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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


Paris admitted he had no wild hallucinations the night he murdered Ella, and that he first lied because he was afraid of what the police might do to him. “I don’t remember much of what happened” in the months following the murder, he said. “A lot of that time passed by as a blur.”

Paris says he was deeply troubled when he found out about his mother’s problems with drugs. At the time of the murder, Paris suspected she had again relapsed; she insists she had not.

There was a particularly pregnant pause when I asked Paris what motivated him to kill Ella. “It’s really hard to describe because it’s such a knotty issue,” he told me. “There’s an element of jealousy toward my sister involved. I will say that a lot of it was my hatred towards my mother. I knew that I could hurt her in a much worse way by hurting Ella than by physically hurting her.” Also, Paris said, “I was 13 years old. I had a very weird way of thinking through things.”

Paris contends his mother’s notion that he’s a psychopath is her way of trying to distill his actions down to something she can comprehend. “For her, that’s a simple way for her to refer to my capacity for violence, for the violence I’ve perpetrated in the past,” he said.

I told Paris something Lee explained to me in one of our conversations, that she feels there are two Parises: the one capable of monstrous things, and the one she loves.

“See, I don’t see it like that,” he said. “Because everybody has within them that capacity for violence. And given the right set of circumstances, you can act on that capacity. I held grudges. I was passive aggressive. I had poor empathy skills. All that led up to what I did.”

“But,” he said, “there’s no clear demarcation between good Paris and bad Paris. There’s just Paris.”

Paris told me he’s bothered by his mother using their family story in her advocacy work — “I don’t care to have my personal history plastered across newspapers” — because he knows it could hurt him down the road during the parole process. He’ll first be eligible for parole in 2027, after he’s served half of his sentence. If Paris serves his full 40-year sentence, he’ll be a 53-year-old man when he’s released.

Still, Paris knows little about his mother’s personal life. He talks about her pregnancy as if she’s bought a new car. And he knows she still considers him dangerous.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “Let’s just say I was released tomorrow, no parole or mandatory supervision or anything. I wouldn’t hurt anybody. … I have no interest in coming back to prison.”

I finally asked if he’s learned to cope with what he did to Ella.

“Dealing with it would involve a lot of introspection, and this isn’t an environment that’s ideal for that,” he said somewhat flatly.

Those types of answers, I told him, reinforce the notion he has little remorse for what he’s done. Paris told me he still keeps many of his feelings about the murder walled off because “those thoughts and memories have really sharp edges … and every time I handle them I end up getting cut.”

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