The Duncan Banner
The hardest part of each day for Angela Wiles isn’t being at home, or even walking into the empty bedroom that once filled with laughter from their daughter, Alyssa Dawn.
It’s driving home from work. The solitude is an oppressive weight. But once she gets home to her husband, Brad, the day gets a little better.
On June 10, Brad and Angela’s daughter was murdered in her own bedroom. Alyssa was only 14 and beginning her summer. Brad discovered his daughter around 4 p.m. that Monday.
It was around 12:30 or 1 a.m. before they learned exactly how their little girl died. All they knew was that she had died, said Angela, in her first public interview on Sunday — 22 weeks to the day of Alyssa’s death.
On Sunday, about two hours before a special dedication ceremony to unveil a bench in Alyssa’s name, Angela sat down with The Banner, and later with other media, to talk.
“I want to make sure everyone knows in the community how thankful we are for everything everyone’s done. From helping with raising funds for the monument and the bench, or just being there or calling to check on us,” she said. “Or coming by at events and hugging us. The family’s always spoke for us, but it’s time for us to put out there we really do appreciate the support, not only financially, but the hugs.”
Along with that, Angela said they are extremely grateful for the privacy they’ve had, even while in the midst of a public crowd, such was the case at the memorial in June.
She said their closest friends would come up and hug them, but others would see them and let them just have the moment without invasion of their privacy.
Angela said the slow healing has included attending the numerous fundraisers, not just for their own daughter, but also for those of Chris Lane or connecting with Braylee Rae Henry’s family.
“We went to support them like others did for us.”
Among the many events in the past five months, there have been overnight softball tournaments, a skating event at the local roller rink, and even Wear Green Day at Duncan Middle School. Alyssa had just finished eighth grade and lime green was her favorite color.
The events, no matter what they are, hold special meaning for her and Brad, and all the family.
“It means a lot that everyone is checking and supportive and keeping Alyssa’s name alive, that she’s still thought about.”
And, during the bench dedication later that day, people took time to talk about how much they loved Alyssa. From her pastor, Steven Gillispie, to her dance instructor, Stephanie Gregston, and on the sidelines, people laughed about the tiny girl with the big personality.
“She was a big spirit. She was quirky,” Angela said. In fact, Alyssa was looking forward to joining drama at Duncan High School. She loved being on stage. She loved dancing. And she loved scary movies and nighttime holidays like Halloween and Fourth of July.
Angela said they do go into Alyssa’s bedroom, but haven’t gone through her things yet. That is still too painful.
“We haven’t moved anything, it is all where she left it. One day, we’ll go and make something special of it, not yet.”
For now, just dealing with everyday life and work, and going through the court process has consumed their lives.
“We stay busy and with friends or children coming to hang out with us for the night.”
She’s also glad for the victim’s advocate program with the court system.
“We didn’t know how all this works, we still don’t. We take it step by step. If we have questions, they are super about answering them and taking their time,” she said. “We’ve sat in the office for hours and we make sure we’re involved in every decision we can be.”
Part of that includes always making sure that whatever they do, it is in Alyssa’s best interest and what she would have wanted.
“My goal has been that everything represented Alyssa,” she said. Sunday’s bench dedication was an example. “It had to be fun, different, not just dress up, sit down, be sad ... that’s not what she would have wanted. She was quirky.”
Looking back, Angela doesn’t believe there was much they could have done to protect their little girl more than they already had. She said there were no warning signs and of the young man who is sitting in Stephens County Jail on a first degree murder charge with deliberate intent, they knew nothing of his past until it was too late.
For that, Angela said she wants young girls to listen.
“Tell someone, if you know something bad about somebody, tell somebody. Not necessarily tell parents, but tell the other kids,” she said. “It may had not saved her, but if we had known, we might could have done something.”
Angela also believes it is time that parents begin telling their young girls about mean boys at a younger age.
“We could have talked to her more about those kind of people. You don’t talk to your young girls about mean boys, not at that age. You do when they are older and going to clubs.”
She’s also concerned there’s an entire generation of boys growing up learning to disrespect girls and women.
“There are boys out there learning at a younger age how not to treat a woman. That’s what we need to realize, more and more they’re learning how not to be respectful. They’re not learning respect.”
She said they thought they were doing the right thing by getting involved and trying to get to know those in Alyssa’s life.
“But you just can’t be with them 24/7.”
And in spite of the fact that there have been three young lives taken in the past year through violent acts, the Wiles still feel Duncan is a safe place.
“Each situation is different.”
As for their future and what it holds, Angela can’t answer that.
Tears flow and she chokes out an emotional answer.
“I’m not for sure yet.” And as if Alyssa was guiding her dad, Brad came walking from down the hall, took a look at his wife, asked “you good?” and gave her a high five.