The playground at Mandarach Park, built in memory of Lisa and Devon Mandarach
It’s the first Sunday of football season, and as per usual, the Philadelphia Eagles are on the television.
And as usual, even though I never met them, I’m thinking of Lisa and Devon Mandarach.
I think of them every year on the first day of football season, even though they have been gone now for 14 years.
On September 10, 1995, Lisa Mandarach was a 29 year old mother of a little girl named Devon, who was 1. They lived not all that far from us, in the same county, in a similar suburb dotted with shopping centers.
And it was to a new store, Your Kidz and Mine, that Lisa and Baby Devon went on that September afternoon.It is a scenario that has played out time and time again in my own house: running out for a day of errands or shopping with Betty while The Husband sits in his easy chair, watching football. (Lest you think he is unproductive with his Sundays, he is not; oftentimes, he is doing five loads of laundry, folding it, and putting it away while yelling at the television.)
Managing Your Kidz and Mine, the children’s boutique his mother had opened just a few weeks prior, was 21 year old Caleb Fairley, an aficionado of Dungeons and Dragons, of vampires. He was alone in his mother’s dream of a store when Lisa and Devon Mandarach walked in to browse … and alone when he killed Lisa among the racks of onesies and toddler attire.
Because 1-year old Devon was a witness to her mother’s murder, Caleb killed her too. Among the charges filed against Caleb Fairley was abuse of a corpse; even the most depraved imagination cannot fathom the atrocities that Lisa and Devon suffered as they died and, even more horrifying, afterwards.
And the reason for their deaths was even more unfathomable: even though he had never laid eyes on her before, Lisa was the girl of his dreams, Caleb confessed. She was a vision from his vampire world and thus, had to be killed. Along with a daughter who wouldn’t live to celebrate her second Halloween.
Because he knew their destination, Lisa’s husband could provide police with the itinerary for what would have been an afternoon of shopping. It didn’t take long for the police to find Lisa’s car outside of Your Kidz and Mine, and later, Lisa’s body behind an industrial building and Devon’s several miles away, dumped over an embankment in a nearby park where George Washington’s soldiers once tred.
Caleb Fairley is now, deservedly, serving two life terms for the murders of Lisa and Devon Manderach.
In the years that have followed, friends and members of the community raised funds to build what has become an extraordinary playground not too far from where they were killed. It opened several years ago, and is an amazing park. It’s comparable to facilities that you’d have to pay a chunk of change for admission.
Our kids were toddlers, not much older than Devon Mandarach was when she was killed, when we met another friend at Mandarach Park for a playdate. I have pictures of Betty and Boo from that day, laughing, climbing on the various structures, gazing up at the huge slide. It’s a happy place, a place filled with laughter, of minor injuries from kids running too fast to get to their destination, of moms and dads meeting for playdates, of parents crouching down to get the perfect shot of their kids on the slide.
And I remember thinking, we should not be here. This place, this gorgeous park, should not be here.
Because there shouldn’t be a reason for them to exist in the first place. Devon Mandarach should be in high school, planning her 16th birthday in several months, texting her BFFs and ignoring her 43 year old mother when she asks to go back-to-school shopping, ignoring her father as he watches the opening day of Eagles football season, watching another quarterback go down on the first game of the year.
I think of Lisa and Devon every year at this time, as I sort through my kids’ outgrown clothes and take them back-to-school shopping, as my TV is filled with football and beer commercials and blonde sportcasters chirping on the sidelines, as the weather becomes an unpredictable pendulum swinging between hot and cold.
I remember them today, and even after 14 years the senselessness and depravity still turns my stomach and makes me nauseous.
I don’t even know the purpose for this post, quite honestly. Maybe it is to say simply that I remember, that they deserve to be remembered, that they deserved to be here.
That with each season’s beginning, I will continue to remember the ghosts that continue haunting me from an autumn 14 years ago.
Thanks for sharing this post!