Tag Archives: Troy Robins

Looking Back on January 4, 2014

The alarm rings and David and I rise.  This is not our home, not our room, not our en suite bathroom.  How could we stay there without a single one of our girls?

We hit the showers and iron clothes and dress in fine, dark clothes befitting the occasion before slicing a pill in half and taking turns swallowing the pieces down.  The room is bright but our hearts are not.

We pack up our things and exit heading off to do the thing we least want to do but cannot bear not to.  It is January 4, 2014, and it is chilly out.  Another day of moving cement encased feet, one in front of another.  It’s day ten.

We arrive at the church and head to the sanctuary where we are greeted and hugged by longtime family friends, Jack and Sherry Erisman and their grown and married daughter, Maryann.  We turn and enter the darkened and silent sanctuary; empty but for two identical flower-draped caskets, and pictures of our smiling daughters standing alongside.  We walk slowly forward where I lay a hand first on one, and then the other casket, thankful we chose the bright, vibrant sprays of flowers, so reflective of Bethany and Katie in life.

I don’t want to be here!  No, that’s not right.  I don’t want to have reason to be here.  I wish the nightmare would end.  Wish I’d awake to find we’re pulling into our driveway ten days prior, December 26, 2013, at 3:15 in the afternoon.  That’s the time we would have arrived home had we not encountered Troy Robins.  Wish I could watch my three daughters, my impatient dog, O’rane and David climb from the van, stretch and tumble into the house dragging blankets, pillows, electronics and suitcases along with them.  If only I could rewrite that day!  If only . . .

Instead, Pastor Wes George and his wife Lisa join us and we prepare for the visitation that will be held before the funeral begins.  David and I stand facing the rear of the sanctuary, to the right of the caskets which will not be open for viewing.  Ten days is too long.  And then the doors open and  people begin lining up to share our sorrow and express their condolences.

That half-pill erased most of my anxiety over strangers and reporters.  Simple gratitude remained for those who patiently waited to hug us and tell us of their prayers on our behalf – for those who stooped to place a shoulder beneath the cross we struggled to carry that day and the nine before.  My focus was narrow.  The person before me, David to my left and Bethany then Katie to my right.

It was time.  Pastor and Lisa drew us back into the choir room behind the platform at the front of the sanctuary, gave us last minute instructions, inquired as to how we were holding up and gave us a moment to take a deep breath before the girls final service began.  And the music started – “He’s Been Faithful to Me”.

We reentered the sanctuary and took our seats huddling together, holding hands and focusing on the music and the brief synopsis of our girls’ far too brief lives.  Clinging to scriptures of faith and hope – scriptures of our loving God and an eternal future for our girls and for ourselves.

All too soon we were loaded into a car and driven to the cemetery where we found the girls’ caskets set at staggered heights with Hunt Chapel serving as a fitting backdrop for the faith we profess.  A few final words were spoken, and then . . . we turned our backs and walked away, my heals wobbling and sinking into the grass as we crossed the expanse of lawn back to the car.  We left our girls for the last time – the last time – in that beautiful and cold cemetery where nothing and no one would ever hurt them again.  Oh, the agony of it!

My only regret is that I do not have a picture of the graveside service.  The tent with friends standing and seated, the staggered flower topped caskets, the chapel and David and I standing before it all.  It’s an important, albeit devastating moment of our lives.  I’d like to have that moment under glass so I can slide my finger over it as I remember the beauty of the place, the beauty of the sorrow, and the beauty of broken hearts. Broken hearts are beautiful.  They reflect raw love in the wake of incomprehensible loss.

I remember that day in graphic detail.  The ride back to the church, the meal served upstairs for friends and family, the international students in attendance, the ladies who served lunch. I remember padding downstairs in stocking feet to load up plants and flowers to take to the hospital hoping to brighten Gracen’s room, hoping to share her sisters’ last day with her and so I could hold onto their beauty and fragrance until they were no more.  I remember saying goodbye to family, changing clothes in a bathroom stall, a quick stop home and driving back to Little Rock.  I remember the vast relief of seeing and touching Gracen again – still breathing – Thank God she was still breathing!

And as tears roll down my cheeks, I remember that day as if I am walking through it again on weighted feet with leaden heart as keening sounds claw their way up my throat to tightly clamped teeth and lips holding back the shrieks of pain and sorrow in deference to the now twenty year-old girl who lies on the sofa in the other room; oblivious to my journey down memory lane.

