Family, friends remember domestic violence victim
‘I’m not letting this happen to someone else if I can stop it,’ Kammy Edmunds mother says
SPRING CITY—There is a poem written in 1961 by Jenny Joseph, that starts, “When I am old, I shall wear purple.”
The poem describes the outlandish and humorous things the writer plans to do in her old age. You see, in old age a person can get away with things they could never do when younger.
Based on accounts last week as people remembered her life, Kammy Edmunds was outlandishly funny, perhaps not quirky to the extent the poem portrays, but she was a corker—a real firecracker.
But she never got to be old.
And because of that, people are wearing purple.
Purple, you see, is the also the color of the movement against domestic violence.
Edmunds lost her life on Friday, March 31 at age 34. It was not long before people accepted, and events seemed to confirm, that Edmunds had been the victim of domestic violence taken to a tragic extreme.
By the following Monday, the color was being associated with everything Kammy.
Katie Black Welch, a friend of Edmunds who works at Walmart, made a few hundred purple ribbons to hand out the store.
White and purple “Riot Against Domestic Violence” insignia began to dot Facebook as the Real Salt Lake soccer team’s booster club, the Riot Brigade, took up the cause.
Purple was by far the dominant color at a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, April 5, in Mt. Pleasant.
The color was even more evident at memorial services the following weekend. Shirts and blouses; skirts and dresses; men’s ties, even with only a bit of the hue dotted here and there—all purple.
“I am just overwhelmed with amazement,” Tammy Coates, Edmunds’ mother, said on Sunday.
The support shown to Edmunds’ family, and love toward Edmunds herself, was not simply an outpouring; it was a downpour.
The tragic nature and presumed cause of her death accounts for some of that—but not all. Rather, people responded to Edmunds herself, apparently because she had always responded to them.
“No matter what her own feelings were, she cared enough about you to make you happy and make you smile,” Coates said. “Even if she didn’t like you, she loved you. If she didn’t like you, she still cared.”
Edmunds had worked at the Family Dollar store in Mt. Pleasant. Coates said people came to her throughout the week and told her of their interactions with Edmunds at the store. When Edmunds greeted customers and asked how they were, they knew she really wanted to know. People told Coates, “It just made it worth going into the Family Dollar.”
“Kammy was my people. She made me feel safe,” said Tameron Powell, a close friend who spoke at the funeral. Powell remembered “her confidence; her smile; her wicked, wicked, wicked sense of humor.”
Powell reminded people of that sense of humor when she spoke at the candlelight vigil a few nights earlier. “How many of you had an experience with Kammy that made you laugh?” she asked the crowd.
Almost everybody raised a hand.
“How many of you did she make laugh really hard, keep your hands raised.”
Not many hands came down.
“Now,” Powell asked, “How many of you did Kammy make laugh so hard you almost peed your pants.”
If any hands came down, there weren’t enough to notice, and a knowing laughter rustled through the crowd.
“She wants us to miss her,” Wendy Powell, Tameron’s wife, said.
But “she also wants us happy. Happy—all it takes is to think of her kindness, and you can’t help but smile.”
And, Wendy Powell said, making reference to the cloud hanging over all of them, “I think Kammy wants us to be angry. A good angry. The world continues to be evil because it isn’t angry enough. Kammy, we will change this world. We will fight hard, but we will be humble and we will be kind.”
It was only after the funeral, on Sunday, with Edmunds laid to rest, that Coates, her mother, talked about what had happened.
“I do know that I and my family, what we’re going to do going forward,” Coates said. “There needs to be more information out there. There needs to be more awareness out there. It just seems like it’s one of those quiet things. …. We’re going to start fundraisers and awareness groups. This is not going to … I’m not going to let this going away.
“My daughter did not die in vain. She’s not going to be silenced by this. We are going to be her voice.” That’s when Coates’ voice wavered and she broke down. “I’m not letting this happen to someone else if I can stop it.”
The anguish of the moment is just a hint of what Coates and other family and friends have felt. They’ve also experienced guilt.
Could they have done something to prevent what happened?
Many of them suspected Edmunds was being abused by her live-in boyfriend. Tell-tale signs began appearing two days after that boyfriend, Anthony Christensen, move to Mt. Pleasant to be with Edmunds last December, Coates said.
“I begged her to tell me, because there were several times she would have a black eye or bruises, and she would say she had fallen, or dropped a box on herself at work, that she slipped on ice…” Coates said.
“I finally told her that nobody gets that clumsy in three months,” the mother said. “If he wasn’t hitting her, then she needed to go have an MRI.”
She has a hard time understanding why Edmunds stayed, especially when Edmunds had helped other women get out of abusive or toxic relationships. After Kammy’s death, some of those women let Coates know about how Kammy had helped them.
Edmunds left behind an 11-year-old son, Franky, and a 4-year-old daughter. Both are autistic (Franky is high-spectrum or “high functioning,” but Sophya is on the low end of the spectrum), which is why the blue ribbons of autism awareness mingled with the purple ones last week. The children are being cared for by Edmunds’ ex-husband, Donny Lopez.
On Tuesday, the Sanpete County Attorney’s Office filed a first-degree murder charge against Christensen, who is being held in the Sanpete County Jail on $500,000 bail.
“Given where we’re at right now, we’re comfortable with filing the murder charge … with the caution that things could still change,” Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisesl said on Tuesday.
Though a first-degree felony, it is not at this point a capital (or, death-penalty) case.
But, Keisel said, “It remains fluid.”
The investigation is ongoing.
Keisel also filed charges of second-degree felony obstruction of justice, and third-degree felony desecration of a body.
Initial police reports and inconsistencies in what Christensen told police suggest an attempt to cover up the incident.
Whatever happened, it was brutal enough that morticians and family members decided on closed-casket funeral services, though family and close friends said goodbye to Edmunds during a private gathering when the casket was opened.