January 29th, 1982 – July 20th, 2003
The bond between parents and children is as powerful as life itself and Jessica’s family is tragic witness to the strength of that bond. Jessica and her mother talked every day. After Jessica’s marriage, the move to her new home, and the birth of her son, they discussed the daily pleasures that a new baby brings and the joys of creating a new home and family.
When her mother called and Jessica’s husband said that she had gone out the night before and hadn’t returned, that he was just going to call and see if her parents had seen her, her mother knew, in every part of her being, that something was wrong; that Jessica would not, in any circumstance, leave her five week old baby alone over night. She insisted on immediate police notification and arranged to care for Jessica’s cherished son.
This is Jessica’s story; and about the courage of her parents and her son who have honored Jessica and re-constructed their lives after losing her.
Twenty-one-year old Jessica was young and vibrant, raised in a loving family, with a rich future before her. Jessica was sensitive and loving to her sister, who had physical difficulties, and shared her experiences regarding disabilities in high school by helping to coach the Special Olympics team. She graduated from high school and began a promising career.
Jessica married a soldier from a nearby military base. She hoped they would have a fulfilling life full with adventure and travel. Their son, Alex, was the culmination of her dream to have a child, and she thought, the dream of her husband.
Her husband began an affair with a fourteen-year-old girl and decided to “get rid” of his young wife. After a failed attempt at poisoning Jessica, he enlisted the help of a friend and together they strangled Jessica and left her body in the family car on a service road. She was found five days later.
For five days, in their darkest hours of anxiety and fear, Jessica’s parents frantically searched for their beloved daughter with the aid of the local police, friends and relatives. Finding Jessica ended their fear but started a journey of pain and loss that few among us have to endure.
Jessica’s precious and promising life was cut tragically short and her young son was robbed of ever knowing his mother. Her parents are left with the memories of their daughter but are deprived of her touch, her smile, her loving presence. In her Victim Impact Statement, written on behalf of Jessica’s parents, Jenny Wieland wrote, “The survivors will construct a new life, but it will be far different than the one they were living prior to the murder of Jessica. They will have joy again, but it will not be complete. They will find happiness again, but it will be different, and it will not be complete. They may find peace, but it will not come easily. It will be fleeting, though desperately sought.”
Jessica’s murderer was sentenced January 8, 2005, to 41 years, 8 months in prison.
Jessica’s parents have found a measure of happiness and joy and peace providing a loving home for Jessica’s son, and honoring the memory of Jessica in their hearts.
Throughout her parents, tragic ordeal Families & Friends was at their side. Their involvement began the day a newspaper reporter gave Jessica’s mother the agency name and told her we could help. A Families & Friends’ victim advocate met with them and provided immediate crisis intervention and remained available every day, 24 hours a day. They provided legal advocacy at pre-trial hearings and interviews with the prosecutors, and attended the trial and sentencing. They held hands, hugged and spent hours de-briefing. Jessica’s mom was a witness and could not attend trial until closing statements, but Families & Friends attended with Jessica’s father.
Families & Friends was there for the Memorial at Picnic Park on the first anniversary of Jessica’s death, where they wrote messages on balloons and lovingly released the balloons to the heavens and to Jessica. Families & Friends welcomed them into a facilitated support group to share their feelings with other people who have had similar losses. Jessica’s picture is on the wall of the Families & Friends’ office and she is remembered every year at the Candlelight Remembrance Ceremony.
How is her family coping? Son Alex is a loving three and a half year old; a precious member of the family where Jessica was raised. Jessica’s father has returned to work full-time. Jessica’s mother is a victim advocate at Families & Friends’ after completing the 40-hour comprehensive training in July 2006. She knows the pain, has faced and conquered the tragedy and will now help others in their journey to rebuild their lives by providing the emotional support that other families need to move from victim to survivor from the dark to an ever expanding light.