Our daughter Courtney was only 8 months old.
We are John & Kim Vasquez and we were 27 & 26 respectively when our daughter was killed. It was a day like any other day, and we were off to the babysitters. We thought we had the best of both worlds for working parents. Our babysitter was our sister-in-law and we were sure Courtney would have a great time growing up so closely with her cousins on a daily basis. Now they'll never see her again.
It was 4:15 when I got the call that something was wrong with Courtney and I should come to the hospital. After a grueling 35 minute drive, I found my daughter - at least I was told she was there. I wasn't allowed to see her. I still didn't know what had happened - all I knew was that she was having a seizure. I called my husband and my parents and told them to come to the hospital.
We were eventually allowed to see Courtney, but it wasn't our little girl. She looked completely different and not at all like herself. She was only in a diaper and it was the middle of February.
She was transferred to Loma Linda PICU unit where tests and more tests were done. CAT scans showed severe brain hemmoraging and a tremendous amount of fluid. Initial findings were that she had been shaken. That's right - SHAKEN!! We couldn't believe what homicide detectives were telling us. They all thought that our daughter had been severly shaken by her Aunt earlier that day. We were all questioned because they had to do their job and cover all the bases. Everything kept leading back to our babysitter. The woman we were consoling just hours before was going to be brought in for questioning for our daughter's impending death. Feelings were tense - to say the least. Families were divided and nobody knew what to do.
Four days after THE CALL, our daughter was pronounced dead. We donated her organs to thoses who needed them and went home to an empty house.
In the months that followed, we had to learn to grieve, understand the legal system (not the justice system), and just survive. Throughout all of our court hearings, the pain renewed. We left feeling drained each time, only to prepare ourselves for the next time. Seven months after our daughter's death, our sister-in-law was sentenced to Involuntary Manslaughter and sentenced (originally) to three years in State Prison. Ironically, the day before the 1st anniversary of her death, we were notified that her sentence was being reduced because a precedent was found that said she should not have received the maximum sentence of three years because there was no monetary gain from killing her own niece. Therefore, her sentence was reduced by one year, and she only served 13 months. She was released on November 3, 1995 and got to go home to her husband and three children. We still don't have our daughter but we do have another child now. He brings joy to our lives that cannot be described and has been our salvation.
We never forget her but we miss her terribly...it's only been 2 years.
John & Kim Vasquez
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