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The Stolen Child

Come away, O human child! To the waters of the wild, With a faery hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” – W.B. Yeats

For Jasmyn:

Jasmyn Tully went to a friend’s house to play video games and fell asleep on the couch. A young man she barely knew was in that house, and in the early morning of March 17th, 2012 he strangled Jasmyn as she slept. He stabbed her several times in the neck, leaving as she lay dying. The police found him, and after manufacturing false information, he finally confessed to killing Jasmyn, saying he wanted “to hurt someone.”

My daughter Michaela called me during the afternoon after hearing the news at school – sobbing, repeating, “Mom, Jasmyn was killed!” I felt cold everywhere as I tried to process the news. Jasmyn? She is 17 years old. I tried to comfort my daughter as memories flooded back of another time, another place of first sleepovers, baking cookies, movies, swimming, Jasmyn front and center from kindergarten through fifth grade.

In 1997, after escaping from my violent ex-husband, I waited to meet with my advocates in a West Coast safe house for an appointment on where to live or hide next. I sat thumbing through Child magazine and felt relief flood through me as I read Seattle was voted the #1 best place to raise children in the country. Seattle is the city where we relocated to start a new life. I considered the magazine article a good omen. It assuaged the bitterness I felt about leaving my home, my work, my friends, and all I had created before it was destroyed by the violence perpetrated by my ex-husband.

We had arrived at the safe house, an unassuming old Victorian, on a cold, rainy night. I had $60 to my name and could not contact any friends or family for over a year. With no bank account, car, or phone, I had to start again and make my way in a new city. The next day, Michaela was tearful and anxious. I was also afraid, with that butterfly feeling in my gut of not knowing if this was the right place to be. To break our mood, I told her, “Let’s go hop on a bus.” I took her to Green Lake Park, a beautiful lake with ducks and a big playground.

Michaela started playing with a little girl, and the mother kindly asked Michaela her name. Now, this was more complicated than it seems since we were doing a name change. Michaela turned to me and asked loudly, “Which name am I today, Mama?” I smiled and chuckled, shaking my head as the woman looked at me alarmed and slowly drew her own child closer. I said, “Why, you’re Princess Ariel of course!” Michaela loved this, nodded, and then said other names she liked. The mother, listening to her, visibly relaxed before walking away.

After a while at the park, Michaela was tired and cold, so we went to a restaurant in Capitol Hill. The waiters fawned over Michaela’s delicate, blonde curls and the grown-up way she ordered her burger. She continued chatting with them, politely explaining she was a princess on a journey to stay safe from an evil wizard who chased her.

The first year adjusting was hard for me, but Michaela was happy; exploring parks, meeting friends, going to the zoo, having adventures and healing from the abuse we had suffered at the hands of her father. The court terminated his parental rights, gave us a court-sealed name change, and we were off to our new life.

I volunteered for the Seattle Police Department Victim Support Team. By the summer, I had a job as a victim advocate with the King County Prosecutor’s Office. For the next few years, I immersed myself in Michaela’s adjustment to Seattle and my work. As we healed from our former ordeal, Michaela’s night terrors subsided and with therapy she was ready for mainstream kindergarten. I found a school with an anti-violence, anti-bias curriculum.

This is where Michaela met her first best friend, Jasmyn Tully. Blonde, lovely, and quiet around adults, Jasmyn and Michaela sang and laughed and talked in the way five-year-olds talk to become friends.

Birthday parties and sleepovers came over the next few years. Steve, Jasmyn’s dad, dropped off her backpack and various stuffed animals with a special blanket. Jasmyn had a white cat with a cream-colored spot that I was to keep close track of for a drama-free bedtime. I remembered this beanie kitty, as I dreamt of it years later, the week Jasmyn was killed.

The first sleepover night was filled with sugar high-induced laughter and fun. Later, deep into the night, I awoke to see Jasmyn clinging to her stuffed kitty, her eyes filled with big teardrops that slowly rolled down her cheeks, whispering in her low voice that she wanted her dad. I got up bleary-eyed, went into the kitchen, and pulled out whipped cream and hot chocolate mix. As I warmed the milk, I asked Jasmyn if she would like a cup of hot chocolate before I called her dad. Her tears became a big slow smile as she grabbed the cup. We sat quietly and drank as GiGi the cat came over and planted herself on Jasmyn’s lap. I asked her if she would like to go back to sleep or call her dad. She wanted to sleep.

The next morning Steve came to pick Jasmyn up. Steve is generous and kind and he owned a construction business. Jasmyn had her own hard hat and boots in which to tramp around when her father needed to go to a site. Steve was devoted to Jasmyn, a single dad raising Jazzy since she was a baby. She was his only child.

My heart breaks as I watch his interview about her death years later, as he laments that Jasmyn is his everything. I can relate, as I am also a single parent of an only child. They are simply, joyfully, our universe.

I remember when Michaela went on her first real trip away from me with Jasmyn and Steve to Ocean Shores, about four hours from where we lived. This was the trip where I learned of Steve’s patience. Michaela woke up in the middle of the night, sobbing for me to come get her. Steve woke up and helped Michaela call me. I answered sleepily, reassuring Michaela that I would come in the morning. By morning, Michaela breezily said she wanted to stay and forgot until the next night. This went on the whole trip. Steve just laughed it off to me, saying this is how they are at this age.

Through the years, Steve always made sure the kids’ admission was paid for on school field trips. He would drive for the trips and was always the congenial go-to dad. I flash back to Steve joking about what the girls would be like as teenagers and adults. Steve said wryly, “I don’t know what Jasmyn will do for a living when she grows up but, Jasmyn sure will be in charge!” We laugh, all confidence about our children’s futures.

One week to the day after Jasmyn was killed, I wake up with a start to a voice in a dream saying, “You wanted to know when it happened, RIGHT NOW, wake up!” I am shaking, as the voice in the dream is Jasmyn’s, and I begin to cry. I sob in rage at her life cut short, her father’s pain, my longing to have hugged her one last time and let her know we cared. Tears come hard and long through the night.

I am haunted by Jasmyn’s hands after I read about the defense wounds. I can still picture them, fluttering, slicing through water at the swimming pool, catching frogs with Michaela on the field trip, braiding each other’s hair in elaborate styles. I remember Jasmyn’s delicate, slender fingers meant for so many other things than fighting off a knife.

As I am fixing breakfast the next morning I feel her all around me. Her memorial had been the day before and I had arranged with a friend to have Michaela attend. At the airport, as Michaela waits for her flight, she talks over memories of Jasmyn and childhood pranks. Briefly, we touch on the subject of her killer. Michaela wants to know what all of us feel…”Why?”

One year later, the jasmine flowers planted in my garden in honor of Jasmyn Tully bloom, taking in the spring she will never know.

Alexandra “Tara” McCabe, JD is a WIP Contributor and currently attending Southwestern Law School for her Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Entertainment Law. Tara is an educator, writer and advocate for victim rights: taramccabeconsulting.com. She lives in Aptos, CA with her daughter, Michaela, her partner, Edward, and her various rescue cats and dogs.

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