Pen in Hand, I Begin 2015 By Looking Back at 2014

I do so because I believe Pearl Buck’s words: “To understand today, you have to search yesterday.”

Searching yesterday, as in all of 2014, I found that I’d forgotten about some celebrity deaths, undoubtedly because I’ve been more concerned about the ones here at home. Still, they lived, they entertained and inspired us, and in 2014 Maya Angelou, Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mickey Rooney, Lauren Bacall, Shirley Temple, and many others all died. Some of them, like Hoffman and Williams, died far too young.

I’m starting 2015 by looking through all these scraps of paper, sorting and filing what I need and tossing the rest.

Personally, I was touched more by Maya Angelou and Robin Williams’s deaths than the rest, because their own work touched my life profoundly. In their collective body of work, they speak to the human condition—a topic Angelou always talked about, and something Williams taught me with his many roles.

As we start 2015, the world is a hot mess. Here in the U.S. black male deaths by the men in blue have led to riots over race, privilege, police, deadly force and justice. Or, some say, the lack thereof. Then there was the University of Virginia gang rape that was—and then wasn’t. Or was it? From kindergarten to college (43 in Mexico, 276 in Nigeria, and 132 in Pakistan) at least 451 students were kidnapped and/or murdered. U.S. and U.K. journalists were beheaded. And three Malaysian airliners have crashed: one simply vanished; another was blown from the sky by a drone, and the most recent one appears to have been downed by a bad storm.

Those were some of the more sobering headlines that found their way onto the 27/7 news cycle, and which caused not a few people to give up reading or watching the news completely. Then there was less important news, which quickly turned quite serious. For instance, there was the parody about a plot to murder North Korea’s leader. That seems to have led to a cyber-attack on Sony (the debate continues as to who was responsible), one of the largest movie studios out there, which resulted in dozens of embarrassed celebrities. Not to mention studio execs, after the hackers shared email correspondence and other private information with a voyeur public.

Along the way, free speech was taken hostage—until President Obama reminded his people that the United States does not cower before cowards, resulting in said speech being released, to the tune of almost $20 million in earnings for Sony after just one week.

Another disturbing 2014 news story involves the rise of the dangerous group ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), not to be confused with that other Isis, the ancient Egyptian goddess of health, marriage and wisdom who surely must have been much more benevolent than this modern ISIS. On top of that danger, there was the equally deadly Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 7,000 people in West Africa, and made even me worry about boarding my next flight.

The Ray Rice elevator incident, and the two-steps-forward-one-step-back dance the NFL took in response—all of which has served as the best campaign against domestic violence in decades—made for a fascinating 2014 news story. By punching out his then-fiancée (now wife) the former Baltimore Ravens running back has provided a new level of awareness to the behind-closed-doors war zone that many women and children have remained captive to for far too long. If Twitter is anything to judge by, (#WhyIStayed) the clumsy Rice-NFL mambo has helped other men learn that women aren’t punching bags. Or footballs, to be kicked around. But there is a price to pay for doing so—which can include losing your job as a breadwinner.

Then, most recently, a bit of good news: U.S.-Cuba relations saw a thaw, which means it’s only a matter of time before the island and its archipelagos become yet another pit stop for cruising tourists. Oh yes, the thaw also means that authentic Cuban fare should be much more accessible to people like me, who find their rich blend of exotic spices a culinary delight to the palate.

One of the best feel-good stories of 2014, perhaps by now forgotten in view of the overwhelmingly bad news, is the one about Pakistan teenager Malala Yousafzai, who in 2014 was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” At 17, she is the youngest person to ever receive the distinguished prize. This and Malal’s own bravery at age 15—when she single-handedly stood up to the Taliban—reminds us that while courage often comes in the face of a child, it can flee by the time we become adults. (Then again, all those nurses and doctors caring for Ebola patients give us faith that even adults can be courageous when they are called to do so.)

Here in West Virginia we were happy to see a corrupt coal baron indicted in 2014 for his part in the Massey Energy deaths of 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch Mine four years ago. Yes, Don Blankenship will have his day in court, for putting insanely rich profits before the safety of his employees. I’m just happy that the winds of change seem to be blowing in our direction over here in Appalachia, hopefully bringing down the Dark Lord of Coal Country with them.

I’d like to think this constitutes a happy change here in Almost Heaven, since the ongoing fallout for company execs at Freedom Industries includes similar federal charges. That firm, you might recall, contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents one year ago January 9 when MCHM, a toxic chemical, leaked into the Elk River, leaving many people without a way to even take a bath—much less a drink.

And even closer to home, here in Morgantown, W.Va., the Skylar Neese murder case came away as one of the top five biggest news stories in 2014, according to WDTV. It was a real downer, and I should know, because I covered the story on my blog while simultaneously writing two books about the case and its related legal proceedings. (But make no mistake, although some of the details from my blog were used in the book, less than one percent made it into Pretty Little Killers.) If you aren’t familiar with the tragedy, it will air January 3 on ABC’s 20/20—just two days away. The adorable Ryan Smith asks some great questions during his interview with my coauthor and me.

The first book about the case, an ebook titled The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese, contributed to my becoming a New York Times best-selling author–which was definitely the most unexpected good news I personally got in 2014. Having this title added to my résumé was not something I aspired to–because I never sought recognition for my work. My work involves shining the light on other people, so journalism used to mean working behind the scenes. Not being the story. But I do believe that when you work hard, and you do good work, recognition comes whether you seek it or not.

