Back in 1999 my life changed. I’ll never forget it. It was the week before Christmas. My Husband and I were watching the news about a young woman who went missing a few days before. Immediately, my husband and I started praying for her safe return. My heart went out to the young lady’s family because I have a daughter about the same age and I would be devastated if something happened to her. My heart was so heavy after watching that news report. It made me think of my daughter, Dede, and my grandson. I actually had two daughters, but one died at the age of seven, so my only surviving girl was my sweetheart. Although Dede was 18 at the time, I still considered her to be my baby girl. Everyone loved her, especially her three older brothers.

Interestingly, I got a phone call from her three days before Christmas. She told me that she would bring the baby by the house to get their gifts on Christmas Eve. She had been living on her own since she was seventeen because she always had that independent streak in her. She held her own and never asked anyone for anything much to her credit. I was so excited to see my grandson because he had just turned a year old and was walking all over the place. But when my daughter arrived, she told me that she wasn’t staying at all and that she’d call me when she got home. But I didn’t hear from her. That was awfully strange. I figured she got busy.

When I returned to work after the Christmas holiday, a co-worker asked me if the authorities found the missing girl yet. I told him that I hadn’t heard anything, but that I was still praying for her safe return. All of a sudden, my son came rushing into the coffee room where I was talking to my other co-worker. He told me that Dede was in jail. My heart pounded and I shook my head in disbelief. My daughter had always been a good girl. She may have been spoiled, but I always put her in check when necessary. She had never been in any legal trouble before. I automatically assumed she got involved with her boyfriend who sold drugs and got caught up somehow. I asked him about my grandson and he said he the baby was with his paternal grandmother. He was safe. Although the news devastated me, I kept telling myself that everything would be okay.

When my husband picked me up from work, he hugged me before we got into the car. He then asked me about my day. I told him that I was fine until my son told me that my daughter had been arrested. I also told him that we needed to go find out what happened and see if we can bail her out of jail. My husband pulled the car over on the side of the road and held my hands in his.

Looking me squarely in the eyes, he asked, “Do you remember that girl who was missing?”

“Of course I do,” I replied with tears welling up in my eyes. Every time I thought of that poor girla nd her family, I just started to cry.

My husband took a deep breath and held my hands tighter. “Well, they found her. She’s dead.”

I gasped.

“Dede had something to do with it.”

His words felt like someone had taken an axe to my heart and chopped it in half with all of their might. I rolled the window down to take my breath because I couldn’t breathe. The trees lining the road started swirling around like images in a kaleidoscope and everything went black.

When I finally regained conscious, I was lying in my bed. My husband was sitting at the foot of the bed holding a hot cup of tea as if he knew I was going to awake at any moment. He told me that I suffered another panic attack. Oddly, I suffered the first one after I learned about the girl’s disappearance two weeks prior. That is why my son never mentioned why my daughter was in jail. He knew I’d have another panic attack. I still couldn’t believe that my Dede had anything to do with that poor girl’s disappearance or murder. Not my child.

Each day dragged painlessly into the next as I found out bits and pieces of the story. Each piece coming from my son or my husband after they had talked to Dede. I love my baby, but I couldn’t bring myself to see her in jail under these circumstances during those first few days. I know it would’ve killed me. Every night I prayed that the Lord would give me strength to go see her.

Whenever, my husband or son thought I could handle bits of information, they would spoon feed it to me, never giving me too much at one time. From what I gathered, Dede and her friend planned to scare the dead girl after they found out that she was bullying one of their friends. Dede and another girlfriend met up with the missing girl and they drove to a secluded park where Dede’s other friend was lying in wait. But when they arrived at the park, there was a group of kids waiting there, not just Dede’s friend.

The group surrounded the poor girl and started taunting her and suddenly one of the guys attacked her. All of a sudden they all started kicking, punching, and choking the girl. Dede tried to stop them, but one of the guys told her that if she helped the girl or told anyone about it, he would kill her whole family. My daughter walked away and started crying for the girl when all of a sudden she heard a loud banging noise and got splattered with blood. Dede’s friend had bashed the missing girl in the head with a brick. At this point Dede didn’t know what to do. She was in shock. All she knew was that things had gone too far.

