For the Least of These

picture of karly

When our twin girls turned 13 we rented a barn in a big field on the outskirts of Pendleton, Oregon. We invited all their school friends and threw an old-fashioned barn dance party. A couple of college-age kids came and taught everyone there how to line dance. It also happened to be the same summer that Stephan, our son, turned 16, so we just did it up right and invited his friends as well.

I know how to throw a good party.  We had a great many birthday parties for the kids when they were growing up. This one, the one where Ashley and Shelby turned 13, is one that shines bright in memory as the full moon did over that barn that night. Everyone remembers the barn dance birthday party. Everyone remembers the steps to the line dance that Jamie Beamer and her partner taught them.

It was a blast. It made me wish I owned a barn so that I could have line-dancing every Friday night.

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1995 was the same year that Shawn Field married his girlfriend Eileen. Eileen was already pregnant with Shawn’s only child – a girl. That girl is grown up now. She was a good student. She loved reading and cats and the tow-headed girl she regarded like a little sister. A girl by the name of Karly Sheehan.

It didn’t take long for Eileen Field to realize that Shawn Field was a troubled soul. So she up and divorced him. Shawn was a manipulator, a liar, a cheat, selfish to the core, and worse of all he was a violent man. Eileen saw Shawn drop-kick animals across a room. Who knew what he might do to their child?

Karly Sheehan was the daughter of David Sheehan and Sarah Brill Sheehan. She was born on January 4th, 2002. Had she lived, Karly would turn 13 years old on Sunday.

When Shawn Field, long divorced from Eileen, hooked up with David’s ex-wife, Sarah, it was, detectives said later, a meeting of two con people who were trying to out con one another. It was difficult to determine who was the biggest manipulator in the relationship – Sarah or Shawn. At any rate, it cost Karly her life. Sarah provided cover for Shawn while he tortured Karly Sheehan to death.

It is an awful tale, the murder of Karly Sheehan. It will break your heart if you let it, and you should let it. We all ought to have our hearts broken at the thought of children being tortured, however, where ever it happens. God is going to hold us all accountable for the children who suffer. We are all going to stand before God one day and he is going to ask us straight up: What did you do for the least of these? 

the red wagon 1

I hope I have a good answer.

I hope you do, too.

For the children’s sake.

A couple of years ago, as my own mother lay dying in the next room,  I got a telephone call from a woman I’d met only once. She works with abused children. It’s a job she’s done for over twenty years now. She called to tell me about  a dream she’d had. In her dream, Karly came to her. Karly had a message for me. She wanted me to know that she was okay, happy even, and that she knew about the book I’d written about her. Karly wanted me to know that she was with me, helping to get the message out about how we need to change the laws and the way we care for children, to help protect children better.

The gal giving me the message from Karly was clearly uncomfortable. She was worried I would think her a nut for calling me up like that, giving me a message from a child who died in June of 2005.

Yes. That’s right. Karly Sheehan was just three years old when she was murdered ten years ago.

Whenever, I think of Karly, which I do every single day,  I think of her as being three. Never any older.

She wanted to grow up in the worse way. She spoke to her daddy of the things she would do when she was bigger. She planned to go to college. Maybe it’s because she lived in the town that is home to Oregon State University. Or maybe it’s because she was wise beyond her years. Either way, Karly couldn’t wait to grow up, to get to do all the things big girls do. Karly told her daddy she wanted to grow up and work in an office like he did. David is an engineer. Karly would have made a fine engineer. Karly adored her daddy. She felt safest in his presence. A lot of children feel safer with their daddies than they do their mommies anymore. Mommies commit the bulk of child abuse in this nation. It’s true. And the statistics on that ought to make us all a little more restless at night.

