This week is National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Nearly 40 percent of homicides committed in 2019 were unsolved. Read and share stories.

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Jennifer Lawlor

In memory of Emily Todd

It was December 8, 2018, that my daughter, Emily Todd, didn’t make it home. I’d last seen her at 8:45 p.m. She was laughing, smiling and having a pillow fight with her 8-year-old brother. We said goodnight, we hugged her and, as I left her room, she was taking selfies with our dog Daisy.

That next morning, after dozens of texts and calls to her going unanswered, an incredible panic set in. She was 25, with freedom to live her life, but she would never make her Momma worry like this. I called our local police to make a report, and eight hours later, our lives were shattered. As I watched out the window for Emily’s car, the officer I’d spoke to and several more returned to my home. I’ve been told I tried not to let them in … that I told them to “go find my girl,” but they had found her. The body of a young woman had been discovered overnight, 35 minutes from our home. She’d been shot and left unrecognizable. They had photos of the woman’s tattoos and belly piercing. The woman in their photos was my Emily.

Eighteen days before, she’d met someone on a popular dating site. Before long, she knew he wasn’t the right person for her, and after telling him, he began sending her text messages, threatening to kill himself. She was working but so worried that she called 911. During this call, she was asked if she knew if he had a gun. She paused, then answered, stating, “He’s going to kill me for saying this, but yes, he does.” Soon after, the police were dispatched, but no one let her know the outcome.

It was a long week, filled with tremendous anxiety for her. She was worried for this person’s safety, though she also told me that she feared him coming to our home to confront her. She didn’t want her little brother to be afraid. She’d changed her phone number just hours before dying, yet, on that final night, he contacted her through social media, asking to meet for coffee before leaving Connecticut for his father’s home in Ohio. She went to meet him, they did get coffee and 15 minutes later, he brought her to an empty waterfront and killed her. Emily was alive and dead within 90 minutes of leaving our home, while I lay in bed, holiday shopping on my iPad.

From a very young age, Emily was truly a bright light. She was compassionate, kind and lived her life filled with grace and humility, finding the good in others every chance she could. She had respect for all living things and a deep connection to and love for nature. In 2016 she’d received a degree in Expressive Arts Therapy and was working at a local nursing home. Emily had recently begun a gentle drumming circle program with the residents she cared for in the Memory Care Unit.

For 17 years, Emily was my only child. In 2010 we were blessed with her brother, and she was the best sister in the world. He was everything to her and she to him. She was 25 and had become my very best friend. There are times I still can’t process how anyone would intentionally step on her foot, let alone end her life. The magnitude and secondary losses of having her taken from us are indescribable … There are many days when my only accomplishment is having the will to wake up, only to lose her all over again.

I’ve been a volunteer with Moms Demand Action since 2014, wanting to be part of making the world a safer place. I am still a volunteer, though now I’m also a survivor of senseless gun violence. While I don’t have all the answers, I do know that we need to change things. I’m not here fighting to be right, I am here to get it right. Each day I hope for the strength needed to create changes that will end gun violence and return each of us to a world in which parents and grandparents are no longer so frequently outliving their children. I am here to honor Emily’s life with action.

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