A young woman will be buried today. Her mother and father have lost a most beloved child. Her children have lost the mother whom they loved and depended on. Her many friends have lost their trusted companion and confidante. Her beautiful smile will no longer shine, her lovely laugh will never again fill the air with joy and merriment. A terrible tragedy has occurred, a tragedy that has reached out to touch the hearts and lives of those who knew her and many more who will know her now only through a story of a luminous life cut too short and the ugliness of her death. And the most tragic thing of all is that it need never have happened, it could have been prevented.......
From the moment of her birth, Alicia Sears was a ray of sunshine in the lives of those she touched. Bright, vibrant and beautiful, she spread that sunshine wherever she went. Her smile and her laugh were well known within her community. She was a true free spirit.
Alicia was always trying to help someone, to make things better. Even as a child she was always looking to brighten someone's day. On the occasional days when she was late walking home from school, her father knew that his Lee-Lee could be found sitting on the end of some elderly person's bed at a nearby nursing home. In later years her father would often come home to find some random kid sleeping on the sofa. "Who's that?", he'd ask, knowing the answer he'd get. "Oh, it's just a friend of mine, Daddy. She's having some trouble at home."
Although intelligent, Alicia didn't care much for high school. She found it boring. Rebellion began to take the form of cutting school. But this bit of rebellion didn't affect the good will of those in charge. Her father shares the following story:
"I recall Alicia and I running into her ex-high school principal one day. Now, Alicia was a hellion in High School (she hated it). I'd drop her off at the front door and by the time I'd gotten out of the parking lot, she was gone out the back door.
So when I saw the principal walking toward us several years later, I thought "oh boy, here it comes".
He stopped and called out loudly "Searsy!!". That was his nickname for both her and my son Jason, the football hero.
So we stopped for a chat. He was so happy and just rapping away to Alicia. He turned to me and said, "Mr Sears, Alicia drove me crazy in High School but she is my favorite student of all time. I miss her."
Unfortunately for Alicia and for all who loved her, those rebellious teenage years brought with them a different kind of trouble. It was during this time that she began dating a young man named Craig Daniels. This relationship would haunt her for the rest of her life.
Craig Daniels, Jr. is 6'1", blond, blue-eyed, handsome, a son, the father of 2, the stepfather of 2, and a monster. At approximately 3 a.m. on March 29th, murderer was added to his description.
We will probably never know what was going through Craig Daniels' mind when he entered the little house on Parker Street. Did he think of his children and stepchildren, fast asleep just feet away? They loved him once. What did they see in him? Was there a part of him that was good? If so, what happened to the good part of him? Was he back on the drugs? Or was he just consumed with rage? He was probably going back to jail. Did he blame Alicia for that? After all, all the beatings and the stalking and the intimidation must have been her fault.
Over the next dozen years there were many ups and downs in Alicia's life. The downs were highlighted by a failed marriage, an addiction to cocaine she acquired when her husband introduced her to it, and the lost hope of a career as a probation officer due to her addiction, as well as her on again/off again relationship with Craig Daniels. The upside was accented by the birth of her four children (two of them with Daniels), the love and support of her family and friends, her successful fight against her addiction, the promise of a new career, and her fierce love of life. Through it all, there were two things that would stand out as the pinnacles of her highs and the nadirs of her lows: the birth of her children and her troubled relationship with Daniels.
From the beginning, Alicia's relationship with Daniels was stormy, to say the least. They would fight violently, part from one another, then return for more. A pattern formed, a cycle of manipulation, abuse, contrition, forgiveness, then more violence as the cycle began anew. This pattern will be quite familiar to those whose lives have been touched by domestic violence. Alicia's desire to fix things would keep hope alive that she could change Daniels. Her hope would always bring her back, even as her instinct for self-preservation would push her to run for her life. The pattern was set, and once set it was hard to break. And once she and Daniels shared a child, hope that she could break free began to fade. The die was cast....
When did he decide that Alicia must die? Was it Sunday, when he got out of jail? Was it Monday, when he went to court and was released on his own recognizance? Was it that very morning as he drove his top-of-the-line Ford truck to the little house on Parker Street? You know, the shiny new truck he treated himself to instead of paying any of the back child support.
What was he thinking when he broke in, holding his gun? Did he ever consider just turning around and leaving? When he broke in? When he stood feet from where his children innocently slept? When he opened the door to Alicia's room? When he saw her sleeping? When he heard her screaming? The screaming that woke the children. What went through his mind when he pulled the trigger the first time? The second time?
