I was happily married at age 24 to my college sweetheart, Nathan Trapuzzano, on May 11, 2013. We met through FOCUS at Ball State University and our faith was always a stronghold in our relationship. Three months after our wedding, we found we were expecting our first child–a daughter–who was due May 7, 2014. On the morning of April 1st, 2014, I found myself suddenly widowed when my husband went out for his daily morning walk and never came home. He had been shot and killed just blocks from our home. I buried him on April 5th and, then, three weeks later gave birth to our daughter, Cecilia Marie Trapuzzano, on April 25th. The loss of my husband at the hands of another man has caused emotional devastation, yet God has been my anchor. Through my faith and the support of many family, friends, and even strangers, I have found the courage and strength to find joy in my daughter and help my heart heal and find forgiveness.
The following is my Victim Impact Statement given at Nathan’s murderer’s trial:
I am Jennifer Ann Trapuzzano, the widow of Nathan Benjamin Trapuzzano, and mother to his only child, Cecilia Marie Trapuzzano.
I stand before you today representing the multitude of lives that have been effected due to the events of April 1st, 2014. On that day, we lost a wonderful man who was a husband, brother, son, grandson, uncle, nephew, friend, and soon to be daddy. Although I cannot address every person’s life who was affected due to the poor choices made that morning, I want to express the effects that I have personally witnessed and felt in my own life.
There is no way that one can ever prepare themselves for this. Most believe that it will never happen to them. I was one of those people until Simeon Adams murdered my husband.
Nathan was the greatest person. He was not a perfect person and never claimed to be, but you always knew where he stood, what was right, and what he believed. I never went a day doubting his love. He would always tell me he loved me every night before bed, every morning, and every time we went separate ways. He believed in helping others and often would get up early on Saturday, his only day to sleep in, to pray outside the abortion clinic. He was the greatest of persons. And there will always be a Nathan-sized hole in my heart and life.
I stand before you today, a broken person, who has lost every sense of normality— A person who grieves the loss of Nathan, not only for myself, but for our daughter Cecilia, our unborn children, and for the world that has no idea what a wonderful person they are missing. Simeon stole not only the life of Nathan, but the normalcy, peace, stability, sanity, and ability to sleep, of an entire family and community.
I expected to live my entire life with Nathan, we loved each other so, and we were truly soul mates. Now every day and every night I cannot escape the reality and accompanying grief that my happy, caring, and loving husband, the father of our daughter, is gone. The impact of his death on our family is profound. He was the family caretaker and leader, and I have felt less than adequate in trying somehow to fill his role.
Just prior to his murder there was great excitement in our family. We were preparing for the birth of our daughter, Cecilia Marie, due May 7, 2014, just over a month away. We were also to celebrate our first wedding anniversary on May 11, 2014. I had just celebrated my 25th birthday on March 17th and still remember blowing out the candles, wishing this would be the best year, yet all the while knowing I didn’t even have to wish it because I knew it was going to be great. Only two short weeks later, Nathan’s death devastated our family. The fact that he never lived to enjoy and feel the excitement of becoming a father has added to our emotional stress and devastation.
I cannot find the words (if there are any) to explain the devastation and mixture of feelings that I felt when I knew he hadn’t come home from his morning walk. I recall running outside, desperately calling his name, and walking the same route he always took. The memories still rush at me— the disbelief— and then the sudden reality of pain that shook me to my core and crushed my heart. It constantly haunts me that at the time of Nathan’s death, I was not there to comfort him or share last goodbyes— to at least be sure he did not feel alone. The horrific drive to the hospital was filled with feelings of disbelief mixed with pleading to God to save my loving spouse. My worst fears were realized when they told me they were bringing in the coroner and needed someone to identify the body. I was incapable of doing so, and had my father and friend act in my place. My worst fear was confirmed by my crying father. My mind did not want to believe this; I was confused and numb. My life was shattered.
My thoughts immediately went to our unborn child. I needed to do everything in my power to keep our Cecilia safe and healthy. She instantly became my lifeline, my reason for surviving. But I now had to face the world without the love and care of my devoted husband and Cecilia without her father’s care, guidance, protection and love, a love that can never be replaced – a totally unconditional love which is so precious today.
I will never forget that first night. There was not much sleep that night and for a number of nights thereafter. I continue to have sleeping problems and lie awake many nights. I continually wake hoping that this tragedy has been a very bad dream, not wanting to accept the reality that we have lost him forever.
The days following his death feel like a blur. His mother organized the funeral and service and helped me in the decisions that had to be made. I was not capable of organizing everything myself as I was still in a state of shock, numbness and confusion.
Following the funeral, as the visits of family and friends became fewer, I had more time to think about the specific circumstances and consider how best to come to terms with this enormous tragedy. I realized that my life, had changed forever. I now had to face the world without the love and care of my devoted husband, and Cecilia had to face it without her father’s care, guidance, protection and love, a love that can never be replaced – a totally unconditional love which is so precious today.
Three short weeks later I would deliver our baby girl into this world, this same world that took her father away from us. I cannot express how bitter I feel that what was supposed to be the most joyful day of my life was tainted with such pain and grief because he was not there to share it with me.
I found myself as the sole parent which was not something I had ever prepared myself for. He and I had made these plans together. We had chosen her name, decorated her nursery, and prepared ourselves to become parents – together. Since his death, I find myself so often feeling incredibly lost and unable to readjust to a new plan, a plan that he cannot be a part of any longer.
