VICTIM/WITNESS IMPACT STATEMENT: Buck Blodgett, Jessie’s dad
10 minutes. 10 minutes to sum up a life and explain in words to others the impact that the loss of that life has had on me. Not possible. Not fair.
I should be able to shout out to the world daily until life leaves my body who this beautiful young person was, what she stood for, how deeply she touched so very many, and how she has left behind a powerful legacy of Love.
Well, I intend to.
Let me start by giving you a sense of who she was. No words could possibly capture all of Jessie. In the weeks following her taking, we received over 1000 cards and letters filled with things like this:
- “For Jessie, to the lovely girl who didn’t leave thoughts and words unsaid or life untasted … and to the only 19 year old conscientious enough to write a letter to humanity, to the ever thoughtful one, whose deep brown eyes seemed to discern the wisdom of the world, yet still twinkled with joy and laughter … You charmed us, you challenged us; you dazzled and inspired us. So confident and free to be yourself …. So encouraging of others to do the same … Yours is a sacred story Jessie. You had open eyes. You noticed. You listened. You shared the song of your heart. Some grow old and draw near to death only to discover that they never really lived! Not so with you … A voice as lovely as yours cannot be silenced – it will live in our hearts….” – Nancy Baumhardt (mom of a friend)
- “She was the most passionate soul I have ever met. I once commented that she had ‘Atlas Shrugged’ on her bookshelf and she immediately went into a rant about how I was an ‘uber-Capitalist’. You could talk to her for hours and feel special and wanted. She was a burning star in a world where stars are afraid to burn … She was the kind of person who could debate, yet accept the other’s side and be open to other’s opinions. It was beautiful….” – Cody Wallace (friend)
- “Jessie was an incredible girl … Never have I met someone who could care so much about the earth and its residents …” – Kelly Krill (friend)
- “Jessie was a superb musician. And I am not. Jessie knew … however, that we are all musical beings. … we began to sit at the piano together. She would play and sing … I would … stand in awe at the music she was creating … It was humbling … to know such a force of life.” – Ben Barker (friend)
- “She taught me how to stand up for what I believe in, how to show kindness … Her story will live on for my future family. It will be a fairy tale about a magical princess who teaches people what it means to live. She made a difference in the world … She had a taste for who needed a friend, a confidant, an “older sister” or even a mother. She had a taste for who needed a hug, whose day was bad, and what poor trouble maker needed a talking to.” – Hannah Snyder (friend)
- “The world has been robbed of an extraordinary, gifted, and vital young woman … Jessie covered a lot of ground. Despite school work, her music, working, and teaching, she somehow found time to build lasting and meaningful friendships and touch countless hearts … I loved Jessie’s zest for life, her compassion for people – especially the disadvantaged and downtrodden, her love and respect for animals, her passion for the environment, and her fierce indignation about social injustices … [she] packed so much living into every day, into every get-together, into every conversation … anyone who was lucky enough to know her will never forget the light she has left behind … she showed us how to live with passion, make a difference, speak up, step up, dive in – a warrior! – Caroline MacGruder (friend Jenny’s mom)
Those 1000+ letters went on and on…
This is what I lost. This is what all of us lost.
Never again will I end a long, hard, stressful day at work with a walk around the block with my girl, talking freely and deeply about everything under the sun. In her final months she had developed the habit of starting every one of those walks with … “so how was your day, Dad?” I had to give her a real and genuine answer before we could move on to talking about her.
Never again will I look out the window and see her car parked in our driveway. Now her bff Kelly drives it, and occasionally I see it parked somewhere around town, and I’m caught off guard, and for a split second I think she’s there, and then I get the fresh new stab of the old pain.
How can I describe for you the PAIN of this loss? I can’t. It is there in the background, and often the foreground, of my life, every second. For 457 days. EVERY second. It will never go away. Others tell me I will adapt to it, learn to function well with it (which I already have), but it will remain there and never go away. I know they are right.
For 457 days I’ve watched Joy cry. Every day. Powerless to take her pain away.
Jessie’s friends have been amazing. They are all in college now. Many of them visit us when they come home from college. I wish Jessie would come home from college.
One day we will start to get wedding invitations from her friends. Nick, 6’, 280#, football-playing, wrestling, quiet Nick, Jessie’s boyfriend in 11th grade, knocked on our door and broke my heart in the days after she died. He said “Jess was the first one I ever said ‘I love you’ to. I know you will never walk your daughter down the aisle now, so, when I get married, I will invite you.” I know we will see Jackie get married one day, and Kelly, and Amelia, and others. I wish I could one day walk Jess down the aisle, surrender her care to a good young man who would cherish her, like her other friends did. I wish I could see her beaming with pride and happiness on her wedding day.
Jess was born at home, 100% naturally, no drugs, no doctor, just Cynthia, our midwife. My mom was there to see that little purple head come out all on its own (well, with some help from Joy). I had always looked forward to being there to see Jessie’s children born. Jess was robbed of the most special landmark days in the life of a young woman, her wedding day and the birth of her children. And now I am robbed of sharing those days with her.
Some of my very favorite and most sacred life memories are of golfing with Grandpa as a kid. Grandpa loved and accepted me and wanted to be around me, and all of us. I have always looked forward to being a grandpa, to having grandkids who idolize me the way I did Grandpa, who want desperately to go fishing and golfing and hiking in the woods with me. That will never happen now.
As for my opinion on sentencing: I leave that to Judge Martens. I wish no vengeance or retribution, nor would Jess. But I know she would want such a cruel and selfish act of male on female violence to be met with an appropriate penalty so as to be a deterrent to others. And, of course, above all, we can’t allow another innocent life to be lost.
Dan ….. I forgive you, as I have every day since I learned it was you.
I believe there is good and bad in every one of us, so I do not demonize or vilify you. That’s too easy. That makes it too easy for the rest of us to separate ourselves and our humanity from you and yours. To the evil in you, that you CHOSE to follow, I say this: this was a monumental loss for Evil and a stunning win for LOVE. You stole Jessie’s life and future, you had power and dominion over her body for a few minutes, but NEVER for one second did you have one ounce of power or control over her Spirit, her Heart, her Will, her Grace, her Beautiful Goodness, and her Deep LOVE. 1000s came to her funeral. There has been a continuing tidal wave of love poured out from our whole community and beyond for a year running. 20,000 people have watched the three videos posted on our L>h Project Facebook page.
To the Good in you, and there IS, I say this: You are forgiven. But you will not KNOW forgiveness, like experience it, feel it, until you tell the TRUTH. The Truth is the catalyst that runs the Forgiveness Rx. The Truth will set you free. But only when you tell it, ALL of it, every dark and sordid detail, to yourself and to the whole world.
For 457 days you have lived a lie. You held the power to set in motion a healing process, for me, for Joy, for yourself, for your mom and dad, and for 1000’s of family, friends, and others who have been affected by this. You have thought only of yourself once again, not others, and it has cost you, and us, dearly, more than you can possibly imagine. As long as you are alive, you still have a chance to own what you did, try to make amends, and bring healing into our sick world.
I hope you take that chance.
As for Jess, she is now HAPPY and FREE, empowered and peaceful beyond your understanding. But you are a shell of your True Self. You told her in the weeks before you killed her that you had been making bad choices lately. May you choose well now.
Dan, I don’t think there is any way on God’s green earth that you, or many in this room, will understand or believe this, but it’s true. I forgive you and I Love you. Of course, I hate what you did, but that doesn’t mean I can’t forgive and Love.