickly became a learning event for everyone involved, the State of Arkansas, the community, law enforcement, and the victim’s family. Some of the larger issues were regarding the media, and Williamson handled them with grace. Additionally, to deal with the victim’s family, Williamson assigned Jo Mitchell, a victim advocate for the Prosecutors office. She helped answer tough questions and was there for the family when they needed emotional support. It was after strong support and encouragement from Jo Mitchell that I realized that, one day, I could help others and be there for the hurting families. I was treading on a path few had walked and had empathy for people I never felt before. It was then my stirrings for helping others were born.

Coping with Becoming a Crime Victim Overnight
Coping is one of the hardest things to learn after becoming a victim of violent crime. Trust is nonexistent, hope is out the window, and belief in God is questioned. There are many things to learn. One of the most astounding things I learned was how evil the world could be. Being raised in a middleclass family and not being associated with any type of crime, I was stunned to learn that the average victim of abduction and murder is an 11-year-old girl who is described as a low-risk, “normal” child from a middle-class neighborhood who has a stable family relationship and whose initial contact with an abductor occurs within a quarter of a mile of her home. (Gregoire, C., US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention. 2006). My knees came out from underneath me as I learned that my young daughter had been brutally raped before being strangled. I will never forget the prosecutor telling this me this fact and his face becoming shadowed to my view as I began to pass out. This happened while picking out a casket, too. When the door opened to the room lined with about twenty caskets for me to choose from that shadowy darkness enveloped me once more and my knees again became weak.

A child’s funeral is awful. The way I remember it was that all of the faces seemed out of place. People that I knew from every aspect of my life had filled the room. My parents. My church friends from Oklahoma. There were people who lined the wall. I recall wailing. Someone said I wailed, but I do not remember this. All I remember is a casket. Pepto Bismol pink. And I remember Amazing Grace, and the drone of a sermon, and pink balloons, and watching that Pepto Bismol casket lowered into the ground. But, I wanted only one thing. To be inside of it, holding her, caressing her, telling her I was sorry I hadn’t been there to stop this, and to tell her I loved her. This was truly the moment when I knew that no parent should ever have to bury a child. It was then I knew that I must be the one to advocate for victims of crime and children.

In the State of Arkansas, a person commits capital murder if they commit murder in the commission of another crime. (Arkansas General Assembly. 2013). In this case, Williamson decided to charge Roberts with the rape and murder. He left the abduction out of the charge in the rare event that something went awry at the trial and he needed to charge the abduction at a later time. In the fourteen years since this crime was committed, he has never had to charge for that felony kidnapping. Karl Douglas Roberts was charged with first degree capital murder and the only hope he had was to receive life without parole. This wasn’t likely in a rural Arkansas county where truly, as politically incorrect as it seems, even blacks were told not to be seen in town after dark. Seems there were two things not tolerated in Polk County, blacks and child killers, although I never could understand the racism issue and blamed it on the character of the Deep South. Wanting to kill a child murdered was another story.

Watching Roberts being led into that courtroom, I could only think of one thing. Andi was dead and cold and he was warm and alive and beginning the fight for his life. Hate had a new meaning, and it was standing in front of me. He was vile and disgusting and hate consumed my heart. I knew even then that this wasn’t right and I was in for the biggest challenge of my life, to live through a capital murder trial.

Facing a Capital Murder Trial
Prosecutor Williamson informed the Brewer family that it would be about a year for the trial to begin. And true to his words the trial began exactly one year to the day Andi was kidnapped, raped and strangled to death. Prior to the trial, I had to admit to myself that I knew absolutely nothing about the criminal justice system or how it worked. This was when my training and the journey of empowering myself began. The wealth of data on the information superhighway became my best friend and was where my true learning started. I became a self-taught lawyer, advocate, and law enforcement guru. Over the previous year, I had already become an advocate of sorts. People began to tell me things such as they had been raped as a child. Whenever another child went missing, the news media would reach out to me for comment as though I had all the answers. I found myself speaking in front of crowds of parents, law enforcement, and my community, and teaching them the dangers of predatory crime against children. I was invited to Washington D.C. to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to become a member of Team HOPE, a group who offers peer support for families with missing or sexually exploited children. And in this, I taught and memorized the language of the law, what law enforcement lingo meant, some of the Latin that was used in terms of the law, actus reus (guilty act), per curium (through the court), modus operandi, (manner of operation or M.O.), and habeas corpus, (to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention), the latter is a word that often haunts crime victims for many years in death penalty cases.

