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  • Writer's pictureKrystal Hinkley

Alex & The Aftermath

On April 13th, 2024, Alex's murderer was sentenced to life in prison. While the outcome was exactly what I wanted, I did not have a chance to read my victim impact statement in court. This was something I had looked forward to for so long - for the catharsis, but also perhaps for the validation. So, I've decided to publish it here, so those who are curious may read it and learn a little more about us and our life, and of course how his murder impacted my life...


Alex and I met by chance one day, but we both knew nearly immediately that it was no coincidence. We were meant to be together. He quickly became my best friend, my champion, my support, and my partner in life. He meant the world to me and without him, my world feels empty and dark. He brought so much love and joy into my life – he loved me in a way I didn’t know I could be loved. Our mutual adoration, dedication, and respect was beyond what I knew was possible. He always said we were a TEAM and there was never a doubt in my mind that he meant it. I went through some very difficult personal experiences with my health and family life in our time together and he was always there for me, willing to do and say anything he could to make me feel okay. He chauffeured me around when I was unable to drive myself due to the now-permanent partial loss of sight in my left eye. He drove me to Bristol, Wytheville, Roanoke, and Knoxville to see eye specialists – anywhere from an hour to 3.5 hours from our home. He brought me groceries, helped take care of my dogs, and took great care of me. And he never blinked an eye or hesitated for even a second to do anything to help. He was the reason I made it through that time which was, up until last year, the hardest time of my life.



Alex always told me the same thing – he said he didn’t know how he’d have made it through the challenges he faced during that time if it wasn’t for me. He was so stressed over fighting in court for so long to have his kids in his life and having to represent himself through the process. On top of that, he had to step down from a management position in his job so he could work less hours to be able to drive across the state every other week to be able to spend time with them per the temporary court order. The financial and mental stress were overwhelming and he really struggled to stay above water – despite his naturally positive demeanor, he struggled a lot mentally to believe that things would work out for him. He only wanted to finally be divorced from the woman who had made his life so incredibly difficult and to be a solid, positive presence in his boys’ lives – and he felt like he was alone up against the world. He never thought he’d be able to afford a lawyer and although he hesitated at first, he was so excited and appreciative to finally be able to hire one with my help. I only wanted to ease his stress and make sure he got the outcome he deserved. It was worth every penny to see the weight it took off his shoulders at the time and to know now that the boys will always be in his family’s life because of that.

 

Things had really just started falling into place for us in the last few months. After the boys came to stay with us, Alex started a new job working weekdays during the day so he could have a regular schedule and be around for our family time in the evenings. He had just recently enrolled at the community college and was supposed to start school the Tuesday after he died to earn his Renewable Energy certification – he planned to start his own business helping people get more self-sufficient through off-grid solutions like solar power and spring boxes. He was so excited about it because it was something he knew he could do, having done so at his old holler house that he was fixing up for his boys, but also because he really wanted to help people. He loved helping people and anyone who knew him would say the same. He wanted to make a difference in the world in whatever way he could. He said I inspired him to start making music again, which was one of his great passions in life, and he even planned to release his first album in over 10 years called Spring Box with a few great songs he had already completed. He was a truly talented musician and artist. He wrote a song on my piano that I still hear echoes of when I walk past. His urn and picture sit on top of the piano today. I miss the sound of him strumming his guitar – there was one beautiful blues riff he would play every time he picked it up and I would give anything to hear that again. I miss hearing him sing, especially when he’d sit at the kitchen counter and serenade me while I cooked. Certain songs bring me to tears every time I hear them now.

 

Alex was so kind-hearted and genuine. He was witty, charming, positive, dedicated, smart, compassionate, strong, caring, generous, super friendly, and an incredible Daddy. Those are just a few of the many, many amazing qualities he had. I quite literally have a list of nearly 100 of them that I’ve written down. He was a TRULY good person with a great heart and a beautiful soul. He had the most radiant smile, sparkling eyes, warm energy, and an undeniable glow about him. There is no one else like him in the world and I know I’ll never find anyone who measures up to him.

