My Son Was Convicted Of First-Degree Murder

There was no defining moment when I understood that I’d lost my little boy forever.

Crime scene South_agency | Canva 

I don’t know when it happened — that precise moment when I knew it was just a matter of time. That moment when I understood — to the depths of my soul — that I’d lost my little boy forever, and the heart of a killer had taken his place.

You would think there would have been a defining moment, a loud, screaming message saying, "Your son will be a murderer!" But there wasn’t. The "knowing" had simply slid into my life, quietly, insidiously, and along with it, a sense of it always having been there. Yet I know there was a time when it was not.


People are often quick to judge those who are violent, who break laws, and who seem to thrive on the darkest side of life.

And they’re often quick to judge the parents, too. "Where are the parents? Bet they didn’t give a crap! Gave the rotten man a terrible upbringing! Didn’t they see what was happening? Why didn’t they do something about it? What’s the matter with parents these days? No sense of discipline!"

I’m quite certain that sort of thing is true in many cases. But not in this one.

Jacob mugshot


Photo courtesy of RCMP 

RELATED: 11 Signs Your Child Is A Sociopath

An unusual beginning

Before continuing with Jacob’s story, I must share a bit of relevant background information.

The first time I married, I was 17. I had a daughter 10 months later, and then another 10 months after that. I left the marriage. It had not been a happy or healthy situation for either my husband or me. He left the province later that year and I was on my own to try to raise our daughter, A*.

We were in a terrible car accident when she was three, and her behavior changed drastically after that. The doctor did an EEG and other tests but the results were all negative.


I don’t want to say too much about A other than what is absolutely essential to this story, and some of what has become fairly common knowledge over the years to anyone who knew us, personally or professionally, throughout her earlier years.

By the time A was four, there were significant behavioral issues at home and at daycare. I didn’t know what was wrong and began seeking professional help of various kinds. This continued for several years, with her behavior escalating. Nothing seemed to help.

To be fair, I was something of a mess in my inner world. I was battling with various anxiety disorders until A was about nine. I tried to hide them but no doubt she picked up on that energy. I also dated a lot and had a couple of boyfriends in those years, men she liked, father figures, and then they were gone — just like her dad. She never seemed too bothered but perhaps she was. I don’t think I understood the impact on her; I was too young and inexperienced with life and with the tricky psyche of a child.

We moved several times, too, within the same city, as I was having trouble finding a good job that would support us well. That’s what you get for being a high school dropout and becoming a divorced single parent just after you turn 19.


So there was some instability in her life, which might well have contributed to her acting out, except that no amount of professional help made any difference for either of us. I even started going to church, hoping that might be useful for us. It wasn’t. Doctors, psychologists, a pastor, church friends, school, hospital counseling programs … no one could help and I was drowning as a single parent.

But I loved her with all my heart; that never changed. We were close and I was affectionate with her, giving lots of hugs and cuddles, singing songs and reading bedtime stories, letting her know every day how very special she was. I did not have that kind of mother; quite the opposite, in fact. I always swore I would be different with my own children.

I also made sure we always lived in decent places. Not fancy, but nice, clean, respectable places, and although we didn’t have the best diet on the planet, I did what I could with what I had. It could have been a lot worse.

It wasn’t a perfect childhood and I wasn’t a perfect parent. If I could go back, I would do a lot of things differently. Wouldn’t we all? But one thing was certain, A was definitely loved.


But it was an extremely troubled childhood, loaded with high-risk and self-destructive behaviors. I feared for her life, especially when she was gone for weeks and months on end and I never knew if she was dead or alive.

She’d been gone for some time when she was 14, and when she turned up again, she was pregnant. It was around the time I gave birth to my daughter, Willow.

I wanted to adopt A’s baby but she wasn’t sure she could handle having the child so close. She made an adoption plan with friends of ours and they were going to have him when he was three days old.

The plan fell apart when he was two days old, and to cut a long story short, as my own life had been much more stable for a few years, Willow’s dad and I adopted A’s son, Jacob, who became my fifth child. "A" always said she was glad it had turned out this way. We had no reason to think otherwise. Eventually, A went on to have three other children.


Jacob, my son

It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Jacob as my son. I suppose the fact that I had another baby at that time made it easier. Still breastfeeding and deep into nappies and teething, my maternal instincts were already on overdrive.

At about three years old, Jacob began showing signs of something being "off" in his behavior. His dad and I took him to the Children’s Hospital for testing, but as that process continued over time, nothing concrete was ever discovered.

The boy I knew

Jacob was a blond, blue-eyed, affectionate little boy with the biggest smile and an easy belly laugh. He would frequently try to make up jokes, which were as awful as he thought they were funny.

