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ALABAMA

...where our world was turned upside down and backwards...

MY STORY: A MOTHER?S HEART

INTRODUCTION

The following is a very interesting, true story, concerning teens; their choices; the criminal and juvenile justice systems in Alabama; and how you try to begin to heal after life?s horrific blows. Ours is a story of sadness and triumph; disbelief and rage at a system of a State (Alabama) where we were born and have lived in all of our lives. No one is ever prepared for what a teen can get into in just a few hours.

"Youth is more than a chronological fact. It is a time
and condition of life when a person may be most susceptible to influence and to psychological damage. Our history is replete with laws and judicial recognition that minors, especially in their early years, are generally less mature than adults. Particularly during their formative years of childhood and adolescence, minors often lack the experience, perspective and judgement of expected adults". Justice Lewis Powell

***UPDATE**** 2005 Since the US Supreme Court overturned the Juvenile Death Penalty, in which I was in favor of, we have a chance for my son now. He was the lessor of the three others in this case, and they will more than likely get LWOP. The oldest of this crime will not. He was nineteen years old at the time. May God be with his spirit and soul.

To introduce you to our family before you begin to read this web site, my name is Kristiana M. Mangione, (Kris). I am the mother of Louis Christopher Mangione. His Dad is Norman A. Mangione (Tony, and) he resides Sylacauga, Alabama. My two daughters, Mandy Sharpe, (Phillip), and D. (Dee) Mangione, and I reside in Birmingham, AL. Mandy and Dee are Louis' older sisters. As you read my story, most of you who have parented teens will realize that you have been where I have with teenagers. Those of you who aren't parents will remember when you went through the challenge of dealing with problems as teenagers, yourselves. However, I hope your experiences did not turn out like ours did. How many of us have gone through times of trouble and stress with our teens, or as teens, and have come out better from the experience? Our story is one that I believe will come out better in the end, but for now it is not a happy one. This is a story of how, I as a mother, struggle with the loss of my child; my youngest child; my baby. Only he didn?t die. He went to prison as a teenager. His sentence was severe:

LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE

I stayed in a state of denial for as long as I could, so I wasn't prepared to cope with the enormity of my son's sentence when reality hit me in the face. I sought counseling, and began taking anti-depressants. I was also taught about the grief process, and the different stages of grief. The process is first denial, then anger, followed by isolation, then bargaining, and finally, acceptance. The grief process is long and does not always flow straight to acceptance. Grief can carry you from stage three back to stage one, and then back to stage three again, or on to stage four. My peace only came when I realized I had to accept the situation as it is for now. My heart died and has never been the same. I walked around like a ?dead woman walking? for a long time. I had no feelings at all, just numbness. My emotions were like a roller coaster. One moment I would feel a cold, empty numbness and the next I would cry uncontrollably and could not stop. As when a loved one dies, the memories of that person continue to bombard your mind. Especially when it is your child that you carried beneath your heart for nine months and will carry inside your heart forever. You see them as your precious little baby, your cheerful and fun-loving little boy, and the handsome and headstrong teen that your love couldn?t protect. All of the things left behind are right there where they left them. I still remember the meal he ate the night before he left. Our doggie missed him too. She would lick the tears off of my face while I was in the floor crying and screaming "Why? God? Please, God, why?" When my son first began to show signs of impending problems, I sent him to counseling, 6 weeks of rehab, and did everything else I knew to do to try and help him see the seriousness of his actions. Before this nightmare started I had been to the Department of Human Resources and to the Department. of Youth Services (Juvenile), seeking a program called CHINS, (Children in Need of Supervision). I was told that you have to wait for them to do something wrong before they can be picked up. (What??? Well, wait till you read on and see just exactly what happened.) Him doing something wrong and being arrested for it was exactly what I was trying to prevent. As you read on you will see just how angry I was at the system because they failed my child and me. I had prayed, ?God, do whatever you have to do in his life right now to stop him?, and when this nightmare began, my thoughts were so distorted due to emotional trauma that I felt God did this because I had prayed that prayer. I was so MAD at God, and He knew it, but it was okay. I felt He had failed me, others had failed me and I had failed as a mother. What had I done in my life to deserve this? All of the heartache, sobbing, denial, isolation, anger and bargaining with God - nothing worked. Had I not sought counseling, I probably would be a drug addict today. That is how serious it can get if you do not seek help.

