I can barely find words to describe what I did today. I feel like I’m hanging onto the earth as it spins wildly. I feel both horrified by humanity’s cruelty and uplifted by its kindness. I don’t even know where to begin. So I’ll just jump in.
At 2 o’clock this afternoon in Fairfax County District Court there was a sentencing for the young man who murdered my friend Lynne’s daughter Siobhan. Months earlier he had been found guilty of 2nd degree murder. Siobhan was murdered a year and a half ago, on Easter Sunday. She was 19 years old and the murderer was her former boyfriend.
Both Lynne and her husband Andy spoke at the court proceedings today, spilling out the pain of parents whose daughter was savagely murdered. Yes, it was savage—he didn’t just shoot her in a moment of rage. The prosecutor made a case for a long prison sentence. A psychologist spoke for the defense, explaining his rationale for multiple mental illness diagnoses for the murderer. The murderer himself spoke briefly, accepting responsibility for his action. No amount of remorse would have been sufficient.
What lingers in my mind is the sense of the quiet and decorum in the courtroom that belied the intense underlying emotion. For two hours the murderer in his green prison clothes sat at the defense table with his attorneys, staring at the table in front of him. He looked like an ordinary young man with glasses and short dark hair. His mother, his grandparents, and a few family friends sat behind him on one side of the courtroom. It was almost as if there was a vapor around the murderer, the foul aura of evil, a demonic presence. Siobhan’s family sat in the front row on the other side of the courtroom, sometimes quietly crying, sometimes sitting and listening intently to the proceedings. And around them were their friends, silently supporting them, comforting them, trying to provide a buffer from the evil that had invaded their lives. I cried for Lynne and Andy and for the horrible fate that befell their oldest child. Yet I also felt the presence of God in the love and support of all the people who cared about them.
The murderer was sentenced to 40 years in prison without parole. It was the maximum sentence.