Being a reporter, or a journalist, aren’t always one and the same—especially nowadays. Reporters report; journalists dig and dig, unearthing facts some people would rather keep buried. That being said, I have wonderful colleagues who refuse to be called “journalists” because they believe the title has become synonymous with reporters who feel entitled.

I don’t as a rule make New Year’s resolutions. I resolve every day when I get up to try and make that day better than the last. Some days I succeed. Other days I fail. In an epic way—but I never give up trying.

So for today, be it January 1 or not, I have concluded the following while looking back at the last year: I will post more about my work to social media, and I will blog once a week. I might blog here or at Huffington Post, depending on what news stories are making the rounds that week.

I would like to take in a professional journalism conference this year, to help me hone my writing, editing and cognitive skills. I also need to be kinder to myself, as I continue trying to find a good work-home-personal life balance.

I resolve to go through scraps, one at a time, and toss or file, and I’ll do the same with clothes I’ve outgrown or those which are heaped up in a mending pile, and with the books I’m never going to read. I’m also going to worry less, and to remember more, including this key point: “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

Oh yes, and I will finish my sequel, To Shatter the Silence–sooner rather than later. Come downed aircraft, pestilence and disease, or other tragic world events that are sure to happen this year. All the while hoping that only good things light up our lives in 2015.

* * *

I have four books. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella BooksNellie Bly BooksAmazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and Sister of Silence placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Two Years Later: What I Hope Teens Learn From Skylar

I’ve been away since last Wednesday, and I’m kicking myself for not writing this sooner. Just because I didn’t, though, does not mean that today’s date–the two-year anniversary of Skylar Neese’s disappearance–has not loomed large on my mind. How could it not, given that the book about her murder comes out in two days?

Like most of you, I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet Skylar. Many of us weren’t, and yet, through everything that’s been written about her, we wish we had. She was one of those teenagers who makes an indelible mark on you, I’ve learned. All her friends say so. And, if nothing else, Skylar’s effervescent smile and her zest for life (as seen in her photos) captivated us all. Made us long to know her, even though that could never be, not long after midnight on July 6, 2012.

I’d like to say I’ve gleaned some amazingly profound bits of wisdom from working on this book, but I haven’t. What I’ve come to realize is this: Skylar had true friends who warned her about hanging out with one of her killers. So did Skylar’s other killer. Both girls had true friends who cared enough about them to speak up. It’s tragic that neither girl listened to that counsel. If they had, there wouldn’t be a book. And that would be just fine by me.

When it comes to heeding advice from well meaning friends, adolescents aren’t much different from adults. It can be very difficult to take counsel, even when it’s accompanied by the best of intentions. We like to think we’re smart enough to know best, that our decisions are well reasoned and based on good judgement–but when even mature adults don’t listen to friends or family who try to warn them about some impending danger, how much harder it must be for unsuspecting teens.

Even if such sage advice comes from parents, as it did from Skylar’s–who warned her against sneaking out her window to hang out with friends late at night–it can be difficult for an independence-seeking teen to listen. Especially if that teen, like Skylar, is very bright, and thinks she knows best.

It’s a teenage trait, this pattern of thinking, and if it carries over into adult life, the price we pay becomes much higher. I had a friend like that. Because he didn’t heed the warning his parents gave him, in a split second his life was forever altered. Which is why the last time I talked to him was in 1979. He ignored the parents who loved him dearly and because he craved living on the edge, it cost him his life.

It really has been an honor to tell Skylar’s story. I hope Mary and Dave, Skylar’s parents, know this. Because, in the telling, we have the chance to help other teens, who may just learn from Skylar’s mistake. Who, by reading about her, long to become all she can’t be.

Hopefully these teens will understand that the people who love you the most won’t encourage you to break the law, or violate your personal or family values, or to simply have fun for the sake of having fun, regardless of the consequences. True friends won’t ever make you feel bad for following the rules, or staying safe. They will, instead, applaud you for it.

That’s what I’m thinking about today, two years after Skylar snuck out her bedroom window for the last time.

* * *

I have four books. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is being used in colleges and some high schools; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), is due out July 8, 2014.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella BooksNellie Bly BooksAmazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

 

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and Sister of Silence placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Shelia Eddy Sentenced to Life With Mercy


I can’t say how many expressions passed across Shelia Eddy’s face from the time she walked into Judge Russell Clawges’ courtroom until she took her seat and began sobbing, but I can tell you she’s one of the most difficult people to read I’ve ever seen during the 25 years I’ve been covering criminal trials.

What does one say when a girl of 18 pleads guilty to first-degree, premeditated murder? Yes, it means the victim’s family doesn’t have to suffer the agony of a long and drawn-out trial. I’m not sure it gives us much else to cheer about, though.

Shelia Eddy and her defense attorney, Michael Benninger, appeared in court Friday when Eddy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

What about the fact that, in this country, a juvenile cannot receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole? If that juvenile has taken another human life, then shouldn’t the law dictate her life be spent behind bars—without any hope of freedom?

Today Eddy did what it’s been rumored she would do for some time: she pled guilty to intentionally killing Skylar Neese. Eddy didn’t so much tell the court—Eddy didn’t speak at all about what she and co-conspirator Rachel Shoaf did—she simply pled guilty to all of the charges Clawges read from his bench. Eddy said she understood what the charges meant. She said no one had pressured her to plead guilty. She said her legal representation was good.

