Thursday, November 18, 2010

A surprise for the media, forgiveness from a father and a plea & request from Chad.

After returning home from court yesterday, my sister and I decided we would do some Christmas shopping together. It's been YEARS, maybe 11, since the two of us have Christmas shopped together. We were both pretty burned out mentally and she is going back home for good this weekend so it was the perfect opportunity to share some "sister time" that we rarely get. So off we went. Jordan Landing was our destination. I got some fab deals on pajamas for 3 of my nephews for the holiday and bought a few things for myself as well at Old Navy. Love that store!!!!!! AND I found an awesome rice cooker for my oldest nephew for his birthday. Yes my 18 soon to be 19 year old nephew LOVES rice and wanted a rice maker for his birthday. I could think of other things a 18 year old wants besides a rice cooker but OK. They had red ones and since my sister's kitchen is red, I thought it would be perfect but I was ordered NOT to get a red one because my nephew's dad won't let him take it if he ever moves out. Lord have mercy REALLLLLLLLLY? My brother-in-law is a freak, plain and simple. So a black and stainless steel one I settled for but hey, it will get the job done and oh by the way, it makes up to 14 cups of rice at a time. My nephew will be in H-E-A-V-E-N!!! Mission accomplished.

So we packed up our shopping bags and headed home. My sister was exhausted but I was so thankful she gave in and we had this time together. It means so much on a normal day but even more with the circumstances we face. No sooner did we walk through my door and put our stuff down when her phone began to ring. It was our dad. He was calling to let us know what to be ready for. You see, Chad's FIVE minute hearing that took place yesterday was actually handed over to another judge because Chad was actually going to plead and be sentenced at the same time. That's right, no preliminary hearing and no trial. Chad knew there would one, be no chance he could fight these charges, two, he didn't want too and three, he wanted to face what he has done, move on with his life and let everybody get on with theirs and do his time. We were warned her family would be talking and that lovely little cohort of jerks, the media, were going to be there so count on a fiasco. We were told by dad who was advised by Chad's lawyer to just ignore the media and not approach her family.

Melanie was somewhat pale when she hung up with dad. I think I lost a little color too and could do nothing but hold to silence and let the emotions come to head. This was it. This would be done and over in just a matter of hours. What must be going through Chad's mind and heart I wonder. Is he scared? Is he nervous? Is he ready for this? I know it really doesn't matter, it's going to happen anyways, but is he??????? I can't even answer that.

I didn't sleep much last night after knowing what we were all ready to face at 4:00 this afternoon. I went to work for half a day. I knew if I stayed home I would probably go half way insane within my own walls so it was best to just go do what I had to do. I had to pick my brother "T" up at his mother-in-law's home. I left at 2:00 INTENDING to pick him up by 2:30 and head north. Those that know me really well know that I'm a very punctual person. A trait that was drilled into me over and over again by my dad as a young girl. Not all of us are that way and it's definitely a trait I inherited from him. There is NO SUCH THING as being fashionably late. If you're going to be late, call and let them know. It's just respect.

Getting out of downtown is such a joke anymore but I figured because I was leaving early enough, I would totally beat the traffic getting onto the freeway. Ha, not today. The 4 lane, one way street I always take to the freeway was moved to ONE lane for construction. I couldn't believe it. I was so irritated and antsy, freaking out that I wasn't going to make it in time. Of all days UDOT did it have to be TODAY? Don't they know I have an extremely urgent matter that I MUST attend and they won't wait on me or my brother. I kept praying to God, please Lord please let me make it on time. Please don't let them start without us. Nothing ever runs on-time in court but my luck it would today.