Yes, I remember that day as if it were yesterday.  I think it will forever feel like yesterday.


Posted by on January 4, 2016 in Faith, Grief


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Record my Misery

Record my Misery

Record my misery . . . List my tears on your scroll. Psalm 56:8

Today marks a year and a half since Bethany and Katie were killed by the reckless actions of an unlicensed driver (a three-time offender by the age 19).

I wonder if Troy Robins, and the parents who failed to teach him to respect and obey the law, feel any responsibility at all? If Troy Robins feels any remorse for the destruction he’s wrought in our lives? I certainly haven’t received even a cursory apology.

I wonder if he suffers flashbacks from that day? Are his dreams filled with the hysterical sound of my voice as I discovered my daughters? Is he haunted by the image of Bethany’s broken neck, of Katie’s slashed forehead of the sound of Gracen wheezing as she struggled for breath with a collapsed lung? Does the image of the yellow plastic sheeting quickly draped over Bethany’s body remind him, like it does me, of the oversized trash bags my mother-in-law buys from the Boy Scouts annually. Can he imagine the message that image communicates to a Mother?

Do the sounds of sirens and flashing lights make him want to curl up in a ball and cover his ears to block out the sounds and sights? Do they make his heart race?

Does he wake up every morning dreading the day ahead and stay up late every night trying to stave off the dawning of the next day?

Does he find menial tasks, cleaning house, making meals, paying bills overwhelming like I do?

Does he have to respond to polite inquiries as to how he is doing? Does he feel like a bug under a microscope with everyone personally judging his actions based upon their own preconceived ideas?

Does he feel smug because he escaped prosecution for two felonies and paid less than $1,000 in fines while we paid tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills?

Does he feel guilty for stealing Gracen’s last days of independent mobility or prideful for his own lack of personal injuries? Is he still driving illegally today putting other law abiding citizens at risk?

Did the events of December 26, 2013, change him in any way, shape or form? They changed me. They haunt me. They traumatized me. They changed David and Gracen in tangible and intangible ways.

The images flash through my mind – sights and sounds from the roadside. Police, firefighters, paramedics, a neck brace, a backboard, the inside of the ambulance as it pulls away separating me from my sole surviving daughter.

Blue sky, bumpy ride, greeting and condolences from the charge nurse. WHERE IS MY DAUGHTER? IS SHE STILL ALIVE? Nurses, CT scan, chaplain. WHERE IS MY DAUGHTER? IS SHE STILL ALIVE? WHERE IS DAVID? WHERE IS O’RANE? HOW DO I REACH HIS FAMILY? WHERE ARE BETHANY AND KATIE? Doctors, nurses, prayer, stitches. Oversized scrubs.

Hospital waiting room. Bethany’s best friend and family. Our pastor, his wife, church friends, my in-laws. OH, NO, GRACEN IS ALONE! OH, GOD, WILL SHE DIE ALONE? Relief, Gracen is not alone. Family has arrived in Joplin.

Informing in-laws, family, Bethany’s boyfriend overseas . . . and Gracen – twice.

Chauffeured to Joplin cloaked in darkness. Squeezing David’s hand and whispering, “They knew they were loved.” Talking to my Dad. Emailing my three closest friends.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Gracen still in surgery. The hush of the ICU. Gracen covered in bruises, stitches, staples, a neck collar, attached to a ventilator, an external fixator protruding from her leg, IV pushing fluids, antibiotics, pain killers, blood pressure cuff puffing up, tightening, releasing, chest tube, broken pieces of glass glistening in her hair, her life still in the balance. Beeps and blips, whooshing sounds. Pale skin, cold hands, no movement. David in a wheelchair, dry heaving. Alone with Gracen.

Family and friends coming and going day after day, night after night.

Media reports, pictures on TV, in print, phone calls, text messages, Facebook posts. . .

Pastor, funeral home director, decisions, caskets, flowers, music, Bible verses, pictures.

Following the ambulance to UAMS New Years Eve and into the wee hours of New Years Day. A quick stop at home. Sorting through debris left by the roadside, shattered electronics, cherished stuffed animals hugged close to my chest, inhaling Katie’s individual scent, never used or worn Christmas gifts.

Leaving Gracen behind, family and friends standing in line, hugs and tears, funeral, cemetery, dinner, long, dark drive back to Gracen.

