written by Renee’ Landrum
- November 14, 2009 was a beautiful day, my 34th birthday and the worst day of my life.
- November 14 was the day my beautiful mother was brutally murdered. The events of that gruesome, horrid day have never been released to the media or press. Only the victims involved, the Houston Police Department homicide investigators and the District Attorney’s office knew the exact details and prosecution evidence of this sensationalized case. Now am I able to share the true confidential information: my story, but more importantly, my mother’s story. She was a victim and my hero, because on that day my mother sacrificed her life. By doing so, she saved mine, forever changing it. The very core of Houston and our state shook at losing one of its finest DPS [Department of Public Safety] officers, my mother, my hero, Brenda.
The unseasonably hot November day started out filled with fun and laughter—a happy day spent shopping in Houston with my mom, niece and nephew. We were running a few last-minute errands before joining friends and family at my 34th birthday party. In our haste to get things done, my mom went into one store while I, my niece and my nephew quickly ran into another. To my surprise, we finished shopping before my mom did. I quickly texted her that the kids and I were going to jump into the truck, run to the ATM and would pick her up at the storefront. She replied, “Ok. LUM”. This was my mom’s way of texting Love You More (LUM).
While at the ATM, I remember my nephew shouting from the backseat, “Get a lot of money, YaYa! ‘Cause we’re gonna have fun!” My niece, sitting in the front seat, looked at me and we all just laughed! My nephew knew how to make us laugh. We pulled away from the ATM into a large parking area. I chose to park the truck a good distance away from any other cars. This would allow me to pull up directly in front of the store and pick up my mom, rather than her searching for us in a parking spot. I had no way of knowing the chain of events that spur-of-the-moment decision had set in motion.
Across the shopping center, a 39-year-old man had just robbed a store and was headed to his vehicle. It wasn’t the first store he robbed that day. He started his early morning crime spree across town committing what the police refer to as a “smash and grab” at two other stores before making his way to Meyerland Plaza. Now this man, who obviously had no respect for the law or anyone else, was in a hurry to leave the shopping center parking lot.
We had no clue a store had just been robbed. We were just waiting on my mom to call so we could head to my birthday party. Only moments had passed between the time we left the ATM and parked, when my mom called me on my cell phone to come and get her. I put the truck into drive and turned up the lane into the parking lot. I stopped behind a line of parked cars to allow passing cars to go by in front of the store.
I caught sight of my mom walking across the lot to meet us. She was within shouting distance. My window was down and I distinctly remember asking her why she didn’t buy anything. She put her hands up in the air, as if she were frustrated but still smiling, because the store didn’t have what she was looking for. That was the last time I saw her beautiful smile.
Just as she was approaching our truck, the SUV we were parked behind backed out of its parking spot directly into us, but at a low speed, so no one was injured. I told my niece, still buckled into the front seat, to stay in the car with her brother while we got the driver’s insurance information. I got out of the truck, met my mom and the driver of the SUV at the rear wheel of our truck to assess the damage.
The man looked genuinely concerned and a bit shaken up. My mom followed him to the driver’s side of his silver Range Rover. I heard her ask for his insurance information while I looked at the minor damage to the side of the truck just above the rear wheel. I turned facing the Range Rover to see if he had any damage. I then heard my mom calmly but firmly say, “Robyn, call 911!” Looking at her, I saw the man shut the driver’s door as my mom was talking to him.
Before I could move, the man put his SUV in reverse, pinning me between our truck and his SUV! Everything was happening so fast! I couldn’t breathe! I felt a sharp pain in my chest! I was banging on the rear window of the SUV and screaming for him to stop! I saw my mom reach into the open window of his SUV pleading and yelling at the driver!
The pain in my chest spread to my abdomen. Oh my God, I thought, I’m going to die! That was when I saw my mom jump onto the bumper of our truck. She began to try to push me free and away from the rear of this maniac driving the SUV!
The man leaned out of the window, turned and made eye contact with me. He pulled the SUV forward, releasing the intense pressure on my body. It was only for two or three seconds, but it was enough time for my mom to push my upper body out-of-the-way before he began to reverse with force again. This time, he slammed into our truck with great force, pinning and ultimately breaking my right lower leg.
