With just 2 words, the shock returns
Lana Hollerud could hear the jurors laughing behind the closed courtroom door. After her seven years of wondering whether justice would ever come, after her 21-hour drive from her hometown in Austin, Minn., after an eight-day trial, the jurors had reached a verdict in the murder of her son Beau Zabel in just three hours.
Lana Hollerud could hear the jurors laughing behind the closed courtroom door.
After her seven years of wondering whether justice would ever come, after her 21-hour drive from her hometown in Austin, Minn., after an eight-day trial, the jurors had reached a verdict in the murder of her son Beau Zabel in just three hours.
And now they were laughing.
Lana tried to imagine what that could mean.
She prayed for grace and strength.
And as the jurors filed back into Courtroom 1107 on Wednesday to deliver their verdict in the case against Marcellus Jones, charged with killing her son for his iPod near the Italian Market in 2008, Lana did something she had not done before: She tried to make eye contact with the jurors.
When none of them would look back, Lana began to weep.
"Not guilty," the jury forewoman said, so nonchalantly.
In that moment, Lana felt as she did seven years ago when a sheriff came in the night and told her that Beau - who had come to Philadelphia from his small Minnesota town to teach high school math - was gone.
As if there were no words. As if she had to be dreaming.
Lana had prepared herself for the possibility that there might never be justice. She had accepted that the only justice her family might ever receive would be found in Jones' 2012 conviction for killing Tyrek Taylor, his alleged getaway driver in Beau's killing.
Unlike in Taylor's trial, no physical evidence linked Jones to Beau, only three witnesses who said Jones has confided in them about killing the teacher. Witnesses a defense attorney attacked as schemers and liars out for reward money or to get out of prison.
For eight days, Lana; her husband, Terry; Beau's older sister, Brook; and other family members sat in Courtroom 1107 and suffered the indignities - and heartbreak - of a murder trial.
They listened to witnesses who said Jones complained about getting nothing more than an iPod from the killing. And to Jones himself, who with his constant outbursts and rambling testimony made a mockery of the court. A mockery of the dead.
They heard the jury forewoman's words and wondered just what had been so funny.
In her shock, Lana wanted to be near Beau. Near where he had lived - and where he had died.
After the courtroom had emptied - after the jury had gone home and Jones had been sent back to prison, where he will spend his life for killing Taylor - homicide detectives drove the Zabels to Ellsworth Street. To the spot where Beau had been shot that night in June 2008 as he walked home from a summer job at Starbucks.
They prayed where Beau fell. Then they retraced his steps: to the soda machine where he had stopped for a Mountain Dew. To the Starbucks.
The barista spelled Lana's name wrong. "Lanna," her cup read. Terry paid for a peppermint mocha for the girl next in line.
"In honor of our son," he said.
Beau liked to do things like that, he said. Pay it forward, he'd say.
Lana asked to sit upstairs.
"Isn't it neat?" she said, smiling through tears as she sat down to a table. "Beau would have read his poetry here."
Christmas carols played.
Lana tried to find the words.
She had found comfort - some closure, even - in the testimony of the first responders who had tried to help Beau. Who had been there for him when she could not. There was that.
She felt anger as she recalled how Jones thanked the jury and sadness for the police and prosecutors who worked so hard and so long. And sadness, too, for the young lives Beau never got to touch. She felt tired.
They had gone as far as they could. There was nothing left to do, except sit there a little longer until it was time to go home.