RICHMOND, Va. — Laura Wilkerson, a Texan whose son Josh was murdered by an illegal alien who would have qualified for amnesty under a DREAM Act-like law, emotionally broke down and cried during her speech here at Jefferson Park in downtown Richmond on Monday night at the first stop of the “Stop Amnesty Tour.”
“My name is Laura Wilkerson,” she said. “My husband George and I live just outside Houston, Texas. We’ve been married 25 years and we’ve raised three children. Our youngest son, Joshua, was brutally murdered on Nov. 16, 2010, by a kid who was a classmate of him. We found out later he was from Belize, brought here illegally by his parents when he was about 10 years old. I’m just going to tell you the story. It’s sad story. If I cry, don’t let it bug you. It’s part of my daily routine at this point. I hope that it makes you mad, because I think Josh deserved to live if only because he was an American citizen.”
After Mrs. Wilkerson warned the audience of the likely coming outpouring of emotion, she trudged forward with the details about what happened to her son. “It was a typical Tuesday,” she said. “Joshua was in his senior year of high school and he was 18 years old. It was November and he would have graduated in May. He came in in the morning when I was getting ready for work and said ‘bye, Mom. I’m leaving to go to school.’ I said, ‘okay, I love you Josh. I’ll be home early today. I’ll be home around 1 o’clock.’ He said ‘I love you too, Mom.’ I said, ‘see ya.’ I stood there at the glass door and watched him get in his truck and he got to the end of the street and turn. I shut the door and went on and proceeded to get ready for work, never knowing it would be the last time I see him.”
Around 1:30 p.m., after she had not heard from Josh, she said “mother’s instinct” or perhaps God, made her think something was not right. “Josh was the kind of kid that he’d never been in trouble over a traffic ticket,” she said. “He always let me know where he was. I texted him and said ‘just let me know you’re okay.'”
After Josh did not respond to that text message, Mrs. Wilkerson said she “became frantic.”
“I just started to drive around and look,” she said, fighting off tears by this point in her speech. “I drove by a couple of his friends’ houses that I thought maybe he would go to and by the gym that he went to. Nothing. I looked around for about an hour or two and by the police station, no wrecks, no one in the hospital. Then I happened to look to the left and I saw his truck parked in a parking lot, a strip center by a dumpster. I stopped at it and looked at it. I could tell something was wrong; it had been driven through a field. There were seeds and grass, which was out of the ordinary. So, I called my husband to come. He came, and we called the police. They came, and in just a few minutes they asked me over and they slid open the dumpster next to the truck.”
Through sobs, Mrs. Wilkerson said the police then said to her: “Mom, are these his things?”
“Yeah,” she responded, as police pulled Josh’s shoes, backpack and other belongings out of the dumpster his truck was parked next to.
“I knew then he was dead, not coming home,” Mrs. Wilkerson said. “I just didn’t know how or why. None of it made sense to me. At any rate, we were finally told to go home from that parking lot at 11 at night. So we went home, just shocked and stunned, not knowing anything.”
Around 3 a.m., she said, police came back to see her and her husband at their home and informed them they had a suspect in custody. Police told them to be back at that parking lot at 6 a.m. because Texas Equusearch, a mounted search, recovery and rescue team in the state, was going to look for Josh. “We think he’s hurt and we think he needs help,” she said the police told her. “And we need to find him.”
“Now, when you hear the words, none of it makes sense,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense. The word ‘suspect’? You hear that every day, I thought. Nothing makes sense to me. At any rate we went to the parking lot the next day and Texas Equusearch looked for Josh with ATVs, boats, sonar, horses. They walked a grid. The community just poured out for Josh. It was incredible. It was just unbelievable. We stayed in that parking lot until dark and then we went home.”
About 20 minutes later, police visited their home again. “The detectives, they came in and I just looked at them,” Mrs. Wilkerson said. “I said, ‘you found him.’ They said ‘yes.’ I said, ‘what did he look like?’ He said ‘I didn’t see him.’ I should have known that he did, but he didn’t want to tell me about it.”
Wilkerson said she will always remember the look on the detective’s face when he told her the suspect in custody, Hermilio Moralez, was not in America legally.