What was he thinking as he left the room and was confronted by frightened little Katie, a child who once loved him and called him Daddy? Was there a shred of humanity left in him that told him to allow Katie to live? Was he thinking of Katie when he told her not to go into her mother's room, or did he just want his headstart so he could hide?
What was he thinking as he drove the miles towards his mother's house? When he left the shiny new truck a mile from her home and then seemingly disappeared? What was he thinking when the police finally found him Monday, hiding in a hole under a tree in his mother's yard, covered by a tarp and pine needles?
Hiding like a coward in a hole in the ground. That is the measure of this man.
Once the abuse started, there was no turning back. Month after month, year after year, the police were called to the scene of split lips and massive bruises. Daniels bragged to her that throwing him out was useless, she couldn't keep him out because he could always break in, and he demonstrated his prowess at this activity many times over. He developed a fondness for sadism, as evidenced by his tying Alicia to a chair, beating her, holding a knife to her throat and threatening to kill her. In addition to the reported abuse, as is common with domestic abuse, many of these beatings went unreported, and many ended without charges being filed.
The abuse reached critical mass in 1998. Alicia was cuddling her two-year old daughter, Katie, when Daniels began screaming at her. Katie began to cry, so he ordered her to her room. After locking all the phones in the trunk of his car, locking all the doors to the home and closing all the blinds, he began to beat Alicia. Holding her by the hair, he pounded her until she fell to the floor. As he beat her, large chunks of her hair were ripped out. He placed the hair on the dining room table in a large pile and continued to beat her. Once she'd fallen, he repeatedly kicked her in the stomach and pounded her head on the floor until she passed out. She told police that she believed he was going to kill her. Daniels was arrested and charged with burglary, domestic violence and intimidation of an attorney, victim, or witness in a criminal case. He was convicted, and served a grand total of three years for his crimes.
Alicia's parents hoped that the ties would finally be broken and that Daniels would be out of Alicia's life for good, but that was not to be. Once released from prison, Daniels began a campaign of wooing Alicia. He told her he had taken anger management classes in jail and would never be violent again. He'd gone to college in jail too, and graduated. But his biggest hold was the children. Alicia now had three children, and one of them was Daniels' child. He told Alicia that his daughter needed her father, the other children needed a father figure in their lives. Always seeing the good in people, Alicia once again let Daniels back into her home as her partner. They had one more child together, adding one more tool to his arsenal.
The final straw to their relationship turned out not to be violence, but drugs. Daniels began to use crack, and he wanted Alicia to use it, too. Having been down that road and working so hard to get clean and stay clean, she was not going to follow him there again. She kicked him out for good, and everyone hoped that finally, finally this was the end. It was a fleeting hope, as Daniels turned to violence once more. In December of 2006 Daniels made a repeat performance of the crime that had landed him in prison, kidnapping Alicia, tying her to a chair, beating her, throwing bleach and other chemicals in her face and threatening her with a knife. This time she had him arrested with no pangs of guilt, she was done with him for good.
Soon after, a bright spot appeared for Alicia. In January she met a man, John Mitchell. He was young, and although he had been in trouble in the past, he was not violent and was ready to straighten out his life. He treated Alicia with respect, and she liked it. Mitch and Alicia began dating, and he moved into her home. Her children loved him so much they began to call him Dad, and he was good to them, too. Alicia and Mitch were in love, and things were looking up. Daniels was unable to post bond and was still in jail, or so they thought. They had no idea he'd been released, no one bothered to tell her.
John C. Mitchell was only 22. Yes, Mitch had made his mistakes. He had gone to jail for a year and a half on forgery charges, but his friends say that he was trying hard to turn his life around. He had fallen in love with Alicia, and he doted on her and her children. Alicia's mom met him and thought he was a good kid. Mitch told one of his friends that he loved Alicia and her kids, and he would "die for them". That is exactly what he did.
While we cannot know for certain what went through Mitch's mind as he lay dying in the little house on Parker Street, we do know what his last words were. We can only imagine how much effort it took to whisper with his dying breath, "Don't worry Katie, It will be alright." Reports say that the position of Mitch's body and his wounds show that he tried to protect Alicia.
