When I was younger, I never understood all of the things that interns did. Once I became one, I realized they were part of the backbone of the camp.
During Kid’s Camp the interns run all of the events, games and other activities the church provides. We also work in our concession stand, help out in the kitchen, or watch the water for issues during swim time. One of my favorite things that I did was to help lead camp songs. The kids get so excited about singing the songs and dancing to them. It almost makes up for how annoying they are by the end of the week. Kids Camps is very fun and silly. It is hard to connect with elementary age kids if you are not willing to act “goofy” with them. They tend to look up to you if you can connect with them.
Youth Camp is almost the same as Kid’s Camp. We are still in charge of all the games but we get to get more involved with the campers. We have small groups that the counselor and one or two interns are in charge of. Small groups are a time that we sit and talk about what we got from the daily church message. Usually if a camper is struggling with something they talk about it and then we pray for them. For me, small groups were one of the big reasons I wanted to get involved with an internship. It gives me solace to know that my advice might help a camper get through a day, a night or perhaps a lifetime.
Another thing that comes along with camp and internship is Jubilee. During our Jubilee, we have morning conferences. I worked in the nursery. During the evening, we would have a different speaker. The first year I worked Jubilee, I worked in our vacation bible school with kids ages 3-5. We usually had eight to ten little kids in our group. We would take them to each station and teach them about God. It is a great feeling to be able to help out parents by watching their kids while they learn about God. It is an even better feeling to teach kids about God. It may not seem like a big deal to some people, but to me it is one of the most important leadership positions ever.
I love being able to help, and I love working with kids. I couldn't imagine not spending my summer serving God and my camp. It has become a second home to me. There is no better reward than to see the smile you bring on the faces of those you serve. My internship helped teach me about what I love. It also taught me how to serve and care about others.
My major in college is uncertain but what I do know is that I would like it to involve children. I would love to use my Christian ethics and values to make a difference in at least one child. If I can attain that, then my job will have had a level of significance. She ended her essay with a quote by Maya Angelou, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
These few short paragraphs adequately sum up the essence of Noelle. I’m sharing this with you today, because this is a part of her you didn’t get to see while you were fighting in the field. You saw her broken body while you were cleaning up the crime scene, you and I saw numerous pictures during the trial, of her covered in a white sheet, but you never “saw” my daughter. Let me clarify that statement, you never saw what a good heart she had…the heart that your truck ripped apart. The heart that stopped beating because you chose to drink and drive, to engage in a fight while driving. When she was six years old, Noelle decided she wanted to go to OU. In junior high, she started taking upper level classes so she could go to college concurrently while in high school. You stole that dream from her. She diligently applied for scholarships so she could realize that dream. She woke up every day with a purpose in life. That purpose was not next Friday night’s bonfire. Her purpose was to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
Noelle loved children. She will never have children of her own. You robbed her of that opportunity. She will never look in a mirror and see gray in her hair or wrinkles on her face. Your actions halted her aging process. Your choices altered the natural order of her life.
I had hoped to see remorse throughout this trial. I saw none. I saw you conspire with your father, whispered conversations and notes passed back and forth. I learned through your own testimony that your mother was still feeding you lies to tell the jury.
After Noelle died, your father offered me an apology. At that time, I felt hope. Hope that there was one member of your family that was not so corrupt as to try to conceal your crimes. Watching him during the trial I realized I was naïve. After watching his actions, and knowing the actions of your mother…I hope that you will never get to raise children of your own. You have shown me that there is no decency amongst any of you. I can only hope that your siblings will have been impacted enough by your actions to choose to become better people than you.
You had a choice that morning. You could have called 911 minutes after the crash. You could have chosen to not try to conceal your crimes. But lying and “covering up” is so ingrained in you that it was the only option. That is why you are a threat to society. That is why you need to be imprisoned. Because you would do this again. Your first and only thought is for yourselves.
If you would have done the right thing, you would not have been charged with murder. If you would have owned up to the truth that morning, you would not be facing 25 plus years in prison. I hope you and your family now see that the truth should always be the only option.
