We, the comrades of Unit 1012: The VFFDP, have a message for the mother of the victim, Ann Pace. We empathize and sympathize with you for the loss of your daughter, Charlotte Murray Pace. We comfort you and hope you can continue to fight for justice. Similar to you, Ann Pace, we show support to all victims and their families who want justice done. We do respect and love some of your news letters on the internet.
Justice had been served, your daughter’s killer died in prison. We will not forget her and support you.
INTERNET SOURCE: http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2016/04/16/watkins-mothers-fight-justice/82392780/ & https://web.facebook.com/VictimsFamiliesForTheDeathPenalty/posts/873033592818608
Watkins: A mother's fight for justice
Murray Pace’s ashes have been spread by family members in rivers all over the world.
The Thames in London. The Seine in Paris. The Nile in Egypt. The Danube in Vienna. The Amazon in South America. The Rhine in Germany. The Pearl in Jackson. The Mississippi in Baton Rouge.
“I chose rivers,” said her mother, Ann Pace of Jackson, “because rivers are always moving and going somewhere.
“And we picked those places because Murray had either been there or wanted to go there.”
Murray, a graduate of Murrah High School and Millsaps College in Jackson, had just earned her master’s in accounting from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. At 22, she had accepted a job in auditing with the accounting giant Deloitte Touche in Atlanta.
But a monster named Derrick Todd Lee was watching her.
He invaded Murray’s home on May 31, 2002, and killed her. The attack was brutal. Veteran police investigators in Baton Rouge said it was the worst crime scene they had ever worked.
For nearly 14 years, Ann Pace of Jackson fought for justice. Fought for her daughter, who couldn’t fight any more.
So, too, did Murray’s father, sister and brother.
They fought for the killer to be found, fought for a conviction when DNA evidence proved that Lee was the murderer. They fought for the death penalty.
Not until he was executed would Murray’s family feel justice had been truly served, nor would the families of six other women police believe Lee killed between 1998 and 2003.
But while Lee wound up on death row, he never had to face an executioner.
On Jan. 21, Ann Pace received a call from a member of the media seeking a comment: Derrick Todd Lee, 47, had died earlier that morning at Lane Regional Medical Center in Zachary, Louisiana. He had been transported there from the state penitentiary at Angola after complaining of chest pains. The cause of death: Heart disease, a coroner confirmed.
Later that day she told Clarion-Ledger reporter Jimmie Gates: “The end of the fight feels like a loss. Feels like I’m armored for battle, only to find you have no opponent.”
The only good Pace could find in Lee’s death was that “the space he took by his continued existence will be filled with memory and love of Murray.”
Pace was 57 when Murray died. She turned 71 last month.
“I don’t consider those years lost,” she said, sitting in the living room of her north Jackson home. “I did what I had to do in my head and my heart. You have to understand, losing Murray that way shattered everything I believed in, and everything I believed I knew.”
Ann Pace stands in her home Wednesday while holding a photograph of her daughter, Murray Pace, who was murdered by Derrick Todd in Baton Rouge almost a decade and a half ago.(Photo: Justin Sellers/The Clarion-Ledger)
Murray was born in June 1979, two months after Jackson’s Easter flood.
She grew up to be sassy but humble, loved to have a good time but never let it affect her laser-like focus in the classroom.
“She was the only one dressed in a business suit to go to class,” said Kathryn Meloan Barrett, 38, one of Murray’s closest friends since childhood. “She had a full face of makeup, and the rest of us were in T-shirts and shorts. She was smart. Real smart. But not just book smart. Street smart. Common-sense smart.”
“We always studied for tests together,” said Bradley Bennett, 37, who was an accounting major along with Murray at Millsaps, “and she would write notes in the margins of the book — but it always had to be in my book. She had to keep hers pristine.”
She was 5-foot-7, an excellent swimmer, athletic.
“On the soccer field, she just had a knack for being in the right place at the right time,” Pace said. “She understood the game. Plus, she was real determined.”
Murray, Barrett and Bradley were part of a group of about 15 friends who were inseparable at Millsaps.
“To this day, we know everything going on in each other’s lives,” said Barrett, who began to cry. “We tried to get together once or twice, but it was just … weird. It didn’t work. Murray was the glue. She kept everything together.
“And to this day, we haven’t discussed what happened. We don’t talk about it.”
Barrett either lived with or across the hall from Murray during their four years at Millsaps. “My senior year, we shared the same bed,” she said. “We had some great talks. And in all those years of living together, traveling together for soccer or whatever, we never fought. Never had any sort of fuss. We respected each other as well as loved each other.
