Victim Impact Statement Prepared by Jeanne and Jim Finnegan
To The Honorable Judge Matthew Henry:
I appear before the Court today as a representative and spokesperson for our daughter Kaitlyn Marie Finnegan, all of her family members and her friends. I do this to honor her because if the roles were reversed, she would be standing here today for us.
With my husband, Jim, and son, Kevin, we spent hours upon hours writing this statement with input from family members, especially my mother, and friends. Many tears flowed unabashedly, unending heartache abounded, countless sleepless nights were spent thinking about the horrific way she was murdered and the loss and senseless tragedy our family has suffered. We spent a full week talking about Mr. Fleming and his actions or lack thereof. Today, I would like to talk about Kaitlyn, who she was, and her impact on the lives of everyone she met, came into contact with, or knew her.
On January 10, 1991, my husband and I experienced one of the greatest joys in our lives, the birth of our daughter Kaitlyn Marie Finnegan. Kaitlyn presented many challenges her first few years of life. Severely colicky, the nights were long but she was our beautiful curly headed, blue eyed girl. Kaitlyn has always been very intelligent. She walked at 9 months, potty trained at 11 months, and the first words she said were Mary for the Virgin Mary statue we passed on a daily basis and had to stop and visit with. The other memorable first words were “pretty lights” when driving by St. Francis at night and “mane” for when her daddy would go sit at the end of the runway at the airport and watch the planes come in with her. At the age of 4, Kaitlyn could sing the national anthem by heart. Many adults can’t say that. Kaitlyn would sing the anthem at the Tulsa Oiler Hockey games and people would just stare and then smile when she was finished.
Kaitlyn was the first grandchild on both sides of the family and the only granddaughter on my side of the family. My parents used to take her on the weekend and whenever she didn’t feel well. Mamaw would crawl around on the floor and make sure there was nothing for her to get into. Kaitlyn has one brother and 15 cousins. Each of whom looked to Kaitlyn for guidance and support. She taught them how to play soccer, dress, and be stylish and hip. Kaitlyn was very shy, quiet, and did not stray from home. It was not until the summer after her junior year that Kaitlyn would spend the night away from home. She preferred to be at her house with all of her friends around. It was having all these friends at the house that showed her brother not to be afraid of girls. He talked to all her friends and they treated Kevin like a brother.
Kaitlyn had generalized anxiety from the time she was a little girl. She didn’t like being out of control, the world being out of control, change of any kind, or any type of violence. If something happened in the world, Kaitlyn thought it would happen to us and could feel their pain when it happened to someone else. Kaitlyn was also a fixer, a helper, a doer for others. Kaitlyn thought of others before herself. She would give her lunch money to someone else if they needed it for any reason. She would bring people home to live with us when their family lives were in turmoil. It didn’t matter to her or us what their background was. Kaitlyn cared for all living things whether they were female, male, what their ethnic background was, their socioeconomic status, and all animals. If they needed something Kaitlyn fixed it. Kaitlyn would ask if her friends in need could stay with us, eat our food, wear our clothes, or whatever else they needed . Kaitlyn’s friend Jensen lived with us for 9 months while her parents were getting divorced. Horace lived with us for 4 months when the apartment he was living in ran out of room.
I believe Kaitlyn was misled by Mr. Fleming. Believing everything he told her about his family. My husband, son and I had never met Mr. Fleming until the day he came to our house to say Kaitlyn had been shot. To be honest, I didn’t meet him that day either. I had no idea who he was, what he looked like or even what he sounded like. All I knew was Kaitlyn said she had met a man named Theo. She said he was getting his life together and didn’t get to see his dad very often. The truth was his dad had been killed in a bank robbery. His mother worked as a hospital administrator and he had a little sister. Honestly, had we known the truth about who he was and who he hung out with, she never would have been allowed to be near this person because he surrounded himself with trouble and people who we knew could hurt a young, naive girl like Kaitlyn?
