A lot of what we have discussed these last two days has had to do with time and blame. How much time taken away from a life still being lived is enough to atone for a life taken, whose to blame for this horror, seems to be the central questions...for the court.
Since the time I need is short compared to the time my children face, eternity and 40-years, I beg the court to give me the time I need to say what I survived five and a half years of a surreal nightmare to say, because for me, the offender and the victim’s mother, the central issue is what is the best way to make something good come of my children’s lives, not the amount of time we measure out as punishment.
I have been writing this statement in my head ever since the moment I learned the first love of my life murdered the second love of my life. I know what needs to be said. I just don’t want to say it, much less believe it, but I have no choice but to do either. Just as you have little discretion in enforcing the laws of the state of Texas, I am left, five and a half years after Paris murdered Ella, with little discretion but to follow the dictate of both my conscience and my heart, and speak the words I still have a hard time believing are about to come out of my mouth.
I cannot sit up here and tell the court how my son’s decision to murder Ella has made me suffer. Unless Paris proves otherwise to me, I believe one of the reasons he murdered Ella, and decided not to murder me, was to hand me a lifetime of suffering, rather than 15 minutes of it. He has seen me suffer enough.
Paris coldly and brutally took Ella’s life from her. He took the people I love away from me. Two years after Ella’s murder, he conspired with my mother and they sued me, not once, but three times, on completely false and outlandish grounds, and he has frayed my mental health past the breaking point, more than once.
Yet I still did my best to be a good mom to him, and still he did everything he could after murdering Ella, to make me suffer further. I refuse to give him any more of my suffering. Your Honor, you have daughters. You’ve seen the pictures. Heard the evidence. I leave you to imagine the emotional pain I live with on a daily basis. Then I ask you to multiply that by infinity and then maybe, just maybe, you will have a small grasp on my pain.
Here, in open court, I am going to focus on only one effect Paris’ crime has had on my life.
Because Paris murdered his sister, I know my son better than most mothers will ever know their children. Because Paris chose to murder his sister, he exposed himself to me in a way most children never do. For reasons I only partially grasp, I understand my son. If I didn’t, it would be easy to hate him for what he did to Ella. I know many moms who hate their children for much less than what my child has done.
I wish I did not understand Paris. Understanding his mind is not a pleasant understanding to live with. Being his mother is not a pleasant experience to live with. I observed growing up that parenting did not seem to be a pleasant experience for many in my family, but I had higher hopes for my parenting.
When Paris was born, I promised him two things: I would love him, no matter what, and I would be the best mom I could be, no matter what. I have never failed to keep the first promise. I know I have never once stopped loving my son. Once, in the 13-years I had him safe in my arms, for six months in 2005, I failed to keep my second promise, when I relapsed. Self-hatred for breaking that promise is my sentence to live with.
While many don’t, won’t, or can’t believe, what I am about to say, I say it to keep my second promise to Paris, to be the best mom I can be, no matter what. When you are the mother of a child you believe to be a psychopath, you have no idea how hard it is to know how to do that.
I love my son, still want to be the best mom I can be, in spite of the fact I know Paris can’t love me, can’t see the beautiful reality of what I’ve done by loving him, in spite of having every reason to hate him. The best Paris can feel about me is best summed up by his own words. I asked him once, when he was 15 years old, if he even loved me, cared if I stayed or went. His response?
“I love to hate you. I hate to love you.”
Not much has changed, for either one of us.
The best plan I’ve come up with, since accepting he is different and dangerous, is to love him, do what I can to keep him safe in the world he’s chosen to live in, and unless he proves me wrong, warn the world he is dangerous, so he can never do to someone else, and himself, what he did to our family that night.
What I know about my son is this. He is sick. He could care less that he sexually assaulted and murdered Ella. He has a dark side that is dormant right now, but my son is dangerous. Under the right conditions, I truly believe he could kill again, with as little compunction about it as he has for what he did to Ella. I know he will experience those conditions on a regular basis once he is sent to prison. I sincerely hope he does not have to kill again because Texas has no concern for human rights.