After what seemed to be 20 minutes was really only 7-10 that I was held up in traffic. I punched my gas pedal to make up for some time. Picked "T" up and we were on our way. Phew!!!!! It's been a long time since he and I drove anywhere together. We talked a lot and listened to some 80's rock. He was just as nervous as I was. Butterflies in our belly's, palm's sweating, body jittering. We were all in the same boat. We made it to the court house maybe a half an hour before 4. Dad and his wife were there and we walked to the court room where the hearing would take place. There were 2 women sitting on the little couches outside of the room. I wondered if they were there for Chad's case. Turns out they were. My sister "M" showed up and two women our family has known for YEARS, Chad's babysitter (who babysat all my brothers including my oldest son) and her daughter. They are the sweetest ladies I tell ya. I forgot to bring a toilet paper roll with me to dry my tears and anybody else that might have needed it so I made a TP run in the bathroom at the court. No I didn't steal the roll but I took a LOT off of it and stuffed it in my pant pocket.

Chad's lawyer came to talk with us. This was the first time I actually got to meet her. CLASS ACT!! She took us in a open room that you go through before you actually go into the courtroom itself. You can see in there. His lawyer said the judge was finishing up with the previous cases for the day and would be taking a short break than proceed with Chad. When the judge left the podium is when we would be allowed to go into the room. The room looked like there were quite a number of people in there. She explained that she "thought" her family was there but wasn't sure yet. She mentioned a couple in the front that seemed very upset so she was assuming it was her parents but wasn't sure. I asked her if any of us as Chad's family would be allowed to speak. Unfortunately we wouldn't be allowed as it is only the victim's family that is given the opportunity to do so. I had a letter typed up just in case (I will publish at a later date) but I understood and was fine with not being able to read it. She assured us Chad is fine. She has spoken to him and he is ready to get this over with and she really thinks he is ok. She told us the media is beginning to show up and again just gave us a head's up to not approach the family, not shout anything out during the hearing and not give into the media's "BS" tactics. Can I just say, I like her. REALLY like her.

The judge took his break and in we went. His lawyer had us sit in the 2nd pew. My sister "M" was the first to be seated so Chad's lawyer whispered in her ear the lady at the end of the pew was a reporter so to ignore her. OH,OH,OH and guess who was sitting next to that reporter?? Camera man Joe from yesterdays hearing. Remember Mr. snappy fingers himself? Let me remind you real quick, the media has NO idea that Chad is pleading and being sentenced today. They believe he is being bound over for trial at today's hearing.

I didn't dare look around too much. It was a pretty "cold" court room. The walls might have been white but in my head they reminded me of an institutional green. It seemed so dreary in there. Bailiffs, sheriffs, lawyers, district attorney's, and clerks all over the place. People kept coming in and out. Then a lady came up and sat right behind the reporter next to my sister. She was also a reporter. They were having their "Hi how are you?" conversation when I felt a tap on my leg from my sister. She whispered in my ear "The reporter behind me asked the one sitting next to me if we were Chad's family and she said she thinks so but didn't know. Then she asked her if her family was there and she said she didn't know. Then the reporter that was sitting behind the other reporter said I can't believe his family is here. They should have enough respect for her family and not be here." Oh dear God you just might see my sister jump over this pew and mop this court room with the reporters head.

I CANNOT believe, no I take that back, I DO believe she would have the audacity to say such a thing because that is how the media is. They are in their own little bubble and all they are there for is a story. Plain and simple. They don't care who they hurt in the process as long as they get what they came for. I wanted to so badly to turn to her and tell her just what I thought and that I as well as MY family had EVERY RIGHT to be there and really chic-a-dee YOU should learn the definition of respect and ask yourself WHY THE HELL ARE YOU HERE because it certainly isn't in the best interest of any of us who are directly involved. But I held my tongue and kept my cool. If it weren't so important that I see my brother for what might be the last time for a while believe me, it would have been on and I myself may have been detained.
"All rise" came next. While I stood up, my heart went to the floor. Again, THIS WAS IT. I am in a court room with my family and hers and we are facing along with my brother sentencing for a homicide that he committed. "You may be seated." The judge than stated the case that had come forth and asked his lawyer if Chad was ready. She went to get him and he entered in. He didn't look at any of us but I know he knew we were there. Snap snap snap goes camera man Joe. The hearing began. Chad plead guilty to 1st degree homicide and 3rd degree desecration/abuse of a body. SURPRISE. I bet the media was like "whooooa" wait a minute. Chad then requested to the judge he be sentenced today. SURPRISE again. Those little fingers on those women just couldn't write fast enough on their little tablets.

