A student comforts Birdie Jones, mother of Anthony Jones, who was killed by a drunken driver.
The Victim Studies Committee at Sam Houston State University’s College of Criminal Justice sponsored the panel discussion by Parents of Murdered Children, a support and advocacy group for the survivors of homicide victims. Family members shared their heart-wrenching stories about their loved ones, the crime, and the criminal justice system.
"It doesn’t end after the trial," said Dr. Raymond Teske, who teaches a course on Child Abuse and Neglect. "It goes on for a lifetime."
The speakers for the program included a Sugar Land Police Lieutenant, whose 20-year old son was murdered by a neighbor, and the family of a man killed by an alleged drunken driver, who was convicted of the same offense three times.
Lt. Bruce Caldwell’s son, 20-year old Bruce Caldwell Jr. who went to college and worked full time in a mortgage company, was stabbed by a 21-year old neighbor while driving to Walmart on May 13, 2006. After the unprovoked stabbing, the suspect chased his mortally wounded son down the street and after stabbing him ten more times, tried to sever his head in front of two women who had stopped to help. Several other people witnessed the crime and did nothing to stop it.
The family lived in fear of the suspect and his family, who lived across the street. Their 21-year old daughter slept in bed with her parents for three weeks, fearing the suspect would return. They couldn’t sell their house for 10 months because of a mix-up in credit because the son, who had the same name of his father, was deceased.
The case went to court within a year and the suspect was given a 30 year life sentence without parole.
"The court was absolutely the worse time," said Caldwell. "I was sitting 15 feet from where he (the suspect) was sitting…Is 30 years adequate for a life? We are not talking about a goldfish, we are talking about my son."
Caldwell said every day he prays for strength not to retaliate.
"I am angry every single day," Caldwell said. "I pray to God that I do not do anything crazy. I saw his wounds. I saw what Michael (the suspect) did to him. They are images I will never forget."
“I am 6’1”, 240 pounds, I am an expert in pistols, shotguns and the AR-15 rifle, I know two kinds of martial arts, but I couldn’t protect my son," Caldwell added. "It takes all of the energy I have just to get out of bed every day because I really don’t want to face the fact I have to deal with my son not being here. He did not die of natural causes or an accident, he was murdered! You can never get over a loved one being “taken” from you."
The killer of Anthony Jones is still at large, and they asked for student’s help in distributing a flier from Crimestoppers of Abel Sanchez, a three-time convicted drunken driver, to bring him to justice. Anthony and his wife were hit head on by a drunk driver, setting the car ablaze. Sanchez was not initially detained by police and is currently being sought.
Anthony’s wife survived the crash and has had four emotional breakdowns, even following the suspect’s family to a reunion in an effort to find him.
"To lose you child is totally tragic," said the victim’s mother, Birdie Jones. "He was a good boy. Drinking and driving is not a good thing. You can hurt yourself and someone else’s child. You don’t want to be out there hurting someone else’s child."
The mother said she has four other children, but spends most of her time lost in sadness.
"I can’t go out," the mother said. "I can’t talk on the phone. Sometimes I don’t eat for four days. I am so sad, all I want to do is cry, cry, cry."
Dr. Kate Fox had her Victimology class attend the event.
"The Parents of Murdered Children panel was a popular event where those whose loved ones were murdered shared their terrifying and empowering experiences," Dr. Fox said. "This was an unforgettable evening that put faces to the research and knowledge students learn in class."
In addition to providing support for survivors, Parents of Murdered Children also advocate for victim’s rights before the Texas legislature, most recently on a bill that proposes mandatory release of inmate due to budget cuts.