The Fallen Angel
One of my best friends once told me that when your child dies, a little piece of you dies too. For the past couple years I have witnessed the toll it has taken on my friend's life - living each day on the verge of a panic attack. I remember about a year ago I asked her why she sleeps in her chair so often, and her answer has stuck in the back of my mind ever since. She told me that a mother doesn't go to bed until all of her children are home safe, and her daughter hasn't returned home.
My friend Kim lost her daughter in an accident while she was out with friends one night. Amber was 17 and was in the backseat of a car with two friends when they were hit by a train one night. Every day is a struggle for Kim, she's told me before it's like your heart is dying as your soul continues to call out for them.
I remember hearing criticism once as someone believed Kim was overreacting in her grief after five years had passed since Amber's death. I've come to learn that sometimes people grieve differently, and ultimately that is okay - just because there are different paths does not mean one is right over the other.
One of the very first cases I released on my podcast was that of "Monroe's Angel" - Nevaeh Buchanan. Knowing I would like to find cases in Michigan to work on, I joined a large facebook group devoted to unsolved cases in Michigan and created a simple post asking for such a case. Rather quickly one voice spoke out louder than the others - at least as loud as one could speak on a facebook post. The voice was that of Risa Smith, and boy did she have a story to tell.
Risa told me about a cousin of hers that was murdered, and soon we scheduled a day for me to go to her house to talk. When I first started this podcast I knew I would cover sad cases, but this case was much more than sad - you will soon know why.
On May 24th, 2009, five-year-old Nevaeh Buchana was playing outside her apartment complex in Monroe, Michigan, when she was abducted. It was Memorial Day Weekend, and the massive searches that were put together to find her came up empty-handed. Eleven days after she was taken - a fisherman and his dad stumbled across Neveah's remains buried in a shallow grave and covered by cement. It was later found she was buried here while still alive.
If you had to read that twice, you were like me. As with all the people I write about, Nevaeh's photo is pulled up on my computer while I write and I can honestly say that two years later her story still leaves me on the verge of tears.
The sadness around Nevaeh's story saddens as you look more into the life she had in those five years before her murder. Nevaeh lived in an apartment complex with her mother, well below the poverty line in that area not far from Detriot, Michigan. I mentioned before about how people grieve differently, but I think it is fair to say in this case Neveah's mom has never seemed to grieve. The more I learned about her mom from anonymous sources, the sadder the case became.
We really can't be too sure when Neveah was taken from the apartment complex, as her mom stated to police that she was with her friend in her bedroom "making prank phone calls" and watching a marathon of John and Kate Plus 8. The last time she saw Nevaeh was several hours before when Nevaeh came inside because she wet herself - partly because Neveah wasn't allowed to come back into the apartment until her mom approved. While Nevaeh was in the apartment she told her mom she was really hungry, so her mom said she gave her a popsicle to hold her over and sent her back to the parking lot. If I forgot to mention it until now - Nevaeh wasn't playing on a playground, she was just sent to play in the parking lot.
In the podcast I had not yet shined a light on a family member of a victim I covered, in fact, this was the second podcast I created. If you listen you may be able to tell I slightly shine a gray light on Nevaeh's mom - but if I had to do it over again I would shine the sun on her. Here I will also mention how anonymous tips lead me to believe those "prank phone calls" were truly drug deal calls being made - as reliable sources shared with me Nevaeh's mom was known to have people in and out of her apartment in relation to drugs.
At the end of my time in Monroe, Risa took me to the spot where the fisherman found Nevaeh's remains. This was something I was highly unprepared for, I remember the entire time just imagining what she must have been thinking. It is believed the person that took Nevaeh drove straight to this rural spot along the banks of the River Raisin after abducting her. Her clothes were removed and she was forced into the tiny hole - after which quick setting cement was poured over her while she was alive. In the podcast episode, I stand where she was buried, I think you may agree with me that it is emotional just to listen to.
This year Neaveh's murder will be nine years cold. She would be turning Fourteen if it wasn't for the decision of another to take her life away. Can you imagine what would be going through a five-year-olds mind? I remember the long drive home wondering why this case isn't receiving more attention than it is. Is it because it is hard to hear? Is it because Nevaeh lived below the poverty line? It isn't a lack of trying, that I know - there is no voice louder for justice that I have ever met than that of Risa Smith.
I am not lying when I say I could do an entire episode on Risa. If my memory serves me right, Risa wasn't even a first cousin to Neveah - in fact, I believe they only met a handful of times. Yet, she quickly rose up when Nevaeh's mom remained silent to speak out for Neaveh to say this isn't right.
The more I learned about Neaveh's case, the more I would become frustrated with her mother. I knew the lesson I learned from Kim - that everyone grieves differently. Yet, I just couldn't get past the anger and sadness. Kim would move mountains if she could get Amber back, but Nevaeh's mom seems to not want anything to do with ensuring she receives justice and isn't forgotten.
In everything I do I try to look for the lesson to be learned, and Neaveh's story isn't an exception. The lesson I learned from this is although some cases may be hard to learn about and hear - it is still a story that needs to be told. As long as there are stories that need to be told, I will be here.
Thank you for taking the time to read,