Ace’s story and my big reality check

This is Ace, and I am sure my friends that are reading  this are familiar with her story, but for those of you who are not I attached the clip from when her story was on Inside Edition last October.

I have a handful of best friends and I am super lucky in the friends department, I have my lifelong best friends who are more like sisters, I have my coworker best friends, I have my I totally relate to secret keeping best friend (who can also read my mind), I have Marnie (the  I can tell all of the evil thoughts I have to and she’s probably feeling the same way best friend) and then I have Gena…. Gena is the crazy best friend, and everyone should have a crazy best friend.

Gena is crazy, but not in a bad way and she’s been through some crap in her life.  Gena is a really good mom, she spends 99% of her time with her kids and somehow manages to keep everything together by the seat of her pants.  She has very well mannered kids and you can tell when you meet them that they are not lacking in the attention that they are paid by there mom.

Ace is Gena’s only girl, she has two older brothers and one baby brother.  I had met Gena back in 2004 when we had worked together.  We had an instant connection and I had a hidden talent for knowing what she was up to (no one ever knows what Gena is up to).  I think it was day two of working with her that I realized how smart Gena actually was.  She had convinced all of the girls in the office that she didn’t “get” how to do things, and they were all happily taking stacks of her work.  In exchange Gena would praise them for how smart  they were and make them laugh with her partially true crazy Gena stories.  We didn’t work together long and we lost track of each other for quite a few years, but in 2015 I had ran into her on a strange night and in an unexpected way and we have been like family ever since.

Even though we had not seen each other in years we had been friends on Facebook for quite some time, I had seen what was transpiring in her life which included having her baby girl Ace.  When I finally got to meet Ace in April 2015 we also had an instant connection, I seriously love that little girl, she would go on little shopping trips with me, she always wanted to be on my lap and taking pictures.  Ace is truly a well behaved little girl, she is appreciative, sweet, smart, considerate and adorable.

After Madi was killed I could not go back to work for several months, I had gone on FMLA and was having a hard time getting released to go back to work.  It was obviously a sad and challenging time for me, but in a lot of ways I was doing good and concentrating on getting better without the typical day-to-day distractions.  I wasn’t at that point angry like I am now, I still believed that the system would not let me down, I didn’t spend every day fighting like I do now.  I think what happened to Ace was probably the start of me opening my eyes to how much BS crime victims have to deal with.

It was October 8th and I had talked to Gena on the phone, I had asked her what she was doing that night and she had let me know that Ace had gone to her Grandma’s to spend the night with her Dad.  I had talked to Gena a second time that same night and she had told me that she was going to go to bed early so that she could get up and go get Ace first thing, she missed her.  Ace had only started going with her Grandma and her Dad a couple of months prior to that night and Gena was still not used to her going and she didn’t like it.

The following morning at about 7:30 am I had gotten a text message from a mutual friend of ours, this friend is Gena’s best friend from high school and is related to and also lives across the street from Ace’s Grandma.  She asked me if I was with Gena or had talked to her and I said no, then she told me that a cop had Ace in the back of his car and also that Ace’s stuff had been left in a pile in her families yard.  I tried for about 5 minutes to get a hold of Gena after that amount of time had passed I had jumped in my car to go to Gena’s, I had assumed she was still asleep.

I was about half way there and had still been trying over and over to call her and finally she answered.  She was not asleep, an officer had been by to tell her what had happened and she was on her way to get Ace from her Grandma’s when she answered.  Gena was hysterical.  She told me that the officer had said they had found Ace abandoned and outside of the ATC ( a local tech school ) and since this was early on a Sunday morning there was no one on campus, Ace was all alone.

Per Ace’s story her Dad had woke her up and lured her out of the house to help him look for one of their dogs.  Once outside he took her around the neighborhood attempting to break into some neighborhood houses including his families home who lived across the street.  Ace did not have shoes or a jacket on and the temperature was 39 degrees, so near freezing.  Ace had spotted all of her belongings in boxes in her families yard , she was so smart that she went and got some shoes and put them on, she also grabbed a jacket and blanket.  From there her Dad took her to the school and left her outside of the campus daycare, according to Ace he told her that he wasn’t leaving and that he would be watching her.