The crash instantly killed Noelle. You didn’t know if she could or would have survived with proper medical help. Maranda was still alive when you drove out of that field. Your first thought was not to get her help, to save her…it was to save yourselves. The fact that there are people in this world that would leave someone alone to die scares me. The thought that you and your mother lied when you called 911 and tried to discredit Maranda sickens me. She didn’t tell you she had been drinking. She couldn’t even speak in complete sentences. Why would you say that? That’s something I still can’t comprehend.
You may think I don’t know you. I’ve never sat down and had a conversation with you. We have never shared a meal. However, you revealed your true character to me the day you murdered my daughter. You continued to show your character at every court date by protesting your innocence.
You had two years and three months to stop the lie. Instead, you made me wait, while you were getting married and living your day to day lives. You made me wait to find out for sure that my daughter didn’t suffer in that field. Two years and three months of me lying in bed at night wondering how long she lived after being hit by your truck. Did she cry out for me? Was she afraid? The medical examiner said she died within an instant when her brain stem was severed. But when did that injury happen? Was it one of the first fatal injuries you inflicted on her or the last?
I was shocked to hear that the two of you chose to take the stand. I do have to thank your defense team for heeding your wishes. Allowing you to “tell your side” solidified my opinion of who you are. I have to wonder whose colossal mistake it was that convinced you to testify? Mom’s, Dad’s, maybe your grandparents? Did they tell you to get up on the stand and “apologize”, cry “crocodile tears”, and maybe you could get away with murder?
The tears you cried weren’t for me. They weren’t for Noelle. They were for yourselves.
Dakota, you mentioned that after leaving the crash site, you “couldn’t keep the water out of your eyes” because Gage was saying he didn’t want to be your brother anymore. Even someone with moderate intelligence knows that it doesn’t work that way. One does not get to proclaim they don’t want to be your brother and then you are no longer siblings. The only way Gage wouldn’t be your brother anymore is if he had been struck by a car and killed. Like Noelle.
I wish you could see my son trying to “keep the water out of his eyes” any time his sister’s name is mentioned. My living children, Jack and Lilli know the pain of losing their sibling. The tears they cry will never bring their sister back. You even mentioning crying over a fight with your brother is an insult to me and my family.
Gage, you did some crying too, didn’t you? You cried because you are, “so sorry WE have had to deal with this”. Your mother may have taught you to lie, but it seems she didn’t teach you how to apologize. Your idea of an apology, to compare what my family has had to endure because of your actions, to what your family has had to “deal” with is an insult to me.
When the jury’s verdict was read, were those tears for Noelle? Were you crying because she will never celebrate another birthday, never graduate college, never marry or have children? Were you imagining her fear as your headlights bore down on her, or was it your fear of going to prison that opened those flood gates? Don’t bother trying to answer that question. I’m sure it will be a lie. Maybe…hopefully, after you have had years behind bars to think on it you will have an honest answer.
I’m sure it is scary to think of what the rest of your life will be like. No one to bail you out when you get in trouble, no one to cover up or hide your mistakes, no one to take the blame for your bad decisions.
Accountability is what you are now facing. I’m sure to someone like you and your brother, accountability is a scary thing. Fear is something we have in common. I am afraid when I look into my future as well. A part of me died with my daughter. My life will never be the same. I have been given a life sentence of grief. My children have been given a life sentence of grief. I wish I had a time frame for when my suffering will end. Every day, I am afraid to leave my house. I am afraid that I, or my other children, will die at the hands of people just like you. For two years and three months, I was afraid to leave my house by myself on the off chance I would see you in public. For over two years, I have been afraid to go to sleep at night because I see your faces in my dreams; nightmares of the crash that killed my daughter. Knowing you are in jail is a small consolation. I won’t see you in public, but I still see you in my sleep. I fear your faces will haunt me for the rest of my life.
