Smile of a killer

My Jason was a gentle loving dad - but there was one urge he couldn't control...

Published by: Tracey Johnson & Sharon Ward
Published on: 7th July 2011

My kid sister Jodi, 19, stood behind me while I smoothed down my simple, cream cotton dress. As I turned this way and that to see myself from every angle in the mirror, she wiped away a tear and nodded.
She didn’t need to say a word, I knew how happy she was for me. Soppy devil. ‘Sure I look okay?’ I asked nervously.
‘You look just like a bride should – gorgeous,’ she grinned.
‘I can’t believe I’m getting married!’ I squealed.
We hugged, and I caught the reflection of the two of us.
Apart from my hair darkening down a little, we hadn’t changed since we were kids. Back then, we’d both been blonde and, with our identical blue eyes, everyone thought we were twins.
There was only a year between us, and we’d stayed close growing up. If we weren’t talking about boys, we were dancing to hip hop tunes, or Jodi was doing her Elvis impressions. ‘Hey, you’re not going to sing at the reception are you?’ I laughed now. ‘Not that flipping One Voice by Billy Gilman – it’s lovely, but you’re always singing it!’
‘Maybe,’ she winked. ‘But I promise to share my millions with you when I’m famous.’
‘Yeah, we may look like twins, but you’ve got the voice,’ I said – not for the first time.
Our lives couldn’t have been more different, either.
Jodi had just split with her boyfriend of two years. She was gutted that she and Anthony Perkins, 25, hadn’t made it. But even though it’d only happened that week, she was trying so hard to hide her pain. Didn’t want to ruin my big day.
Because here I was, tying the knot with my childhood sweetheart Jason Marksteiner. Back at high school, he’d been in the year above me. He hadn’t been like the other boasting, boisterous lads.
Instead, he was shy, quiet and thoughtful.
When he’d asked me out, Jodi had been the first person I’d told.
‘He wrote me a note,’ I’d gushed, ‘telling me how much he likes me.’
‘Awww,’ she’d gasped. ‘That’s so sweet. He sounds amazing.’
And he was. Tall, dark, with hazel eyes, I’d thought Jason was the cutest thing I’d ever seen. We’d stolen kisses on the back of the school bus and walked hand in hand through the park.
And you know what? We’d never argued. Even though I’d only been 15, I’d known he was the man for me. By the time I was 16, I’d fallen pregnant. Young, but it didn’t matter. We’d moved in together and done a good job of raising Mason, three, Jesse, two, and Wiley, one month.
Now, as we made our vows in the Illinois County Courthouse, I’d no doubt me and Jason were for life.
We couldn’t afford a big do though, so afterwards we all piled back to Mum and Dad’s place for some sandwiches and nibbles.
Jason wrapped his arms around me, brown eyes full of pride, as Jodi wandered over.
‘Congratulations!’ she smiled.
‘Thanks,’ said Jason. ‘But how are you doing?’
‘Oh, I’m all right,’ she said, but her voice trailed to a whisper as she fought back tears.
Mum appeared by her side, quick as a flash. ‘Love, why don’t you move back here with us?’
‘What a great idea!’ I gasped. ‘There’s nothing to keep you away now. We miss you!’
Jodi had moved 130 miles from our town to be with Anthony, so we barely saw her. But now, they’d broken up. For a second she pondered, then…
‘Go on then!’ she grinned.
She moved in with Mum and Dad just a month later. And another month after that, she made a shock announcement.
‘I’m two months pregnant,’ she said. ‘I’m going to be a single mum.’ She looked so nervous, but determined.
‘We’ll all help,’ I soothed.
‘Everything will work out just fine,’ Mum added, hugging her.
Over the following months, me and Jodi became inseparable, just like we’d been as kids.
As her bump grew and she found she was expecting a girl, she’d often look to me, her big sis, for advice about what to expect. I couldn’t wait to become an aunt. ‘We can take the kids to the park together and have sleepovers,’ I said. ‘You won’t be raising your daughter alone.’
She was a great help to me with the boys, too.
‘Let me sing them to sleep,’ she insisted.
‘You’ll be doing that to your own soon,’ I smiled, listening to her. She had the voice of an angel.
‘I can’t wait,’ she whispered, stroking her belly. The way she faced life as a single mum was inspiring. Mind you, there’d been a time when me and Jason had gone through a bad patch, like all couples. When Mason had come along, we’d struggled.
For some reason, my quiet fella had seemed angry all the time. It had probably been because I hadn’t paid him as much attention as usual. Certainly our sex life had tailed off – but pretty much everyone with a newborn is the same.
We’d got through it, though. And again when I’d had Jesse. We’d do the same now that Jason was a bit moody again…
Well, our baby Wiley was only a couple of months old, so I was too exhausted to make love. But Jason, for all his frustration, understood it was only a matter of time.
We’d get back on track, like we had the other two times.
‘I’m going to work now,’ Jason sighed one night. ‘Why don’t you go see Jodi? Take the kids? Be good for you to get out.’
‘Great idea!’ I smiled.
My parents had a pool table in the basement so, once there, Jodi challenged me to a game. I couldn’t help giggling as she bent to take her shot though.
‘You’ll be lucky to reach the table with that bump!’ I said.
She only had a month to go before she popped, and was looking massive! As she curled a hand protectively over her belly, she looked thoughtful.
‘I’m going to call my little girl Mariah,’ she announced. ‘And I want her middle name to be Noelle, like yours.’
