It is hard to believe that March 10, 2015 is the five year anniversary of my not guilty verdict. It is so hard to look back and fathom what that time was like. First, in 2007, I was arrested for a murder I didn’t commit. Then I waited three long years, with an ankle bracelet on, for the trial to start.
Many people don’t know that the trial was actually supposed to begin a week earlier. There was a last minute delay the morning of the trial. So home I went to wait yet another week for the start. The trial was the hardest two weeks of my life–even looking at my abuse that I suffered from, this was harder. It was me, who tried to protect my mom, being charged with her murder.
I am so grateful for my legal team and the hard work they did on my case. I am even more grateful for the jury who listened to the evidence and found me not guilty.
After that trial, I started therapy. I am still in therapy, and for me it has been life saving. I have learned to face my past and am starting to allow myself to enjoy life again, like I did so many years ago, in the fifteen years after my severely abusive father “disappeared” and before my mom was killed. I won’t talk much about therapy because it is still so personal for me.
However, I will share that moving past the trial has been very hard. It is amazing how difficult it is to get your life back on track. I found myself shortly after the trial looking for a job because the company I worked for changed owners and all the employees were replaced. I applied lots of places–many of them never responded–the ones that did would Google my name and what showed up was a murder arrest. They looked no further and ended the interview. Very few ever looked past the arrest.
Those who did hire me, in the beginning, treated me poorly and expected me to tolerate it because of my record. I moved on, knowing that I deserved better. Fast forward to now, I have had the same job for a year and all is well. I am grateful for that.
Last year, I finally got my arrest record sealed and even that involved a small court battle. The District Attorney felt that, because of my blogs and my book, that I didn’t warrant it. My attorney proved otherwise. It was a joyous day for me because now if I ever job hunt again, my arrest won’t show up. That sure opens up my opportunities. Anyone who thinks that a not guilty verdict immediately gives you your life back is very mistaken. You have to advocate for yourself.
I hope that those who don’t believe in our legal system take it from me that working in that system and sitting on a jury are difficult. We all should support those who sit in those seats, the lawyers who work on both sides, and the judges who control the proceedings because without all of them doing their job maybe I would be serving life in prison for something I didn’t do.
Stacey M. Kananen
Advocate, Author, Abuse survivor
Co-author of the best-selling book Fear of Our Father—a true story of abuse, murder and family ties,
Stacey Kananen’s father violently and sexually abused his entire family. He vanished in 1988 and 15 years later his wife went missing. Stacey’s brother had killed both parents. Stacey cooperated as a witness until he told police that she helped him with the crimes. She was arrested and her trial, which aired on CNN’s In Session, ended with a not guilty verdict after her attorney proved that she had been railroaded.
Now that her personal life is no longer private, Stacey is using her story to make waves. She and co-author Lisa Bonnice have written her life story, Fear of Our Father, published by Berkley Books in 2013. The book immediately shot to the top of Amazon’s various best-seller lists.
Fear of Our Father – Berkley Books, 2013
Interview on the BBC World Service’s program Outlook
Emmy-nominated BBC Documentary: America’s Child Death Shame
Investigation Discovery series Catch My Killer — episode title “The Dearly Departed”
Tampa Bay Times article: Hudson woman finds new life after years of abuse, allegations of murder
Radio interview: On The Grid with Debbie Barth