Written by: Kris, Survivor and Angel Mom
Trigger Warning: This story contains an account of abuse as well as brief discussion of violence culminating in the death of a victim of domestic violence or a loved one. Some survivors may find this particularly upsetting. Please consider your triggers and well-being before reading past this point.
My name is Kris, and I have been a domestic violence advocate now for 21 years. In addition to my advocacy work, I have also become a resiliency speaker sharing my own story of domestic violence and the horrifying events that led up to the murder of my 3yr old daughter, Miranda.
As I share this horrifying story, I also like to share how I overcame this horrible tragedy and how I found happiness and joy again. I also share my story in hopes that it touches and encourages just one abuse victim to seek safety for her and her children.
My story begins in 1993 when I met and fell in love with a man who I thought was the man of my dreams. We had an enormous wedding with all of the pomp and circumstance you can imagine. My entire wedding attire was handcrafted, from the roses and pearls on my veil to the roses on my shoes. It was my dream wedding.
It was the event of the year that turned sour and sinister within six months. My life turned into a real-life horror story. I was 23 at the time of my marriage. The abuse started as soon as the marriage certificate was signed. The man that I thought loved me like no other turned into a monster.
In 1995, I became pregnant with a beautiful and very healthy baby girl, who we named Miranda Faith. She could not have been a more perfect and happy baby. I instantly fell in love with her and the role of motherhood.
By 1997, my marriage had deteriorated to the point that there was no salvaging it, and I had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave my husband, my abuser. His name was *Henry, and he was a Firefighter/Paramedic.
Once I decided to file for divorce, most of my days were spent living in fear and frustration. I was ALWAYS in constant fear for my life and the life of our daughter. I was divorcing my husband for mental and emotional abuse, cheating, gaslighting, financial abuse, and his blatant disrespect for our marriage and family. Everything that could be balled up in an unhealthy marriage was part of my marriage.
From the moment I asked Henry to leave our home, the abuse escalated. Henry felt his controlling grip begin to loosen, and he noticed that I was changing. He was starting to notice that I was getting stronger in my will to stand up to him, and this scared him. And when Henry felt threatened, the devil that lived inside of him would rear its ugly head.
First, it began with constant phone calls all hours of the day and night at home and work. He began following me everywhere I went and showing up at my place of employment, friend’s houses, the mall, restaurant, you name it, he was ALWAYS THERE.
He would call me early in the morning and give me a blow by blow of what I had done the night before, who I was with and where I went, what I was wearing, what time I had left my house, and what time I returned home.
So many times, he or his father paid for other people to follow me, purposely scare me, or try to run me off the road and take my picture. These strangers were paid to terrorize me! He even went as far as hiring someone to come to my front door late one night posing as a person who had lost their dog.
The stalking, harassment, and threats never stopped. At this point, I was forced to file a restraining order to try and keep Henry away from Miranda and me, but the abuse continued and escalated. The restraining order just fueled his anger even more.
It became so exhausting and so scary that I was encouraged to press charges to have him arrested for stalking and for violating his restraining order. I had to document every single thing that happened from the ungodly amount of phone calls to the times we exchanged Miranda, every conversation, and every unexpected visit. I had to document every time I noticed him following me and when he showed up at my place of employment.
I became the queen of documentation. You see, the burden of proof is always put on the victim to prove that she is in danger and scared to death for herself and her children.
During this time, we were fighting over custody. I felt it appropriate that he only get supervised visitation. After all, he had threatened to kill us many times. I did not think that that was an unreasonable request, but of course, he wanted to get full custody. It was nasty and terrifying. I was terrified for Miranda’s life and mine, but I could not convince a judge that Henry was a dangerous man. So many times, I kept hearing, “I’m sorry, but we can’t do anything until something happens.”
Henry would call me in the middle of the night during Miranda’s visits, threatening to kill Miranda and then himself. This, of course, would send me into a panic of monumental proportions. I would call the police; they would go and check on them, and Henry would laugh and say that I was the crazy ex-wife who was harassing him.
He would get a pat on the back, and he would go right back to stalking and threatening. He would even call me after the police left.
I would get so many phone calls that I could not keep up with all of the documentation on my own, so my parents hired an answering service to answer and document all calls coming from him.
Henry made it his life’s mission to stalk me even using the ambulance he was driving to follow me, and his partner never reported it. He would sit outside of the courthouse where I worked and just watch. He wanted me to know that he was always watching me.
