The date is set for the first parole hearing for Mark James Taylor, who murdered my son, Christopher Robin Hotchkiss, on March 21, 1996. The hearing will take place July 24, 2012 at Avenal State Prison (California). The proceedings will start at 10:30 AM.
I was visiting with my sisters in Seattle when the certified letter notice arrived in our mailbox at home. I had been checking the website from Seattle and nothing was showing the schedule. Getting a certified letter is always unsettling, and when my husband Gary told me about mine, I found it unsettling. What was this about? It never occurred to me it would be the prison informing me of the date. Once Gary retrieved the letter, the mystery was solved!
My daughter, Christina and my husband, Gary, along with my dear friend Jaimee, will be the support team. I’ve decided to keep the group small. Most “lifers” do not get released on their first parole. I have been reassured that I should keep the letter writing and many people showing up to the hearing for later years when we may need stronger opposition. We will go down the night before; it is a long trip from home and we need to be fresh for the long emotional day ahead of us.
For my part, I will be writing a victim impact statement. I live with victim impact every day, so writing it will be natural. The impact does not haunt me today, but it is not far for me to reach in and remember the absolute devastation the murder of Christopher caused this family. I did not know if I would ever smile again, laugh again or be able to fully participate in life again. Now I know that the answer to all these is “YES!” But thinking about the hearing, I remember!
I do feel fortunate that, in spite of “a parent’s worst nightmare,” I have a healthy and loving family with a positive outlook for our future. As terrible as this trauma was–and sometimes still is for us–I know that Christopher wants us all to live and thrive. To honor his short life, his life cut short; we are doing more than surviving his death; we are thriving.
As I share this experience with you all, I feel like I have a very widespread support network. It gives me a peaceful sense of purpose for which I am grateful to each and every one of you who take the time to read my stories.