The Tree

It’s page 18 of 365 in 2016. One of my favorite quotes is by C.S. Lewis “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” How true is that?

It’s been a busy 3 months since the last update to my blog, but really there has been no forward motion from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in our case since September. Frustrating? Yep. I’ve learned that a 30 year old case with a guilty defendant and miles of boxes full of documents just seems to bog down a very broken system with nothing we can do but keep looking to the horizon…

To be honest, I’ve struggled to write this blog for more than a week. I’m not sure why, when it comes to writing or conversation, I’m not usually a loss for words… those who truly know me can insert your comments and laughs here…

Looking back on all that has happened, both wonderful & amazing and heartbreaking & trying, and I feel I’ve really needed to stop and listen more … Who has truly had “ahhhh haaa” moments? I’ve had quite a few lately…

Vicki Lynne's Tree planted at Homer Davis Elementary School Arbor Day, 1985

Vicki Lynne’s Tree planted at Homer Davis Elementary School Arbor Day, 1985

See in February of 1985, we planted a tree in the courtyard of Homer Davis Elementary School where Vicki & I attended school to bring hope that she would be found alive. When Vicki’s remains were recovered in April of 1985, that tree continued to grow and bloom for 30 years. Last October (2015) it was uprooted and blown over in a storm… it was as if a piece of what we watched grow through our journey was gone and we were absolutely devastated. And, I feel we started to mourn again.

Our initial reaction was to replant a tree to replace it… and in time we realized we could never do that, it would never be the same. Honestly, I know with all my heart Vicki blew the tree over for a reason, and we may not be able to understand it right now, but in time, we will.

We were able to recover a substantial amount of the wood from the fallen tree and have plans as a family to have something made with it and rededicate it to Homer Davis at a later date. We will take the fallen pieces and make them beautiful again… just as we have done with our lives.

I want to make a very public thank you on behalf of myself and my family to Flowing Wells School District. From Dr. Baker, Mr. Miller, Governing Board, and the entire staff with a big SHOUT OUT to the Grounds Crew, each and every person has been so protective, caring and sensitive to us as we have moved through this process. The love that continues to shine in our community is extraordinary and comforting.

I will continue to keep my blog updated as we begin forward motion in the appellate part of this story, and as each day of 2016 unfolds, we will continue to look ahead and embrace our past as it is the seeds that continue to grow our future.

#dontforgetvickilynne #loveneverforgets

The last chapter…

An Opening Brief was filed by the defense in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit yesterday. 

The original file date was June 12, 2014 delayed to November 21, 2014, delayed again to March 12, 2015 and finally filed on May 11, 2015.  

It took almost 11 months to produce 99 pages arguing technicalities and reasons why Frank Atwood should not be put to death. Imagine the money the tax payers have spent in 333 days just for this brief? 

I am so relieved to have some sort of forward motion again…  for my parents, for my siblings, for my children, for my family, our friends… for our community.

But, I have to be completely honest here… I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that people actually get paid to defend a monster like Atwood. I know this may sound silly, but I can not imagine the time and man power it took to put together 99 pages of this crap!

And now… how many hours it will take the State of Arizona to rebut this…

On September 17,1984, Atwood hit my sissy with his car while she was riding her bike home from her best friends house. He drove with her in his car to the desert not far from our home and I can not fathom the fear she experienced on that ride. He sexually assaulted her. And, he didn’t kill her the first time, I know Vicki’s last words still haunt and puzzle him today… He would eventually bury her in a shallow grave in the desert… 207 days later only parts of her precious little body were found… placed in a small box and given to my parents to lay to rest. 

And more than 30 years later we are fighting him on technicalities. Nothing will change the fact that he brutally murdered this little girl in 1984. And I am confident that this brief will be the start of the last chapter in this book that has had no ending or justice for this beautiful little girl. 

Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, 4

Don’t forget Vicki Lynne.