“She was the kind of friend who would do things for you for no particular reason.”
Bennett, who grew up in Baldwyn, is a professor of accounting at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
“I have so many memories of Murray that are interwoven from class and our academic experience, but also studying abroad with Murray for about six weeks. It was a small group of us on that trip, maybe seven or eight, who did stuff together in our free time. We went to London, Paris, Munich and Prague. She went with me over to Ireland to celebrate my birthday.
“I know I would not be sitting here on faculty at this university if not for Murray. We helped each other through a lot of late nights studying, and we didn’t let each other take an easy path.
“It is so hard to convey someone’s spirit like Murray’s. It’s almost like describing sounds to someone who has never heard music. The way I describe her to people is, think about your friend who is the funniest. Then think of your friend who is the smartest, the most confident, the friend you would always want on your team. Combine all those into one and you had Murray.”
It was early afternoon. A Friday. Murray planned to spend the weekend in Alexandria, Louisiana, where a friend was getting married.
What happened that day has been pieced together by crime scene investigators and information provided by Dianne Alexander, who was attacked by Lee five weeks after he killed Murray. Alexander was badly beaten but survived when Lee fled after hearing her son drive up.
Murray had made herself a sandwich and opened a Diet Dr. Pepper and placed it on the arm of the sofa just before Lee knocked on the door. Lee said he was looking for someone in the area and wondered if Murray knew which house they lived in.
At some point, Lee — 33 years old at the time, 6-foot-1 and muscular — charged at Murray and slammed her head against the hallway wall. He beat her with a clothing iron until it shattered. He cut her ears in half. He stabbed her 83 times, primarily with a 12-inch screwdriver. There was a bite mark on Murray’s thigh.
At one point, Lee took Murray into the bathroom. Investigators believe he pushed her in front of the mirror to show her the damage he had inflicted.
She was still alive when Lee cut her throat.
Lee raped Murray as she died.
Investigators also determined Murray furiously fought back and injured Lee.
“When I heard that,” Barrett said, “I was like ‘damn right he was injured.’ Murray was tough and fit. She wouldn’t die easily.”
“It wasn’t a battle she could win,” Pace said, “but a battle she fought with honor and courage.”
Because Murray fought so hard, she produced enough DNA evidence to convict Lee.
“The thing that haunts me,” her mother said, “is at what point did she know she wouldn’t survive it?”
Against the advice of investigators, Pace looked at approximately 40 photographs of Murray’s body and the crime scene.
“I felt compelled to see,” Pace explained. “It was like I couldn’t live without knowing exactly what he did to her.”
In one photo, the coroner was shown holding something in the blue gloves that covered his hands.
“I finally realized,” Pace said, “that it was Murray’s heart.”
Pace had tried to reach Murray by phone that morning.
“When she hadn’t called back by that afternoon, I became concerned,” she said.
She phoned her son, John, who was already in Alexandria for the wedding. “He kept saying, ‘Something is wrong,’ ” Pace said.
At 7 p.m., the family still hadn’t heard from Murray after repeated attempts to reach her.
Finally, Pace’s phone rang. It was Jessica Dill, a friend of Murray’s who was also attending LSU.
“I had to tell you,” said Dill, crying hysterically. “Murray’s been killed.”
“It can’t be true,” Pace responded. “Nobody’s called me.”
“I’m calling you,” Dill said.
“I’ll have to check,” Pace insisted.
“It’s true, Miss Ann,” Dill said.
Pace phoned Murray’s dad, Casey. The two had divorced the year before after 33 years of marriage. But they remained close friends.
Casey called Baton Rouge police.
“We’ve heard that our daughter has been killed,” Casey said.
“We’ll call you back,” the officer responded and hung up.
Word was somehow spreading among Murray’s friends. One of them called Barrett early that evening.
“I don’t even think I said anything. I just hung up,” said Barrett, the daughter of Margaret Barrett-
Simon, a longtime member of the Jackson City Council. “I was driving on High Street at the time, and I turned and drove to my mom’s house in Belhaven.”
Barrett-Simon called Baton Rouge’s police chief. He told her Murray had been killed and that the crime scene was horrendous.
Barrett-Simon immediately called Casey.
“You need to go to Baton Rouge,” she told him.
That is when life became “like going down into a rabbit hole,” Pace said.