She “said” all that in the form of “Yes, Sir,” and “No, Sir,” when the Judge asked her.

The most troubling part of today’s plea hearing, for me and many in attendance, was in what Eddy didn’t say: She didn’t say “I’m sorry.”

That left most of us wondering why. You plead guilty to first-degree murder, to planning to kill your best friend, but when you’re given a chance to prove your remorse—if you have any—you remain silent.

This is the Eddy we’ve come to know, the girl we’ve heard so much about from people closest to the case. As we’ve worked on this book for the last seven months, we’ve heard one person and then another say that Eddy has not once indicated she killed Skylar. Instead, she has maintained her innocence throughout—until today.

Which is, or was, fine, given that the U.S. justice system treats all defendants as innocent until proven guilty. But here’s the thing: As a reporter, when you dig into cases like this one, you come to learn more than you anticipated. You’re in possession not just of bits and pieces of information, but of specific details that lead you to your own impression about a defendant’s innocence or guilt.

Such turned out to be the case two weeks ago, when I read Eddy’s criminal case file. (It’s a matter of public record, so you can do the same.) At that time, I knew why the prosecution seemed to think they had an airtight case—they did. All their ducks in a row, so to speak. Upon leaving the Monongalia County Circuit Clerk’s office, I wasn’t sure how her defense attorney could defend her.

In the end, he couldn’t. Attorney Michael Benninger told the court as much today. “I have found negligible if any basis . . . to develop a defense,” Benninger said. After digging through West Virginia and even United States case law, Benninger said he found nothing that would allow him to mount a reasonable defense for his client.

He tried to do so, after looking through “every piece of paper, video and audio,” he received about the case, after extensive meetings with or talking to his client or her family about 30 times. In the end, though, he realized “there was little more that I or anyone else could do for this young lady.”

There didn’t seem much to say after that. Clawges accepted Eddy’s plea. And in a case that has sometimes seemed to drag on and on and on, today’s hearing continued at warp speed. After the court heard from Skylar’s father, Dave Neese, and her aunt, Carol Michaud, Eddy was sentenced. (She waived her right to a pre-sentencing investigation.)

Dave Neese holds hands with his wife Mary Neese during the proceedings. Mrs. Neese’s sister, Carol Michaud sits by Mr. Neese. FBI victim’s advocate, Tessa Cooper, sits by Mary. (Photo credit: Ron Rittenhouse of the Dominion Post.)

If the hearing wasn’t serious enough before, the family’s statements certainly brought home the gravity of what Eddy’s actions led to: “My life and my wife’s life has been drastically altered. We are no longer a family.” Those were the words Dave Neese spoke, heartbreaking ones for many in the courtroom to hear.

Carol’s words were equally sad, and serve as a solemn reminder that the loss of a child equals the loss of the next generation, as well. Carol said “she’s taken hopes and dreams from my sister” because Mary Neese was cheated out of seeing Skylar go to prom, graduate high school, or get married. With Skylar’s murder, Mary also lost any chance of becoming a grandmother, Carol said.

Many people in the courtroom openly wept at Carol’s words.

No doubt Clawges was touched by what amounted to a victim’s impact statement, but in the end, his hands were tied. The prosecution asked for life with mercy for Eddy. Citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama, which says sentencing juveniles to life without mercy is unconstitutional, Clawges issued his sentence.

When he told the courtroom that meant Eddy would be eligible for parole in 15 years, Clawges stressed that the law allows for nothing less. In short, everyone’s hands are tied.

He was equally quick to inform Eddy that while she will be eligible for parole then—that does not mean she will find herself on the road to freedom that soon. That is a decision for the parole board.

As we’ve worked on this book, one of the constant questions was whether a lesbian element was involved. Or if that could possibly be the motive for murder. Many teens of both sexes today experiment with same-sex relationships. But if Shelia and Eddy did, it hardly seems a reason for them to kill Skylar.

Prosecutor Marcia Ashdown didn’t discuss this, but she alluded to there being more involved. The murder occurred, she said, after Eddy and Shoaf began to distance themselves from Skylar. They feared their friendship would dissolve and, if that happened, they were “worried that Skylar would divulge their secrets. The kind of secrets girls have and (Ashdown paused here) other things.”

Ashdown also confirmed a rumor we’ve heard for awhile now, that sometimes in June, Eddy and Shoaf finalized their plan to kill Skylar. They put that plan into action on July 6, by concealing kitchen knives beneath their clothing, taking along a shovel to help bury their intended victim, and clean clothes to change into afterward.

They lured Skylar into Eddy’s vehicle, drove to the Blacksville, W.Va., area, and crossed the state line into Pennsylvania. They went to an area familiar to all three girls, where they then counted down, and then “both stabbed Skylar multiple times,” Ashdown said.

“Skylar fought back and tried to run but she was overcome by her attackers,” she added.

Skylar Neese

Because of the nature of “this horrific and vile crime,” the prosecution said it had one other request: “We are asking you here, today, to sentence this defendant to adult prison, for her very adult crime.” Ashdown said Eddy should not be returned to a juvenile facility, especially since she’s now 18.

Judge Clawges agreed with the request, and said that as soon as a bed becomes available—be it tomorrow or a month from tomorrow—Eddy is to be placed in an adult prison.

