Marilyns’ parents lived only two blocks away and they had been a tremendous support system. They thought it best that Erica stay with them until Marilyn could regain her footing and she agreed, although when she wasn’t working, she spent the day with Erica.
When Erica begged to take her bicycle so she could ride it to school, Marilyn relented with the request that she go straight to school and straight to her grandparents’ house after.
Marilyn returned to work and was putting in long hours, trying to keep her mind from remaining stagnant with grief. Some days, she stumbled a bit but she knew that she had to keep on trying to reach some sort of normalcy again.
She had to constantly remind herself that others’ lives were in her hands and she needed to stay focused.
Marilyn had never told her parents about Reverend Nick so when her mother called and casually mentioned how comforting it seemed to be to Erica when Reverend Nick stopped by, she was furious. “What are you talking about,” she asked. Her mother said “Reverend Nick comes to see Erica almost every day after school and sometimes, they go to the pizza place.” Marilyn was trying to control her anger as she told her mother that she was never to allow Reverend Nick to see Erica again and that she would explain later.
She called Reverend Nick and told him that she thought she made it clear when she warned him to stay away from them and he was not going to use Erica to get to her.
He tried to assure her that his intentions were noble but Marilyn hung up after the final warning, “stay away from me and my child.”
Three weeks later, the unthinkable happened. Erica didn’t come home from school. In a panic, Marilyns’ mother called Sheriff Dodd, who went to the hospital to tell Marilyn.
Everybody was questioned about their whereabouts on that day and everybody was cleared, except Reverend Nick. He had no alibi other than “being in the church, praying, alone.” When asked who he was praying for, Reverend Nick said “Marilyn and Erica,” which immediately raised eyebrows.
After Marilyn told Sheriff Dodd about the situation with Reverend Nick, coupled with having no alibi, he decided to issue a search warrant for the parish and the van which had been provided by the congregation. Although no evidence was found, suspicion was still growing.
People started to question the motives for the lavish attention he had paid to Marilyn and Erica in the past. They also openly questioned just how much more sorrow Marilyn could endure.
Reverend Nick was picked up and once again, questioned for hours. Since he could not corroborate his whereabouts, he became the prime suspect.
Two days after she disappeared, Ericas’ broken little body was found at the bottom of a dumpster behind the local Pizza Hut. Her clothes, shoes and socks were missing and a piece of her hair had been cut off. The autopsy revealed that she had been beaten and strangled. No traces of foreign DNA could be found on her body which led the coroner to believe that the killer had worn gloves.
There was an outcry for the capture of the monster who had committed such a horrible crime and once again, the focus turned to Reverend Nick.
Despite his continued pleas of innocence, he was ultimately arrested and charged with Ericas’ murder.
Marilyn went to visit him while he was incarcerated. When he walked out in his orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, his face showed a glimmer of hope as reached for her but she turned away.
With unbridled anger, she screamed “you did this…NICK and you are going to pay!”
He said “please believe me when I tell you that I had nothing to do with this. I would never hurt her and you know it. I would never hurt you. I would never hurt anybody.”
She slapped him hard across the face. The guard came over and told her that she needed to go. As she was leaving the visitation room, she screamed again “you did this. You murdered my child!”
During the trial, the district attorney confided to Marilyn that he believed Reverend Nick would not be convicted due to lack of evidence and he wanted her to be prepared. What little evidence they did have was circumstantial, at best. Marilyn was eerily calm when she said she wasn’t worried because she knew that justice was going to prevail.
After a three-month trial, just as the district attorney had predicted, Reverend Nick was found not guilty due to lack of evidence and the states’ inability to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
When the not guilty verdict was read, Marilyn smiled and quietly walked out of the courtroom.
Reverend Nicks’ reputation was all but destroyed. He reopened the church doors on the following Sunday but only three people attended the service. He vowed to continue to have services as long as just one person walked through the door.
Marilyn had done exactly what the district attorney told her to do. She had prepared for the not guilty verdict.
She called Reverend Nick. He was delighted to hear her voice. When she asked him if they could talk, he said that his prayers had been answered. He told her that he could be over in a few minutes but she said “actually, I have an errand to run so I will come pick you up.”