The Lord answered my prayer and did strengthen my heart. I finally had the strength to go see Dede and talk with her. Although my baby girl was a grown woman now, I didn’t see her that way. I still saw her as the sweet innocent brown skinned girl in long ponytails. I told her that her son was okay and that we were taking good care of him. Dede smiled when I told her that. I could tell that her knowing her baby was safe made her feel so much better. She told me that she was ashamed for taking part in the initial plans because I taught her better than to follow after other people.

She admitted that she did lure the poor girl out there, but only to leave her stranded in that secluded park. That was what her friend told her initially, but she lied to Dede. With tears in her eyes, she told me that she never laid a hand upon that poor girl and that she did try to help her once she knew that things had gone too far.

Dede never had a trial. She met with the judge and her lawyer because they told her if she had gone to trial she would get a life sentence for her involvement in the crime. When all was said and done, Dede was sentenced to 45 years in prison.  The 16 year-old girl who drove in the car with Dede, but stayed behind when they arrived at the park got a 20 year sentence. The girl who committed the murder is serving 90 years.  

Dede has been in prison since 1999. She will turn 30 this year. My heart has been aching this entire time. My family and I have been working to get her time reduced and we’ll never give up trying or hoping. Allof the girls involved came from good homes, but it seems like no matter how hard a parent tries to raise their chidlren the right way, they never can tell what their child will do in any given situation. You can only pray that your kids will do what’s right and remember what you taught them. But in my heart of hearts, I know that my child did not kill that poor girl, she tried to help her

Although it’s been twelve years since the murder, there are still times when I blame myself for what happened. I really feel like I did something wrong. I raised Dede the best I could. I beat myself up over and over because I lost my only daughter. Yet through all of this, God really showed me the power of forgiveness. Even though Dede didn’t have a trial, the other girls did and I attended those hearings along with other family members. At one of the hearings a woman came over to where we were seated in the courtroom. I am not sure who she was, but she came over to me while I was sitting and crying with my family and our Pastor. She asked me if I was the mother of one of the accused girls and I told her that I was. She then asked me if she could hug me and I told her that it was okay. We stood there holding each other and crying. It’s as if she could understand my shame and all the pain that I was going through. I asked her for forgiveness and she told that all was forgiven. She told me that we both suffered a lost, but that everything would be alright. Shortly after that, I reached out to the family on a gospel station and let them know that I was thinking of them and continually hold them in my prayers.

I went to see Dede yesterday and it drained me emotionally. It still takes me a whole day to regroup after I go to see her, but I thank God that he has brought me a mighty long way. I am so thankful that I was able to finally share my story. I feel like a burden has been lifted in my life and could mark the beginning of healing for so many of us who were affected with this tragedy. We all lost on that fateful day.  

© 2015, Shalena D.I.V.A.- Author| Speaker| Life And Business Coach. All rights reserved.

26 comments on “My Child, What Have You Done…”

  1. I honestly don’t know where to begin with this one. So much was lost on that fateful day. This si a cautionary tale and also one of forgiveness. I understand why the mother blames herself because we strive so hard to raise our children right and when things liek this happen, it shakes our very core. Her daughter allowed herself to be influenced by the ringleader. This reads like a great example of what the Book of proverbs warns us against: never follow feet that are set on shedding blood. Although the daughter tried to help the victim, it’s so sad that she must spend 65 years in prison for the kidnapping. Her small son must be raised by others and he’ll never truly know his mother.

  2. Its a tough one, forgiveness is important and the girl must accept the punishment. As parents we do so much for our kids in raising them to fear God etc. But the devil often finds a way to interfere. All we can pray for is for Gods grace to guide us.

