Monday, September 1, 2008

Too Beaten Down to Cry

by Kelly Siegler

The most commonly asked question I have faced during my twenty-plus years as a prosecutor in one of the most-populated counties in the U.S. is, "How do you not let all of those things that you see affect you?"

As a prosecutor in
Harris County, Texas, I have seen horrible things: photographs, statements, and details of the worst atrocities one human being can commit against another. Depraved, cruel, sick, heartbreaking crimes. Committed in the name of love, for money, just for the "fun" of it, because it was the easy way out, or for no reason at all.

Strangers murder strangers. Loved ones hurt loves ones. Mothers kill their babies. Daddies abuse their children. Children torture their parents. There is no line drawn anywhere that has ever stopped or ever will stop the horrific ways our world has found to hurt one other.

The details of the many cases and crimes I have handled would disgust and frighten "normal" people and there are too many to list.

Every police officer, medical examiner, or prosecutor who has given chunks of his or her life to law enforcement probably feels the same way. I could tell you about the time I had to display and discuss autopsy photos of the internal organs of a one-year-old girl, spread out on a metal tray, so a jury could see with their own eyes evidence of internal hemorrhaging. Or I could describe autopsy photos that showed the exact marks a hammer left on the skull of the woman Joseph Ezell swore that he loved. I could tell you what the weight of the world felt like when I questioned a little boy about being sexual abused. His eyes clung to mine while I asked him about sordid details he wishes he could forget but will remember forever.

So how do you not let any of that affect you?

Funny. I thought for a long time, that I didn't let it affect me. I answered people who asked me that question, "You just have to learn how not to bring it home with you, how to leave it all at work . . . to just not think about it." That was a skill I thought I'd mastered.

That ended the day I met a young lady named Amber Shore. Amber Shore is the biol
ogical daughter of Anthony Allen Shore (pictured right). Anthony Shore now sits on Texas Death Row, convicted of capital murder in Harris County in 2004. Corey Mitchell wrote about the horrible crimes committed by Shore, an admitted serial killer, in his book Strangler.

In preparing for Shore's trial, another prosecutor, Terese Buess, and I spent weeks lining up witnesses and physical evidence from Shore's many murders, in which he raped and strangled his female victims. It wasn't until the second phase of the trial, the punishment phase, that I met Amber in person. She flew to Houston because she had agreed to testify against her father, whom she had not seen for more than seven years. I met with Amber at a Houston hotel, where our office typically houses witnesses, one evening after her father's trial ended for the day. In her early twenties, Amber had dark hair and eyes like her father. She was shy and obviously nervous to meet me.

That evening, I explained all of the questions I would need to ask her on the witness stand the following day and delicately worked my way through her answers. She answered every question, as painful as they had to have been for her, about being raped and humiliated and scorned and degraded by her own father. She talked about being called "stupid," an "idiot," and "retarded" so often by him that she came to believe it. Without flinching and never shedding a tear, she told me everything she remembered.

She told me about her younger sister, Tiffany, and how beautiful and smart and how much more of a "people-person" Tiffany was. I can still see how her eyes lit up when she talked about her "successful" little sister.

But the answer that will always haunt me is when I asked Amber why she finally told someone her father was sexually abusing her. She looked at me and said, "because it didn't matter what he was doing to me. I'm nothing. But I couldn't let him do that to my sister. She's different, and she's special. And I had to protect her."

The contrast of her utter belief that she was "nothing" and her determination to protect her little sister affected me more than any other single moment in my career. It took incredible courage for Amber to stand up in a strange courtroom, years after the fact, and detail her horrific abuse, while her father/abuser, the man who'd convinced her she was nothing, sat directly in front of her.

Amber Shore, believing she was "a retard," testified in the face of the monster who was her father, all for the love of the little sister she was determined to protect. How could a father do to his baby girl what Anthony Shore did to Amber? And to Tiffany? And from where in her genetic make-up did Amber find such amazing courage? So terribly scarred by her father, who had the IQ of a genius, Amber continued to struggle in life.

Please God, watch over Amber.

Now when people ask me that question, "How do you not let all of those things that you hear and see affect you?" I tell them what I have always told them. That you have to learn to keep the two "lives" separate.

I lie. Because it's too painful to think about Amber Shore.


cherry6905 said...

That was a wonderful story. Amber is a wonderful woman. God brings good from evil. Please tell Amber she's a wonderful example to other victims of crime. Helping others always helps you the most!
I will be praying for Amber and her sister.

cricket said...

For all the Ambers in the world.....thank YOU so very much.

God bless you.

jigmeister said...

Good post Doll. Maybe people will start to understand why we did what we did.

Levi said...