I lost sight of my mom. I heard metal crunching, glass breaking, tires screeching, as if I were listening to a major car accident that I could not see. The SUV forced its way free and sped off. I heard another loud crashing noise: He hit two more cars while making his way out of the parking lot and onto the main street.
Momma! Momma! Momma! I was on the pavement holding my leg crying, screaming for my mom, expecting to see her run to me and see if I was ok. She never answered. She never came. My beautiful niece opened the door to our truck. I quickly calmed myself and told her to stay in the truck. I told her I was calling 911, but then I saw the sheer terror on her face, tears streaming down, she pointed to the back of the truck and said, “But Momo!”
I snapped my head in the direction she was pointing and saw my mom. She was on her left side with her back facing me. A trail of bright red arterial blood smeared the pavement. I followed the trail of blood with my eyes. It was coming from my mom! Adrenaline pumping, not knowing I had a broken leg or even feeling any pain, I crawled to her on my hands and knees.
As I got closer, I heard her gurgling respirations and called her name one more time: “Momma?” There was no answer, no movement to indicate she heard me. Over my right shoulder, a young man asked whether I needed help. I said yes, help me turn her over. I need to assess her injuries. He looked at me with horror and replied, “We can’t move her! Wait for the ambulance!” I looked at him and said, “I’m a F%&*ING medic! I am the ambulance! Do what I tell you to do!”
We gently rolled her over as I held her head in my hands, making sure not to compromise her C-Spine. I quickly looked at her from top to bottom. She was unconscious; she still had gurgling respirations. Her abdomen was enlarged, indicating signs of internal bleeding, but I still hadn’t found the source of the bleeding.
I ripped open her shorts and the blood started spurting out of her upper right femoral artery! I quickly applied pressure with my bare hands. In what seemed like a sea of people surrounding us, a young lady handed me several white washcloths. She said they were clean. That she was from a massage store. I applied as much pressure as I could with the washcloths.
They might as well have been tissue paper! The blood soaked right through within seconds. A very large African-American lady leaned down and calmly asked if she could do anything. I asked her to please keep my niece and nephew from seeing this. As she walked to the truck I turned and placed my left hand inside the wound at the base of my mom’s pelvis and the top of her right thigh.
I clearly remember it looked as if it had been cut open with a scalpel. Blood surrounded my hand as I pushed inward and upward until I felt her artery pulsing between my fingers. I gripped it as tight as I could with my fingers to stop the bleeding. I literally had my arm wrist deep inside my mom’s abdomen! A man knelt down across from me, said he was a surgeon and asked if he could help. Then a young lady knelt at my mom’s head. She said she was an RN. At that very moment I felt my mom’s pulse drift away. The nurse checked her carotid but there was no pulse!
I looked at my mom’s face and saw she was cyanotic and no longer breathing. I pulled my hand out of her wound and we began CPR. I was doing chest compressions and the nurse was doing mouth to mouth. I screamed, “Where is the ambulance?!” A bystander said they were on the way.
I continued chest compressions while the nurse and the surgeon took turns performing mouth to mouth. It seemed like an eternity. I FINALLY heard the sirens I was all too familiar with. The Houston Fire Department squad medic was there! He jumped out of his truck with his gear in hand. He knelt down at my mom’s head and stared at me. I spouted off a report as if I was calling it in to the ER: right femoral bleed, multiple internal injuries, pulseless and apneic, no pertinent medical history, no allergies or medications and she needs to be intubated NOW!
The medic opened his bag and began to gather his equipment. Another medic took over the chest compressions. At that moment I looked at my mom lying on the black pavement. I can’t explain it, but she looked more beautiful than I had ever seen her. Her hair beautifully surrounded her head. Her once-hazel eyes were blue as sapphires and her lips glowed a deep pink like a sunset on a summer day. In the middle of all the screaming, shouting and sirens, I felt peace. I didn’t hear anything. As I stared at my mom, warmth went though my body as if I was being wrapped in a blanket with a big hug. I stood up and walked over to the truck to check on the kids.