“I’ll never forget looking in that detective’s eyes as he was telling me, ‘yeah this kid is in the country illegally,'” Mrs. Wilkerson told the crowd in Richmond. “I said ‘where are his parents?’ He said, ‘we can’t ask him.’ He couldn’t ask them because it was a sanctuary city at that time. I thought, ‘really? You could pull me over and ask me any question under the sun, legally, but you can’t ask that?’ It just made no sense to me. It stuck in my head forever.”
After two years of waiting for a trial, the Wilkersons finally got more answers and saw Moralez convicted in January of this year. At the trial, she said, “the horror was just incredible.”
“We found out later that what he [Hermilio Moralez] did was he asked Josh for a ride home from school and Josh said, ‘sure,'” Mrs. Wilkerson said. “I think he’d given him a ride home two or three times before. He took him actually to his parents’ house. For some reason, we found out later why, what he did to Josh was he hit him in the nose, and this is what the kid tells from the stand, he hit him in the nose so hard that it would blind him so that he couldn’t fight back. Then he kicked him so hard in the stomach. Josh was about this big around and he weighed about 100 pounds in the body bag. He kicked him so hard in the stomach that his liver sliced in two and his spine sliced in two. He ruptured his spleen. He took a closet rod and beat Josh over the head so hard with it that it broke in four pieces. He strangled him, then let him go. Strangled him, let him go. Per the medical examiner, it was just torturous. After he murdered him, as he said, when Josh quit having bloody bubbles come out of his nose, he knew he was gone, he tied him up like an animal with about 13 ropes from his the back of his neck to the back of his hands, to the back of his feet. He covered his head with his school shirt. Then he put him in the back of my son’s truck and he drove around and he took two dollars out of Josh’s wallet and he stopped and bought gas. Then he took him to a field and he took his wallet and school ID out and just placed it by the body. Then he doused him with gas and set him on fire. It was just incredible. You just don’t even believe something like this will happen to your family, let alone to just your kid. What we saw in the beginning of the trial, in the opening, was the police going out to this itty bitty trail and there you saw, when they finally got to Josh, you finally saw him in the fetal position, barefooted, charred, bound up. The policeman said he looked like a doll. He didn’t even look real. He looked so tiny. Then after that in the trial the next picture was of his face after they removed his shirt. It was horribly disfigured by the closet rod. So one of the last pictures I saw of Josh was one where his face is just — one of his eyebrows is here, and the other is very low. It’s something you don’t want to be reminded of.”
Mrs. Wilkerson said that during the trial, Moralez “was proud on the stand.”
“He got up there and said he was trained to kill and that Josh had kicked his dog and that his killing skills took over,” she said. “From the stand, his said his culture was very different than ours. And he really was excited about what he had done. He never once showed any amount of remorse or sorrow for what he did to Josh.”
She told those at the rally that, “I assure you this was my 9-11. This was my terrorist attack.”
“It was as if a bomb went off in my family,” she said. “And we will forever be picking the pieces up. Forever. We’ll never be the same. Ever. To have to stand up here and think about this Gang of Eight and it makes no sense to me. Why aren’t they mad that they allowed someone to just walk across a border and kill an American citizen? I want you to be mad about it more than I want you to be sad for me.”
Wilkerson said she had to call her oldest son home from serving the U.S. Air Force so he could learn what happened.
“It’s ironic that I had to call the American Red Cross to get a hold of my oldest son Adam, who is serving in the United States Air Force defending this country, to bring him home for two weeks to bury his little brother,” she said. “No one in this country was defending him or us because the borders are wide open. It’s not just about missing Josh. The fallout from this is just forever for my family. I’ve seen this. We’re broken. That’s why you don’t see a lot of families testifying. It takes everything you can do to get up and still earn a living and to breathe and to start over. So you don’t see a lot of people who can do it. It’s tough. It will just never, ever be the same. I want people to be mad. I want people to be mad you can just come across this border.”
Wilkerson thanked Rep. Steve King (R-IA) for being one of the few members of Congress willing to stand up for Americans on this issue, and berated those who are will not fight for justice as being part of the problem.