June 20, 2017
I refuse to get my hopes up but I can’t deny how good it feels to have Coretta on my side. As scared as I was I promised myself to remain hopeful. In a matter of hours, I’d know whether Coretta’s team accepted the proposal. In a matter of days, we’d be discussing our next steps. She promised to fight for me, even if they turned her down. I never had someone so devoted to helping me. After meeting with her I was no longer suspicious but I was still cautious.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the night I attempted to kill Aaron. I was certain he would bleed to death and there’s not a day that goes by where I’m not wishing I’d stayed just a tad bit longer to ensure he was dead. I’d feel better about spending my life behind bars if it meant Aaron no longer had the privilege of walking this earth. If it meant he could no longer hurt girls.
Blood. There was so much blood. On the floor, walls, and all over me. I knew I didn’t have time to shower before Mama and my younger sister got home. It was Christmas and Mama and Aaron had gotten into an argument over the phone so she went for a drive to calm herself. Christmas wasn’t supposed to be the night I killed him. I spent weeks planning when I’d kill him and how I’d do it. Still, no amount of planning prepared me for murder. The moments leading up to me stabbing Aaron were terrifying but afterward, I felt a rush.
“Oh my… I did it! I did it!” I yelled. He’s really dead, I peered at his bloody body before running off to wash up. I avoided the mirror for as long as my brain allowed as I ripped my clothes off, threw them in a trash bag, and proceeded to wash every inch of my body in the sink. Finally, I glanced up at myself. There was blood splattered all over my face. Taking my hands and running them under the water, I splashed my face numerous times to erase the damage. Step one was complete. I cleaned the bathroom to the best of my ability. In the end, few blood stains remained. Before leaving I decided to peek one more time at my masterpiece. Tip-toeing to the kitchen, I first saw the pools of blood surrounding his body. He wasn’t moving so I felt no need to check and see if he was still breathing. Aaron was dead. I was a murderer.
The Greyhound bus was crowded. A family of five sitting across from me was noisy; their toddlers yelled as if they were being hurt. In front of me, a man who smelled like liquor was snoring. This was going to be a long ride. I bought a ticket to Indianapolis, Indiana. The ride was estimated to be 15-18 hours. The reason I chose this particular destination is that it’s far away from home. Once Aaron’s body is found and they realized I was missing, they’ll come looking for me but no one will suspect I’m in the cornfields. I hoped nobody would suspect I killed Aaron. Maybe they’d think I was kidnapped by his murderer. Perhaps this would be a fresh start for me. I had worked as many hours as possible to save up for this moment. I was sitting on a few hundred dollars that I was sure would get me by until I was able to find a job.
Finally, the family’s loud ass kids stopped screaming. I could rest. Just for a few hours, I could allow myself to sleep…
I opened my eyes to a man standing over me. I jumped up, screaming.
“I-I’m sorry,” he looked startled.
“What are you doing?” I questioned.
“You’re heading to Indiana, right? It’s time for you to transfer to the other bus.”
“Oh.” I looked around, embarrassed. I closed my eyes for one second and ended up sleeping through the first bus ride. We’d arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and I was about to board the bus that would take me to Indiana.
I’d spent the last 20 minutes writing as I waited for Coretta to arrive. There were two visitation sessions today and she hadn’t shown up for the first so I assumed she’d be here for the second one. It’d been a whole week since our last meeting and I was awaiting the outcome.
“Your visitor is here,” one of the guards announced.
Sitting down at the visitor booth, I welcomed Coretta.
“They denied my request.” Coretta’s words rang in my ears.
I was quiet and motionless.
“Huh?” I responded.
“I heard you,” I blurted out.
“I told you this was a possibility but I also told you if this happened I would take matters into my own hands.”
“I know.” I let my head fall down.
She sighed. “I know this is hard but I need you to do something for me.”
“If I’m going to do this by myself, I need to get your story out there. I want us to sit down in a more formal setting, with a camera, and discuss what happened. I’m not expecting you to give all the gory details but we need something to lean on.”
“I think I can do that,” I answered.
“Good. This is where we’ll start. I’ve already spoken with one of the guards and she’s agreed to give us time today to record. If you’re ready, of course.”
I nodded. Letting her know I was in agreement.
Two guards escorted Coretta and me to an empty room on the second floor of the prison.
“Can you uncuff her?” Coretta asked.
“Yeah right!” One of the guards chuckled.
“At least they’re standing outside instead of in here,” I said once they exited the room.
Smiling she continued, “Today I want you to talk about the sexual abuse. More specifically, when it started.”
I said nothing.
“When you’re ready Sunitha, I’ll turn this camera on and we will begin.”
I spent the next 10 minutes gathering myself and finally, I whispered, “I’m ready.”
“Okay,” she turned on the camera.
“Can you state your name, age, and why you’re in prison?”
“My name is Sunitha Drew, I’m 19 years of age, and I-I’m in prison for attempted murder.”