Our lives changed forever that fateful day of April 4, 2009. I remember telling my husband that I needed to locate Kaitlyn that day at 4:00 PM. There was just this nagging feeling that I could not put my finger on. I wasn’t able to find Kaitlyn that day. All her friends said she is probably going to Brody’s house, but they didn’t know the address, just where the house was located. We had told Kaitlyn to be home by 9 PM that evening. Instead at 7:00 PM, my son Kevin yells that Kaitlyn had been shot. Then Jim yells the same thing. I put on my shoes grabbed my bag and yelled at the young man that this was his fault and I had a feeling he would hurt my baby. Jim took a much calmer approach and said he was trying to help. ! Is that what you call lying to the parent’s face of the young woman you just shot? Moreover, his mother had driven him to our house. When Jim went out to ask her what was going on, she just stared at him. No response, no remorse, nothing from any of the people involved. We are talking about adults with children and young adults who simply lie and now believe those lies to be true. These people called her their best friend. How can someone you have known for 4 weeks be your best friend? Obviously Kaitlyn was not their best friend because they circled the wagons and threw her under the bus at the time of trial. Mr. Fleming’s friends testified for him at trial not for Kaitlyn. Mr. Hard smirked at people in the gallery and laughs openly at us in public. Ms. Ellison looked all lovingly at Mr. Fleming and Mr. Grainger yelled “love you Theo” as he was taken from the courtroom.
The death of our daughter has had a traumatic and permanent impact upon our lives. My grief and sadness is still so great it is difficult to put into words my feelings and emotions. Theo Fleming murdered Kaitlyn on April 4, 2009. She knew her murderer. Her murderer took the precious life of a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend, who is greatly loved and now will be eternally entrusted to our memories and God.
Her compassion and love for people in need; overflowed to animals, all animals. She always wanted to bring lost and stray animals home, even small birds that had fallen from their nests. When she was a small child walking through her Mamaw’s neighborhood she met all the neighbors’ pets. Her favorites were two German Shepherds, Harley and Cassidy. She always stopped to visit them; and on their walks they would stop to greet and play with Kaitlyn. Kait volunteered at Tulsa’s German Shepherd Rescue. There she met a puppy named Barry. She wanted to bring him home, and so she held that puppy, and hid him when she was there so no one else could adopt him. She told her Dad that they had to adopt Barry because he was the last puppy left from the litter. Her Dad surprised Kait with the gift of Barry for her Eighth Grade graduation. Barry and Kaitlyn were inseparable during the short 5 years since we got Barry. Barry has many of Kaitlyn’s traits; her skittishness, shyness, need for familiar places, enjoyment of sleeping and feeling wrapped in a cacoon. We cherish Barry in Kait’s absence.
Kaitlyn’s friends attended all different schools throughout the Tulsa area; private and public schools. Kait had so many friends we can’t count them all. That Saturday night she was shot and killed, many of her friends arrived at the emergency room; then followed us to our home. The number of friends at the house increased as that horrible night wore on. They remained a presence in our home throughout the weekend consoling each other and our family members… each one, a special friend to Kait. Both Kaitlyn and Kevin’s soccer team members and families stayed with us, supported us and helped us throughout this horrible time. They continued to support us throughout the trial, here today, and on a daily basis. Jim and my co-workers and friends arranged food to be delivered to our home for lunch and dinner for our many family members the entire week of Kaitlyn’s funeral. Our co-workers and employers continue to be understanding and supportive of our difficulty in dealing with Kaitlyn’s death, and help us cope when we fall apart at work when memories overtake us; and, also during the many court sessions relating to the trial.
