Excuse me for mis-spellings or mistakes in grammar, it's been a rough month and I'm tired. :)
I gave this statement at the plea hearing for Todd Michael Willoughby. Knowing ahead of time that Mr.Willoughby was accepting the plea out of fear and avoiding even more prison time, I knew that his remorse was forced. He proved my assumptions to be correct by speaking briefly, after Russell's mother spoke of Russell's beautiful life-long nature, Russell's sister (Brandi Sikes) shared her tender heart and chronic pain from her fight through out this experience, and lastly my impact statement, by sitting on the witness stand and only sharing his "condolences with the Hays family for their loss". Not once did Mr. Willoughby apologize for his actions, yet only complained of his burns, scars, PTSD, and absence from his children. NOT ONCE DID HE SAY HE WAS "SORRY". Not once did he recognize that my late husband had no scars, he died from the burns. My children did not have a chance to "visit" Daddy...heaven is further away than any prison in Georgia. Lastly, My children did not have a chance to prepare for the careless actions of a Todd Willoughby's negligent driving and careless fleeing of the scene...you had FIVE years to prepare and be honest with your poor children, shame on you for not warning them of your absence. You are obviously a boy who had children, NOT a man.
Do not misunderstand me, I am so thankful Todd Michael Willoughby took a small step to put this on going saga to an end, but I know a sociopathic-narcissist when I see one and he has yet to think or show any kind of sympathy for the beautiful human being he carelessly fled from or family he robbed of a beautiful human being. ANYONE who supported this man, continued a relationship with this man, and/or believed any of Todd's lies is a fool and just as guilty of LEAVING RUSSELL HAYS in the ditch to burn ALONE. Not coming forward before March 7, 2014 is shameful and if any legal repercussion could have been charged against you, they should have been. You are a sorry human being and you should be evaluated for a pulse.
In other words, YOU were WRONG, YOU should be ashamed of yourself, and WE (Russell's family and TRUE friends) deserve an apology for your contribution in allowing us to suffer with this pain for this long. Any statement made on this blog is not defamation of character, because it's TRUE. I have several documents pointing to Mr. Willoughby's guilt and several eye witnesses to your lack of class and respect at a man's funeral. If you have the guts to show your face to me I can go through the evidence line by line with you, but chances are that you are like the company you keep, cowardly and arrogant; your lack of logically reasoning is that of a swine; eat of your feast and foundation. Pure and simple it is FOUL.
I'd like to thank everyone who supported us through this trial. To my mother who is my right hand with any need of my children or myself, she is there no matter what and every person should strive to be as sweet. To my father who came to support me through every calendar call and legal meeting, thank you for your passion for justice. To Brandi Sikes for being Brandi Sikes, for fighting along side me, for crying with me, and being my sister...Russell would have done the same. To Russell's family for loving us and rejoicing in family blessing since Russell's physical death. To my family for trusting me, loving me, and allowing me to handle this experience in the way I needed to process it to the end. To my friends, MY TRUE FRIENDS, who show me daily that there is hope in chosen family. To the police officers, DA (R.A.), investigators (R.M.), and Nikki for fighting for justice until the end and being patience with my temper, frustration, and anxiety (as well as the officers who read my blog because you always knew the truth and supporting us in court on Friday) To all the witness on the scene who willingly and eagerly came in to testify to the negligence of Todd Willoughby, Russell is thankful for your love and your honesty.To my children who are the only reason I walked into every calendar call, every hearing, every class, and every job...I love, live, and would die for your well-being. And for my Sweet Jesus...You are my way, my truth, and my light; You have never left me, your blessings abound, and our loving relationship only grows.
My Impact Statement ( I speak for everyone who loved Russell, Isaac, and Lillian): **Surprising I was able to only lock eyes with the one person who needed to hear all of this...it shocked me that I was able to stare into the eyes of someone who took so much from my babies. Deep down I know Russell was with me, because I felt the room was empty...just me and him.**
Thank you Judge Davis for allowing me to speak on behalf of my children Isaac and Lillian Hays and for myself. My name is Samarah Hays. I am the widow of Russell Edward Hays. This has been one of the hardest statements I've ever had to write; how does one explain the last five years of grief, chronic stress, rage, depression, understanding, grace, compassion, and peace experienced within one person in one statement.
I'd like to get this out of the way first.