 

Finding him may have been chance, but losing him was a result of a calculated, cold-hearted choice.

 

The after-effects of Alex’s murder are pervasive in all parts of my life – my personal relationships, professional life, and my home life. The trauma and loss have touched every single part of my life. Even happy events that I experience are tinged with the colors of grief and there is no escaping that. I will always have a giant piece missing from my heart and it’s an incredibly painful and lonely experience.

 

Everything changed for me on May 9th, 2023, and there’s no other way to say that. EVERYTHING changed, period. I struggle to properly explain that to people who haven’t experienced great love or the loss of the person they loved most in the world. People say to me that they cannot even imagine how it must feel, and to those people I say, please don’t try. It is an unfathomable pain. It is something that will never go away. I know I’m blessed to have experienced such real, true love, but I also feel cursed to have lost it so quickly. Alex was my everything. He was supposed to be my forever. My world was completely shattered when he was taken away so mercilessly. He was such a beautiful person and an amazing partner to share life with. I will never get to know what it’s like to grow old with him. I will never get to experience raising a family with him. I will never get to experience starting our own businesses together. All the plans we made for our future together are no longer a possible reality and that’s incredibly hard to accept. I don’t know how to really live without the person I planned a life with or how to go about being “okay” again. We shared a connection that many people never get the pleasure to experience in life and for that I’m eternally grateful. If it wasn’t for the heartlessness of one person, we would still have the ability to grow and deepen in that connection. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it never will be.

 

I still struggle to feel like I belong in this world – a world where something so beautiful can be ripped away so savagely often just doesn’t feel like the world I want to live in. It’s made me question my purpose – Alex knew his purpose on Earth, and he told me many times – it was to be a Dad. I know in my heart that his purpose in my life was to show me the kind of love, respect, and adoration I deserve, too. He had a very clear purpose. Mine used to be my life with Alex and his wonderful boys. I can’t help but question why he was taken and I was spared.

 

I used to believe the world and the people in it were inherently good and that good things happen to good people… I believed things happened for a reason. None of that made sense to me after Alex was killed. Now I don’t know what I believe. Any faith that I did have was shaken that day and I don’t know how I’ll ever truly have faith again. The rose-colored glasses I wore for most of my life were smashed to pieces and I only hope one day I’ll be able to find some remnants of my old, happy self again… but to be honest, I think she was killed along with Alex that day.

 

The awful events that led to Alex’s murder and his absence from my life have affected my mental and emotional health greatly – I have been diagnosed with PTSD, complex grief, depression, and anxiety. I have been seeing therapists since a few days after Alex was murdered – at first twice weekly, now on a weekly basis. I have ended up paying out of pocket over $2,500 for therapy in the last year, and that will likely continue for the foreseeable future as I have a lot of trauma and grief to process and work through with the help of a professional. I crawled into wine, liquor, and beer bottles for months after Alex was killed, numbing myself to try to escape the unbearable pain. I just didn’t care enough to treat myself right and I still struggle with that today. I missed two full months of work and only worked part time for two months following that. When I finally did return full time, I still didn’t know how to be “normal” and do what I needed to do – I had such trouble focusing and engaging with others – so I often feared losing my job. I had and still have to take days off just because sometimes the pain is overwhelming and I can think of nothing else. I have days where it feels like the wind has been knocked out of me and just going through the motions of the day is often more than I can manage, so I instead opt to wallow and although that may not be healthy, it is sometimes all I can do.