It must have been a fright for the kids to have gone though all this, and now they were staring at me covered from head to toe with my mom’s blood. I thanked the lady that was still standing at the passenger window holding hands with my niece and nephew and praying. She looked at me and said, “You hold these children’s hands and pray with us.” This was not a request! I slid into the driver’s seat, held their hands and bowed my head as she prayed for strength and survival. After the prayer, she walked away. My mom had been loaded into the ambulance and they were on the way to the trauma center.
My niece handed me her cell phone and I knew what I had to do. It was up to me to call my sister and my dad, who were 2 hours away, and tell them the bad news. A thought crossed my mind as I went to call my dad: oh my God, there is less than 2% survival rate in traumatic arrest! The phone rang before I could dial. I answered and it was my sister. Out of fear that she or my dad might get into an accident upon hearing the news that our mom, his wife might not make it, I told them that we had been involved in a car accident. The kids were not hurt, I was ok, but mom was injured and being taken to Memorial Hermann in the medical center. I felt a painful lump in my throat and a pang in my stomach. I was giving them and the kids false hope. But I had seen miraculous things happen in my time on the ambulance. Although I was not a God-fearing Christian, I was praying and hoping for a miracle.
As I got back into the truck, a DPS officer came up to me and asked whether I needed help. I said I was fine and just needed to get to the hospital. He looked me up and down and said, “Honey, you need to have a medic look at you, and then I’ll take you to the hospital.” A medic came over and asked if I was hurt. I said no. He asked, ”Where is the blood coming from?” I looked down at my reddened clothes and said, “It’s my mom’s.” Again, he asked if I was hurt anywhere. I told him my right leg was kinda hurting, but I was ok. He insisted we take a look at it. As he cut open the leg to my jeans from the ankle up, we both saw the deformity just below my knee. My leg was broken? I couldn’t believe it! They got the stretcher and loaded me and the kids into the back of the ambulance.
As they lifted me into the ambulance, I could see the aftermath, the devastation this awful man had left behind. There had to be at least 100 bystanders and an ocean of flashing lights from fire trucks, ambulances and police cars. I also noticed there were several State Trooper vehicles there. It struck me as strange that DPS would be on the scene of an accident in the middle of Houston, not to mention the large number of troopers that were there. I was later told that the medic transporting my mom saw her DPS identification. He then broadcast it over the radio that it was a DPS official involved in the accident with CPR in progress. The troopers heard it and rushed to her aid.
I was all too familiar with the process and what I was about to go through as I was wheeled into the automatic doors to the hospital ER. The hallway looked longer and bigger since the last time I took a patient there. We stopped at triage. The nurse behind the desk recognized me. I could see the horror on her face. Nurses quickly took my vitals and received a report from the firefighter/medic. I told them they had to get me off the stretcher. I had to use the restroom. They lowered the stretcher and brought a wheelchair to the side. I refused to let them help me. My niece wanted to push the wheelchair across the hall to the restroom. I opened the door and she pushed me in. I told her to wait just outside. I stood up on my own holding the handicap railing and felt the first true twinge of pain from my leg. It wasn’t bad, but was setting in and, I knew, would only get worse.
I glanced up and saw a reflection in the mirror I didn’t recognize. I knew it was me, but now I understood why everyone looked at me in terror: I looked like I played a part in a horror movie. My face was spattered with blood. My hair was matted to my head, soaked with blood. My chest, my shirt, my pants were red. Then I looked at my hands and arms. It looked as if I were wearing red elbow-length gloves. The awful smell hit me once again, only this time it came with a sudden urge to vomit.
I scrubbed my hands, arms and face. The blood there was sticky, thick, and the smell was overwhelming. I cleaned up the best I could.
In the hallway, my niece and nephew were standing together holding hands. The triage nurse said she was to take me to a trauma room but that, “The children aren’t injured and are under 13 years old. They won’t be allowed in the trauma area. They cannot go with you.” I knew the rules, but surely they would not separate me from them! I began to get angry. My niece and nephew were clinging to me and crying, begging for me not to leave them. Then I heard a familiar voice over my shoulder say, “I’ll watch them for you.” I turned and saw one of my good friends and firefighter/medic, Randy. He just happened to be working an extra job as an ER tech that day. He promised me he would not leave the kids until our family arrived.