After months of stalking and documenting, and after nearly losing my job, I finally obtained enough evidence to have him arrested. I had a huge three-ring binder of all of the evidence that my mother, her secretary, and I had put together. I had done my part 100%.
Finally, he was going to jail, and for once during this whole battle, he was going to be held accountable for the abuse. After months of calling the police, after pleading with the Fire Chief to talk to him and hold him accountable, and after months of pleading with his parents to help control him, he was FINALLY going to jail.
However, instead of going to the firehouse to arrest Henry, the police called him as a courtesy, so that they would not embarrass him in front of his co-workers. They asked him to come down to the station and turn himself in. They assured him it would be hush-hush, and he would be out of there by the end of business that day.
Within an hour of being arrested, he posted bail and was right outside my house sitting in his truck watching. Again. Henry was NOT held accountable. Again, another pat on the back.
NO ONE listened to me; no one in authority would listen.
NO ONE wanted to believe that this man was DANGEROUS.
Once Henry was sentenced, his original sentence of 8 months of jail time was suspended, and the judge ordered him to participate in 10 sessions with a certified psychiatrist, and he had to report to his parole officer once a week. He was also granted joint custody even though he had just been convicted of a crime.
Instead of making Henry do those sessions with a certified psychiatrist, his parole officer reduced his sentence yet again to just one week’s worth of anger management. Henry did not need anger management. Henry managed his anger just fine, especially when there were witnesses.
Henry was never held accountable for anything. He was a member of the “brotherhood,” and he most certainly received preferential treatment.
He used the uniform and the ambulance to inflict fear and intimidation like you have never known, and they allowed it.
He used the uniform as a way of getting away with harassing me. He knew that if I called the police, they would not do a thing to him because he was a firefighter.
I thought the torture would never stop. I was always on high alert. Henry was always stalking, threatening, and lurking outside my house. I fought this man for three solid years. He was everywhere! If it was not him, it was his father or some sleazy friend they would hire to continue the torture.
I had almost become numb and accustomed to it. I had grown accustomed to the feeling that one day he would kill me. At one point, I had made my peace with it. I did not know of any other way to live. Miranda and I never received the help we so desperately needed.
Then one day, I noticed that the incidences were occurring less often. I had noticed that the turmoil had somewhat subsided. Was he getting bored? Was he trying to throw me off by backing off? No, that was not the case at all.
It was not until he met someone else that the torment somewhat subsided. I, too, had met someone and was trying to live a normal life. Things became quiet, and for the first time in a year or more, I thought we had finally made it to a place where we could actually get along. I was so hopeful. I was foolishly optimistic.
Henry turned had his attention to a new woman. I am not going to lie; I was so relieved he was leaving me alone. He had moved on to a new victim and another victim she was.
Her name was *Leah. She was a physical therapist at one of the local hospitals and the mother of 2 young daughters. She was beautiful, self-sufficient, owned her own home, and had a great job. She had her whole life ahead of her—a life of promise and success.
After about eight months, their relationship started to deteriorate. Henry was having financial problems and was living off of Leah. Just like a narcissist does, he professed his love for her, promptly moved in overwhelming her with gifts, charm, and false promises.
I found out later that she had become afraid of his controlling behavior. She was living on the ever-changing roller coaster of Henry’s moods. She was too afraid to cross him. He had become possessive, delusional, and overall too controlling. After they moved in together just after a few weeks of dating, he demanded they get married. It was all too much too fast.
He had asked her to marry him. She said yes, too terrified to tell him no. Throughout the next couple of months, things began to deteriorate between them, and that nagging horrible feeling began to haunt me yet again.
Finally, after her oldest daughter, who was 15 at the time, decided to move back to her dad’s, Leah found the courage to tell Henry to leave. She had decided that this was not the life she wanted for herself or her daughters.
Henry left and moved back in with his parents. As you can imagine, this was a massive blow to his ego, and he was furious.
From this point on, things began to spiral out of control. Henry began tormenting her the exact same way he did me. She filed for her protective order and had begged and pleaded with the Fire Chief to tell Henry to back off. Henry had violated the restraining order so many times.
Leah contacted Henry’s parole officer, and he was put on paid leave and encouraged to see a doctor, causing Henry became irate. His behavior once again became erratic and increasingly unpredictable. He threatened to kill her and then himself. Henry was becoming unhinged.
He began acting erratically with me again and giving me a hard time about visitation with Miranda.
During the time all of this was happening, I had been working for the Tax Assessor’s office, and I had finally gained my deputy assessor’s certification. It had taken me six years to get my certification, and I was so very proud. It was a huge accomplishment for me. I was making a better life for Miranda and me. I was getting paid a little bit more, and I was well on my way to a promising career. For the first time, I had everything going for me.
