When My Son Was Arrested for Murder
The phone rang in the middle of the night. I squinted in the direction of the alarm clock as Gene reached for the receiver. It was 12:35 a.m. Who would be calling at this hour? Listening to my husband, I instantly knew he was receiving dreadful news.
Gene pulled the receiver back and haltingly choked out the words. "J.P. has been arrested."
I was dumbfounded. What illegal act could my son possibly have done that would have resulted in an arrest? My husband continued speaking with tears spilling down his cheeks. "He's been arrested for the first-degree murder of Douglas Miller Jr."
My feet hit the floor as I tried to get out of bed, but my legs were incapable of holding my weight. I slumped to all fours. Nausea swept over me. I began crawling toward the bathroom where I could throw up, but everything was in slow motion. I had never before experienced shock. No strength. Wave after wave of nausea. Dizziness. I had to remind myself to breathe.
Thoughts began swirling in my head. This must be a mistake. Or a cruel joke. Perhaps it's a case of mistaken identity Maybe I'm living inside a horrific dream. Surely this news is not true. Someone is playing a perverse game. My son is not capable of taking the life of another human being, much less a premeditated act of such violence. This is not happening. My son is a dynamic Christian, He's a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He defends American citizens; he doesn't destroy them. I will go back to sleep and wake up in reality.
Our daughter-in-law, April, was still on the phone and through hysterical sobs of her own, she verified that she had just received a call from Jason at a jail in downtown Orlando, Florida, and he had been arrested for the murder of her ex-husband. Gene tried to calm her while simultaneously dealing with his own raw emotions. We were filled with incredulous thoughts. How? Why? What really happened? What was Jason doing in Orlando, a six-and-a-half-hour drive from his home in Panama City? Was it an accident? Was it self-defense?
The next few hours were a blur of tears, panic, fear, and erratic, meaningless activity. It was after 1:00 a.m. when Gene finished the conversation with April. Still on my haunches on the floor, I called the Orlando jail to see if anyone named Jason Kent had been brought to the facility. The woman on the end of the phone line was rude and irritated; her speech was slurred. "Lady, we ain't got nobody by that name, Jason Kent, in here. Your son ain't here."
For a few brief moments hope returned. It was a mistake. Our son had not been arrested. Jason was okay and we would be okay. But within an hour, another call confirmed our worst fears. Jason Paul Kent, our only child, son of my womb, was locked up at the Thirty-third Street facility in Orlando. And he was being held without bond on the worst felony charge possiblefirst-degree murder.
Florida is a death-penalty state. My mind flashed to the documentary I had seen the week before, giving the blow-by-blow account of an inmate on death row. Would my son end up in the electric chair? I choked out a fresh sob.
As the next few hours crawled by Gene and I held each other and wept. Two parents in the grip of a nightmare. A mom and a dad who loved their child deeply. A child who had been a joy to raise. A focused, disciplined, compassionate, dynamic, encouraging young man who wanted to live for things that mattered. A young adult who had dedicated himself to serving his God and his country through military service in the U.S. Navy. But that day the unthinkable roared into our lives. Without warning our dreams for our only child came crashing down in a thousand broken pieces. Our whole world felt shattered.