Doctors, nurses, low lights, bright lights, anger, fear, pain, hallucinations. Latex allergy, surgery, more surgery, x-rays, oxygen, chest tube out, chest tube in, lost weight, bedpans, stitches and staples removed, leg immobilizer, wrist splint. Traumatic Brain Injury?

Meals, motel rooms, sharing daylight hours, trading nights between hospital and motel.

Bright blue sky, ambulance tail lights. Home. Gutted doorways, exposed foundation, hospital bed, belly shots, sponge baths, care aides, home health nurses, OT/PT, pressure sores and debridement.

Gracen passed out, incoherent, 911, firefighter, paramedics, ambulance, ER again.

Attorney calls, no charges filed, accident report, reconstruction report. No charges filed. Prosecutor’s re-election campaign. Legal research, uncommunicative, ineffective prosecutor. No charges filed. Coroner’s Inquest. Misdemeanor charges filed.

Hospital bills, doctors bills, bills from the radiologist, the ambulance companies, the life flight service – oh my word, $35,000 for the helicopter. Bills, bills, bills. Late notices. Calls from creditors, collection threats. Collection letters, collection calls. What happened to our once stellar credit rating? I don’t even want to know – to try restore our good name.

Crosses on the roadside, markers on graves. Court room. There he is, the man-child who killed our daughters. He, and his mother, immediately turn away. Why am I not surprised? A shocking not guilty plea. We have to come back to court again. A defiant guilty plea. A slap on the wrist days after Christmas a full year after the collision.

Constantly churning thoughts, injustice, politics. Beliefs and faith challenged, relationships stretched, strained, damaged. Hard truths, platitudes, admonitions. Lack of forgiveness? Vengeance or justice demanded? Pity party? Choose joy. Praise God. It will be OK. God is in control. Was not God in control that day? Am I supposed to feel that what happened was OK? Is the measure of my faith dependent upon my ability to embrace my daughter’s deaths? Is worship and counting this trial joy for the spiritual maturity it will develop suppose to blunt or even erase the pain?

Tension, anxiety, restlessness, pharmaceuticals. Relief?

Round and round and round we go – fear and fatigue, shock and resignation. Sorrow. Lost hopes, lost dreams, unfulfilled expectations. No graduations, engagements or weddings for Bethany and Katie. Lost grandchildren. Lost identity. Lost purpose. Lost future.

How are you? Fine (Freakin’ Insane Needing Extraction). How are things? Good (Going On Only Downward). Oh, yes, I’m fine, things are good. We have new floors, new doorways, new paint – empty bedrooms. How could we be anything but grateful?

What has Troy Robins lost? We’ve paid the price for his sins. Did it cost him anything other than a few measly dollars pulled from his parents pockets?

On and on the questions race as the images flash. So very tired. So very disappointed. So very broken. So very lost. Head pounding, heart flayed open longing to be validated instead of feeling criticized and being placated. Simultaneously thankful for God’s provision, for eyes unveiled to see His care amidst the destruction. Does anyone realize sorrow and gratitude are not mutually exclusive?

When I long to flee His presence (because His will supersedes my dreams and plans), the Psalmist reminds me there is no place I can go where He is not – a highly frustrating consolation. When I feel forsaken, red letters remind me of the comforter who quietly resides within – forever present – never alone. When Satan taunts and condemns, I feebly try to strap on the full armor of God.

Faith built in the past is the foundation upon which I huddle in a fetal position as the storm continues to rage upon me. I may be beaten and battered, broken, lost and even despairing, but there is a firm foundation beneath. While I no longer believe I will not suffer more hurt and loss in this life, I remain fully confident of the only hope I am truly promised – my eternal future with the Savior who paid for my sins.

While some may accuse me of throwing a first class pity party, I choose to believe that in sharing Christ’s sufferings I am glorying in Him (see Romans 8:17).

Do we not rehearse Christ’s sufferings every spring? Do you think Christ’s spiritual and emotional sufferings paled in comparison to His physical sufferings? Do we downplay or elevate the fact that Christ endured betrayal and abandonment by His friends and disciples for the joy set before Him? That He took our sin and shame upon Himself for our eternal good? Does your heart not break as you picture Him crying out in desperation and despair from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Is not Good Friday about counting the cost? Is it wrong for this broken mother to do the same?