The week prior to this there had been a lot of hype in the local news about clowns and threats that had been made to local schools regarding this same frenzy, the local schools had even started talking to their students about the situation.

Poor Ace kept thinking of these stories while this traumatizing thing was happening to her.  Again she was so smart and she decided to stay put and hide under her blanket until  it got light outside , she had then planned on finding her way back to her Grandma’s house.  Her Grandma lived a few blocks away, but that in no way makes this story ok.

Around 7am she saw the sun coming up and started to make a run for it when she was spotted by a campus security guard.  He had spotted her running and she had also fell down.  He went to her and called the local police department.

When the police got there they questioned her and took her back to her Grandma’s, it is speculated that she was outside from 3:00 am to 7:00 am and again in near freezing temperatures.  The police officer as far as I know (we did ask and also have copy of their so called police report) did not give her any medical treatment, no one was called to check her out, her body temperature had not been taken…they did nothing.

Once Gena got to Ace’s Grandma’s house she was obviously furious, according to Gena the Grandma immediately stated that it was not her fault, she said he was crazy and told Gena that she had called the cops on her son the previous Friday and started showing pictures of some damage her son had done to her house, she said they did not come when she called.  Yet despite the reported incidences on Friday Ace was still picked up the following day by her Grandma for an overnight visit and also left alone in the living room with her Dad while reportedly her Grandma had locked her own bedroom door to protect herself.  The police officer gave Gena a business card with the case number on it and asked the Grandma to let him know if her son came back that day ” yes only that same day”.  That was the end of their involvement at that point.

I had tried to call Gena that afternoon, I had told her in the morning to get some rest and that I would check on her later.  Around 2:00 pm I stared calling and there was no answer, Gena finally called me back and let me know that Ace’s Dad and Grandma had showed up to talk to Ace, they showed up that same day and no cops were ever called by the Grandma as the officer had instructed her to do.  I headed over to see how Ace was doing and once I was there her Dad had called to talk to her, he was on speaker phone apologizing, and also acting like he just made a small mistake.  At that point Gena had planned on getting a protective order to prevent him form contacting Ace, but it was Columbus Day that Monday so this would have to wait for Tuesday morning, I had told Gena that I would go with her and help her get the paperwork done.

Tuesday came and we got to the courthouse about a half hour after it opened, we had already went to the police station and had a copy of the police report, the report was only listed as a child welfare check.  While filling out the paperwork for the protective order Gena called to find out what the police department was doing about the situation, she was told it was being sent to the DA for screening to see if there was enough evidence to file charges.  Gena was again hysterical, I became desperate to find a way to help, it was horrible watching Gena and Ace struggle and having no help or even a real acknowledgement of what had happened.

A thought came to me out of nowhere,  I had remembered that when Madi had been killed local news reporter Marcos Ortiz had gone to my parents house in an attempt to get a statement, my brother-in-law Lee had written a statement and sent it to a different local news station so he had asked my step-dad to ask me to send him that same statement which I did via email and still had his email address.

At this point I sent the following to Marcos Ortiz at our local ABC news channel;

Hi Marcos,

You had done some reporting on my daughter Madi when she was killed. I am trying to help a friend with something that happened Sunday here in Ogden, we feel that if it had happened in Salt Lake it would have been reported on the news.

My friends 5 year old daughter was with her father on Saturday night, he reportedly took her in her sleep and left her at the ATC vocational school in Ogden with a blanket and took off to Layton, she was scared because of the hype with the clown stories so she hid under her blanket until it started getting light, once it was light she started running towards her grandma’s house where she had been for a weekend visit, she was spotted by the police and taken back and her mom my friend was then notified.
The grandma was told to contact the police when her son came back, they both showed up at my friends house and the police were not notified as far as we know. She contacted the police this morning who said it is being reviewed by the DA to see if there is enough evidence which could take about a week, meanwhile we have a scared little girl.