Because Skylar was lured from her home, Eddy was charged with kidnapping, which is a federal crime. The same thing is true for crossing state lines, since Skylar was taken from West Virginia but killed in Pennsylvania. In return for Eddy’s plea today, Pennsylvania and federal court systems both agreed to dismiss any pending charges they have against her.

There are so many, many more details that I could go into here—but time and space limit me. The best I can do is offer a thorough and extensive examination of all of today’s court proceedings and more in our upcoming book. This includes the motive for Skylar’s murder, and whether a lesbian relationship was at the heart of it.

BenBella Books, our publisher, has selected the title. The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese will be available as an ebook in late February. In addition to the above, we hope it also provides a look at problems within today’s families, the average teen’s use of social media, and why a savage crime like this happened at all.

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

If You Talk the Talk, You Should Walk the Walk

Many years ago as a young news reporter, I learned what happens when a government agency attempts to violate their employees’ right to free speech. They live to regret it. Almost without exception, it pays to be painfully honest when faced with a sensitive situation—such as the death of a student.

In particular, the murder of Skylar Neese. She’s the Star City, W.Va., girl whose two best friends have been charged with killing her.

One girl has already pled guilty to second-degree murder; the other one faces criminal court come February. Since Free Speech Week ends tomorrow, it seems the perfect time to discuss why University High School officials have issued an edict requiring everyone to stay silent about Skylar’s murder. Apparently because victim, admitted murderer, and accused murderer attended the problem-plagued school together. (In addition to relocating students to the new high school after the school year began, there has been a body found on the site, an indoor flood that closed the new building, and a gas leak, among other problems.)

I had to laugh after reading reporter Jim Bissett’s article in yesterday’s Dominion Post. Speaking specifically about UHS, he says classrooms in Monongalia County “aren’t shy about launching intellectual exploration of freedom of speech and other liberties many citizens take for granted—and other societies don’t have.”

“Intellectual exploration of freedom of speech”? What a joke! Exploration is more than talking the talk; true exploration requires walking the walk. It means understanding a person’s right to exercise free speech—and giving them the opportunity to do so.

And what “other societies” is he referring to? He must have been talking about places where the government and those in power restrict speech. You know, “other societies.” Unfortunately, from what I’ve been told, speech isn’t really free at University High School. Many, many students have said talking about Skylar’s murder is forbidden on school property, and at least three adults have said teachers are afraid they’ll lose their jobs if they do talk. That’s because, they say, Principal Shari Burgess has decreed as much. (I tried to contact Burgess before posting, but she did not respond.) But UHS staffers also say Burgess told them county board of education officials created the mandate.

Which it may or may not be true. A couple of people who work for the school system have told me it isn’t. So I went to the Mon County Board of Education office on Sept. 23, where I spoke to a redhead named Beth in Superintendent of Schools Frank Devono’s office. Citing FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), the federal law that prevents educators from discussing matters (specifically pertaining to a student’s educational records—a right that can be waived if student safety is in question or if legal authorities request certain information) that could violate a student’s right to privacy, Beth said school officials probably can’t talk until after the trial.

And when I asked her if it’s true the directive to remain silent came from someone at the board level, Beth had no knowledge of it. I told her I would like to find out for sure, and in addition, I wanted to talk to Devono about events that occurred at UHS before Skylar’s murder. Beth said she would inquire and get back to me. To date, I haven’t received a return phone call.

While digging for details about what led to Skylar’s murder, about the social factors and friendships that affect today’s teens, and about how this tragedy has affected not just our teens but their parents, I’ve learned not to take a refusal to talk personally. What I do object to is learning that an educator is in fear of losing his or her job for no good reason.

What’s wrong with saying how Skylar’s death affected you or your students? Where’s the harm in speaking up about how it’s changed the way you teach or why you think we as a society need to pay more attention to our adolescents? Or that we’re missing the mark completely, when it comes to what our values are?

Then there’s the well known fact that UHS has lost several students through violent means in recent years: Skylar was the third murder victim that I’m aware of. There has also been at least one suicide, another student who died in a car accident, and several suicidal students who may or may not have gotten the help they needed. If an entire student body is being silenced about Skylar, then what else might they be silent about? And what dangerous undertow is all of this silence creating?

One parent I interviewed said something profound: If students and teachers are not allowed to talk about what happened, or what led up to it, it stands to reason the police investigation was also affected—because facts about the case could have come to light much sooner, had people been allowed to talk about what they knew or suspected.

This directive also makes me concerned that some students might be loathe to talk, for fear of any educational retribution they believe they might face. Or actually have been told they would. If so, that’s alarming.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case because, by far, the Morgantown-area teens who are close to this case have been more open and willing to talk than almost any adult. Or it could be a teenager’s natural state of fearlessness that’s enabling them to be more honest than their elders.

Ironically, it would seem that UHS teachers agree that free speech can help prevent things like a student’s death. Take teacher Donovan Riggleman, who was quoted in the DP piece: “The free-speech tragedies, he said, are the cases of students who have committed suicide because of such bullying,” Bissett wrote when paraphrasing Riggleman, who was actually talking about cyberbullying. (Unless someone out there can shed some light on it, Skylar’s death doesn’t appear to have as much of a connection to bullying as once thought.)

But do UHS teachers really agree with Riggleman? Do they really believe free speech can help prevent a student’s death? Maybe he’s in the minority. Or maybe it’s only held to be true in cases of cyberbullying. And what about after a student’s death? Should teachers talk about it then—or should they keep quiet, like they’ve been instructed to do? Does anyone really still believe restricting free speech to preserve silence is a good idea?