(Facebook Post 6/26/15)

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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Faith, Grief


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A Sad Commentary on the Judicial System

A Sad Commentary on the Judicial System

This is exactly how we felt regarding the prosecution of Troy Robins who killed our daughters:

“We didn’t want him (Aksamit) to go to jail for a long time,” Kent Sanders said. “But this punishment is meaningless and raises our biggest fear that something like this could happen again.” “Sanders (a son of the deceased couple) added that his family took no solace in being allowed to speak at the sentencing, which he described as “a completely meaningless and irrelevant exercise of emotion.”

“But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t powerful”, Donald Bradley, reporter for The Kansas City Star wrote. “Diane Packingham, who was in Richard Sanders’ Sunday school class, carried a Macy’s sack to the front of the courtroom, set it on the floor and pulled out a pair of boots and shoes.”

“These were the shoes they were wearing that day and now they’re empty,” Packingham said to Aksamit. “And now they’re empty because of you.

“I recommend that you fill them. You volunteer at the charity breakfasts in Freeman.”

Read the full article here:

It’s wrong when the judicial system slaps the hands of the unrepentant and fails to hold accountable those who have no respect for the authority of the law. The message it sends these offenders is that the law doesn’t apply to them and it further undermines the laws everyday citizens abide by and value while re-victimizing families who expect the perpetrators to be punished – seeking justice; not vengeance.

This is a shameful reflection of our judicial system because it puts law abiding citizens at risk while simultaneously reinforcing illegal behavior.

(Facebook Post 4/15/15)

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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Courting Disaster

(Originally Published on Facebook 12/29/14)
FullSizeRender (8) PierceJ trobins

Images left to right: Judge John R. LePage, McDonald County Prosecutor Jonathan Pierce, and Troy Robins of Pineville, Missouri

Following Troy Robin’s not guilty plea on December 1st, I’ve agonized over whether or not to change the statement I’d prepared to read before the court. It represented my one and only chance to say, in this young man’s hearing, anything I wanted him to know. Ultimately I decided that I really don’t have anything to say to him personally. Not one word. There’s a verse in Proverbs I think, that says something along the lines of not wasting your words on those who will simply not receive them. Sorry I don’t have the reference, and my paraphrase is rather pitiful, but I think it applies to this situation. However, since I knew the judge had already read the first statement I wrote, which focus almost solely on sentencing considerations, decided I might as well take advantage of the opportunity to reinforce my case. So this morning – nothing like waiting until the last minute right? – I rewrote most of my statement. I simply felt as if we have nothing to lose.

Nothing about today’s court proceedings had anything to do with justice for Bethany and Katie. All that was left to fight for was the safety of the community in which Troy Robins resides. A Missouri State Highway Patrol Officer, a Pineville Marshal, the McDonald County Prosecutor, and the Crime Victim’s Advocate, all individuals with far more court knowledge and experience than we have, told us that the judge will not sentence anyone to jail time for a misdemeanor. The law enforcement officials blamed the overcrowded jail situation. So I thought I might as well quit tap dancing around that issue and frankly, albeit respectfully, address it. I seriously doubt anything I did or didn’t say today would have made any difference whatsoever.

The judge, John R. LePage, sentenced Troy Robins to a suspended six month jail term (meaning that he will not go to jail unless he fails to comply with the rest of the sentence) and a $500 fine plus court costs which I think amounted to about $60. He has a month to pay his fine. The judge stated the reason he was not sentencing the defendant to jail time was because the the other driver involved in the collision that day was speeding. In other words, the accident would not have happened had the other driver not been speeding.

Having turned that explanation over in my mind all afternoon, I find myself at a loss. Maybe I just don’t understand the law – no big surprise there. I thought the purpose before the court today was to sentence the defendant for his reckless driving, not to determine who was and wasn’t at fault for the collision. It was my understanding that fault had been determined before charges had ever been filed.

From my perspective, the second driver’s speed should have been just as irrelevant before the court as we were told our daughters’ deaths were. They were “just” tragic collateral damage completely extraneous to the reckless driving charge before the court. The fact that the second driver was speeding has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Troy Robins has been found guilty and fined for ten separate traffic and criminal offenses over the last 20 months. The second driver’s speed has nothing to do with the fact that three of those ten citations were for driving without a license – the third of which is a felony offense – for which he escaped punishment due to careless misspelling of his last name. The second driver’s speed has nothing to do with the fact that Troy Robins has four separate citations for drug related offenses, two of which were earned after the “accident” that killed my daughters. The second driver’s speed doesn’t in any way make Troy Robins record any less reflective of a total and complete lack of respect for the authority of the laws of McDonald County and the state of Missouri.