I told them everything was going to be ok. They needed to go with Randy and their mom would be here soon. I gave them each a hug and a kiss. As they walked away, one on each side of Randy, holding his hands, the sadness in their eyes cut me. I still didn’t shed a tear. I needed to be strong for them and for my mom.
From the wheelchair, I saw one of the trauma room doors swing open and close. People were rushing in and out. I would catch small glimpses, almost like pictures with every swing of the door. I first saw a familiar face standing at his designated spot at the foot of the trauma bed. It was Dr. Duke. I had met him many times before, and knew what an amazing trauma doctor he was.
As the door swung open and shut, I began to see things more clearly. I saw an arm hanging off the stretcher, moving as they continued to do chest compressions. I followed that arm down and saw my mom’s wedding ring. They were trying desperately to save her life. The room was full of doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters and State Troopers. One of the doctors in front of me took her eyes off of her computer screen for a moment and looked directly at me. I timidly asked her, “Is my mom going to be ok?” To this question, every doctor stopped working, turned and stared at me. The female doctor I had asked replied, “I’ll go check. Just one moment.” She didn’t ask me who my mom was. She didn’t need to.
Dr. Duke, followed by another male doctor and the female doctor, came out of the trauma room. I had just enough time to think to myself, “Oh God! I know this drill!” I felt overwhelmed with fear and nausea as the smell of blood hit me once again like a punch to my gut. Dr. Duke recognized me, said hello and introduced me to the resident standing next to him, Dr. Larkin. Dr. Duke pushed my wheelchair into the trauma room next door to my mom’s. He stood to the side as Dr. Larkin knelt down in front of me. I remember thinking, this kid can’t be a doctor! He’s barely drinking age! He said the words I was dreading, the words I will never forget: “We did everything we could for your mom. There was too much internal damage.”
It still didn’t hit me. I asked him, “So my mom is dead?” He nodded. My body and mind could not comprehend what was happening. It was like a terrible dream. I didn’t know whether to scream, cry, vomit…in the absence of any of those reactions, I felt detached.
Dr. Larkin took my hand. I heard him say my name, but it was as if he were at the opposite end of a very long tunnel. He said it again and gently squeezed my hand. I turned and looked at him. “There is nothing else we can do for your mom. Now, let’s take care of you.” Dr. Larkin leaned in and gave me a hug. I hadn’t shed a tear; I hadn’t screamed or had any emotion until he hugged me. I fell into that hug and sobbed. I pulled back, said, “I’m sorry I don’t want to get you dirty.” Dr. Larkin leaned in and hugged me again. I saw Dr. Duke tear up as he cleared his throat and said in his deep south Texas accent, “Let’s get you on that bed so we can check you out.”
They helped me out of the wheelchair onto the bed. The pain in my leg and abdomen was worse. Dr. Duke shook my hand, said how sorry he was and that he was leaving me with the best resident he had. As he walked away, the clattering and chaos began. A flood of nurses and residents surrounded my bed, one cutting off my clothes while another held a gown over me in some semblance of privacy. I was hooked up to the heart monitor, my vitals taken, questions hurled at me. I panicked, felt tightness in my chest, couldn’t breathe! As tears welled in my eyes, the nurse putting the gown on me saw the panic and calmly asked everyone who did not need to be in the room to please exit. She talked to me, but it was muffled. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet! I was hyperventilating. I took a deep breath and held it so long my lungs felt like they were burning, then let it out slowly: exactly how I treated my patients who hyperventilated. I did the same thing four or five times. Slowly, everything came back into focus. Dr. Larkin and the nurse were still holding my hands. I could hear them telling me to breathe slowly, that everything was going to be okay. But was it?
I set aside thoughts of losing my mom to stay focused so I would be able to give the police an accurate description of the man who murdered her. I heard Dr. Larkin order 6mg of morphine and 2mg of Ativan. I quickly said NO. I explained I wanted to be completely coherent when the police came to question me. He asked with a very concerned face, “Are you sure?” I said yes, I was adamant that I not receive any narcotics until I spoke with the police.
