Lessons Learned

My daughter, Jennifer Ann Crecente, died 18 months ago. She was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. She was shot in the back of the head, execution-style, with a sawed-off shotgun loaded with birdshot. She was left in a wooded area for 24 hours before she was found.

As cliché as it sounds, my heart felt heavy, my stomach queasy that whole day. Somehow I knew she was dead. I filed a missing person's report early, only to be told that I was overreacting." My daughter must have "gone off with her boyfriend on a drug binge." That was so far from the truth. But the officer didn't know, nor did he believe me. She had not been taking drugs, which was confirmed by the toxicology report after her death. Though I must admit that I sometimes wish that had been the case. It would be terrible, but I would still have a chance to help her, or at the very least, she would not have been as acutely aware of what was about to happen.

If there were anything that I could say to you, something to leave with you, I'd want you to remember that if you are skeptical, like the police officer that handled my missing person's case, it is probably for a darn good reason.

I worked on a special project at the OAG's Child Support Division (as a temp) for six months. It is sometimes hard to believe people because you do hear so many untruths. The percentage of deception is frustrating. But please remember that if there is a percentage of deception, there is a percentage of truth. Take every case as genuine. Investigate every case thoroughly. Take every person as an individual.

My daughter was the love of my life. She was the most incredible, intelligent, creative, gorgeous person I've ever met. I'd want to meet her even if she wasn't my child. She was going to be an exceptionally impactful person in life.

Yet she is strong in death. She speaks through us, through Jennifer's Hope (www.jennfershope.org), to educate others. We perform outreach to teens and training for professionals that honors the spirit of my child. We are also incredibly proud to contribute financially to the Teen Dating Violence Awareness Toolkits that will be distributed to 200 schools again this year.

But we need to do more. We need to reach every school, every child. Even if we don't reach each one now, we need to try. To reach for perfection when perfection isn't possible is exhausting. But we can only come close to our goals if we do our jobs as if we believe it is possible.

How hard will that be, facing the hours and cases for which you are responsible? Incredibly hard, right? I know. But please know that though it was too late for the police officer to help Jennifer, it could have saved her life if it had been a short 24 hours sooner.

Don't accept indifference or ambivalence. Please take every "Jennifer Ann' as if it may be the most important and true case you have ever had. Please.

Written by a mom without a child, Elizabeth Crecente