Surviving Murder by Renee Russell
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"When one door of happiness closes - Another one opens.But often we look so long at the closed door, that we do not see the one which has been opened for us." -Helen Keller

To begin I am just going to go through some basic facts about February 21st.

I will first start with that day.

It was a Wednesday. A cold, cloudy and drizzling Wednesday. I picked up my kids, and we were at the short stop waiting for our pizzas. My cell phone rang around 545pm. It was my husband. He asks, Where is your mom?

I reply, I don't know, I think she took Danny to the doctor in Tulsa. Why?

The feeling in the pit of my stomach is a feeling hard to describe and yet unforgettable. I immediately though of my brother Joe. Only because he was newly divorced and having a rough time. Never once, did Russell enter my mind.

I knew something terrible had happened and still Russell didn't enter my mind.

When I got home, Shawn was still trying to get a hold of my mom. He kept saying we need to find your mom.

Finally, I asked, What is going on?

His reply, Russell is dead. He has been killed.

Just going over this brings that blow to my stomach back. Russell? Not possible.

I can't remember exact words from there. I just know I couldn't believe it. Shawn then told me he had talked with Tammy and something about he was delivering a pig and he took this kid over to a friend's house and that is where he was shot.

At that point, I am in shock. I cry and yet I can't cry.

Does anyone know the anguish and heartache of having to call all your family members and tell them a loved one has been shot?

I mean, what do you say? How can you say it?

Hello, how are you? Oh and by the way, Russell is dead. So do you have plans for the weekend?

Not hardly.

I called everyone I could think of, and believe me at a time like this, you will forget a few and then you have upset them by not having thought of them.

My mom's first words: It's Russell, isn't it?

My own sorrow and pain is nothing but a dwindling flame compared to my mom's.
At this point, some family is at my house and many have called. Did you know that the ringing of a phone could be the most annoying sound in the world? I would have rather heard the screeching sound of someone scraping their fingers down a chalkboard.

I also did not realize that 5 hours could feel like 10 years.

During this time, I talked with a Detective who had been at the crime scene. His comments, Russell was in the wrong place and the wrong time. Russell had a poor choice of a friend.

By this time, the news has reported and shown partial view of my brother lying in the street.

My brother lay there for 3 to 4 hours.

One thought that continually goes through my mind no one ever checked on my brother. Not one of the people at the scene ever touched him. Never held him and said, It will be okay.

He was totally alone.

The medical examiner stated that my brother would have been conscience another minute or two before blacking out and then dying within 3 to 4 minutes of that last fatal shot in the back.

Have you ever sat in total silence and counted to 60? One thousand and one, one thousand and two...

And my brother just lay there in a pool of blood, knowing he was dying, knowing he would never see his precious little girls, knowing one of them was just a few blocks away waiting for him.

These are just events and thoughts of that first night, just 5 hours after learning my brother has been murdered.

I still have days, weeks and months of heartache.

The days following Russell's murder were almost too much to bear.

After having made the decision of what funeral home, we (my parents and I) now plan a funeral. Somewhere amidst this madness I am thinking, is this a nightmare?

First and foremost let me mention how asinine I think funeral homes are. Don't get me wrong, they do excellent jobs at a time when the families are at their lowest.

But the price of burying a loved one is outrageous. Not only have you just lost a brother but also you now have to go into debt to bury him properly.

Funeral Homes have an option that they use that is low cost (around ). For this you receive one service (graveside or church) along with the casket, etc.

Here is the insanity, if you want both services, this option above is not available. It will cost an additional if you want both services. Someone explain. You get one for but if you get two you have to pay 200% cost increase.

Anyhow after picking the services, we then picked the music. My parents chose "Go rest high on that mountain" by Vince Gill. My husband and I chose "In the arms of an Angel" by Sara McLachlan. When these two songs played, I felt the most gut wrenching pain, despair and loneliness all in one punch. I couldn't breathe; I could only sob uncontrollably and hope there was an end.