The point I was trying to communicate with my statement today was not just that Troy Robins was an unlicensed driver, but rather the fact that he was unlicensed and unrepentant about it which reflects a much bigger problem. It reflects a problem with authority. Particularly a problem submitting to the authority of the law that citizens within a community must respect if we are to avoid anarchy. We have laws to protect the rights of all citizens. When one person feels as if they don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else, and when prosecutors and judges fail to punish that attitude and the resulting behavior and uphold the law, those prosecutors and judges undermine the law they swore to uphold and soon you have more and more people openly flaunting the fact that they don’t have to follow societies rules.

I have struggled mightily with the fact that God not only allowed Troy Robins to kill two of my daughters and critically injure the third, leaving her struggling to regain the mobility she enjoyed prior to the crash an entire year later, but also that He has allowed this individual to walk away without any real consequences, while we have been impacted spiritually, emotionally, and financially.

Yet today, is not really an emotionally devastating day for us. We came to terms with the disappointment today’s sentence represents over the course of the last nine to ten months as it became plain to us that the legal system would not provide justice for us.

I’ve always been confident that God would get justice for Bethany, Katie and Gracen even if the courts failed us. I simply stubbornly clung to the desire to see it play out in court. I may not be happy that David and I were denied that satisfaction and resignation may be the best word to describe how we feel about that, but I remain confident that God will not only get justice for my girls but will also hold accountable anyone who failed to do justly in a position that God Himself appointed them to here on earth.

So all I have to say in response to the judge’s sentence and explanation for it is, “Whatever . . .”, as in, Whatever allows you to sleep at night. . . Anyway, it’s over and done with and we can move on to the next hurdle.

As I said earlier, the fight David and I took on today was not about justice for our girls but about public safety. Therefore, in the interest of protecting the citizens of McDonald County, I want to pass on a little information that I uncovered regarding Missouri law. Feel free to verify it with your local Constable! If I understood the law correctly, an individual convicted of Careless & Imprudent Driving looses his driver’s license for a year. So, I assume that means Troy Robins can no longer legally drive with the driver’s permit he acquired in March of this year. My suggestion to the good people of McDonald County is to keep your eyes peeled and notify the highway patrol if you see him driving.

Sadly, it’s in your best interest not to contact your local Marshal (who are awesome and dedicated law enforcement officers) because Missouri passed a strangely flaky law a few years back that requires that all three driving without a license citations be issued by the state in order for them to constitute a felony charge. Two issued by the state and one issued by a municipality will result in yet another misdemeanor and a dangerous driver will remain free to get behind the wheel again and again and will pay no more than a $100 fine to the court ($80.50 to be exact). Maybe your local Marshal will be willing to call in a highway patrolman to issue the ticket in the interest of making your community safer! Best wishes to the citizens of McDonald County!

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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Inquest Results

(Originally Published on Facebook 10/23/14)
trobins2 The jury at the Coroner’s Inquest today recommended that the McDonald Country Prosecutor file a Careless & Impudent Driving charge against Troy Robins, the driver who hit our van. A speeding ticket will be issued to Roger Wilson, the driver who struck the vehicle Robins’ was driving. The Prosecutor, Jonathan Pierce, is not inclined to issue a ticket to Troy’s father, David Robins, for allowing an unlicensed driver to use his vehicle. Since Troy Robins has been ticketed three times for driving without a license, I can’t imagine either one of his parents are not culpable for both their son’s actions and the consequences of those actions. Suffice it to say, the Prosecutor and I do not see eye to eye on this issue.

It is possible that Troy Robins will plead guilty at his arraignment in order to avoid trial. The arraignment should be scheduled within a weeks time.

Although the judge could sentence Troy Robins to a year of jail time and/or a $1000 fine, we have been assured that will not happen as the jails are over-crowded. In some cases the fine is suspended in exchange for public speaking engagements to teens regarding safe driving.

David, Gracen and I appreciate your prayers on our behalf, the notes of encouragement, phone calls and expressions of love more than I could ever adequately express with mere words. A simple “thank you” will have to suffice, although it is far from adequate.

The Cast of Characters:

McDonald County Coroner – BJ Goodwin

McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney – Jonathan Pierce

The Accussed – Troy Chance Robins of Pineville, Missouri

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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Uncategorized


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