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Cover 06/12/2013

Murder Destroyed Charity Lee's Family, Forever Altered Her Concept of Justice





Paris and Ella, ages 10 and 2

Lee tried moving back in with Ella’s father in Alabama, but the relationship again turned sour. Shortly thereafter, she brought the kids to live at her mother’s sprawling ranch in Seymour, Tex. There, things got even more chaotic for the small family.

“It was just like this perfect shit-storm,” Lee recalled. Her dysfunctional relationship with her mother reached a breaking point. Meanwhile, Lee was still struggling to get clean.

“I believe there’s a moment in all our lives when we realize our parents are human, that they let us down and we become disappointed,” Lee said. “I believe that was Paris’ moment with me.”

One day, while still living at the Seymour ranch, Paris was playing with Ella and another little girl when he broke a toy they were playing with. When Ella got upset, Lee scolded her son and put him in time out.

She had stepped away for a minute when one of the housekeepers shouted that Paris had grabbed a kitchen knife and bolted out the door. When Lee and her mother finally tracked him down, Paris was waving the knife at them. His grandmother managed to grab the blade, and Lee wrapped her arms around him. “He just collapsed into this heap on the floor,” she recalled. “We didn’t know what was wrong with him.”

Lee admitted Paris to the Red River Hospital, a nearby psychiatric facility. She grew frustrated with the doctors after having him there for a week, claiming that they refused to communicate with her, which led her to believe that they were doing little to assess or treat Paris. The facility gave Lee some basic discharge papers when she picked up Paris, and the family moved west to Abilene for a fresh start.

It was more than a year later, after Paris had murdered Ella, that the full file from Red River was entered into Paris’ record and Lee read it for the first time. She was shocked to see what doctors had written: “He is obsessed about shooting and killing … homicidal/suicidal ideation.”


A 21-year-old Hardin Simmons University student was babysitting Paris and Ella the night of February 4, 2007, as Charity Lee worked her shift at a Buffalo Wild Wings near Abilene.

In a statement she later gave to police, the babysitter recounted taking the kids out for Chinese food and watching the cartoon version of Alice and Wonderland before Ella went to sleep and Paris retired to his room to finish homework. Crime scene photos show Paris’ outline for an essay on the Trojan War – “Paris kills Achilles/ Menelaus returns home with Helen/ Paris dies,” he wrote.

Sometime around 10 p.m., Paris convinced the babysitter she could go home. It was after that, according to detectives, that Paris grabbed a kitchen knife and walked into the bedroom where Ella was sleeping. He then proceeded to beat, choke, and stab his 4-year-old sister 17 times — an autopsy report noted a cluster of deep stab wounds on Ella’s chest, along with numerous cuts to her fingers, wrists, and forearms, indicating she fought back.

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