April 12th… 30 years later…

It’s hard to believe that time has gone by so quickly… 30 years is a long time, but this day is still as vivid in my mind as yesterday. My heart still aches the same it did that day… that pain will never go away.

I wrote the following a couple years ago and felt the need to re-share it again today. Thank you for those who continue to follow our case and support us as we fight for justice for my sissy.

Reflecting back on April 12, 1985

Today marks a significant anniversary in my life. It is a day that is forever etched in my mind, a day to reflect and a day to be thankful for.

On September 17, 1984, my 8 year old sister, Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, disappeared from our neighborhood. She had gone on her bike to mail a birthday card to our Aunt Lori for our mom. When she didn’t come home, I road my bike to find her. At that time, being 11, there was no doubt in my mind that she had stopped off at a neighbors or was playing with kids from the neighborhood and had lost track of time. We lived in a community and time when you left the house, played outside & people watched out for each other. Kids didn’t just disappear, and if they did it happened on T.V. and not on your street, let alone to your sister.

Vicki had been gone 6 months, 26 days…. or 207 days total. 

April 12, 1985 was a friday, and I was sitting in Mr. Abrams 6th grade core class. When the door opened and one of the ladies from the office walked in, I knew she was there for me.  Mr. Abrams paused, looking down and then up at me. He squeaked out the the words that I needed to gather my things and go to the office.

I sat in the yellow polyester cushioned chair against the windows that looked down the sidewalk and out into the parking lot. I was 11, and trying to understand the world that I had been thrusted into so many months before. There, in the office of the junior high school, everyone was quiet, and working just as hard at keeping it together as they were trying to act like they were working.

I can not tell you how long I sat in that chair in the window, but I knew when I looked over my left shoulder and saw my parents walking down the sidewalk it’s as if the world stopped.

They had found my sister….

Today, 28 years, 6 months and 26 days later, I can close my eyes and remember that day. The warmth of the Arizona sun through the window in the office, the look first on Mr. Abrams face, then on that of my parents, and the feeling of despair by those who surrounded me.

There are no words to express how incredibly grateful I am for the man who went looking for his dog that day and stumbled upon her remains, for at least we could have closure and lay her to rest.

If I had a penny for every time I thanked him, and those who gave so unconditionally those months we searched for her I would have enough money to buy the world.

Today, I miss Vicki just the same as I have in the 28 1/2 years it has been since she was taken from us. And I appreciate how incredibly blessed I have been in my journey between here and there…

**Our family has set up a Vicki Lynne Memorial Scholarship Fund at Flowing Wells High School where I graduated, and Vicki would have. If you would like to make a donation in her memory, you can do so by sending a check to:

Flowing Wells Unified School District

Attention: Monique Mata

1556 W. Prince Road

Tucson, AZ 85705

Flowing Wells Tax Id # 86-6003684

Please make sure you indicate that the donation is for the

VICKI LYNNE MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP

I am also doing a fundraiser, Be-YOU-tiful Lashes for Vicki!!!! 100% of my proceeds will be given in her memory to a graduating senior at Flowing Wells High School in May!! If you haven’t tried our famous 3D Fiber Lash Mascara or LOVE all natural skin care & beauty products you will LOVE Younique!!! Click the link to shop!!!

www.youniqueproducts.com/SBrandt/party/1716475/view

Apache Lake, AZ, Vicki & I

Apache Lake, AZ, Vicki & I

Delayed until May 11th, 2015

Someone recently said to me “Can you ask the courts to change Atwood’s sentence to life in prison instead of the death penalty so you don’t have to go through this anymore?”

I said, “Sure, if I want to take the chance of him being a FREE man.”

“Why? I thought if we abolish the death penalty those guys just get life in prison…”

Let’s face it cases just like Vicki’s are classic examples of why the death penalty does not work. Delay after delay, appeal after appeal, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, and heart ache with each step forward or back.

To honestly answer the question of WHY we don’t fight for life imprisonment for Atwood vs. our continued quest for the death penalty has nothing to do with closure for our family.

