May it please the Court. I represent my son, James Patrick Connor, who is not here, and my husband, and our daughters and our four grandchildren. More than anything else, I do this to honor him, because had the roles been reversed, he would be standing here today. I also owe this to the other victims of violent crime who either stand silently by, or who speak and are not heard. I owe it to the public, I owe it to Jeffrey St. Pierre, who may not yet understand the magnitude of the loss he inflicted on the night of August 23, 1998.
There are no words to describe what follows when your son is stripped from your life. In my family’s case, the unforgivable act of robbing my son for a mariner’s watch which did not flash a single diamond, $80.00 in cash, beating him in the face – his beautiful face –, kicking him to break his ribs, kidnapping him, leaving him to die in a parking lot, stealing our 1991 Saab, returning hours later to discover him alive and then killing him with one of our helm seat poles stored in the Saab’s trunk and burying him with dirt, debris is not comprehendible. Add to this horror the fact that James was missing for over 14 weeks …I cannot find the words to tell you of the agony, the emptiness, the despair, the chaos, the confusion, the sense – perhaps temporary, but perhaps not – that one’s life no longer has any purpose, the doubt, the hopelessness. There are no words that can possibly describe all this entails. But being the victim of a violent crime such as this is at least these things and is exactly this in my family’s case.
While it is happening and you wait for your only son’s call or perhaps a ransom note…in our case minute by minute, day by day for 14 weeks ….
….it’s the sheer horror of the police coming to our summer residence asking about our Saab…sending them off to your home up the street where your son’s dog and best friend is waiting his arrival home…of standing in my store hanging on to a piece of furniture and praying that this wasn’t happening.
….of reliving the night before when he stopped by the boat on his way to the Black Seal dressed in blue walking shorts and a spotless white shirt and remembering every word that was said. The girls with him used the restroom at our businesses while James and his father read a three-page survey of a newer boat they planned to put an offer in the following Monday..
….hearing his words “I love you Mom” still ring in my ears. That fateful night as I walked down the dock. I remember thinking ‘don’t drop the keys in the water…it’s your life’…keys to the boat, the Saab, Jim’s office, my husband’s office, my gift shop and our home. Those keys were never found.
….it’s being frightened out of your mind as the temperature dropped in October and you knew he was cold somewhere….it’s a Mom thing to worry that his white shirt would be dirty or he was wet from the rain. It’s not being able to sleep, eat or work because this 33-year-old person who we loved and loved us disappeared. It’s looking at your son and your car on posters that were put up everywhere from Maine to Florida, across Pennsylvania to California. Its learning the only posters that were missing were the ones from Stop and Shop in Waterford…they seemed to be missing the day after they were posted each week.
…it’s living after the summer season on a boat, just blocks away from your home where you have lived for 15 years because you just can’t bear to go back there. And when we did go back to our home, it was finding Jim’s clothes in the dryer, his 100-ton captain’s license received only the 28th of July laying on the kitchen table…it’s finding his cub scout ring…it’s putting a few of his things in the attic in case he came back any moment…its watching the video of our vacation with our son, our boat and his dog, taken during the last ten days of his life…
…it’s taking his tux to his sister’s wedding and hoping by some miracle he’ll be there.
….it’s trying to get through Thanksgiving and then Christmas…losing control of your life, forcing yourself to go on one more day.
…it’s seeing his new red Toyota truck arrive on a flat bed from Florida weeks later with his bumper stickers proudly advertising his dream of owing his own marine business.
…it’s watching TV and seeing a body recovered in a park and knowing perhaps this time it will the dreadful news that he has been found.
….it’s coming back with your husband from the hospital on Jan. 10, 1999 and seeing all the state police cars in our driveway.
…it’s hearing that your son didn’t suffer because he had been shot in the face….than hearing months later that he had been beaten to death with a piece of our boat seat...it’s varnishing and replacing that boat seat without the four metal supports that had been used to kill your son..
….trying to be brave for your family as a celebration of life is held …its being afraid of the media, the TV cameras, the phone calls, telling your family members night after night that it will be all right when you don’t believe it yourself.
….realizing you cannot live in your home because there are so many memories…it tears you apart so you pack up the family home, item by item, memory by memory, as if all of this was going to help us to go forward .
…then there is an arrest….and several weeks later another…and than another. Three are arrested over the next several months and the story changes. He was not shot, but beaten in the face, his neck broken, his clothes were ripped off, bleach poured on him …life is never the same… it’s the crushing anxiety of awaiting the trauma and uncertainties of public trials…
….it’s seeing your family car with blood stains, a missing rear view mirror, a cracked windshield and seeing a bow of your son’s glasses in the back seat of the Saab.
….it’s watching your husband’s face as he relives this terror time and again.
…it’s sitting by your son’s grave in below freezing weather so he won’t be alone at Christmas….and again on St Patrick’s Day and again on April 13 … his birthday. He was only 33.
…it’s seeing the twin towers the first time you venture on a trip and crying because he always called you and said “Mom, I see the Twin Towers, I’ll be home in an hour, I love you.” When those towers disappeared Sept 11, the day after this trial started.. I realized the impact never seeing him again would bring. He was trained for survival. He would have been the first one to New York ground zero to lend a helping hand.
...and it’s knowing this is only the beginning and the worst is yet to come. The haunting images, the emptiness, the loneliness…the realization that our lives will never be the same. The sun will come up again for us, but it will never come up again for the real victim of this crime. We live by law in this country so that ideally, no one will ever have to know what it is like to be a victim of such violent crime. It is my wish that no one ever again would have to go through a tragedy like ours. On behalf of my son, my husband and our family, I respectfully request that those who committed this heinous crime receive the full punishment that the law provides. Three evil people were needed to complete this crime. There were no passive bystanders among these three men who murdered my son. Thank you, Your Honor
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