I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and raised just west of there in the town of Gonzales with my sister and two brothers. The thing that stands out most in my childhood was my mother’s faith. I became close to God after witnessing my mother pray while looking at the ceiling in her room. Later, I’d hear her shouting while looking at the same ceiling, because her prayers were answered. I remember sneaking outside to a pasture across the street and looking up toward heaven and asking God could he and Jesus be my friend too, like my mommy. I knew what to call him because those were the names she would say. My faith was simple then; I could not have known that the innocent child of faith would later suffer events that separated her from God for a time. As a teen, I ran track and played softball – and was an All-Star 1st base player. I also loved to read and would teach the Bible to the kids I babysat.
As my faith grew, I wanted to become a nun, dedicating my life to God. But my faith was shattered when I was repeatedly raped by a close family member. My spirit died as I tried to cope with the horror. I felt ashamed, dirty, and angry and it took four years to find my way back to God. But it was not the same. I had started to rebuild my faith, placing trust in a pastor who I thought could help. I ignored my mother’s bad feeling about the pastor and encouraged my cousin to let the pastor adopt her. After the adoption, we drifted apart, and I was shaken to learn later that the pastor had been repeatedly raping her and had impregnated her. She had to tell a teacher because I was not there for her. When I learned that, guilt tore at my insides and destroyed me to the core. I felt as if it were my fault for encouraging her to trust him, for ignoring my mother’s warnings, and for not being there when she needed me.
I began to question God. Why did God allow innocent children to be hurt? I was overwhelmed by the powerlessness and learned to bury my pain and that people could not be trusted. My eyes are filled with tears as I write this, remembering that feeling of being utterly lost.
Despite my brokenness, I channeled my energy into wanting to help people. Helping people has become my passion. It is personal because it helps me heal. It’s hard for others to believe that my motives are pure, but I was always told that I would never be anything, that I was worthless. So, when I meet people who have been told the same thing I fight for them because I see me. Helping people is the only thing that gives me passion and hope.
As a teen I wanted to be a lawyer. I did not meet that goal, but I am proud of my training and the work I’ve been blessed to do, most of it helping people. I attended Southern University for two years, received a Certificate in Medical Assistance and Business Management, completed the Bob Brooks Certificate (a homeownership course), received a certificate in Computer Programming from Southwest Computer School, and studied to be a paralegal, but did not complete my training. I have worked as a Correctional Officer, in a women’s prison, as a bank investor for white collar crime, as a private investigator, as a material expediter supervisor, as a pipefitter, and as a supervisor for a first-time homebuyer’s program.
And I started to heal my relationship with God. I trained under ministers and was ordained as a bishop at 24. I volunteered for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s department, at nursing homes, and churches.
But when you have been so shattered, you live a life expecting people to hurt and lie to you. And then when it happens, the pain is that much worse. My husband turned out be abusive and when I finally worked up the courage to leave, he drained our joint accounts so the checks I’d written bounced. After I went to court for the worthless checks, I was placed on probation. It took a few years to pay back all of the restitution, but I finished in 2008 and my probation was concluded.
In February 2009, a routine traffic stop led to an argument with an East Baton Rouge police officer. He became enraged and threatened me, saying, “I’m next to God” and “you’ll be sorry.” He claimed to be responsible for ruining the lives of people who have crossed him.
Within a week, a detective friend of the officer suddenly began investigating me. Both appeared in court the same day with warrants for my arrest. They did not come to my home and arrest me at that time, but instead, found an old warrant that my former probation officer failed to close out. I was not allowed to post bond and for reasons I still do not understand, my case kept being continued. I spent six months in jail before finally being allowed to post bond. However, while I was in jail, I learned from another inmate that the office had asked her to pass along a message: “see what happens when you cross me.” Eventually the charges were dropped when it was proved that the old warrant was invalid. But the powerlessness I felt reminded me of the early rapes and abuse. No one would look out for me but me.
I never should have been incarcerated. To make matters worse, the jail had withheld my necessary and prescribed breathing treatments, which caused my respiratory health to significantly decline.