Russell and I were not friends with the Todd Willoughby or his now ex-wife Kim Alexandre; January 1 2009 was the second time Joshua Price and Rachel Price introduced us to the couple. I was fairly impressed then of the couple, and now all four of those people are simply horrible reminders of a tragic day that changed the course of my entire family. SO on a daily basis I forget them.
Even being associated with those people is a huge misrepresentation of who I am and what I stand for as a person. I deeply regret not ending or putting even more distance in the friendship with Joshua Price and Rachel Price at earlier warning signs; from that I have learned that you can't save everyone at the sake of losing yourself or someone you love and it's ok to love people from a distance.
This event has impacted my life in the following ways:
It helped contribute in the death of my husband, the father to Isaac and Lillian Hays, the son of Teresa and Michael Leahey and Doug and Michelle Hays, the brother of April, Brandi, Douglas, and Daniel, the family member to many and a friend to everyone.
Russell is a wonderful spirit; while on this earth he shared his heart for Christ with many and that is first thing he would want me to say about him. This past Monday I had a rough day and cried for most of it, because it would have been our 13th anniversary; at our wedding Russell said sharing Christ with me was his favorite memory. In the past five years, I have struggled with God on many things, but one thing is true...no matter what happens, My Great Healer will not let me go; love, peace, grace, and compassion are His will and HE pushes that on me every single time I have struggled to understand this experience. Therefore, I do not lean on my own understanding...I am nothing. Russell was a apart of that beautiful union and for that I am thankful. We loved, laughed, fought, talked, sang, created, prayed, and worshiped together. Our life wasn't perfect, it wasn't filled with empty promises or "stuff", it was raw, real, and it was love. We understood each other not only as husband and wife, but as brother and sister in Christ. We tried to hold each other to standard's not of own, but God's...so our concerns and hopes for one another were not just of the selfish flesh, they were for the greater good. Just do the right thing. Hopes and concerns to help us not hurt us.
SO when I gave Russell my IMPACT statement three years ago in the privacy of my home, I was not in denial of his careless choice of stepping into the passenger's seat. I was not blinded by "love" or my "poor widow" status to understand that his level of alcohol consumption had everything to do with his lowered inhibitions to step into passenger's seat. I was holding him accountable for the mistakes he made under God's standards, not mine but I whole hearted agree with My Creator. Russell took a chance on his family and lost, and that hurt. As a wife it hurt, but as a mother it hurt deeply. Nothing compares to having to explain to a 7 year old and 4 year old why Daddy is not coming home. (Other than having to watch your children watch you go through the stages of grief, rage, depression, and anger because of this loss.) Through time, prayer, and counseling not only have I been able to forgive Russell but also accept his remorse. There are several examples of Russell sending me "hello's" from the other side, to reassure me that he is sorry and he wants nothing but the best for everyone involved in the horrible tragedy. He wants peace.
I am fully aware that two men drank too much and made an immature decision to get into a fast car. PERIOD. It is sad, it is unfortunate, but I am a strong woman who has walked through the grief process before, so I knew hours after Russell died that I would not just heal but I would be able to remember Russell on a daily basis, remember his spirit, and smile because I love him. We feel him daily.
Because of the complexities of these circumstances I've had to compartmentalize several issues surrounding this cases and treat them on individual bases.
From blog: EARLY COMPASSION
My family got the Price house, cried, and held me. Everyone was in and out of the house, while I cried myself in various positions. Then my dad came in with a serious face, and asked the question, "Sam, what is Russell's dentist's name." I snapped back into reality and realized a new horror, "If YOU NEED DENTAL RECORDS that means THERE IS NOTHING LEFT OF HIM!" This was the straw for the night, and I went into full blown shock. I hardly remember talking to Officer Dukes, hardly remember getting in the car, and I barely remember walking up my Granny's steps to her house. It was 2:00 in the morning January 2 and my arms were numb, I couldn't feel my feet, and my heart felt as though it was going to come out of chest. I thought I was going to die and leave my children parent less. My stepmother Kim told me I was going through shock.
I thought of myself, but then I thought of Todd Willoughby and Kim Alexandre Willoughby. I thought of the horror he had to witness and his own pain. All I knew was that there was a wreck, Todd was at Grady, there was nothing left of Russell. My imagination ran away with me and this is when I pleaded with my father.