“Sunitha, can you tell me what led to this murder attempt?”
“I was being raped,” I cried.
“Thank you for sharing that. Can I ask, who was the person doing this to you?”
“Aaron Michaels,” I confirmed.
“Is Aaron Michaels who you tried to kill?”
“Can you tell me when the abuse first started?”
“It was a year after we’d moved in. I was six at the time.”
“Okay Sunitha, if you don’t mind. Can you take me back to the first assault?”
Oh god. My palms were dripping with sweat. This was too much.
“It was a night in 2004. I was six as I mentioned earlier and um… Mama left to go run some errands. So it was just me and Aaron at home.”
“I’ll be back baby, I’m going to run to the store,” she told me. I was sitting in front of the T.V. hardly paying her any mind.
“Huh? Yes, Mama?” I turned away from the television.
“I said I’ll be back. I’m heading to the store. Aaron’s in the room and Simone is in her crib.”
I returned my attention to the cartoon I was watching. Once it was over, I went into Simone’s room to check on her. At six, I couldn’t wrap my mind around women being able to give life. Staring at me was a tiny human. So pure and innocent.
I’d already had my bath prior to my mother leaving so I brushed my teeth and headed to my room for bed. Mama and Aaron usually came in and read me a story until I fell asleep. Tonight, it was just Aaron.
The story he read that night was about a family of frogs. I remember dozing off before the end and when I woke up….my panties were off and Aaron was on top of me.
“He was on top of me.” I looked up at the camera with tears in my eyes.
I continued, “I remember the look in his eyes. He wasn’t the father I considered him to be. I tried to scream and he silenced me by putting his hand over my mouth.”
Coretta cut off the camera. Sitting down at the table, she gently grabbed one of my hands. “I know how hard this is for you. I’m sorry for making you relive this,” she offered.
“It’s hard. It reminds me of journaling. I write daily and most of the time, I get intense flashbacks. It’s one thing to write about it but it’s another to speak it.”
My hands were shaking. Just like when I was younger.
“What do you plan on doing with these videos?” I asked.
“Well, I was hoping to get a few recorded and use my connections to get them out there. With all this technology, it’s sure to catch the attention of someone who’d be willing to help us. In order for there to be any possibility of getting your case reopened, I need to build a profile big enough to get a judge to hear the case.”
“Can I ask a question?”
“Of course,” she replied.
“Aaron. Where is he?”
“Last I checked, he’s still in D.C.”
“With my mom?”
She looked away. “I believe so.”
“I can’t believe this shit.”
“Have you talked to her?”
I laughed. Not because her question was funny though. “No. I haven’t talked to her. Not once since I’ve been in here.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
That evening as I lay in my cell, I couldn’t believe I was asked to speak my truth. It felt surreal. I wondered how my little sister was doing and also about Mama. I truly couldn’t believe she stayed with him. It was one thing for her not to speak to me…it was another that she was still with him.
Coretta said she wanted to record a few more videos before she started publicizing them. I knew that meant more talks of what I went through and also the attempted murder.
I remember the night I was arrested:
I’d been staying at a homeless shelter. Although I still had most of my money, I was using it for food and transportation to get to and from work. I had just clocked out, waiting for my taxi when a tall, Black man approached me.
“Sunitha Drew?” he questioned.
“I’m detective Olio. Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
I ran as fast as I could but there was no use. The police cars were already staked out, waiting for me. Once they placed me in cuffs and took me back to the station, I was questioned for hours. I didn’t confess. Not until they told me my fingerprints had been found at the scene. I was already in the system due to being arrested for stealing when I was 14. I knew then that I was going away for a very long time.
“Unfortunately for you, Mr. Michaels lived and I can guarantee he’s going to testify against you if it comes down to it,” a female detective said.
How was it possible that Aaron lived after I stabbed him numerous times?
Finally, I spoke, “I did it. I did it because he was raping me!”
Their mouths hit the floor.
“Oh! Now she wants to cry rape because she’s caught,” the male detective laughed.
Over the next few months, I went through constant humiliation and faced obstacles I knew I couldn’t overcome. It wasn’t a matter of whether I did it or not. I did it. I was guilty but so was Aaron.
I remember watching Aaron get on the stand and lie his ass off. He confirmed the fake rumors that I’d come on to him and he turned me down. He received sympathetic looks from everyone there including the judge as he struggled to breathe. I, on the other hand, was shunned. I was viewed as a murderer. Nothing less.
Drifting to sleep, I prayed I dreamed of having a normal childhood.
To be continued…
Letter Five: The Truth – 11/14/18
We’re near the end! With only two letters left of Incarcerated Letters, it’s time for Sunitha’s truth to be told to the world. Will this give her another chance at life? Or will she be silenced forever.
Join me Wednesday, November 14, as we delve deeper (if that’s possible) into reading along as Sunitha faces the very people who called her a liar.