Holding on to hope

15 years after shooting, Lisa McCuddin’s family believes justice will be served

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Tuesday marked the 15th anniversary of the shooting of Fort Dodge woman Lisa McCuddin. Each year, the approaching date brings the same feelings for sister Jennifer McCuddin, left, and mother Becky.

Fifteen years after Fort Dodge woman Lisa McCuddin was fatally shot in the passenger seat of a car, the feeling her family gets every year on Oct. 3 hasn’t changed.

Her sister and mother call each other to say nothing — just to listen to each other cry silently, when the feeling hits them again.

“It seems like it’s been forever, but it also seems like just yesterday I got that phone call,” her mother, Becky McCuddin, said Wednesday across the table from Lisa’s sister, Jennifer. “Every year, it’s tough.”

On Oct. 2, 2004, Lisa McCuddin, 23, was shot and killed in Fort Dodge. She was a passenger in a car that was being driven down Kenyon Road when the shots were fired.

McCuddin was four days shy of turning 24.

No suspect has ever been charged with her murder.

She knows to stay away from Facebook and ignore her text messages around this time of year, the anniversary of her daughter’s death, and four days later on what was her daughter’s birthday.

To them, the passage of time hasn’t healed the wound any more as the homicide case has grown cold.

“It’s another year longer,” her mother thinks as the day comes and goes.

But despite the passage of time, she believes the case will be solved. The only question is whether it happens in her lifetime to give closure while she still lives on earth.

“I would like to be able to see Lisa have her time in court,” Becky McCuddin said. “She needs her time.”

She said she has accepted the loss as part of her life, but has not become discouraged because she hasn’t let the loss define her trajectory.

They’re confident that as long as law enforcement is on their side, that Lisa MCuddin will have her day in court.

“I ain’t going nowhere,” her mother said stubbornly with a chuckle —- that is, until the case is closed.

If anything, the passage of time has allowed her to be able to have that laugh “without the blubbering” on a difficult day for the family.

It’s memories like Lisa’s gutteral, “gut wrenching” laugh and stunning blue eyes that her mother remembers most about her.

“Just continuing to talk about them,” keeps the woman they knew alive, Jennifer McCuddin said as her voice broke.

“There isn’t a day that goes by where something doesn’t scream something about Lisa,” her mother said.

Living pieces of Lisa McCuddin live on in her children, Markasia and Davontrez, who look, speak and act like their mother, a blessing they’re thankful for. Markasia, now 19, was 4 when her mother passed. Davontrez was 10 months old.

To the killer or anyone witholding information about her, they just ask one thing: do the right thing to bring closure to a woman who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the cold case, the only thing that can bring justice to the family is for a witness to step forward.

“Truthfully, the only thing that’s going to bring this case to a close is if people step forward and tell what they know,” said Becky McCuddin. “That’s the big one.”

With no other fingerprints, weapons or forensic evidence, she said it boils down to simply “doing the right thing.”

Five years ago, an anonymous donor provided Crime Stoppers with $5,000 to reward for anyone with information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Little helpful information has surfaced since.

“This was my daughter, but it could have been anyone’s child,” Becky McCuddin said. “She was not the focus, she was not the intent.”

While she refuses to step back and wait, she lets her life continue.

“I’ll never walk away from it,” she said. “I can’t let go of it, but I can’t live my life to it.”

Instead, she put her time and energy into raising Lisa’ MCuddin’s children, to give the living embodiments of her a good life.

“That doesn’t mean you shut it down,” she clarified. “It’s still there.”

“You don’t let it hold you captive,” Jennifer McCuddin clarified.

Lisa McCuddin wasn’t afraid to speak up for herself. And until justice is served, her family won’t let anyone forget about her.

“It’s just that this is the way we’ve been for the last 15 years,” her mother said. “It’s part of our life.”

“It gives you something to fight for,” Jennifer McCuddin concluded.