On May 28th, 1995, my one and only hero was born. Two weeks later, overdue, nine pounds, after a trip down Flying Cow Road, my mother went into labor. That very day, I officially became James’ sister. As my brother started to walk, he was so fascinated with animals, especially reptiles, anything that was associated with nature. Around eighteen months, curious James wandered off on his own and fell into our pond. My father immediately jumped into the pond to rescue James as my mother dialed 911. The ambulance arrived at our home and transported my brother to Palms West Hospital. We thought he was dead, but thankfully he survived. Yet that feeling of almost losing my brother never left me and now this is my reality. During my brother’s teenage years is when I started to realize that James was truly the ideal son. James never did drugs, always obeyed the rules, never broke curfew, and always cared about school. His friends were his world and video games were his passion. My brother waited until he was in his later teens to date the Defendant who identifies herself as per her gaming profile “Hell Raiser.”
When I became aware that my brother had started dating, I was happy for him. Happy for the fact that my brother would now know what it was like to love and to be loved and to know that he was becoming a young man. It was not until mid-way through the relationship that I suspected the defendant, Melanie Eam, to hold ill will. James shared with me that they were having typical relationship issues and his friends were voicing their concerns to him, and as any newbie to dating, he then voiced his concerns to Melanie, which struck a nerve in her that led her to pouring a half a gallon of bleach into my brother’s best friend Jeff’s fish tank, killing the fish with NO remorse, no regard, not a care in the world. Being the older protective sister that I was, I expressed my concerns to James, advising that it is not normal human behavior and that he needs to assess his relationship with her. James became single for some time, and I was relieved and figured my brother would move on. Well, that was not the case for James. He wanted his relationship to work and decided to give it a second chance as any young man in love would do.
The time now is August 17th, three months to the day before my brother was murdered, was the last conversation I had with James. I, myself was in a mentally abusive relationship at the time that I was able to escape from with the help of my father and stepmother. My mind was in a terrible place at the time and my brother had nothing but words of encouragement and advised me to push on and to leave my abuser. Not mentioning any relationship problems that he was having of his own. That was the kind of person my brother was, selfless and forever humble, a gentle soul. My last words were the following. “I’ll be safe in heaven, not here”. James replied, be safe, I love you. Never in my entire life did I think these words would be the last words that I said to my brother. Survivors’ guilt is real, and it consumes my mind when I am asked what the last conversation is I had with my brother. It’s worse than any addict that is suffering from any kind of addiction. I think about him every single day. November comes along, my life is getting back in order. My father brought my brother a brand-new Chevy Camaro, which absolutely boosted my brother’s self-esteem.
I remember looking at pictures of James with a huge smile, but yet I had no idea of the troubles that he was going through with his relationship with the Defendant. It was that very night, November 17th. I was home with a good friend, Dale, bathing my dog, around the time my brother was getting slaughtered, fighting for his life. I was telling my friend how much I miss James and how I should reach out and apologize for the things that were said the last time we spoke due to my negative state of mind. My phone rang around 1:30 am. It was my father. My father never calls me that late, so immediately my heart sank. I answered the phone only to hear the trembling words of my father saying that James was murdered. Somebody killed your brother in your mother’s home. Your Honor, hearing these words from my father is the absolute worst words I would ever hear. And my mind could not comprehend. That very moment, my world stopped. My body collapsed on the floor. I was crying. I was screaming on top of my lungs, not my brother, for hours on end. Everything released from my body as if you do when you die, but here I am still alive. I will tell you a large part of me that night has died and I’m learning to survive this awful living nightmare.
The next day came around. My mind was racing for answers why, why, why my brother. My brother was a person’s son, brother, friend, boyfriend, and most of all my hero. Who would want to end his life? He was such a pure soul, a precious gift from God. We later learned that it was Defendant and she had fled to Maryland and willingly confessed to the crime of killing my brother. Listening to the confession tape multiple times in court with a room full of strangers, viewing the horrific crime scene pictures, will forever be embedded in my brain like a thirteen-inch blade was embedded in my brother’s chest. The fact of the matter is, these thoughts will never leave. This is my reality. It will never go away. My future was taken away with James and from our family. I lost my best friend, my one and only brother. My world became dark. My nights became sleepless. My days have become tiresome. My complex PTSD became alive and my mental health has declined. It took me to attend Victims Rights Press Conference for me to get the mental help that I needed. I will never forget the moment I broke down to one of the members, the lead director of Victim Services. It was not until August of 2017 I could work again and be somewhat a productive member of society. Prior to that, I suffered from the outbreak of shingles, severe depression, thoughts of suicide. I’ve had chronic panic attacks which are all direct impacts of this horrific murder. This crime has impacted my core beliefs, my perceptions in life, destroyed my trust with people, and has also made me question at times my own faith. When we asked our family’s priest at my brother’s funeral was this James time, he responded absolutely not. This was not an act of God, but an act of evil. My world became a living hell that I am still learning to live in. This goes to show how this horrific crime has impacted my physical and mental health in a lot of ways the general public cannot comprehend, nor I wish them to comprehend.
The aftermath of my brother’s homicide has not been easy. If anything, it’s been quite challenging. My first year, everything was a big blur and still can be a blur. A few months after receiving help from Victim Services, my therapist at the time was an intern who had completed her assignment and, unfortunately, I was turned away due to understaffing. It’s a shame that our system lacks the proper funding to provide services to survivors that have been impacted by any kind of violent crime. Due to this experience, it drove me searching online for answers for help with myself. That’s when I discovered there’s very little resources available for us. Thus, I ended up establishing a group online. I am 278 members strong across the world today. The bottom line is, no break-up should cost you your life. No parent should be handed a business card from a third-party company to clean up their child’s blood and to be charged for it. That should be covered by our taxpaying dollars. By the way, my mother ended up cleaning my brother’s blood that very night with my aunt. No victim should be turned away from mental health, especially in circumstances like this. As we know, the impacts of homicide are horrific and can be deadly. Not all of us survive. It’s a matter of a simple trigger that can put us over.
So I ask of you to help us live in peace, your honor. It’s the state’s job to deliver justice, to do good for survivors, not to add to our constant pain with the uncertain process of the courts. No murderer should be granted leniency for their ill will. Help our family collect some peace of mind from the selfish, vicious acts of a woman’s scorn. We want justice to be served for our own mental sanity, to be able to live in peace, knowing that Hell Raiser will be out of society, living under constant supervision by the State of Florida where she forever belongs. And most of all, for my brother James. We want the maximum sentence that the law can be upheld by you, your honor. James should be alive right now. He was a productive member of society who only knew how to do great things in life. My brother has touched thousands of lives and will continue to. Hopefully to prevent lives from being lost from a horrific breakup by spreading awareness that domestic violence exists in men, too. I thank the state’s attorneys, Lauren and Mr. Reid for providing James and our family a guilty verdict of second-degree murder with a weapon. Thank you Carol Brown, Dawn, members of Victim Services, and to everyone who has supported our family every step of the way in this horrific life experience. And I thank you, Judge Kelley, for all that you do. As the state would say after closing arguments, the state rests. The older sister, Alexandra Barry, now rests.