By: Jamey Sheesley
Trigger Warning – This article briefly discusses events that occurred in a domestic violence homicide and may be triggering to some readers.
Ciara Harrison was just 25 years old when she was murdered. She was a mother, a daughter, and an individual with an outgoing and bubbly personality. Her body was found in a shallow grave in Moreno Valley on April 23, 2019, which was 10 days after she was murdered. All that was left for Ciara’s mother, Jill Harrison, were questions on why her beautiful daughter was murdered. Her granddaughter is now left without her mother.
Jill received a phone call on April 24, 2019, around 11:30 pm from a Riverside County police officer. The police officer asked Jill if she had a daughter named Ciara Harrison and if she could confirm details about her. At first, Jill just thought perhaps her daughter had been arrested and did not understand what was going on until it hit her. She was getting the phone call that no parent ever wants to receive.
The police officer confirmed he was a homicide detective. That is when Jill’s life flipped upside down; not only was her daughter gone, but she was murdered. Immediately her mind went full speed trying to figure out who could do this and what happened. The detective working the case could not give any details since it was an ongoing investigation.
Jill immediately turned to social media, joining social networking groups in and around Moreno Valley since she lived out of state and could not quickly get to California. Many people messaged her with all the information they knew, so it was up to her mother to start piecing information together.
Ciara did not act like herself for the last six months of her life. She was unhappy with her current life and living situation. She met many people around the apartment complex she lived with and befriended them. She was outgoing and had an easy time making new friends, and she would eventually befriend the man that killed her.
“Ciara was very attractive; she could blend with all groups of people. She could sing like Rihanna and Beyonce, so people were drawn to her. Somehow, she met this guy, and they were hanging around each other the last six weeks before he killed her,” According to Jill.
Someone from the social networking group had contacted Jill and told her the word on street about who killed her daughter. They also informed her that he had been arrested for an unrelated incident the day before they found Ciara’s body. People from the streets were able to identify him as the killer.
How does a mother forgive someone for such a horrendous act?
Jill told me how and why she forgave the defendant for killing her daughter. Jill, like most of us, wanted to do unspeakable things to the man that killed her daughter, but she also wanted to know why, how could someone take her daughter’s life in an instant?
She knew if she got angry and wanted revenge, it would just put her deep depressive state, and that is somewhere she refused to go. Instead, she just put everything in God’s hands.
“I knew in my heart that as hard as it may be, I needed to forgive him,” said Jill.
She would have days where she wanted to get revenge for her daughter, but she always felt God speaking to her within, letting her know that would only cause more pain for her. God kept asking her how she was going to turn this around.
“I just needed to check my anger now, before it got out of hand,” according to Jill.
Instead of focusing on getting revenge, Jill prayed hard. She prayed that God would push the defendant into repenting and feeling the full effects of what he did. Jill never gave up on that prayer as the months went on.
She also worked on forgiving him, and she had to repent herself several times because she had many angry thoughts towards him.
Her prayers worked because on December 14, 2019; the defendant had to demand the District Attorney and everyone else to let him confess to killing Ciara Harrison. He even went against the advice of his attorney. Jill got the call, and even though they could not delay it for her and her son to be there, the judge let them join by phone. Jill and her son had less than 20 minutes to write their impact statements.
She knew God answered her prayers when she heard the defendant say in the courtroom that God told him he was guilty, so he knew he was guilty, and God told him he needed to repent. Jill knew the defendant used to be involved with a church, so she knew her prayers were answered after the statement he made.
On December 20, 2019, the defendant was charged with 50 years to life in prison, really putting the nails in his coffin.
The story does not end there. Jill wrote the defendant a letter about repenting for her daughter’s murder. A week later, he called Jill, and she was able to ask him what happened. He said they were out and had been fighting all day, and he told her Ciara said something that made him mad. He does not know why he did it, but he shot her twice in the stomach.
He said he would never forget the look she gave him and told him God would forgive him, but he needed to take her to the hospital. Instead of taking her to the hospital, he freaked out and went to a friend’s house. From there they drove Ciara’s lifeless body out to a grassy area near the Preserve. He wished someone could have stopped him and wished that day never happened. Jill still chooses to forgive him instead of hating him.
Jill is a writer, and Ciara always encouraged her to write a book. In her daughter’s memory, she published the story that her daughter wrote when she was nine years old, a children’s book called Kittens with Sweaters by Ciara Harrison. All proceeds from this book go to support Ciara’s family.
Jill’s message for those facing similar situations is to forgive and turn the situation around. It is the only way. She hopes her story helps others to heal and forgive.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.