This story was published in The Modesto Bee on Feb. 10, 1997
If they say you're obsessed, don't listen.
When they tell you to let things rest, don't abide.
If they say you can't change things, keep believing.
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"Don't take notice of what anybody says," said Jacque MacDonald, the Merced woman whose nearly nine-year quest to help solve her daughter's brutal murder culminated in an arrest last month. "I was just an ordinary woman, and I led an ordinary life."
But when a knife-wielding killer murdered her daughter in March 1988 in her north Modesto home, MacDonald embarked on a mission.
"I looked at that little box at the cemetery, and that's when it hit me," MacDonald said Friday.
"I remember looking at the sky and thinking, "What the hell am I going to do for the rest of my life?' "
Coping with death isn't easy. Coping with murder, MacDonald said, is hell. Especially when no one knew who killed 32-year-old Deborah Ann Whitlock while her 3-year-old daughter slept in a neighboring room.
MacDonald knew there never could be peace for her or her daughter until the mystery was solved, the killer brought to justice. So she started making calls.
"I was just a mother on a mission. This was my dedication in life -- to keep my daughter's name and face out in the public eye. ... I would walk down the street looking at ads and think, "Where can I stick Debi's face.' "
She posted it on grocery carts and city buses, printing it on Boy Scout fliers and papers, even a downtown billboard -- pleading for anyone with information to come forward.
It took six years, she said, to get a segment on the television program "Unsolved Mysteries."
"I just knew somebody knew (something)," she said, "and one day they would come forward."
And authorities say that's what happened.
Scott Avery Fizzell is accused of raping and murdering Whit-lock in her Dalton Way home. A former acquaintance of the accused killer only recently told police that Fizzell confided in him about the crime -- revealing details never made public.
In fact, MacDonald only learned in January that her daughter had been raped in the attack. The fact came out during the news conference announcing Fizzell's arrest.
"I'm sitting there listening to the charges and they said rape, and I said, "Who did he rape?' "
"I'm glad they didn't tell me at the time," MacDonald said, crediting the Police Department's "extremely brilliant detective work" for Fizzell's arrest.
Now a member of a victims rights group called Citizens Against Homicide, MacDonald hosts a televised program called "Victim's Voice" on Assyrian Channel 23 in Modesto.
She has become a victim's rights advocate, giving credit to folks like Mark Klaas, Fred Goldman, Mike Reynolds -- all parents who have lost their children to murder and sought justice in the public eye.
"It wasn't an obsession with me. It was a dedication," MacDonald said recently, hoping her tragic story might somehow provide inspiration to other victims.
"It proves that if you keep it out, there somebody will listen."
To commemorate her bittersweet victory, MacDonald on Thursday visited her daughter's grave, bringing hearts and ribbons and a message.
I said, "We did it, kid. And you can rest in peace."