Justice Served?

This post is not for the faint-hearted. The remaining two of the three people responsible for Steve’s murder pleaded guilty in court yesterday, on my birthday, as part of a plea agreement. I knew about it in advance, so I was prepared. There will be no jury trial now, and they will be sentenced to many, many years in jail. The legal process is pretty much over. By admitting their guilt, truth was spoken, finally. They said that they did it. Does it make me feel better? Nope.

Several journalists contacted me at the end of the day asking if I felt that justice was served. I tried to answer. For three hours, late into the night, I wrote and rewrote two sentences to encapsulate my thoughts. In the end I arrived at short statement, but how can one answer such a pregnant question in a few words? So, following is my longer answer.

To begin with, what does it mean “was justice served”? In the legal context, yes, I guess justice is being served with the lengthy prison sentences. The three murderers will spend most, if not all their lives in jail. They can no longer harm anyone else. Death sentences were discussed as a possibility and rejected. Now legal justice is being served by putting them away. They can never appeal, and the sentences are final.

But real justice? Steve and Audrey are gone forever. Our hearts are broken, our environment is somehow less safe knowing that what happened to Steve and Audrey could happen to any of us, at any moment. Guns are still being sold to people freely, and stolen from their owners. Dangerous, addictive drugs are readily available to anyone. Violence permeates our culture every single day.

Agreeing to the plea agreement was hard, really hard. It was an agonizing process to get there. I wanted the murderers to fully feel the impact of their actions; the indescribable pain and sorrow. I wanted them to sit on that hard bench in the courtroom every single day for weeks on end during a jury trial, shackled, being constantly confronted with more and more damning testimonies from witnesses. I wanted them to revisit in horror what they did; every single moment of what they did. I wanted them to feel ashamed, mortified, and shaking with fear for their lives, for their future. I wanted them to fall apart completely in front of the world, exposed and ashamed. And the list goes on.

Finally I came to realize that there is nothing, absolutely nothing I can do to change them. Nothing.

The only thing that is possible for me is to take care of myself, and part of that is to make informed decisions that hopefully will help my healing, and the healing of our families, friends and community.

Deciding to proceed with the plea agreement was such an informed decision. The legal process will be over, forever. We don’t have to read about it in the media any more, and the killers will be behind bars. Period. We don’t have to fret about what a jury might decide, or be sickened by how the cold-blooded killers will be presented by their defense attorneys in the best possible light in attempts to ease or shorten their prison sentences.

We can complete this part of our lives, but whatever their punishment is or could have been, it is never going to bring Steve and Audrey back. We have to live with the excruciating and traumatizing ramifications of their crimes until our very last breath.

So can true justice ever really be served? I don’t think so.

Follow this link for media coverage.

46 replies
  1. Christina de Jongh
    Christina de Jongh says:

    Crying again… knowing that nothing can bring Steve back, harm was done…Glad you knew about this. Glad we do not have to give them any more attention. They are darkness itself. But the pain will never go away completely… the wound in the heart… may heal, be surrounded and embraced by the love that is in our heart, the real nourishment for the heart. I am grateful you are able to keep on living and being alive and finding joy and love and still feel everything. Sending you lots of love and support today!!!!

    Reply
  2. Xandra
    Xandra says:

    Dear heart, I understand, no justice can be served, I agree. Adi Da Samraj told us something I like a lot and might help you in this moment: ‘If happiness or freedom depends on the Answer to the Question, then there can be no happiness or freedom.’
    I understand your pain, it must be worse than mine, I lost everything I owned in the Valley Fire and lost my partner unexpectedly due to a cardiac arrest and found him. I too have to move on and find my Happiness among the burned trees all around me. Know I think of you fondly.

    Reply
  3. Katalina Fisher
    Katalina Fisher says:

    Very well spoken, Lokita. I agree with you 100% And I too wish that they could have been subjected to the full impact of ‘knowing and feeling’ what their actions caused for others and for themselves. But as you have said, that is not possible for these criminals. They are incapable of feelings or having any remorse for their actions. I am grateful that they will no longer be able to hurt anyone else or take anymore life’s. But, it does not feel like there was ‘justice served’ in the outcome. What that looks like for me is something that does not exist within the parameters of this experience. There is great loss, and great suffering and no matter what were to happen to these 3 criminals, or any thing that they ever tried to do to show real remorse, now or in the future, still…justice could not be truly served. Bless you Lokita. You have gone through so very much. I am very grateful that you have so many, many people, who genuinely love you, and are present for you at any given moment. You are loved! <3 -Katalina

    Reply
  4. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    To say I am sorry doesn’t do justice. I grew up in those hills of Marin and now Sonoma County. My aunt hiked that trail three mornings a week. I have been so deeply disturbed and pained by your husband’s and your story. An event like that alters the way we all look at the world and shakes our trust in our community. You are clearly an incredible and fiercely resilient woman, I am truly holding you in my heart and sending you all the love you deserve.

