JACKSON, MS (WAFB) - Ann Pace had a hard time trying to find the words to describe how she felt when she learned her daughter's killer had died in the hospital on Thursday.
Derrick Todd Lee was found guilty and sentenced to death in October 2004 for the murder of Charlotte Murray Pace, a Jackson, Mississippi native.
Pace said when she learned Lee died in a hospital Thursday morning, she reacted in a way she never thought she would. She said she was babysitting her granddaughter when someone called to give her the news.
She said she experienced a wide range of emotions, remembering her daughter and other families who were waiting for Lee to be executed.
"Oddly and strangely, I experienced this as a bit of loss because I won't be fighting for her anymore."
Pace never stopped fighting for justice for her daughter who was lovingly known as "Murray." The 22-year-old girl was one of the youngest recipients of an MBA degree. Her life was cut short when she was stabbed to death in her Baton Rouge apartment in May 2002. Two years later, her killer Derrick Todd Lee was sentenced to death.
"I just can't believe it's finally happened," Pace said the day Lee was sentenced.
From that time on Pace, like many others, waited for the day Lee would pay for his crimes. She wanted to be one of the last faces Lee saw before he died. When she learned that will never happen, she shared a small moment with Murray.
"I just said it was over baby. I've done all I could."
Cheryl: "What did you feel when you heard the news and were you surprised by that?"
Pace: "So conflicted and so confusing, and I don't find myself thinking of him very much. I find myself thinking about Murray and everything that connected with it all. Isn't that funny? I would have expected to react differently."
Cheryl: "What changes for you now?"
Pace: "The only thing I expect to wonder about Lee is, why? It's kind of like in all the people in the world, how did you pick her, and how are you the way you are and how could you be you."
It is those questions she and others who lived the nightmare are left with. Knowing they will never get those answers is torture, but she said knowing Lee no longer has a presence here gives her a sense of relief and tremendous strength to move on.
Pace said she thought she would be overjoyed, that Lee always had an uninvited seat at her table, but that was far from true. Pace instead was overwhelmed with thoughts of her daughter. She said it was like reliving the nightmare Lee caused all over again.
"All the space he used to take up, his presence in this world, you can now use to remember Murray, to love Murray, and you don't have to think about him any more and wonder what will happen and think what if. You're spared all those things going forward," Pace said.