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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


In it, Paris also talks about his fascination with death, and how, instead of calling a teacher, a family member, or a friend to talk about his concerns with his mother, he “settled on the morbid.”

“Another key motive to my offense,” he writes, “I wanted to see someone die.”

Lee went to see Paris shortly after reading the letter. There was a little girl nearby who had come to visit her brother. Their dynamic reminded Lee of Ella and Paris before the murder. She broke down crying and asked Paris why he didn’t just kill her.

“Goddamn it mom, just get over it already,” she recalled him saying. “It’s been almost two years already. People die all the time.”

She asked Paris why he didn’t just kill her, too.

“He told me that it would have put me out of my misery. That this way, I was going to suffer forever.”

** Six months after killing Ella, Paris pleaded “true” to capital murder and received a 40-year prison sentence. He served the first five years at the Texas Department of Juvenile Justice’s Giddings State School until a Taylor County judge ordered Paris into an adult prison last year to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

At the closed transfer hearing, several psychologists and TDJJ representatives testified, Lee says. She chose not to testify, but instead read a prepared statement advocating that Paris be sent to prison.

“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever written,” Lee told me. Because of her work with prisoners, she knew better than most what her son would soon face inside.

“I truly feel my son is dangerous, and that if he was released, I’d be in danger or somebody else could get hurt,” she said. “But at the same time, I knew what prison meant for my baby … I knew there’s the possibility someone will hurt him because his crime was against a child. I knew he might not survive, and I was helping send him there.”

It was the first time I’d seen her veer away from the analytical and become emotional when talking about Paris.

“There’s nothing simple about dealing with Paris,” Lee explained.

In May, guards walked me through the hallways of Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Clemens Unit to meet Paris. I was the first journalist with whom he agreed to speak.

The first thing that struck me about Paris, now 19 years old, is how much he looks like his mother – the same high cheek bones, the same deep brown eyes. He sat down at a table across from me as a prison guard less then 10 feet away kept his eyes glued to us the entire 45-minute interview.

Paris told me his mother is “about the only advocate I’ve got,” and that she visits him once a month. They regularly speak over the phone. They share books and articles to discuss later.

“Over time, I’ve told her more and more, until now I feel we’ve reached a point where we’re completely open with one another,” Paris said. He was soft-spoken, articulate, and took long pauses to gather his thoughts before answering my questions. He flatly refused to talk about his relationship with Ella, or to answer many of my specific questions about the murder.

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