THE ARREST

At 11:00 p.m. on April 6th 1994, ABI, (Alabama Bureau of Investigation), agents and detectives from our local police department pulled up in front of our house. They said they knocked on the door, but no one answered. I never heard a knock, and we had a doorbell. They waited in front of our house until my son got home around 11:15 from a friend's house. They approached him as he was getting out of his truck. He knew exactly why they were there. They talked with him for a minute; had him sign his ?Miranda Rights?, and then put him into the car and took him away. He was only 16 years old, and did not know nor understand what he was signing. While on the way to the police station they called me via cell phone and told me they had my son, and where they were taking him. They also told me he didn't want me in the room when they were questioning him. I thought this was about a robbery the other boys had committed. My son was not involved in that, but I figured the police knew that he knew something, so they wanted to ask him questions. I got up, got dressed and took off for the police station. I still did not know what it was all about. As I was walking into the police station, they had him in a room questioning him. I stayed out in the lobby for 2 hours. Had I known what I know now, he would have never left my sight. I would have called an attorney immediatley. Finally a detective, Mr. Dixon, came out and told me my son had been involved in a homicide. Well, you can guess what happened to me. My mouth became dry; I could not swallow or even speak. He then said ?let?s go down the street to the donut shop and get some coffee?. I left with him, and he explained further what had happened. I was in mental shock. We went back to the police station. and they finally let me see Louie, at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. I still did not realize what was happening, and that he needed an attorney present before he said anything. They said they would bring him home in a little while. I told Lou to tell the truth, no matter what, then went home to call his Dad. BIG HUGE MISTAKE! Whatever you do, tell your teen never, and I mean NEVER talk to police, detectives or anyone without you present or an attorney present. They will turn everything around and use it against you. Louie spilled his guts, and they then used everything he had told them against him. I was shaking and freezing by the time I got home, and could not get warm or go back to sleep. I know now that it was the mental shock that caused the shaking. About six hours later they came to our house; a fleet of police cars, dozens of cops and forensic people, and my son, sitting in the back seat of a cruiser, handcuffed. They came to search the premises for any evidence. They had a dog with them, and were in my backyard. They found a severed finger in a plastic bag buried out behind a shed in our backyard. As you read on you will see why. At this point my son had not even been arrested, but they kept him handcuffed to a chair all night. He took them to the scene of the crime and told them everything that had happened. They did not take him to a juvenile facility within 3 or 4 hours like they should have. It is a law that a juvenile cannot be detained, and should be delivered to a juvenile facility within a certain amount of time. Lou was threatened, scared and we were still in the dark and didn?t know our rights as parents. This all came out in the juvenile hearing, but our attorney did not say a word. Even the judge said what they did to him was illegal, but no one did anything about it. So he was sent on with two others and charged as an adult with capital murder. The oldest, and the instigator of this whole crime, was already in county jail for the robbery charges. The other two were living out of their car, and were caught in a neighborhood near our home. Both of them had just gotten out of juvenile hall on robbery charges. Their juvenile files were extensive. My son had no file, and had not been in trouble before. He was not perfect, and was goofing off or he would not have been in the car that night. We were thrown into a system we knew nothing about .

THE MEDIA

Rumors were flying and the media was printing everything they heard. It was all over the news. Our son?s picture was on the news even before he was sent to the county jail as an adult. I know now not to ever believe anything the media says or prints because it is not always correct. The media can be used for good but they also can be detrimental to someone?s life by not having true facts.

