Joyful Child Foundation
was a beautiful, bright and joyful little girl. She loved to
read for fun, write stories, paint, draw, play her guitar, sing
and dance. Most of all she loved to play games with her family
and friends. She approached each day as a new adventure, eager
to learn and play. Samantha looked forward to growing up and
being a mommy and a teacher. She was a precious gift to all who
knew her. That dream was destroyed. Samantha was murdered
by a sexual predator.
Erin Runnion, established a foundation to protect children from
sexual predators in honor of her daughter. For more information,
Runnion's Court Statement
Friday, July 22, 2005
Your honor please bear with me. I have a lot to say, but I think
it will only take about five minutes. I hope it is OK if I do
this first. I have to thank you Judge Froeberg for the way you
managed and set the tone in this courtroom. This system seems so
contrary to human nature and you made it as humane and tolerable
as possible. You were fair and careful, and I was less burdened
because I was confident that you would uphold the integrity of
I want to thank the jurors for your time and attention, but
really for treating this case with so much respect. You, too,
were careful and diligent and you did the right thing. This was
not about me and my family vs. this man, it was our community,
the "people" vs. him ... because when someone hurts and kills an
innocent child it is a crime against all of us. And, I am sorry
that you had to be a part of this, but I feel like you went
through this part with me and I'm glad it was you who were here.
For mitigating to the greatest extent possible, the impact of
this horrible crime, I want to thank everyone at the D.A.'s
office -- David Brent, Camille Hill, Jim Mulgrew and all of your
awesome staff, Minerva Hidrogo, our victims' advocate. You were
so wonderful to my family. Combined with my friends from the O.C.
and Riverside County Sheriff's Departments, you all made an
incredible team. You did a fantastic job.
It seemed that everyone who was involved from the day Samantha
was taken did their difficult jobs with such care and
thoroughness that the sincerity of their intentions was obvious.
Thank you for caring. You treated Samantha and this case with
the respect and diligence she deserved, and it is by your intent
and wonderful work that justice was done for her.
Ms. Gragg and Mr. Zelweski, I feel badly that you had to defend
this man. It just seems so wrong that we put people in a
position to pretend someone is innocent when no one wants this
man on the streets.
I don't imagine he has given any thought to what you all went
through, personally.. I know you were fulfilling the duty set
out in the Constitution that is truly the absolute backbone of
our democracy; that is a judicial process that ensures that
innocent people are not falsely imprisoned or murdered to
satisfy a popular demand. That very thing is happening in so
many countries around the world today that in spite of how mad
you made me, watching the process made me appreciate its intent.
I was very frustrated by the posturing and convolution of facts,
and you must know that a few of the tactics you employed crossed
the line from defense to distortion. I understand that our
adversarial system perpetuates that dilemma and I'm not
qualified to suggest any alternatives. I just wish that we could
find a way to infuse the system with more common sense and
I also want to acknowledge all of the strangers who watched this
story and let it touch them because it really helped me to know
that so many people saw this for the truly heinous crime that it
was; for acknowledging how important my daughter's life was.
Every child deserves that kind of love and advocacy.
I have written and re-written what I would say to the man who
killed Samantha and you better pay attention because I never
want to address you again. You don't deserve a place in my
family's history. And so I want you to live. I want you to
disappear into the abyss of a lifetime in prison where no one
will remember you, no one will pray for you, and no one will
care when you die.
Since Samantha's death, I have felt more conflict, more hate and
rage than I ever thought possible, but I love that little girl
so much that it would be a horrible insult to her to let my hate
for you take more - any space in my heart and in my head from my
memory of her.
I am supposed to speak to the impact of this crime on my life.
And there is no describing the impact, and I am not sure you're
intelligent enough to ever comprehend it anyway. I wrote this
statement on the third anniversary of the night you took my baby
and you hurt her and you crushed her. You terrified her until
her heart stopped. And she fought. And I know she fought you. I
know she looked at you with those amazing brown eyes and you
still wanted to kill her. And I don't understand it. And I never
It's like you never learned to think. You have absolutely no
concept of how heinous, how egregious your acts were. I can't
help but wonder how it is you survived as long as you did being
You killed a child with a loving and passionate heart. Samantha
was outrageously bright, and funny. She wasn't demanding, she
didn't ask for everything under the sun, just to play and have
fun as much as humanly possible. Why would you want to take that
I have researched and really thought about pedophiles and your
psychology and blah, blah, blah ... you're a human being, you
know pain and you know fear... How dare you pretend she wasn't
I want an apology. Someday what I really I want you to feel the
impact of what you did. I want you to realize how much you
I have to take family photos today with my family and my little
girl isn't there; she's always going to be missing. Every happy
moment of my life has a moment of gut-wrenching agony because
she's not there. And I have to stop and acknowledge how much it
hurts to live without her.
Samantha made me feel like I had a purpose on this planet. She
was so incredible that I felt sure that if I just did what I
could to give her every opportunity to become the best person
she could be, and I didn't mess her up in the meantime, she
would have done something really wonderful for this world. She
wanted to be a dancer and a teacher and a mother. She loved so
many things. She had so much passion for life. I'll never know
what she would have become.
My family's life was shattered. For the past three years we've
been trying to paste it back together, but there's this huge
void and the lack of her laughter, of art on the walls of her
dancing and her singing and her running and her jumping and her
swinging and her smiling -- the lack of Samantha is actually a
part of our life now. And the pain is impossible to describe,
and the guilt I feel for bringing that sweet baby into the world
only to be tortured and terrified ... I am so sorry.
And you should be sorry you took her away. You should be so
sorry. Not sorry you got caught; not sorry that your wasted life
will be taken, as if its worth could ever compare, but sorry
that you took the life -- you took the life of a very special
But you just don't care. You have no idea of what it is to love
someone. You have no concept of what life is about. And yet you
were so arrogant as to think that you had a right to take it.
While everything in me wants to hurt you in every possible way,
when I'm very honest with myself, and it's a harder place to be,
what I want is for you to feel remorse. There is so much misery
built into being a human being that I can't fathom what would
make you want to add to it.
In choosing to destroy Samantha's life you chose this ... You
chose to waste your life to satisfy a selfish and sick desire.
You knew it was wrong, and you chose not to think about it. Well
now you have a lot of time to think about it. Don't waste it.
Write it down so that the rest of us can figure out how to stop
you people. You're a disgrace to the human race.
Thanks very much.
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