Kelly as usual -- another great post. Do you think that testifying helped Amber? Do you think it psychologically helps sex-assault victims to confront their abusers and testify against them?

San Antonio Lawyer said...

Very nice story. People will absolutely understand why people do things that they do.

Kelly Siegler said...

I think that it helped Amber to the degree that she lost a little of the fear she had of her father. Seeing him sitting there unable to stop her telling the truth helped. And knowing that he was going to Texas Death Row and could never hurt her or Tiffany again helped. How you ever get "over" all of that is beyond my understanding. Look how just hearing the story affected all of us.
As you know Jigmeister, it changes everyone. That's why there's no such thing as TRUE justice. That would mean making things "right" again, which is impossible.

Anonymous said... my case it has not helped, it made me more fiercly private and withdrawn, after describing details to a room full of strangers......well, words fail to describe

Cicero Lost said...

Living with fear all day, every day, changes you mentally, physically, psychologically, and makes you into someone different from the person you would have been without it.
-Nancy Werlin
Children have an amazing capacity to heal but the healing doesn't begin until they have love and safety. I have seen miracles. I don't think those children could feel safe if that man wasn't behind bars. You made that happen.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you Amber has had a lot more problems (most she creats for her self) and basicly tuned out of main society. Her sister Tiffany had managed to try to be a better person and help others by becoming a police officer.( she is not at present due to serving in the millitary her own form of suicide as she put it)Neither of these girls(women )will ever really be ok. Tiffany has had a lot of counceling Amber refuses to have.Amber clings to being damaged She feels it is all she has. No matter how much people try to help her. I did find fault with some of the ways things were reported in the case to the writers of the books (wrong info like dates and names) And for some reason Amber and Tiffany were not given victims and /or witness statis. They both were /are wanting to see the death of their father and are told they have to give all their personal info (where they live, phone numbers, where they work etc) Our understanding is Kelly has to list them since she was the prosicuting attny on the case? Any help would be great. We have been trying for 3 years to get them on the list. Also does it always take this long for the death to happen? I am sure his victims will not be at peace to it does. We were told 18 months to 2 years. We continue to work with the girls on this. Thank you if you are able to help I like what cicero said too

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 2/24: I am so sorry and sad to hear that Amber is still suffering. Please keep supporting her as you have and God bless you. Per the Harris County District Attorney's Office re: the appeal: the mandate of affirmance was signed on January 14, 2008 and the appeal is currently in the state writ process with the federal process still to go through also. That being said, please keep in mind that the "average" stay on death row pending an execution is approximately 10 years and so far, the process is proceeding as expected. Should you or Tiffany or Amber have any questions now or in the future, please call the Appellate Division of the DA's Office and ask to speak to the prosecutor in charge of the Shore appeal at 713-755-5826. They can answer any of your questions and will be glad to help you. Our thoughts and prayers and appreciation will always be with Tiffany and Amber for all they have been through and all they did for us. Kelly Siegler

Anonymous said...

Laurie Lee Trembley was a great friend of mine. I talked to her on Wednesday, and Friday she was murdered...Sunday I was notified by the number was in her purse. We never found out who did it and I eventually moved away. 20 years had passed and I had met a couple that worked on death row and after we had visited, my curiosity got the best of me and I went on the website that evening. Clicking on different names, my heart fell to my feet when I clicked on this monster's name and the first sentence, said he strangled a 15 year old girl and dumped her body behind a Ninfa's restaurant...I stared at that for 5 full minutes. "Could that be her I thought?" And then, I saw the other young girls...I can't possible describe to you the feelings that I was having...such anger that these young lives were taken, that this monster took my friend's life, and even a tad of relief to finally find out what happened to my friend after so many years...and to know that he was caught and on death row (wish it had been sooner) many innocent lives lost...I too wish I could see him die. For my friend that I loved. I bought that book, the Strangler and cried till I had no tears left...for those poor children, including his poor precious heart goes out to them. I then saw a Cold Case Files show (all of these findings seemed to happen within 6 months...). I became enraged to hear his voice and how he spoke about Laurie...I know the things he said were lies. This monster is a complete psychopath, as are all serial killers. I hope he is miserable in that little cage...and it enraged me to see his "ad" asking people to write him. If anyone is, they are sick as well. I have been keeping an eye out, often, to see if a date has been set, and yes, I am aware (now that I have been researching more) that the average is 10 years on death row...but when that date comes, I am hoping I will be able to find away to be there and sit quietly and see this filth leave this world..but if not (not sure of the protocol, it may be only family allowed) I will still drive there and sit outside, ignoring the protestors, and pray he goes straight to hell. I have yet to vent about this and appreciated your blog. I will pray for his daughters and for the Laurie Lee Trembleys of the world...I do miss her so. Thank you...