THE CRIME and OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM

The crime was a high profile capital murder case with four teens involved. I might also add, that when the trials started in 1996, it was an election year for our judges. My son received the sentence of Life without the possibility of parole, and the other three boys are on Death Row in Alabama. Drugs, drinking, the occult, rebellion and lack of parental guidance were the main factors in all of this. My son got into the wrong car that night to ride around getting high and to have a good time, he thought. What he did not realize was that it would be a decision that would change the course of his life - and the lives of his family - forever. One minute... one decision?...can change your life and you can never go back. He told me one time in juvenile that he wished he could hit ?rewind?, and go back and have another chance. What teens do not realize is that the decisions they make affect everyone around them. Sixteen and seventeen year olds are not adults. In fact they are very far from being adults. There were so many other teenagers who knew all about this crime, but no one went to the authorities. That in itself shows you that teens are not adults, nor are they responsible enough to handle a situation of this magnitude. They cannot buy liquor, cigarettes, vote or make contracts on their own. Why, then would a system send them to an adult court and into an adult prison? Especially if they had not had any prior offenses. It makes no sense. The night that this crime happened, these boys got someone to buy them beer. This person was never officially charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors. During the trials of all four boys we received word that this young man had died in a car crash. I cannot go into the details of this case, but what I want to communicate to you is what can happen to a teen when they are not obeying and think they know it all, as many teens do. They will not listen to parents. They develop an attitude that parents do not know a thing, which can keep the people who love them most from helping them when they need it. One thing I can say is that a 37 year old female hitchhiker was on the interstate at 12:00 midnight hitchhiking a ride to her home state. Why, why was she out there at that time of night? My heart does go out to the family. She did not deserve this at ALL. She was a mom, a grandmom and a sister just like you and me. I have put myself in her mother's place many times. It is heartbreaking to see all of the wasted lives and pain in all of the families involved in this case. The driver of the car, who was the oldest of the teen group, pulled over and they picked her up. They then drove to a remote area and she began drinking and partying with them after the driver promised her he would take her to her destination in another state. When she would not comply to a sexual comment made by one of the boys, she realized she was in trouble; she tried to run not even knowing where she was. Like I said, I cannot go into the facts of this case. She ended up dead and was then transported to another area and was horribly mutilated. I asked my son, "Why didn?t you run when this began to happen?" He said, ?She tried to run and look at what happened to her?. He kept his mouth shut and went along because the driver would not take him home. He asked to be taken home several times. My son might have been at the scene of the crime but he did not participate, did not want to be there and was not there when the mutilation took place. They took him home and they went back to where the body was and the others did the mutilation to the body. This was proven in court. His clothes and shoes tested negative for blood. The oldest boy brought my son the severed finger the next day. Louie was threatened & intimidated and also in denial so he just kept his mouth shut. He told me that since he didn?t do it that he had to get away from them. I said but Lou ! Someone was dead....he still had disassociated himself with the whole thing, which is typical of a teenager. He stayed home a lot after this happened because he was afraid that if he told what they'd done they would come and murder me. He became depressed and could not sleep. Why he didn?t confide in me I don?t know. We were close, but he told me, "How do you tell someone something like this, especially your own Mom." He wanted to pretend it never happened, but clearly my son was thinking like a teenager and disassociating himself from the whole crime. A person was dead, and a lot of teens knew about it, but no one told. Another friend of my son?s finally told his Dad, who was a pastor, and then the authorities were called. That is how the ABI and detectives got my son?s name. Louis had a lot of friends, good friends with good parents. Some came to testify for him at his trial because they knew he was not capable of committing a crime like this. He knew two of these boys, but he did not know the driver well at all. He had met one of the boys in the rehab earlier but didn?t hang around with him very much. The judge handling this case only gave the jury two choices; the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole. There were mitigating circumstances in my son?s case, reasonable doubt, and we had two of the finest attorneys in the city. As fine as they are, when attorneys are court appointed, their hands are tied from the beginning. I was a single mom on a fixed income and could not have paid the legal fees for a capital case. It became a capital case because they said the defendant was kidnapped and murdered. She willingly got into the car that night, but the law says that when someone willingly gets into your car and then they want to leave and you do not let them, it becomes kidnapping. My son wanted to leave too but the older boy would not let him. Wouldn?t you say he was kidnapped also?