The shock and disbelief when we were told our Kaitlyn had been shot in the chest and was in the emergency room cannot be put into words. It sent chills up our bodies. All parents worry about their children and of the many things that could happen to hurt them. Yet, they never in their wildest imagination think of their child being murdered. And then to discover that she was murdered by someone who professed to be her friend. A thousand questions rushed through our minds that Saturday night. How badly was she injured, where was she shot, what happened? Never was she dead! How could this have happened to a child still in high school, ready to graduate, who was just beginning life? Was she in pain? Who shot her? Why? Where was she when she was shot? Was she feeling pain and fear? Was she asking for me? Was she thinking, “I’ll never get to see my Mom and Dad again?” Will I never get to tell them I love them? Why was she driven to the hospital in a car and dumped at the emergency room? Why wasn’t 911 called? Who did this and why? But never is she dead. The questions of what happened that night still linger.
Then, the anguish of learning she was dead before we said good-bye. I had to tell her dad who was out in the hall and I will never forget the guttural noises and howls that came from him. How was I ever going to console him and everyone else? The first thing I said to him was “we can’t get a divorce because of this” and we have to be strong for each other, Kevin and our families. Several people we know who have lost a child seem to get divorced for some reason. I have never asked them why they are divorced; I only know they have divorced after the death of a child. We couldn’t believe what the doctors said. Not our Kaitlyn. We were told we could see her, but could not touch her or hold her. She was evidence. We were stunned. We couldn’t touch her…she was evidence…what does that mean? To us it was our beloved daughter, Kaitlyn. She was covered with a sheet up to her neck. I remember thinking she is so pale, so white, tubes everywhere, xrays, cold and sterile environment. When is she going to open her eyes and look at me and say it hurts? Three policemen were in the room with us to make sure we didn’t get to close or touch her. As I leaned down to look closer at her, I saw she was wearing the fleur de lis necklace her Dad gave her. He now wears that pendant on a chain. One of the policemen reached out to touch my arm to remind me not to touch her. What a horrible feeling. I couldn’t touch my daughter. Even the priest who came to render her last rites was not able to physically touch her. There was our Kaitlyn so still in death, just evidence.
Then seeing my son, Kevin, being told his sister was dead, hearing anguish in his cries of no, no, no; and her father’s deep sobbing, the great sorrow of her grandparents, aunt, uncle and nephews who were present and friends will forever be burned in my memory. It is very difficult to articulate the absolute torture and sheer panic that we felt. There was nothing I could say or do, that could ease this pain for my family…to restore my daughter’s life. Kevin went home that night and sat on the sofa with his best friend’s mother and said “I don’t know if I can be an only child”. Mr. Fleming has caused us such unbearable pain. People are always saying “when justice is served, we will have closure”. I don’t believe there will ever be closure, maybe some easing of the pain we carry every minute of every day, but no closure. It still feels like yesterday and yet it has been 20 months, 16 days ago that we received the news which altered our lives forever.
Making funeral preparations for your child is an unbearable thing to do. The extended family, the grandparents from Illinois and Tulsa along with all of her aunts and uncles assisted in the selection of her coffin, the songs and the funeral arrangements. Adding to the stress of the death of our daughter was the delay in the release of our daughter’s body from the Medical Examiner to the funeral home. The priest from St. Pius Catholic Church and the priest from Bishop Kelley High School came to our home. The evening was spent planning the service and remembering the happy and funny moments in Kaitlyn’s life. Kaitlyn’s friends brought in all their photos of Kait with her friends, and they made posters that were displayed at the funeral home and the church along with her senior photo and pictures from her childhood with one especially poignant photo of Kaitlyn on a beach looking out over the ocean. Was she thinking of a life she would never have? After visitation and before the funeral at the church, many special items were placed in the coffin with Kaitlyn: her precious baby blanket, a photo of her treasured dog Barry and a small figurine of a German Shepherd to be with Kaitlyn through eternity. Kaitlyn was buried on her cousin Dakota’s ninth birthday. On the morning of her funeral he stood beside her coffin at the funeral home and wouldn’t leave her side until time for her funeral at the church. He didn’t want anyone to know that it was his birthday because it was her day to be honored…not his birthday, but her day. Will that day always cloud the joy of his birthday? Only he will know the answer.
