Follow @MaryMitchellCST“If you lose her . . . . There’ll be a hole in your soul. There’d be no grave deep enough to bury the pain.”
“If You Lose Her” by Joe
It was 16 years ago this month that Traci Todd disappeared from her South Loop apartment, touching off a massive search across the city that ended tragically in Beaubien Woods.
I will never forget the sounds Gloria Todd, Traci’s mother, made when she was led to the spot where 80 of her daughter’s bones were concealed.
It was a gut-wrenching, guttural moan that echoed throughout the forest.
By then the United Airlines flight attendant, whose personality could light up a room, had been missing for three months.
Every day her family prayed that that would be the day their pain ended.
It never did.
But in 2003, they did get justice. Todd’s boyfriend, Kevin Williams, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 65 years in prison.
Follow @MaryMitchellCSTWilliams claimed two other men were responsible for Traci’s death. Tons of circumstantial evidence and testimony by Williams’ own running buddies convinced jurors Williams killed Todd during a fight in her apartment after she learned he had married another woman.
In the 13 years that Williams has been incarcerated, a lot has changed for this family. Traci’s mother passed away seven years ago having never recovered from her grief.
“My mother’s health went down terribly. She lost 100 pounds. It really affected her. She died from a broken heart,” said Lisa Todd, Traci’s sister.
Traci’s father, Ernest Todd, was a successful entrepreneur, and you could see right off that Traci was the light of his life.
“Now, he expresses extreme sadness in every aspect of his life, physically, emotionally and financially,” Lisa said.
Sixteen years is not nearly long enough for the sharp pain of this loss to become a dull ache.
But apparently it is long enough for Williams to try and get out of prison.
Lisa Todd was recently notified by the Prisoner Review Board and the State’s Attorney’s Office that Williams has filed a petition for executive clemency.
The public hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Oct. 12 in the Illinois State Library in Springfield.
The deadline for responses to Williams’ petition is Sept. 15, two days shy of the 16th anniversary of Traci’s disappearance.
“Now 16 years later we are going to have to go back to dealing with this. I don’t want my 80-year-old father to have to deal with this again and again,” Lisa Todd told me.
Both Williams and witnesses who oppose the petition will be allowed to address the Prisoner Review Board.
Lisa Todd sent an email with her thoughts on the request: “It is devastating to have to re-live this heinous crime against my sister . . . . Kevin dismembered my sister and disposed of her in Beaubien Woods as though she was an animal, and the animals feasted on her remains. That memory has tortured me every day of my life. Please don’t give clemency to a sociopath,” she said.
Todd’s murder became national news, in part, because it raised questions about how missing persons cases are treated when the vanished is a woman of color.
It was only after the Todd family went to the media that their concerns were taken seriously by the police department.
Despite the horrendous nature of the crime Williams committed, he is entitled to petition the governor for mercy.
Hopefully, women’s advocacy groups will speak on behalf of Traci Todd by writing to the Prisoner Review Board, 319 E. Madison St., Suite A, Springfield, IL 62701, before Sept. 15, and object to clemency.
The victims of this terrible crime — the family, siblings, relatives and friends of Traci Todd — should not have to bear the memory of this loss alone.