Jeff has asked me to write this as an account of his experience the last two and a half years.
When the sentencing of Matthew Vaca was over in July of 2000, we asked if we (Jeff and I) could have a private word with the man that murdered our daughter Liz. We were ushered out a door at the side of the courtroom, into a very small hall. There, amidst several deputies, a lawyer, Matthew and Jeff and I, we took a moment to speak with the man that has forever changed our lives. We had a few questions for him that only he could answer, and there in that small hallway he apologized to us. He also asked Jeff to come and visit him in prison. We were never quite sure why he asked Jeff to visit, but Jeff said he would.
Therein is the problem. In the fall of 2005 Jeff felt that he needed to keep his promise to Matthew, so he contacted the "proper officials" to help make this happen. After several phone calls, we were contacted by prison officials that we would need to have a meeting to discuss the reasons for the requested meeting. The meeting was scheduled, and a couple of weeks later we met with facilitators from the victim services at the prison. We met in October of 2005, and were told they would get the ball rolling. Well, it is now May of 2008, and the meeting has not happened yet! Jeff received a few phone calls in between, but nothing else until last week. On Thursday he met with the same two facilitators from the prison. They informed him that they had had more meetings with other people, meetings with Matthew, meetings with other family members, meetings to have more meetings, all this to "arrange" for Jeff to keep his promise. There is really no reason for Jeff and I to go to visit Matthew other than keeping a promise made almost eight years ago.
So, with that said, Jeff is now going to meet with Matthew...sometime. He was informed that there would be two facilitators, their boss, Matthew, a family member of his, Jeff and I and who knows who else will be asked to be present at this "visit". Frustrating? You bet! Why? Who knows! It is just another waste of our tax dollars to have meeting after meeting, to have who knows how many people present, to be able to make sure that when we "visit" Matthew that he (Matthew) won't have any problems. We aren't going to cause him problems, we have no desire to do that. We aren't the ones that requested this meeting, it was Matthew. We are only keeping a promise. It won't change the situation. It certainly would not bring Liz back. It won't change Matthews mind about what he did. That is done.
WE FORGAVE MATTHEW ON MAY 24, 2000, AND HAVE NOT CHANGED OUR MINDS!
The thing that is most frustrating is how SOME of the people involved in this "visit" are treating Jeff. Like he is the perpetrator, and Matthew is the victim. Jeff has no desire to see Matthew suffer, or to cause any problems for him. He only wants to keep a promise. He knows that Matthew is in prison for life, with no chance for parole. He doesn't want to see Matthew be raped, or killed by another inmate. Matter of fact Jeff asked Matthew not to take his own life after he (Matthew) stood in that hallway and cried and said he shouldn't live.
Why is our justice system doing this? What is wrong with Jeff and Matthew and maybe one other person meeting for 10 minutes, and then getting on with life? Why all of the un-necessary meetings, all of the involvement of "other people" needed?
We have not changed our minds, we have not revoked our forgiveness, we have not done anything other than attempt to keep a promise. Yes, we are frustrated, and a little agitated, ok, maybe a lot agitated. Why does this have to be such a HUGE ORDEAL? Maybe one of you readers can explain this? Maybe you can help us understand the "Justice System" of this state, and how a murderer is defended, and worried about his "welfare" and protected from us, when we wish him no ill. We didn't seek the death penalty (which would have been our decision to pursue because of the charges of murder and abuse of a corpse) Actually the decision was left up to the county prosecutor. We believe that decisions like that are to be made by the "elected officials" (Romans 13). We would never try to take justice into our own hands. Yes, we believe that the Bible is clear when it says "an eye for an eye" (Exodus 21:23-24) The death penalty was not sought because the prosecutor did not want this to drag on for years, appeal after appeal. She wanted it to be over!
Matthew will have to answer to God for his sins, just as we all do. We have prayed for this man's soul from the moment we knew what had happened. We have never hidden anything from the public in reference to this case. We have been honest and truthful, and thought that we had been upstanding citizens. Are all good Americans treated with disdain?
I am thankful that we live in a free nation, except the cost to do the honest thing seems rather expensive to me!?
We are hurt, and feel that our justice system should perhaps look at things a bit differently than they are. Please pray for us as we continue on this roller coaster. We still want to take the high road in this situation, but for some reason the road is being blocked.