Posted by: kathyhugs | April 20, 2010

HUGS: Healing Under God’s Shelter

When: Saturday, May 1

Time: 10:00 to 12:00

Where: Chippewa E. Free Church 239 Braun Road,  Beaver Falls, PA 724-843-6381

One week from this Saturday is the informational meeting/ kick off to the Prayer Support Group we will be starting. I don’t know if I want it to be totally empty because the need isn’t there or if I want 10 people there who can share their concerns, questions and prayer requests with each other.  I know I wanted to talk to someone who could understand what I was feeling and someone who could help me to talk through the confusing information. I was able to “meet” some wonderful new friends over email, then over the phone and in some cases in person. These new friends let me cry, prayed with me and shared their stories.

On May 1 we will be sharing pictures of the people in our lives that we have lost. We will be sharing their stories. We will be sharing the prayer needs that we have. We will be learning to trust each other enough to ask those questions that no one else can understand unless you’ve been there.

May 1, another part of our journey. Maybe a new part of yours! Please be in prayer for this new group!

Posted by: kathyhugs | April 15, 2010

Grief and teenagers?

Recently I have been thinking about the differences between adults and teenagers. I have been working and hanging out with teenagers for a long time now. Between the youth group at church and the kids I see at work, I spend more time with teenagers than I do adults! Maybe that is why I am so goofy! I have had the honor to hear the thoughts and concerns of some of these students. They are so much fun. They can be serious. They can be flighty and silly. They are not yet adults. So they have fun in different ways. They also grieve in different ways. I am still learning from them. I wonder how they process the death of someone they love? I am asking questions? Trying to learn. They are wonderful and they have a different view from adults.

I will keep learning!

Posted by: kathyhugs | April 9, 2010

Who am I becoming with God’s direction

Who am I? That is such a mind-boggling concept right now. My life has changed so much over the last, almost 13 years. 13 years ago in July was when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Three years ago in July is when God called Tonia home. I do not recognize myself at times. The woman who married Rick in 1986 has evolved. I have so much still to learn. I have so much more changing to do. With God’s help, in God’s time. I don’t know what the future will hold and that would have driven me crazy once upon a time. But I have learned that God is much better at this thing called life here on Earth and that I need to trust and go with the flow. Yes I still get frustrated at times. I want to be in control and know what tomorrow will hold but I don’t even know if I will have a tomorrow. So I could be doing so many things but I needed and wanted to write.

That is one of the ways God has changed me. When Tonia died I absolutely had to write; to be able to convey my grief, my emotions, the circumstances around me. My fingers fly over the keyboard and sentences appear! I love to be able to share my emotions, my thoughts and my life. I don’t know if anyone even reads this but recently I gave my journal to Rick and a dear friend to read. I was ready to share. Rick is still reading it. My friend has finished it and gave me a hug. That is enough.

So who am I becoming?

Who am I?

I am deeply and passionately in Love with Jesus Christ, my Savior, my Friend, my Counselor, my Creator. The Alpha and the Omega in my life.

I am in love with the amazing man who proposed in a beautiful private dining room is a restaurant in Valparaiso, Indiana in 1985. I love being his wife, his partner, his friend.

I am the mother of two wonderful children: my lovely daughter, Tonia, who is Saving A Place For Me, in Heaven and my wonderful son, Sean, who is becoming a God honoring man. I am so proud of both of them. I cherish every minute I have had as their mother. No vocation has given me more thrills and more gray hairs! They are a gift from God.

I love to sing, music speaks to my soul. I love to read anything and everything. I absolutely love people. My heart comes alive when I can be around other people. I love to talk to people. I love to hug everyone. I can talk to almost anyone in almost any situation.

I love to share what God has done in my life.

I love to write.

I love being a nurse at Children’s Hospital when I can be goofy and calm a scared child down or comfort a parent who is struggling.

I love teenagers. They are the most wonderful people. They are so unique. They are strong. They are helpless. They are full of energy and angst.

I dislike celery and yogurt! I dislike rude people. I get frustrated when people in my life don’t understand me. I get angry when I am challenged with something I don’t want to deal with. I have so much more to learn and it is overwhelming at times. I hate the fact that our daughter is gone… for now.

