My wife, Janet, and I had two wonderful children. We have had nothing but compliments on both of them. They have never been in trouble: always good citizens in all regards. Our son, Frank John Napoli was a great child who's growing into a great man. He's Charity's older brother. Frank is Janet's child by her first marriage. We love Frank dearly. And, he and I have been as father and son to each other since he was a toddler.
Charity came as a great surprise to us when Frank was entering his teens. They were so far apart in age; we always said that we had two "only" children. I considered Charity a miracle; since doctors had convinced me I'd never conceive children. She was my parents' only grandchild. She was the last of my bloodline.
We are thankful for the wonderful years we had with her. I am so sorry for all the things we didn't do together. Memories of times when just she and I did something together are too few. We assume we'll always have time for those events... later. Don't make this mistake. Take the time to make lots of lasting memories with your children. And, take more pictures.
She was a blessing to us all. She was very intelligent, compassionate, hard working, beautiful, charming, responsible, loving, funny and kind. Her only flaws were her messy room and her nocturnal lifestyle. She was very proud of my persistent crusade for democracy. As children go she was pretty much perfect.
We home schooled her after a bad experience with the school system in her eighth grade year. She graduated with perfect marks about two years ahead of her classmates. She had worked since then in restaurant jobs, to pay for her car habit and to be with her school chums. She would have been eighteen in August of 2001. She was just biding her time, waiting for her best friends to graduate, so they could all attend college together.
She was usually very excited at this time of year. But this Friday night, at the end of June 2001, she was unusually ecstatic. She and her mother were getting ready for their annual 4th of July family reunion and campout on the Llano River near Junction, Texas. They both loved this event dearly. They were almost always the first to arrive and the last to leave. They planned to head out the next morning.
This year, her extra bliss was the result of her new car, a dark green, loaded, Mazda MX6 with a sunroof. She had a rosy colored one just like it, which she loved. But the color didn't go with her lovely, long red hair as well as this dark green one. Plus, she now had the sunroof she'd always wanted. She'd only had it a few days and was going somewhere in it constantly. She decided to drive over to say her farewells to her friends before her vacation. So, Janet continued to pack the Jeep preparing for "their" trip as I snacked and watched TV preparing for bed.
Just before midnight Janet got the call no parent should ever get. The lady on the phone said there had been an accident and Charity was involved. When Janet asked if she was all right, the lady would only tell her that it was bad and we needed to come to the hospital right away.
I trembled violently listening to Janet's agonizing appeals to God as I fumbled to get dressed. On the way, we both found ourselves making frantic deals with God, if she would just be ok. I could hardly see to drive.
At the Emergency door, the police were expecting us and lead us through the maze of corridors and elevators to the Intensive Care Unit. It was as if I were a video journalist, peering through my camcorder as I followed strangers down endless surrealistic hallways in slow motion. My thoughts were short chaotic bursts of self-recrimination, rage, grief, remorse, agony and blame. How futile, to think of what could have been done to avoid an irrevocable tragedy.
In the ICU a doctor led us to her bedside. There she lay, pale and motionless in a tangle of tubes, tape and wires on a white backdrop. My heart leapt with hope when I saw no signs of injury. She simply looked asleep. As I grasped her hand I was shocked by its icy coldness and by her total lack of response to my touch. Then the grim-faced doctor crushed my hopes as he explained that she had no chance of survival. I felt weak all over. He explained that her internal organs were so badly damaged, she couldn't hang on for more than a few hours.
Tears burst from our eyes as I muttered to Janet, "Come on. Let's tell the baby good bye." So, we hugged her softly, kissed her and told her how we love her as we said our final farewell to our love, our treasure, and our hope.
A kind priest was constantly with us, helping us cling to sanity as we arranged to donate her organs and tissues to those who needed them. Frank came immediately to be by our sides. We were all on a crazy emotional roller coaster with feelings of rage, impotence, guilt and embarrassment as we went through maniacal episodes ranging from agonizing anguish, recanting all we could have done, to feverish laughter, re-living the good times with Charity and funny things she had said and done. In the "family room" of the ICU the door flung open but no one was there. A warm breeze passed through me, sending a cold chill deep into my being. Then someone came in and said she was gone. I no longer wanted to live.
