STEPPING OUT: The mother of a woman killed by her estranged husband reaches out to other women affected by domestic abuse

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There is nothing that can fill the hole left by the loss of a child.

“It’s a loss.  It will always be a loss.  She’s not physically here to share things with us.  Good things and bad things, sad things and happy things, she’s just not here to share them.”

Sheila Lynch lost her daughter, TereseAnn, on November 11, 2009.  The final images of TereseAnn were captured by a security camera at a Des Moines Target store.  As she walked to her car in the parking lot, TereseAnn was abducted by her estranged husband, Randy Moore.  After forcing her into his car, Moore drove her to the apartment they once shared, raped her and shot her in the head.  He also shot a Des Moines police officer and threatened others during a standoff that ensued.

Sheila calls her daughter’s killer a monster, “He had absolutely no remorse.”

During sentencing, Moore stunned those in the courtroom by interrupting Sheila Lynch as she made her victims impact statement, making wild and unfounded accusations against her family and promoting the killing of other women.

“I hope there’s more cases like this,” Moore told the judge.

Sheila Lynch still fears him.

“He even told us, if he had to do it again, the next time he’d get away with it.”

Moore did not get away with it.  He’s serving three life sentences at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.  And TereseAnn’s mother is finding strength she never knew she had.

“We don’t have to sit on our thumbs and do nothing,” says Sheila.  “We can make a change.  We can do things.  We can get out there.  We can help the victims.  We can stop the perpetrators.”

Sheila is trying to change laws, change attitudes and empower victims of domestic violence.  Her first step:  Volunteering at a shelter for abused women and their children.

“She contacted our volunteer coordinator, Monica and started talking to her about the option of volunteering,” says Angie Schreck, the Assistant Director at ACCESS, the Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support.

It offers a number of services, including legal and financial support, a 24 hour crisis line and shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children.

“This is a place they can come to where, hopefully, no one knows where it is,” says Angie.  “They can come and go freely, they can sit outside with their children and they don’t have to worry about who’s driving by and whether that perpetrator is keeping tabs on them.”

ACCESS’s clients come from many different backgrounds, but they share similar stories of abuse.  They mirror TereseAnn’s story.

“I don’t want what happened to TereseAnn to fade into the background, because it’s happening to other people, all the time, every day,” says Sheila.

Sheila decided she wanted to work with victims of domestic violence shortly after Randy Moore’s trial.  That’s not unusual.  Many of the ACCESS volunteers have personal ties to domestic violence.

But Angie says, Sheila’s experience is rare and as a result, she brings a unique set of skills to the shelter.

“The strength is just huge.  The ability to talk about the situation and the motivation behind it… is a very strong and driving force in her life.”

Sheila relived many of those traumatic moments during training to become a volunteer.

“One of the times it really hit home and it was difficult for me, was we practiced scenarios, saying how do you handle the call and the scenario was a mother calling the crisis line saying that her daughter was in an abusive relationship and how does she get her out of it.  And that hit home because that was me.”

Sheila won’t work the crisis line until she’s ready, which will take time.  She’s still learning how to be objective and she still asks herself why and what if?

“I get sad and I get angry and I go back to where how unfair it is, but it is.  And I can’t change that.  What I can do is change for the victims that we have today, for the victims we’ll have tomorrow.  Those are the changes I can make.”

She takes comfort in one of the final gifts she received from her daughter – a plaque.

“It says, ‘When you come to the edge of all the light you have ever known and are about to step out into the darkness, faith is knowing one of two things will happen.  There will be something to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.’”

When Sheila received it, she had no idea her daughter was being abused.  There was no way of knowing TereseAnn would soon be gone.  And while it doesn’t fill the hole left by the loss, it’s a tangible piece of her daughter’s spirit.

“It means even more to me now because I believe TereseAnn learned how to fly.  And I think I’m the one that’s learning how to take brand new steps… I believe that with all my heart.”