He was only 22, but his last acts, his last thoughts, were to protect the woman he loved and to comfort a frightened 10-year-old little girl who just walked in on a horrendous scene. "Don't worry Katie, It will be alright." That is the measure of this man.
And Daniels could not let go. On January 22nd he broke into her house again and threatened to kill her. She called the police, but in the end decided not to have him arrested. The next day he was back, sitting in her driveway watching her house, calling her more than 46 times in 18 hours, leaving death threats on the voicemail of her cellphone. This time she'd had more than enough, and filed a complaint. Daniels was arrested once more and held on $30,000 bond. There was hope that this round of abuse might be at an end.
On February 7th Daniels was indicted on charges of stalking and resisting arrest stemming from the January 22nd incident. He was unable to post the bond and remained in jail. And that was where Alicia and her family thought he'd stay. But on February 26th Daniel's was arraigned in Wood County Common Pleas Court. Alicia's mother had written a letter to the judge explaining the past history of abuse, the terror that Daniels had inflicted on her daughter and her grandchildren and how she feared for her life. She'd written it to make sure that Daniels would not be allowed out on bond.
Unfortunately, she delivered the letter by hand to the prosecutor, and he didn't see fit to show it to the judge, stating later that he thought it would make their case more difficult when it came to trial. What happened during the hearing is not clear at this point, with the exception of the result. The bond was dropped and Daniels was released on his own recognizance. Although he was told to stay away from Alicia and to live with his mother until trial, he began living at an apartment not far from Alicia's home.
In the early morning hours of March 29th, Craig Daniels broke into the house of Alicia Castillon. He was carrying a gun, which he used to shoot and kill Alicia and Mitch. 10 year old Katie heard the shots and ran to find out what was wrong. Daniels was closing the door to the room where the shots were fired. He told Katie not to open the door, then turned and left the house. Katie opened the door.
A father is far away. He lives in China now, with his beloved fiancee, Joanna. The phone rings, and he is told that his baby girl, his Lee-Lee is dead. Murdered. Murdered in what was such a happy little house on Parker Street. First comes the anger. The sorrow will follow later, when the shock wears off a bit. It will be a long trip home to bury his little girl, and there is much to do, many arrangements to make. There will be plenty of "what ifs" and "if onlys", but for now, he simply has to get to his grandchildren and hug them and try to make them feel safe. Through his shock, his pain, his anguish, he still thinks of the women who are still living and going through what his precious Alicia had to live through. He will do whatever he can to help them, to protect them. His Lee-Lee will not have died in vain. That is the measure of this man.
Katie's 911 call can be heard here. After a four-day manhunt Daniels was found, hiding in a hole under a tree in his mother's front yard. His mother, Colenne Daniels, was arrested for obstructing justice and obstructing official business. She was released after posting bond. Daniels was arrested on two counts of aggravated murder. If convicted he will face life without parole or the death penalty.
He is being held without bond.
Alicia's brother, Jason, just moved to Florida. He has a new life with his new wife, Sarah. Now, he will have 4 children as well. He and his wife are adopting Alicia's children and will give them a safe, loving home. A happy home, just like the little house on Parker Street used to be, not so long ago. Jason did not hesitate to take on the responsibility of raising the chidren his sister so adored and cherished. That is the measure of this man.
A young woman will be buried today. There is no way to comfort those who love this young woman and the young man who died with her. There is no way to make sense of the senseless rage that resulted in this tragedy. We cannot go back now and undo what went wrong. We can only work for solutions to the plague that is domestic violence.
There are those who will say, "Why should I care? I don't know these people, their tragedy is not mine." The sad truth is someone you know, someone you care about, will be touched by domestic violence in your lifetime. By turning our backs and walking away, we will share the responsiblity of the pain and abuse, the violence and death of countless young women, men and children. If we do not take action to stop this kind of violence then the price for inaction will be ours, a price that is too high to pay.
A trust fund has been established for Alicia's children. Anyone wishing to donate may do so by sending a check or money order payable to "Alicia's Kids - Trust Fund" and mailing it to the address provided below.
This diary and its companion are a collaboration and a labor of love, written in tribute to Alicia Castillon and John Mitchell. We wish to honor her parents, Kathy Newlove and Michael Sears. You probably won't know Kathy, but many of you will know Michael. He is known in the DailyKos community as Zwoof.
|Rest easy now, Alicia. Peace is yours. Your spirit is free now. Spread your wings and fly.....|