(I chose this picture because Marissa loved photography. The camera around her neck, her father bought her. The person who took the picture was her best friend Tyler)
I honestly do not know how I am going to write this. I am already crying, and I don't have a clue what I want to say. How do you dedicate an article to someone you are still actively grieving? Who you will continue grieve for until your time is up.. I have a box of tissues, her music playing, so let's make this attempt.
I call her Marits or little sister.
I have know her, since moment one. When I learned that her mother Rita and father Daryl was pregnant- I prayed for it to be a girl. She was due between my aunt and moms birthday. I was hoping she would wait till the 27th so her and my momma could share the day together. In true Marits fashion, she took her time coming into this world and did things her own way. When she finally decided to grace us with her presences, she came on a day dedicated to her and only her!
There I stood, a little kid myself looking at this perfect girl with this awesome beauty mark on her left arm. I was given the title of God-Sister, and I took it to heart that day. Even though Marits and I are not blood related, we have so many similar features and habits. One of the very first ones was that beauty mark. I too, have one on my left arm, in the same place as hers (different shape). I felt like in that moment, God gave us both that, to bond us for life.
She was absolutely perfect and I was so happy to have a little sister. All six of us, would always spend time together (my mom Yvonne, Step-dad Dan, Rita, Daryl, Marits and me). As Marits grew, more similar features emerged between the two of us and it just reinforced my beliefs: "God really wanted us to be sisters, so he gave us the same hair, eyes, freckles, etc. She really is my sister!"
One of the most funniest things Marits did growing up was eat ice and lemons. She would eat so many that her lips would blister. My mother, would get on to her, but she would not listen. There was nothing getting between her and her lemons. So when my mom wasn't looking, I would sneak the ice and lemons too (don't tell). I laugh now, because my daughter does the same thing as Marits, Emme will eat the lemons until her lips blister and bleed. Now, I am my mother, telling my daughter to stop it. I know Marits is in Heaven laughing her ass off about it too. I can just hear it already: "Stephanie, you are acting just like your mom and what she would tell me. Emme got the good tastebuds from me."
(God, why isn't she here?!?!)
Then one day out of the blue, Rita and Daryl came over and told us that they were moving out towards Midland. My heart broke. They were taking my Marits from me... I remember asking my mom when they were gone. "Have you talked to Rita?" "How's Marits?" "Are they coming back yet?" Those questions never stopped until I had my girl back! Despite the circumstances (Rita and Daryl splitting) I was so damn happy to have Marits by me again.
I filled that big sister role in many ways, from giving her my clothes, shoes, whatever she wanted, talked her through stuff. I mean everything and more...
I am now bawling, how do I even explain what's next without the tears?
So there is a journal that Marits wrote in a lot. There are letters to the love of her life, baby shower plans, lists for the boys, writings to herself in her lowest of times.... but the thing is.....
It was my journal first.
The first several pages had my handwriting, had my moms doodles on a page, had my drawings... she could have easily ripped those out, but she kept them. She kept them in there, because we mattered to her as much as she meant to us... you don't rip those pages out- you keep them as a reminder!
We made it a point to always stay in contact and check in on each other. More so, big sister was checking in on her and trying to teach her the way of the world (boys). What to do, and not, how to love, forgive, and not stress. Her and I had anxiety so that stress comment is a total joke! But I did try to ease her mind every chance that I could. One of our last conversations, I was trying to drag her butt into a better future and trying to help her get everything straightened out.
That is what kills me the most about all of this. She knew my ex almost killed me, she knew the after effects, she knew it all, but did not come to me about hers. I know she was trying to protect others, from getting into this mess. She saw the monster he was, but damnit why baby... why didn't you run to me?! You trusted me with your sons, why not this?
We have so many stories, some extremely private and will remain that way.
So when February 22, 2022 came, I was numb when I wrote that first missing persons post. How is my little sister missing.. again? The monster that held her against her will and threatened her life last month was out, and now all of her belongings, her U-Haul, purse, everything just disappeared. We knew the monster had her, but the police's hands were 'tied.' I knew in my gut, when I posted it, that she was already gone but we needed her home one way or the other.
I cant even describe to everyone who shared the post, who messaged me clues, how thankful I am for you!
By the 23rd of February, her story was about to hit the news outlets when my mom called. The tone in her voice told me everything. My mom proceeded to tell me: "so the police raided that boys house, and they found a body." I immediately started crying and with a shake, squeak in my voice I managed to say: "Oh my God, noooo.. please no.." I managed to make it to the other room away from my daughter before I collapsed in gut wrenching tears and pain. My mom said "we don't know that it is her, Daryl is on his way now to see." But we knew... The condition and where she was found, the identification process was moved to the next day. They did not want Daryl to see her that way. THAT moment, was enough for me to know it was our girl. Because if it wasn't, the police would allow him to see despite everything. She passed away from blunt for head trauma... There is so much more that I wish I could say about this but I cant yet.
Our girl was taken from us, a mother of three beautiful boys was taken, and this could have been prevented. That monster was allowed bail, when he has convictions, and openly voided other bonds. They let a killer out free, so he could get the revenge he so desperately wanted.. Death as payback for her pressing charges.
She did the right thing going to the police, but what happens to victims after they have enough courage to do so? Absolutely nothing! They let your killer out, allowing for them to get the revenge they so desperately seek! This is why victims stay silent. This is why we lose so many. A fucking piece of paper will not protect you.
So now we are left with our hearts broken and pouring out with each breath we take. Our souls are tired, but we have this fire burning inside of us that grows each and everyday. Heaven help the ones we are coming for!
So you may ask, what is my 'why?' This is it!
The police department did absolutely nothing with my domestic violence case and I am lucky to be here writing this. However, they failed my Marits in the worst possible manner. They orphaned her sons.
They failed our girl once, we will NOT allow it to happen again, and that is why some facts of the case have not been given. We are praying that we will face a Capital Murder charge and trial. Please pray they allow this charge and case to stick!
Every night I lay my daughter to sleep and as soon as she is out, I tear up for two reasons. First, she will grow up hearing stories about Marissa, but she will never 'know her,' and how amazing she was. Second, I cry because, what if one day my daughter becomes that 1 in 4, like her mom and aunt? I know if things stay the same, her life will be in danger, and I have to fix this before she is old enough to date!
So yes, we are raging a war on our justice system. Yes, we have several things in motion for awareness, law change, and something that will give victims true protection. We will be announcing all of it soon, as we create a foundation for Marits and all the work we will do to bring this change. This summer we will meet with Gabby's family, in person, because together is the only way to change this!
I see all of the support from you. I cant thank you enough. We have so much we are going to do and I thank you for the messages, support, shares, everything!
I promise, we will bring this change to protect future victims of violence!