SALT LAKE CITY — Traci Lee Vaillancourt, the former girlfriend of the man who shot and killed Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson, says she forgives him for shooting her in the back, but it's not her place to forgive him for murdering the officer.
During her first public interview, Vaillancourt called her longtime romantic relationship with Timothy Troy Walker "a mess." She said the two had been a couple since they were 12 years old and they have a 6-year-old child together, Sophie, who now lives with Walker’s mother.
From the Salt Lake County Jail, Vaillancourt, 35, read a letter that she wrote to Walker.
“Troy, my hopes in saying these things to you is that you and I may move through this treacherous journey we are both about to embark on with a bit of peace and hopefully some closure.
“Unfortunately, you are the only one that knows what was going through your head that awful September night,” she wrote. “We may never know why you did what you did. For me, I've stopped asking why and just accepted it, because even if I knew, it doesn't excuse it. It doesn't lessen the hurt. It doesn't make any sense."
She knows nothing will be the same for so many people because of her ex-boyfriend's actions.
“A mother and father lost a son doing what he loved. A young woman lost her husband. And a little boy must now grow up without his father. Draper City also lost one of its finest men, and you almost managed to take away your youngest daughter’s, Sophie’s mom and dad.”
She also addresses Johnson's parents in the letter, telling them their son was respected and she hopes they realize the mark his life left on others and still does.
“Troy, never in my wildest dreams could I have ever imaged us in this predicament,” she continues. “We’ve had our ups and downs like any couple. However, we’ve been through a lot together: my terminal illness, Sophie, my strokes, now this. And you’ve been right by my side through it all. But I wouldn’t wish our situation on my worst enemy.”
The two met when they were 12 and have been inseparable since, she said. They were blessed with their daughter Sophie. She admitted that she still loves Walker and tells him in her letter that he is in her thoughts and prayers. She also said she forgives him for all things he did to her.
“I forgive you for seeing me as weak prey and taking advantage of my situation when I was recovering from my strokes, as oppose to seeing me as someone who is recovering from a traumatic event and fighting for their life.
“I forgive you for the years of physical, mental and emotional abuse. I forgive you for putting the bullet in my back that almost took my life."
But in the letter, Vaillancourt also said she can only forgive him for the things he did to her, but said it's not her role to forgive Walker for shooting Johnson.
Walker, a known drug user, had been using drugs the night before the killing. Vaillancourt said the couple had spent all their money on pain medication. She said her addiction to prescription drugs began when she was diagnosed with a terminal blood disorder called hereditary angioedema, an illness that causes her body to swell.
Over the last 10 months while behind bars, Vaillancourt said she has stopped using pain medications to manage her symptoms. She now plans to live a new life.
What has happened in her life has taught her a lot about herself. She wrote, “I’ve learned that I am stronger than I thought I was, I deserve more than I’ve settled for, and I’m still worth it. No longer will I play the victim role, it doesn’t suit me. I’m stronger now without you, but especially because of you.”
Vaillancourt said she is angry about the "mess" Walker left for her to clean up if and when she gets out of jail. She also doesn’t know what will happen with her daughter. She said Walker’s mother won’t take her calls or answer her letters. She doesn’t know what Sophie has been told about what is going on with her parents.
“I’m terrified, whether she doesn’t want me back. I just can’t let that little girl down,” she said. “She’s already been through so much, and I’m sure she’s confused.”
She ends her letter to Walker with: “I’m so scared Troy. You promised we would always be together. I love you.”
During her interview, she said she isn’t sure if she wants to speak with Walker in person.
“I don’t want to know why anymore. That would be the only reason that I would want to talk with him. That’s no longer an issue. I really don’t want anything to do with him anymore. I’m kind of over it,” she said.
But Vaillancourt does say Walker will always be a part of her life because they have a daughter and that he will never go away — even though he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Vaillancourt offered her apologies to Johnson's family but said she knows it won't be enough.
"I pray for them every night," she said.
She described Walker as very smart and very funny, but admits their relationship was hard to describe.
“Never in a million years would I have ever, I never would have ever imagined him doing something like this — ever,” she said.
On Tuesday, Walker pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, for killing Johnson, and attempted murder, a first-degree felony, for shooting Vaillancourt; and three counts of felony discharge of a firearm and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, all third-degree felonies. The sentences for the other counts were ordered to run consecutively.
Vaillancourt, meanwhile, is facing two counts of obstruction of justice for her role in the case. Her next court hearing is scheduled for July 15.
Johnson was just 10 minutes away from finishing his graveyard shift on Sept. 1 when he stopped to assist a vehicle that appeared to have been involved in a crash near 13200 S. Fort St.
Walker ambushed Johnson and shot him through the open passenger window before the sergeant had time to react. Walker continued to shoot as the officer attempted to drive away. Walker then shot Vaillancourt in the back before turning the gun on himself.
Contributing: Devon Dolan