I know my son is a sadist, a psychopath, and a narcissist. I know what sadists, psychopaths, and narcissists can grow up to do, especially growing up as Paris will have since the age of 13. We’ve already seen what Paris was capable of at the tender age of 13, after growing up in the home of a mother who loved him.
Contrary to what my other so-called family members believe, I did not arrive at this conclusion on my own, and I did not arrive at this conclusion to absolve myself of all responsibility for Ella’s death, or to inflict some sort of twisted revenge on my son. I love my son. Always have. Always will. No matter what. Revenge has never crossed my mind. That is how my family thinks. Not me.
The first person ever to call Paris a “monster” was actually his grandmother. I was the one who refused to believe that. I still refuse to believe that, no matter how many people call him that, or how many times I hear it. Paris is not a monster. He is human being. I know. I gave birth to him. He has no tail, no horns.
I was the first to suspect Paris was lying about what happened the night he murdered Ella, the first to know he killed her on purpose. When I confronted him about it, he laughed, told me I was stupid, because all his life, I had always believed he was so smart, so amazing, so creative, so handsome. He was pleased, it seemed, with how well he had us all fooled.
I remember telling him something along the lines of he was the only one who had been deceived, because he is all those things, still is, but he decided to give in to his dark side and throw all that away.
Paris knows, as well as I do, that when he decided to kill Ella that night, he killed my Paris too. He made a choice to give in to what he calls his “tentacles”. They have not let him go. He has just learned to integrate them into, hide them underneath, what most of you see: a charming, educated, well-mannered, super intelligent, seemingly well adjusted young man. I see all that too.
But, maybe because I am his mother, maybe because I love him no matter what, maybe because he still likes to hurt me, he allows me to see the tentacles too. I can see them now. Trust me, they are still there. He can’t help them any more than he can help breathing.
After that conversation with the new, other Paris, I began to believe there was something wrong, something missing, in my son. That was April of 2007, right after what would have been Ella’s 5th birthday.
I’d like to thank Dr. B. for pointing out the the court that, in his opinion, psychopathy testing is only done to suit the purposes of whomever is paying the bill for the testing. Because it was a defense paid expert who first told me my son is a psychopath.
As the court knows, Paris was remanded to the custody of what is now the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, in August of 2007. I settled in San Antonio, Texas. Right after I settled in, I received a phone call from Dr. RC, who had been retained by the defense to address the issue of Paris’ competency.
He called, he said, because he felt a moral obligation to inform me of his opinion about my child. He told me he could not tell me what he was about to tell me before Paris’ sentencing because he worked for Paris, not me. After he spoke his piece, I knew he couldn’t have told me what he did before Paris was sentenced, because it would have not been good for my son at all.
What Dr. C told me that day, while I sat on my back porch hoping to start another life, took away the last chance I had at any kind of normal life after the tragedy the instigated this call. It took that chance away forever.
Because what Dr. C told me was, while too young to formally diagnose, and although he had done no formal testing to verify his belief, it was his professional opinion, which Paris’ lawyer had assured me was unimpeachable months before, that my son was a psychopath, that he had no conscious, that he was dangerous, and that the authorities in Texas did not have the skills necessary to cope with a child like him. He told me Paris would run circles around most of them.
I didn’t believe him. I asked him what he meant. He said, “Let me explain it to you this way. I hope I did nothing to make your child mad at me during the interviews because he is the type of kid who will remember that grudge for 25-years, hunt down my grandchildren, and think nothing of taking it out on them, if I made him angry enough.”
I asked him what I was supposed to do. He told me the same thing every professional I’ve consulted with since has said. In a nutshell….Get as far away from him as possible. He hates you. He loves you. It won’t end well.
I thanked him, hung up the phone, felt the exact same as I did the night I found out Ella was dead. Devastated. Dr. C had just told me, essentially, that my Paris was dead too. I still didn’t believe him though. I couldn’t.
It took two more years of interacting with Paris, and the caseworkers and doctors he was running circles around, to finally make me lawyer up and get my own doctor in to perform the testing the state never bothered to do in the two years Paris had been in their custody.
