To The Honorable Philip Volland:
I write to advocate for lenient sentencing on behalf of Mechele Linehan.
I first met Mechele when my son, Colin, brought her home to Olympia, WA during the 1997 holiday season to meet his family. It was a joy to watch their closeness; both had lost their dads at the same age and this seemed to be an element of their growing bond. Within a year we were celebrating and blessing this extraordinary couple in their marriage. I couldn’t have been more welcoming of my new daughter-in-law.
I formed an instant attachment to Mechele, and can say I have found more to admire in the eleven ensuing years since our first meeting than I could put onto these pages. She has a generous, outgoing nature. Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts in their home always included neighbors and friends who would otherwise have been alone on these family days.
I’ve observed through the years how much a sense of family means to Mechele. My favorite image of her is cooking up a storm with her Mom and sister when they had the rare occasion to visit and spend time in Olympia several years ago. Mechele exuded at once her warm hospitality, and a beautiful child-like delight reveling in their togetherness.
I watched her interact in her daughter’s school community where she was engaged and energetically involved in multiple volunteer efforts. In the Olympia community she volunteered on the Crisis Clinic hotline phone every Friday night for quite a while. I am a community volunteer myself but have yet to imagine giving up precious sleep from Friday night until Saturday morning in any work that I do.
And then there are the animals – dogs that could not be left homeless, cats that adopt her, fish that just show up, and her beloved birds. Mechele has an affinity for all creatures great and small, and they for her. It is a phenomenon. I watch her daughter with these same unfolding qualities and know Her daughter has been well nurtured in caring for creation.
Mechele in her garden is another beautiful image I hold. Color and life abounds. She creates beauty and tranquility there. My sense of her has long been that she is an artist in her essence.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Mechele loaded her car with water, food, blankets, baby food, toolkit, and GPS to head south to her Mom & sister who were battered by the storm. She was a woman on a mission. I was nervous about her going the whole distance alone and so I accompanied her as far as Omaha, where I disembarked to visit my parents. The surprising gift for me in this experience, other than being touched by Mechele’s intrepid spirit & energetic heart, was the gift of time – for the first time in our relationship I had concentrated one on one days with her. I saw her with new eyes. I hadn’t been paying attention in our everyday encounters. I had not appreciated how much she had grown in emotional maturity and balance over the past year or so. The forced intimacy of our cross country trek opened me even further to the dynamic of her being unfolding through time.
I have been painting a picture of Mechele as my family and I know her. It consists of small little sketches, but my earnest hope is that you will have a glimpse of the woman who has so very many gifts and qualities to share with the world, who from my witness of her is intent on becoming the best she can be and giving back to the world, who possesses an inner as well as an outer beauty.
The most heartfelt plea, however, is the most difficult to write down. Mechele & Colin’s 8 year old daughter, sits tenderly at the core of all our longing for a just sentence. She is bright, wise beyond her years, loving, and hurting so much. There is simply no one else who will be able to mother her in the attuned way Mechele does. They miss each other beyond the telling.
Thank you, Judge Volland, for your careful consideration of all these matters.
Judy S. Linehan