BY MYSTI GATES –
Author’s note: As a parent myself, I personally experienced anxiety about discussing Andi’s murder with her family; I was fearful of how my questions would affect them. And I have to say, that their openness and willingness to talk with me about her life and her death was an experience like none I have ever had. I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a child, and God willing, I hope I never have to. But these people, for lack of a better word, are absolutely AMAZING. I was just in awe of Andi’s mother and the advocacy work that she has done. She has taken a personal tragedy and turned it into something miraculous.
In light of the recent appeals efforts of Karl D. Roberts, it seemed only appropriate to honor the sweet little girl whose life he took on May 15, 1999. Andria Nicole Brewer was born on April 10, 1987 to parents Greg and Rebecca Brewer. She was taken from her parents, family and friends on May 15, 1999 when she was kidnapped, raped and murdered by her Uncle, Karl Roberts.
Andi, as she was known to her family and friends, was a typical child who loved animals, playing basketball and the outdoors. “She enjoyed fishing and riding the four-wheeler,” her mother, Rebecca DeMauro recalls. “Andi wanted to be a teacher,” DeMauro continued. “She loved kids.”
Greg Brewer, Andi’s father, described Andi as “a happy child who believed in standing up for what was right.” Other family members, including her parents, described Andi as “a prankster” and “a fireball.” From the stories that the family shared about Andi, it is safe to say that Andi enjoyed a good laugh and had a great sense of humor.
Andi’s death marked the beginning of a great tragedy for the Brewer family. Andi had touched the lives of so many people throughout the community and when tragedy struck the Brewer family, the community mourned with them. When asked how she felt about the recent decision in Roberts’ appeal, DeMauro said, “Whether or not he wins or loses, continues to appeal or not, it is just another way to revictimize the family.”
Twelve years have passed since Andi was taken from this world, and each person that Andi left behind has dealt with her loss in a different way. For her dad, it has been an indescribable hardship. Admittedly, he turned to drugs and alcohol, but eventually he realized that even that wouldn’t numb the pain he felt. Brewer shared, “I have come to to terms with the fact that I am no longer angry. I am no longer consumed by the hatred I had for Karl.” Brewer also expressed how instrumental God and Remembering Hearts Forever have been in helping him deal with the loss of his daughter. Brewer’s girlfriend, Tiffany Rowland shared, “In the time that we have been together, I have witnessed a truly remarkable change in Greg. Now, he can joke and laugh, and talking about Andi has become an easier task for him. It can still be difficult from time to time, but it is getting easier.”
For Andi’s mom, her life took on a direction she could not have imagined. In the months and years following Andi’s death, DeMauro used her experience to help others. The story of her advocacy work is a truly remarkable one. DeMauro belongs to a few groups, one of which is Team HOPE, a program of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Family Advocacy Division. As a volunteer for Team HOPE, DeMauro and others turn their personal tragedies into vital lifelines of support for other families. The volunteers of Team HOPE seek to provide peer support for families impacted by a missing child or child sexual exploitation. As a member of Team HOPE, DeMauro has spoken first-hand about her experience, offered emotional support, compassion, assistance and guidance to families dealing with similar situations.
The Surviving Parents Coalition is another group that DeMauro has been active in. The Coalition, as it is often reffered to, aims to improve public awareness, offer safety education and improve laws for child protection and safety. Through her involvement with The Coalition, she has lobbied at Capitol Hill. As part of a private, 10-family group, DeMauro spoke about her experience with President George W. Bush and helped with the passage of the AMBER Alert System (AMBER is an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response), a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases.
During our conversation, DeMauro recounted the moments leading up to the call she received about her speaking at The White House. She recalls, “I remember I was folding laundry when I got the call. I had previously contacted The Department of Justice about some of our efforts, but when the woman on the other end of the phone said she was calling from The White House, I hung up on her thinking it was a prank call.” She continued, “The phone rang again. I remember her telling me that she wanted me to speak on a panel at The White House and that she would need to brief me on how to dress and how to address The President. I remember asking, ‘The President of what?'” Later, DeMauro discovered that she was actually sharing her experience with President Bush prior to the passage of the AMBER Alert System. Six months later it was signed into effect and she was invited back to The Rose Garden for the ceremony.
When asked, “How is it that you are able to help others knowing how traumatic Andi’s death must have been for you?” Her response was, “I try to see the ‘bigger picture.’ It is important to me to give Andi a voice, to keep her legacy going and to help others that are going through what we’ve gone through, because, honestly, the system has failed us.” She continued, “People tell me all the time, ‘You don’t know the impact that you have had on us and our family.’ That in itself is motivation enough to keep me going.”
Andi’s grandmother, Ann Taylor, added a different angle to the family’s grief when she stated, “When something like this happens, the focus is almost always on the parents, but what about Melanie? What about what Melanie went through?” Melanie is Andi’s younger sister. And while she didn’t have much to say, she did say this, “I regret that my son will never get to know my sister.”
Everyone experiences grief at one time or another and everyone deals with it in their own way, in their own time. Andi’s family is no exception, but Andi’s family is EXCEPTIONAL. They have forgiven Roberts for taking the life of their sweet Andi. It was not an easy process, but this is how they explained it to me: “We had to forgive Karl in order to keep him from having control over us, control over our lives. So much of our time was consumed by our hatred for him. When we finally forgave him, we were able to escape from our own prison-a prison of hate. We forgave him out of necessity.”
Roberts is not out of options yet and Andi’s family is not out of hope. One day there will be ‘Justice for Andi!’