Because of what we’ve seen happen such as the Josh Powell story we are scared that inactivity on this situation could cause this to end badly, the grandmother has stated that her son is mentally ill and needs help so we do feel that this is serious.

We are going this morning to start paperwork for a protective order, but we don’t know what other steps can be taken and can’t understand why this is being treated without urgency.

Thank you, Jocelyn

Thankfully he replied right away, we corresponded the rest of that day, and the following day Wednesday he was at Gena’s to report the story, Marcos broke the story and forced action with his report.  That same day Gena’s request for a protective order was denied, following that rejection two other requests were denied before Gena was finally able to get the order into place.  It took over two weeks of jumping through hoops to get this done so the Media attention that took place did seem to offer some protection to Ace.

The same day that Marcos came Gena had another reporter from our local Fox network Lauren Steinbrecher reach out, she had also been working on the story.  If I remember right she went to the ATC who in turn contacted Gena.  I was there through all of that, but there was an extreme amount of commotion, but I am pretty sure I remember correctly.

Lauren came to Gena’s after the ATC, it was around 6:00 pm and she was a one woman show.  She set up the lights, the camera and did the interview, and during the 9 o’clock news that same night Lauren also had the ATC surveillance video.  Lauren hadn’t let us really know about that, but as hard as it was to see it was exactly what was needed to prove  that Ace’s story was accurate.  Lauren was so quick that she was able to hold her camera and shoot the video while the ATC security guards was showing it to her on his computer monitor.  By Friday the story was everywhere and all of the news channels were at the ATC trying to get the video, Gena had to go there to sign a release and at that time was given a copy and shown different things from what she had seen on Lauren’s story.

That same day the Ogden city police detective assigned to this case had called Gena and started talking down to her in a demeaning way, she was crying.  He was telling her that she was ruining the police case, that she didn’t know what she was doing and that she needed to stop.  What nobody knew was that I had asked the ATC security chief if the OPD had been given a copy of this footage, his answer was that he had came in on Monday to retrieve the video and at that point he had called them to let them know  that there was a copy available for them to retrieve, and as of that Friday afternoon when we were there it had not been picked up.     I grabbed the phone from Gena and for the first time realized that I could  be a force, he started telling me the same things that he had told Gena, he said if the case is ruined it is her fault.  I boldly replied “What case?  Are you guys even working on a case? Because nothing has been done whatsoever on this case and if you are actually working on this case why is the surveillance footage that has been ready for you to pick up since Monday still sitting at the ATC almost a week later?”  I honestly don’t remember his reply and I think I actually hung up on him.

The following day Ace wanted to take something to the security guard that had found her, that job was a part time job for him so he only worked weekends.  And guess what?  Something miraculous had happened, and overnight the OPD had gone and retrieved the footage from the ATC.

The following week was more media, and that Thursday Inside Edition flew in to cover the story, it was such a crazy thing and I know that without the media attention absolutely nothing would have been done.

This story has not ended, on 10/20/2016 Ace’s father was finally arrested and charged with child abandonment, he was there  for about 15 minutes before his mom came and bailed him out.  Gena is not sure what is going on with his charges, she has also had issues with getting help from the victims advocates, it has been extremely frustrating.

We see these horrible stories on the news of parents who harm and kill their children.  Gena has always brought up the Josh Powell story in relation to this, and really think about it. … Nothing really is ever done to actually protect these kids, everything protects the perpetrators, and the victims have no support.  I can honestly say this changed me, I knew after this that I needed to fight, I am still trying to figure out how to do that, but I can’t stop thats for sure.

Ace is doing good, she is so smart and impressive, hopefully something is done.  Our system is set up to not care about  victims, as a child victim grows up think about how they feel.  They have these horrible things happen to them and nothing is done to the people who cause them harm.  When they grow up how are they going to justify in their heads that they were not worth the person who harmed them to be punished?  Really think about the impact of that and how it will change everything for them for the rest of their lives.

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