I am a strong, passionate, very vocal woman. This is who God has created. For now. That is not who I was 13 years ago. That is who I have become and who I am still becoming.

Tomorrow….. scary, exciting, uncertain…. out of my hands. So today… I hold my hands open and empty and say I am yours God. I will walk the path you have for me. You created me for a purpose. I yield to your plan. Empty me, Fill me with You. Thank you!


Posted by: kathyhugs | April 6, 2010

8 minutes at Easter

This Easter weekend, Rick and I were given the privilege and honor of speaking at all four of our church services. From beginning to end it took 8 minutes to share our testimony. We were interviewed by our senior pastor, Jeff McNicol about the events over the last 33 months. It was supposed to be a video interview but the editing couldn’t get finished in time so there we were live! It was a very humbling experience. I was shaky at the first service on Saturday. I was trying to remember what I wanted to say based upon the video we had done but the words were getting mixed up. The second service on Saturday Rick and I prayed and decided to allow God to choose the words we would say. It was so much better!!

But what an emotional evening. We got home and crashed on the coach, too tired to even talk. Overwhelmed and an emotional dish rag.

Sunday morning dawned: a beautiful resurrection day! There was a feeling in the air even as we stepped into the church. An air of expectancy, of excitement. This is it. This is the day. Jesus has risen. The heaven are opening up with a chorus of Hallelujahs! The sun is shining upon the Son!

We sit down to prepare ourselves. We pray together for God’s guidance and peace for our hearts. We pray that if there was anyone who could hear our words and draw close to God then this is all worth the tears. The music begins. The congregation, our family of believers, have opened their hearts to God and they are praising His name. The choir quietly takes their place on the platform. There is silence… then a joyous song springs from every mouth and every heart. The entire sanctuary is pulsing with the Spirit of God.

Pastor Jeff walks to the platform and we follow behind him. He introduces us by explaining that we have experienced an event and that he wants the congregation to hear our story.

Q1: In July of 2007 you had an event happen that would have shaken any parents heart. What happened?

Kathy: July 1, 2007; I was at youth group and Rick was on a plane to California. A friend walked into the church and found me. She told me that there might be a problem at Tonia’s house and that I needed to try and get in touch with her. Tonia was 25 and living in Wellsville, Ohio. I tried to call her cell phone, which she always had with her. When she didn’t answer I knew somewhere deep inside of me that she was already dead. I then tried to call the Wellsville Police department. The person who answered the phone said that there was no one at the station because they were all out on a police call. After thinking about it I called a friend who lived a short distance from Tonia’s house.  She said to give her a few minutes. She drove to Tonia’s house just in time to see them wheel Tonia’s body out on a gurney while the house was surrounded with crime scene tape. She walked up to the sheriff and asked him if he had told her family yet. When he said no she dialed my cell phone number, handed it to him and said Ton’s mother is in on the phone and you need to tell her. The next phone call that I received was from the sheriff. He said this is Sheriff David Smith. I am sorry to inform you that your daughter is deceased and we are treating it as a homicide. That’s is how we found out the news.

Q2: Rick what did you experienced in those early days?

Rick: Needless to say, it rocked our world.  We had been going along in what we had thought was a normal everyday life.  We never even imagined anything close to this.  It shook us to the core of our entire belief structure.  Is this something that a loving God would allow to happen?  We rapidly came to the conclusion that it was not God, but rather man’s sinfulness.  But, it happened and God brought His people around us to lift us up and carry us through.  The ways that He worked in us over the next several months was just amazing to step back and see.  Through His people, through direct intervention, through messages from the pulpit, there were so many ways that He spoke to us that helped us get through the anger, the hurt, the frustration.  We had no idea where we were headed, but with His help, things began to slowly take shape and the world began to look like it was a place that we could be again.

Q3: Rick this led to a prolonged time of legal issues that have just recently ended. What was outcome?