"He can't live with himself Daddy, he's got Russell's blood on his hands, he's got kids Daddy, kids. They can't charge him, he's got kids. Call the police, it was just an accident. I forgive him, it was just an accident." I wouldn't find out until January 5th why my father looked at me so oddly, yet he said "Ok, baby. it's gonna be ok." I cried myself to sleep and woke up crying."
The actions taken by Mr. Willoughby after Russell stepped into the passenger's seat are the wounds that still haunt me because it's been five years. How fast Mr. Willoughby drove the car, where (Mr. Willoughby drove the car, why Mr. Willoughby ran from my burning husband, why Mr. Willoughby did not return to the scene until 52 minutes later, and why Mr. Willoughby choose to lie and blame my late husband about this horrible collision ALL falls on Mr. Willoughby. I've never gotten an apology and as a result I have not been able to heal from these offenses.
Because of Mr. Willoughby lies, the lies spread by his ex-wife Kim Alexandra shortly after the death of Russell, and the lies or fabrication of his lies by his friends Joshua Price and Rachel Price (at my husband's funeral NO LESS) I have trust issues. I do not trust people at their word and discretely hold people at a distance, until I see that they will never lie to me about the death of a loved one or run from a burning corps.
As a result of the tragic circumstances of Russell's death and my reaction to the news of Russell's death, I suffered a major panic attack that led to stress fractures in my foot and full blown shock. I suffered from PTSD for quite sometime with horrible nightmares, doubt that Russell was even dead because I never saw a body, paranoid thoughts that people were lying to me about his death, and flashbacks haunted me; now have panic attacks and Generalized Anxiety. Chronic stress and anger (caused by Mr. Willoughby's negligence and prolonged denial of the facts) reached levels somatic in ways through migraines and depression. Through counseling, exercise, and prayer I am able to manage my symptoms. Although, it is hard for me to watch the news, hear tragic stories or watch movies of lies, death, and betrayal, as well as hear any kind of lie...whether it be to me or to someone else...I can smell and see a lie from miles away and I instantly withdraw from anyone who lies in front of me. It is an insult to my intelligence and my 3.7 GPA proves I am not an idiot.
I don't trust people to take me at my word, because of Mr. Willoughby's doubt in my compassion and understanding of the situation. I take false accusation seriously. Claiming that someone caused the death of another person is a strong offense and should not be taken lightly. This saga became almost comical when Mr. Willoughby confronted me outside the courthouse in December 2013; claiming I had "made him out to be a monster". As a Junior Psych major at UNG I couldn't help but think that this was a great example of projection; Mr. Willoughby in fact was only projecting onto me what he thought of himself. He went on to shake his hands at me, "you just go on and believe what you want to believe" and it was exactly what he has been doing for five years, convincing himself of the lies he started the minute he ran away. Losing Russell was enough, I didn't need or have time for any drama, and that's all this was, unnecessary drama.
I have simply heard the truth, I am honest of what I saw that night, I listened openly to what was presented to me by the police officers and investigators as evidence, as well as the testimonies of witnesses at the scene of the crime from which I continue to make a logical analysis of the events. The truth is today what it always has been, but now it's legal and documented.
No one WON here, everyone lost. Russell is not coming back. Remorse if forced. And rather than healing as a whole, everyone involved is healing in their own way. Some destructive and some productive.
From blog: PRAYERS FOR HEALING AND PEACE
"Then the wave of shock came again, and this one was worse. I screamed at the top of my lungs and punched the sky, "Another ONE, Really!?! ONE MORE! What else, who else!?! Why did you take him from me!" They, Josh and Rachel, stood quietly behind me as they witnessed my anger towards God's will; yet they didn't hear His answer. "I didn't do this to you, baby." It was as loud as the freight train that just ran me over. Then He wrapped Himself around me and reassured me again, that He only creates. So, then my attention was drawn to the ere feeling of darkness on the outside of the Holy. I knew that something wanted to take us down, crush families, and tear apart marriages; something wanted to smut out my light and break my spirit. I willed it away, in the name of Jesus Christ, another thing I'm sure made the Price couple very uncomfortable. Then prayed aloud over everyone involved, wrapping God's hands over everyone, bring forth healing and comfort for EVERYONE. I was determined to focus only on the Holy Spirit and His heavenly affect on Russell and myself. I opened myself up to God, and HONESTLY from this point on, HE took over my every action."
