As I prepare to write this entry I catch myself sighing a lot. After all this time, all the events, situations, circumstances, travel, emotions, finally it’s a time of “moving on”.
There is so much to say in this post and I may not get to all of it, and it may ramble a bit and the transition may be jumpy. As I begin, let me first address what everyone wants to know…what happened at the sentencing hearing. (thank you everyone for being so patient and interested!!!)
As many of you know I just returned from a very brief trip to Chattanooga. The main purpose of the trip was to attend the upcoming sentencing hearing set for October 28. By reading yesterday’s blog you know the hearing was delayed to today. I am waiting to hear more of the specifics from the DA since I was not able to be there today. Grateful for Rachel and her being there in recognition and honor of her Grandmother, she was able to let me know the outcome. So, it is with her love and respect I am able to deliver the message. Overall, and gladly, it was everything we had hoped for and expected. He was sentenced with 11 months, 29 days for each of the 4 counts of Fraudulent Use of Debit Card (Case # 280904) which will, I believe run consecutive to his prior convicition by a guilty plea of simple arson with Case # 260617). This conviction occurred 4/22/10 and he was out on probation for this simple arson conviction when he robbed and murdered Mom; he was then sentenced on the Especially Aggravated Robbery and 1 count of Theft of Property (Case # 281407). I am not 100% of the length of time he will service on the Robbery and am uncertain (but will clarify later) if this sentencing will run consecutive or concurrent. I have not overlooked mentioning the First Degree Murder/Felony Murder convictions-those were sentenced at the conclusion of his guilty verdict of the trial to Life In Prison, and it still stands.
Some have asked will he be eligble for parole. Technically the answer is yes. However, he will not be eligble for 52 years. He is 46 and he will be 98 when he is elibible. Effectively, the life in prison sentence is just that…life! Certainly he will begin appealing and working every angle of the system.
The judge told him he would be transferred (probably in a couple of months). He actually, in stupdity, arrogance and denial-laughed out in court. I beleive Rachel said he said, “well, good”. I believe he thinks he is being “upgraded” from a budget hotel to the Ritz. He truly is living in a world that I do not understand. I guess he thinks the criminals, jailers, warden, etc. in the state pen are nicer or maybe he can begin scamming them. He is a complete idiot! He is moving on and out of our hometown, away from us! Sending him away for life is deserving and a relief! It’s just too bad it took Mom’s murder to get him put away. He should have never seen the light of day prior to that based on his criminal history.
Sigh…it’s a lot to try to explain and even more to even take in!
So, with all that said, I am-as is our family, trying to finally move on! While in Chattanooga on this trip there were good times, some laughter, relaxing time and a time to plant the azalea Mom wanted (we planted it on Sunday). Amy brought a shovel and some hand pruners, I got the azalea and mulch. We headed out to Forest Hills Cemetery and began planting “new life”. When I began searching for an azalea, I just knew Mom wanted a white variety. When I saw this beautiful azalea at The Barn Nursery I knew it was the one. The name of the variety is “Autumn Angel”. I had to get it without hesitation. Mom loved Autumn and Angel’s were surrounding her the day of her death and she is with angels…she is my angel! I got the pamphlet to read about this variety…here is what it says, “Autumn Angel has pure white flowers that appear iridescent in the morning light. The combination of the stark white blooms and the glossy, deep green foliage makes this a wonderful addition to any garden.” I think this azalea was just the one and it was just there, waiting for us to get it and plant it. I think Mom is a wonderful addition to the garden in heaven, to the eternal garden. I have written before about the light and I love how the grower of this azalea speaks to the “pure white flowers that appear iridescent”…doesn’t that sound heavenly to you? Some of you may think it’s a stretch, however, I think it is so fitting and so revealing of the beauty of life triumphant!
So, moving on with the planting…Amy and I head out and we get to her gravesite and we begin digging rock hard ground, tangled in decades of roots from other plantings. I am digging, Amy is cutting through roots with the pruners. We did it! We were given everything we needed to plant the azalea just in the spot we picked out. Once we had it planted and mulched, we both realized we didn’t have water to water it in…always water in a new planting…ugh!!! While working through ideas of what to do, I looked beyond our freshly planted azalea to the top of a hill and there was a water spigot piped and standing a couple of feet above the ground! Water!!! God provided us the water we needed in order to quench the azalea. Amy and I talked about it and relfected on how wonderful God’s provision is-always…water! We took some pictures, hugged, cried and just had some quiet time. We talked about how sad this all was and is, how many lives have been hurt, how terrible this all is. We pulled ourselves together and moved back to good memories and thoughts. We drove by the Seagle homestead in St. Elmo and talked about family-family back through the generations and up to day. It was a good visit with my sister.
Saturday we decided to go watch the TN vs. ALA game. Rachel, Elizabeth, Amy and I took off to a place within walking distance, ate some snacks and watched the game until we knew there was no way TN could come back and win. We did what every woman does…went shopping. The girls got a few things as did Amy. For once, I was not in a shopping mood. We hung out and later that night enjoyed a southern style dinner at Tupelo Honey. Great biscuits!
Amy and Elizabeth headed home Sunday afternoon and Rachel stayed with me. We had some left overs and watched reality TV. We got to bed around 12:30 a.m. and we preparing to go to the hearing Monday morning.
As Rachel and I worked our ways through the security screening at the courthouse we learned the judge was out sick and the hearing would be reset to today. As I mentioned Rachel (and Sam, Mom’s neighbor and friend) attended this morning’s hearing. When I talked to Rachel earlier she mentioned the media was there. She was able to share part of her and Mom’s relationship with the reporter. It gave Rachel a time to express in her words that relationship. Rachel’s moment/interview with the reporter will be on http://www.wrcb.com at 5 and 6 (eastern time) tonight. You can also get a small lead in at http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/23818140/randall-reed-sentenced-to-life-in-prison-for-murder-of-70-year-old-jane-stokes.
I am very proud of Rachel…and of Elizabeth. They both have endured a lot and have kept their heads high in light of some really trying, challenging circumstances. I ask you continue to pray for these special nieces of mine! Most of you know how much they mean to me and how much I love them! I hope they know too! They are remarkable young ladies!
We are “moving on” and ask for God’s direction as we move forward. I pray he will continue to guide us, strengthen us and fill us with his presence. It is time, it is time to now remember Mom and laugh, smile, encourage and enjoy our memories-the gift of all those memories! Thank you dear Lord for that gift!
I also continue to ask for your prayers for the convicted murderer and his family. I feel and see emptiness in their souls.
As I close, here are some pictures for you…for us…for Mom. I will write more tomorrow…her birthday. I miss you Mom and love you soooo very, very much!