My name is Celeste LaCour-Belyn and my 18 year-old daughter, Leigh Belyn, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend on August 11, 2011. My only daughter was a bright, beautiful and ambitious student, who was preparing to enter Nursing School at The Ohio State University. Her ex-boyfriend of four years had just completed basic training at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and was soon to be deployed to Afghanistan.
The horrific details of the 12-hour murder-suicide ordeal donned headlines and breaking reports on news stations across the Midwest region for weeks. Now, while Leigh's story has become part of history stacked among unfortunate others in newsroom archives, the tragic loss remains fresh in the minds and hearts of Leigh's family, friends, classmates, teachers, neighbors and community members who still love and miss her.
I have endured unbearable grief and sadness to emerge reflective about what I may have done to see more clearly the signs leading up to my daughter's murder. Learning about discernable patterns of behavior and the proliferation of teen dating violence inspired me to develop a foundation charged with educating others, specifically parents and guardians, about how to eradicate it.
I am dedicating my life to ensure that what happened to me and my family and friends does not occur to others. Ultimately, my desire is to enlist other individuals and organizations in efforts to dismantle this silent and escalating purge on our young people.
Celeste LaCour-Belyn, President
Leigh's Legacy Foundation
We had a best friend named Leigh. We have all known each other since we were born. We were lifelong friends and Leigh was almost like a sister. Growing up we had many memories together. I remember when Leigh and I used to travel to Easton, when we weren't old enough to drive and our parents would drop us off. At the mall we could find anything to do and we had the time of our lives. Usually we would see a movie, however when the movie tickets went up to $10 Leigh X'd that out. We also would window shop, we never really shopped and if we did we would buy ice cream. The one dessert Leigh and I were always down to eat whether it was 10am or 10pm. We also would meet our best friends Danielle and Chelsea. When we had the whole crew together we would walk up and down the Easton Mall through the tip and the top making sure we did our rounds everywhere. It is crazy to think this entertained us and during most of our preteen/teen years this would be the EVENT of the weekend.
Into our teen years, all four of us have had our ups and downs, boyfriends and breakups, cries and smiles, etc. Freshman year Leigh met her boyfriend of 4 years. During those high school years he did anything and everything for her, sending her flowers at school, leaving chocolates at her doorsteps and inviting her to all of his family events. I remember she used to tell me that they were in love and even talk about marriage in the future and that I would be one of her bridesmaids.
We all laughed it off, and explained to her we had so much more time and that she did NOT know who she was going to marry. After our high school years we all went our separate ways. Some of us went to college and some of us went other routes, he went to the army.
During his absence, Leigh started to realize that there is a lot she was missing, the world was bigger than what she thought and there was still so much to experience. This did not sit well with her boyfriend with the stresses he had being away from home and the thought of traveling to Afghanistan for a year.
When he came back this summer before leaving for Afghanistan he was NOT the same sweet guy we all knew. He verbally and physically abused her one night, and the next day he shot and killed Leigh.
August, 11, 2011 was the hardest day of all of our lives because he took someone so important away from us that cannot be replaced. We lost our sister. When you lose someone close to you like that, it is hard to comprehend that all you have are memories, Like her smile and her laugh, and everything from the past 18 years of knowing her. We love you Leigh and miss you more than words can explain, save a place for us next to you.
Black & Blue Are NOT The Colorz of Love
Do you know where you were and what you were doing on the evening of August 11, 2011. If you are like most people, you will not immediately recall. But, I, along with a few of my friends will never forget. That was the day I learned first via Facebook and then via the news that a young woman I had known for the past six years had been murdered by her ex-boyfriend who was being pursued by the police.
Leigh, the young woman of whom I speak, was a delightful teenager who was full of life and had the whole world at her fingertips. She had just graduated two months earlier from high school (I was there and ironically it was the last time I spoke with her) and was preparing to enter college to pursue her dream to become a nurse. For her family and friends, life became a nightmare on that day! A few hours after discovering her body in the trunk of her car, the police tracked down her ex-boyfriend and fatally shot him, just hours before he was to deploy to Afghanistan.
The pain and agony of her senseless murder intensified for her loved ones in the weeks and months to follow as they came to learn more about an epidemic that is plaguing young people across our nation, yet no one is addressing; Teen Dating Violence (TDV). As they learned more and more about the warning signs, her friends and family realized there were signs of impending danger for Leigh, but they did not see them, because they did not know! Me, I felt ashamed!
My shame came from the fact that as a long-time youth advocate, service provider and national youth speaker, as well as, a former domestic violence survivor's advocate, I had not spoken up or out on this topic with teens since 1997. I knew the stats and still I had not spoken up. My very first workshop for Teen Institute (Franklin County) was in February 1997 and titled, "Black & Blue Are NOT The Colorz of Love: Ending Teen Dating Violence." That was the last time that I facilitated that workshop, which was well-received, for the vulnerable audience who needed this workshop most; TEENS.
I have learned in my life that guilt and shame are unproductive emotions, unless they are used as an impetus to propel us from motion to action! So, I have resolved to use my shame and my speaking platform to thrust me into educating teens, families of teens, service providers and communities about the warning signs of TDV and how to help survivors and perpetrators.
Leigh's family has decided to use the guilt they felt for not knowing the signs to educate others as well. They have established, Leigh's Legacy Foundation. It is their hope that Leigh will live on and her life will continue to impact the world via the use of the foundation as a vehicle for Education, Advocacy & Outreach. They want to educate "adults and youth about the signs of teen dating violence, and actions to take if you or some young person you know is in an unsafe and abusive relationship."
I don't want us to persist in fear, lack of knowledge or silence about Teen Dating Violence. It is my hope that as a nation we will become educated, help survivors to get out of violent relationships and get perpetrators the help they need to end the cycle of violence in which they are engaged. This will only happen when each of us moves from the 'motion' of knowing about TDV to the 'action' of educating others so that we can end this preventable epidemic.Tei Street
StreetTalk with the "Amazing" Tei Street