SPOKANE, Wash. - A dramatic letter was read aloud in court as the murder trial of Avondre Graham concluded Thursday.
Graham, 18, pleaded guilty to Second-Degree Murder in the death of Sharlotte McGill. A judge sentenced him to 123 months (ten years) in prison. McGill was stabbed in broad daylight while walking her dog along Tuffy's Trail along the Spokane River in September 2012.
Sharlotte McGill's daughter Billie wrote a letter that was read on her behalf Thursday.
A copy of the letter was obtained by KREM 2 News. Portions of the letter which were meant to be ommitted from the version read in court have been placed within brackets:
“Holidays are really hard without her. I still buy her cards and pick her flowers. I talk to her everyday and hope that she can hear me. I tell her I'm so sorry I couldn't save her life.
I try not to think about all of the blood…. But my last moments with her were covered in it. Every time I close my eyes I see it.
No matter how much I pray or how hard I try I cannot forget her last moments. Crying and [begging for] struggling for her life. Seizing up in my arms and going quiet. Never waking up again. No hug goodbye. No kiss good bye. No goodbye at all. Here one minute and gone the next [without a single say in the matter]. This world has enough hate, enough pain, enough violence, and has no room for [people out] someone who randomly attacks [attacking] strangers and takes their lives. This world is scary enough without thinking about the man that killed my mother — out walking my city's streets [in just] a few years from now. I'll have to move away. I cannot raise children here.
Someday I will have to explain to my children why they don't have a grandmother. I will have to tell them that their grandmother was taken away at the hands of a young man who used a knife to end her life. [She was murdered.] They will know that it was random and unprovoked. They will know that the punishment for her murder was a brief stint in prison then [before] leaving him [he was] free to do as he pleases while their grandma never got to come back.…
There. Was. So. Much. Blood.
When I close my eyes at night, I see blood. I see my mother’s eyes looking up at me as she lay dying, filled with blood from the cut across her forehead. Blood and tears. My mother was so scared when she was dying. She begged for her life. My mother knew she was dying and she was so terrified.
The doctors did everything they could do. They had plenty of donor blood. The problem, -- there were too many stab wounds. By the time my mothers body arrived at the hospital, her brain had been starved of oxygen for more then ten minutes.
The heart surgeon told me that several stab wounds punctured my mother’s heart – on both sides. He said he attempted to plug the knife holes with his fingers while he held her heart, so that the oxygen rich donor blood could get to her brain. He told me that he thought it was working but soon found more stab wounds in her lungs and her neck. The donor blood [just] ended up [soaked] soaking the hospital bed …
They took her past me on the way to the O.R.
There was so much blood.
She must have experienced a helplessness and a desperation most of us couldn't dream of in our worst nightmares.
Before I had my mother cremated, I went to the funeral home to say goodbye. The funeral home director sat down with me to prepare me to see her. He warned that her injuries were so extensive that she could not wear a dress. I needed to get a long sleeve top with a collar to hide her wounds on her arms and her neck. The home offered to use makeup to hide as much of her facial wounds as they could. He told me that even with makeup it would be very visible. There was only so much they could do. I told him not to cover her in makeup. She needed to rest in peace. I told him I was ok to see it. I went alone into see her. -- They did their best to make her look nice. I approached her, laid flowers on her chest and held her cold hand. I wept as I stood beside her for our last goodbye. I kissed her on her forehead one last time. I told her she was beautiful. I told her I love her so much. I told her I would never give up on her.
[This wasn't an accident. This wasn't a mistake. This was a mother being stabbed to death while walking her dog. This is a young man attacking that mother with a knife, stabbing her nine times. This is him serving 10 years for taking away her whole life. This is my living hell. This is not justice. This is incomprehensible.]
[Anytime] When you feel like life is not fair, please do not forget my mother. There is nothing more unfair then what is happening to her today. She lost her life and the punishment does not fit the crime. Someone used their hands to take my mother away from me forever. Those hands carved nine holes into her chest neck face and arms. The punishment does not fit the crime.
She held me coming into this world -- I held her going out.
Your Honor, imagine it from my mother’s point of view: Going outside to walk your dog, stepping down a trail and all of a sudden you're struck with a rock to the back of the head. You instantly drop to your knees. Next thing you know a man so much bigger so much stronger is on top of you. You look up and he pulls out a knife. He starts bringing it down at your face. He drives the knife into you over and over, What would you do? Try to grab his arms to stop, scream for help and beg for your life. She tried to fight it but he was too strong. He drove that knife into her nine times. Would you cry? Would you pray? Would you beg for your life? I know my mother did all three. It didn't matter. She was stabbed nine times. A cut across her face. A cut across her arm. Multiple knife wounds through her heart. She knew she was dying.
My mothers last words were help me please I can't breathe. Because she was drowning in her own blood. .
Today is so serious and so heavy. I have so many things I wish I could say. I wish I could tell you all of my fondest memories of my mother. I wish I could recall every kindness she ever shared with the world. I wish you could know her like I did. If you knew my mother like I do I believe you would see many qualities of your own best friend. Your own mother. My mother had so much more to give this world. She brought out the best in people. She could turn your bad day around with one quick interaction. I always knew that to be true but when she was killed, I had more people then I can count come to tell me how much my mother made a difference in their lives. I'm so proud of my mother. She was my rock. She was my best friend.
The Defendant still has his mother. She still has her son. He gets visits. She supports him and weeps for him in court.
I think about the defendant’s mother, Stephanie Graham. It is likely she will still have grand babies from her son. The Graham family only need to wait a few years before they are together again. On the other side my mother never got a grand child. No matter how many years pass she never gets to see her only child get married have babies. Sharlotte McGill had all of that taken away from her. Stephanie Graham will be there for her grand babies. They will know who she is. My children never get to meet their grandmother. How is that fair? …
I keep having this nightmare that my mother stepped outside and never came back. She died covered in her own blood while I held her, helpless. The nightmare always spirals out of control when I become the suspect in her death, all the while her killer roams free to stalk and attack again. I want to wake up but I can't. Instead the nightmare takes me to the day her killer stands before the court and is told that killing my mother will cost him a few years in prison and he will be free before he's thirty. Taking a mother from her child will cost him part of his twenties. There is no way this can be real. And yet I can't wake up. This is real. This is as real as it gets. …
Your honor, thank you for letting me speak about this crime and about my mom, and the nightmare of her murder. I have just one more thing to add:
The day my mother died, I said, and I was quoted in the news, that her murderer was a “monster.” I know why I felt that way and I know there’s a part of me that feels that way today. But I want to say something else. The defendant’s crime is – partly -- on all of us, I know he was failed by all of us, he has his own burdens and struggles and life dealt him some very rough deals. I’m sorry for his faults and for those who let him down.
I know you have to impose a sentence and then you move on. I have to find a way to find forgiveness, and I’m not sure how that will ever happen."