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Article of Interest - Safety Issues

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The Joyful Child FoundationThe Joyful Child Foundation

Samantha Runnion 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.


Samantha's mom, Erin Runnion, established a foundation to protect children from sexual predators in honor of her daughter. For more information, visit


Erin 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 the process.

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 decency.

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 will.

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 so stupid.

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 away?

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 real.

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 stole.

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 little girl.

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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