Deseret Morning News readers have had more than a passing interest in Shelby Andrews. A good many of them sent contributions in care of this newspaper to help purchase a headstone for the 10-year-old child, killed in August 2006 at the hands of her father and stepmother.
Shelby endured unspeakable abuse. At times she was beaten, kicked and forced to eat her own feces, in her father and stepmother's attempts to "discipline" her. The day Shelby died, she was forced into a closet at her home in Syracuse, Davis County. She called out, saying she could not breathe and was vomiting. Her father and stepmother, Ryan and Angela Andrews, reportedly left the room to watch television. When they returned to open the closet door, Shelby's lifeless body fell to the floor.
Both Ryan Andrews and Angela Andrews have been sentenced to 15 years to life for killing Shelby. At Angela Andrews' sentencing hearing on Monday, 2nd District Judge Michael Allphin recommended that the state parole board never release her from prison.
Although the criminal justice system's role in prosecuting the couple is now concluded, Shelby's family is left with the horror of what Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings described Monday as a "ferocious onslaught" of abuse. Other children who were in the home continue to be terrorized by what they witnessed.
The larger community is left to wonder if there are other Shelbys out there and if someone will be willing to intervene on their behalf. Are there other parents or step-parents who need help with parenting or just coping? Do they know they can call one of 10 Family Support Centers in the state? Do they know they also can call the Division of Child and Family Services for assistance?
If Shelby's father and stepmother had sought the assistance of friends, family or professionals, the outcome may have been drastically different. Only Ryan and Angela Andrews know why they didn't seek help. Most likely, they did not want Shelby's ongoing abuse to become known to authorities
The Andrews have claimed that the girl was difficult to manage; that she acted out-of-control at times. Yet Rawlings said the events of the day leading to Shelby's slaying were "nothing normal parents couldn't handle or deal with."
Judge Allphin's recommendation that Angela Andrews remain in prison for life was spot on. She must not be in a position where she can abuse another human being, let alone a child. She deserves a lifetime behind bars to contemplate the cruelty she inflicted upon a 10-year-old girl.
Ryan Andrews should also serve out his prison term. He has to live with the knowledge that he didn't intervene when his own daughter was abused. He, instead, participated.
Juxtapose that to the outpouring of love Shelby received from people who were so moved by press accounts of her tortured life that they essentially purchased a headstone for her grave. In death, perfect strangers expressed more concern than the father and stepmother who were supposed to love her and protect her. How very tragic.