ready to go to mass with dad

If Karly had lived to be 13, a barn dance would have been the perfect way to celebrate her birthday. She would have loved that. I can just see it now. A big red barn in a wide open field. It would have to be heated and enclosed, of course, because, well January barn dances are a lot colder than July ones. Karly would have on her jeans and pink cowgirl boots with glistening rhinestones in the toes because Karly loved to sparkle. She would have likely worn her long blond hair in pigtails and a straw hat atop her head. She would have, no doubt, made her own cake because no one else could have made it better than she could herself. And instead of everyone bringing her gifts, Karly would have taken the time to make friendship bracelets for all those attending her party. Even from an early age, Karly was a giver. There would be no need to bring someone else in to teach Karly and her friends how to line dance. Karly would have gotten on YouTube, figured out the routine herself, and she would have been the girl teaching everyone else the right steps.

She is doing that even now, from beyond her grave. Teaching all who pay attention the right steps to take.

I know because I have gotten the letters and phone calls telling me that. People call or write and tell me how Karly and her story have changed the way they think about children. Some have said that they are now providing safe havens for abused children. My own husband became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children because of Karly Sheehan.

You should have been with me at the Christmas Eve service at church when a foster mom with half-a-dozen foster children came up and hugged my husband. The children gathered around and talked excitedly. They would grab hold of Tim’s hand or wrap their arms around his knees.

Children thrive when they feel safe and loved.

Karly was at her best in her daddy’s presence. She knew that nobody loved her as much as her daddy did.

David Sheehan would like for all of us to remember Karly Sheehan on this, what is her 13th birthday. Eat a cupcake. Have an ice cream cone. Get one of those cows that poops out candy and eat that. Karly loved that sort of thing.  Gather all your stuffed animals up and teach them to line dance. Then, text me a picture of you doing something to remember Karly. I’ll share those photos here, and with David. Here’s a note from David about opportunities to celebrate Karly:

My wonderful daughter Karly would be turning 13 this Sunday, January 4th. I was so touched last year when many of you had cake on her birthday. On Sunday, there will be FREE treats for you in Corvallis, Portland or Kenmare. Please celebrate Karly by stopping by one of the establishments below and saying, “I would like a cupcake/cookie/ice cream (depending on the place) for Karly’s birthday.” Enjoy! She definitely would have. And thank you for helping me celebrate her!

– New Morning Bakery in Corvallis –> ask for a “New Morning” cookie
– Cupcake Jones in Portland (either the Pearl or NE Alberta) –> cupcake
– Kenmare Ice Cream –> ice cream 

(The fine print: free treats for the first approx 50-100 people at each location, so plan accordingly)

 

And this week, when you think of Karly, do something sweet for somebody. Add a bit of sparkle into their lives. Karly would love that.

Most importantly, pay attention to the children in your lives.

 

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Karly Sheehan: True Crime Story behind Karly’s Law. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

20 Comments

Grace Peterson

about 4 years ago

Beautiful! I don't have any more words...

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Rosemary Cooper

about 3 years ago

Why would sean fields have his daughter living with him when his ex wife knew of his violence?

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Good question.

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Deidre

about 3 years ago

Who is the person with the cowboy hat I n the photo with Karly above? Where is Sarah today?

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

The lady in the cowboy hat was one of the rodeo queens. Last I heard Sarah was working at Lake Tahoe as an event planner.

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Theresa K Hron

about 1 year ago

PS Karly was beautiful and favored her dad's good strong Irish genetics! WOW! I'd hate to have to live with myself had I been her mother.

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Mandy

about 3 years ago

This story is beyond sad and most disturbing. How could the mother be so blind. Unbelievable.

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Deayapelcolombia

about 9 months ago

Yo pienso lo mismo. Cómo? cómo? por amor a Dios.....Cómo pudo no darse cuenta. Para mí que ella lo sabía pero prefirió tener feliz al desgraciado del marido.

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Judy downard

about 3 years ago

I so admire your inner strength it must have taken to write this story. It is so obvious to me a mom to three wonderful grown children that " Sarah" had to have known what was happening to Karly and did not care. A total narcissist. Thank you for doing the right thing by writing this book.

