The thing about your children is that they will always be your children.
Even when they're 23 years old and have children of their own.
Kellie Jo Parry was one of those children. The 23-year-old Nevada native was murdered last month, shot in the back with a .50-caliber handgun.
Investigators say Kellie was murdered by an ex-boyfriend named Brandon Allan. They say he shot her in the back because he didn't want to lose her. Brandon Allan sits in a Washoe County Jail today awaiting a December preliminary hearing on murder charges.
Kellie's mom, meanwhile, sat in my office Monday afternoon missing her baby girl.
"She was a good girl," said Kellie's mother, Gayle Farley, a well-known Carson City resident and friend of mine. "She was smart and the kind of girl who would light up a room."
Kellie had packed a lot of living in just 23 years. She got married, had a son named Dylan, worked and attended UNR, majoring in interior design.
And her life was not without the usual problems.
"She was balancing a lot of things in her life," said her mother. "She finished her first year at UNR last June and she was working at Johnny Rocket's, a hamburger place at the Hilton in Reno, and she was taking care of her 3-year-old son."
The balls Kellie was juggling started hitting the floor at the beginning of summer. She and her husband, Chris, split up and her old boyfriend Brandon started calling.
Brandon Allan was Kellie's first love, but he had allegedly established quite a reputation for himself by the time he and Kellie were reunited.
In July 1995, for example, Brandon Allan pleaded guilty to charges that he pointed a gun at three women as they were driving down South Virginia Street in Reno. His six-month jail sentence was suspended on the condition that he complete 100 hours of community service and pay a $265 fine.
In 1997 he allegedly held a gun to his ex-wife's head and said he was going to kill her. Gayle is still tracking down the court documents on that case because she says he got off after saying he really didn't mean it.
In other words, Brandon Allan had problems with women.
According to her mother, Kellie started spending most of her time at Brandon's Sun Valley home. "She and Chris split up, but were still friends," said Gayle. "She started hanging around with a different crowd of people and started doing drugs. We were close up until the last few months of her life."
Kellie's son Dylan would stay with his father, or with Gayle and her husband, Steve. Kellie quit her job at Johnny Rocket's and went to work at a dance club in Reno.
On Oct. 22 Kellie may have had enough of Brandon and his ways. Gayle hasn't seen the official police report yet, but she believes her daughter was finally coming around when she was gunned down. "Police told us she was leaving him because of his drug use and I want to believe she was coming home," said Gayle.
"I talked to her two hours before and she sounded disgusted," Gayle added. "She said she was getting ready to go to work and that she was working double shifts. I told her to take care of herself."
That was the last thing Gayle said to her daughter. "Take care of yourself." You spend 18 years or so taking care of your children and before you know it all you can do is hope they're strong enough to take care of themselves.
Kellie was strong for 23 years old, but even she couldn't take care of herself well enough to stop the .50-caliber bullet that ripped through her back as she tried to walk out of Brandon Allan's home.
Today her mother wonders why no one was watching Kellie's back.
"From what I can determine, this guy (Brandon) should have been in jail," said Gayle. "They all say he would have been out by now even if he had been sent to jail, but maybe a taste of jail time would have taught him something."
Gayle will not rest until she finds out how Brandon Allan avoided jail time in spite of what she says are numerous brushes with the law. She knows how the wheels of justice can grind on the victims' families as "due process" takes its course, but she's determined to see it through to the end.
Meanwhile, the picture of her baby girl's broken body will never be far from Gayle's thoughts. "He blew out the whole middle of her body," she cried. "That was my little girl."
Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.