Based on the laws at the time of Atwood’s sentencing almost 28 years he would be parole eligible today. And, although I would like to think that a parole board would never grant him parole, I never dreamed in a million years that my family would still be fighting for justice for her 30 years later. The sheer thought of him possibly ever walking the streets as a free man is reason enough to continue my quest to fight for the death penalty.

For those who are under the impression that converting these ‘ol death penalty cases to life imprisonment would be simple and easy think again. It’s not.

Late yesterday we were notified by the Attorney General’s Office that Atwood’s defense team was granted yet another delay to file in their brief to the 9th Circuit Court until May 11th.

I realize that the defense is playing a game with time and lots of money. And, to try to express the frustration and anger is virtually impossible. The delay was well anticipated but the punch in the gut when you receive the news always feels the same.

What we will do is continue to push and fight for justice for a little girl who no longer has a voice. We will do our best to believe in a broken system. We won’t ever give up on her…

Don’t forget Vicki Lynne.

Vicki Lynne 1984

Vicki Lynne 1984

Delayed in the 9th Circuit… again…

Vicki & I, 1979

Vicki & I, 1979

March 12th, 2015 is the new filing date that the defense counsel in the case of State of Arizona v. Atwood, Cause # CR 14065 has to file in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Stalled again in our fight to bring justice to Vicki Lynne. 

The range of emotions that come with yet another delay are hitting every scope of the spectrum. Trying to convince my logical mind that there is a reason for everything, to be faithful & trust in God’s plan and not let this consume my every thought and emotion is simply difficult…

And the questions are pouring in… Why another delay? How many more can he have? Why is it that the justice system seem to keep giving him all the breaks? How come others from death row who committed murder long after Atwood took Vicki’s life in 1984 have been executed but he still sits, wasting our tax payer dollars every day?

I can’t answer any of them… nor can anyone else, which is even more frustrating, and makes me feel even more helpless when all I want to do is bring justice to a little girl who’s life was taken far too soon… who was a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, a friend…

And while we face this delay, I also have to be realistic that the March date isn’t definitive either. Or the fact that our road is still very long, and there are no guarantees that new case law can come along and alter our path as it has in the past. But, what I can hope for is that in the grand scheme of things that our case will impact a very broken judicial system, and that maybe, just maybe it will help make legislative changes so that another family might not have to suffer this judicial hell the way we have.

So, tonight, I will do my best to smile through the tears and continue to fight for justice for my sissy…

September 17… 30 years later

Vicki Lynne 1984

Vicki Lynne 1984

September 16, 1984, we were an average American family, normal as far as I knew. My parents had divorced, both had remarried making my family larger. Vicki & I lived with our mom who had married George (dad), he brought his daughter, Carie, from his first marriage into our lives, together they had my brother, Brian. My dad (Ron) married Tammy, who was pregnant and expected to deliver my brother, Larry, in October of 1984.

As kids, we spent many of our Saturday nights going to the race track to cheer on our Papas, and our weeks playing softball, a sport we both loved! We enjoyed trips to the lake, playing in our neighborhood with friends and going to school.

Sunday, September 16, our mom, dad, Vicki, Brian I were out looking at campers we were going to purchase for our family. I remember being pretty excited about one we had looked at! I was sure my parents would go back and buy it!!! Funny, how some of the happiest moments can be replayed in our minds…

Monday, September 17, was a normal school day. Vicki & I got up, and she went on to Homer Davis Elementary where she was in the 3rd grade. I had just entered the 6th grade at Flowing Wells Junior High, both schools were just a few blocks from our home. Little did I know that that morning when we parted ways to school that it would be the last time I would ever see my sister alive or that the events of that afternoon would still be such vivid memories in my mind today. 

I had joined the Cross Country Team at FWJH, we generally had practice daily after school. But during my last period of the day I was informed that practice had been cancelled. 