In those two years, my son never shed one tear for what he did to Ella, grew angry with me every time I did, and liked to tell me details about what he did to her that night, what he was thinking, how it felt, details that still keep me awake at night, details no mother should ever have to hear.
It was my choice to sit there. My choice to endure whatever hell I have to live with because I hoped, that if I showed my son he could not make me stop loving him, could not drive me away, that it would help him find his humanity, his remorse, show him he was loved enough to be human, dark side and all. Instead, he almost robbed me of my sanity, and grew worse.
I will say it again. I did not have my son tested to exact revenge on him or label him a monster. I despise that word. He is my baby, not a monster. I did everything I could to find out the truth about what was wrong with my son, no matter how bad that truth hurt, with the hope of finding a way to save him.
I won’t lie and say I’ve never been angry with Paris. I was. My anger almost killed me. But I did not take it out on Paris in the form of revenge. I took it out on myself and everyone else around me. When I felt I could not stop myself from wanting to lash out at my child, I told him I needed a break, and walked away. What some call inconsistent behavior, I call trying to keep myself sane.
Did you know that trained professionals suffer burn out after four and a half years of working with a psychopath? Try being the mother of one who murdered your child. Then try sitting across from him for five and a half years, staring at the hands you held for 13 in love and also killed your daughter, and not ever feel anger at the fact he could care less abut you, her, or what he did to all of us.
Of course I felt anger.
At the end of the day, my anger is not what drove my decision to have Paris tested. What drove my decision was love, love that needed to know the truth.
I contacted Dr. C, asked him for the names of the three best juvenile forensic psychiatric assessors in the state of Texas, and did my research. Of the three, I chose Dr. M.F.
I spoke briefly with Dr. F before the testing, told him essentially the same thing I have just laid out here, provided him access to Paris’ master file, and consulted with the juvenile authorities’ legal department, who approved the testing.
To keep a long story short, because we all know Dr. F performed his testing and what testing he performed, I made sure the preliminary results were included in Paris’ master file and brought to the attention of every person who has worked with Paris since the tests were performed.
But Paris did not complete the testing, because when the test results came back suggesting a moderate risk for psychopathy, but also suggesting that Paris was lying about the sexual components of his crime, which would increase his test scores, meaning they were more likely to indicate he is a psychopath and sexual deviant, he lawyered up.
My belief is he was worried further probing into the sexually deviant part of his mind would hurt him in the legal arena, so he stopped cooperating, on the grounds I was only trying to hurt him.
No test results could have been used to increase Paris’ sentence. That has already been handed down.The results were intended to increase awareness about the inner working of my child’s mind, to aide in his assessment and treatment. That’s it.
Still not wanting to believe either Dr. C’s hunch, based on a very respectable career, or Dr. F’s preliminary test results, I sent the results to three other internationally respected forensic psychiatrists. Each verified the preliminary results.
In a last ditch effort to prove everyone, including myself, wrong, I tracked down Dr. PD, a forensic psychiatrist who has performed assessments on Jeffery Dahmer and The Unibomber, just to name a few.
Dr. D is the one who finally ended my search because Dr. D is the one who told me he was not going to charge me, even though he had looked at everything I sent him. He told me to stop wasting my money on doctors, tests, and lawyers, because I had wasted my money on really good ones, and they all agreed. While too young to formally diagnose, Paris has all the characteristics needed to be another Ted Bundy.
He gave me the contact info for a risk management firm in California that can help me change my identity and advised me to do so because, in his opinion, I would not be safe if Paris were released any time soon. Before Paris killed Ella, I thought firms like that only existed in movies. Now I know they exist in nightmares. I keep the number in my contact list and check every so often to make sure they are still in business.
What happened from the time of the Dr. F’s testing, until today, is laid out in Paris’ file. It is much of the same, out of him and out of me, only my contact with him grew less frequent, until I finally had to stop it altogether in September of 2011, after reading what I refer to as my son’s first mini-manifesto, written to his case workers at the time.