    Reply
  5. Sherry chilcutt
    Sherry chilcutt says:

    That is the crux of it. Good that they are not able to harm more people. But for the justice part, how could anyone make up for killing 2 beautiful people?

    Reply
  6. Mark Zila
    Mark Zila says:

    Lokita this is beautiful. Yes legal justice was done but real justice would mean that Steve and Audrey were still alive. I send you love.

    Reply
  7. Diane
    Diane says:

    Again, Lokita, your wisdom and authentic heart shine through your words. In a world where we know that everything and everyone is connected, I trust that the impact of their acts will be experienced somewhere and some time. So much love to you in your courage and vulnerability.

    Reply
    • Timo Navsky
      Timo Navsky says:

      Lokita, I know nothing can bring Steve back.. he will always live in your heart. I hope you continue to heal, grow, love and enjoy life. You are a shining light to many people… Your path is awareness and teaching and inspiring others.
      Much love, Pratimo

      Reply
  8. Marci Javril
    Marci Javril says:

    Thank you for sharing that your inner voice is loudly wanting to have the murderers fully experience the consequence of their inhumane choices. As compassionate as we like to think of ourselves, forgiveness for this act is a stretch that would give me a ligament injury! You, on the other hand, are dealing with self HONESTY, AWARENESS, and INTEGRITY. Thank you for speaking the unspeakable, that desire for punishment and retribution can live inside our hearts, and yet, we can let that go, live with it somehow, and move on, to things we really can change and affect. Your continued sharing of your story is deeply moving, and your role as my tantra teacher, has shifted, to being my Mentor of Life or Death. We choose to live. I’m feeling you so strong and sweet and willing to understand it all. Blessings, Om Shanti Om.

    Reply
  9. Anne
    Anne says:

    Lokita, what a heart-ripping experience. I am so glad that you will not be dragged through further experience with the courts regarding this, as that is anything but healing. The three took a precious life and damaged your life irrevocably (though possibly not irredeemably for you, I hope) and now, inch by inch, minute by minute, every day you have to come to grips with that. 5 weeks ago I was assaulted by a violent (abused) young woman which resulted in a severe injury to my leg, a surgery, and months stolen from my life. A very small thing relative to your experience, but I have still had to deal with the trauma of the violence coming out of nowhere and how it has altered my life at this age. Her neighbors tried to get me me to bring charges, but I did not see how going through all that legal stress was going to heal me (just the opposite) or bring her the genuine help that she clearly needs – our current system does not provide that – in this way also it was different from your extreme situation (where it is best that the three be locked up). Ever since I have been wrestling with what would bring some resolution for me, and it would be if she would really know the consequences of her violence, and face it with remorse, and then get some professional help to change so that she would not ruin her own life as well as others’ lives. And do some community service. But this is realistically unlikely to happen, so I am trying to find what can redemption can happen within myself and my own life. Thus, I resonate to your post, and feel compassion for your much harder task. I hope much Grace comes to you as you navigate this thorny thicket.

    Reply
    • Lokita Carter
      Lokita Carter says:

      Dear Anne, thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate your clarity, and send you healing thoughts. It is difficult to come to terms with violent situations such as yours and mine, and stay with ourselves. “Redemption” is a word I have been thinking about since it appeared in the media a couple of days relative to Lila Alligood, one of the murderers. Her defense lawyer believes that “she will dedicate herself to earn her chance at redemption”. Whatever I might need from her to feel that she redeemed herself, I will never receive it. So, I totally relate to your situation.

      Reply
  10. Carolyn Gsell
    Carolyn Gsell says:

    Dear Lokita – My heart is heavy for you. As best I can stand in your shoes, it’s too hard. Even to write this is too hard. The Dharma is the way through. Though I have never met you personally, I love you.

    Reply
  11. victoria
    victoria says:

    Audrey first time i heard this name was this person also involved
    in this terrible killing I only know of Steve and your Dog.
    thank you for writing this most precious blog
    I am not my body,

    Reply
    • Lokita Carter
      Lokita Carter says:

      Yes, Audrey Carey, a young woman from Canada on her first trip to California, was killed by the same three people in Golden Gate Park a couple of days before Steve.