I am more compassionate as a result of this wreck. I did not know that my reaction from an event like this would be one of grace and compassion, but deep down out of my heart that God controls, it was. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 2:9) I am a weak human being, humbled by tragic events, and willing to admit that I do not know all the answers to life. None the less, I am a God-fearing woman who understands, through my trials and heartache from earlier life events, that love and its awesome power would be the only Healer in this event.
I had hope for healing, I had hope for forgiveness, I had hope for compassion, I had hope for grace, until Mr.Willoughby and the others crushed it with their filth. I trusted that God alone would make peace with this tragic set of circumstances and my participation is only that of a witness. NOT a deceitful bystander trying to manipulate the outcome using lies and denial. I did not want Mr. Willoughby to suffer, I did not his family to suffer, especially his children. I did not want brokenness to follow them where ever they went....because hurt people, hurt people and what kinda world would that be. Hurt people hurt people; it's trickle down affect. If we continue to allow this kind of dysfunction and heartless attitude to reign in our beings, I have little hope for the world. It's sad. I don't want to live in a world like that, nor have I ever wanted to live in a world like that...so even more now today than ever I just want peace.
As a result of this tragedy, I am able to put things in brighter perspective than ever before. Just when you think your day or life really sucks, it could be worse. I've lost close members of my family to death, been through parental divorce, and had my share of troubled relationships to hold people from getting to close, but there is always something worse....I could be a liar.
That is why today is so important for everyone. WE have given everyone a chance to see and witness that everyone, everyone can fall, fail, and redeemed themselves with one simple action...tell the truth. I hope people learn from these mistakes and change their thought process. Stop and really think about doing the RIGHT thing not matter what. I am a spiritual person who believes deeply in the power of love and I'm also a bit of a nerd who finds the data on positive psychology fascinating that it also proves that love is the answer. I believe in restoration, not only do several holy books speak about it, but there is evidence that proves that negativity, deceit, and stress are bad for the human body and spirit. IN some cases stress or chronic stress will end your life early; so why go through it when you already know the answer? In the end we will be met with love, love wins every time. So why not start now, just give in. Love wins.
He would come every day and at some point play an instrument; as a result of the wreck my house was quiet for some time, but not my heart. I still sing the songs of my late beloved. I hold them in a place Mr.Willoughby will never touch or harm, in my heart. Mr.Willoughby took him away from me on his terms, and after much grief, prayer, and counseling I have him back on sweet and soulful terms of my Healer and Creator. (And therefore, I did not share any personal memories about Russell or the children because he did not deserve to hear them.)
From the blog: DEDICATION
This is a dedication to my late husband, Russell Hays. A loving, bright, deep and passionate man who died to his flesh on January 1st 2009, but lives in spirit there on. A bold young boy with a heart of gold. He loved sports, books, learning, music, and God. He pushed himself mentally, emotionally, and physically up until his death. He loved his friends and family. He loved his children so much and did everything in his power to do anything for them. And he loved me, little ole me. Oh, how he loved me.
Russell loved God first and loathed his flesh second. He saw where his spirit could be and where his flesh tripped him from getting there. Such a challenge for most and for a passionate spirit like Russell it was so irritating. The one thing that God has shown me is that Russell is not suffering anymore. That phrase is used a lot when someone is suffering through an illness, like cancer for my Aunt Miia, and it makes sense. In Russell's tragic death, of course, I didn't see it for a while. It's so clear to me now. Like I've shared in post past, I see Russell now as the spirit his flesh never allowed him to be on earth. He is beautiful, fresh as a baby, and heavenly sounds surround him."
While preparing for this day one of Russell's songs has been playing in my head over and over again.
"Where's all your Love gone? Did you leave it when you left God? Has your light that burned bright gone dim? Your body of clay turned to sod?
Well, now's the time to make a dedication, to the life He's calling you and me to live. I've seen the God of Jacob do Mighty works in this heart of mine, and now it's your time to come, just give in.
Seems like the devil has got a grand scheme, to warp your ways and turn your head. But I think he forgets that Christ paid our debts, to bring us alive back from the dead.
Now's the time to make a dedication, to the life He's calling you and me to live. I've seen the God of Jacob do mighty works in this heart of mine, and now it's your time to come, just give in."