I had recently remarried, and my husband Jeff and I were headed to New Orleans for my pinning ceremony.
Since Henry was given joint custody, I was forced by the judge to leave Miranda in his care until my return four days later. It was gut-wrenching having to turn away and leave her. And it turned out to be the biggest mistake of my entire life.
On a cold Tuesday night, January 12, 1999, Henry went to his parent’s house and switched vehicles with his dad. He then picked Miranda up from daycare and then drove to the hospital where Leah worked. She had been in a staff meeting with several of her co-workers and was due to leave the building at approximately 5 pm.
Henry pulled into the parking lot and parked on the opposite side of the hospital to not be seen or recognized as she was leaving the building. As Leah was walking out, surrounded by her friends and co-workers, Henry approached her.
He begged her to talk to him. He asked for two minutes of her time, and she said no. She told him he is not supposed to be there, and if he did not leave, she would call the police. She reminded him that he was violating his restraining order yet again.
It was at this time that Henry pulled out a Smith and Wesson .38 Special that he got from his father, and he shot Leah point-blank in the face three times. Leah dropped to the ground, dead and unrecognizable. People began to run and scatter, screaming and running for cover. They were hiding under cars and running into the open field next to the parking lot.
Henry drug her lifeless body to a grassy median and laid her body out. He then, ever so calmly, walked to the vehicle where he left my little girl sitting alone. He carried Miranda over to Leah’s dead body; he held her on his lap and began talking to her. According to witness statements, he whispered in her ear, then put the gun to her tiny temple and pulls the trigger. He turned her over and shot her again.
He then laid Miranda’s body next to Leah’s and pulled out a hunting knife that he got from his father and began to stab and slice Leah’s body over and over and over again.
In the blink of an eye, two innocent people were dead. This man was Miranda’s father. Her father failed her. He was supposed to love and protect her. He was supposed to be the example she would judge all other men against, and he killed her!
Within minutes, the very fire station that Henry worked at had to make that call. He knew his co-workers would be the ones to come to help. He had been planning it all along. Police were on the scene, and the ambulance was there waiting to try and help the victims, but Henry refused to put his weapon down.
The police asked him over and over to put down his weapon, and he refused. He slowly brought his gun up and pointed it at the police. The officers had no choice but to shoot. After several rounds, Henry was dead.
He had killed my only child. He had taken a precious life that was not his to take. He had taken the mother of two young girls. The scene, as you can imagine, was total chaos and confusion.
Henry murdered Miranda just four days shy of her 4th birthday. I had already planned her party and sent out her invitations. I was six hours away and had a very long six-hour drive home. It was the worst six hours of our lives. I had absolutely no details, only that my precious daughter was dead.
Miranda died that night at approximately 5:30 pm with two gunshot wounds to her tiny head. At 9:30 that Tuesday night, I got the call from the Chaplain of the fire department.
My mind could not comprehend what had happened. I had so many questions. How was I supposed to live the rest of my life without her? How was I supposed to be a loving wife and partner to this man who loved Miranda like his own? We had only been married for three weeks. How were we going to build a life together after such a horrific event?
Here I was with a wonderful husband looking back at me completely helpless.
Within a couple of hours, the story hit the news. My mother was working in Houston, and my dad had just gotten off work, and my brother was living in Ft. Worth at the time. We were scattered around living our lives when our world literally stopped spinning.
The days that followed were an absolute blur. I had to make some tough decisions. We were all depending on our bodies to take over what our brain and our hearts could not comprehend, like a machine.
It was by sheer perseverance and determination that I decided that Henry was not going to have the last word. I decided right then that I was not going to let him win. He may have thought he won by trying to destroy me by killing my daughter, but I had other plans. I was NOT going to allow him to steal the joy I had by starting a new life. I was NOT going to let him or his family scare me any longer. I decided right then and there that I was going to fight harder than ever before to tell the world exactly what he had done.
Before he killed Miranda and Leah, Henry left behind a suicide tape detailing his plan and the reasons why he felt justified in murdering.
Leah – If I can’t have her, then no one will. Miranda – It was revenge.
I decided then that I was going to have the last word, and I came up swinging.
I was determined to tell this heartbreaking story to the whole world. I am determined to shout it from the highest mountain.
Maybe, just maybe, this time someone will listen.
I stand before you today, 21 years later, an example of resiliency and hope. I stand before you today a woman so strong in her desire to advocate for the rights and protection of women and children.