I don’t think they do.

Editor’s note: Award-winning editor Geoff Fuller (author of Full Bone Moon) and I are writing the book about Skylar Neese’s murder, which will be published by BenBella Books in Fall 2014. If you have information about the case, please contact us using the form below.

Murder Trial for Accused Teen Set for 2014

No one saw a single smile from Shelia Eddy in court today. What we did see was a bespectacled teenager wearing an updo who looked much younger than when she last appeared in court.

My own guess is that Eddy, who turned 18 on Sept. 28, got a quick lesson in appropriate courtroom body language from her defense attorney when she pled not guilty on Sept. 17 to killing Skylar Neese in July 2012. Whether from nervousness or a simple lack of awareness of how she appeared to onlookers, in the first hearing Eddy didn’t appear to appreciate the gravity of the situation. Later, numerous photos of her smiling mug splashed the front pages of newspapers and online news media sites, and I imagine attorney Mike Benninger had a chat with his client about public perception. Today was different: one news photographer told me he didn’t see Eddy’s pearly whites even once.

Eddy, who told the judge she had given up her right to a speedy trial, was at the pretrial motions hearing this morning at 9:00 AM. As a result of today’s hearing, she will be back in court in early February 2014. Judge Russell Clawges set the date for the week of Feb. 11, but for that to happen, several other pre-trial motions filed by the defense must be heard first.

And Eddy must stay in jail as those motions play out, until she goes to trial. Benninger asked if, because of her age, Eddy might be shown some leniency and given home confinement instead. But the seriousness of the crime with which Eddy is charged trumps age and any other factor, according to Prosecutor Marcia Ashdown.

Clawges didn’t waste any time deciding whether to set bail, either: “No,” he ruled swiftly, before moving onto Benninger’s next motion. Among the numerous motions Benninger filed with the court on Oct. 1 was to have the trial moved to another county because of “substantial publicity and prejudice”; to bring in jurors from another area; to have Rachel Shoaf’s testimony suppressed, due to her supposed mental instability; and to have all the charges dropped due to prosecutorial misconduct.

Ashdown responded to the motions later that week, saying no misconduct occurred and disagreeing that Eddy’s chance at a fair trial has been hampered by excessive media reports. She said she didn’t object to the trial being delayed.

In support of those motions, Benninger told the court today that he’s just recently received the FBI’s report, which contains numerous “technical lab studies and photos.” In addition, he has “thousands of pages of documentation” that he says support his request to move the case out of Mon County.

Interestingly, Clawges also ruled against Benninger’s motion on behalf of his client to use jury questionnaires. Such questionnaires have become quite common in high-profile cases. (Think George Zimmerman or Casey Anthony.) They are also very time-consuming and seem, to me at least, to be a duplication of efforts. Any potential jurors are questioned to see if they might be prejudiced in some way—either for or against a defendant. Or if they can hear the case while knowing certain facts about it and still keep an open mind when ruling on a defendant’s innocence or guilt. This process is called voir dire, and it usually works very well.

Lawyers need to do their best to select jurors who can be impartial, and I believe twelve such jurors can be found right here in Mon County. Some days I meet people who know all about this case; other days the folks I run into haven’t even heard of it. (The other day I met someone who has followed it quite closely from the beginning; she said she would love to be a juror because it’s not clear to her who murdered Skylar.)

And the prosecution has gone to great lengths to prevent the media from revealing anything other than the absolute essential details that are only a matter of public record, anyway. Ashdown has held no press conferences, and there’s been no grandiose posturing about teen killers or the plight of today’s families. It’s all been very hush-hush and quiet, save for the online “gossip” sites some people seem to frequent these days. (Sites I wasn’t even aware existed until I started working on this story.) Oh, and mainstream social media have been a source of gossip, too, but as far as I can tell, that’s all rumor and speculation—nothing that reasonable people put much faith in.

With thorough voir dire, a jury can be impaneled that will ensure Eddy gets a fair trial—and this thing doesn’t drag on any longer than it must, adding to the pain so many people close to this case already feel.

Shoaf, who pled guilty to second-degree murder, is in a juvenile facility awaiting sentencing. Eddy is currently an inmate in a different juvenile facility.

UPDATE: Also of great interest today was Ashdown’s statement about Eddy facing additional charges in other jurisdictions. (The prosecutor looked directly at Eddy and her legal counsel when she said this, an action that was open to interpretation on many levels.)

Editor’s note: Berry and award-winning editor Geoff Fuller (author of Full Bone Moon), have recently teamed up to write the authorized version of the book about Skylar Neese’s murder, which won’t be published until after the trial ends. If you have information about the case, please contact them using the contact form below.

The Wait is Over: Shelia Eddy to be Tried as Adult in Skylar Neese Murder

The most difficult part of covering the Skylar Neese story is deciding which hat to wear: journalist or author. But that’s nothing compared to the challenge of being Skylar’s parents, on days like this one.

News media acros the country breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday, since Shelia Eddy can now be named publicly in all articles about Skylar Neese.
Yesterday I tweeted that “she who has been named” had finally, after months of silence from the authorities, been officially named. Let the record show that Shelia Eddy, who will soon turn 18, was publicly named by officials in “matters pending against [her].”