      Reply
      • victoria
        victoria says:

        AHH yes I do remember her, I did not know her name, Looking at the eyes of the three killers the energy is cold a vacant look, the eyes tell so very much of each person they tell the truth. I wonder if its the best thing to do to include the killers in our compassion and understanding. I known of many people who practice Buddhist have forgave the killer of their children or loved ones. Thich Nhat Hanh said that should we inflict more pain on someone who is already in great pain and suffering instead give love and understanding without exception. Is it not the very best possibility to foster love and understanding to everyone. I think yes justice has been served, yet the problem still continues on. Guns, drugs, are not the problem is it not the moral, social fabric of each country, and every community within and each family that needs better solutions and support and more consciousness, so the never ending cycle of pain and suffering is less. Lokita I write this not in regards to your story I have total acceptance and admire you so much. in so many ways. I write my thoughts in general way of pondering on such deep matters of the heart.

  12. Shakti
    Shakti says:

    I read the sf gate today and was shocked to see this there in the paper. I thought I read that because they were under 23 that they could get parole earlier..(?)
    Also that the girl having had the drug fog lift felt pain for the harm she made…
    Still, how does this effect things?

    Reply
    • Lokita Carter
      Lokita Carter says:

      Only Lila Alligood is eligible for the Youth Offender Parole program because she was 18 (ie under 23) when she committed the crimes. Her sentence is 50 years to life, but because of the YOP program, she can apply for parole for the first time when she is 43 ie after 25 years in jail. I say “for the first time” because parole is not guaranteed. It depends on many factors. You can read more about the YOP program here.

      Reply
  13. linda zimmerman
    linda zimmerman says:

    Lokita, I believe you saved yourself and all who love you from more exposure to these very dark sociopaths; I cringed and then cried when I saw their faces on the news last night. I can’t imagine sitting in a trial as the plaintiff or jury. Stay in the light dear as you are light, wisdom and love.

    Reply
  14. Bernard Aka Sweet Veet
    Bernard Aka Sweet Veet says:

    Five lives were destroy in such a short time. In the throw of a drug that is insidious meth is a horrible addictive bain on our society. Those three teens have no idea the pain they caused. Because of their addiction. Every student, every person, every assistant (Which I was one) who knew Steve should be able to visit these three and tell them over and over about the man they shot and killed. How much he meant to us . How much he loved us how much we loved him. I’m sure it would take years to get everyone that Steve touched . But when it would be done those three would get a small idea of what they did. How amazing the person they shot was. How many humans he touched with his presents. If we could just Express the goodness this man had on us. That’s what justice would be. I’d love to tell them what they took away from me,my mentor, my friend a special person. My cowboy tantra teacher. He taught me so much along with Lokita. He changed my life, I will never forget him.

    Reply
  15. Jaya Godwin
    Jaya Godwin says:

    Thank you for your beautiful words which reflect such courage and your strong, truthful heart. You are right- None of this brings Steve and Audrey back, and their loss is palpable here in Marin and in our hearts. Sending you blessings and love.

    Reply
  16. Jorg Rupf
    Jorg Rupf says:

    Dear Lokita,
    How hard an experience – prolonged and emphasized by the legal trial. Criminal justice is born from revenge, but it leaves the emotional pain untouched, at best. We need a justice reform that brings us up to date with other developed countries. Not the only change we need in this country.
    Much love to you
    Jorg.

    Reply
  17. Susan Pascal Beran
    Susan Pascal Beran says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your struggle with this process. Here’s my thoughts on it-
    Justice- legal processes, are such western concepts, based in society’s rules and enforces an external ethic on individuals. While they are necessary for enforcing order and protecting the innocent, the true sense of right and wrong are learned from within, like our ancient cultures teach. I think that is the division/contradiction you may be struggling with. My Japanese husband keeps teaching me about karma, and I have come to understand that it really works. However, I don’t always get to see that, sometimes just have to trust that it will. According to karma, they will experience that pain- it is a law of the universe, not one mandated by a society, but absolute and invevitable. The pain for us here is in living the apparent contradiction that this level presents us with.

    Reply
  18. Lisa K
    Lisa K says:

    Dearest Lokita,
    I have followed this story from the beginning. As a legal assistant to a criminal defense lawyer, it is part of my job to research such stories and comment as to how we would represent those charged criminally. There are days and times when it becomes a dreaded part of my day, as it was as this story unfolded. How would/could we represent these 3 disgusting people? The truth is… we would not. While everyone is entitled to competent legal counsel, I am happy to report that my bosses would never take on the representation of someone would commited such heinous crimes. The taking of innocent lives is where we draw the line.
    Praying that you will find peace and that you will recover from this as well as your cancer diagnosis. I know that Steve is watching over you and that one day you will be together again. Thank you for sharing your story and your heart. While no amount of time of incarceration will be enough, they will pay for this crime for all of eternity when they meet their maker. Sending love your way.

