On Paris Bennet’s 16th birthday, his mother could not make a special dinner for him, nor cut him a slice of cake, throw him a party, or teach him to drive.
Instead, Charity Lee found the list she had written for his birthday three years earlier: 13 things that she’d learned from loving him. It was a list penned three months before the Texan teen savagely murdered his own half sister, four-year-old Ella.
Charity added three more points to the note, and mailed it to the prison where Paris is serving his maximum 40-year sentence. The last point read, “No matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no matter what you may do, I always have and I always will love you, to the stars and back.”
In a new film about the events called The Family I Had, Lee recalls the moment her nightmare began. Shortly after midnight on February 5, 2007, police turned up at the Abilene Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant where she worked. Her daughter had been hurt, they said.
“I was saying, ‘You need to take me to Ella now,’ and they were like, ‘You can’t go… she’s dead’,” the 44-year-old says in the film.
“I’d left her at home with a babysitter and her brother, so I said, ‘Is my son OK?’ And they said, ‘We have him.’ …That’s when everything stopped making sense.”