The doors flew open and I saw my daddy. His eyes were red and swollen; I can’t begin to describe the pain I saw on his face. He walked over to my side, put his forehead against mine, eye to eye, and said, “I love you, baby.” He hugged me tight and we both sobbed. I had lost my mother, but he lost the love of his life, mother of his two children and wife of 38 years. As he pulled away, I cried and told him I did everything I could to save her. I did everything I had been taught and I tried so hard, but I just couldn’t get her back. With love and patience he kissed my forehead and said, “I would only expect the best from you. I know you did everything in your power to save her.” Even though everyone was saying they knew I did everything I could to save my mom, it wasn’t enough for me! I kept saying it over and over. In my head I was going through every second, reviewing everything I had done, everything I had instructed others to do. Did I really do all I could? Should I have done something different?
Dr. Larkin brought in a gentleman wearing a suit, gun holstered to his hip and a badge hanging from a chain around his neck. The man introduced himself as Sergeant Robert Torres, HPD Homicide Investigator. I felt an immediate sense of relief knowing I was finally going to tell them what happened. Sgt. Torres must have introduced his partner, but by that time the pain was so intense I only heard him say he had to ask me some questions and that he was going to record it. I agreed to the interview but asked my family to leave. I didn’t want them to hear what happened: This was my burden to carry.
Sgt. Torres asked me to describe what happened from beginning to end. My heart pounded. My stomach ached. My mouth went dry. I asked myself in a fleeting moment, “Do I really have to go through this again?” That feeling of loss, sadness and terror quickly turned to anger, frustration and sheer determination! I had to tell them every little detail so they could catch that madman and make him pay for his crimes. I began speaking in a normal tone, but tears soon began to pour down my face. I told him what that awful man looked like, what he did and how he left my mother bleeding and struggling for life on the pavement.
After Sgt. Torres exited the room, Dr. Larkin came in. He asked if I was ready for some pain medicine. I replied, “Yes! Bring it on!” The pain was so intense that just the brush of a sheet over my foot made me scream. Soon a warm fuzzy feeling took away my pain and anxiety. Conversations became blurry, but I remember Dr. Larkin asking me if I wanted him to take me to see my mother’s body. I said no. He asked again. I said no again. I wanted to remember how beautiful she looked as I saw her, when I felt her soul leave her body.
Dr. Larkin admitted me to the hospital for observation due to a small laceration to my spleen and liver. My broken leg would heal on its own, it was secondary to the internal bleeding. As I left, family and friends came into the room to say goodbye. I saw the sadness on their faces. I was trying to be strong, but then my sister came in with my niece and nephew. I began to sob as they leaned in and gave me hugs. We exchanged “I love yous,” and off they went.
I woke up to find the room filled with friends and family. It seemed almost claustrophobic! I requested a bigger room, a suite if available. Within an hour I was taken to a private floor. I still had two HPD officers guarding my door, because the man who murdered my mom had not been caught.
I truly don’t remember much about my time in the new room. They had me heavily sedated and I was not complaining! I did not want to feel anything. The bits I do remember were clips of time, a trailer to a bad movie. My friends Desi and Sherry bathed me in the shower. My good friend and partner on the ambulance, Charlie, stayed with me night and day until I left the hospital. He slept on a pullout sofa, but I remember him running to my side to calm me in the middle of the night when I would wake up screaming.
Family and friends came and went every day, but I wouldn’t see my daddy or my sister until I got out of the hospital. That didn’t bother me at the time: I knew they were at home making funeral arrangements and dealing with their own grief, but I would later come to resent them for this. I felt as if they abandoned me. Blamed me.
Dr. Larkin kept his promise and visited every day. He was there when the police officer came into the room just 24 hours after the incident and announced Sgt. Torres and the HPD SWAT team had just arrested the man who murdered my mom and left me maimed in a hospital bed. The man’s name was George Theobald Jr. and had been released from Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison a month earlier on the “Early Release Program.” The day he was released, he stole the Range Rover that would ultimately end my mom’s life. Sgt. Torres assured me that this man was going to jail for the remainder of his life. He told me Theobald made somewhat of a confession, but blamed my mother, saying she was screaming at him and was extremely aggressive towards him. This is why he said he chose to run her over.
