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Tragedy deepens faith and friendship


WORLD Radio - Tragedy deepens faith and friendship

Two mothers support each other as their sons are charged with murder

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MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 21st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: friendship in the face of suffering.

It’s easy to see the devastating toll violent crimes take on victims and their families. Much less apparent are the agonizing consequences for the family and friends of the offender.

Parents, spouses, and children often live under a stigma and battle feelings of responsibility for their loved ones’ actions. Navigating the legal system adds an emotional and financial strain that can drive people apart.

REICHARD: WORLD Feature Reporter Grace Snell caught up with two women who found themselves in this painful situation, but chose a different path forward. As a quick note, WORLD agreed to use different names for these women to respect their privacy.

GRACE SNELL: In a tidy white house in the Atlanta suburbs, two women bustle about setting out china, silverware, and a steaming apple crumble.

HEIDI: Actually, serve yourself. You can be lady-like or you can be a pig. You know, whatever you want. (laughing and dishes clanking)

Heidi and Camille are slender and active. They banter with an easy familiarity and could easily be mistaken for sisters. In fact, Camille says strangers often do.

CAMILLE: And it’s happened more than once. We’re about the same height. Anyway, anytime it happens I say, “Yeah, I’m the fat one.”

But they’re just good friends, which is pretty surprising given their circumstances.

In 2021, their sons were arrested and charged for the same murder. They could have easily felt pitted against each other. A lighter sentence for one young man would probably mean a tougher sentence for the other.

But Heidi and Camille refused to see things that way. They have been friends for years—ever since their boys became close in grade school.

So when news broke of the arrests, the women decided to stand by each other. They met up regularly and committed to praying for each other.

HEIDI: So that’s at the hospital. (Pages turning) I haven’t looked at this in a couple years.

Heidi opens a big, cream-colored paper photo album. A round-faced baby with big, dark eyes stares up from the pages.

She and her husband started fostering their son right after he was born in 2003. He weighed just four pounds when they brought him home from the hospital.

CAMILLE: Aww, looky there. Pitiful. (Laughing) I mean, he just looks so tiny.

HEIDI: Squashy.

CAMILLE: Aww, lookit.

They adopted him a year and a half later.

Camille and her husband also adopted from foster care. But their son was already three and a half years old when they got him.

CAMILLE: So this is when he first came to us. And he was the cutest little thing. And he was incredibly small for his age. He actually was like, below the charts.

But, long before their sons landed in court, the two women spent almost a decade raising their boys together. Camille met Heidi at a fifth grade book fair. She says she felt a connection right away.

CAMILLE: When you are an adoptive parent, you feel, definitely, a kinship. Because it’s crazy to adopt, because the Lord calls you to do sort of crazy things.

Their friendship took off from there. And that’s a good thing, because soon after Camille started running into a lot of challenges with her son.

CAMILLE: It was almost a blur of difficulty, because school was a nightmare as far as performing, not wanting to do what one was told to do, starting to hang out with people I didn’t feel great about.

Heidi knew what that was like.

HEIDI: Our son has had some challenges, like they seem to be innate to him. He was always a little hyper, but from kindergarten on, I mean, he had a lot of difficulty.

But Camille says her son also started experimenting with drugs. And facing more serious mental health issues.

Things took a drastic turn for the worse after Camille’s son dropped out of a drug treatment program. He was just 19 years old, and he and Heidi’s son decided to move in together.

Within six weeks, Camille got a call from Heidi. She told her something bad had happened, and sent her to the sheriff’s website for more details.

Camille searched her son’s name, and her heart dropped. A man had been shot. And their sons had been arrested and charged with his murder.

She grabbed her bike and came here, to Stone Mountain.

CAMILLE: ... and I just knelt down, I was just “Oh,” just like, moaning. And praying, “Lord, help help. What am I going to do? How are we going to take this? It’s just too horrible.”

That was nearly three years ago. Since that awful day, Camille has returned to Stone Mountain countless times, often with her friend Heidi.

Heidi’s son also faced charges related to the same murder. The two women could have let that fact turn them against each other. Instead, they chose to encourage and support each other.

CAMILLE: We have been able to comfort each other like nobody else. Because who else could understand, where you don’t even have to explain how you’re feeling?

Heidi and Camille share openly with each other about what they’re going through. But, they set one clear ground rule:

CAMILLE: We agreed that we were not going to discuss the technicalities of our sons’ cases with each other.

Camille says the situation challenged her view of God. Before that, it had been all too easy to think of Christian parenting as a formula.

CAMILLE: If I pray, if I take him to church, if I read good books to them. Then everything will turn out just the way you want.

She doesn’t think that anymore.

CAMILLE: Maturity and experience has shown me that’s not the way God works.

HEIDI: I think you realize, hopefully, as you get older, you can’t control other people. People do make their own decisions, or choices.

But they say no matter what happens, they’ll stick by each other.

CAMILLE: It seems to me it’s an example to the world that we can love each other and know that the Lord is in control of this and we don't have to be at odds. We want both young men to, to thrive and grow in the Lord, and me and my husband pray for her and her husband’s child, and she and her husband pray for ours.

Life keeps putting those words to the test. Both cases are now concluded. Last month, a judge sentenced Heidi’s son to 20 years in prison with credit for time served.

Last week, a judge decided Camille’s son should serve two years behind bars. The district attorney dropped the murder charge in his case, but retained other allegations.

Heidi and Camille still meet up every week. And went back to Stone Mountain just last Thursday.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Grace Snell, in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

To learn more about Camille’s story, and what’s going on in the U.S. jail system, check out Grace’s story in the March 9th issue of WORLD Magazine.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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