    Reply
  19. Diane T
    Diane T says:

    We are all both
    The pebble in the pond
    And the ripple it creates
    Where each starts, ends, and reaches
    Is the mystery
    (Aquiana)
    The one consolation is knowing Steve will never be forgotten for all the ripples of love and joy he created, and we will never know how far they reach as both are infinite. Blessings, Aquiana (Diane Tulley)

    Reply
  20. Tres and Jack
    Tres and Jack says:

    We love you Lokita. This mystery will never be answered in my mind. We love Steve so much and know that he lives in our hearts as long as we love and breathe. We send you both love forever and beyond. Tres and Jack

    Reply
  21. Tandy McCarthy
    Tandy McCarthy says:

    Lokita,

    with a heavy heart i read this. as i had read your post day before your birthday. and when i saw and heard the news of this, I thought what a birthday gift. it is over, done. you yourself will not have to relive the pain. nor will Aubrey’s parents. God rest them both and I can’t explain the adoration and strength i get from you every time you share you well being…… god bless and may you continue to shine your light on all.

    thank you for your honesty and openness through all this.

    Reply
  22. Kim Stanley
    Kim Stanley says:

    Oh I FEEL you…it is relief on some level, and hopefully our prison REFORM system can do SOMEthing for people like this. They need serious intervention, and you and Steve and Audrey and countless others suffered at the hand of drug addicts behaving badly. Yes, pervasive in society-drugs, guns, and the social issues- isolation, trauma, family issues, bring some to take drugs and do horrific things under the influence they may have NEVER done sober….. The unspeakable. May you continue to heal, help all of us SEE and FEEL your pain and collective pain of these kinds of injustices that happen to beautiful people like Steve. I still have his picture on my fridge from the memorial clebration, it reminds me every day to be more like him, to live fully and in joy. PS I am curious why only two pleaded guilty, what happens to the third person?

    Reply
    • Lokita Carter
      Lokita Carter says:

      Thank you for your comment, Kim. I send you lots of love.

      To answer your PS question: All three pleaded guilty. One of the three had entered a plea agreement in September 2016 to testify against the other two in exchange for a lesser prison sentence (Angold, 15 years to life).

      Reply
  23. Danielle Adair
    Danielle Adair says:

    For those if us who have a heart, we feel. Heartlessness and violence make no sense. These three commited senseless violence. It makes no sense. Cold, sporatic, illogical.
    Justice? None. Families broken, and for what?
    Can’t wrap my brain around it.

    Reply
  24. Wayne
    Wayne says:

    Hi Lokita
    Justice is never done when it comes to a life being taken.
    Only healing and closure can happen.
    And I hope this helps with your healing and closure.
    Sending Love from very wet Moraga, California.
    Lots of love
    Wayne and Lucy

    Reply
  25. David gordon
    David gordon says:

    Simply sending you love and appreciation for your wisdom and letting go of the other possibilities that could have presented themselves. My father lost his mother and younger brother along with most of his relatives and his childhood in the concentration camps during World War II. He was taken from his home in Poland to the death camps at the age of 10 and lived in pain and fear for five years until his escape shortly before the war was Over. He wrote an amazing book of his experiences called the last sunrise and towards the end of that book describes his decision that he had to find a way to give up the hate and move forward or else Hitler would’ve won that fight and destroyed him. He chose to let it go. rather than stay in Germany killing as many nazis as he could after the war out of revenge he came to this country, learn the language got a job got married built a beautiful life and through his book “the last sunrise”he was able to share this decision process with others who have been hurt in such tragic ways. May you, Lokita find peace in your heart and the ability to use this experience, as horrible as it has been. To thrive in your own life and assist the lives of others through your courage and resolve to not let this end your life as well.

    With so much love, David

    Reply
  26. margi wainio
    margi wainio says:

    Dear Lokita–

    I suffered through the words spoken during the arraignment along with you, and wondered how you could possibly survive a full trial. So perhaps this is the best possible outcome, though that is hard to believe too. I suppose that in time you will begin to put this legal process, and all the accompanying horrors, to rest. You will take as much time as you need, and that may be a long time.

    I still burn three candles every night and have since a year ago October: one for you, one for Steve, and one for Coco. Just know that there is support out here all around you, even from people you have never met, but who have been holding your hand metaphorically. Keep the faith and keep on truckin’ in the extraordinary way that you do. You have been a great gift to me in spite of the horrible circumstances. Much Love…

    Reply
  27. Sue Tobias
    Sue Tobias says:

    Lokita- I know you have to live with this traumatic crime until your last breath – I am in awe of your bravery and vulnerability and in your ability to take care of yourself. And in continuing to live your life with joy and appreciation and raw, honest feelings- just as you and Steve taught me and so many others over the years.

    Sending you many warm, loving, long hugs and healing light from my heart to yours, Sue

    Reply
  28. denise
    denise says:

    Thank-you for your deep honesty and our best wishes for new soil to grow the life ahead after this life on the edge. May roots of friendship hold you gently.

    Reply

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