I can only remember a few moments of the funeral. I think this was one of the few times I have totally broken down. I do remember viewing Russell in the casket. He completely filled the casket. I remember that the front of his hair wouldn't do right. I remember the work-roughened hands still stained from his always working on something. I remember how peaceful he looked. I remember how Joe reached out and held Russell's hand and said, I can't believe this

I remember seeing his socked feet touching the end of the casket. I remember Brittany and Jessica putting things inside his casket, a colored picture and a note of love. I remember wondering if the preacher would ever be quiet. I remember all of Russell's best friends being the pallbearers.

A funeral isn't closure when a loved one has been murdered. You still have months of pain ahead. Depositions, hearings, and trials.

It is so amazing how many versions of a story you will hear. Even more amazing is that even when the base of the stories match, you still can't get a conviction.

After 3 hours of deliberating, the jury came back with a not-guilty verdict on 1st degree murder and a not-guilty verdict on 1st degree manslaughter. He was found guilty on domestic violence and charged . The irony of this is that the domestic violence is what caused the situation.

At this point, my family had lost my brother all over again. He was murdered a second time by the justice system. Our justice system allows the victims no rights. C.E. was allowed to give a life history (his version). The jury knew nothing of my brother's life. C.E. was allowed to show his face in court. We weren't allowed to show a picture of Russell in court. C.E. was allowed to kill my brother without any repercussions. He can shoot a man twice, with the last shot in the back while my brother is down on his knee (this being by testimony of C.E.'s son) and he is still found not guilty. But he is found guilty for slapping his wife in the face and charged .

How has justice been served by allowing C.E. freedom? My brother too had a family. We no longer have him.

Until we allow the victim, as much rights as we allow the criminal, until we make the loss of a life personal, Justice will not be served.

I write hoping to show how my family and I attempt to survive the murder of Russell.

I miss him so much. When I least expect it, a sadness will overcome me and my heart aches. Does it ever get better? I don't think so, I think we just adjust our lives to the level of hurt we can endure.

After Russell's murder, my faith hit an all time low. I couldn't understand how God could allow such evil. I have realized that God has always had a plan for Russell. I believe Russell was an Angel in Waiting. I believe Russell was put here on Earth to do certain things. I DON'T believe God chose for Russell to be murdered.

Before closing, I would like to include parts of my impact statement I prepared for court and never had the chance to read.

How Russell's Death has affected my life

First the trauma:


The feeling that hit me in the stomach was horrible, not Russell, never Russell.

. . . It's watching my mother's face as she enters my house on that night only to say; It's Russell isn't it? Her knowing this because we have called her house about 100 times in the last hours and someone else has called and left Russell's name.

. . . It's having to, on the day of the funeral, ask and beg the police for his glasses. Only to hear if you can be here by 4pm, we can give them to you.

. . . It's hearing one of my other brother's say, why him, it should have been me. He is a good person and I'm the one who always screws up. He is the father I wish I could be. He has the relationship with his girls I can only wish for.

. . . It's having to be strong for my Mom and family.

. . . It's thinking my brother was shot straight through the heart and then to hear at the bond hearing that yes, it was straight through the heart, but first entered through the back. It's that horror picture of knowing my brother was turning away, seeking safety.

. . . It's hearing the autopsy report on how the bullets entered your brother's body, penetrating organs and lodging between his ribs and skin. It's hearing the last shot not only went through his spine but also fatally entered my brother's heart.

. . . It's listening to witness testimonies as to how he never made an aggressive move. How when the gun was pulled, my brother attempted to protect his body and turned to flee only to be shot in the side.

It's then listening to testimony telling me how he fell to his knee clutching his side only to be shot in the back.

One of the most heart wrenching parts is when I hear after the last bullet entered, how my brother gasps for his last breaths.

Hooo, hoooo, aaaah.

That is something I hear every time I breathe.