Monongalia County Prosecutor Marcia Ashdown didn’t say it, but everyone knows Eddy’s change from juvenile to adult status has to do with the murder of Skylar Neese. The murder of Eddy’s best friend, from as far back as second grade. Eddy is the second girl in recent months to face this distinction, of being viewed by the State of West Virginia as an adult, fully accountable for her actions, in Skylar’s death. The first girl was Rachel Shoaf, who back in May pleaded guilty to stabbing Skylar. According to court records that we can now discuss on the record, Eddy was the other teen named in Shoaf’s confession.

Shoaf also said Skylar’s murder had been planned. Evidence we’ve gathered indicates that planning was long underway before it actually took place. “We” is another Morgantown author, Geoff Fuller, and me. We’ve been investigating the details surrounding Skylar’s murder for several months. Along the way, we’ve spent considerable time in the company of Skylar’s parents.

So when I tweeted yesterday that I think a celebration is in order, that Sept. 4, 2012, is a great day, a day to celebrate, I meant that only half-heartedly. It is a reason to celebrate, in a sense, when justice occurs. Seeing someone who has been implicated in Skylar’s death finally be named publicly gives us all cause to celebrate. That’s what justice is all about, isn’t it? Finding, then naming, the people responsible for heinous crimes like this one.

However, this day is also interminably sad and tragic. Why do I say that? Well, put yourself in Skylar’s parent’s–Dave and Mary Neese’s–shoes. In the 427 days since Skylar went missing, can you imagine how many times they have cried? How a passing news headline or a question from a well-meaning stranger, upon recognizing them in public, must make them mourn their only child?

I can’t say with certainty, but my maternal instincts tell me that every day like this one merely serves to rip open a wound that had barely begun to scab over. To cause the pain to rise to the surface like the bile you struggle so hard to keep down when you’ve come nose-to-nose with a noxious odor that threatens to gag you. For I imagine they’d rather their daughter was facing murder charges alive than that she be dead.

Because anything–anything–would be better than death, for any parents. But especially for the parents of an only child.

So while the rest of us get out our noisemakers and champagne, the Neeses continue to grieve. For the baby they brought home from the hospital, for the little girl who ran around naked in her family home, for the teenager who became a confidante to so many of her peers. For Skylar Annette, who is lost to them forever.

As I sat in the waiting room on the third floor of the Mon County Courthouse yesterday, surrounded by media folks like me, these are the thoughts that ran through my mind. After a two-hour wait, when a court bailiff appeared to render the court’s verdict about Eddy’s status, my initial reaction was to cheer. I didn’t, of course. That would be inappropriate. In a criminal matter that has been filled with inappropriate behavior from all quarters. But I wanted to, much like I imagine most of Morgantown wanted to, when they heard the news tonight.

Then I learned something, something that gave me reason to pause. And I realized how fortunate the Shoaf and Eddy families are, that the Neeses are named in this criminal matter. For if it was any other family whose daughter was killed in cold blood, I doubt the Shoaf and the Eddy families would see such gracious consideration.

For all his “I hope they rot in hell” rhetoric, Dave Neese is, at his core, a sweetheart. Mary, his wife, is an older, more mature version of the daughter they lost. While most of Morgantown seems to have forgotten, and most of the country never really knew, the Neeses have not: just as Skylar was friends with Shelia and Rachel, they remember that Tara (Eddy) Clendennin and Patricia Shoaf were their friends. Women they welcomed into their home, and trusted to take care of their daughter.

So yes, Sept. 4, 2013, is, in a way, a day to celebrate. But it’s also a day for sorrow. For this case isn’t just about parental or teen friendships, it’s about what happens when the judicial system says that two teen girls must be treated as adults, in the matter of murder.

In the end, it appears there is nothing worth celebrating after all.

Editor’s note: Berry and award-winning editor Geoff Fuller (author of Full Bone Moon), have recently teamed up to write the authorized version of the Skylar Neese murder. Berry’s TEDx talk, given April 13 at Connecticut College, is now live. Berry’s memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read an excerpt, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Skylar Neese: The Struggle to Find Closure Almost One Year Later

It’s been said there’s nothing more powerful than the elements: sun, moon, wind, or rain. But there is something stronger than the force of nature. It’s a mother’s love.

So it was that Mary Neese braved today’s scorching heat and high humidity to dedicate a bench to her daughter, Skylar, at a little piece of paradise along a narrow country road behind Blacksville. With the temperature hovering above 90-degrees, Mary and Dave Neese led the group of more than forty people in a solemn procession—not unlike that of a funeral—from Clay-Battelle High School.

The handmade bench donated by Susan Gibson and Jessie Gibson reads: “In Loving Memory
Skylar A. Neese, 1996-2012.”

Friends, family, and strangers who have become both to the Neeses in the 11 months and 13 days since Skylar was murdered July 6, 2012, gathered around the 15-year-old girl’s final resting place. They placed a hand-made bench at the site they have turned into a tribute to the former University High School student.

Some of the people in attendance got to meet Mary and Dave for the first time. Others have made the trek before, clearing away debris, planting flowers, and placing mementoes.

Tears were shed, hugs and laughter was shared. Not even the heat could mar the small ceremony. The only thing that could do that was the knowledge that a Greene County coroner—who apparently does have more power than the elements—refuses to let the Neeses spend just ten minutes alone with Skylar’s remains.

When I spoke with him yesterday afternoon, Gregory Rohanna, an elected official, told me his office isn’t “releasing any information because we’re still in an investigation phase.”