“From the day she was murdered to the memorial service, I think I was in some sort of altered state,” she said. “Here but not here. Almost like floating above yourself and watching. A very surreal, detached feeling.”
But she soon turned her focus on keeping Murray’s case on the police’s immediate to-do list.
In March 2003, a Louisiana sheriff’s detective received a tip that Lee had been heard talking about Randi Mebruer, who had disappeared in 1998. Investigators began studying Lee’s background, which included arrests for stalking and assaulting a woman in a bar.
Baton Rouge police found Lee on May 5. He agreed to a DNA test, a swabbing of his mouth.
Three weeks later the DNA test results came back linking him to four killings in the Baton Rouge area, including Murray’s, and another near Lafayette.
The next day, a warrant was issued for Lee’s arrest in the killing just three weeks earlier of one of those women, Carrie Lynn Yoder, a 26-year-old doctoral biology student at LSU.
Lee, identified as a suspected serial killer, had fled Baton Rouge. But Atlanta police, acting on a tip, found him.
It would be his last day of freedom.
While in Atlanta, Lee had started teaching a Bible class, Ann Pace said.
Apparently, Lee randomly picked his victims.
Some were in their early 20s. Pam Kinamore was 44 and a married mother of a teenage son.
Gina Wilson Green — who lived just down the street from Murray — was 41 and divorced with no children. At least one of the victims — Dene Colomb — was black. Colomb, 23, of Lafayette was a Marine recruit who had served two years in the Army. She was abducted while visiting her mother’s grave.
Murray had discussed the killing of Gina Green with Barrett.
“She didn’t seem too alarmed about it,” Barrett said. “I was visiting her in Baton Rouge, and we were sitting outside at 3 a.m. — that’s what college kids do — and she said, ‘Oh, by the way, I hear a handyman killed the girl three doors down. How crazy is that?’ ”
Family members believe Lee was at Murray’s house the day before he killed her.
“She was on the phone with a friend, Stephanie Land,” Pace said. “Murray stopped the conversation once and said, ‘Can I help you? No, I don’t know that person. I know the people who lived here before me and that’s not a name I recall.’ She started talking to Stephanie again and Murray said suddenly, ‘Is there anything else?’ Then she turned back to Stephanie and said, ‘Wow, weird.’
“She told her dad about it the next morning, too. She said that the guy ‘gave me a creepy feeling.’ ”
Ann Pace first saw the man who killed her daughter in a few news photos after his arrest.
“It was like I had a moment of intense something,” she said. “And then I could almost not feel anything. They say you can’t feel what is overwhelming to you.”
When Lee went to trial for Murray’s murder in early October 2004, Pace sat three rows behind him, separated by one row of police officers and another row of media members.
At one point, Lee turned and looked at Pace. “It was shocking to me that he did that,” she said.
“And there was no anger in his eyes. He looked at me as if to say, ‘Why are you doing this to me? I didn’t do this.’ ”
DNA evidence said otherwise.
Julia Naylor, with the Louisiana State Crime Lab, testified there was 1 in 3.6 quadrillion chance that the DNA collected at the crime scene could belong to anyone other than Lee.
Naylor told the court 3.6 quadrillion required 15 zeroes if written numerically.
Dianne Alexander, the only known target able to escape an attack by Lee, pointed to him from the witness stand as the man who tried to rape and strangle her in 2002.
As the jurors went into deliberations, Pace prayed they would make their decision based solely on the evidence.
“I heard the jurors crying when they passed the photos of Murray’s crime scene around,” Pace said. “But I didn’t want to look at them. It made my stomach hurt. I didn’t know them, didn’t know what they thought. It felt like they had your life in their hands. What if they didn’t understand what quadrillion means? A lot of things went through my head.”
It took the jury about 90 minutes to deliver a verdict of guilty.
“That was a frozen moment,” she said. “Sam (her daughter) sat on one side of me. And Lynne Marino, Pam Kinamore’s mother who I became so close to, sat on the other. We all held hands.
And when I heard guilty, I started crying and shaking.”
Pam Kinamore’s brother, Eddie Piglia, reacted with a loud “Yesssss!”
But Pace knew there was one more step needed for justice: The death penalty.
That came two days later, with the jury deliberating again for about 90 minutes after impact statements.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Pace said quietly when it was announced. Murray’s family and members of other victims’ families repeated their adopted mantra: “Justice for Murray, justice for all.”
Pace told reporters outside the courtroom that “finally, finally, finally” the victims had been given “some measure of peace.”
