Twelve years ago one of my buddies from childhood (Desta Dodson Byrd) was murdered in cold blood at her home. Finally, just a few days ago, the investigators felt they had enough evidence to arrest their prime suspect – her husband. While I feel (as many others do) that justice is finally being done in this case, I am sad that one of my friends suffered such a tragic end. To think that the man she loved and lived with would do such a thing is unimaginable, especially when I think about the sweet person Desta was.
I first met Desta Dodson in 7th grade at Bottenfield Junior High School. She always had a smile on her face, always listened to whatever problems you were having and gave an encouraging hug, and always made you feel like you were important in her world. She had no enemies that I knew of in junior high school, but she had countless friends. High school was the same. She was popular, but not snobby. She was beautiful and genuine. She was Desta. She was full of life and laughter.
One of my most vivid memories of Desta is from the many slumber parties when all of us young teenage girls would watch TV late at night. As always, we had to watch videos of Def Leppard (Desta’s favorite band) and Desta would literally lay against screen when the video would zoom in on Joe Elliott. She loved Joe, and everyone around her knew it.
After we graduated from high school, I only saw Desta a couple of times. Like most people do, we drifted apart and started our adult lives and just didn’t keep in touch with each other like we’d promised when we signed our senior yearbooks. The last time I saw her, I had stopped at the gas pump and she was on the other side. She seemed happy. Her life was great and she was dating a great guy named Jody Byrd. I vaguely remembered Jody from high school – he was a little bit older than us. We said we’d keep in touch when we each drove off that day, but as happened before, we just didn’t. Life took over and we lost touch again.
Years passed, my own marriage and its problems captivated my time, I got pregnant and had a beautiful baby girl, and then my husband decided he was finished “playing house” and walked out the door. Before I knew it, I had been out of high school for over 10 years, and I had lost touch with most of my friends. In the year following my separation, I struggled to put my life back together and I struggled to figure out what had happened. I spent a lot of time soul-searching and thanking God for delivering me from the life I had known – a life filled with doubts and worries about my husband’s secrets, and constant emotional abuse and distress delivered by that person who was supposed to be my protector. I didn’t know that my friend Desta might be going through some of the same things. I had no idea her life was spiraling downward as mine had, and that hers was just about to end.
On February 25, 1999, according to reports, Desta’s lifeless body was discovered by her husband Jody when he returned home from work. She had been shot by Jody’s gun and left by the driveway to die. The exact details (and the why) of what happened to Desta are only known by the person responsible and God, but investigators have studied the case for quite some time and believe they have enough evidence to bring Jody to trial for her death. I pray daily that justice will be done. Her family needs justice. They need closure. They need to know what happened and why, though it is likely they’ll never have all of their questions answered.
I hope that if Jody is responsible for this tragic end to such a beautiful life, that he receive adequate punishment. I hope if he did it, that he will just confess and save Desta’s family and friends additional anguish. I pray the evidence will show beyond a reasonable doubt if he is convicted, so that there is no question about whether her killer is still on the loose. If Jody is innocent, then I pray that God will intervene and save him from an undue punishment.
I am thankful to the friends who wouldn’t let Desta’s case stay cold. They fought for Desta’s case to be looked at by new investigators, and they did an amazing job getting the case back in the news. I am thankful for the new investigators and for their tireless efforts.
I have so many mixed emotions today as I write this, mainly because I just still cannot believe anything like this happened. It’s too much like a crime novel to be real, yet it is. I have such a hard time believing that this world is that sinful and dangerous, yet it is. How can someone so young and so vivacious and exceptional meet such a terrible end in life? And possibly at the hand of the one she loved? It’s hard for me to fathom, hard for me to write about. I still remember her funeral, and the way Jody grieved over her casket. Was it an act? Was his speech at her candlelight vigil a few months ago contrived for show?
For more info on this case, visit www.justicefordesta.org. Please pray that justice be served for Desta, and that her family find the closure they need.