Thursday, February 09, 2006

What I said to the judge & the woman who killed Teagan...

Four years ago this week I stood in a courtroom packed with people, cameras, reporters, a judge and the woman who killed my daughter. I had prepared a statement months earlier when I first found out that at somepoint I would be able to speak in court when this woman who killed Teagan was to be sentenced. My husband edited and toned down the original statement I had written- but not the essential message. I pulled it out today, typed it up and intended to post a link to it here...but I am still a rookie at this and couldn't get my format to allow me to do so.
This will be a bit lengthy. It was written from my heart only a few weeks after our accident and death of Teagan. My wounds were fresh. My pain was immense. My life was a living nightmare- literally. I had post-traumatic stress syndrome and nightmares for months after living through our ordeal. I was speaking to the Judge- hoping that he would "see" my pain and hurt and go beyond the sentencing guidelines and give this woman the maximum sentence. [This is heavy stuff for a blog, I know...but it's a big part of my life and that's what this blog is for- for me to share my life.] So, this is what you get today. If you are new around here, I apologize and recommend that you read through some of my archives. If you want to know more of our story as it unfolded you can go to the advanced archives section at: If you search from July 29, 2001 to the present day and type in keyword "Ferlaak" you will find a host of newspaper articles telling our story in detail.
I don't know what I want you to gain from reading this post today, so take from it whatever you may. It's just a brokenhearted mother pleading to a judge and offering hope to an otherwise hopeless individual on her way to jail. Cindy Kundrat ended up showing no remorse for killing two people {my daughter and a 29 yr. old wife & mother of two}, injuring 9 others {one of which is my other daughter, Wyndham} and destroying a restaurant building. The judge went beyond his sentencing guidelines and gave her the maximum sentence which she is currently serving today. She will serve a total of ten years. I pray for her often that she is using her time wisely and that she will walk out of jail a better person than when she went in.

