by Debbie and Mark Henry
Statements or situations that make me cringe inside:
• How many children do you have?
• You are so strong.
• Seeing our son’s peers getting married and starting families.
• Hearing an organ donor referred to as a cadaver instead of a donor.
Statements that make my heart glow inside:
• I pray for your family.
• If you ever need to talk I am here to listen.
• I think of your son often and always Smile.
The things I miss most.. (Hi Mom, I Love you & Scott’s huge smiles.)
We have been asked to share our story that resulted in our son’s death and how we have survived it. Since Sept. 11th 2004, we have relived our personal nightmare both mentally and physically, more times than we can count. Writing is something that offers an outlet for my pain and desperation. Helping others that are new to this path is another. My husband and I are part of a group that facilitates for our Church’s Grief Ministry, guiding others down this road that we are still traveling. Those who have suffered a loss feel alone, as though no one understands. As parents of a murdered child we belong to an exclusive club that can offer insight into their pain and suffering. This is a way for them to understand that they too can make it through this.
After the loss of a child your prayer is to survive today and then get through tomorrow. My husband and I have been asked many times how we have gotten over our sons death. We always look at each other and say that we have not; we are still waiting for that day. There are many times during any given day that our grief can be triggered (bring the pain into focus anew.) The hole that has been left in our lives will never be filled. While speaking to parents that have lost a child I have witnessed them cry at the mention of their child’s name even though their loss was as many as thirty years ago. This is not a comfort to a parent relatively new to this battle.
Allow me to introduce our son, Scott Bolton. He was and still is a wonderful example of how to be a good son and person. He always made top grades in class; and set the bar high on personal achievements. Scott had just earned his multiple engine licenses from flight school, and was still attending college for a degree in airport management.
As parents, we were blessed in that he never got into trouble. He and his younger brother were generally the ones that were stopping fights or disagreements in school. His smile and sense of humor is still legendary, in fact his college friends talk about Scott pulling practical jokes, now known as “Scotties Stories.” As a big brother, he was always there offering advice and support to his younger brother. He made himself available and showed responsibility in every way. He spoke to me or his father on the phone daily while away at college in Tulsa OK. Just a few weeks before Scott’s death, he came home for a week and sat by his grandmother’s side for hours, in the hospital reading to her after her surgery. During this time he came home very late one night in tears stating that she looked so small and alone, he couldn’t bear to leave her.
Scott lost his life while verbally defending another. He was the designated driver for a group of friends that fateful night. Scott could have walked away; instead he stayed and tried to convince those bouncer / thugs to leave an intoxicated friend alone, preventing an assault on another. He and his friend had made it to the parking garage and while Scott was unlocking his car, they were surrounded by four bouncers. (Our twenty-three year old son Scott was murdered!) The attack was caught on the garage security tape and because the quality was poor the fatal punch was missed.
Our family’s fundamental rights were destroyed that night. As American’s, we have always prided ourselves in the belief that if you did the right thing, and never hurt another, you would be protected by law. We now know that doing the right thing doesn’t determine a given outcome. Thugs have no conscience, and criminals have the legal system on their side. The police had their job cut out for them, I applaud their effort. No matter how much evidence they acquired, it never seemed to be quite enough.
Our family was ridiculed in the court room for fighting our son’s battle. We were determined that Scott’s death would not be just a statistic. The Defense attorneys find a way to make their client appear the victim, while making the true victim and their families appear guilty. They encourage their clients to have selective memory and bend the truth always sticking together. The accused smirks at the prosecutors for being naive enough to think a death is something to take seriously. Scott’s life meant nothing to these people. Friends of the defendant tried to intimidate our family and Scott’s friends during the trial and in the courthouse hallways. Their look of disdain as they rolled their eyes at us was extremely disrespectful. We were told to be quiet and not speak out, to show no emotions and not draw attention to ourselves. We had no rights. The laws are geared toward the accused. There is no excuse for what these people did to our Son and our family.
After a five day trial, the verdict was delivered late at night. We had lost,and Scott’s murderer was set free.The legal system had given us no justice. Our only comfort is we now know what happened in that dark garage. Scott, while protecting the helpless, showed no aggression, urgently pleading for a friend that could not defend himself. There is no greater honor than to lay your life down for a friend. We would not have changed who Scott was or his defense for a friend. To change what he did or how he acted would have been to change him. He was irreplaceable.