Rick: The legal process has just recently finished.  It turns out that our son-in-law was the one who killed Tonia, and he pleaded guilty.  He will now be in a state prison for the next eight years.  It has created significant challenges within our families.  It has brought Kathy and me much much closer together over time.  We were very close prior to this but our communication has had to expand tremendously through this ordeal.  Because that is the only way we could have made it through intact.  Without our communication together, our communication together with God, and His communication to each of us, there is no way we could have made it through this.

Q4: Kathy, people would expect anger, bitterness but you have shown otherwise. Can you tell us about that?

Kathy: From the very first moment it was almost as if there were two sides of me, one side of me that was crying out in despair. I felt like I was falling into a huge hole. Then there was the other side of me that knew that the only way we would get through this was by trusting and holding on to God. This led us to think of the people around us and that included our son-in-law, JC. After many months of prayers and talking about it , one of the things we were led to do was to buy a bible for our son-in-law. During our victims impact statement in court we were able to give him that bible. We told him that we forgave him, that we would continue to pray for him and that he was still a part of our family.

Q5: What allowed you to respond as you did?

Kathy:  Trust in God: Totally relying on him, knowing that He forgives us and that he loves us. Knowing that the only way to honor God and to honor our daughter is to say, you show us the way and we will walk the path, whatever it means. That means showing love to our family, showing love to JC and praying for His salvation because that is what God gave to us!

Rick:  There is clearly no way that we could have ever come to that conclusion on our own.  Without God’s help, without Him stepping in and guiding us, there is no way that we, on our own, could have been able to forgive JC.  That wasn’t us.

As we concluded talking and began to walk back to our seats, I started to shake and started to cry.  The conversation started clapping which made me cry even harder. May God use us to spread His love and His healing hand on just one person! Pastor Jeff’s message was inspired. He was delivering a message directly from God. A message of victory! God’s spirit was in that place. His love was evident. His victory won.

We played a very small part of this Easter service but I will always cherish the awe that we both felt. We were blessed!

Happy Easter!

Posted by: kathyhugs | March 21, 2010

Prayer Support Group

Healing Under God’s Shelter (HUGS)

A New Prayer Support Group:

For anyone affected by homicide, suicide or a sudden traumatic death of a family member or friend!

Informational meeting on

Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 10 a.m.

Please RSVP your possible attendance to

Location:  Chippewa Evangelical Free Church

239 Braun Road

Beaver Falls, PA


Please bring a picture of your loved one, and if you can, share a story about them!

Our goals:

  • Prayer support from a Christian worldview to those bereaved through homicide, suicide or other sudden traumatic deaths
  • A place that enables you to meet with people who can understand your pain, who share  your fears, to know that it is ok to cry and to realize that it is also ok to laugh in the understanding that you won’t be judged by your actions
  • Healing and grace through a relationship with Jesus Christ
  • Fellowship with other believers
  • Emotional support through the legal process
  • Support to enable you to forgive when you are ready

What we do not do:

  • Offer professional counseling services, but we do have a list of counselors available
  • Petition courts about legal issues
  • Answer the question why or how you could have changed or stopped this event
  • Seek revenge, retaliation or punitive damages

Services we offer:

  • Prayer group that meets monthly at a local church
  • List of counselors prepared to help you work through your grief
  • Books and other written resources
Posted by: kathyhugs | March 21, 2010

A Season of Prayer

Prayer is so crucial to helping us to connect with God. A voice lifted up to the One who never sleeps and is always ready to listen can mean the difference in a moment and even in a life. My church Chippewa E. Free Church has a new blog called A Season of Prayer. We are asking the people of the church to pray for someone on our hearts at least an hour a day leading up to Easter. We have written their names out and they have been placed on a wall in our church for everyone to see. This post really reminded me of the power of prayer. Please let me know how I can pray for you!

Who Are You?

Your name has been placed before me and I have been asked to pray for you.
But who are you, Sydney or Kelly or Danny or Larry?
And who loved you so much that they would present your name before me?
Was it your mother or father?
Perhaps it was your brother or sister?
Maybe even your son or daughter?

But who are you Jessica or Warren or Jon or Ryan?
And who loved you so much that they would present your name before me?
Could it be that it was not family at all?
Might it have been your boss or someone who works for you?
Perhaps it was your doctor or your nurse?
Or was it the other way around,
A patient you treated?