When I said the Attorney General’s office in Pennsylvania told me that officials there are not pursuing charges in this case, Rohanna said, “I don’t care who’s prosecuting, the coroner’s office would be in charge of the deceased’s remains. Until we conclude everything we need, we would not release those remains.”

When I pointed out that the Neeses have been unable to have a measure of closure in their daughter’s murder, Rohanna said that’s because the FBI kept her body for so long. “We just received some of the remains back from the FBI within the last couple of days. I have not had the remains. The FBI has had them. But we’re still investigating because we need to do the things we need to do,” he said.

I then asked if his office has tried to work with the Neeses at all, in this regard. “I had a request in January not to contact them. We went along with that request,” Rohanna said, adding that his first contact with them occurred Friday night. He refused to say who had directed him not to talk to the Neeses.

Even though Monongalia County Prosecutor Marcia Ashdown has said Skylar was stabbed to death, I asked Rohanna if the FBI has done an autopsy or determined the cause of death. Rohanna said he couldn’t comment about that. But he did say this: “There has been no official cause of death issued,” and that since Skylar’s body was discovered in Greene County, he is the person who must issue the official cause of her death.

Rohanna wouldn’t say how much more time he needs to complete his investigation.

Life continues to be filled with one surreal day after another for the Neeses, as Mary grieves for the daughter she hasn’t seen since Skylar kissed her goodnight last July 5. Hoping to see the fulfillment of the promise they say federal agents made them, to sit and grieve with a closed package containing Skylar’s remains, Dave says he plans to picket the coroner’s office Monday and says he doesn’t care if he is arrested for doing so.

A call to the FBI’s Pittsburgh field office about the matter was directed to the agency’s media line, but a recording said no one is available until Monday.

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Not Your Normal Day Job: Writing the Skylar Neese Story

If you google “Skylar Neese,” you’ll find the once-missing teenager’s name appears about 150,000 times online. Articles can be seen in publications like the UK’s Guardian, or the Huffington Post. Her case has been mentioned on TV shows like CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, CBS News and, very soon, NBC’s Dateline.

Alabama resident Rachele Paige has created dozens of photos showing Skylar Neese since the West Virginia teen disappeared July 6, 2012.

I know this because I googled Skylar’s name last week, when sending off queries to literary agents in hopes of finding a publisher for Skylar’s story. The story is my current work in progress. But it isn’t a job. It isn’t even work. It’s simply a gift. I’m glad Geoff Fuller thought of me and suggested we write this nonfiction book together. We’re both honored the Neese family has given us the green light and their blessing.
 
Skylar, who lived across town from me, snuck out her bedroom window July 6, 2012. After getting into an unknown vehicle, she simply vanished. By the time her parents, Dave and Mary Neese, realized their daughter was missing, it was too late. Although they begged local police to issue an AMBER Alert (The U.S. Department of Justice program transmits an urgent bulletin, instantly alerts communities that a child is in danger. It’s used in cases of suspected child abduction, but typically is not used for runaways.), law enforcement refused, saying all the evidence pointed to Skylar being a runaway. So while doing everything they could to try to find their missing daughter, the Neeses also worked to help other parents.
 

They helped write “Skylar’s Law,” a bill that would make it mandatory for police to issue an AMBER Alert in cases like those of Skylar’s. They believe every missing child is in danger, runaway or not. Unfortunately they’re right. Statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children bear this out.
 

You know what? I know this because of my connection with Ken Lanning. A retired FBI supervisory special agent who is also considered one of the country’s top profilers, Lanning wrote the foreword for my memoir, Sister of Silence. But more important when it comes to this case, he wrote the training manuals used by the NCMEC. Lanning says Skylar’s case is particularly interesting. He also thinks there’s much more we’re going to learn about it.
 

While the Neeses pushed the bill through the West Virginia Legislature, the FBI and other police agencies were doing some work of their own. In January, some remains were discovered about an hour away, just on the other side of the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border. Morgantown residents held their collective breath, hoping the remains were not those of the missing brunette whose beautiful blue eyes and contagious smile captivated everyone who saw the MISSING posters her parents put up all over the area.
 

It took authorities another two months to announce that the remains were indeed those of Skylar. The residents of this small city exhaled long and hard. But that wasn’t the only heart-stopping moment. An even more poignant one occurred in May, when another teen, Rachel Shoaf, 16, confessed to killing Skylar. Rachel and another girl (whom mainstream media hasn’t named publicly because she’s a minor) were charged in connection with Skylar’s death. In return for leading police to Skylar, she was allowed to plead guilty—as an adult—to second-degree murder rather than first. Rachel awaits sentencing while she undergoes a court-ordered evaluation. The other teen remains in juvenile custody.
 

The resounding shockwaves haven’t yet receded, especially since we learned in mid-May the two girls—believed to have been among Skylar’s closest friends—planned her murder. This makes them seem like cold-blooded killers. I say “seem” because it’s always hard to say in cases like this one, which is why we’re asking for your help. As Geoff and I work together to uncover all the important facts about Skylar’s murder, we’ll interview many, many people who might not realize what they really know, details that can help shed light on this story. This has value not only for the Neeses, but also for other parents, other teens.
 

That’s one thing we know for sure: Skylar’s death has some powerful lessons to be learned. Among them, the importance of knowing who your child or teenager is, and what demons may drive her to commit murder. Or, in the case of other potential victims like Skylar, who your teens are spending large chunks of time with. It also can teach us the value of monitoring your son or daughter’s online activity, and not giving up caring—even when your teen makes you want to do just that.
 

