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Columns

Time passes, but mom's grief does not

By BILL STEVENS
Published February 26, 2007


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The tiny classified ad had appeared on the obituary page of the Pasco edition of the St. Petersburg Times every June 26th since 1999. Esther Beaudoin hoped it would help police find her daughter's killer.

But this past summer, money was tight for the 72-year-old woman who lives in East Providence, R.I. She had mounting medical bills, and with each passing year the odds of finding information about that awful night in Florida seemed more remote.

She wouldn't have placed the sixth consecutive ad if not for a "gut feeling." This time, she said, maybe somebody will call.

Somebody did.

* * *

Hello, Esther? This is Becky. I'm terribly sorry about the accident with your daughter.

Esther, sleepy on the afternoon of Feb. 12, snapped to attention. She has three living daughters and thought the caller was talking about one of them.

Then came the shock.

I'm talking about Juliet.

Juliet died more than six years ago, Esther said. "Why are you calling me now?"

Because I am just so very sorry.

The woman said she had read the small ad back in June. When Esther pressed for more information, she hung up.

You can trace a phone call by punching in a code on your phone. Esther learned that from her 11-year-old granddaughter. Sure enough, they found it.

The call came from the New Port Richey area.

Esther called the Florida Highway Patrol. Then she called me.

* * *

Esther Beaudoin first got my attention in October 1999, four months after Juliet's death. She wanted help.

"I'm one of those people you see on Oprah," she told me. "I have a crazy medical history."

She gave birth to three daughters and a son before suffering several miscarriages. In May 1970, she had surgery to prevent any more pregnancies. Eight months later, her abdomen swelled and doctors thought she had an infection. Turned out she was pregnant.

Juliet entered the world on Dec. 30.

Esther called Juliet her "miracle baby." They had a special bond. Even as Juliet grew up and moved away from Rhode Island, they never went long without talking.

In June 1999, Juliet gave up a good job in Seattle and moved to west Pasco to be with her boyfriend, Shawn Reynolds, who worked in Clearwater. They planned marriage.

On Friday, June 25, they drank too much at Danny's bar on Grand Boulevard in Holiday. They argued about something and stomped outside. For some reason, Juliet decided to lie on the road.

Just as she rose to her feet, a pickup heading south hit her. Reynolds screamed for help, but folks in the bar didn't believe him. There was no blood, no body.

Then Reynolds found her shoe.

Reynolds and others walked along the two-lane road in the dark, searching for Juliet. They finally found her several hundred feet away. The truck, possibly a Nissan or Toyota with a camper shell on the back, had dragged her and turned right onto Whipporwill Drive.

The driver pulled over to remove her from the undercarriage - and then sped away.

* * *

Esther Beaudoin can't shake that image. She can't stop the grief. She prays for resolution. Even though she doesn't blame the driver for the accident, she does blame him or her for leaving the scene.

This is what life is like for Esther, in her own words:

Every morning I start my day with a prayer: Dear God and Juliet, help me get through this day. I can't let her go. It's the most horrible thing you can imagine; like a hole through me. I wait sometimes for the phone to ring, hoping it's her, even though I know that's impossible. You just can't imagine the pain.

* * *

The Highway Patrol tracked down "Becky" last week. A trooper called Esther to say it will take a while to investigate. "He said Becky was very odd and lives in a house full of old newspapers," Esther said. "She admitted making the phone call but said she was just offering her condolences."

I called Becky's number. No luck. Why would Becky call eight months after the ad ran? Does she know anything about the accident?

A mother wants to know.

Bill Stevens is the North Suncoast Editor. He can be reached toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6250, or at stevens@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 26, 2007, 06:00:51]


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