While the original traffic stop was dismissed, the record in my case notes indicates that the detective, the officer, and the DA were more focused on the new charges they’d file against me claiming I conned people out of money in a program that helped them realize their dreams of being a homeowner. The detectives lacked evidence for their claims so they called up my former customers, coworkers and employer, trying to talk them into believing they were somehow conned by me. A few did fill out affidavits that I’d defrauded them, despite the evidence I still retain showing that they received the services they paid for. My former employer stands by me, willing to testify that I did my job.
I sued the officers, police department, and jail in federal court in 2011 for false imprisonment, brutality, and harassment. My claims were dismissed, not on their merits, but because I simply didn’t file in time. Again, I was powerless to help myself.
Meanwhile, my health continued to fail and I was in and out of the hospital for my lungs. In 2013, I was approved for a double lung transplant and received permission from Judge Judy Whit to travel outside the state to receive the transplant. My doctor explained to the court that I needed the double lung transplant in order to survive and the permission from the court to travel was never rescinded. This is very important to remember. I travelled to Houston to get the transplant, but someone called the hospital and told them I was a felon. They have discretion to deny the transplant, and did. I believe the East Baton Rouge Police Department made the call – again proving that they have the power to destroy my life as promised.
In January of 2020 I leveraged my permission from the court to travel to Georgia for a second attempt at a lung transplant. I was traveling through a GA military base when my ID was checked and a Louisiana arrest warrant was flagged. The military base security personnel restrained me and took me into custody, to be picked up by the local authorities. While in the military base’s custody, the battery on my oxygen tank died and I went into medical distress. They transported me via ambulance to the base hospital, then to another hospital. The next day, the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office arrived. I awoke to find myself handcuffed to the bed, being taunted by law enforcement. The Sheriff’s Office told me that Louisiana wanted me to come back. A nurse came in with some medication I didn’t recognize. I took it and lost consciousness.
I woke up in a jail cell, sore and bruised as if I’d been beat up. I suspected, based on the way my body felt, that I’d been sexually assaulted. Someone else in the jail told me I’d been brought in unconscious on a gurney. When I was permitted a phone call, I called my mother to tell her I didn’t know where I was being held, why I was bruised, and that I suspected I’d been sexually assaulted. I asked the jail staff repeatedly for a forensic exam to confirm if I had been sexually assaulted, but was not permitted one.
Exhausted and sick, I begged to be transported back to Louisiana, hoping that there would be a court hearing and I could put this behind me. I was held in the Georgia jail for about 10 days before being transported back to Louisiana.
When they returned me to Louisiana, I was immediately brought to a hospital before being booked in the East Baton Rouge Parish Jail. I spent the next 8 weeks between the jail and the hospital due to issues with my oxygen levels. The arrest in Georgia meant I lost my second chance at a lung transplant. My health has steadily grown worse, limiting my options for treatment and causing numerous health emergencies.
I am currently living in a care facility in Michigan, near my son. I am going through treatments to try to restore my health so I can be a candidate for a lung transplant there. The constant stress has taken a serious toll on my health and I’m constantly on oxygen now.
Yet these manufactured charges still hang over me, threatening to force me to again abandon medical treatment. The charges are still pending, after over 10 years, but other than using them to force me to leave Georgia, there has been no progress on my case. I have the evidence I need to show that I didn’t defraud my customers, but I have been given no opportunity to present it. Also, it’s hard to put faith and trust in any outcome from a system that has been so determined to crush me.
I’ve made the difficult decision to share my story because I want people to understand what can happen when you are treated as simple a case number or a file by the criminal justice system that only sees you as “in the system.” They lose any thought of you as a person and refuse to consider any evidence that refutes their preconceived idea that you’re in the wrong. Louisiana law enforcement has relentlessly pursued minor charges against me for personal and emotional reasons and has been supported by the DA and Louisiana’s prosecutors. They’ve continued to harass me despite the serious and permanent toll it has taken on my health because I continue to fight back.
Even while I face relentless health challenges, my faith in God has never been stronger. I am still focused on a youth ministry and writing drama plays to help kids stay out of prison.