The Garden of Angels

With statues, crosses and Christmas ornaments, parents mourn and celebrate the memory of children taken by violence

There they tortured their victim, shooting her with a pellet gun and a crossbow before Neville ended her suffering with a shot from a .22-caliber rifle. They left her body lying in a field of weeds beneath an electrical tower, laughing as they drove away. "I guess she'll be a little late for work," Hall later admitted saying.

The following day, realizing they had not checked to see if Robinson had any money they could have stolen, they returned. While there, Hall fired seven additional shots into the girl's body "to see what it felt like."

Seventeen days passed before Amy was found. Neville and Hall, arrested on the Texas border while attempting to flee into Mexico, quickly confessed to authorities and a stunned television reporter, laughing as they boasted, providing the gruesome details of Robinson's abduction and death. "She trusted us. It was easy," Hall bragged into the camera. Each would receive the death penalty.

Linda and Vernon Price do much of the upkeep at the garden. "There is no violence here," Linda Price says. "This is not a place for feeling anger."
Mark Graham
Linda and Vernon Price do much of the upkeep at the garden. "There is no violence here," Linda Price says. "This is not a place for feeling anger."

It was as she attended Hall's trial that Barker decided she wished to visit the place where her granddaughter had died. She was surprised to find that a small cross had been anonymously placed at the site. Handwritten on it were the words, "In God's Hands."

"Part of the American Indian philosophy," Barker explains, "is that one's spirit ascends into heaven from where the person dies. For that reason, locating the place where Amy was killed was important to me." In time she began to contemplate putting a more permanent memorial to her granddaughter at the site. During a support group meeting, Greg Price, a carpenter dealing with the murder of his Haltom City nephew, suggested she erect a larger, more permanent cross. If she liked, he volunteered, he would build it.

From that suggestion, Our Garden of Angels would eventually grow.

"Amy," Barker says, "had always enjoyed being around people, didn't like to be alone. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of placing a cross where she died. The only thing that troubled me was the idea of her being out there by herself."

Friends in the support group understood. Vernon Price asked if she would mind if he placed a cross in memory of his son next to the one Greg Price (no relation) was building for Amy. In short order, others embraced the idea. Originally, then, Amy's cross was joined by four others: Vern Price, a stabbing victim; Bobbie Kafka, a victim of domestic violence; Marty Klozik, the victim of an argument over a debt; and Chad Houston, murdered during an altercation outside a neighborhood pool hall.

"It was nothing formal or fancy," Barker says, "just a place we could go and remember our kids." In time, 27 crosses were placed among the weeds. It was Barbara Salter who first suggested they call the spot Our Garden of Angels.

Then, in November 2000, construction began on the extension of Trinity Boulevard. Its planned course included the state-owned land where the crosses had been placed. Randy Miller, CEO of the Fort Worth-based A&A Construction company that had contracted to participate in the road-building, had long been aware of the memorial, passing it on the shortcut he took home from work each evening. "I'd watched as the number of crosses grew, and became curious," he says. Finally, a friend explained that they were erected on the site of Amy Robinson's murder. "So, it concerned me when I realized that the new road would cut through the memorial. I went to my partners and suggested that we donate a portion of a little pie-shaped piece of land we owned nearby." Soon after getting their go-ahead, Miller stopped at the small field of crosses one afternoon and introduced himself to a woman who was cutting away weeds. "It was Amy's grandmother," he remembers, "and I explained what we had in mind to do."

Receiving eager approval from the families who had erected crosses, Miller took his plan several steps further. He contacted an architect friend to ask if he would design a memorial park on the site where the crosses would be moved. Soon, companies such as GIO Garden Design, Aquatic Landscapes and Acme Bricks volunteered material and manpower. "Everyone just came together to make it a reality," the 38-year-old Miller says. Today, he occasionally takes his wife and children out to view the memorial, which he insists is still not finished. He has plans to erect a donated flagpole, install an irrigation system, perhaps even pave a parking lot for visitors. "I'm not a particularly religious person," he says, "but I see this as a sacred place. I hope to be some small part of it for years to come."

"In truth," Stewart says, "Randy Miller became the driving force behind the garden."

On February 23 of last year, the new Our Garden of Angels, befriended by strangers and having taken on something of a life of its own, was formally dedicated. "I don't think anyone ever had the slightest idea that it would become what it has," Stewart says. "That it just happened, that it grew into something that has benefited so many just makes it that much more special."

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