A story unfolds of a great tragedy, but it is also a story of forgiveness – sometimes a miracle in itself. There is a call to the judicial system to bring justice and righteousness in the midst of tragic circumstances.
Tragically in 2013 and at just 22, Rekiah Lee O’Donnell fell victim to domestic violence from her ice addict partner. Nelson Lai took a precious life from this world, a beautiful young woman who should still be alive. Someone who had the world at her feet.
The author, Kerryn Robertson, reveals her pain and heartbreak at the death of her daughter in her new book Rekiah’s Law, released by Ark House Press. Kerryn explains why it was so important to write about the tragic events. “Rekiah’s Law was written for a variety of reasons: both to help myself through writing and to help other people through the various topics covered in the book,” she said.
“When such a tragedy happens, particularly if it’s the death of a loved one, you have trouble making sense of it. I felt compelled to write Rekiah’s Law as part of my healing process, because to make any sense of Rekiah’s death I had to know that I was helping others, and that her death was not in vain.
“Because Rekiah died at the hands of her partner, I also wanted to write the book as a warning for others who might be experiencing domestic violence: to not only tell Rekiah’s story about where violence can lead, but to provide explanations of what domestic violence is and give information of where to go for help. My hope is that the book will also give understanding to family and friends of domestic violence victims, and to give examples of the warning signs to watch for.”
The heartbreaking murder occurred when Nelson shot Rekiah in the head at close range. In his statement to the police he maintained he loved his girlfriend, but admitted he used to punch and threaten to kill her, and frequently wrongly accused her of having affairs with a number of different males. He fervently maintained this happened only when he was coming off drugs. It was also discovered he had previous convictions for attacking his partner from a previous relationship, who was the mother of his two children.
When the matter went to court, Nelson, through his defence barrister, claimed he did not know the gun was loaded. He said he was not particularly aggressive towards Rekiah at the time and the gun was not pointed towards her. It was just a grave mistake that unfortunately ended in taking her life.
The ending of this court case resulted in Nelson being convicted of manslaughter and not murder. The family was totally heartbroken at this verdict, and the light prison sentence of a maximum of nine years and five months.
Kerryn explained, “The title Rekiah’s Law came about because of the injustice we believe we were served through the Victorian (Australia) justice system. One of the reasons for writing the book was not only for me to vent my frustrations at the legal system, but to create awareness of the injustices that occur in our court rooms and campaign to get laws changed for the benefit of victims and their families. I felt this was vital to bring to the attention of politicians, lawyers and families.”
However, there is another side to this tragedy – the grace that enabled Kerryn Robertson to forgive Nelson for killing her daughter. This was the miracle – it was, of course, an extremely difficult thing to do. Not many people would come to this place of forgiveness, but Kerryn found the strength to reach out into the darkness and bring God’s light into an evil and heartbreaking situation.
Because of her courage and faith the judge was immediately impressed, and commended Rekiah’s mother when she turned to Nelson during an earlier pre-sentence hearing and told him she forgave him. The judge did not think many people, including himself, could forgive their child’s killer.
The author said she had included writings from her journaling in the years that followed Rekiah’s death, as she wanted people who are grieving deeply, to know that anything they are going through is okay, and that grief and the healing process never follow the same pattern. Everyone’s journey is different and it’s okay to take as long as you need, because life is never quite normal again after the death of someone close, particularly if it is a child or a spouse.
Kerryn goes on to say, “From a faith perspective, I want to give readers a glimpse of what a relationship with God is like, and how faith is so important in giving you hope through the worst of times, and the peace that forgiveness can bring. I have said that losing a child is like losing a limb. Life will never be the same again, but you learn to live with it.
“I made a decision early on that I was not going to let Rekiah’s death ruin my life and the lives of those around me, particularly my other children’s lives. I want people to know through reading this book that no matter what happens, whether it is teenage rebellion, divorce, adversity, death, injustice… all of which I have had to endure, that there is still hope for a happy future.”
The book is available globally.