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Theresa K Hron

about 1 year ago

My GOD this is soooooooo beyond unfair!!!!! David Sheehan was way too good a man for this to have happened to HIS child. I know this tortures him everyday what he SHOULD/COULD have done to save Karly. The sad truth is that a mother AND father should always put their children first before themselves......Karly was a baby.....she needed protection and should have had that protection from her mother which apparently Sarah had more important things that kept her busy before that beautiful little girl. I hope Sarah reads these comments. There is no way somebody could be that STUPID to not notice tons of bruising and hair missing from their own flesh and blood? REALLY?! She should be jail. No doubt. Lord have mercy on these people who call themselves parents. I hope David can live out the rest of his life with a wonderful woman who will love him back to the way he should have been loved and respected and possibly have more kids.

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Deayapelcolombia

about 9 months ago

I think the same. She participated, or at leats she knew. But she preffer to the ******

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 9 months ago

Yes. There is no way Shawn could have harmed Karly the way he did without her participation. Mothers need to be held criminally responsible for the abuse they allow their children to suffer. Thank you for reading Karly's story and for sharing your thoughts here.

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Theresa K Hron

about 1 year ago

SARAH BRILL.......did you ever drop "Sheehan" from you name.........you NEED TOO! You do NOT deserve to carry such a beautiful Irish sir-name. Trash.

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Angela Gatlin Edwards

about 11 months ago

Oh yeah? Her mother SHOULD be living out her days miserably. But she isn't. Apparently she's "living it up". This is the person who should have protected her child and didn't. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tara-solomon/south-beach-wine-and-food-2013_b_2768182.html

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Kara

about 6 months ago

That’s not her...

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about 4 months ago

I am a psychiatric nurse of many years experience. There is but one answer to all of the how's, why's, etc asked about Sarah Brill. She is textbook, Cluster B . Most people can not identify with her behavior because it is abnormal. Sarah is abnormal, Sarah is lacking, never had it, never will have it, that is, empathy. Sarah sees this, feels this black hole in herself and tries to avoid it by living in or at the edge of chaos, this is her norm. The longer I work in this field, the worse it has gotten. Nothing will change her, nothing can change her. Borderline, Narcissistic, Antisocial,. She is a true psychopath. She will never be sad or sorry about Karly for one minute. It doesn't work that

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Pamela Thompson

about 4 months ago

I am a psychiatric nurse of many years experience. There is but one answer to all of the how's, why's, etc asked about Sarah Brill. She is textbook, Cluster B . Most people can not identify with her behavior because it is abnormal. Sarah is abnormal, Sarah is lacking, never had it, never will have it, that is, empathy. Sarah sees this, feels this black hole in herself and tries to avoid it by living in or at the edge of chaos, this is her norm. The longer I work in this field, the worse it has gotten. Nothing will change her, nothing can change her. Borderline, Narcissistic, Antisocial,. She is a true psychopath. She will never be sad or sorry about Karly for one minute. It doesn't work that way for these people. She feels NO RESPONSIBILITY and never will. True.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 4 months ago

You think Donald Trump suffers from this as well?

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Merrill

about 1 month ago

I saw Sarah Sheehan on a program on ID channel today. This women actually thinks of herself as the victim. Poor, poor Sarah. Boo hoo. She said she did not feel like she neglected karly by leaving her with the monster who beat her to death. She had promised David and they had agreed that karly would not be around Shawn but yet she left Karly with him more than once. She simply was not concerned enough to make other arrangements. It has made me sick looking at her and listening to her idiotic excuses. I am appalled that she was not charged with child neglect at the very least. I strongly feel that she is almost as responsible as the man who killed Karly for not protecting her sweet, precious child. She just handed Karly over to him to do as he pleased as long as she didn’t have to fool with her.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 1 month ago

You are not alone in your thoughts on Sarah.

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