He wrote it in May 2010; he never knew I would read it. After I read it, I was convinced. Paris is a killer now. What he wrote was nothing new, just more detailed. What he wrote made me vomit. What he wrote was the straw that broke my camel’s back.
Of course, he still blamed me for everything. That isn’t what made me vomit. I’m used to that.
“She is only a detriment to my treatment. She attempts to sabotage any fundamental rights I possess, tries to deny me any sort of comfort or solace, and acts viciously towards me and my family.”
Most everyone in this courtroom can attest to the fact that never was, and never will be true. I have done, and will continue to do, just the opposite. Fight to get him treatment, make sure his rights are not violated, keep him as safe as I can with the means I’ve developed through the creation of The ELLA Foundation.
Paris is the only family I have. I have never acted viciously towards my son, even though most would understand if I ever do. I have never acted viciously towards the other so-called family I did have. Did I yell at them? You bet. Did I cuss them out? More than once. Did I take photos of my dead child from them after they sued me? You betcha.
Is any of that vicious, especially compared to Paris’ actions or compared to past actions of my so-called family, which are easily labeled vicious? No. Not at all. Those were the acts of a mother and daughter drowning in grief, anger, despair, and disappointment, and finding no comfort from her own family. Those acts were not vicious.
Every now again, in his manifesto, Paris slips and tells the truth, but even that wasn’t the straw that broke my camel’s back, made me walk away from my son, for what I hoped was the final time. Obviously a hope I can not live with.
“I believe that, approximately a month or so prior to my offense, that I singled out my sister as a means of exacting revenge on my mother, of breaking her down...using her as a weapon against my mother. I wanted Ella’s murder by my hands to break my mother into pieces. I wanted to lash out and viciously hurt someone to relieve the storm inside of me. I also chose Ella that night because I knew she was weak and that if I decided to go through with my plan, she could not offer enough resistance to stop me.”
What finally convinced me, finally made me stop worrying about what everyone thought of me when I say my son is a psychopath, sadist, and narcissist, finally made me do what I never thought I could do, walk away from my child, were these words written by my son.
“I am trying to help you understand...I had actually planned to strangle Ella. I carried the knife in there to be available if I needed to resort to it. When I was choking her, however, it seemed to be taking too long. I could not bear the look in her eyes, which despite how dark the room was, I felt boring into me. It was the most awful thing in the world. That is why I panicked and started to stab her. It was so awful for her, so sick, so heinous. I kept stabbing because I was horribly angry, and also because I panicked and freaked out.”
But this is where my camel’s back broke and the bile I’d held back for five years finally came out.
“The sickest part is that when it occurred to me that I could still walk away and call an ambulance after the first stab or two, I pushed the thought away. My self-righteous convictions, obsession with death, and blatant disregard for others allowed me to kill my sister.”
Ella could have been saved. Paris could have stopped. But he thought about it, and chose not to save her, chose not to stop, chose to torture her, chose to terrorize her, chose to kill her, then chose not to kill me so I’d suffer until the day I die, and has not lost no sleep about it since.
That blew the final fuse left in my rational head. That was the new thing I never knew before that finally convinced me my son IS a psychopath.
My son knew Ella could have been saved, and he decided she wasn’t worth it. And still doesn't care he made that choice.
As his mom, no matter how much I loved him, I had to walk away, to focus on not losing what little grasp of sanity I had left after reading those words, to focus on keeping the promise I made to Ella the night she died to make her death a meaningful one, to focus on not hurting him, and to prepare myself for today.
I have done all of the above since I walked away from my son in September 2011. Barely. You have no idea what miracles it has taken to insure I can sit here today, sane, rational, full of love for my child, to say these things about him. I have seen my son four times since we both arrived in Abilene. I thought, until these last two days of court, we have reached a truce of sorts, which makes everything I have just said about him that much more painful to say. Which makes it that much more painful to say I see no change in him, other than he is coming more fully into his personality disorder. To survive prison, no doubt. He has to be predator or prey. Does he look like prey to you?
I only have a couple more things to say, Your Honor, then I am done, at least in this venue. I have a life to live, a foundation to run, and a child to keep as safe as I can, if he will let me. Out of all the people in his life, I still believe I am the only one who loves him enough to do what is right for him, and do what is right by him, for the public.
