Her husband is dead, but she's busy forgiving her husband's three black killers and working to help other black kids in Memphis out whose own parental units (sperm donor and mother) have all but forgotten about. [David Waters: The might and mercy of a murder victim’s widow, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 9-18-2015]:
Bev Shelley spent another morning in court this week, another grueling day inside the criminal justice system.
She doesn't know how many trips she's made from her home in Piperton to 201 Poplar over the past two years. Too many to count. Too many to remember.
She doesn't have to be there, prosecutors tell her. Due process can be a maddeningly slow and stressful process, especially in a murder case.
She thanks them and tells them she wants to follow it through. She wants to keep vigil for J.P., her murdered husband, the father of their two children, a cherished son, brother and friend.
She also wants to see and hear the young defendants, Derek, Corey and Thomas — she calls them by their first names — to find some balm for her anger, some relief for her grief, some glimmer of hope.
"It's all so sad, all of it," Shelley said Thursday morning outside Judge Mark Ward's courtroom with her father, J.P.'s mother and sister, and Darlin Fugit, the mother of David Santucci, a 27-year-old man who was shot to death during a robbery two months before J.P.
"I just want it to be over. All of these lives destroyed, not just my husband, but Derek and Corey and Thomas. My family. Their families. It didn't have to happen. It doesn't have to happen again. We all have to work to fix this."
Shelley is working as hard as she can.
She was in court last month when Derek Cunningham Jr., accused of firing the fatal shot, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated robbery. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole.
She was there Thursday morning when Corey Sandifer, accused of robbing at gunpoint another man at the scene, pleaded guilty to the same charges. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison without parole.
She plans to be there next month when Thomas Moss, accused of driving Corey and Derek to the scene, is scheduled to be in court the day after the second anniversary of J.P. Shelley's murder.
She also plans to be at the courthouse next week to support Fugit when one of the young men accused of killing her son is scheduled to go on trial.
After the 42-year-old contractor was killed in October 2013, Fugit reached out to Shelley on Facebook. They soon became members of each other's support group.
"We share a common horror story," Shelley said.
The horror of a normal day that so suddenly and irreversibly changed every other day that followed.
Shelley went to work that morning at Southwind Elementary. J.P. dropped their daughter off at preschool. He planned to get home early to help with their son's seventh birthday party.
He stopped at the bank, then went with a painter to check on a Parkway Village house he was renovating. The house was less than a mile from the first house Bev and J.P. bought after they were married in 1995.
"I didn't even know he was going there that day," she said. "You just go to work and think everything's OK. Then I started getting all these texts from a number I didn't recognize."
Later that day, she told the children their daddy had an accident at work and was going to be in heaven with Jesus, like their grandmother. A week later, she told them what really happened.
"At first, I wanted vengeance," she said. "I was so angry.
Angry that her husband was killed at 11:30 on a school morning.
"Derek was 15, Corey 16 and Thomas 17 when this happened," she said. "Why weren't they in school?"
Angry that her husband was killed by three teenagers who had been arrested numerous times before, on charges that included assault, robbery and truancy.
"Derek had 16 prior criminal offenses, some violent. Why wasn't he in jail?"
Angry that anyone could do something so horrific, so heartless.
"J.P. would do anything to help anyone. He would have helped every one of those boys, if they had asked for his help. I think he'd want to help them even now."
She goes to court to represent J.P. and to look for a glimpse of hope, a glimmer of humanity.
She found it in a letter she got from Derek.
"He said he was sorry," Shelley said. "I'm glad he did that. When I watched him the first time in court and when I saw his Facebook page, he didn't seem to have a heart.
There is a person in there. I hope he can turn his life around."
She found it in a gesture Corey made one morning in court.
"He turned and looked at me and mouthed the words, 'I'm sorry.' I know he is. I can see it in his face. He hasn't tried to fight the charges. He's admitted what he did was wrong and he's facing the consequences."
She also finds hope in her volunteer work for JIFF, a faith-based mentoring program for court-appointed teenage boys who have had at least three criminal offenses.
She started working for JIFF a few months after J.P. was murdered.
"When she starts talking to those kids, they listen," said Richard Graham, JIFF's executive director. "Some of them start crying. Some ask if they can pray for her. It's amazing," Graham said.
Shelley said she can't walk away, from the process or the problem.
"I want justice for J.P., but that doesn't mean I can't have a forgiving heart," she said.
"I want to honor J.P.'s memory and spirit. I want to do something to make a difference so this doesn't happen again to someone else. This has to stop."Forget Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Turn off Freaks. Lay off Carrie and Psycho. The Wicker Man has absolutely nothing on human sacrifice when you consider what John Palmer "J.P." Shelley's death represents.