Here is my Statement to the Court, as I spoke at sentencing in on Feb. 6, 2002.
This is very difficult for me to do. In my wildest imagination I could never have expected something like this to happen in my life. I don’t know where to begin, but I guess the reality of this nightmare is beginning to set in, and over the course of the past few weeks I’ve started to process some of the pieces.
Most mornings when I awake and it hurts to even lift the covers off of my legs, I am filled with anger and rage. Then, when it takes me half an hour or more just to move from bed to the bathroom- the injustice of what has happened wells up inside me. At that point I want to scream and yell and somehow get revenge on this horrible woman that has destroyed my life and my family.
I think to myself, if someone could just strap her in a chair so that I could bang her head and body several times…and break eight of her ribs and gash her head open, let her feel the pain of three chest tubes and taste the bitter flavor of anti-seizure medicine…all this just so she could get a little glimpse of some of the physical pain that my family has endured.
Then I stop. Not only is this scenario not possible- because our justice system does not allow it – but I know even then I wouldn’t feel better; and it wouldn’t change anything or make my life easier. In fact, this woman has already witnessed my pain and terror as well as all the suffering and screams of the other victims involved after she caused the devastation at the Old Depot and the bottom line is she did nothing. When she heard the voice of one man on the scene yell, “We’re going to flip the car”, I watched as she reached over and picked up her purse, then opened her car door and got out. I remember even in the disbelief of the scene around me thinking, “Do something!! Don’t just sit there…and if you are in shock, then go somewhere else, put your head in your lap and get out of the way!” Instead, I saw her icy eyes stare at me. I was starting to feel uneasy just as a police car pulled up nearby. That’s when this woman started saying over and over, “I just took the corner too fast.” Again I thought to myself, “Then do something to help the people that lay dying in front of you.” But it was as though she wasn’t seeing a thing; she was unresponsive – emotionally dead.
So, as I am filled with anger from time to time and wish for a moment she could somehow feel my pain, physical and emotional, I realize that there will never come that day. It’s as though she has no feeling. As I just stated, she saw it all there that day. My little 4-year old daughter, Teagan lay in front of her, dying on the scene and she heard the screams of the other injured victims and it made no difference to her. She was so selfish and self-absorbed in her own problems, that in an instant she killed two innocent people and forever destroyed the lives of many others – whose hearts are forever broken from the deaths of teagan and Peggy.
Now what? On earth, in this place we have a justice system. It seeks to penalize selfish persons such as the woman here today. Yet there is no justice here for Teagan. And all of her dreams. They were killed on July 29th. We will never hear her laugh, or see her smile or feel another hug, or watch her run or see her ride a bike or stroke her beautiful hair. We will never experience her first day of school, or help her wiggle her first loose tooth, or hear her whisper in our ears, “I love you”. We will never watch her grow up or meet her first boyfriend or toss her the keys to the car. We will never share tears of joy as we hug and send her down the aisle in a Princess wedding gown on her wedding day, nor will we ever listen to the cries of the grandchildren she would have born, or ever feel the grip of her hand on mine as I face my own death. These are just some of the things this woman has killed.
In addition, she should be charged with grand theft as she stole my son’s best friend. I don’t know how to explain to him, at 2, that a woman with no feeling has killed his sister and now he will never splash with Teagan in the tub, or share cold milk and warm chocolate chip cookies with her, or build a sandcastle on the beach, or sit together in front of the Christmas tree and watch as it lights up this year…I could go on forever.
And 7-month old Wyndham will never even remember the sound of her big sister’s voice as Teagan would sing little songs to her and whisper secrets like, “When you grow up I’ll share my Barbie lipgloss with you”. She’ll never feel the tug from Teagan as she would have pulled her around in a circle chanting, “ring around the rosie”. Wyndham won’t even get to see the smile Teagan would have had on her face as she blows out the candle on her first birthday cake. All these moments and countless more have been forever ripped out of our future.
So this justice system is supposed to make things more fair. Well it’s not fair that this woman can think about her dreams whenever she wishes, she can sing and smile and even stroke her own hair. That’s not fair. She could be tortured everyday…but at least she could still feel pain.
It’s at this point that the only way I can get through the next minute – to see hope in my future, is to think about God’s grace. I have such horrible thoughts about this woman, and I am filled with a sense of injustice, anger and rage. But then I realize that without God’s grace I am just as horrible as this woman is. It’s hard to believe but it’s true. The Bible tells us that “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23) and that “All of our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). Each and every one of us, inside and outside of this room is an abomination in the sight of God. Though many of us would like to believe that we are so much better than this awful woman, in God’s eyes – sin is sin. On earth we put these sins on a sort of scale – that our justice system might make things fair. There will be no justice until the day when God’s final justice is made real and He conquers evil forever. On that day I know that I can stand before His judgment seat having full confidence that He will receive me with open arms and say, “Well done”.
I have this assurance because in my life, I have accepted God’s grace. That is the free gift that He offers us, because He loves us so much and doesn’t want to see any of us perish. I believe that part of God’s plan through this tragic ordeal is that this horrible woman gets another chance to receive this gift of salvation. I wish I could skip this next part, but I have such strong convictions that what I am telling you is God’s desire. Why would God offer horrible sinners a free gift of salvation?! He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and take the punishment of all our sins. Not just the little ones. Not just the ones that nobody notices, and not just for those of us who think we’re good people. He paid the price and took the punishment for the sins of everyone in the whole world.
Teagan’s death has given me the opportunity to feel and experience in my own life, God’s wonderful love and amazing grace. Now today, this woman has heard that in spite of all that has gone wrong in her life, the pain and suffering she has caused and the unbelieveable sins she has committed, that God still offers her forgiveness and wants her and anyone else in this room to accept His free gift of grace. He wants you to say, “I’m a sinner. Please forgive me.” When you do that, in an instant, your slate is wiped clean and you stand purified in the sight of God.
So you see, although I could stand here today and condemn the woman who killed my daughter, I am choosing to share a message of hope and redemption. That doesn’t mean that I want to hear her utter those words and be set free. But if she repents to God, and only He knows our hearts, then we will one day be able to stand and embrace in heaven. Because of Teagan’s death – and through God’s amazing grace, by His love and forgiveness I look forward with great hope and anticipation to that day – when justice will be served and I will hear my Savior say to me, “Well done” and then I will see my beautiful, sweet little Teagan and forever be united with her in Heaven.


Valerie said...

Jody - there's nothing i can say in response to that. God bless you & your family for enduring what you have & will continue to do. Teagan is your eternal angel, and remember the passage in the Bible that reminds us to "be careful to entertain strangers, for some have hosted angels unaware." You, my friend, have done that.

Anonymous said...

WOW. That was powerful.

Emily said...