But who are you Scott or Rosco or Laurie or Sam?
And who loved you so much that they would present your name before me?
I don’t know who brought your name forward.
But one thing I know is that he or she loves you very much.
They have shed tears for you.
They have followed Jesus to the throne of the Father
And now they have asked me and many others to join them there.
Are you living an ordinary life?
Or is your life filled with strife?
I was once a name that was brought forth. Someone once loved me so much that they brought others with them to the throne room of God.
I was stubborn as a mule.
Yet they persisted.
I was confused by it all.
Yet they loved me still.
It was all a mystery to me and I asked why?
But then the God in heaven heard their cry
And because of His great love for me He drew me in.
He drew me into His fold
To live a life filled with peace untold.

You are still a mystery to me
But I will gladly join the one who brought your name forth
So that you too can enjoy the warm embrace
Of the Father who longs to hold your face.

Posted by: kathyhugs | March 15, 2010

What now?

It has been 2 years, 8 months and 14 days since Tonia died. We have survived the immediate grief. We buried our daughter. Her headstone stands in a beautiful cemetery surrounded by a white picket fence and fields of corn. We have learned to communicate more deeply as husband and wife. We survived the legal journey that had to take place. Our faith in God has grown, strengthened and deepened during this crisis. We have forgiven our son-in-law. Our friends, both old and new, have bathed us in prayers. We have felt God’s comfort and strength. We have been blessed.

We not only survived but in many ways we have thrived. God has used this time to teach us and to begin the healing process. To begin the healing process because I believe that healing continues for the rest of our lives.

So now what happens? We are taking a deep breath and waiting to hear from God. I know that I want to help other families heal by growing closer to God and surrounding them in prayer. I also want to communicate with anyone who will listen, the importance of forgiveness vs. the poison of anger and hatred. I have seen how bitterness and anger creates horrible tensions and can split up relationships. I have felt the brunt of this anger and bitterness. It is ugly and it attempts to consume people. The only way I know how to overcome this is by allowing God to love me. Once I know God’s love than I can choose to love others. I can’t do this on my own. So once again I ask what happens next?

Our future is in God’s hands and I am okay with that. I am so grateful that I have a God who is a friend, a comforter, a healer and my Savior. God is in control of my today, tomorrow and especially my eternity. Thank you Father God.

Our legal journey is over but our healing continues. Our journey with God goes on. So I will continue to write about what I am learning and discovering. I will continue to talk about my faith, my God and our life journey. Until tomorrow may God bless you and continue to draw you closer. HUGS!

Posted by: kathyhugs | March 6, 2010

Media Links

These are links to several of the stories. God was shining!  If you can’t find the story search for: JC Amato.




Morning Journal News


Posted by: kathyhugs | March 5, 2010

Three Bottles of Ginger-ale!

God is good. Today we felt God’s presence while we were in court. This morning as we prepared for court I was over the anxiety and the only thing left was my anger for the defense motions. I had calmed down since last night but I was still upset that we were walking into a situation that we didn’t have a clue to what was going to happen. So once again we had to turn it all over to God and trust that He knew what was going to happen. The prayers of everyone surrounded us as we drove to Lisbon. We arrived at the courthouse and Rick and I were amazed at some of the things we both noticed. The guard on duty who watched us go through the metal detector without even asking our names acknowledged that he understood that it was going to be a tough day. We didn’t even know his name. We went up to the prosecutor office and before we could press the bell to get in the secretary buzzed us in and took us back to the library to meet with Lynn.

Lynn talked with us for a few moments and then said he needed to finish his rebuttal to the motion that Hartford had filed. So we just waited and went over our notes for our statements. Rick got coffee and we waited. I received a text message from my dad when they arrived at the courthouse. Tammy, the assistant prosecutor, came in to let Lynn know that her case was over and to say hello to us. Lynn left to head into the courtroom and told us to wait for about 10 more minutes. Pastor Jeff called and said that he had arrived at the courthouse. I was so glad that we had asked him to be with us. Tammy & Kerry escorted us down to the second floor waiting room until it was time to go in. Jeff, Tammy, Kerry, Rick and I had some sweet moments of stories and prayers. It was a calming moment.