Lastly, I hear from witnesses that he fell face down and how not one single person ever checked to see if he was alive or tried to help him.

. . . It's wondering what my brother's last thought was.

. . . It's the horror, the pain and the helplessness Russell must have felt knowing he was going to die.

. . . It's looking at the photographs of my brother lying in the street in a pool of blood.

. . . It's listening to a murderer confess only to say it was in self-defense and knowing my brother did nothing for C.E. to defend.

. . . It's listening to my own mother's anguish. It's answering the phone to hear my mother say, months later; “ I miss Russell so much. I just needed to hear your voice and make sure you were okay.

Secondly, daily life continues around me.

. . . It's getting down on my hands and knees and straightening my brother's new grave and packing the fresh dirt around it, so that it will be perfect, as he always insisted that things be for me.

. . . It's thinking about your brother being alone on all the holidays: St. Patrick's Day, Father's Day, 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas since his death.

. . . It's hearing your 4-year-old niece ask for "Daddy" and seeing her mother choke back the tears telling her, "He's gone now, he's in heaven."

. . . It's months later, hearing that the love of Russell's life has closed his chapter and now starts a chapter in life with someone else.

Ultimately, it's the long-term effects. .

. . . It's never knowing, yet fearing that I know all too well, what those final moments must have been like.

. . . It's constantly visualizing myself in his place that night, moment by excruciating moment.

. . . It's realizing that I will never even get the chance to thank my brother for all he ever did.

. . . It's living with the uncomfortable irony that he lived just long enough to see his girls at ages 4 and 6 years old.

. . . It's knowing I never had, and will never have, that one last time to say thanks for giving me, first, your love, and then, all that it holds.

. . . It's living the rest of my life with the fact that my brother suffered one of the most horrifying deaths possible.

. . . It's waking in the morning with the realization I had only dreamed Russell was alive and here.

. . . It's the inexplicable sense of embarrassment when I tell someone that my brother was murdered -- that sense of guilt from injecting ugliness into their lives.

. . . It's the constant need to bring Russell into conversations yet knowing others would prefer I don't.

And last but not least,

. . . It's knowing that this is only the beginning and the worst is yet to come.

. . . The haunting images.

. . . The emptiness.

. . . The loneliness.

. . . The sickening sense that life ended some time ago, and that I am but biding time.

Of course, for my mother, my other brothers, my husband and I, the sun will come up again, but it will never come up again for the real victim of this crime. Not only will he never see his two little girls or hear them call out "Daddy". That would be tragedy enough. But, even worse, he died knowing that the only thing that ever could have ruined his life had come -- that his family might have to suffer the kind of pain that is now ours -- and he was helpless to prevent it even as he saw its inevitability. If I had any wish, any wish in the world, it would be that no one ever again would have to go through what my brother experienced on the night of February 21st, what my family has endured since and must carry with us the rest of our lives.

My brother was C.E.'s VICTIM and now we are his VICTIMS. Every time we have to come to court and face this man, every time we have to hear how my brother gasped his last breath, these things break us down a little more. I have children, and I could never imagine the pain my Mother has lived through.

Isn't it ironic that those that break the law, are the first to plead for its protection"

My family and I just live day-by-day attempting to be strong for each other. We go through life afraid of forgetting a single memory of Russell. We stop in the middle of a busy day of work and think, Did I forget you, Russell?

Life can never return to the trust filled innocence that I once lived. I no longer take for granted that I will live to an old age of retirement because I may not. We all just have to make the most of our days. Daily life can be the toughest.

I can say that some days I feel obsessed with doing anything and everything that I can for my brother and all the memories.

So as a survivor, I write my inner most feelings and thoughts hoping that I may help another whom finds themselves a victim yet knowing there is nothing anyone can say or do to help.

"Unable are the Loved to die, for Love is immortality" Emily Dickinson

"When God allowed this burden to be put upon you; He put his arms underneath you to help you carry it."