Tears welled up. ‘That’s such a lovely thought!’ I choked. ‘If I ever have a girl, I’ll give her Jodi as a middle name.’
We felt so close, I’d decided to confide in her.
‘Not that it’s likely I’ll have another baby soon,’ I said. ‘Jason’s always on at me for sex. But with work and three kids, we’re lucky if we manage it once a month.’
‘Is everything all right?’ she asked, giving me a look.
‘Yeah, he’s just a bit hot-headed at the moment. It’s not like him.’
‘He wouldn’t hurt you…?’
‘Jason?! No, he wouldn’t hurt a fly,’ I reassured her.
There was a bit of extra pressure too, with us moving in with his mum Teresa, 53, so that we could save some money. Jason was working all hours as a shelf stacker in the supermarket to earn as much as he could.
‘Well, for now forget about all that,’ Jodi said. ‘Have a drink tonight – I’ll keep an eye on the boys. You deserve it.’
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a night off.
‘If you’re sure?’
‘Don’t be so worried,’ she laughed, arranging for us to pop round a friend’s with a few bottles. ‘I’ll entertain the little ones while we’re there.’
But a few hours later, when we got back to my house, I felt really drunk even though I’d only had a couple. ‘You never could take your booze,’ Jodi laughed, as we walked through the front door with the boys.
‘That’s because I don’t usually drink,’ I hiccupped.
‘Good night?’ asked Jason, sitting on the sofa.
‘Yep-p,’ I hiccupped again, stumbling upstairs. I lay on the bed and watched Jodi through my blurry vision.
‘It’s cosy in here,’ she smirked. All five of us were in one room so Jason could sleep alone, recover from work.
‘I’m afraid you’re on the floor,’ I said. ‘But you have a sleeping bag.’
My heavy head fell back on to the pillow, and I went out like a light. The harsh buzzing of my alarm jolted me awake. ‘It can’t be 6.15 already,’ I thought.
Zig-zagging across the room, I banged the clock. Silence.
Then something caught my eye. Jodi’s hair looked really shiny, like it was wet. Odd. I flicked on the light. Suddenly, it felt like I’d been hit by a train as I saw the horror before me.
My sister was on her back in a pool of blood. She was naked –  her huge, pregnant stomach clear to see. Curled up at her feet was Jason. Naked too, his hands and body were covered in blood.
What?! My brain couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing. Just one thought drove me forward – were Jodi and the baby okay?
I knelt down and gagged. The left side of her head had been caved in. I knew immediately that she was dead.
Then someone screamed. It took a second to realise it was me.
‘Jodi, no!’ I wailed, shaking her. ‘Jason, what happened?!’
He said nothing, just gave a little moan then scrunched himself tighter and rocked back and forth.
Was that a…? Yes, there was a rock by his hand. Had he done this?
Instinct pushed past my confusion. The kids – I had to get them away from this. Thank God they were too young to understand…
Scooping up their sleepy bodies, I ran downstairs as Teresa appeared. ‘Y-Your son’s j-just…’ I couldn’t say it. How could I say that my husband appeared to have killed my sister and unborn niece?
Hysteria took over. I hugged my kids and yelled: ‘Mum! Mum!’
But she was across town and, even if she’d been here, she couldn’t bring her daughter back.
Jodi’s all alone. She’ll be cold without her pyjamas on.
I couldn’t think straight.
Not even when police officers swarmed around me. Not even when they told me what had happened.
Jason had confessed to everything. He’d told investigators he’d been sexually frustrated with me, and felt an urge to do something to Jodi.
So he’d picked up a rock from outside, then smashed her over the head as she slept. Not just once, but 15 times.
Then he’d had his way with her, as she and little Mariah were dying. I shook my head, the hysteria rising again.
‘He killed my sister because he couldn’t have sex with me?’ I screamed. ‘She’d been one month from giving birth! Two lives snuffed out, all because of his… his lust.’
But the worst thing? The guilt I felt. Even though my gentle hubby was actually a twisted sex monster, I felt I was to blame.
If only I’d had sex with him more often. If only I’d realised what he was like. If only I hadn’t been so drunk and slept through the whole attack. ‘It’s not your fault,’ insisted the police officer, reading my thoughts.
But even at her funeral, I couldn’t shake my guilt. As Jodi’s favourite song One Voice played out, I couldn’t shed a tear. Too numb.
The only thing that stopped me from ending it all was my boys. Again, I thanked God they were too young to realise what they’d seen.
Jason’s trial took place in the County Courthouse, Illinois – the very place where we’d married just over a year earlier. It was the first time I’d seen him since that terrible morning six months earlier.
He pleaded guilty to murder and intentional homicide of an unborn child, and aggravated sexual assault. My blood boiled, but that coward didn’t even have the guts to look at me. The judge sentenced him to 50 years. It’s not enough – but no length of time could be.
It’s been two years since we lost Jodi and little Mariah. No day passes without me thinking of them, without me being weighed down with guilt.
My boys never ask about Jason, but then they have someone else to call Daddy now. I’ve met a new guy, Nathan Simmons, 24, who has helped me through my grief.
Best of all, we’re expecting a baby. If I have a little girl, I’ll keep my promise and name her Jodi. Maybe she’ll inherit her aunt’s voice, too – that voice of an angel.
Samantha McGrew, 23, Bloomington, Illinois, USA