Rick and Jeff surrounded me as I went to sit down in the courtroom.  Now comes the hard part. JC is already there when we come in. The news cameras are set up and we are escorted to the first row. The three ladies from Columbiana County Victims of Homicide support group were there. My family was there. So many more that it just didn’t register.

“All rise for the Honorable C. Ashley Pike” and it began. The judge read the case numbers and asked Lynn if he wanted to start. Lynn went over the decision process he went through from last July until January. He described the meetings and the final joint decision to agree on an 8 year sentence. He made a point to say that we were in the courtroom and wished to make a statement. He addressed the different points in the defense motion and gave the state’s version of the details. He talked about the discrepancy in the time of death. He talked about the discrepancy about the gun found in Tonia’s hand. He challenged the expert witnesses that Hartford quoted. He closed by stating that in the county he is from that a handshake between two gentleman was a binding agreement. He addressed the judge saying that he was standing by the agreement but that he understood it was ultimately up to the judge.

Then it was Hartford’s turn. He defended his actions in the motion as just his way of preparing a pre-sentencing brief. He tried to sit down when the judge started questioning him. Hartford defended his evidence and his witnesses and then stated that of course it was up to the judge and that he was just trying to be helpful. The judge asked him if he would have been upset if Lynn had filed a motion asking for a tougher sentence? Hartford said no and sat down.

Now it was our turn. The judge asked Lynn to escort us over to the podium. We introduced ourselves and Rick went first.

Your Honor, thank you for this opportunity to address the court.  I would like to publically thank Mr.  Grimshaw. He has been a gift from God to us during these last 32 months. His compassion and understanding has allowed us to grasp the needed details of the legal proceedings.  Thank you and God Bless you Mr. Grimshaw!

But, my intent was to talk about Tonia.  It is difficult to put a life into perspective in such a short amount of time.  The Lord brought Tonia into our lives for many reasons; many of which we will never know.  Tonia was not a perfect person, but she was truly loved.  Tonia loved.  She loved animals, she loved people and most of all, she loved music.  Tonia brought a light and a song into our lives that can never be extinguished.

When she was a little girl, Tonia would sing and dance everywhere.  We were blessed to see her forever dancing and singing down the hall or along a path in the woods and in countless other areas.  Her smile was contagious.  Her giggle, infectious.

We saw Tonia through many challenges in her life.  Physical challenges early in life, emotional hurts throughout her life.  Yet through it all, Tonia maintained her spark.  In the midst of the challenges, it never ceased to amaze us how she would find it in her heart to help others.  Whether it was helping to clean someone’s house who was unable to do so, or picking up a stray animal to nurture, Tonia loved to help.  She brought a light into many lives.

Although Tonia has been taken from us here, we are continually encouraged by the understanding that it is a temporary separation.  We will see Tonia again when we go to be with The Lord, as she was when we knew her here.  God is sovereign.  Nothing happens without His knowing.  While Tonia’s time here with us is over,  far too soon in our estimation, His Word tells us that we will meet again.  Tonia was not just another statistic in the papers, killed in anger by a lost and desperate soul, she was a loving, caring, beautiful woman.  She continues to be dearly missed by many.  The world is darker without her light and song.

I am so proud of him. He was so articulate and passionate.

Then it was my turn. I had been shaking but as I started speaking an incredible peace came over me. Rick told me later that he could feel God’s peace wash over me. I was relaxed and my voice could be heard. Amazing.

Your honor,

Who was our daughter, Tonia? Tonia had a heart so big that is almost couldn’t be contained in her body. She loved people and animals. She always had animals around her; strays that she would pick up and care for, ones that she adopted from a shelter and ones that friends would have her take care of. Even more than animals she loved people. One story that keeps coming to mind happened when she was in high school. One of our neighbors received a diagnosis that traumatized her.  She would end up in a wheelchair and depending upon others for her daily needs. When she started to become dependent Tonia was the only one she would allow to come over and help her. Tonia would clean her house, wash her clothes and take care of her. This went on for months until our neighbor became comfortable with allowing other people to help her. She once told me that she knew that Tonia would take care of her and that she wouldn’t treat her any differently. That was Tonia.