 

I live in the country and often hear hunters’ gunshots off in the distance. The sounds of those echoing shots bring me back to the worst day of my life and cause me to shake, cry, and hyperventilate. I still play back the moments of the gunshot ripping through the glass of the car we were in and seeing Alex quickly turn to look at me before getting out of the car and running for his life. That is my last memory of seeing him. I can still hear the gunshots that followed, further and further away. I still remember trembling on the floor of the car on the phone with 911, asking over and over if Alex was okay, and then finally being told it was safe to exit the vehicle, only to have two deputies pull guns on me as I walked toward them across the yard. I remember yelling over and over, “is Alex okay?” to the crowd down the street and no one would answer me. It took me a very long time to accept that I’d never see him again – and some days I slip right back into that denial. I cry myself to sleep most nights, holding onto a pillow of Alex’s face and wishing with all my might that he will visit me in my dreams or that I’ll somehow miraculously wake up from this nightmare. I rarely leave my home anymore – many days Alex’s ghost and my dogs are the only ones I talk to. I don’t know people in my little town, and I don’t really know how to be normal and social anymore.

 

This past winter was one of the hardest times for me – being cold and dreary out never helps my mental health, but not having Alex by my side like he was the whole previous winter, was especially challenging. I tend to be one of those people who loves Christmas – the movies, music, decorations, food, all of it. I couldn’t even bring myself to decorate my tree this year, and watching my favorite Christmas movies was incredibly triggering. I’m still unable to watch movies with romantic, happy endings – they only serve to remind me of the unhappy ending we got.

 

I sleep with a pillow of Alex’s face and pictures of him are all over my bedroom. I have multiple pictures of him and us in every room of my house. I talk to him nearly constantly, and many days he’s the only person I speak to, since I work from home. I read our text messages regularly – since we were always in constant contact when we were apart – and for a brief moment while I’m immersed in those conversations, I can almost forget that he’s gone… I listen to the voice message he sent me saying “I love you, beautiful” in his deep, soothing voice every single night before bed. I still have his shoes by the front door and his water bottle on his nightstand. I still have his bag of clothes he took on that last trip sitting on a chair in my bedroom. He left the hanger from his dress shirt for court hanging on the nightstand drawer knob – I haven’t moved that either. His toothbrush is still in my drawer and his razor is in my shower. His towel still hangs on the towel rack. His dirty pajama pants are still in his hamper. The antibiotics he was taking for his ear infection are still in my bathroom cabinet. The box of cocoa pebbles he had is still in the pantry. I keep all these things as they were and somewhere deep down in my deluded, broken heart, I think it’s because I want it to feel like he’s still coming back… the reality that he’s not hits me every single day so many times, but it still doesn’t keep me from wishing.

 

I still live in the home we shared together, the home where we were settling his boys into their own room with a 3-bed bunkbed and individualized bedding – SpongeBob for Oliver, Paw Patrol for Trevor, and Baby Shark for Ezra. Our home where we shared so many beautiful, happy, fun moments as a couple and as a family. It’s somewhat ironic because I decided a long time ago that I did not want to have children of my own. Alex was the first person to ever make me reconsider that – not because of his desire to have more, though he did talk about how beautiful our babies would be and how happy he would be if it were to happen – but because he was such an incredible father and partner. For the first time in my life, I knew that if I were to become pregnant unexpectedly, I wouldn’t be scared – I would be excited and it would be such a blessing because he was the right person to do it with. Being able to be bonus mommy to his beautiful boys was an immense pleasure and a true blessing in my life – I honestly felt like that was my purpose here. He gave me the life and family I never knew I wanted or needed.

 

May 9th, 2023, I lost not only my best friend and the love of my life, but also my family. Now it’s just me and my two dogs. I’ve never lived alone and it’s been a huge adjustment – I live a very lonely life now. I’m constantly reminded of Alex’s absence. And everywhere in town I go, I’m reminded of being there with him. I can’t go anywhere without thinking of the last time we were there together. We had a running joke about how we had so many “romantic” dates – eye doctor appointments, DMV, court, drug test labs, emergency rooms, pharmacies, grocery stores – we really did it all. Those things would normally be so mundane and even stressful, but they were really some of our favorite times together. It didn’t matter what we were doing because as long as we were together, we had fun and we were happy. We always wanted to be together. From the time we met, we never went more than an hour without a text or a phone call, and every opportunity we had to see each other, we jumped at. I even used to take him food on his lunch break at work and just sit with him while he ate. Those lunch breaks in the parking lot were so special just because we were spending time together. I still can’t go or BE anywhere without feeling his absence. He should be by my side, holding my hand in the car, wolf whistling at me when I walk by, grabbing me for a big hug every time I try to walk past him in the kitchen, sneaking little affectionate touches and kisses, belting out lines like “I’m carryin’ your love with me” as loudly as he could, giggling with me at our jokes and pokes, watching me cook in the kitchen, holding me in bed and telling me how much he loves me, and generally just being my best friend and constant companion.