Her family was given the chance to speak. Chad and his lawyer remained standing at the podium. This is something me, my dad, my sister and brother were all terrified of. This was the part I wasn't sure if I could take. I wasn't sure I would be able to listen to what they had to say. Only because I know who my brother is and the family he was raised in. But they were entitled to their feelings and they deserved to feel however they felt and Chad deserved to hear what ever they had to say. You just don't commit a crime like this and not expect to hear the words of the family who's life you took from them. Not only that but if you are man enough to stand up and face your charges and request sentencing that very day, than you are man enough to hear what the family has to say.

My sister grabbed my hand as her father approached the district attorney's side first and gripped it as hard as she could without pain. He didn't look at any of us as he walked by. A gentle soul he seemed to be and I couldn't imagine the race his heart is running. He stood up and looked at the judge and the very first two things he said as he opened was "I'm not mad at Mr. Mecham and I have forgiven him." My eyes wept with tear drops and I looked to the ceiling and said thank you Jesus. I had hoped one day they would be able to forgive Chad and her father has. He then went on to speak about his daughter and the joy she brought to his and her families life. The conversations they had, the things he could turn to her and ask if he needed help with a country song or about NASCAR and just the sweetness that she was and had. You could tell they had a very strong bond. He then went on to say that while he has forgiven Chad he does not feel he should receive any leniency. He believes that when someone does wrong, they should be held accountable and asked that Chad be sentenced to the maximum amount the law could allow. He was absolutely right. Chad DID do wrong, WAY WRONG, and had to be held accountable for his actions. Chad knew this and that's exactly why today went as it did. Too face his punishment and move forward.
Her brother than stood up as her dad did and talked briefly of his relationship with his sister. How much he misses her and what she meant to him. His words were not nearly as long as his dad's but it came down to the same point, he wanted Chad to be held fully accountable and asked that the court give him the maximum sentence allowed.
I was amazed at how calm these two men were. I was grateful for what they said. I know it could have been so much worse, but it wasn't. My dad thought they would for sure shred Chad to pieces and they very well could have, but they didn't. They said what they had too and somehow by the Grace of God spared all of us anymore hurt I guess.
Now the time had come. Sentencing was here. The judge talked to Chad in a calm but authoritative voice. It was nothing like you see or hear about in other cases when the families are lashing out, acting like fools in the court room and a judge ripping into the person standing before him for a crime he/she committed. It was nothing like that at all. He just simply stated the facts. That what Chad has done can never be restored, he can never fix what he has done, he can never take it back. But what he can do is make himself a better person in prison and possibly one day be able to apologize to her family for what he took from them. It all made perfect sense. "So on the count of 1st degree felony murder, I sentence you to the maximum time allowed of 15 years to life and on the 3rd degree felony desecration/abuse of a body, I sentence you to the maximum time allowed of 0-5 years at the Utah State Prison and they shall run concurrent." The judge went on to say that while he will have the opportunity for parole, when you have a sentence where life is on the end, it is usually closer to that time frame you do in prison rather than the minimum. After that, I don't remember what was said but when the judge was done, Chad was taken back to the holding cell by his lawyer.

