Violet Crippen Hachey wants her son’s violent and senseless death to mean something.
A plaque on a bench in east Modesto’s Creekwood Park reads: “Because he forever lives in our hearts, we never say goodbye to Tylor Crippen.”
There’s an Oklahoma redbud tree planted in his memory in the same park, where he was stabbed to death; three suspected gang members are charged with attacking him to steal his cell phone.
Taylor Koplen, 18; Jacob Segura, 19; and Juan Garcia, 16, are charged with murdering Tylor, plus robbery and two counts of attempted robbery, along with enhancements of committing the crimes for the benefit of the Norteño street gang. They are scheduled to go to trial in mid-September.
What did Tylor do to incur their wrath? Absolutely nothing. He simply went for a walk with his girlfriend in the park the evening of Jan. 29, 2013, and paid for it with his life.
And so a mother mourns, searching for ways to ease her pain. A bench memorial. A tree. But she also knows that as time fades, so do memories. Tylor was just 18 when he died. His case didn’t draw the attention of the national media. It didn’t make him a household name, as it did Laci Peterson a little more than 10 years earlier.
Will anyone remember Tylor, the person? Will anyone understand why the tree stands tall and whom it honors?
Hachey’s mission is to help them do so. Shortly after his death, she created the Tylor Crippen Memorial Scholarship Fund. The scholarships will help local students pay for books and supplies as they study to become registered nurses. Tylor attended Modesto Junior College with plans to become a nurse.
“Tylor had just bought his books for the (spring 2013) semester,” his mother said. “They’re still in his room where he left them that night.”
Hachey, her husband and son live in Tracy. She works as a senior coordinator at Ralston Tower in Modesto. Tylor’s father, Carlos Serrano, lives in Modesto and is part of the fundraising effort as well. He adopted Tylor when he and Hachey were together, she said, and Tylor lived with him in Modesto.
The fund is administrated by the Stanislaus Community Foundation, but Hachey and others raise the money for it. They were able to give the first scholarship less than four months after Tylor’s death, with Johansen High School senior Marivel Torres receiving the $500 award during a ceremony in Modesto.
“It was very emotional,” Hachey said. “My husband (Steve Hachey) got up to give a little speech, to present the award to her, and halfway through, he broke down,” Violet Hachey said. “Someone from our table got up and finished for him.”
Three more students – Zoe Miller, Gethsemani Espara and Alondra Palomino – will receive $500 each in May. The fund also did well enough that it could donate $150 to the Modesto Police Department’s canine unit, $100 to Johansen High PALS, $300 to the Johansen choir and $250 to Wags & Whiskers Animal Rescue.
“She’s putting all of her heart and energy into doing good for the community,” said Doris Daniel, Stanislaus Community Foundation’s controller.
Yet the joy of helping a student in Tylor’s memory is difficult for her, for several reasons. “Fundraising is not my thing,” she admits. “I don’t like going out and essentially begging for money. It’s something I have to do for Tylor so I can keep him alive.”
And because Tylor’s murder case has drawn only local coverage, Hachey finds herself having to explain to potential donors who he was, his dreams and – this is the hard part – how he died.
“I do,” she said. “I have a little flier that tells briefly about Tylor’s life. But every time I meet someone, I have to explain who Tylor was. It’s very difficult. I can talk about it (while asking for a donation). But afterward, I break down.”
It will be even more difficult when the trial of the three accused of killing and robbing him begins a little more than five months from now.
“They robbed him of his life and his future,” she said.
A young man who once had his dreams and a future is now remembered with a tree, a bench and a scholarship fund.
Hachey will do whatever it takes to honor her son’s memory. It’s perhaps the only way she can ease her own.