To the Editor:
For all of those who were unable to attend the trial, but who knew and loved Mark, myself, Gabriel and Caleb, I want to share the victim impact statement the jury considered when deliberating the length of Todd Collier’s sentence for taking Mark’s life.
Mark dedicated his life to saving lives, not taking them. There are people in this community who would testify to the fact that he was solely responsible for and even put his own life at risk to save theirs. Mark left his own family as he raced out the door and ran into countless burning houses, conducted CPR and first aid on victims of accidents, and helped searched for those who were lost in the woods, all on his own time, without pay, and without hesitation. I cannot tell you the number of times he has stopped to help someone change a flat tire, given someone a ride, or given hungry person money to eat.
Mark carried a gun. That was no secret, but so do countless others. Everyone who knew him knew that including you. But not once in the years that he had his concealed to carry permit did he ever use it on anyone. He simply carried it for his protection and the protection of his family. He would have never used it unless his life or the life of his family was in imminent danger. Although you pulled a gun on Mark and took his life, you might as well have put a gun to Caleb’s head because he is dead. Although he continues to exist, the life he once had in him has been completely erased. Every night since this happened Caleb rarely sleeps. He tosses and turns at night and wrestles the images that have been forever ingrained in his mind. He wakes up screaming from the images of his father lying in the road, face covered in blood, eyes fixed, and unresponsive. These images not only keep him awake at night, but also prevent him from being able to function in school; they will be with him for the rest of his life. I have had to take him out of school because he is failing all his classes as he is not able to concentrate. He now spends a lot of time in bereavement and trauma therapy, and seeing a child psychiatrist who has had to place him on anxiety medication, none of which ease his suffering. He is so afraid that you will kill him like you did his father that he wants to wear a bulletproof vest around the house. Mark was not only his father, he was his best friend!
Since Mark’s murder, our son Gabriel spends most of his time alone in his room, as he cannot get over the fact that his father is dead. He has managed to graduate from high school, attend prom, get engaged, and is now taking college courses. Mark longed to see his son accomplish these things and share these moments with him, but because of you, he was not able to. He will not be there when Gabriel graduates college, gets married and begins his own family. He will never be able to see or hold his grandchildren.
I cannot put into words the unbearable pain and suffering you have brought to my family. I would give my life to take away my children’s pain. The pain is not only emotional, it is physical and financial. I struggle to function daily, but I force myself to go to work, just so I can pay my bills and maintain health insurance on my children. I will not even try to explain what this had done to me. I, too, worry about the possibility of you retaliating against us and am contemplating moving from the place I have called home all my life. I do not want to move, but I would in order to keep my children safe. You may not believe this, but there were many holidays we were having dinner and thought about the possibility of you being alone and talked about inviting you down to eat with us. Do you remember calling Mark crying when your dad passed and thanking him for being so kind to him? If you would have given him the chance, he would have shown you the same kindness.
Everything I have said during the course of this trial is the truth, as I know it. Although I will never know for certain what happened in the road that night, I do not believe you told the truth. But somehow, some way, in the midst of all my suffering, I found the strength to pray for you, not every night, but most. I did not ask for anything other than for God’s will to be done and that He may convict your heart so that you may realize the devastation you caused by consciously choosing to take Mark’s life, and that you may repent of your sins and seek His forgiveness. My mother, who is sitting in this courtroom, taught me many things one of which is to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. So, I will continue to pray for you and try to forgive you for what you have done.
If Jake, bit or nipped you like you said, you would have been justified in shooting him, but not Mark. I humbly ask each and every juror to think about how much time you would want the defendant to serve if this were your husband, brother, son or father.