The last things I have to say, I have to say to Paris.
Paris, please look at me. If you can’t look at me, I know you have been listening, and committing to that voracious memory of yours, everything I have said. So make sure you commit this too, to play over in your mind, deciding what to make of this moment between us.
I love you Paris. I love you all the time as fiercely as you hate me from time to time. You can’t make me stop, any more than I can make you stop. From this point out, you are going to live your life. I am going to live mine. I know you will do what it takes to survive the world you’ve chosen to live in. I accept exactly as you are, and love you, no matter what.
I know I can’t have your love. You don’t have it to give. But, I’ve survived the worst you can dish out, to me anyway. I’ve matched you wit for wit and outwitted you more than you care to admit, called you out when you needed to be called out, loved you when you needed to be loved, and passed every test you’ve made me endure to prove something to the “tentacles” that are part of you. You yourself have admitted I’m the only person you consider a “worthy opponent”.
One thing you may not be old enough, or experienced enough yet to know Paris, is that sometimes, you have to lay down your arms and ask your opponent for help, if only to fight another battle, another day, with her. I hope your voracious memory remembers that the day someone tries to hurt you for being who you are, the beloved son of Charity Lee.
The day someone hurts you, Paris, is the day they make an enemy out of me. I don’t fight like you do but, if anything happens to you, other than the loss of your freedom, I will go after them with all I’ve got. After surviving what you did to Ella, and loving the man you’ve become, I have a lot of “go after” in me. All you have to do is ask for my help if you need it.
I tell the truth when I say I understand you. You know I do. It is my belief that one of the reasons we still get along so well when we are able to set aside our animosities for a brief moment, is because everyone, even you, wants someone who loves them enough to try to understand them, no matter what.
I promise you kiddo, you will always have that person in me. I will always love you. I will always try to understand you. I know who you are. I know what you are capable of. I know how you think. I’ve always loved you anyway.
And hear this part well Paris. Take it to heart.
You miscalculated the night you chose to murder Ella. You underestimated me.
Never underestimate me again Paris.
Never underestimate my love for you.
Never underestimate my ability to figure you out.
Never underestimate my ability to help you.
Never underestimate my ability to stop you.
Never underestimate my ability to survive you.
You will never destroy me. You will never break me down or shatter me into a million little pieces.
Never look at me again and think you have any power over me other than what I give you out of love. You are not the one in control here. Love is.
And never forget...
I. Love. You. To the stars and back. Just like always, no matter what.
Should you decide to send my child to prison today, I beg you to please grant me 15 minutes with my son, unrestrained, before he is sent to the closest thing to hell on earth I’ve ever visited. He is not going to hurt me. Not today.
Over the last five years, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what Paris did to Ella that night. I know as much, or more, about that night than anybody in this room, other than Paris. Based on that knowledge, I estimate, I hope, it took about 15 minutes for Paris to murder his sister, for Ella to breath her last breath, for me to lose the life I so desperately wanted with my kids.
I never had the chance to say goodbye to Ella in those 15 minutes. We both know if Paris decides to keep me in his life, the state of Texas won’t let me touch my son, at least not for a long time.
I’d like the chance to sit a minute with the last child I have left, give him a hug, tell him I love him in private, and have a moment of peace with him, to hold the hand I’ve held the last 18 years, when I could. Of course, only if you both agree. For all I know, Paris may not want to be in the same room with me ever again after this. Somehow I doubt that, though.**
Whatever the decision on that is, I respectfully ask Your Honor to rule, according to Texas Penal Code, as you are obligated to do based on the evidence before you, concerning my son’s future. I will continue to do my best to keep my promises to both my children, no matter what you rule.
Thank you for the opportunity to address the Court.
**Due to certain events in the courtroom over the course of two days, and my son’s reaction to my statement, I decided I would be wasting my breath on this part. If my son wants me in his life, he knows how to find me. All he has to do is ask.
Watch out Mississippi. Here ELLA and I come.