Tonia loved to care for others. She took care of her mother-in-law, Barb Amato when she needed help. She took her to the doctor, to the emergency room and to the store. She would help Barb with her medications and she helped her cope after Marcus’ death. Tonia would buy groceries for her neighbors and take them to their appointments. She loved to help everyone in her life. She could not hurt anyone or anything, even a spider. When she was at camp one summer, she went from tent to tent gathering up all of the spiders and releasing them so that they would not be killed.

Tonia loved the holidays.  She wanted to start singing Christmas carols in July because she loved Christmas so much.   Christmas time was always tremendous because Tonia was there.  I also remember her telling me about her excitement for her first Christmas together with JC.  Now, Christmas has lost one of the lights in our house.  We try to replace that with the ornaments she loved, but nothing can ever replace the light of her smile and giggles Christmas morning.

When JC killed Tonia, so many people lost: they lost a friend, a granddaughter, and a niece. We lost our daughter. Our son, Sean, lost his only sister. He will never hear Tonia’s children calling him Uncle Sean.  I will never get a phone call saying. “Mom I’m pregnant, you are going to be a grandmother!”  We will never get to hold her children in our arms.  I will never get to throw a baby shower for her.

The fact is that Tonia is the winner in this situation. She is spending eternity basking in God’s love while we continue to live here trying to do our best to love others as God loves us. JC she has won and you have lost. You lost a woman who loved you and defended you and did everything she could to get you some help. You lost your biggest fan. You lost your wife and now you are losing the life you once knew. You made a vow to protect her and to love her when you were married and you broke that vow. She trusted you.

I do know several other things about Tonia. Just five days before her death, Tonia called me at home. Her voice was filled with excitement as she shared with me how she had downloaded several messages of Pastor Jeff’s.  They had given her so much joy. His series on “The Truth about Heaven” had given her a reason to question her salvation. She talked about witnessing to JC, looking for a home church, and calling me were all parts of her decision to accept God’s gift of mercy, forgiveness and ultimately salvation. She continued the conversation with these precious words – words that I had longed to hear for years, “Mom, I’ve never felt this close to God in my life.

JC, she was praying for you. She wanted to share her excitement and her new found faith with you. She talked about how she and Tracy could go and look for a church together and that maybe you would come with them.  That was who she was, a woman who cared so much about others and wanted to take care of them.

I wrote this on July 17, 2007, just days after Tonia’s funeral and I want to read it to you now.


Tonight as I write this letter my heart is breaking wide open, both, for missing my beautiful daughter, Tonia, but also for you.  I have no idea what happened on July 1st and I may have to wait until I get to Heaven to get this question answered. But I do know that Tonia loved you and we welcomed you into our family.  I don’t understand what happened between you, or how she can be dead, but I do know that she is in Heaven right now. We are praying for you! I am struggling with the confusion I am feeling but I know you are probably dealing with even more conflicting emotions. The pictures I see are the pictures of your wedding and the last Christmas here at our home and the phone conversation I had with Tonia when she asked me to pray for you.

I can only imagine the pictures you are carrying around in your head. May God come into your heart and free you from that pain!

JC, tonight I can only say that no matter what happened on July 1st, we will continue to pray for you. Tonia would have wanted that.  Pixie, her puppy, is living here with us and she is bringing some joy and a little bit of healing into our lives.  God has been lifting us up and surrounding us with His peace and calmness.

This letter is just as true today as it was on July 17, 2007. I don’t know what has happened to you but you have made some very bad choices in your life. Two choices have had severe consequences; your actions with your first wife, Tara and then with killing Tonia. I pray that over the next eight years you take the time to listen to God. It is only through his help that you might be able to get out of jail and find a way to live an honorable life.

The other thing I know for a fact is that we have forgiven you. That doesn’t mean that my heart has not been torn wide open with the loss of Tonia. I will miss her every day until I see her again in Heaven.