I LOST IT. It was over. This all had come to an end. I bent over and put my hands over my face and just wept. Every emotion I had been carrying inside for the last 6 weeks just hit me. I KNEW it was coming and I KNEW "life" would be involved but actually hearing it from the judge and REALIZING this was the real thing, it just hit me so hard. I sat there for a few minutes and just cried, trying to catch my breath. I could feel my sister rubbing my back. I left the courtroom and went straight to the bathroom dodging every possible reporter I could. I put my elbows on the vanity and sobbed my heart out. I heard two people come in and thought my hell it's them. It's those reporters. It wasn't though. It was the babysitter and her daughter who rubbed my back and hugged me. I thanked them so dearly for being there for him and our family.
I composed myself enough to get out of the bathroom and who should I walk out too was my dad. He was waiting there for me with open arms. I grabbed him and hugged him so tight and told him how sorry I was. I told him I tried everything I could to keep Chad sober and on the right path and I really did. My dad was so upset. Crying himself, telling me he knew how much I did and how much I love Chad and still holding onto me. It was that daddy hug that you get when you're hurting so deep and nobody can make it better but him.

I looked back at the hallway I hope to never see again to find the reporters talking with the D.A. and I don't know who else. Dad wanted us to get out of there as soon as we could so we did. We walked out of the courtroom and walked past Chris Jones from Channel 2 and camera man Joe. I thought Chris was going to approach us but when he saw the tears on my dads face he looked as if he new better. After all, he was the one who called my dad the day Chad was arrested and my dad gave him a tongue lashing and hung up on him.

We all had parked our cars far away from the court. We all sat out there for a bit making sure we were all ok. Suddenly a lady approached us and asked my dad if he was Chad's dad. It was her, the victim's, best friend. She gave my dad a big hug telling him and the rest of us how sorry she was and they held no ill will towards any of us. We talked for about 10 minutes with her, well my dad did. I didn't know what to say. But she assured us all that there was no ill will and wow did that make my dad feel good. While he was torn up and his own tears were falling, he was so grateful to know that others cared from her side. As she was ready to leave I did ask her if she saw the victim's father often. She said once in a while but she sees the brother more often. I asked her if she would make sure that the father got a letter I had in my purse. I explained that if we would have been allowed to speak in court, this is what I would have said and to please make sure he received this and not the media. She assured me she would.
It's ironic. Today was EXACTLY 2 months to the day that Chad made the first withdrawal of $240.00 from my checking account to buy heroin and cocaine and 6 weeks from his arrest he has been sentenced for murder. Just three short months ago all seemed so good. Chad and I laughed together, we went to work together, we drove home from work together, we ate together, we hung out with each other, we lived together. I was so proud of him and the effort he was making to stay sober. I thought his life was finally changing. And now today, I along with my family, watched and heard the words said by a judge that my brother's life would now be a life sentence at the Utah State Prison. Life in prison. We have all been handed a life sentence. Just like his addiction became all of our addiction, the same stands for his 15 to life sentence.

In a months time (August to September) something went wrong. He lost hope, he lost faith and he lost his will to fight and he began to use his cocktail of choice again, speedballs. I don't know what happened the day he snapped and our lives including her familes lives hit a tailspin and I don't know if I ever want to know what happened, but I will say this. I know who my brother is. Yes we all have dark sides as I'm reminded of everyday in the case of Chad, but I know him as the loving brother that would give the shirt off his back and anything else he had when he is sober just like I know him as a drug addict. There are two sides to him and I'm proud he stood up and faced what he should have today. It was very admirable and responsible for Chad to do but most importantly, the RIGHT thing to do. I'm proud that he didn't put any of us through an unecessary trial which would have meant most of us being called to the stand. While this is NOT the life I would have ever wanted anybody in my family to go through, least of all a sibling, Chad has stood-up and is taking responsibility and that is all he can do at this point and for that, yes I am proud of him and I love him!!!

Fortunately for our families, Chad's case got little media attention. Yes it was still on some, not all, of the news channels and in the paper but because of the media frenzy the Elizabeth Smart case was attracting since Brian Mitchell was on trial this week, our family story wasn't the "main event" for the news to talk about so it didn't get a ton of attention and for that I'm relieved.

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