Night of the Living Dead is for wimps, when you learn the story of Beverly Shelley empathizing with her husband's three black killers.
But Shelley's story pales in comparison to the true macabre tale of Leigh Anne Tuohy.
Remember her? She's the white female living in suburban Memphis Sandra Bullock famously played in The Blind Side, the true story presenting to the world the tale of Michael Oher.
In perhaps the most disgusting part of Michael Lewis' book, we learn how Tuohy wanted to create a foundation for only black inner-city athletes so they could escape their individual poor choices and be insulated in a shelter of privilege only white people's money could afford:
The inner city of Memphis alone teemed with kids whose athletic ability had market value. Very few ever reached their market value. If Michael Oher's talent could be missed - whose couldn't? Those poor black kids were like left tackles: people whose value was hidden in plain sight.There are hundreds upon hundreds of black kids with similar stories to Michael Oher (before he was adopted by the forever virtue signaling white people -- Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy), because sperm donor black males and criminally-inclined black females are ill equipped to be reproducing. Their offspring serve to undermine whatever is left of the civilization whites built in Memphis and have all-but-abandoned for people like Oher and Sallis to inherit and regress to the black mean.
Leigh Anne thought about this, a lot. And one morning in early 2006 Sean [her husband] was interrupted from lifting himself out of bed by his wife, who was brandishing the sports section of the morning paper. The Memphis Commercial Appeal had reported the story of a young man Arthur Sallis. Sallis had been the star fullback on Memphis's East High team, which had been state champions in 1999 and runners-up in 200. He'd averaged, incredibly, more than 10 yards a carry. "When I'm dreaming," he once told a reporter, "I'm suiting up and going on the field. It's like there's no stopping me. It's like I can't go down." Before Sallis's senior year, his high school coach Wayne Randall received phone calls from every head coach in the SEC.
Sallis had been offered scholarships by the University of Kentucky and Ole Miss, but he never took them. His grades were poor, and he was disqualified by NCAA rules. Prevented by the NCAA from going to college on a football scholarship Sallis had stayed home, in his old neighborhood, on the west side of Memphis.
In this Arthur Sallis was only typical. As it happened, East High - Sallis's public school - had been part of a study made of Memphis inner-city athletes. The study revealed that, for every six public school kids with the ability to play college sports, five failed to qualify academically. What was unusual about Arthur Sallis was the persistence of his desire to make something of his life, in spite of the odds against him. He never knew his father, and his mother was an alcoholic in and out of jail. "From the time he was a little boy Arthur lived by himself, out on the streets," said Coach Randall. In high school he'd gotten into all kinds of trouble, but most of it was driven by his need to get money to live. "I used to joke," said Randall, "that Arthur was the only football player I ever had who I had to keep a lawyer on retainer for."
But after high school, with his football coach's help, Sallis had gone straight. He eked out a living with his own carpet cleaning business. He'd fathered a baby girl, and was raising her by himself. "He was doing all the things a responsible person should be doing," said his former coach. Then, a few months after Sallis left high school, he caught two men stealing a car and tried to stop them. For his trouble he got himself shot, point-blank, once in the back and once in the chest. He very nearly died. When his old high school coach visited him in the hospital Sallis told him, "If God gets me out this, Coach, I'm never going to be out on the street again."
He had been true to his word. The newspaper Leigh Anne Dropped in Sean's lap told the story of what happened next. Sallis wasn't on the streets, but at home with his four-year-old daughter, when three men broke in. Sallis grabbed one, and another him three times in the head. Sallis could have been a roommate of Michael Oher's at Ole Miss. Instead, at the age of twenty-one, he was dead.
Sean was only just waking up, and yet his wife was pacing back and forth in front of him, angry and upset. She was crying but she was also pissed off, and that, in his experience, was a dangerous combination. "do you realize that you could take that kid's name out and put Michael's name in and have the same story? she said. "Why didn't this kid fall on our doorstep?"
Then and there Leigh Anne made a decision: she wasn't finished. "I want a building," she said. "We're going to open a foundation that's only going to help out kids with athletic ability who don't have the academics to go to college. Screw the NCAA. I don't care what people say. I don't if they say we're only interested in them because they're good at sports. Sports is all we know about. And there are hundreds of kids in Memphis alone with this story." (p. 324 - 326)
In H.P. Lovecraft's darkest moments, even he couldn't fashion a tale as dreadful and terrifying as that of Shelley and Tuohy's insanity: individual insanity can be isolated, but when it is promoted as virtue this insanity has a tendency to collectively pull entire communities and ultimately civilization into a layer of hell even Virgil himself shielded Dante from...