During my week in the hospital, I missed my mother’s funeral, but was told thousands of people where there. Local DPS State Troopers in full dress uniform and my nephew carried her coffin in the church. I was told how beautiful and amazing it was. My mom touched so many people, helped so many people and for her to be taken so tragically, it caught us all off guard.
My father and brother-in-law collected me from the hospital and took me home to get clothing and things I might need for rest and rehabilitation at our country house near Yoakum. When we pulled up to my house it was dark, but the lights of the news vans and reporters illuminated the street. We had to call the police just to get inside. It was so intrusive! I know what happened to us horrified the city, but I needed a break! I needed space!
Once inside, I gazed around the living room. Everything was exactly where we left it. My mom’s overnight bag was on the floor next to the overstuffed chair and her pillows (she ALWAYS traveled with her pillows) were neatly stacked on top. I leaned forward on my crutches, bowed my head and cried. We were supposed to have made it back here. Everything was ready for a fun weekend. It was not supposed to be like this. My brother-in-law handed me my mail. I was setting bills aside and then I came across something that stopped me in my tracks. A light blue envelope addressed to me in my mother’s handwriting! I just let out an awful wail! According to the postmark, she mailed it the morning she left to come and see me. I couldn’t bear to open it. I set it aside, grabbed my crutches, told my friend Desi to follow me and we started to pack.
We quickly ran through the house collecting items I would need. I wanted to get out of my house to the one place I always felt safe. My own home no longer comforted me. It brought back memories of love and fun that tore at my heart and made my stomach ache.
I woke as we crunched onto an all-too-familiar gravel road. The country house was nestled down a gravel road and set on several acres. Outside the car, there were no street lights glowing, no bustling traffic noise, just peace, quiet and the moonlight peeking through oak trees lining the driveway. As I walked inside on my crutches my niece, nephew and my sister met me at the door. We all hugged and cried a bit. I still had a heavy dose of pain medicine onboard and it was making things fuzzy. I remember getting into bed and thinking, “The worst is over now. You can rest easy.” If I had only known my nightmare had really just begun.
Thanksgiving passed, Christmas passed and we rang in the New Year of 2010 with my mom’s favorite thing, fireworks! By the end of January I was able to walk on my own and it was time for me to return to my home in Houston. So much had been taken away from us by this awful man, but I refused to let him take my city away from me! I love Houston! It is my home! I would not let him control where I lived!
It was early evening when I set out to make the long drive home alone. As I went to pull off the gravel road onto the paved highway I hesitated. My heart began to race. I felt like I couldn’t breathe! My dog Gracie Lacie sprang up from where she was nestled in the passenger seat, started licking tears and wagging her tail trying to comfort me. I hugged her and said, “We can do this! I know we can!” I wiped the tears from my eyes, took a deep breath and pulled onto the highway.
Several times that first night alone, I jerked awake with my heart racing. The nightmares had returned. I woke gasping for air, sheets soaked with sweat despite the chill air outside, heart pounding in my chest. Every time, Gracie Lacie sat next to me with her paws on my arm ready to kiss my face and calm me down. It was as if she sensed what was going to happen before I did. I never would have made it through the first night without her.
Six months later, life was moving on. I had all three of my dogs back and a busy social schedule. The busier I was, the less I thought about what had happened. At night, I began to take Xanax with several glasses of wine to help sleep through the night. That worked for a few days, but then the night terrors began. I can’t remember details around the bad dreams, and maybe that’s a good thing. The dreams that bothered me most were of my mom and I doing everyday things together. I would wake feeling so amazing, almost normal, but then reality hit and I would feel the pain of losing her all over again.
To keep myself awake, I would organize the house, binge-watch old TV shows and – the worst – shop online. After three months, I had almost completely depleted my life savings. I wasn’t working. I couldn’t imagine ever being able to work on the ambulance again. The idea of seeing or smelling blood made me nauseous. What was I going to do?
