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Cover 06/12/2013

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

Photo: PHOTO COURTESY CHARITY LEE /BEN EASTER, License: N/A

PHOTO COURTESY CHARITY LEE /BEN EASTER

Photo: PHOTO COURTESY CHARITY LEE, License: N/A

PHOTO COURTESY CHARITY LEE

Paris and Ella, ages 10 and 2


Statistics compiled by the Texas Council on Family Violence show that 102 Texas women were murdered by husbands, intimate partners, boyfriends, or ex-boyfriends in 2011 — 48 children witnessed those murders, two were injured, and seven were killed. TCFV reports there were 177,938 family violence incidents across the state in 2011.

“We’re talking about cases where pre-existing relationships have been unbelievably, violently wrenched apart,” Yáñez-Correa said. “There may be some sort of need or desire for reconnection, or at least communication, because of that.”

Lee reinforced that need, telling me, “Our traditional view of the justice system, that vengeance is the way we achieve justice, is not the way all victims experience things.” She recalled going to a support meeting for parents of murdered children shortly after Ella’s death. “Before I even got a chance to tell them about Paris, that my son was the killer, they were all adamant that they would help me make sure he never got out of prison, that they’d go and protest at all of his parole hearings,” she said.

But what if he changes? “What if we find him help in the meantime?” she asked. “It was all vengeance. That’s how the system was telling them to heal from this trauma. …That’s not conducive to healing.”

**

At first, Paris wasn’t vocal inside youth lockup. He expressed himself only through letters and pictures. Soon enough, he began refusing to follow simple directions. Two months before his sentencing, he punched a peer several times in the face on the basketball court; the boy never fought back. Later that month, he flooded his room, and then lunged at staff that responded. Officials scolded him for making “demeaning comments to his younger peers.”

While one evaluator wrote that Paris appeared to be genuine in many of his statements during treatment, “When discussing his offense [murder] he was smiling, this causes some concern.”

Staffers reported numerous times that Paris tried to manipulate them into giving him his mother’s address in San Antonio, where she moved shortly after the murder. She does not want him to have it.

It’s clear, given some of the records Charity Lee provided the Current for review, that Paris is extremely intelligent. The year he killed his sister, he tested an IQ composite score of 141, placing him in the “Upper Extreme” range of intellectual functioning. In affidavits filed in court, teachers said things like “Paris was one of the most intelligent students I’ve taught in 27 years,” or, “I had never had a student of his intelligence.” A reading teacher told authorities Paris had a vocabulary “equal to a college graduate” when he was in just sixth grade. At his closed-doors transfer hearing to an adult prison last year, Lee says Texas Department of Juvenile Justice officials reported that Paris had hacked into the computer system while in youth lockup. An aspiring writer, he had apparently been corresponding with literary journals in New York City.

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