I can still close my eyes and see the girls locker room of FWJH. There was a big glass window in the office that looked into the locker room, it was where I used the phone to call my mom to tell her cross country practice had been cancelled and I would be coming straight home after school but the line was busy. No call waiting, no call waiting caller id. It was 1984. 

I headed home after school with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.

I still remember the look of surprise on my mom’s face when it was me walking through the front door… Mom told me she had let Vicki ride her bike to the mailbox a few blocks away to mail my aunt’s birthday card. My mom never let us go out alone, but was growing concerned because Vicki should have been back by now. I could ride my bike and find her, she probably stopped by to see her best friend, Jen.

And the innocent sense of freedom I felt riding my bike for the first time alone, knowing Vicki would be in BIG trouble for stopping off at Jen’s house (her best friend) and losing track of time, when she got home…

And how puzzled I was when she wasn’t at Jen’s…

And the sense of panic I felt the moment I found Vicki’s bike in the middle of the road, she was no where to be found…

And the faces of my friends as I road my bike frantically through our quiet little neighborhood calling for Vicki, them asking me what was wrong??? 

And my mom’s utter distress when I came back home without her…

It was 1984… and when I learned pure evil exists. 

I have struggled these last weeks, searching for the words to properly convey the emotions that this day brings but I have honestly come up short… 

And as much as I wanted to post a blog filled with loving memories about Vicki on the 30th anniversary of her death, I can’t. 

I can’t because there has been no justice in our failed system. The monster that took Vicki’s innocent life that September day still sits on Death Row in Florence, AZ. 

Because we are NOT battling whether or not Frank Atwood is guilty of the kidnapping, sexual assault or brutal murder of my sister, but whether or not his counsel was “ineffective” at the time of his trial and if he actually suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the time he murdered my sister. 

And we are still waiting to see if his defense team will actually file an opening brief by November 21, 2014 in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or file yet another extension that could possibly be granted by the court. 

Because I have to explain to my children the evils of the world; not because they exist, but because it happened to my life and still continues to happen, 30 years later. 

And because 10,957 days is a really, really, really long time for a family to not have closure and be able to move on…

So, today, I will do my best to to smile through the tears, and continue to fight for justice for my sissy…

Delayed Until November

Vicki Lynne 1984

Vicki Lynne 1984

Last week, the United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit granted Atwood’s defense team an extension in filing their opening brief until November 21, 2014. As I stated in a previous blog, I should have placed a Las Vegas wager that this would happen as it was a much anticipated move by Atwood’s defense team, claiming the case is long, complicated and they needed more time to prepare the brief on his behalf.

Borrowed time on our tax paying dime, as they continue to manipulate the legal system to their benefit.

It’s been 10,860 days since Atwood kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered my 8 year old sister, Vicki Lynne. 10,860 days he has lived on this earth, freeloading off the tax payers, getting a college education, writing books and selling them from his website, repeatedly trying to have contact with children through the mail and fighting for his life that should have ended long ago for the brutal crime he committed.

The clock is ticking for Atwood, and as each day passes we are one day closer to seeing his punishment being carried out. For now, I have satisfaction in knowing he is haunted by Vicki’s cries and the horrible torture he put her through, secretly wishing he was dead.

This delay is frustrating and so incredibly difficult to explain to those who carry this horribly tragic and personal story in their hearts. Why will we have to wait any longer? It’s already been 29 years, 8 months and 26 days to see justice carried out.

Today, I continue to have confidence in our attorneys as they prepare for what lies ahead, and pray for the panel of judges who will hear our case… and will wait to see what November brings.

Justice for Vicki Lynne – Part 7

Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, 4Monday, February 24, 2014 the defense team representing Frank Atwood filed yet another motion to the U. S. District Court, asking that the Honorable Judge John C. Coughenour to reconsider part of his ruling handed down on January 27, 2014. This came just a few days before the defense was expected to file their appeal to the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

They were asking the court to “alter or amend the judgement” in regards to their claims of ineffective counsel by attorney Dan Davis, who represented Atwood in the Post Conviction Relief phase and the beginning of the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

The Honorable Judge Coughenour DENIED this motion Friday, February 28th, 2014.