More than twelve hundred people attended Kaitlyn’s funeral. Her senior class was among those. The priests from St. Pius Catholic Church and Bishop Kelley High School said her funeral mass. They were assisted by eight other priests of the diocese in administering communion. She had so many friends who loved her and continue to grieve for her as do we. Kaitlyn touched so many lives in her short life. Many times we cross paths with people who see the purple bracelets we wear in memory of Kaitlyn; they speak to us of their friendship with Kaitlyn and her kindness to them.
The emotional impact of Kaitlyn’s death has a far reaching effect on her family, her friends at Bishop Kelley and the many other schools in the area. Wherever we go in Tulsa, eating establishments, car repair shops, doctor’s offices, the veterinarian’s office, German Shepherd Rescue organization, the soccer groups, tae kwan do groups all knew Kaitlyn or her family members. Her death is being felt in Bloomington, IL where the Finnegan grandparents reside: city and political groups, the Catholic parishes, relatives in the military at the Pentagon. Mothers and fathers are even more concerned for their own children now, where they go and with whom, and all have become much more protective in raising their children since Kaitlyn’s death. As have we with Kevin. Kevin has been a rock for me especially. He calls to tell me where he is going, when he gets there, when he leaves, and wakes me when he gets home. He does not spend the night with friends as often as he used to and visits his grandparents often. I know I will have to allow him to grow and be on his own someday but that completely terrifies me. Mr. Fleming’s act of violence has changed our lives forever.
A Memorial Fund was established in her memory. Bishop Kelley High School chose to create a patio with a Kaitlyn Finnegan Memorial plaque, benches, and planted a tree that will live on forever. The Memorial Fund also established several soccer scholarships for the less fortunate. Donations were made to the Special Needs Fund at Bishop Kelley for those who have had tragedies in their lives. Eagle Scouts donated a memorial brick in her name to join the Fountain Circle Memorial for deceased students. We have placed a bench at the cemetery.
How could this happen to our Kaitlyn? Well, it did happen to Kait and to us. It happened when Theo, with total disregard of human life, flaunting the law and in a rage at Kaitlyn, put the gun to Kaitlyn’s chest and pulled the trigger. That bullet traveled through her body and took her life. Just as that bullet ripped through her heart, it ripped our hearts into pieces, never to be whole again. We miss Kaitlyn so very, very much. When she went out for the evening, she’d say, “Don’t worry. I’ll be OK, Mom.” Virtually everything we do or see triggers a memory of Kaitlyn. There are moments when we cry uncontrollably. It seems as if Kait is just away at school or out with her friends. We expect to see her walk in the door at any time. Or, she is just late for dinner and we expect her to show up shortly. I expected to feel great elation after the guilty verdict was read. Actually, I was very calm and my first thought was OK, now Kaitlyn will walk through the door and pick up where she left off in life. I am still waiting for that happen.
What has this done to us, our family, our friends, Kaitlyn’s friends? Well, I tend to work long hours so as not to think about what could have been. I don’t particularly care to celebrate any holiday but am doing so for my son who desperately wants traditions and family time. I don’t care to share my thoughts and feelings with family and friends for fear they will tire of my grief and depression. I know Jim feels the same. Both of us are in existence mode and many times I feel as if we are not giving all we should to our son. We have an overwhelming feeling of loss. How do we go on? I know from speaking with our parents, siblings, and family that they experience the pain of her loss and are unable to express it. Not one day goes by that I do not cry for the loss of my child and not one day goes by that I pray Mr. Fleming spends the rest of his life in prison.