ANGRY AT GOD and TRYING TO UNDERSTAND

My anger and depression at what had been done was overwhelming to the point of wanting to go to sleep and never wake up. Anger will come out in the form of depression. You cannot stuff emotions down indefinitely without it wreaking havoc on your mental, physical and spiritual health. I was now faced with every emotion known to man and did not know how to handle any of them. WE were all under a lot stress over the few years we went through with him in juvenile, transferred to county as an adult, and then on to prison. He was shoved through the system like a cow being herded to market. We found out that this is what usually happens to people who cannot afford to pay for their own attorney. You go through the motions but the outcome is always the same. The State is going to do what they want to do, so why even bother with an attorney. That is the truth. We did not know what would happen to him next because you hear such horror stories about prison. He's still physically and mentally whole, but I worry about what will happen if he's injured or becomes seriously ill. There is nothing I can do right now to change it. I will not accept the fact that my son will stay in prison for the rest of his life. Many prayers were said for us from my church, family and friends. The most peculiar thing was what I had prayed before all of this happened because I knew my son was going to get into serious trouble at the rate he was going. I had no clue it could be something this serious. My anger began to subside as I understood more and more. We can?t bargain with God. If He brings you to it, He will see you through it. You may not feel like He is there, but He is. He is closer to you at times like this than you could ever imagine. He whispers in our times of joy, but shouts at us in our pain; we cannot hear Him at times like this, but He is there, believe me. One thing I have realized about God is that He works in paradoxes. What we think is totally opposite of the way the Lord sees it , so run to your pain, not from it, for it is there you will meet Him and find your peace. As I ponder the past, now I can see that God may have allowed this to protect my son. I could be visiting his grave right now instead of prison. I never realized that God was comforting me and He was weeping right along with me. My son made the choice to get into the car that night. My son made the choice to smoke dope and drink alcohol, and not listen to anyone. He knows now what an enormous mistake that was. But my son is not a murderer, and doesn't deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison. I have a different son today. He is 27 years old. At least he is alive. We stay close and visit twice a month. All of this has made us stronger and closer. It has been almost 11 years. We have had to be a ?Rock? for him to get him through to where he is today. So many prisoners? families give up on them and never visit or write. My heart breaks for those inmates. They need support no matter what they have done. We continue to this day to seek help for Lou, and we won?t give up until this sentence is changed. He may have deserved to serve time; we never doubted that - but NOT the rest of his life for being a frightened teenager and not acting like an adult in this serious of a situation. After ALL, he WAS NOT an adult. He acted like what he was; a sixteen year old whose judgement had been impaired from the use of drugs, drinking and being a rebellious teenager, but that does not make him a murderer. I have found comfort in Romans 8:28, All things work together for the good of them who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is ?LOVE?. We have not given up hope and there is a reason for everything that happens. Please remember the victim and her family in your prayers. Help us find justice for Louie and also pray for the ones that are on death row. If you would like to write Louie: Louis C. Mangione, AIS#187156 - Dorm 2, Holman Box 3700, Atmore, AL 36503. I am a typical grandmother as you will see. My grandchildren are Tyler Sharpe (10), and Kiersten (KK) Sharpe, (5). Tyler will be in fifth grade and plays football, basketball and loves his mom, dad, sister KK and his grandparents too. You will see a link to KK's web page at the end of this site. She was born in 1999 with severe problems, and was in the Children?s Hospital here in Birmingham for 17 months of her life. This was another one of life?s horrific blows to us as a family, and which we have had to overcome. KK is is doing great now. Last year (2004) she was awarded the Children?s Hospital Miracle Child award for the State of Alabama. She was on the Montel Williams Show last January, and was on the Children?s Miracle Network telethon, in June of 2004. Enjoy the site, graphics and pictures. I want to thank Linda Tant Miller for her expertise and patience. This site would not have been possible without her. She is the BEST and an ?angel? to us. I have grown to lover her dearly. You will see some of her sites by clicking on the picture of me at the end of this site. She and her family have been dealt horrific blows within the prison system also. I hope this site touched your heart, fills you with concern and stimulates you to ask yourself ?where is my teen right at this moment?? The main purpose for this web site is for parents with teens and to try to help them understand they do not know what they can get themselves into, in one minute, one hour...and it will change their lives forever. This web site is not about the victim. Maybe her family could create a web site for her.

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