The seven pages of convoluted claims read more like a desperate last minute effort to stall the deadline to file before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They have now, 30 days to file before the court.

I would place a large Las Vegas bet that the defense team will ask for an extension before the court, most likely claiming that they need more time to prepare their appeal. Honestly, considering the fact that this defense team has logged in thousands of man hours on this case, it seems professionally embarrassing to think they need more time, but asking for an extension buys Frank Atwood just that, TIME.

I have the utmost confidence that the clock is ticking on Atwood’s fate and that both the United States Ninth Circuit and Supreme Courts will concur with the rulings that the Honorable Judge John Coughenour made.

For now we will wait to see what the defense team does in the next 30 days. And, we will continue in our fight to bring justice to Vicki Lynne.

 

 

A Victory for Vicki!

Vicki Lynne 1984

Vicki Lynne 1984

Today we had a huge victory in our fight to bring justice to Vicki.

The United States District Court Judge Honorable John C. Coughenour, denied Atwood’s last petition in the Writ of Habeas Corpus. In the 53 page ruling, the judge denied his Motion for Reconsideration Based Upon Martinez v. Ryan, his motion to amend the habeas petition & all amendments are denied with prejudice.

We have anxiously awaited this ruling since the hearings that took place in October & November, 2013, as it would determine what would happen with this case moving forward. Today’s ruling keeps Frank Atwood on Death Row in Florence, Arizona, exactly where he needs to be for the 1984 kidnapping and murder of my eight year old sister, Vicki Lynne Hoskinson.

We will assume that Atwood and his defense counsel will exercise their rights to appeal this ruling & petition to the United State Courts for the Ninth Circuit in the next 30 days. It would, honestly be to easy to think, that Atwood, in this monumental defeat today, would take his punishment as it was given to him and not fight any further. So, once this case is appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, we will wait optimistically for them to rule. When they rule in our favor, Atwood’s defense team can continue to appeal it to the United States Supreme Court. The case against Atwood has been to the United States Supreme Court twice, both times the honorable court has denied his petitions.

Today is another big step forward in bringing justice to Vicki in our almost 30 year fight since her murder. To say that today’s ruling is a relief is an understatement, and continues to give our family confidence that justice will prevail, and her murderer will be properly punished.

Don’t Forget Vicki Lynne.

 

Go raibh mile maith agat!

Yellow Ribbons in Memory of Vicki Lynne“Go raibh mile maith agat!” translated literally in Irish as “may you have a thousand good things”.

As I look back over the very hectic, chaotic and trying months, I have been loved, blessed, lifted up and inspired in many ways… and as I googled different ways to say “thank you” to all those who have touched my life, I came across this Irish quote which just seemed to fit.

Realizing its been almost two months since my last blog (where has the time gone!?!?), I felt a need to give an update on our continued legal battle.

Since the Evidentiary Hearings in October & November, we are still waiting for U.S. District Court Judge, Honorable John Coughenour, to make a decision in our case.  I am confident that he will rule in our favor and the Arizona State Attorney General’s Office can move forward in our fight to bring justice for Vicki Lynne.

We will pray and wait.

I continue to tie yellow ribbons to the post outside our door as a reminder that we are still waiting, along with 8 pink ribbons to symbolize her. Bittersweet, but nonetheless it keeps it real.

Looking into the future, 2014 would have been Vicki’s 20 year high school reunion. In the spirit of honoring her memory, I am in the process of setting up a scholarship fund with hopes to give the first one this graduation. It has been a long time dream, and I am anxious to see it happen.

A Vicki Lynne Hoskinson Fundraiser Page has been created on Facebook, (thank you to Layne who continues to keep things updated!) and you can follow details & events there too!

With the holidays behind me and a new year at my feet, I am excited to get back to blogging. I hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday season, and that 2014 will be full of good health, happiness & memorable moments!