I think on a daily basis the memories we will never have because of Mr. Fleming’s reckless disregard for my daughter’s life. We did not get see Kaitlyn graduate from high school, we will never see her graduate from college, have a career, meet that special someone, watch her dad walk her down the aisle, be a mother, hold our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, share those happy memories and comfort her during difficult times. There is one person who now is forever absent in our lives and only present in our memories. There will an empty chair at family dinners, events and when asked at the restaurant “how many”? I will say 4 and then correct and say 3. We never eat at home anymore. Every meal is eaten out. We try to spend as much time away from home as possible. Taking vacations and spending holidays away so as not to remember there is one missing. Kaitlyn was all about family traditions. Mother’s Day at the zoo, holidays and birthdays were decorated to the hilt and were held at Mamaw and Papaw’s house with her father, me and her brother, Kevin; her Uncle Mark, Aunt Amy and cousins Dakota and Lance would all be there—our little Tulsa family. Kaitlyn was a tremendous soccer player thanks to her dad. He taught her to be a lefty and she was great with both feet. She loved her little cousins here in Tulsa, and spent time teaching them to play soccer. She was godmother to Lance. Dakota loved for her to teach him new complicated soccer plays. Even Dakota and Lance don’t understand why no one called 911 for help that night. At ages six and nine, they knew to call 911. It seems better to not celebrate holidays together with the family—it’s just too difficult for all of us. No holiday or family event will every hold the same level of happiness we once had without our Kaitlyn. Our future, as we planned, will never be the same without her. We yearn for the day when we can be together again as a family and hold each other tight for all of eternity.
Kaitlyn’s friends continue to stay in contact and bring us comfort when they come by and visit with us. On the day of her 19th birthday, over 200 friends and family met at her gravesite to celebrate her life and release purple balloons with personal notes to Kaitlyn attached. After the balloons were released, everyone went to a Mexican restaurant to eat and see a slide show of Kait with friends and family prepared by some of her friends. We have continued Kaitlyn’s love of her friends and open our house up to those in need. As of this time, Kaitlyn’s friend Christina is living with us while she saves money to get back to school. We talk and see her friends on a daily basis which makes us feel like she is still here doing all that she did.
Kaitlyn’s death has greatly affected the health and well being of both sets of grandparents. Her Papaw’s emphysema has become much more severe since her death. His cry is impossible to describe because he cannot breath easily and can only gasp for air when he sobs. The doctor says Kaitlyn’s Mamaw is suffering from extreme grief, depression and a broken heart. Kaitlyn had spent many, many weekends with Mamaw since she was two weeks old. She misses Kaitlyn’s curly hair, blue eyes, and the smile in her voice. Nothing will fill the hole in her heart and the void in her life left by her Kaitlyn. My Mom says she cries every night before she goes to sleep missing the sound of Kaitlyn’s voice and those of her friends when they would come over and sit on the patio talking late into the night on those nights Kaitlyn stayed with her Mamaw. Her Mamaw misses waking in the morning, never knowing how many of Kaitlyn’s girlfriends would be sleeping on the floor in the guest room or family room. She misses the evenings Kait would stop by and watch TV with her, having Mamaw rub her back. Kait would then go hang out with her papaw in the family room. Mamaw misses Kait coming over using the computer to do her homework. She misses the days she would take lunch to school and she and Kait would sit in the car and talk while Kaitlyn ate lunch. Frequently Kait’s friends would join them during lunch. Kaitlyn would call her Mamaw when her car ran out of gas, which was often. Mamaw was an easy touch; she was able to see a lot of Tulsa during the gas runs. She sees Kait’s friends who stop to say hello, her teachers who speak of their time with her. Mamaw misses the shopping trips with carts full of clothes. Each item to be tried on to see if it would be a keeper or not. Kaitlyn was always a daily part of her grandparents’ lives; if she didn’t see them, she would always call or send text messages. Mamaw always told Kait that she was her favorite granddaughter. Kait would reply she was her only granddaughter. It was a standing joke between them. Her grandparents continue to grieve and miss her each day.
Because Kaitlyn passed away on a Saturday, my mom go to the cemetery every Saturday to talk to Kaitlyn and Dad goes with her when he feels well enough. Since the exact time of death is unknown, mom goes about 5 PM because it makes her feel like she can put a protective arm around her and sit and visit about how she is feeling and what is going on here on earth. Kaitlyn made everyone smile and laugh. The laughter and joy are gone.