  3. @Deb, this was a tough one. I mean– like Roger said “WOW!” I commend that woman who I assume was the girl’s mother who approached the accused girl’s mom in court. What a heart. man, she forgave everybody even though I know she must have been hurting so bad. I really appreciate this story because we never think of the offender’s family. Sometimes we lump them all together and demonize everyone. But it is clear that the mother who told this story was devastated over the other mother’s loss and the loss of her own daughter. I pray this mother learns how to forgive herself. I really do.

  4. when God got kicked out of school we kicked out the Golden Rules. There is one all important law of human conduct. If we obey the law..it will bring us countless friends and constant happiness. Children have deemed this to be a lie. Now the kids think it is ok to always make the other person feel important. Just because lightening did not strike me the first time i told a lie…does not mean…God was not standing right there in front of me listening!

  5. Like the author said they all lost that day. I think about my children and the power of peer pressure. You would like to think that your children are strong enough to withstand it, but the truth is they are human and prone to make mistakes, but some choices and mistakes have awful consequences. Some things need to be thought out all the way through, although I’m sure she had no idea it would turn out that way, but bottom line is only actions you can control are you own.

  6. I also feel like when u turn a certain age u know right from wrong these kids think there invisible no one can touch them instead of being a friend to your child be a parent!

  7. Spare the rod spoil a child meaning whoop that butt when they’re young! No laughing matter but lol!

  8. I just read it and I am in tears. What a tragic story. I feel sorry for the mother and the family of the murdered girl. I have little sympathy for Dede however, due to the fact that she went against her better judgment and engaged in such …an act. Her version of the event seems very bias and it was clear to me that she felt that by selling such a story( her not fully knowing what the others had planned) was a way to get a lighter sentence. The judge gave her the correct sentence. She’s still alive, she can still see her family, the victim is gone forever. I agree with you Shalena “this is a cautionary tale”.

  9. Shalena (if I may call u that) u know and I know there is a difference in raising a child today than yesterday! I remember going and getting a switch off a tree vividly lol! Today they putting kids in corners what is that! I remember we used to get paddled in school if ya did something wrong they don’t allow it in school know so do it at home. My paddle was the big wooden spoon on the wall. We need to get back to the wooden spoon! Lol

  10. @Winchell– When you made your first comment– I thought of an old school mother– the kind who didn’t take any crap, the kind who carried a thick, black leather strap around her neck for a swift response. She made sure her kids were active in church and all. And her son still ending up going to prison after allof that. She was a no nonsense woman, but her son still went astray. I totally understand your pointt about today’s upbrining. some kids are out of control. No doubt about that.

  11. @Nicole– love your testimony. You prove that scripture you just quoted perfectly because in the end, you remembered what you were taught and came back home. You got it together after you recalled your teaching. Praise God! Your story brings tears to my eyes because you made it and look how God is using you. I’m so proud of you!

  12. @ Shalena Thanks sis! With God before me and with you and @Aprille Franks-Hunt | Women ReCHARGED encouraging me I’ve started doing things I never even thought I would do. Both of your pages have helped me in so many ways. You are a real live down to earth, “let me offer up a prayer and a word of encouragement” Sistah and I count it all joy our paths crossed! I just love you to life girlie 😉

  13. Parenting is not a dictatorship it has to be some love there! The woman u explained seems like she’s running one!lol All I’m saying is sometimes those items need to be used for emergences!

  14. I’ve been thinking aboutthis story ever since I published it and reread it. Who am i fooling? i would try to bust my baby out of prison. I would be crushed if he went to prison. I know we must pay for our crimes and decisions, but it would hurt me if he were lcked away for the rest of his life. I know that people say he would still be alive, but if you ever had a loved one locked behind bars, it is so tough. When I would visit my stepdad, I would cry so bad when visiting time was over. I would be emotionally drained. I’m tearing up riht now. It’s hard. Also if something tragic happened to my baby liek this, I’d be very hurt, too. It would take alot of strengh to get me through. My heart goes out to all involved in this case.

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