As tears trickled down her cheeks, Erin Miller watched a white sky lantern ascend high above downtown Sandusky.
The small, paper-based hot air balloon represented Miller’s spirit reaching three souls she knows reside in Heaven today. In fact, her belief is emblazoned on her T-shirt: “Heaven Couldn’t Wait.”
The first letter of each word stands for three people — Heather Jackson, 23; her daughter Celina, 3; and son Wayne Jr., 20 months — Miller truly loved.
“I care for this family,” Miller said. “We’re here tonight to keep their memory alive and let them live through all of us. Her and her babies didn’t get to live their life, and we’re here to do that for them.”
Miller, along with about 100 community members, attended a candlelight vigil honoring their memories Sunday night at Schade-Mylander Plaza. Country music blared in the background as people lit candles, ignited lanterns and reminisced about Heather, Celina and Wayne, who died one year ago.
On Sept. 8, 2012, authorities found the three dead inside Jackson’s John Street home. Days later, authorities charged Campbell Street resident Curtis Clinton, 42, for slaying all three. All told, he’s charged with two counts of rape, two counts of aggravated murder and aggravated burglary in relation to this incident.
Clinton, whose trial tentatively starts in late October, faces the death penalty. If convicted, his trial could cost local and state taxpayers up $1 million when accounting for hearings, special witnesses and automatic appeals. “I don’t want the death penalty,” Heather’s brother Nick Fee said Sunday. “I rather him get life in prison and save the hassle of trial.”
Fee prefers Clinton receiving a life sentence without parole.
“It will save the taxpayers money and save my family from the hassle of dealing with it.”
Despite a year passing, both Fee and Miller said it’s tough dealing with losing Heather, who cared deeply for her two children. “Her children never had a speck of dirt on them,” Miller said. “She was a good mom and loved her kids.”
But, like Nick and several others, she’ll continue attending court hearings and celebrating the three lives lost too soon, she said.
“We need to support them anyway we can and keep fighting for justice,” Miller said.