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LaShawn: My name is LaShawn. I’m 44 years old. I’ve been incarcerated for five years, and at Bedford Hills for four. I’m happy to be here.

Diane: I would love to ask you- it seems like in all your writing to us, you talk about your mom and what an impact she had on you. You attribute so much to her. Do you want to tell us a little about your relationship with your mom?

LaShawn: My mother was my best friend, and she and I were inseparable prior to her death. I have two children, and both of my children, son and daughter, are named after my parents. I was fortunate to be raised with both parents in the same household. It was very different amongst my peers growing up because they didn’t have that. I kind of took it for granted until I got older. Honestly, until I had time to reflect and come here and get back to my real self.

I’ve been given a 25 year life sentence for the murder of my mother. I found her murdered in August of 2005, and 12 years later, I was arrested for her death. It’s really traumatic for me. Considering the reasons for my conviction or why even after that 12 year period of time, there was no DNA, no eyewitness. There was nothing but theories that weren’t even proven. No factual findings whatsoever.

My mother taught me so much. The strength that I have is due to her. She kept me focused. She was an amazing role model, provider, friend, confidant. All of the above. And I have to stay strong for her.

Diane: Oh my gosh, that’s an absolutely incredible life to live through. What keeps you going each day?

LaShawn: Let me just say this. If, when growing up, my mother wasn’t okay, I wasn’t okay. So even being away from my children, I know if I don’t stay strong, then they’ll fall apart as well. And that’s not an option. I know the truth, so no one is gonna fight for me like I’m gonna fight for myself.

Diane: So, tell me about your children.

LaShawn: So my daughter is 24, she’s going to be 25 in a couple of weeks. My son is 17. When I left and I was incarcerated my son was 12. Actually, on June 17th this year was my first time seeing him.It was amazing. He’s grown so much. I miss him a lot, but I do communicate with them- emails, telephone conversations almost every day. And just hearing their voices, being able to be a parent from afar, because although I’m here, I’m still a mom. So any and everything that I’m able to do, whether it’s small monetary things that I’m able to send in gifts, or my advice and listening ear is still required of me. Just being here doesn’t excuse me from my responsibilities, so they play a big part of my life.

I have 3 grandchildren- grandsons from my daughter. Her oldest is five, and she has a set of twins who are 3 1/2 and I have yet to meet them. But when we talk, they talk to me as if they know me, I guess because we talk so much and pictures. It’s the most interaction I could have. I always do anything and everything I can for them.

Diane: I want to talk a little about your poetry. Is there something that you would like to share that you haven’t so far?

LaShawn: It’s not that I’m a writer of poetry; I love quotes. Quotes help me on the day-to-day basis. My most positive quote that I chant every day is that I’m stronger because I have to be. Smarter because of the mistakes I’ve made. I’m happier because of the sadness I’ve known. And I’m wiser because I’ve learned. That hits home for me because obviously I’ve experienced tremendous sadness upon being the one to actually find my best friend, my mom, murdered and in a horrific condition. Horrific state. And now to be here due to just simply finding her… I’m happy because I’m strong enough to make it, to maintain it, to keep my sanity under the situations. I’m smarter because I’m still going strong.And I’m always going to be wiser due to this situation and circumstance. No one can ever take this from me.

Sometimes, I say, “Well, maybe I did need to come to prison.” No, not for what I’m here for, obviously, and not for the amount of time that I’ve been given, but after finding my mom, I lost myself. There wasn’t a script to finding anyone, let alone your mother, murdered. So I lost myself. I was getting into a certain lifestyle that I wasn’t proud of, and had I not come to prison? Who knows, I’m maybe dead or strung out on drugs or living a creepish type of lifestyle. Unhealthy, ungodly. So I needed to come here to find myself to get back to the real me. I guess you could say I accept the fact that I’m here because it’s out of my control, but I can just continue to do everything possible to gain my freedom back. I’m the greatest advocate for myself.

I found religion. I found a sense of peace and really getting to know God. I’m a Protestant Christian. Had I not come here, I may not ever have grown or gained the relationship I found with God. And it’s healthy, it’s motivating, it’s uplifting.

Diane: I personally want to thank you, and you bring me to tears hearing about what you’ve gone through.

LaShawn: No tears required. I’m all cried out, you know. There’s no room for tears anymore. You know, I just thank you guys for coming. It’s important to me that you guys came. Yes, I’ve sent you information about myself, my history, where I’m going through, but to actually be here sitting in front of me physically.It’s really nice. It’s a way also for my voice to be heard. And I believe once someone really takes the time to hear and see the facts and the lack of. It’s gonna make a big difference.

Diane: Do you have questions you want to ask us?

LaShawn: I tried to think of some, but I believe everything happens for a reason. Some good might come from this at the end.

Diane: And it’s a voice for your whole family, too. It’ll be up on all our social media channels.

LaShawn: Yes. They believe in me, but I just need for someone who has the reach, the connections, the conviction to take the time and reach out. And I’d be more than happy, more than cooperative, actually, probably overwhelming in the assistance and the help and the information and what I’ll be able to provide to whoever.

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