The Day Curtis Died

The day I found out that my stepson was murdered was one of the worst days of my life…I thought that when the detective called me on the phone and asked if Curtis was my stepson – that maybe he was going to tell me that Curtis had gotten into some trouble…I really thought he was going to say that Curtis had a warrant because of a traffic ticket he hadn’t paid and that the detective wanted to know if I knew where Curtis was…. I don’t remember much but I know that he asked if he could come over because he wanted to talk to me… as many crime shows, CSI, Law and Order, that I have watched….I should have seen the warning signs. When it did click that something wasn’t right – I asked the detective… “is it bad?” and he said to me “it’s pretty bad”. He said he would come over in 30 minutes to talk to me and my husband. I told him that if it was bad, I couldn’t wait. He asked if anyone was home with me and I told him yes.



That’s when the world stopped. I screamed…. and fell to the floor… gutteral cries from someplace deep inside. Shock, disbelief, and more shock – followed by unbelievable, unconsolable grief.


Curtis’s brother, Cheston was in the next room sleeping peacefully for the last time. I found my way to the garage where my husband and son, Garrett were. I couldn’t even talk. I regret to this day the way that I told Cheston about his brother’s death – but there was no sugar coating anything that day.


I called my sister-in-law to break the news because I couldn’t bring myself to call my mother-in-law. Curtis was her world. Then the thought of calling Curtis’s mom, Sheila – I just couldn’t be the one to tell her that her first-born son was dead. I knew how bad it was to hear this news on the phone and worried that she would be at home alone when the news came.


Memorial Day… normally a time I looked forward to… having some time off work – if I was lucky, even getting to go to the coast to get away. Memorial Day will never be the same ever again. Nothing will be the same again. Christmas, Thanksgiving, October 8th…. nothing.


The only hope we could hang on to was that they knew who had killed him. We hoped that one day there would be justice. Apparently God will be the one who is control of justice rather than our justice system.


Two years after Curtis was killed – his killer was finally on trial. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that he would not be found guilty. In fact – it never even crossed my mind. Throughout the trial – I still was confident that he would soon be in jail – after being free two years after the fact. His killer was able to finish his degree… make that double-degree. He has a girlfriend (now wife) (honey, where were you when the autopsy pictures were shown…. believe it or not, your boyfriend shot Curts twice in the back….he is not innocent. Even you know that he ended another person’s life.) You didn’t hear the truth – you were only there for stripper-girl’s ridiculous lies. Do you really think that two people who were walking ahead of JJ and company started the argument… you are deluded if you believe it…Barbie started the conflict.


JJ had an illegal gun – hollow point bullets (come on JJ – even I know what they are and what they are used for) – but sweet innocent JJ didn’t know what they were until the DA told him in court… don’t forget your double-degree….are you really that stupid? Oh, and the 81 degrees with a 16 mph wind was a really nice touch… did you hear everyone laugh at you when you said it? 81 degrees at 2am in the morning IS hot.


I really appreciated all the remorse you showed at trial… do you seriously believe that Curtis deserved to die? The worst thing he did that night was to push your buddy down…for God’s sake sticks and stones…How can 9 shots from an illegal weapon that you had to go to your car and get and then come back to the scene, be self-defense?


Post traumatic stress? really? That high-stakes poker game you held in your home in Lubbock…the mean ganstas broke in and held a gun to your head and your little dog too?? At least they had mercy on you that night! If they had shown the mercy that you showed Curtis – you’d be gone and Curtis would still be here wouldn’t he?


Did you see the heartbreak in your father’s face during the trial? I did. I know that you put him through hell. Did you see the pain in our faces? or did you even bother to look? You’ve put us through hell.


You may have been found “not guilty” but that is far different than INNOCENT. You are certainly not innocent. You took Curtis’s life that night. You took part of our lives that night.


I hope that each and every day for the rest of your life that the first thing you see when you close your eyes at night is Curtis. Now and – forever!  When you have children I hope you worry about them every night – worry that they might run into someone just like you.


There will be justice – from a much higher power than the United States justice system – which obviously has flaws or you’d be someone’s girlfriend right now.


God is a forgiving God – but He still allows us to suffer consequences of our actions. Don’t kid yourself for one minute that there won’t be consequences.


Jonathan David Johnson murdered my stepson, Curtis Leon McElhaney, Memorial Day weekend 2006. Pray everyday that you don’t run into him on the street – it has been proven that he can murder someone and get out of it due to post traumatic stress syndrome… he just “snapped”.


Hope none of us “snap”.


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