A Fortunate Girl


The roads are slick with snow and ice.

The sky is grey and foreboding.

Holed up here in my office, thinking of Karly Sheehan.

Today is her birthday.

Or the day that marks what is her 15th birthday, although Karly died at age 3.

Tortured, the jury declared, by a monster so much bigger than her that it’s inconceivable the wrongs he inflicted upon Karly.

I hear from people almost weekly, people around the world who have read or are reading Karly’s story. They always tell me that meeting Karly that way – through a story that chronicles her life and her death – makes them weep. They tell me stories of the abuses they, too, suffered, and how thankful they are to have survived child abuse.

Being thankful for surviving child abuse is no way to grow up.

No one should ever have to grow up tortured.

No one should ever have to grow up scared-to-death.

Yet thousands of children right here on USA shores live in a state of constant fear of being harmed, physically, emotionally, sexually.

Karly Sheehan was a fortunate girl. She had a daddy who loved her to the moon and back. A daddy who loves and misses her still.

She had a mom who loved her, too, but in a very bad and broken sort of way.

There were so many errors made, so many people who looked the other way, or looked the wrong way, or rationalized wrongdoings as they looked on. All of us. We made those mistakes.

Who would ever think a mother would put her daughter in harm’s way like that? the pediatrician in the case asked me over coffee one day.

I wanted to tell her that every person who has ever worked at a Child Advocacy Center would, that’s who. People who work with abused children see it every day – the way a woman will put their child at risk over and over again all the while justifying such actions in much the same manner Karly’s mom did. Lying about it, to the courts, to Karly, to her own self.

Self-deception is something most of us have mastered.

We as a nation, we lie to ourselves.

We tell ourselves that we are the family-values nation all the while we continue to undercut budgets for those working to prevent child abuse.

The bulk of our monies go to support a military complex capable of destroying most of the world.

We teach children to fear terrorists without warning them that sometimes the biggest terrorist they will ever have to face sleeps in the bedroom down the hallway.

Shawn Field is dead now. The man who tortured Karly. He died a slow and awful death in a prison just up the road from here. He never owned the wrong he did, always denied it. He died alone save for the prison medical staff that attended him.

His death does not restore Karly’s life, sadly.

She would be 15 today. I suspect she would have made her father march straight down to the DMV today and get her learner’s permit.  Karly could not wait to grow up. She had her whole life planned out at age 3.

She wanted to go to college.

She wanted to work in an office with big glass windows just like her daddy.

She didn’t want to be like her mommy.

Karly always wanted to be like her daddy.

I suspect that’s because Karly understood that the safest place in the world was in her father’s presence.

Those two were two peas in a pod.

The world is a darker place without Karly.

It’s a much colder place without her bright smile.


Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Karly Sheehan: The True Crime Story behind Karly’s Law. (Amazon/Kindle).



Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

1 Comment

Beau H

about 2 months ago

I learned of Karly, and this case recently on a podcast. what a horrifically sad, and infuriating story. Slightly ashamed to say that the first emotion I had was anger, anger towards the man who did this, and the mother who stood by. It wasn’t until I researched and did a google search that I found photos. The good, then the horrific. After a teary eyed drive home, the first thing I did was hug my 4 year old son.


Leave a Comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that.
Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.