My husband and I are still in a fight that we were never prepared for. Each day has brought a new battle, a new injustice. We waited in limbo from Sept. 11th 2004, until March 2007, to get to actual trail. In-between, there were more hearing dates than I can count. At times, they were postponed after we arrived in Tulsa, a wasted five-hour trip and another agonizing wait. A postponement would get them six weeks or more. We couldn’t make plans because something would change and we could be needed. If you are interested check the Tulsa court /case summary. Google OSCN – go to Tulsa (drop down list) case number CF2005-1188. It will give you idea of what the justice system put us through. The worst part is that we are not an exception, most murder cases progress the same way. This is in itself a crime against any parent that has lost a child to violence. The system allows no sympathy for victims. Scott was just a file; we had to make them see him as we did. Scott was a living breathing person with a future that was taken. We have tried to keep his memory alive. We try to live our lives in a better way by working in the service of others. Our goal is to create respect for violent crime victims /survivors, and protect innocent college students that are unaware of the danger.
We could not have survived this without God’s love and protection, our Church (Cross Timbers Church) Argyle, Texas, our Pastor and congregation remains an inspiration, they bring God up close and personal. C.T.’s Grief Ministry Group offers a unique perspective with facilitators that have been through personal loss and understand the day-to-day trials. When we felt we could not go another day our church, friends and family never deserted us. We are blessed; by having a strong support system whose unfailing love lifts us above the pain.
During the process we became friends with our Homicide Detective and the Tulsa DA’s office. They all went beyond simple duty and we support them. Today the DA’s office is offering many types of support for survivors and victims of violent crime. The Tulsa County DA’S web site has a section to honor victims of Tulsa County’s Violent Crime Victims. Pictures and names, along with date of birth and date of death are available for viewing. Making sure they will not be forgotten.
Twice a year, we travel five hours to Tulsa, Oklahoma and attend a spring flower planting also for victims. In 2009, the DA’s office dedicated a Justice Garden for survivors, a place to join together as a group or just have a quite place to go. Survivors plant spring flowers as a way to bring new life into the world.
Since 2007, Tulsa has several Christmas trees that have been dedicated for victims and their families as a remembrance during the holidays. Families bring an ornament in their loved ones honor and a special tree lighting ceremony includes guest speakers that offer guidance during this difficult time of year. The Tulsa DA”S office is showing a more caring side in these endeavors.
Scott was also an organ donor. Oklahoma’s chapter is called Life Share. They keep in touch and have connected us by letter with several of Scott’s organ recipients. They have a picnic every spring to help both donor families and recipients gain perspective. Although we haven’t met any of Scott’s recipients, others help us understand the gratitude and respect recipients feel for their life-giving gifts.
We are still trying to get a bouncer bill passed by the Oklahoma Senate that prevents the hiring of bouncers and or security guards with criminal backgrounds in any alcohol club or venue. We want state approved training and all bouncers to be registered. Although we keep submitting it, the Oklahoma Senate continues to reject it. If you wish to sign our petition. Thank you for your support. More information about the case is available on our petition site.
In summary, as each new pain is brought to bear our hesitation time is shorter. We have a deeper understanding of what it really means to turn the other cheek. It’s less about meekness and more about resilience. We will continue pushing for new laws that place job restraints on club owners and their employees and punishment for those that ignore these laws.
The worst thing that could have happened already has!
We are still standing.
We will not stop.
For anyone in our position, God Bless you, too!
Copyright Debbie Henry.
About the Authors: Both Debbie and her husband, Mark, were born and raised in Southern Indiana. They moved to Texas in 1985 to offer their sons, Scott and Mark, a better education and career opportunity. They currently live in Argyle, Texas.
Debbie has worked at Premiere Laser Centre since 2001. She and Mark are active in their local church, Cross Timbers, Argyle campus. After the loss of both Debbie’s parents and her oldest son, Scott, she had to make a decision. Should she stay angry and let it rule her life or be part of the solution.
Debbie and Mark work consistently toward changing state laws. Debbie is a member of Denton County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) including ongoing monthly classes as well as attending storm spotter training classes. Both she and her husband are grief group facilitators at Cross Timbers Church’s Journey Toward Joy bereavement program. At this time, Debbie is considering several new areas of service.
Debbie and Mark Henry
Parents of Scott Bolton
(Tulsa Murder Victim)