Early Wednesday morning the parents of Mindy Griffin watched the man who confessed to raping and murdering her be executed by lethal injection at the prison in Bonne Terre. The next day they visited her grave to tell her that part of their lives is over, and they hope to move on.
Griffin was 24 when Michael Shane Worthington broke into her apartment and attacked her in 1995. He was caught the next day driving her car and with some of her jewelry, and DNA evidence tied him to the crime.
“I don’t want to have to deal with his name anymore and I don’t want to have to think about him anymore, and I’m hoping that’s what it’s going to be,” says Griffin’s mother, Carol Angelbeck. “I’m tired today and I’m exhausted mentally and physically, but I think we’re going to be able to live a different life now. I’ll always have Mindy in my heart and she’ll always be with us every day but I won’t have to think about Michael Worthington.”
Carol and her husband Jack want to focus now not on seeking justice, as they saw the years leading up to the execution, but on Mindy. When they talk about her, it’s not about a young girl whose life was tragically ended 19 years ago, but as someone whose presence is still felt.
“You’ve got to look at the things that Mindy did in her life,” says Jack.
They say Mindy loved school and was a good student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where she was about to graduate with a degree in finance. Her second love was raising and driving Clydesdales, which her parents still raise at their home in Florida. It is a passion for them that began because of her, and that they continue now in part because it is a connection to her.
“I know that probably sounds silly to people, but it was always Jack, Mindy and me with the horses,” says Carol. “The three of us always went everyplace together with horses. It’s really hard for me to say goodbye to my horses.”
With a smile, she adds, “Even through I’ll be 77 years old and it’s probably time I did that, I don’t care. As long as I can do it, we’ll do it.”
Mindy’s love for horses was what Carol thought of when she finally made the difficult decision to have a headstone placed on Mindy’s grave – something she didn’t do for five years after her death because she couldn’t stand the thought of seeing her daughter’s name on a headstone.
The stone features a laser etching of Mindy driving one of the family’s beloved Clydesdales, Terry.
“That was our very best Clyde gelding,” says Carol. “I don’t think he ever lost a class. Other people would drive Terry and he was always beautiful, but when Mindy drove Terry everybody said there was a connection. He loved that girl.”
Terry died a year before Mindy when he slipped and broke his neck.
“We had buried him on our property,” says Jack. “Carol and I came home and it was a little after dark and … Mindy was down there laying on the grave. It was her horse.”
“I always said God was preparing me for Mindy, because we were all heartbroken when Terry died,” says Carol.
Even with the thoughts of the horses there are sad reminders of what might have been.
“I know if Mindy would have had the chance to get married and have kids she would have brought her kids back home to us,” says Carol. “We would have had the little kids to enjoy the horses with, and that’s been a really hard thing for me.”
The couple is considering whether to return to Missouri, which Carol says she is homesick for, or to stay in Florida, where it is easier to care for their animals without Missouri’s winters.
“We just can’t make any decisions right now. We’ve got to see how things go, how we feel,” says Carol.
She says there is no question, though, that she will continue working with the other victims of murdered children she has developed relationships with.
“I’ve had so many e-mails and phone calls from the victims that I’ve been working with,” says Carol. “I’m not going to leave them. I’m going to help them too. I’ve got to see that they have the same justice, and most of those are death penalty cases, too.”
Following Worthington’s execution, the couple offer their thanks to Governor Jay Nixon, Attorney General Chris Koster and Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi
“I do think that they are following the laws of Missouri and that they are helping victims,” says Carol.