For six months, I borrowed money from my father and started working as a night dispatcher for a non-emergency ambulance transport company. The year anniversary of my mother’s murder approached.
During this time, I was able to meet the ADA prosecuting our case against her killer. Sgt. Torres was a bright presence in my life, as I knew he was responsible for capturing Theobald and ultimately getting him to confess. I often wondered how Theobald was able to sleep at night. Did he have nightmares and night terrors, as I did? Was he suffering, sitting in jail wondering about his fate, as I sat at home alone and suffered the loss of my mom? I would soon get my answer.
The State District Judge Susan Brown raised 39-year-old George Theobald’s bail from $100,000 to a total of $200,000 for two charges: felony murder and assault. Theobald was very familiar with the system and knew exactly how to work it. During his 10-month stay at the Harris County Jail, Theobald misled his attorney and federal investigators to plea his prison stay down from life to only two years. He advised his attorney he had evidence on two capital murder cases: For a deal, he would lead them to the killers. The ADA didn’t waver. It was quickly learned he was lying about the evidence. Theobald’s last chance of adequately defending his actions was to get his signed, videotaped confession excluded from evidence. His attorney argued that the confession had been coerced and his life threatened by the investigating officers. The judge denied his motion, cleared the investigators and set a trial date.
As I was leaving my nightshift on Aug. 8, 2010, my cell phone rang. It was my daddy. I could tell he had been crying. I asked him what was wrong. He replied, “He killed himself! The jerk killed himself!” Who? “The man [daddy couldn’t stand to say his name] that murdered your mom killed himself in jail.” I could hear relief and anger in his voice. He said, “You don’t have to testify, baby!” I was dumbstruck. I sat in my Jeep and cried. Daddy said, “It’s gonna be okay, baby.” I told him I was fine and would call him back. He made me promise not to drive until my nerves had settled, and said he loved me.
The phone rang again as soon as I set it down. It was ADA Connie Spence. She told me they had found Theobald dead in his cell from an apparent overdose, but cause of death was to be confirmed by the coroner. She asked if I was okay. I replied, “I don’t know. I honestly don’t know how I feel.”
I was relieved my family and friends wouldn’t have to sit through a trial. I didn’t want any of them to have to see what I saw or hear the gruesome details. But how could I be happy someone was dead? How could I rejoice when his family was now grieving due to his selfish act? He was a coward, there was no denying that fact, but I had been looking forward to staring him down as I sat on the witness stand and reminded him he’d torn the heart out of our family.
Theobald had written his family stating he was going to kill himself and he wanted them to sue Harris County for damages. This man obviously had no remorse and was the most selfish person I had ever come in contact with. Rather than repenting for the brutal murder of my mom, he spent his days in jail thinking of ways to lie and scheme his way out. I have no clear vision on what Heaven and Hell truly are, but I like to imagine him being painfully tormented with the guilt of taking the life of such a wonderful woman.
Media were waiting when I arrived home. I made my way to my front porch, turned and said, “The unexpected death of George Theobald has left us with many unanswered questions. We are keeping his family in our thoughts and prayers. I cannot be happy that someone is dead or may have killed himself. Our family is all too familiar with the grief of suddenly losing someone you love. Now his family has to mourn their loss. Please respect our privacy and let our family try to pick up the pieces to move on.” With that, I shut my front door, took a deep breath and cried.
Two years later, our lives were slowly moving on. My daddy was engaged; I was working as a nanny; my niece and nephew were thriving in school. Our family, though, was not communicating. My sister blamed me for my mom’s death and told me I stole her children’s innocence that awful day. I rarely talked to my father. It horrified me he was getting married again and had seemingly forgotten about my mom, his wife of 38 years. I pushed everyone away. I thought I could cope and handle the situation alone. But while my broken bones, bruises and lacerations had long since healed, the psychological effects were just beginning to take their toll. They began to manifest as anger, loneliness and abandonment.
In December 2011, I met Dr. Jessica Holt. It was time for me to conquer my fears and anxiety. I knew I needed help, medication and intense therapy to get my life back on track. As she does with all new patients, Dr. Holt had requested somewhat of a bio about me, what I wanted to address and my medical history prior to me coming in. I emailed a short letter and attached several news articles about the incident. The day of our first appointment, I did not want to go. I was desperate, though, to get my life in control, to sleep through the night without night terrors and what had now turned into sleep paralysis.
