Killer's execution would close chapter on mom's nightmare
Lauren Ritchie | COMMENTARY (Excerpt) Orlando Sentinel
September 21, 2008
Dorothy Lewis likely will be at her Umatilla home cooking dinner by 6 p.m. Tuesday when the man who killed her two babies is to draw his last breath.
Richard Henyard, 34, convicted of murdering Lewis' daughters and of raping and shooting the third-grade schoolteacher, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection. It would be the first of a Lake County prisoner in 50 years.
Do we throw a party? Perhaps we should follow the lead of the victim. When Lewis learned two months ago that Gov. Charlie Crist had signed a death warrant, she cried.
Were they tears of joy that the criminal is finally being disposed of? Sorrow at the barbaric execution of a fellow human being? Or a simple emotional reaction to another wrenching upheaval in a life laced with trials? For sure, it wasn't the first option. Lewis never has advocated that Henyard be executed.
"It won't bring back my girls," she said recently.
A horribly random crime
About a year after the 1993 crimes, Lewis remarked that if she demanded Henyard's execution, she'd be no better than the 18-year-old who raped her on the trunk of her car while her girls watched and whimpered for their mommy...
Lewis and her daughters, 3-year-old Jasmine and 7-year-old Jamilya, were at a now-closed Winn-Dixie supermarket in Eustis buying ingredients to make a salad for a church potluck supper when they were kidnapped.
It could just as easily have been me. It could have been you. Anyone who shopped for groceries and looked vulnerable was a target...
State Attorney Brad King remarked to a reporter that the innocence of the victims played a key role in the death sentence. It's hard to imagine more blameless victims than little girls with neatly braided hair and polite manners and their mother, who at 35 had begun to preach the word of the Lord at her church.
The girls had lost their daddy in 1989 to spinal meningitis, but Lewis' mother and sisters and aunts stepped forward and wrapped them in a cocoon of caring that protected them and reminded them that they were loved and would make it through tough times.
But the power of intense love cannot stop death when it is determined to visit.
Killer had no one to care
Henyard is not wanted in this world. He never was, from the moment of his birth. His young, unmarried mother was too busy drinking and doing drugs to take care of a squalling pimply infant who developed sores all over his body from a severe milk allergy and gave no one a moment's peace.
At 10 months, Henyard went to live with his godmother, who tried to provide a stable home. Between then and his 11th year, he bounced between his godmother and mother. Then -- fed up with his attitude and behavior -- his godmother took him to live with his father in South Florida, where he stayed until he was 16.
His mother and father made the same piteous plaint on the witness stand in 1994 when they pleaded for his life: They did the best they could do. Clearly, the best didn't involve putting themselves out to steer the boy toward becoming an even marginally decent member of society. By their own accounts, they brought this child into the world, then took almost no responsibility. He just came up on his own...
Fifteen years have passed. Jamilya probably would have graduated from college and be starting her life as a grown woman. Jasmine likely would be in her freshman year, a teenager sorting out her options for the future.
Understandably, Lewis doesn't want to talk about this anymore -- not the crimes, not the girls, not Henyard, not herself. She has replayed the scenes a million times in her head, where they bounce around the four plates and 24 screws that repaired her skull after Henyard put a bullet in her forehead...
(ASIDE: Marietta Jaeger's daughter Susie was abducted at the age of seven during a family camping trip in Montana. For over a year afterwards, the family knew nothing of Susie's whereabouts...Marietta was to learn that Susie had been killed on a remote Montana ranch a week after she disappeared. Despite her family's tragedy, she remains committed to forgiveness and has been an ardent opponent of the death penalty for the over 25 years since Susie's death.
PHOTO of Marietta Jaeger-Lane
(learn more about Marietta's story on The Journey of Hope website and follow the upcoming Journey of Hope in Montana)
More on Dorothy Lewis' story:
From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Excerpt)
Killer of two girls to be put to death Execution scheduled for Tuesday
By Ron Word | The Associated Press
September 22, 2008
STARKE - When Florida resumed executions this summer after an 18-month moratorium, Gov. Charlie Crist wanted to sign death warrants for those convicted of the most heinous murders.
The governor said the ultimate punishment was certainly justified for Richard Henyard, 34, who is scheduled to die Tuesday.
Fifteen years ago, Henyard and a teenage accomplice carjacked Carol Lewis and her daughters, Jasmine, 3, and Jamilya, 7, outside a Central Florida grocery store. He told Lewis he was Satan when she prayed for help, raped her and then shot her repeatedly, but she survived. After the little girls cried out for their mother, Henyard participated in their executions.
"When you look at the horrific nature of this crime, it lets you know that the penalty he will receive is certainly justified," Crist said when he signed the death warrant, adding it is "unimaginable that any human being could carry out such a horrendous act."
"My life is a testimony to the fact that victims can be victorious through the power of prayer," Lewis, now 51 (a pastor and motivational speaker) wrote on a Web site, prayer for sexual trauma dot org...
Despite the hint of closure in the first article, there is wide-spread experience by many victims that the death penalty leads to little if any...
May all who read this hold ALL who go through such unbelievable tragedy in the healing and power of prayer.
May all who are touched by Ms. Lewis' lack of vengeance be similarly seeking alternatives to killing and be in prayer for spiritual healing and release for the perpetrators, including for Henyard.
May all who have experienced victimization of any kind--like Ms. Lewis--find healing through prayer and/or in other ways.
May we all do all we can to help lead others to healing....
Perhaps, a simple caring letter of empathy to Dorothy Lewis sent through commentator, Lauren Ritchie, would be comforting and would also let Ritchie know there are others similarly without vengeance--yes, even in the worst scenarios imaginable.
Lritchie@orlandosentinel.com or 352-742-5918