I no longer can enjoy our long and meaningful talks that we both enjoyed immensely, and enjoy together the plans we had made for the future. The impact is only deepened as I realize so many other aspects of life Cecilia and I will miss sharing with Nathan and things she will not have the joy of experiencing with her beloved father such as her baptism, her first words, her first steps, her first day of school, her first school dances, her first dates, sporting events, and his walking her down the aisle on her wedding day. I still recall him telling her in the womb every night “I love you baby girl”— words she will never hear again. She will never know his voice, or see his face in a crowd watching over her. She will only know him through stories and photographs. This is often the most devastating thing of all, that my darling daughter lost her father before she ever got the chance to know him. She calls out “dada” when she sees his picture and she kisses his face in a frame; this is the only version of him she will ever know. He will never get to teach her the worth of a true Godly man. He told me over and over again how important fathers are in the family unit. What a cruel twist of fate that his own child should have to grow up without hers.
I have realized that we are all privileged to have had Nathan for the short time we had him. I tell my Cecilia every day that her father loves her. I know even when we miss Nathan that we are lucky – lucky that he was such a wonderful and a God-filled example to us. We are lucky that we are able to miss him so much because we knew his love and loved him in return. But this also highlights the impact of our loss.
My life stopped on April 1st, 2014. I have been shocked to the core of my being. I feel battered and bruised, never whole again without him. I can no longer live an ordinary life and my heart suffers from the deepest wound— a wound from which, it will never recover. I was his wife for just over 10 months and then he was taken so suddenly from my life. The impact of Nate’s murder has been catastrophic. The loneliness and sadness I feel is enormous.
Nathan embodied everything I could ever ask for in a spouse. He had an unshakeable sense of faith and family and unquenchable love for life. Now, as I go through the worst time in my life, the person whose passion, intelligence and strength got me through all my trials before is no longer there to help me with this struggle. What was stolen from me on April 1st 2014 was love, my best friend and my entire word. What was stolen from us was our future, our unborn children, and our lives together.
The emotional impact is huge. I suffer from insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and I now look at the world differently. I have nightmares of his terror that morning and all that he would have gone through. I wake up petrified and uncertain if my loved ones are still breathing.
I hesitate to leave my home because home is where I feel safe, the rest of the world has become a foreign battleground, with evil around every corner, waiting to take its next victim. I have had to move from the home we shared, given its proximity to where his death occurred and the sudden nature of finding myself a single parent. The pain of not being able to tell Nathan that I loved him in his final moments, the knowledge that those last moments were terrifying and painful, and the knowledge that with his final walk he had crossed paths with evil haunts me every day.
Most of all, I miss Nathan. I miss waking to him making me breakfast in bed. I miss lazy afternoons in the sunshine, making plans, laughing with him, and sharing my life with him. I miss his insight, fun and wit, his huge smile and warm embrace. I think of him every second of every day and I think of the pain of never being able to laugh with him again. I think of the waste of a brilliant mind and a beautiful soul at the hands of another human being. I think of how in love we were and of how much I’ve lost and how much of my life and dreams were built around him. I am half a person because of this crime.
I can never forget what was done to him. I come across ordinary young couples or young families and they are so happy and normal. It’s what we should have had. Seeing them is like so many stab wounds as they remind me of the life we would have shared together, but which, has been so cruelly taken away. I now have to try and rebuild a new life and even the thought of that just makes me so sad. I have been given a life sentence.
Simeon Adams has been sentenced to 55 years. 55 years will never give Nathan back to us. It will never mend my broken heart. It will never give Cecilia the chance to know her father. However, I come here today not to plead for more time, but to speak of forgiveness. These next few words were spoken by Father Roberts at Nathan’s funeral. But they are words that I full-heartedly stand by and mean when I say: I forgive, because Nathan Trapuzzano was a man who knew from his head to his toes that he was a sinner who was loved and forgiven by God. He wanted everyone he met to know the same love and forgiveness. I believe that he still does. Nathan would have wanted everyone here to know something in our bones. Each one of us here is loved with an infinite, personal and unconditional love by a merciful God. There is nothing that we can do that God will not forgive. We can refuse to accept that mercy, but God will never stop extending it. God loves each one of us more than we can ever know. He wants nothing more than for us to return to Him and let Him fix His merciful eyes on us and say, “You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter, in whom I am well-pleased.” He wants to run out to meet us just as we decide to come back to Him, to embrace us and to shower us with kisses. This is true no matter how grievous our sins are. We cannot be certain exactly what was going through Nathan’s mind in the last moments of his life. But as his wife, his soul mate, his beloved, I believe that he would have desired to do God’s will with all his heart, just as he sought to do throughout the entire time that I knew him. For myself, I have little doubt that as his soul drew near to his particular judgment on Tuesday morning, perhaps even after he had passed out of consciousness, Nathan forgave his murderer. That was the kind of man that I knew him to be. And while 55 years will never give us back Nathan, forgiveness is what I offer Simeon today.
– Jennifer Trapuzzano
With special thanks to Father Roberts for delivering such an open and beautiful message on forgiveness that I hope to embody and we all can learn from.
Jennifer Trapuzzano is a 26-year old widow and mother to 15-month old Cecilia. She is working hard to complete her Masters as a Physician Assistant. She has found healing after the murder of her husband in her Catholic faith and through writing at her blog, A Love So Strong.