I bought a bible for you over a year ago but I couldn’t figure out a way to get it to you. I have it with me today. I prayed for a long time about this decision but I want to give it to you now. (I handed the bible to the bailiff, Linda). I hope you accept it in the spirit it is being given to you. My heart will always have a deep pain because of the loss of Tonia but my gift from God is one of hope. My way of honoring her memory, her hope and her love for you is to give you this bible.

Your honor, I thank you for allowing me the time to read this.

We were done. I was crying so hard and I was shaking.  Pastor Jeff grabbed my hand and whispered that it was fantastic. He had tears in his eyes and he was visible shaken. It was a sweet moment. And then…. the judge begins speaking. He asks if JC wants to make a statement. JC nods his head yes and he is escorted to the podium by James Hartford. He was in his orange prison suit and he was in shackles. He asked the judge if he could address us and the judge allowed it. Rick was holding my hand on one side and Pastor Jeff was holding on to my other hand. They had surrounded me and put up a wall of protection around me.  JC began talking to us “I lost my best friend; I lost my wife. … I know ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t even begin… There was no hate in my heart when that happened. It was a total reflex. If I could take it back, I would. Thank you for your forgiveness.” He said that he had nothing further to add. I was bawling, my body was shaking. Rick and Jeff kept holding onto my hands.

What a heart wrenching moment. JC said he was sorry, that was huge to us. I still don’t like the fact that he insists that Tonia shot at him first! NO WAY that happened. But I will accept the fact that he is feeling repentant.

The judge then talked about the legal system and the how a sentence is decided. Then the words that gave us such a sense of relief were spoken…. you are sentenced to 3 years on the weapons specification, five years for the voluntary manslaughter charge and you will be held to a 5 year post release supervision!

It is finished! No more delays, no appeals, no early release possibility. JC will be in jail until January 14, 2018.

We were then given the opportunity to escape to the prosecutor’s library so I could pull myself together. Pastor Jeff prayed for us and told us how proud he was of us. What a wonderful thing to hear from someone we love and respect. After a few more interviews with the media and we were able to leave the courthouse.

Just before we left the office I got to see and hug a true hero. Former Wellsville police officer Mike Garber, who has been serving in Iraq, showed up in the prosecutor’s office.  Mike Garbor was one of the first officer’s on the scene. But the more important thing to me was the fact that Mike was one of the officer’s who drove to our home to interview me. He came to our home so that I would not have to go to the station. He was gracious and kind under a horrible set of circumstances. This experience absolutely shook me up but he made it so much better than it could have been. I was able to hug him and thank him for that day and for the service he is providing to America. God Bless you Mike Garber. You will be in our prayers!

The most thoughtful thing happened as we left the courthouse. I had mentioned in passing that I wanted to stop and buy a ginger-ale for my stomach. Rick and I even laughed about it and he told me we could stop at the same gas station that we had stopped at before. When we got to our car there were three bottles of ginger-ale waiting for us on the roof of the car! An angel heard me and took the time to buy them, find our car and leave them for us. Whoever you are, this was such a blessing. It was the beautiful ending to this event. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

God hears prayers! Thank you for being a part of our journey. This chapter is over and now we can turn the page and see where God wants to take us. God is truly good! FROG!

PS: Later on we discovered that Pastor Jeff was the one who had put the bottles of  gingerale on our roof. He had to search for our car since it was hidden in the back lot. This was a gift from his heart to mine. Thank you God for putting such a Godly man into our lives.

Posted by: kathyhugs | March 5, 2010

Pre-sentencing stuff!

