NEWTOWN SQUARE–It was an incident that no one could have imagined going through—but the Boones, of Newtown Square, found themselves living a nightmare when their oldest daughter, Sarah Boone, was brutally murdered inside her workplace at Cricket Catering in Ardmore on a fateful Thursday afternoon in 2006. She was 24 and engaged.
Boone attended in her early years, was a 1999 alumna and a 2002 graduate of Harcum College. She was found dead in the basement bathroom of her workplace as "a result of multiple injuries, blunt trauma and sharp force," according to a 2006 article from Philly.com.
Police named Jacuqin Byrd, then 27 and formerly of Philadelphia, as the suspect in the brutal murder. Byrd initially denied going to Ardmore that Thursday, but evidence showed Boone had left her employer a note stating that Byrd had stopped by earlier that day, according to 6ABC.
Byrd was convicted of first degree murder among other charges—third degree murder, theft by unlawful taking, falsely authorizing written statements, tampering with physical evidence, and possession of weapon—in March of that year, according to court documents.
According to The Delaware County Times, Boone had "bled to death after being stabbed with both a knife and scissors, bludgeoned with a hammer and stomped on."
Since his conviction, Byrd has tried to reopen the case for a new trial on several occasions.
A Nightmare Never Forgotten
Walking onto a crime scene and discovering that the victim was your oldest child is a nightmare no parent should go through.
"I met two Montgomery County detectives and told them my daughter was inside, and they told me no one was alive inside," recalled Jeff Boone, who had gone looking for his daughter at her workplace when his wife Kate said she hadn't arrived to their home in Newtown Square as expected. "I thought she had fallen and broke her bone or something. Never did I think it would be something like this."
After his daughter's death, Jeff questioned his faith in God and the meaning of justice.
"I have a hard time dealing with it and I think my wife does too when you're dealing with something like this...," said Jeff. "Justice is...when you have this kind of evidence and the court unanimously says, 'Yes, he's guilty,' then you have to fight five pleas that he gets to use to try to say, 'Hey, I'm going to try to plea my case again...' it makes you wonder. Five times."
Naturally, the family lived in a state of shock after Sarah's death, and everyone dealt with the news in their own way.
"I was very bitter at God, at the world. Most of the time I wondered, 'Why us?' 'Why Sarah?' – Kate Boone, mother
"Everybody has had bad things happen to them, but it was so random," said Kate of her oldest child. "Sarah was a good girl who loved her family. She never went out partying or drinking. She never did those things."
According to Kate, this was not only the family's worst nightmare, but Sarah's as well.
"Sarah was the one who used to always tell us, 'Make sure no one is following you,' or 'Did you lock the doors?' She was always cautious," said Kate.
Sarah's younger sister Julie McCormick, who looked up to her older sister, said that after Sarah's death she became more anxious and fearful.
"I'm constantly checking my surroundings...making sure I know where the exits are. I don't think that will ever go away," said Julie. According to the family, Sarah's workplace only had one exit—the front door—and she tried to escape but reached the basement bathroom trapped.
With another Mother's Day come and gone and another birthday coming up, it's hard for the family not to think of Sarah even more. She would have been 31 this June.
"On these two occasions, especially," said Kate—who spoke to her daughter almost every day—about the times she remembers Sarah most. "I think more and more about her, about two weeks before these holidays. I spent Mother's Day at the cemetery. That's not something a mother or father should do."
Julie recalled Sarah was always the one in the family who embraced the holidays—Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.—and especially thinks of her sister then.
"She loved the holidays. She loved Christmas and decorating, and getting together with the family on Thanksgiving. It was tradition," said Julie, who lives with her husband and their two kids about a half a mile away from her parents.
"It's something that you never forget–it's in the back of your mind all the time" – Jeff Boone, father
"This is six years now. In the beginning, leading up to her birthday, I used to think she really wasn't gone forever. The eye awakening moment is when we go to the cemetery on her birthday and stand there and look down. That’s when you realize she’s not coming back," said Jeff.
Moving On, Finding Hope
Though they've taken self-defense courses and had joined a few support groups like Parents of Murdered Children, the family found more relief with each other and in church.
The family sought out advice from priests and have been attending in Newtown Square.
"It’s been a challenge for everyone on our religious beliefs. I mean, how could God do this? But I think we’ve gotten a better understanding of the situation now. Through our grandkids and us being realistic with the event and taking a logical view of really what happened, and why, has helped. And, thus, you can see God is still here," Jeff said.
At 3:10 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2006, Sarah was pronounced dead. On March 26, 2009, also a Thursday, at 3:10 a.m., Julie gave birth to her daughter Sarah, whom she named after her older sister.
"She was the first joy we've had since Sarah," said Kate about her granddaughter. "Our family is growing and we thought our lives were over after Sarah. But we see six years later, we have three grandchildren and our two children. You just have to keep on moving forward."
The bonds of the Boone family have become stronger than ever, which the family believes is one of the key foundations to society and parenting. Over the years, the family has tried to spread awareness whenever they can to neighbors, strangers, and friends about the strength of having a close-knit community and the dangers of women working alone.
The Boones count their blessings every day and on this Mother's Day, Julie shared her . Julie sees her parents every day and cherishes her relationship with her family, as does Kate, who lives for her children—Julie and Dennis—and their children, to help keep Sarah's spirit alive.
"We're keeping Sarah's memory alive and keeping her spirit alive. I miss her so much every day, but you have to live for other people. I feel her presence all the time. I feel she’s with us right now," said Kate.