As I sat in the waiting room, I could feel the anxiety creeping up from my stomach into my chest. I was just getting up to leave when Dr. Holt opened the door and called my name. When I turned to look at her I was pleasantly surprised. She wasn’t much older than me and was dressed casually. Her soft voice and the fact that her office was more like my living room eased the anxiety a bit. We sat down and I began to tell her what happened. Once the words started coming out, they didn’t stop. I didn’t leave out one detail. It was the first time I had ever shared the entire story with anyone other than law enforcement and the ADA. Just minutes into the session, we were both crying. She apologized to me for crying and asked me to continue with my account of the events that occurred that day and the months following.
I was so caught up in telling her everything that I didn’t realize three hours had passed! Dr. Holt had cancelled all her afternoon appointments just so I could tell my story. I was truly amazed by the sincerity of this gesture. At the end of the session, we set up a plan to tackle these demons still haunting me. She wrote out a couple of prescriptions, but only gave me a 30-day supply to ensure I would come back and continue therapy. She asked if she could hug me before I left. I obliged, and with that sweet gesture all my feelings came to the surface. I sobbed and truly didn’t want to let go.
Before I met Dr. Holt, I’d felt as if I were slowly drowning every day. The burn in my lungs and pain in my stomach had been getting worse, as if someone was shoving me under every time I came up for air. But with that hug, I felt like I could breathe again. We both knew I had a long road ahead, but Dr. Holt assured me I would make it and survive. That day began a long journey of healing, self-discovery and intense psychotherapy.
As of 2016, it’s been five years since I started seeing her. In November 2016, it will have been seven years since my mom was killed. I still see Dr. Holt once a month and we have made much progress. When I thank her, she always says, “I didn’t do anything. You did it all, Robyn.”
I am happy to say that I have found a new loving relationship with my daddy and my stepmom. We spent two years not talking, and now chat almost daily. I have come to rely on my stepmom for motherly advice and a loving embrace when I need it. My daddy is truly happy and has found love once again. At times, we will sit and reminisce about my mom. We laugh and think of all the silly, crazy and loving things she used to do. My little sister (my stepsister) and I have a great relationship. I’m so proud of her. She graduated last May with her ADN (associate degree in nursing) and got married to her soulmate just a week after. My
niece is about to graduate with her BS in Graphic Design and is engaged. My nephew is a straight-A student about to start high school and loves Judo.
As for myself, while I have chosen not to return to EMS, I am continuing my education to become a Nurse Practitioner. I am a Crime Victims’ Advocate and volunteer my time to speak with first responders about my experience with PTSD. It is my mission to help others with PTSD get the help they need and ensure they don’t go down the same destructive path I did in the beginning. It is imperative to address and recognize the signs and symptoms of PTSD as quickly as possible.
My life is far from perfect, but I’ve learned to love and embrace the imperfections. I met the love of my life five years ago. He has been an
amazing positive force in my life. Without the help of Dr. Holt, the love from my boyfriend, the continued support of my daddy and stepmom, and the sheer inner power my mom instilled in me, I do not think I would be alive today. I do not see myself as a victim. I refuse to be a victim! I am a survivor. I am a warrior and I know I can tackle any obstacles life may throw at me.
As for George Theobald, he is an insignificant distant memory. The man forever altered my life, but I took it back. Ironically, if it were not for his thoughtless selfish actions that day, I wouldn’t be able to stand strong today. Awful things happen in life. When they do you can choose to give in to the pain and circle the drain or you can fight it and come out stronger than you ever thought you were capable of being. You have to turn the pain into a purpose.
I help others suffering from the pain of losing a loved one so traumatically and let them know they have the strength to survive. It’s still a daily struggle. Some days are worse than others. This has been the hardest thing in my life, but I came out of the depths of the trauma and turned it into a purpose. It’s a mission to help others as my mom would. I do it to keep her memory alive by helping others find the warrior inside of them. Love you more, mom! Love you more!