My brother, Mark, and his wife, Amy, continue to have a difficult time explaining to young Lance and Dakota that Kaitlyn is dead and not coming back to be a part of their lives again. They have told their sons that guns are not toys. If any of their friends have a gun, the boys are told to leave immediately and to call their parents to come pick them up. These are the same words we told Kaitlyn and Kevin from the time they were little, along with no drugs, no alcohol, no driving and drinking and every other no-no that would have consequences. Kaitlyn’s death has brought back memories to my aunts and uncles of their children who have died at an early age, and they tell me a parent never forgets the pain and grief of the event.
Kaitlyn’s fourteen cousins are struggling with the loss of their oldest cousin. The next oldest, Nick, now 18, was told that he is now the oldest cousin and must now assume the leadership of the cousins. Nick responded that “No, Kaitlyn would always be the oldest and the leader.” Allie, now aged 17, the next in line asked to have Kait’s car to drive because it would keep her close to Kait. All the cousins, other family members and friends of Kait and her family continue to wear the purple bracelet in Kait’s memory, have memory magnets on their vehicles, and wear purple ribbons in rememberance.
The financial burden has been great for our family and the extended family. Funeral expenses have exceeded $20,000, of which $7,500 was reimbursed by the Victim/Witness Center. Financial burdens were placed on the out-of-town families for hotel, food and travel expenses for the week, and their children were forced to miss school. We would ask that Mr. Fleming be responsible for at least the balance of the funeral expenses.
We appreciate the support we have received from the district attorney’s office, Adonica McIntyre of the Victim’s and Witness Advocate Unit, and also value our relationships with former Bill Musseman, and the current legal team of Steve Kunzweiler and Ben Foo. Adonica has let me rant, rave, cry, yell, and scream throughout our time together. She has hugged me when I needed hugging and quickly found answers to questions that caused me great anxiety. Mr. Kunzweiler was outstanding in reminding the jury, the public and the media that this trial was not about Theo Fleming. It was about the heinous treatment and reckless disregard, Mr. Fleming had towards Kaitlyn. He was Kaitlyn’s voice during the trial and did a great job. Mr. Foo came in to assist and really made the family feel like he would do everything in his power to get justice for Kaitlyn and he did. Finally, Jim, Kevin, and I would like to thank Former and current Special Judge Bill Mussemen. Bill came into the first meeting, the day after the funeral and was compassionate, empathetic, and really cared what happened to Kaitlyn. We have since developed a strong bond and friendship that our family values beyond measure.
We respectfully request that Theo Fleming who committed this heinous crime receive the maximum, full punishment that the law provides. Theo did wantonly and with rage, forethought, and total disregard for human life, point a gun at Kaitlyn’s chest, pulled the trigger and took the life of our daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend. We believe that if Theo Fleming is ever free to live in society again, there will be another victim at his hands, and he would again claim that holding a loaded gun to a victim’s chest, then pulling the trigger was an accident. Another family will be shattered. He nor his family and friends have shown any remorse or made any apologies either private or public to our family and friends. His friends have made and continue to make threatening statements to Kaitlyn’s friends and offhand comments about and to her family. As a matter of fact, they have been insensitive, tactless and cruel when coming in contact with our family.
It is the prayer of our family that Theo Fleming pay restitution to the family for all the expenses we have been forced to incur thus far and in the future. If this is not possible for family restitution, then we respectfully request any restitution funds to be directed towards Catholic Charities. We respectfully request Theo be denied access to all amenities such as TV, internet, college degree, conjugal visits, and any other requests which may improve, advance, or develop his life. The bible says “an eye for an eye”; I know we can’t take his life as he took Kaitlyn’s but we can find some solace in making Mr. Fleming’s life as unhappy as possible. Simply stated, this is a justifiable request for the maximum, full punishment that the law provides which is 45 years for the murder of our daughter, Kaitlyn Marie Finnegan. If the full punishment is not given, then please Judge uphold the recommendations of the jury.
Siddhartha said, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.”
Thank you, your Honor, from the loving hearts of the family of Kaitlyn Marie Finnegan.