When she entered the Army, 26-year-old Spc. Christa Engles knew her life could be on the line. When she went through boot camp, Christa learned how to properly don a bullet-proof flak jacket and protective helmet; she learned how to evade enemy fire and assume a return-firing position from cover. But she likely never have suspected death waited for her return to Oklahoma, and that it would come not by the hand of an enemy…but by that of her own child.
It began, as many horrors do, with an idyllic image, a beautiful moment: a young woman changing her newborn baby’s diaper. Christa was home with the baby and her 3-year-old son; her husband Brian was a truck driver, and out over the road at the time. Her mother was in the next room. Her small, brown house in the suburbs of Tulsa rang with Pre-Thanksgiving cheer as she tended to the newest member of the family.
Christa, being a conscientious mother, a military specialist and often home alone with the children, kept “several” guns in the home. Perhaps fearing a break-in and not having a weapon at the ready, she kept them cached throughout the home. One was a “large caliber” pistol hidden in the darkness beneath her living room couch.
Christa arose from that couch to tend the baby in his nursery. She stood with her back to the door.
Amid the mist of baby powder, thunder shook the room. The nursery’s pastel walls and the crying infant went suddenly crimson. Christa fell to the floor with half of her head missing; a three-year-old boy stood in the doorway holding a large caliber weapon. The stench of cordite still smoked from its barrel.
Christa’s mother rushed into the room, and found the Hellish scene; her daughter lay on the floor in the now-red room. Her grandson stood screaming in horror over his mother, saturated in her blood. When police interviewed him afterward, he could only repeat the same two words, over and over again:
“Mommy shot…Mommy shot…”
Brian got the call every truck driving father fears most. Something’s happened at home.
And pray he did. But God, as is so often the case, wasn’t taking requests that day.
Christa died in the hospital a few hours later.
Brian and Christa were both deeply religious, and he finds comfort in the notion that this was all part of God’s plan. It helps to believe there’s a point. Maybe there’s too much pain in the irony that his wife survived combat only to be killed with the very weapon, by the very person, that weapon was meant to protect. A wife, a mother, a daughter and a veteran lost. Children whose most abiding memories of their mother will be the day they found themselves covered in her blood.
If you can find a point in any of this, feel free to let us know.