I started the process of healing by embracing my grief and allowing my heart, my body and my mind to process the trauma. The grief was mine, and I knew that I needed to allow my whole being to carefully process what had happened.
I had a wonderful husband and family, who were my amazing support system. I am one of the very few victims of domestic violence who had a support system. Many victims have no one. Their abuser has managed to isolate them from all friends and family and everyone that loves them.
My entire family went on a crusade. We began our healing by being proactive. We all became advocates for victims of Domestic Violence as a family who spoke out about the laws that needed to be changed and applied. We held attorneys, judges, law enforcement, and the fire department accountable for their lack of action.
As a family, we put up billboards, printed magazines, and my mother and I both began to speak up and speak out. We, as a family, sought counseling together, and we healed by thrusting ourselves into trying to help others who were suffering with violent partners or with a justice system that just won’t listen.
During the hardest times in our lives, helping others helped us.
Domestic violence is a broad topic. It is not black and white; it is not just broken bones and black eyes and bruises. It is hard for many people to understand the dynamics of Domestic Violence.
The unique part of my story is that Henry never physically abused me. His form of abuse was mental and emotional abuse, intimidation, and he used his uniform and his influence to control both Leah and me.
If you think that a mental and emotional abuser does not kill, well, the proof lies in a tiny grave.
A year after Miranda was murdered, I found out that Henry had approached a fellow firefighter to see if he might know someone who would kill my family and me.
Henry was planning a hit. This man was so upset, and he reported it to his Captain. The Captain did not take it seriously and never reported it to the Chief.
Over the past 21 years, I have spent my time advocating for victims and bringing more awareness to DV. I have traveled the world with my husband, who just recently retired from the Air Force after 27 years of service. I have raised two amazing children, now 19 and 17.
Now I am back home, I have come full circle, and my goal is to take this place by storm. More than anything, I want to collaborate with our law enforcement and our justice system and our Domestic Violence organizations to help educate our community and this wonderful state that I love so much.
This is my calling. This is what I want to do until I take my last breath. I will NEVER be silenced. I will ALWAYS be Miranda’s voice and the voice for victims whose voices have been silenced by domestic homicide.
I would also like to add that regardless of the sad circumstances of Miranda and Leah’s murders, I am forever grateful and supportive of our law enforcement and our first responders. Domestic Violence calls have proven to be one of the most dangerous calls for our police officers.
I can only imagine how hard it was for police to pull their triggers that day and take down a mad man. I know and felt the overwhelming disbelief and sadness that Henry’s fellow firefighters felt the day they had to look down at a small child and fellow brother and pull the blanket over their faces.
During Miranda’s funeral, the back half of the large church we attended, was a sea of blue. It was standing room only. We even had a police escort for the 2 ½ hour drive to our family plot.
Miranda’s birthday is January 16th. She died on January 12th just four days shy of her 4th birthday. Every year I allow myself to grieve, and I allow myself to celebrate this little life I so beautifully created.
As strange as it may seem to all of you, I thank the universe for this horrific experience. It has taken years to realize this experience was a gift. I could only be grateful when I realized that I would have rather known her for just a second than never at all.
I would rather endure the inexplicable pain of outliving her than to have never seen her precious face or spoken her sweet name. I am genuinely and deeply grateful to Miranda for choosing me to be her mother.
I am the one who would be able to fight for her like no other. Not only fight for her but fight for a cause that has plagued our society for centuries, violence against women.
Women should NOT have to die so that others may stay alive.
In closing, I would like to share with you one of my favorite quotes by Oprah Winfrey. To me, it is just so profound, and it touched me, and it made so much sense to me. She says, “I have interviewed and portrayed people who have withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one thing they all seem to share is the ability to maintain HOPE. Hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.”
I stand before you today a perfect example of what hope is.
*Name(s) have been changed – and in some cases omitted – to protect the identity of the survivor and others affected by the abuse.
**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page. For crisis services, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
What’s YOUR Raw Truth?
There is no way to measure the grief that surviving family and friends feel after losing loved ones to domestic violence. Those left behind – whether they are the victim’s family and friends or a survivor who endures the loss of children, family, or friends at the hand of the their abuser – often share their stories as a way to process grief and heal, honor their loved ones’ lives and memories, and help others facing similar situations feel less alone.
If you are inspired to share a story and photos of an angel you lost to domestic violence with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.
Our programs are possible because of our amazing community of supporters. If you’d like to make a financial gift to support our services and special programs for Angel Families, please visit our donation page.