I’ve said numerous times, “My daughter is dead.” I’m not saying this to be redundant. I’m saying it repeatedly because I’m not sure you understand the impact of your actions. There was no part of your testimony that made me feel you had remorse, that you accept the big picture. In your minds and in your statements, you had an “accident”, you make a “mistake”. No, you took a life.
While you were trying to figure out a way to cover your tracks and avoid punishment…I was choosing a casket for Noelle. I was driving behind the hearse that carried her to her final resting place and I, along with my family, shoveled dirt into a hole. Six feet of dirt now covers my daughter. My daughter is dead. Those are my first and last thoughts of every day. When I walk through my house and see her picture on the wall, I am reminded she is dead. I think it is only fitting that “Noelle is dead” is at the forefront of your thoughts too.
One of the most haunting statements made during the trial was, “She stepped to the right.” Maranda said that. The girl you almost killed. The girl lucky to be alive.
I can only imagine her fear as your truck swerved across the center line. She instinctively stepped to the right…right into harm’s way. If only she would have stepped to the left…
I have many questions that have been left unanswered. Dakota-you said you and your brother had never hit each other, but on that morning, the morning you killed my daughter, you perceived a threat that he would hit you so you struck first. That doesn’t make sense to me. Why did you chose that morning to be the “first” time you hit your brother? I have felt like throughout this whole ordeal that you haven’t felt culpable because you weren’t driving. Do you finally understand that fighting with your brother led to his truck running down my child? Or are you still in denial? Thank God, the jury found you more responsible, because you are.
Do the two of you still, after a couple of months in jail, believe Noelle and Maranda were somewhat responsible because they were walking down a “dark” road? I hope not. I hope that you have had time to reflect on your actions. I hope you wake up each morning knowing Noelle is dead because of you. I hope you think about that for the rest of your lives. Because I will. My family will. Everyone who knew and loved her will. You should not be immune to that thought.
This statement-my victim impact statement-is supposed to be about me. But it’s not. The impact on me is inconsequential. Noelle is the victim and sadly, you are victims too. Victims of your raising, victims of your bad decisions, victims of your lies. I would have gladly taken her place. I would have “stepped right” for Noelle. Given the choice, I would be your victim, but I wasn’t given that option. My only option is to live with the fallout of your actions.
I hurt every day. I grieve every day, but I am not a victim of Gage and Dakota Shriver. I am a survivor of the tragedy they brought into my life.
A friend of mine said to me, “You are not the only one of us who has lost a child. You are just the FIRST one of us who has lost one. So when our time comes and we lose someone, you will be there to walk us through it.”
I don’t ever want to help someone walk through this. I don’t ever want another mother to experience the pain of her child being killed by a drunk driver, a hit and run. I don’t want her to have to sit through numerous court dates listening to lawyers try to convince the court that their clients are innocent. I especially don’t want to walk her through this facing Gage and Dakota Shriver which I’m afraid is a viable possibility if they are not given the maximum sentences. Their actions speak for their character. I’m not convinced 25 years will rehabilitate someone who is capable of committing the crime that these boys and their mother committed.
I ask you now to consider not only me, but every parent and future parent you know before you make your decision on their sentencing. Because one day it could be someone you love standing where I stand today, begging a judge to render justice to their child.
Twenty-five years may sound like a long time, but in all actuality, it took them 19 and 21 years to become the cruel, thoughtless, selfish people they are today.
Their families sobs at hearing 25 years was a slap in the face. They will be imprisoned, but they will still be able to call, write, and visit with family. I visit my daughter at the cemetery. I talk to her every night before I go to bed, but she can’t answer me.
The most frequent conversation I have with Noelle is about forgiveness. I ask her to help me forgive them. I ask her to ease the bitterness in my heart.
I have said some harsh things today, I know. While I have no apology to offer, I do appreciate the opportunity to stand before all of you and speak freely. I am still angry. Forgiveness, like remorse, is not something that can be faked. I, like Gage and Dakota, am not a good liar.
One day, Gage, I will forgive you. One day, Dakota, I will forgive you. That is my most important goal. However, I am not there yet.