 

And he should be here for his boys. He loved them more than anything else in the world and did EVERYthing he possibly could to be in their lives. He should be here to see Oliver on his first day of kindergarten this year… he should be here to celebrate Trevor’s potty-training successes… he should be here to hear Ezra learning more of his Daddy’s funny slang words. Those boys were robbed of the most loving, affectionate, protective, adoring, fun, sweet daddy any kid could ask for. And Alex was robbed of the chance to see his beautiful babies grow and experience life. None of that is okay.

 

Alex’s biggest goal in life was to make sure that his kids were happy, healthy, and safe. That was one of the first things he ever said to me – he wanted to be a good Daddy first and foremost. That’s why we kept them away from that man and at our home, which the court ultimately agreed was the best thing for them given the circumstances. We talked about what it would be like when he eventually settled into joint custody with the kids’ mother, as he never, even for a second, wanted to keep them from her. We talked about how it would be on us to provide examples of what real love and healthy relationship and family looks like. He was so concerned about what his kids had likely seen and experienced in that man’s home, but he knew the best and only thing he could do was to make sure to give them the very best life he could when he had them and be a role model to them. We would make sure the boys knew that true love does not mean yelling and throwing things and physical violence – it does not mean name calling and disrespect. Real love is about mutual respect, admiration, and dedication – honest, open communication, and willingness to understand and work through things as a team. Real love looks like holding hands and dancing in the kitchen, laughing together, and sharing everything with each other, the good and the bad. We had all of that and then some. We would have been a lasting, shining example of real love for those boys and it is devastating that were likely too young to ever remember seeing their father living his life, happy and in love.

 

Just a month before he was killed, the would-be murderer and Alex’s ex-wife trespassed on my property – they were told ahead of time that they were not allowed on the property and there are signs posted. They had to remove a neighbor’s gate from its hinges and drive over a sapling tree, making huge tire ruts in the grass and spattering mud all over my neighbor’s outbuilding. I filed trespassing charges, which are still active per the sheriff’s office. I called 911 and waited for deputies to arrive before I approached my home, as I was quite frankly terrified – even though I’d never met the man, I had heard the stories and even Alex’s ex-wife’s accounts of what he was capable of. I was completely shaken – I no longer felt safe in my home, my sanctuary – my sense of peace and serenity was shattered. At the time, I really thought that was the worst thing that could happen – feeling unsafe and unsettled in my own home. Then one month later, Alex was murdered and I no longer felt safe anywhere in the world. I no longer felt peace anywhere. My sanctuary became a tomb where I drifted just like a ghost among the ghosts of the life I had before and the man I love.

 

The man who robbed us all of Alex should not be allowed to experience life as a free person again, ever. He took so much joy, love, laughter, and hope from so many people. He acted heartlessly, cruelly, and senselessly when he decided to take Alex’s life. He had no regard for me or Alex’s mother when he shot into the car we were in. He didn’t even know if the children were in the home when he chased Alex through his family’s house shooting. He could have killed several of us in his pointless quest for vengeance and I don’t believe he would have cared. That is not the kind of person who should be allowed to walk freely among those of us who have great care and regard for the sanctity of human life. I’m living my own life sentence where I will always miss the person who held – and still holds – my heart. There is not a scenario where Alex’s murderer’s eventual freedom is not a gross injustice – he should also have to serve a life sentence, with no possibility of parole. That’s what the rest of us have been sentenced to.

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