Jody, you never cease to amaze me...As I sit here reading this blog entry, the computer screen becomes increasingly blurry through my tears. As a mother, losing a child is my greatest fear(as is every parent's)and to hear your experiences firsthand makes it all more real. I live just 2 and 1/2 miles away from the Old Depot and I remember that for a while after the accident, I would just get this sinking feeling every time I drove past the restaurant. At the time I had 2 little girls and was pregnant for my son. About a year and a half prior to that two of my friends were killed in a car accident; after that happened, I was almost too nervous/depressed/anxious to drive my own vehicle for fear that "something bad would happen". So then, after I found out that Teagan(a beautiful daughter) and Peggy(a young,loving mother) had died, I did a lot of thinking, and a lot of worrying. "What if something happened to one of my babies?", "What if something happened to me, and my children were left without a mother?" I began to worry so much that these thoughts started to consume me. Time has gone by and while some days I worry more than others, I don't dwell on the "what-ifs" as much anymore. After seeing you on Oprah, reading the newspapers, meeting you at MOPS, and now reading your blog, I realize that you are one of the most inspirational women I've ever met. Please don't hold back your thoughts in your blog entries for fear of losing readers. I'm sure you're as much of an inspiration to them as well, as heart-wrenching as your stories may be.

Deanna- yep Dee-na said...

i'm glad u shared this.
i'm praying for this woman now. incredible!!

Anonymous said...

Jody, I've been reading your blog for about a month now. I am also a mother of five with one of my sweet children in heaven (my only boy). Right away I felt a connection and have checked back often to "catch up" on your life. Thank you so much for sharing this entry and the link to the papers archives. It was hard to piece together how you had lost Teagan and now I know. I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your life and message with us. Heather Hubert, Fergus Falls MN

Knit and Purl Grrl said...

Jody, I am in tears as I read this. You are a beautiful soul and an awesome mother. I am proud to call you my friend, even if only in cyberspace! I hope some day we can meet in person (and if not on this earth, then in Heaven) and I will give you the huge hug I am so longing to give you right now.

Anonymous said...

Wow. It's amazing that you actually said that in a court of law. You told a room full of people that you are just as guilty as the woman who killed your daughter, quoting the bible profusely, then spat about insulting her and rambling on the things your family will never experience as a result of your daughter's death. If you believe what you yourself said, then you should not condemn this woman for her actions for you are just as capable of them. More unsettling than your shifting advocacy, is how you ask the jury to punish this woman to the full extent of the law, but only provide religious and biblical justification. No mother should lose her daughter, but think of the suffering that the other woman has endured. Knowing that she is the source of so much pain and knowing that because of one simple error she ended a life is no easy burden to bear either. You call her selfish, but then ignore the pain she has undoubtedly endured. You should be hit with a car, naming your kids as ridiculously as you did. They would have been better off with names like "please kick my ass".

Jody said...

To the anonymous person who posted the message that I should have named my kids "Please kick my ass" I suggest that you go back and reread my statement. You obviously missed a few points in there...including the one in which I state that, "Each and every one of us, inside and outside of this room is an abomination in the sight of God." I included myself in that here- because I realize I am a sinner just like her. I also closed my statement with words that say, instead of condemning this woman I am offering her a message of hope and redemption. I was a guest on Oprah's show for forgiving this woman. That is an essential element in our family being able to move on and live as we do now- with joy and hope. I'm sorry that you misunderstood the complete statement I made.

Jenny said...

Oh Jody...I stumbled upon your nitty gritty blog 3 hours ago. My heart goes out to you and your family. You are one special woman, and God knows that. I never could have got up and read, let alone compose, such a powerful victim impact statement. Teagan was lucky to have such wonderful caring parents and extended family and friends in her 4 short years here on earth. Her memory will always live on...

Carrie said...

Wow - I'm speechless. Truly amazing. Big hugs, Jody -

Britt said...

I found your blog through Carrie. I have gone back and read every entry until now (and will continue reading the rest after I post this), but I had to comment on this post.
I am the mother of three, and I am SOBBING over your entries. I don't have any words that can express what I want to say to you, except I am so very sorry for your loss. And even that isn't enough.

Lisa S. said...

Hi Jody, I stumbled onto your blog I think because you posted on another blog....just randomly...then I ended up finding this post. Wow. Your courage totally blows me away. I can only hope that if I am ever faced with the kind of pain you have endured and still no doubt endure daily that I will be able to find the same kind of dignity and courage to live my life like you have. Wow. I actually think I have read your story before somewhere because it seemed familiar when I read it today. I was still just totally horrified at the circumstances. I wish you and your family peace and daily joy! You all deserve it.