But we laughed right along with him. His dad and I divorced when he was three but co-parented well. Jacob and Willow spent every other night with their father and half of each weekend. Rules and discipline were the same in both houses. There was consistency about expectations, bedtimes, consequences — everything.


I worked from home so was always there when the children weren’t in school. I loved being home with my children. All I ever wanted was a bunch of kids and a happy home. I was baking cookies, shoving healthy foods down my family’s throats, singing songs, reading stories, and being goofy with my children.

Dad was great with camping, sports, swimming, skiing — all those fab extracurriculars. Jacob had two parents who loved him and both of us did our best to let him know that.

His father wasn’t terribly religious, but I took Jacob and my other children to the synagogue every Saturday morning for Sabbath services. At that time, I was an observant Jew (I have since wandered way off that path into a more spiritual life without organized religion).

We celebrated Shabbat dinner every Friday evening. We celebrated all the Jewish holidays and sent the children to a Jewish school. Even after I gradually moved away from Judaism, I maintained an atmosphere of spirituality in our home, wanting to influence my children with the best possible values to give them a good foundation in life.


Jacob at two years old

Jacob at about 2 years old | Photo courtesy of author

Jacob was my only child who detested vegetables, no matter how I tried to dress them up or disguise them. Once, when he was about four, I was doing laundry and noticed one of the pant legs on his overalls was soaked. On further investigation, I found remnants of vegetable soup in the pocket, a sweet memory that still makes me smile.

He also detested school. Oh, it was great fun as long as it was about playing or art or gym class — or recess. But anything that smelled faintly of work? And even worse, homework? He did his level best to avoid both.


Eventually, this led to consequences. No, you can’t go outside to play or have a cookie until it’s done. We started small, but over time the consequences had to be more meaningful because he refused to just do the damned work. He didn’t mind being deprived of TV, playtime, or anything as long as he didn’t have to do his homework.

In his mind, the consequences were worth the crime. I even resorted to good, old-fashioned dictionary pages. Figured that’d fix him. Nope. He hated them, but he did them. Sat at the kitchen table, obviously not impressed with me, but he wrote the damned things. Day after day after bloody day. And still refused to do his homework.

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His answer to this was to try harder not to get caught, but he wasn’t particularly successful. For example, he would tear out his agenda pages so his father and I wouldn’t see the long, worrying notes from his teachers, or the lists of missed homework — but he didn’t realize the pages were dated and we would notice the gaps. And ring the teacher.


We tried counseling for years. I was also diligently employing every parenting technique I’d learned from my own years of family counseling with a previous marriage and my older children, and what I had learned through a lot of professional help with A. We had support and assistance from the school and even called in Social Services a few times. Nothing we did seemed to help.

a future killer at five years old

A future killer at 5 years old | Photo courtesy of author

When Jacob was about nine, there was the first report of him bullying someone at school. I was horrified.


This sort of behavior was absolutely not tolerated in either of our homes. But with the passing months, the behavior persisted — especially at his dad’s house.

He was still respectful of me and would mind the rules, even if he was blaming me for the fact that he was "having consequences." But things escalated at the other house to the point where he began physically attacking his father, smashing up the house, and traumatizing Willow in the process. Police were called on many occasions and no amount of counselling was helping.

Fast forward to when Jacob was 11. We were so happy when he wanted to join the Cadets. We hoped it might help him channel his anger and give him a sense of discipline since he no longer respected his parents.

grandpa and grandson


Jacob with his grandfather | Photo courtesy of author

Jacob was solid muscle. Amazingly strong. An incredible athlete. A powerful diver. His swimming teacher said he could go far in championships.

But this also meant that when he was angry, he had become a terrifying force to be reckoned with.

One day, he finally crossed that line with me, and my home was no longer a safe place for me or my other children. After a frightening incident in which my children and I were held hostage by his rage for a few hours, the police took him away.

That day, at 11 years old, he was put in a foster home, but shortly afterward was chasing the foster mother around the house with a butcher knife, traumatizing her and the children who were in her care. He was put in a group home, too violent to live in a family setting.


Soon, he began physically attacking the male staff, even throwing a desk through a plate glass window. It wasn’t long before he was spending more time in a detention center ("jail" for minors) than in the group homes.

Hope shattered

When Jacob was 15, there was a period of about nine months during which he wanted to repair our relationship. He was in a detention center when he reached out, but later moved back to a group home. We had great conversations, with lots of apologies, explanations, and open communication on both sides.

He wanted to turn his life around and as I’d published my first few books by then, I told him that once he sorted himself out, I’d help him write his story and publish it. He was thrilled, excited about making a difference for other young people who might need to hear his message — and set to work writing chapters.

