Listening to a Horror Story

Aliahna Lemmon was just 9 years old.

When she went missing a few days before Christmas, I am confident every mother who learned of her disappearance felt a little sick inside. We simply cannot imagine our own children missing.

This week the news of her murder and dismemberment was made known ~ taking our sickness to a whole new level. When I read the article in the newspaper, (this happened in my community) there was mention of a detective and an FBI agent who sat and listened “stone-faced” as the perpetrator gave the facts, which included bashing this young girl in the back of the head with a brick, freezing her body in his freezer and then dismembering her. He told the investigators they would find the little girl’s head, hands and feet in his freezer.

This makes me vomit-like sick. It makes my stomach clench and my head and heart hurt. It causes me to immediately move my mind to something new – I simply cannot bear to think about this more than a few seconds at a time. Can you imagine what her family must be enduring right now? I will answer for all of us, no.

Maybe it’s because my brother is a lieutenant with the Roseville Police Department (Minnesota), but my heart has been hurting for the officers who sat in that room and listened to this man monster describe what he had done to this defenseless, innocent, little child. No mind should have to process any of those images – let alone the fact that the story being told isn’t a nightmare, but the truth.

I called my brother and asked him if he would share with me how, as an officer, he has been able to sit “stone-faced” while listening to horrific details. He told me how officers must act professional, even if they want to leap across the table. They listen to gather facts, that as actions are minimized, confessions are more likely to continue.  Then he said something that really resonated within me ~ that officers do it for the victim; officers listen so they are able to tell their story. Many times, this is the only way the victim has a voice.

Sometimes they are even able to protect society from hearing it, if trial is avoided, we never have to hear the gruesome details that do not belong in our heads. He also said that officers put these kinds of interviews in closets until they can be dealt with…and it must be dealt with or it will creep out. Most police departments have contracts with mental health professionals so these officers can receive direction on handling the emotions that are a part of a story such as the one involving Aliahna. This story becomes a part of who these officers are, what they heard will always be with them. This has the potential to cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it also has the potential to make them stronger.

So today, I want to specifically thank the officers who sat “stone-faced” and listened to a story that had to be told so justice could begin. Thank you for being professional. Thank you for giving voice to Aliahna. Thank you to my brother who, for twenty-eight years, has been one who has likely moved many interviews to closets, and then unpacked them with someone who could help him keep it from leaking out on his family and friends.

Thank you to every officer who has ever listened in order to gather facts to give voice to victims, you are an important part of the story. May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.  Numbers 6:24-26

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