It is with heavy heart that I share the news of the sudden and untimely death of our niece, yesterday. I will call her “Angel”, and her 18-month-old daughter, who is now essentially orphaned, is “Sunshine”.
My husband called me at work yesterday, his voice cracking, as he described that Angel was missing. She was a 29 year old ICU nurse and a mom, very responsible, vibrant, independent, and yet very close to her family. She had picked her daughter up from her parent’s house after her daytime shift at the hospital, and gone home. She lived in a beautiful house, on a quiet and safe street, in a nice area of town. A neighbor saw her pull into the driveway at 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
Later that night, after midnight, the same neighbor noted that Angel’s beloved dog was barking, somehow left outside, which was odd; the lights in the house were all off, and Angel was not answering her phone. This vigilant neighbor called the police.
When the police arrived, they found the back door unlocked, and the baby alone upstairs, sleeping, unharmed. Angel’s cell phone, wallet, and car keys, and car were all still at the house, with no sign of a struggle.
Angel had recently broken off with her ex-fiance, a former football player and also a nurse, who turned out to be a troubled and damaged man with a prescription drug abuse problem and a criminal record. We feared the worst.
Angel had shared with her neighbor that she was afraid of her ex, and that she had started the process of obtaining a restraining order against him. She had shared this on Monday. She was gone on Tuesday.
Thousands of family, friends and townsfolks joined in a frantic search for Angel. Parks and woods were combed. It was a canine search-and-rescue that found the shallow grave in the woods less than one mile from Angel’s home.
It is an apparent domestic abuse homicide. The ex is in custody, the only suspect. Our family is in shock, devastated. But I am impressed at how almost everyone is holding together to take care of Sunshine, the baby who will probably never remember her mother, never know how hard her mother worked to provide everything for her, on her own, after it became clear she would get nothing but grief from the baby’s father.
Sunshine is in the safe care of her grandparents, and with a sprawling extended family, she will always know love.
We wish love could have protected Angel. In a close-knit family full of healthcare providers, and with — in hindsight– all the warning signals for an escalation of violence from the ex now so clear and obvious, we did not see, and we were not able to help her, when she needed help the most. We did not take him seriously. We all described him as a loser, a jellyfish, a spineless creep. We could not wait for her to finally be rid of him, once the process began. We did not realize that this is exactly the kind of cowardly soul who is capable of such senseless evil.
And so we try to move forward, awaiting the news from the medical examiner’s office; helping the next of kin figure out insurance paperwork and emergency custody orders; to manage TV reporters and phone calls; to eat something, to sleep. We put alot of petty issues into the perspective where they belong– petty, not important. We hold Babyboy and each other a little closer.
And we go on.