He was doing great, happy to do schoolwork, and was much better behaved for those nine precious months.


Until suddenly, he stopped taking my calls. I had no idea why and kept trying for four months. No luck.

Finally, one day he came to the phone and said he didn’t want to hear from me anymore. I was gutted but told him I respected his feelings. I added that I would always love him and if he changed his mind, he knew how to find me. He was 16. It was Christmas Eve, 2007 — the last time I spoke to my son.

Later, I heard that there was some involvement with his birth mother — my daughter — at this time, which might have impacted his desire to talk to me but I cannot say for certain.

Within months of that Christmas Eve call, Jacob was back to his old ways, getting in trouble, spending more time in detention than not — and after he turned 18, it was off to jail.


His crimes became increasingly violent, beginning with a terrible stabbing when he was 20. And in this news story when he was 25, the police say he "is considered dangerous and should not be approached."

At one point, within a day or two of being released from jail, he got into a fight with someone in a bar. The other guy had a knife, which Jacob managed to get and stabbed the man 15 times. No idea how the man survived — but thankfully, he did.

I suppose it was somewhere in these years that the "knowing" slipped in, announcing that one day, my son would become a killer.

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The murder

One of Jacob’s friends knew a man called Dennis Lewis, and that Lewis had a safe in his home. The friend did not know the contents of the safe, but believing there would be cash or items that could be converted to cash, Jacob and three others hatched a plot to get whatever it contained.


On November 26, 2018, the four of them stormed the home of Lewis, who was watching TV with his wife. Lewis was stabbed several times and kicked in the head repeatedly before being dragged toward the office where the safe was kept. On the opening day of the trial, Lewis’ widow sobs as she describes the terrifying events of that morning. "And then the gun went off."

The other three are now doing time for manslaughter. But it was my son who carried — and fired — the sawed-off shotgun that killed Lewis. Jacob claims it was an accident. But if you’re going to participate in a home invasion and a robbery, and you’re carrying a loaded gun, and your finger is on the trigger … that is no accident.

My son sits in jail now, awaiting sentencing in October. The Canadian Justice website says this:


"Persons convicted of first-degree murder are not eligible for parole until they have served at least 25 years of their sentence."

However, this does not mean that they are automatically given full parole at 25 years. That’s only the minimum sentence they must serve.

Shattered beliefs

For decades, I believed that our souls choose our paths and our lessons before we inhabit our bodies. It was the only way I could make sense of the terrible things that happened in the world or in my life.

But knowing that my son took the life of a 41-year-old man and father of six — a man who was sitting at home with his beloved, minding his own business — well, that changes everything.


My son chose to break into that home, knowing it was wrong. He chose to carry a loaded weapon, knowing it was dangerous. He chose to put his finger on the trigger. He chose so many terrible steps for years, all of which led to that awful, horrific day.

He could have just as easily chosen to mind the rules, to be a good citizen, to participate in counseling years earlier.

He could have chosen to continue repairing and building our relationship when he was 15, allowing me to guide and support him to the better life he wanted to create. From the moment he was born, he had teachers and counselors and parents, and a religious community behind him, guiding him, offering help and support at every turn.

He turned his back on all of it. He must now face the consequences for that, the worst of which is the knowledge that he took a man’s life.


I weep for Dennis Lewis. I weep for his family, torn apart by the greed and selfishness of another. I weep for all his family has lost, for all my son has stolen from them.

I weep for my son, for the waste of his life, for dreams thrown away, for potential never realized.

I weep for what will never be — for him, for Dennis Lewis, or for anyone who ever loved either of them.

I no longer believe that our souls choose our paths, because to do so would mean that at least from a spiritual perspective, Dennis Lewis’ death was his own fault and my son is absolved of responsibility. What possible reason could there be for their souls to choose this violent experience? What is the point of the suffering caused to both families?


Or maybe it’s true that our souls come here with some sort of purpose. But it doesn’t mean they will automatically fulfill that purpose. We do have free will. In either case, I do not believe that Dennis Lewis chose to die like this. And I do not believe my son was destined to commit that murder.

But whatever drove him to that terrible deed, it was the result of his own choices over a long period of time. He deserves whatever punishment is meted out by the Court.

Still, I remember that sweet blond, blue-eyed, affectionate little boy, the one with the awful jokes and the big belly laugh. That’s how he comes to me in dreams, you know. He is always that little boy and we spend precious time together while I sleep. He can laugh there and play, and be the free and happy little boy he once was. The one he can never be again.

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Liberty Forrest is an award-winning author, a prolific writer on Medium, and a Senior Contributor to SportsEdTV. Her inspirational and self-help articles and columns have appeared in the Huffington Post and in more than 50 publications around the globe.