God is so good.  We are home from a very emotional day in court. The last 24 hours have been full of ups and downs. Let me try to get this all written down. On Wednesday evening I was checking the court website to make sure that nothing had been changed for the scheduled sentencing today. I saw a memorandum from defense Attorney James Hartford. It stated that he had filed a sentencing memorandum with exhibits. My radar went on high alert but it was too late to call the prosecutor. Yesterday I got off at 12:00. My plan was to go to the store, stop at the florist to pick up flowers and visit the cemetery. But first thing I wanted to do was to call Lynn Grimshaw, the prosecutor, about the memo I saw. He was so upset. He told me that there was a 1o page memorandum with 50 pages of evidence and that Hartford was asking the judge to consider a sentence of community release, essentially parole. I was so mad that I could barely speak. Lynn and I talked about possibilities and he said that he was going to be in court early in the morning to prepare his rebuttal. I started making phone calls; to vent, to ask for prayers, to get some support and advice. How was I supposed to handle this? I called Rick first. We talked shortly and decided that we needed to figure this out together when he got home that evening. He encouraged me to go to the cemetery and to try and get some more information.  I stopped and picked up my traditional purple carnations and went to the cemetery. But I forgot my boots! How goofy was that. But I slogged through the snow and put out the flowers and the stone with a candle that I had purchased. It was a sweet time.

I made some calls and headed home.

Here is the newspaper article:

Amato defense ‘suggests’ lighter sentence on manslaughter charge

LISBON — Jack “J.C.” Amato Jr.’s attorney filed paperwork Wednesday suggesting community control could be granted for the voluntary manslaughter charge against his client based on the evidence, even though the plea deal calls for five years in prison. “I just want the court to understand that they’re not bound by that joint recommendation,” James Hartford said when contacted by phone. Amato, 38, will face sentencing Friday for causing the death of his wife, Tonia, at their Wellsville residence on July 1, 2007. He told investigators he shot her in self-defense with a .45-caliber handgun after she fired a shot at him with a .22-caliber handgun during an argument. He was originally indicted for murder, which could have meant a sentence of 15 years to life, but pleaded guilty in January to the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter, along with a gun specification. As part of the stipulated deal, both the prosecution and defense will recommend five years for the manslaughter and a mandatory three years for using a gun for a total of eight years. Judge C. Ashley Pike of Columbiana County Common Pleas Court must sentence him to the mandatory three years for the gun specification and can consider a sentence of up to 10 years for the manslaughter, which means the maximum Amato could face would be 13 years. A third-degree felony charge of having weapons under disability related to alleged chronic alcoholism will be dismissed. The prosecution will recommend credit for time served for a separate weapons indictment from September 2008. Hartford said the defense team will stand by the recommendation, but they’re asking the court to consider the sentencing memorandum and the mitigating material they’ve laid out for him. The 10-page document with 50 pages of defendant’s exhibits attached outlined what the defense claimed the evidence would have shown and openly criticized the investigation by referring to a “hopelessly compromised crime scene” which had as many 26 different people crossing through it over two days. The document also claimed physical evidence was photographed but left at the scene on the day of the shooting. The bullet investigators claimed killed the victim didn’t match the gun handed over by the defendant, leaving some questions. According to the memorandum, the evidence indicated “the victim acted in inducing the offense” and “Mr. Amato was acting under strong provocation.” They also claimed there were grounds to mitigate his actions, although the grounds may not have been enough for total self-defense to the voluntary manslaughter charge. In a recitation of the facts of the case, the memorandum said the victim was found face down with a small semi-automatic pistol resting under her right hand with the hammer back and her finger touching the trigger. In her left hand was a Bursamatic propane torch. Gunshot residue was found on her right hand. A .22-caliber bullet casing was found near the victim which investigators determined was fired from the gun in her hand. Hartford pointed out that Amato said from the beginning that he shot his wife in self-defense. A world-renowned shooter by the name of John G. Sayle penned a letter to Pike dated March 1 which was attached to the memorandum explaining that Amato was trained in defensive pistol shooting and capable of shooting someone in the head in seconds in a life-threatening situation. He described it as a “reflexive reaction.” Hartford said some of those factors supported the argument that Amato’s conduct was less serious than the conduct normally constituting the offense of voluntary manslaughter, opening the door for community control. He also said the pre-sentence investigation shows he led a law-abiding life up until the shooting. “The factors in this very difficult matter for both sides lend support for a measure of leniency in the treatment of Mr. Amato by this Honorable Court,” Hartford wrote. Mary Ann Greier can be reached at

Rick and I talked about our statements and made some decisions about what we would say if asked. It was the end of a long day!

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