She had been on her way home, crossing a boulevard on a side street through a green light. Approaching the red light on the boulevard was a drunk, unlicensed, uninsured, illegal alien, driving his father's car. He had a criminal history of drunk driving, gun possession and assault. Our worst nightmare was a thirty two year old Hispanic, party animal named Angel Taimes Vega. We were told that, while accelerating, he crashed his father's heavier Mercury Cougar into her driver's door at sixty miles per hour. He was in a hurry, you understand, to get to the bar where he was known as the life of the party. The yard deep impact into her driver's door totally demolished Charity's new little green pride and joy, and our lives.
We are so grateful that she was instantly unaware of her horrible trauma ~ that she didn't suffer or become a comatose or vegetative invalid.
Unscathed, "The Angel of Death" went to jail. Police said he denied being the driver of the car and made an attempt to flee the scene. The other three occupants of his car were treated for minor injuries at another hospital. At the time of this writing, 10/3/01, Angel Vega has been indicted for drunken manslaughter on top of his other, prior charges for which he was prematurely "out on bail" when he killed our lovely daughter.
On the phone, an assistant district attorney told me, "'This time' he [the Angel of Death] will be in prison for a very long time. And, he will be deported if he outlives his sentence." And, when I went to the Police Station to report that Charity's money had been stolen from her body, the arresting officer [ignoring my report] told me, "They're gonna put him [the mad dog] away for a long time, "this time." "This" part continued to troubled us until I finally sat down at the computer and read the laws on immigration and researched Angel Vega's past scrapes with the "law."
I learned that the District Attorney "could have" detained this mad dog without bail or had him deported to Mexico, for any of his previous crimes, since he was an illegal alien. This was his second time to wreck into cars, hurting people while driving drunk, then fleeing the scene. In fact, we learned that he had been out of jail for almost a whole week, on an early release, for "good behavior!" He still had a least three (3) outstanding warrents for his arrest pending at the time of his release! So, Charity might be alive today if the DA had prosecuted him to the full extent of the law, "the first time." I also learned that you absolutely cannot sue the district attorney's office or the courts or the state for wrongful death. They are immune to "their" own laws.
Now, in the wake of the unimaginably horrible September 11th Terrorists' Attacks on New York and the Pentagon, we are even more curious: Why don't we have strict policies for containment of all such mad dogs everywhere, so we can all be safe? Terrorists are truly an abomination to humanity. But an even larger and more eminent threat is the outrageously insane number of known mad-dog-drunk-drivers like the Angel of Death as well as many other types of chronic predators, who are freed onto our streets by our "legal industries" to maintain their payments to the system. These social incompetents threaten the lives of our loved ones and all their survivors constantly! It's time we faced up to our responsibility to contain mad dogs to keep them off the playgrounds ~ away from our innocent children.
Janet and I have large, empty spaces inside us and invisible bands of pain and horror around our hearts and minds. At any time we may get a sharp jolt, causing us to involuntarily break down into writhing masses of grief. Incredulously, people tell us they know how we feel. We sincerely hope that, for their sake, they do not. We keep hoping that, as we are repeatedly told, time will heal all. But, still we find ourselves expecting her to pull up in the driveway, or suspicious that she is still awake in the wee hours of the night, talking on the phone. Then reality stabs us in the hearts, again, with the truth.
Time has little meaning anymore. When exhaustion forces us to bed, grotesque nightmares usually invade our minds before our heads hit the pillows. And, too frequently we are awakened, prematurely, the same way. We are so weary.
The only thought that effectively, though temporarily, relieves our depression is this: we know Charity loves us. She does not want us to be miserable. She wants us to be happy and productive ~ to strive for our dream.
Please remember to always remind your loved ones to watch out for the green lights. Because, "the money-hungry legal system" does not hold the drunks responsible for watching the red ones. And, maybe you should consider buying them a larger car, one with side air bags. Perhaps they should keep lists to avoid unnecessary road trips. Because, right NOW may be your only opportunity to take every possible precaution, to do everything in your power to avoid this unthinkable horror. We're NOT designed to outlive our children.
