Yours was the smiling, beautiful face that donned small studded earrings as you rode your friend’s bike to your first job never to return. Only moments before, you both turned cartwheels in the sands of Huntington Beach. Free, breathing in the ocean air your laughter was interrupted when a shadow approached, it’s owner with wild hair, carrying a camera. He wanted to take your picture. Feelings of hesitation stirred in your belly as Mama taught you to never talk to strangers. You were with your friend so you may have felt a little safer. He stood a little to close and crossed the line when he caressed your leg but suddenly you were saved when your friend’s neighbor witnessed what was happening and intervened, sending the creepy stranger scampering away like a cockroach to light.
Danger averted, you suddenly remembered you were to answer telephones at the dance studio to help pay for your ballet classes.
“Here, take my bike and don’t stop!” said your friend.
To your twelve year old minds you would get there faster and be able to evade the creepy stranger should he start chasing you if you were on the bike. The roads to hell are paved with good intentions. Some where between the beach, 14th Street and the dance studio he caught you. Your face graced newscasts, newspapers and missing posters. Eventually, the bike and your body were found as were the small studded earrings you wore. Those were discovered in your killer’s stash of souvenirs from his victims. He was later identified as Rodney Alcala and given the moniker The Dating Game Killer as he appeared on that show and left a trail of murder and ruin in his wake.
Years later, I have a niece your age who attends the same Dwyer Elmentary School you did, loves the same exact beach, has your same beautiful smile, shining spirit and does cartwheels on the same exact spot as you once did. However, it is now a very different world. My sister doesn’t let her out of her sight. Too much traffic prevents her from riding a bike to dance class. Because of your murder we are smarter. She and other twelve year old girls will get to grow up and do the things you never did. Alcala made sure of that. Your devoted mother, Marianne Connelly, spoke of her plan to assassinate him in court stopped only by the sweet smell of your shampoo and your intuitive plea for her not to. She would go on to stand with other victims, survivors of crime in your memory, sealing it in the form of a plaque at the Huntington Beach Pier, the place you so loved.
Why you? Maybe because others like myself wouldn’t have had the grace to listen to angelic guidance like yours if too wrapped up in grief and vengeance?!
Sadly, because of your short life and tragic murder others are safer and now live. Know you pain and sacrafices are not forgotten, Robin and Marianne. Thank you and bless you both.