The process of grief is difficult. Asking, “why me,” or “why my child,” is a normal human reaction, but not a human reaction that is welcome. It is the wee hours of the morning that are the most difficult and suffering from post-traumatic stress leaves a person exhausted.

Something learned about “why,” was to question whether it was nature, was Roberts some freak of nature? Or was it nurture?

What always is a debate, is it a nature or nurture thing? I can say from the people who I have interviewed, on death row or in prisons around the country, most of them will have some type of violence, psychological, physical violence, sexual violence in the background. However, I’m kind of tough on this because I still don’t believe it should be a mitigating factor, they still have the ability to make choices and [use] free will and they’re making these choices and it’s the wrong choices. (Douglas, J., Olshaker, M. 1999)

To sit through a capital murder trial and realize what a predatory monster did to your child is heart rending. And when Karl Douglas Roberts was sentenced to death for murdering my 12-year-old daughter, I thought that justice had been served. I was wrong on so many levels. I have since learned this was only the beginning of many years of appeals and a lot of work for the State of Arkansas, ACLU, and many appellate judges. All in all, I have learned, a death penalty case, is a cash cow.

Becoming an Advocate for Children and Victims
Being taken seriously became a big area of concern for me. I began to speak out on many issues advocating for victims and children. I found myself in court with victim families, doing media interviews, along with photographing and fingerprinting children at safety fairs. My face and my child’s face became synonymous with keeping children safe. The only problem was that I always seemed to be the mother of that “poor little girl.” People sometimes were overcome with grief when they saw me and at other times I heard people talking bad about all the money I was making by promoting my dead child. It wasn’t true, I never made a dime, but I knew that I had to be taken more seriously. I realized that my lack of education made me seem weak. Even though I had been invited by the White House to discuss the issue of a National Amber Alert in a private round-table discussion with President Bush who ultimately signed it into law, I still knew I had to do more. I needed a college education. I was scared to death when I enrolled in the Criminal Justice program at Tulsa Community College part-time. I began what has been a ten year trek of trying to raise a family, be an advocate, and a student. However, I always knew someday I would complete my degree. Being an advocate for victims and children has opened many doors for me. However, I will never shy away from saying that if I could have one more second with Andi, I would give it all up in a heartbeat. It has always been about creating a legacy for her, not me having a job. But, the more I talked about the case, the more people wanted to hear what I had to say. And they listened.

Still Learning the Ropes
Empowering myself through education has been the key in this tough field. It has been fourteen years since the death of my daughter and I am still fighting for her legacy. It is surreal to think that Andi would be nearly 27-years-old now. For fourteen years, I have fought for crime victims and children. I have met President Bush, shared Andi’s story with him. I have shared her story with Jamie Lee Curtis, Bryan Cranston, Patrick Dempsey, Morgan Freeman, and sat on Oprah’s couch and told her as well. I have become a consultant for the Department of Justice’s Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency as well as Fox Valley Technical College. I train law enforcement on the family perspective of child abduction, and I suppose that does make me the expert now. I have lobbied on Capitol Hill for the Adam Walsh Bill and become friends with other advocates, Colleen Nick, John Walsh, Marc Klaas, and Ed Smart, all victims who taught me through the school of hard knocks.

I am also glad to report that nightmares do not come as often as they used to. Fourteen years is a lot of time to heal. I have worked hard, and my skin had to become tough in the face of naysayers who have told me to “let the dead rest,” and that I should be fighting “against” the death penalty, to which I reply, “I was not a juror in this case.” I have faced many challenges and obstacles and in December, I will be proud to walk across the stage and finally, finally, finally receive my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. However, I am not stopping there. I plan on advancing forward to graduate school. When that is over, politics seems a logical path for me. City council, state representative, senator, governor?

The event that led me to this career path, is not something I would wish on anyone, the price is too high and no one should have to lose a child. That being said, I won’t stop, a legacy is still in the making and it is for a 12-year-old girl everyone called Andi. A girl who had a mega-watt smile and an infectious giggle. She was taken from this planet far too young and will always remain in my mind as a gentle apparition, one forever trapped at the tender age of twelve. But she will have a legacy. I will see to it.

Always Loved, Never Forgotten