Written by Charity's Father, Alan D. Smith
Edited and designed by Charity's Mother, Janet Napoli Smith
UPDATE 1/04/02: Today we testified at the sentencing hearing for the Angel of Death. We dreaded doing it. But, we were told that if we didn't, the court might give him the minimum sentence of two years and release him (for time served) to INS for deportation to Mexico. We couldn't allow that.
So, we told the court and the Mad Dog all about Charity, her plans and her life ~ and about the remnants of our lives in her absence. We mentioned that neither he nor his family had ever expressed any sympathy or sorrow over her death. I read the entire text above to the court. The judge nodded his head in agreement when I read the part about Vega's early release to pay the legal industry.
We are so grateful that the court sentenced him to sixteen (16) years. And, he won't be eligible for parole until he has served eight (8) years, at which point, if released, he will be deported to Mexico.
During the entire proceeding he evidenced no signs of remorse and made no statement to us, whatsoever. We had never experienced a clinical sociopath before. It shocked us that the Legal Industry would set someone this deranged free to pay the legal fees, when they could have deported him or kept him in jail. Don't lawyers and judges even care about the safety of their own families who must also brave the streets?
We do, however, feel a small sense of closure.
UPDATE 3/29/02: Janet and I are now separated and starting our separate, single lives. We have lost everything now. Over the last few months I've contacted practically every law firm in East Texas in an attempt to find a lawyer who will help us sue the courts (all those responsible for releasing this monster onto the streets) for wrongful death. None would help. We wanted to punish the legal industry for failure "to protect and serve" the people. We had hoped to set a precedence to make all courts aware that there might be consequences for their actions which endanger the people. I'll keep trying.
UPDATE 6/08/02: It broke our hearts when we learned that, at any time during his prison sentence, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) can take "The Angel of Death" out of an American prison and simply release him freely into Mexico. That's what we were told! If that's really the case, instead they should just drop him off at "The Mexican Underground Railroad Station" (his father's house) in North Tyler, Texas. This would save the taxpayers' money not only in penal care, but also by reducing the work load on both the INS and the Border Patrol. Because he'll be back in no time, anyway.
It's been almost a year since Charity was slain in the blossom of her life. Since then, neither Janet nor I have experienced a single day without the heart-stabbing shock of suddenly realizing that our little girl is dead. We keep going about our days, trying to keep it out of our minds so we can go on. Should we, instead, keep a momento of her in constant view, so reality can't sneak up on us? Does anyone know when the pain is supposed to end? If you know some trick or technique we can use to minimize the pain, we'd really appreciate hearing from you.
UPDATE 6/10/03: We finally "heard" the words which help to make life more bearable. Repeating these words to yourself when you're descending into depression helps you to pull yourself up. If you or a friend ever lose a dear loved one, please say these words repeatedly until they start to work: "Your departed loved one does not want your memory of her or him to make you miserable."
I hope this helps you with your time of grief as much as it helped us. Now, when we think of Charity, we remember all the good she was and the pride we had in her and her life. We still grieve about our personal loss, all the things we anticipated in our future which will not now happen. But, Charity's memory no longer continuously tears out our hearts as it did. Still no lawyers are willing to help us punish the legal industry or tell us a good reason why.
UPDATE 1/24/04: "HOW TO OVERCOME GRIEF"
Now, she's the wind beneath our wings. When I think of Charity these days I feel an instant sense of warm, loving encouragement from her. It keeps me from dropping into depression in the first place. The trick is to continuously keep reminding yourself that your departed loved one does NOT want you to be miserable. These words have a magically healing power.
Furthermore, it's helpful to realize that if they can sense your misery in the afterlife, your pain makes them miserable there, as well. And, you certainly don't want to turn your departed loved one's Heaven into a Hell. So, there's every reason to be upbeat and no good reason to continue to wallow in our sorrow, forever. There will still be times of sadness and sorrow. But, this need not keep the rest of our lives from being full and happy.
Nowadays, the lawyers we contact about suing "their" system tell us they would have gladly considered such a suit, except that the Texas statute of limitations on wrongful death is two years, "if we had only come to them sooner," etc. So, I guess, due to our procrastination, we missed our opportunity to make the legal industry seriously consider the safety of the public in their decisions.
I hope you don't miss the opportunity now being presented to you at MajorityVoice to make the system work for the benefit of all humanity and nature: rather than only for the benefit of the elite ruling minority's bottom line.