Stacey’s story

Stacey M. Kananen

Stacey Kananen is the survivor of a horrific life of child abuse and murder. Both parents were killed by her brother, and when Stacey agreed to testify against him, he turned on her and accused her of helping him with his crimes. On trial for her life in 2010, in a trial nationally televised by CNN’s In Session, Stacey was defended by Diana Tennis, an Orlando attorney who is famous, in her own right, for her role as legal analyst on Greta Van Susteren’s FOX News show discussing high profile clients like Casey Anthony.

After being found not guilty, Stacey began therapy for the first time in her life. She had decided that it was time for her recovery to begin. Her therapist, amazed by how mentally healthy and balanced Stacey was—in spite of her intense story—encouraged her to write a book in order to help those who are not in such a strong state of mind and balance.

Reluctant at first, due to the extremely sensitive and private nature of her story and her childhood training of never telling what happened at home, Stacey has discovered an inner strength and wisdom that she never realized was keeping her alive and sane. In the tradition of survivors who courageously struggle to not be brought down, Stacey has decided to share her story in the hope of giving encouragement to those who find themselves in need of a life rope. She asked author Lisa Bonnice to help her write Fear of Our Father: a true story of abuse, murder and family ties. (Berkley Books, April 2013)

In 2011, Stacey was invited to Washington D.C. to be interviewed by BBC reporter Natalia Antelava, for her powerful documentary, America’s Child Death Shame. That documentary was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2012.

Stacey intends to donate a large portion of any proceeds she might receive from sales of her story to helping develop the Spectrum of Light Transformation Center. It is her hope to cross-promote her book, Fear of Our Father, with an agency such as this, in an effort to raise money and awareness, and to eventually create a safe haven—a “kids’ camp” of sorts—for abused kids and their families to get the help they need.

Stacey Kananen is vitally interested in creating change in the social structure of how child abuse is handled in the court system. Her long term goals include the creation of the Marilyn Kananen Foundation, in honor of her mother who would be alive today if not for domestic violence and abuse.

Stacey’s defense attorney, Diana Tennis, wrote the following about the case:

Stacey and Diana

While every case is different, and nothing is more unpredictable than a jury trial, some trials highlight the variety of skills needed in this business. My murder case that was recently in the media is one of those cases. My client is a woman accused of killing her mother and burying her body in the back yard. She was also accused of killing her father twenty years ago and burying him under her mother’s home. 

She was out on bond after two long hearings, but each of those two murder charges would carry a mandatory life without parole sentence if she was convicted. After a year and a half and a demand for speedy trial, the charge relating to her father was dropped.

The case remaining had a lot more evidence for the state; including evidence of a suicide attempt and notes, her brother claiming she helped him commit the murder, and proof that she ended up with some of her missing mother’s money.

There were issues of forensics and testing that was not done, discrepancies in prior testimony and bitterly fought arguments over handwriting comparison testimony.

The two week trial was a pressure cooker. My client’s sister was also testifying against her; there was a horrible history of child abuse in the family and lots of tears. In Session / truTV was filming and my client’s entire community turned out to support her watching the trial minute to minute. I can honestly say I have never been so stressed out waiting for a jury to come back with a verdict.

At 10:45pm on a Friday night, after the longest 3 1/2 hours ever, the jury came back with a Not Guilty verdict. There were tears of joy from all of us on the left hand side of the Courtroom, and we had a party in the parking lot while my client’s ankle monitor was removed. I woke up Saturday to blue skies, and thought about how it would feel to be waking up for the first time in years without fearing your freedom would be lost forever. I am relieved and I am grateful I got to share this experience with a client I think so highly of.

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