These are some of the lessons Geoff and I think this story can teach other parents. Skylar’s dad, Dave, has already said as much in his TV interviews. If you have anything to share with us that can help the world understand Skylar’s story, please drop us a line or find us on Twitter @GeoCamFuller, @DaleenBerry, Geoff’s Facebook page or mine. We’d love to hear from you.
 

Editor’s note: Berry’s TEDx talk, given April 13 at Connecticut College, is now live. Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read an excerpt, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Cleveland Case Shocks World, Shows Dire Need for Amber Alert Changes

Ohio isn’t the only place full of stunned people today. The world joins them after learning that three missing girls—each gone for about 10 years—were found alive in a Cleveland neighborhood Monday.

Before I outline why we’re so happy and simultaneously repelled, let me just say this to the three girls who have now become women, in a manner no child ought to. You aren’t alone. Not by a long shot. And you have nothing to be ashamed of. Your value doesn’t come from what has been done to you—it comes from who you are inside. That’s not an easy lesson to learn after 10 years in captivity, but it’s the single most valuable lesson that will determine how your future unfolds.

Skylar Neese

For the rest of us, those of us who have lived beside or walked down the street past boarded-up houses where we wondered about the sanity of the person inside, please remember this: the next time you hear cries for help or think your eyes are playing tricks on you, do your civic duty like the good folks in Cleveland did. Call 911. If they don’t respond, keep calling.

Don’t ignore that little voice inside you that says something is wrong. It’s called intuition and it’s there for a reason—to warn you when danger is nearby. When the police do show up, don’t just stay inside and hide behind the curtains, either. Step outside and tell them exactly what you know. Being dispatched to a call by a 911 operator is much different than looking into the eyes of someone who has seen humans being treated worse than animals.

Thankfully, there are many wonderful and incredible highlights to this story. Among them, a courageous Amanda Berry (no relation to me that I know of) has enough presence of mind and fortitude to scream for help. A Good Samaritan then helps Berry claw her way to freedom. He does this by kicking down the door to the house where she, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight have been held hostage in cruel and inhumane conditions.

A little girl, obviously the offspring of one of the kidnapped and raped women, comes out with Berry. She, too, has been held against her will, making for a fourth kidnap victim. We learned she was at least permitted to leave her temporary prison at 2210 Seymour Avenue, going to the park with one of her captors on occasion. We’ve since learned this child is Berry’s daughter, born six years ago. You don’t have to be a math major to figure that one out. (In another ironic twist, to me at least, the little girl’s name is Jocelyn—and the name of one of my daughters.)

What is most appalling to me is what these men—these animals who comprise the brothers Castro—did to these three women’s unborn babies. They said they were beaten so badly that five other conceptions ended in miscarriage. That in itself is bad enough. But going without medical care after a miscarriage can lead to infection or worse, hemorrhage. Equally troubling—and because of my past experience, this is my biggest concern—is the psychological damage these women have suffered.

Then there is Charles Ramsey, the Good Samitarian whose heroism and candor have earned him a spot on every early morning news show in America. Somebody get that man a limo and a tux—since he clearly knows what to do when he sees evidence that simply doesn’t look right.

Unlike the Cleveland police, who summarily dismissed, ignored or simply didn’t respond to repeated calls for help about the strange happenings inside this domestic prison. Happenings like nude women on dog leashes, crawling in the dirt on all fours outside in Castro’s backyard. That’s the most grievous evidence they overlooked, but it certainly isn’t the only thing. The neighbors who reported that, though, said Cleveland cops didn’t even bother showing up to investigate. (Although police did show up at the bus driver’s house on other occasions when they were called. If you can call knocking on the front door and walking around the side of the house an investigation.)

Then there is the as-yet-underreported piece of this story: the Amber Alert that didn’t happen. At least not for Gina. According to the Associated Press, because no one saw her being abducted in 2004, the police wouldn’t issue the alert. (Gina simply didn’t come home from school.) The girl’s father, Felix DeJesus, was told “the alerts must be reserved for cases in which danger is imminent and the public can be of help in locating the suspect and child.”

Felix DeJesus has since said people “will listen even if the alerts become routine.” And of course they will. When a child goes missing, the world stops. Everyone who isn’t psychotic knows what a missing child means—and why it’s crucial to drop everything and begin looking.

“The Amber Alert should work for any missing child,” Felix DeJesus said in 2006. That’s regardless of why they’re missing.

Sadly, Gina is not alone. Right here in Morgantown, W.Va., we have a family who wasn’t so fortunate when their daughter came up missing last July. Skylar Neese’s body was found in January. Last week two of her closest friends, girls who are Skylar’s age—she was 16 when she disappeared—were charged with fatally stabbing her.

Ever since their daughter disappeared, Skylar’s parents have fought to see the bill they got passed during this year’s session of the State Legislature become law. Skylar’s Law would force West Virginia police to report possible abductions here early on—using an Amber Alert to do so.

This is how the bill currently reads: “Skylar’s Law will require law enforcement agencies to report a suspected abduction or missing child to the Amber Alert authorities in the initial stages of investigation to facilitate their safe return.”

Now all Dave and Mary Neese are waiting for is Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s signature. And in cases where the last thing on a child’s mind is to run away, it’s clear this proposed law could make a huge difference when that child goes missing.

It’s the difference between coming home alive and well—or returning scarred from 10 years of sadistic violence you’ll never forget. 

* * * *

My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”