The love that Brenda Losey and Thomas R. Christian Sr. had for each other as high school sweethearts never went away.
As they moved on with their lives, devoted themselves to other partners and had families, their love was on hold until the two reunited some 25 years later, Losey explained Friday.
So when Losey’s estranged husband approached Christian with a knife in a Kennewick plasma donation center in 2014, she automatically jumped to protect her sweetheart without considering her own safety.
But all it took was one quick, deep stab to the stomach by Matthew H. de Vore to render the 45-year-old Christian helpless.
“It’s still there on my hands. I can’t get the blood out of my hands, out of my heart. Though you don’t see it, it’s still there,” Losey cried. “But I have to be strong for my kids. I have to be strong for people that need me. I need to be what Thomas needed me to be.”
It’s still there on my hands. I can’t get the blood out of my hands, out of my heart. Though you don’t see it, it’s still there.
Brenda Losey, victim’s girlfriend
De Vore took Christian from his large family because he could not stand losing, Losey said.
She was joined by nine other loved ones Friday in asking for justice for Christian — a man remembered for his winning smile, kind heart, gentle nature and love for people.
Then, briefly facing her now ex-husband, Losey said as much as she wants to have hatred and anger in her heart for what de Vore did, she can’t allow that because of her children.
“I must say this on the record, not for you Matthew but for me and my salvation — I do forgive you for what you’ve done to me,” said Losey. Her divorce was finalized in March 2015.
“I will never like you. You are not a person to me. Enjoy your time thinking about the children you’ll never see, about the children you will not walk down the aisle. You will not see your grandchildren. You will see four walls and cellmates, but at least you will have a cot and three meals.”
I will never like you. You are not a person to me. Enjoy your time thinking about the children you’ll never see, about the children you will not walk down the aisle. You will not see your grandchildren. You will see four walls and cellmates, but at least you will have a cot and three meals.
De Vore told Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell he has guilt and remorse for his heinous actions.
“Nothing can justify the anguish and heartache done to so many lives that day,” he said, claiming that he lashed out because he was losing his family, his entire world. “I fled out the door ... but I’ve never been able to outrun Thomas Christian’s face and my wife’s face. I’ve spent nearly two years reliving that moment.”
De Vore said he’s been soul searching while in jail, and “all I can offer is I’m sorry for taking a man’s life.”
But Mitchell decided the prosecutor’s recommendation of 27 1/2 years was appropriate given the “very, very severe impact” that de Vore’s actions have had on everyone.
“Know that no sentence this court can impose can undo the damage that’s been done, and bring Mr. Christian back and replace the hopes and dreams and things that the family and all of you have and had for the future with Mr. Christian,” Mitchell said.
Know that no sentence this court can impose can undo the damage that’s been done, and bring Mr. Christian back and replace the hopes and dreams and things that the family and all of you have and had for the future with Mr. Christian.
Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell
A short video was played at the start of the hearing showing Losey and Christian holding hands and talking as they sat in the waiting room of Biomat USA on Nov. 24, 2014.
De Vore — who also regularly donated plasma for money — walked right up to the couple and stabbed Christian.
“What a coward,” Losey said in the audience as she watched.
Some people ran after de Vore to capture him, others rushed to Christian’s aid. But he died in the lobby, leaving behind 10 children and 11 grandchildren.
“We didn’t lose him to some terminal illness or old age. We lost him much before his time came,” sobbed daughter Miranda Christian. “… My father was my rock, and now I don’t have him.”
De Vore, now 42, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder one month after the killing.
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller had tried to increase the charge to premeditated first-degree murder and objected to the guilty plea, saying de Vore didn’t actually admit that he intended to kill Christian — an element of the charge.
Mitchell later reversed his ruling and took back the guilty plea, which led to the case being on hold for 20 months while defense attorney Scott Johnson appealed the decision.
We didn’t lose him to some terminal illness or old age. We lost him much before his time came. My father was my rock, and now I don’t have him.
Miranda Christian, daughter
In July, a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals said the plea should have been accepted and sent the case back for sentencing.
De Vore, who had no felony history, faced a standard sentencing range of 10 years and three months to 18 years and four months.
However, his plea included the aggravating circumstance that Christian’s death had a destructive and foreseeable impact on others. That allowed prosecutors to ask for additional time.
Miller suggested the court take the top of the range, plus 50 percent more, for the 27 1/2 -year prison term.
He said they wanted the longer sentence because while others watched the murder on the surveillance video, Losey actually lived it and and will forever be haunted that she could not save Christian.
Losey said the event is still so vivid for her, and she prays for help to get through every day without collapsing into depression.
Johnson reminded the judge that he had to base his decision not on vindictiveness or vengeance, but on the law. He asked for “something in the 15-year range.”
Johnson explained there had been troubles in the de Vore’s 18-year marriage and said his client moved out of the family home the summer of 2014. At some point, Matthew de Vore’s wife started dating Christian, who then moved into their home, and de Vore felt like he was being excluded from time with his own children.
De Vore started feeling angst and like he was being pushed to his limits, and when he saw Losey and Christian in the plasma center that morning “he acted in the worst possible way he could have, for which he has taken responsibility,” Johnson said.
De Vore had a knife on him because he was homeless, not because he planned to kill Christian that day, the attorney said.