But what about peace for Ann Pace?
That was nowhere in sight.
“I’ve envisioned terrible loss as an injury that is never really mended. Like breaking your leg and having it heal crooked. You know you can never dance as you once did. The entire choreography of life is altered. However, what you learn with time is that you can dance still — a different dance. You learn a new and nuanced way of moving that only the music from a broken heart can enable.” — written by Ann Pace
The tune Pace is moving to now is life in a world in which Derrick Todd Lee is no longer breathing, no longer able to file for appeals requesting a new trial.
A world where, in her heart, he never received the punishment he should have.
Pace was in the courtroom for each of his appeals, monitoring the situation and reminding Lee that she would fight as long as it took to see him executed.
“Life seems so different since he died,” she said this week. “I really didn't know just how tired I was. And I really haven’t had enough time to formulate what I want the rest of my life to look like.
“I know it will include writing. It definitely will include my children and grandchildren, who are the most important things on earth to me. I want to do the same things other people my age want to do, things to support health and mental clarity.
“I do think I have a story to tell, and I would like to tell it.”
She will continue speaking out on the length of time it takes the death penalty to be enforced.
“DNA can be used to immediately prove a person innocent — and if they’re in prison at the time, they are released,” Pace said. “The same amount of time should apply when someone is found guilty through DNA evidence. It is so scientifically sound, there is no reason people who kill are allowed to drag things out in court for years and years. It makes no sense. Plus, it’s not right.”
Pace will no longer grant interviews about Murray’s death. “I’ve decided this story is it for me,” she said. “I’m doing this one because I want people to know Murray as a person, not as just a murder victim. I want people to remember her as she was before that horrible day.
“Most of all, I can’t stand to think of Murray being forgotten.”
“We couldn’t if we tried,” said Bradley Bennett, the “we” referring to Murray’s friends from Millsaps. “I have a picture of Murray in my office that I see every day. Certain songs make me think of her. I remember her birthday every June. I can’t even let go of my old accounting books from Millsaps. There is too much of Murray in there to ever throw them out.”
Bennett has admired Ann Pace’s strength. “She has been so articulate, so strong throughout this whole process. I can’t imagine being that composed at times when I wondered how she was even standing,” he said.
But behind closed doors, Pace struggles.
Since Murray’s death, Pace can’t fall asleep in a bed.
“Sleep seemed to be an embarkation on a journey through sequences of nightmares," she said. "The dreams woke me up over and over. I came to dread the darkness and the silence.
Plus, my bed, which had been my grandmother's, had also been Murray's bed."
So she dozes every night on the living room sofa with the television usually tuned to Discovery Science.
“The TV banished the silence and some of the darkness,” she explained. “Then, I suddenly didn’t dream anymore about anything. So sleeping on the sofa has become a habit.”
She has scaled back decorating for all holidays. “Murray was all about holidays. If one Easter bunny was good, a thousand were even better,” she said. “If not for my grandchildren, I’m not sure I would even put up a Christmas tree.”
Pace, who has retired from the University of Mississippi Medical Center where she worked in the pharmacology department, has donated her body to the hospital for medical research. “It’s the one last good thing a person can do,” she said.
She has suffered more loss, this time to cancer. Murray’s dad, Casey, who served as director of the Mississippi Legislative Reference Bureau at the Capitol and a longtime coach of youth soccer in the Jackson area, died on Feb. 15, 2015.
Three months later, Lynne Marino, who shared the pain of losing a daughter at the hands of Lee, died at age 78. Marino sat with Pace at the trial and in the courtroom for every appeal.
While Pace used to openly admit she felt guilty for “not keeping Murray safe,” she doesn’t feel that way anymore.
“Guilt is a powerful thing,” she said. “Intellectually, I always knew that there was no way I could have prevented Murray’s death. Emotionally, from a mother’s perspective, it was the natural reaction. As parents, that’s what we do — keep our children safe.”
Behind her favorite living room chair is a window. Through it, she can see what is known as
“Murray’s garden.” It is a collection of colorful ground cover and a corkscrew willow tree “that I planted as a stick,” she said. "They grow fast, but they don't live a long time."
And beside her chair is a box containing some of Murray’s ashes.
It led me to ask: Was cremation something that had always been planned in case something happened to a family member?
“No,” Ann Pace answered. “I did so because I wanted to burn away every single molecule of Derrick Lee that was left on my daughter.”
Contact Billy Watkins at (769) 257-3079 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BillyWatkins11 on Twitter.