“David” thought his parents had died.
It was 38 years ago that he was sentenced as a child to die in prison. He’s been in Angola ever since. At first, his mom and dad would visit whenever they could. But their visits grew further and further apart. As they aged, the lengthy trip simply grew too taxing. Somewhere around the early-2000s, they had to stop visiting altogether. Having no contact with the outside world, David assumed the worst. It’s been more than 15 years since he’s heard anything about them.
In 2019, LCCR took on to David’s case. His LCCR team includes an attorney and a mitigation specialist, a special type of investigator who digs deeply into the life history of the client, especially as it pertains to their circumstances at the time of their original sentencing. Specialists assemble in painstaking detail the client’s family history, mental health/trauma history, developmental concerns, and other facts that paint a complete picture of the child who the court originally deemed as being beyond redemption. David’s mitigation specialist is Tim.
Family insight is critical to the mitigation task, Tim asked David about his family and learned that all contact had been lost. Putting his detective skills to the test, Tim took the few scraps of information that David had and sought to uncover what happened to them. He immediately hit a roadblock. David’s parents are elderly and have relatively common first and last names, rendering the usual search channels ineffective.
But then Tim got a huge break. A social media search revealed a woman with his younger sister’s name residing in David’s original hometown. Tim sent her a message in December 2019. He then waited… and hoped.
After some initial back and forth, Tim and “Allyson” spoke by phone. She was in tears, completely overwhelmed with emotion. She never thought the day would come when the family could reconnect with David. She had written him letters in prison, but he stopped responding. She didn’t know that he didn’t have her current address—she had moved some years back. It’s been more than a decade since she last heard from him.
Allyson had great news: David’s parents were still alive. She was taking care of Mom, who had Parkinson’s disease, and Dad lived close by.
Even though he was off for the holidays, Tim drove three hours out of state to visit with David’s family. Everyone was there to greet him: Mom, Dad, Mom’s sister, Allyson, Allyson’s kids. They took Tim into their home and treated him like family. They also shared a great deal of David’s history, which will be helpful for his case.
David’s birthday is on Christmas Day. Tim, still on holiday leave, planned a visit and said he was bringing a friend: Shon Williams, LCCR’s outreach coordinator and a former juvenile lifer himself. In fact, while in Angola, it was David who had mentored Shon and taught him sign language—a skill that he continues to put to good use.
Tim and Shon told David that they had some photos of people that they needed his help in identifying. After sifting through a few childhood photos, David came to a picture of his Dad… standing with Tim.
“Bruh, you’re hitting me hard. I didn’t expect this.” David began to weep. “I thought they were dead.” Tim responded, “No. In fact, here’s their number for you to give them a call on Christmas. They’re waiting to hear from you.”
David called and it was like his whole world opened up again. They laughed. They cried. They rejoiced in just hearing each other’s voices. After so many years behind bars, Christmas (and his birthday!) had become just another day to David. “Not on my watch,” says Tim.
David’s reunion was not a moment too soon. This summer, his Mom passed. Tim fought like hell to get David a furlough to attend the funeral. But because of the pandemic, the prison wouldn’t let him out, let alone cross state lines.
Tim attended on David’s behalf, offering to be a pallbearer in David’s stead. He saved a funeral program and black rose, and was sure to take lots of pictures of the family—all to share with David on his next visit. Tim was welcome in that space. And after the funeral, the family shared with him more stories and well wishes.
David continues to talk regularly with his Dad and sister. It’s rekindled an excitement within him that he hasn’t felt in decades.
We continue to build his case, though the pandemic and its subsequent trial delays have thrown a wrench into our hoped for timeline for his release. David and his family remain optimistic. And when he gets out, he’ll have a lot of support from those who love him very much. His family is just so happy to have him back in their lives.