Interviewer: Tell us a little about yourself Candy?
Candy: My name is Candy Rena. I was born in Dallas, Texas, but have been in Arizona for the last few years. I am currently self-employed and still trying to get my life together. I am born from a Russian immigrant family and have lived through a lot of heavy things in my short life, which is why I thought this interview might be a good thing for me to do. I always try to share my story with other people, because I think it helps me and them. I grew up in Texas, but the first memory in my life is of my mom.
Interviewer: What do you remember about your mother?
Candy: My mother was named Sasha. She was an only child just like me. We are both re haired, pale skinned Russian women. She was born in Dallas, Texas just after her father came to the United States. The pictures I have seen of her are beautiful, but most of my memories are foggy. I was so young then. But I do remember her face- it was like a fair maiden, big blue eyes like mine, pointy nose, and ears that were almost pointed. She could have been a fairy queen. That’s mostly what I remember of how she looked but I also remember her singing to me. Songs in Russian. I don’t really speak it but I can understand the Russian language whenever I hear it, thanks to my mother.
Interviewer: Where is your mother now?
Candy: She is dead and has been since I was three years old.
Interviewer: How did your mother die?
Candy: She was murdered outside a small convenience store in Dallas. We were both there together. I was in a stroller and she and I had gone to the store to buy milk and food. She took me with her most places. I remember going shopping with her earlier that day. There were people in the store with guns, holding up the store or something like that. Either way the store was open and a man was pointing a gun at my mom. Then he shot my mother as I was sitting in my stroller next to my mom with other people in the store.
Interviewer: Is that what you have been told about what happened?
Candy: No, I remember it. I saw her get shot. It was so loud, it scared me bad.
Interviewer: How could you possibly remember such a thing? You were only three years old.
Candy: Oh yes I do remember it. In fact, I was the only person found alive at the scene where she was murdered. I have been told that the storeowner, my mother and another person were killed at the scene. I don’t remember those details though. I just remember seeing the shooter, then my mother falling to the floor in front of me. The local police department investigators had to wait two more years until I was old enough to give a verbal statement about what I saw. It is on record in the Dallas City case files. At five I became the only eye witness to my mother’s murder.
Interviewer: Were you able to give a workable statement to the police at that age?
Candy: Most people don’t realize how much a baby or a toddler is aware of but most children do not see something like a murder. I remember it, probably because it was happening to my mom. I remember trying to say ‘stop’ and crying ‘no mama’, but the memories are getting harder to picture as I get older.
Interviewer: Did the police ever arrest anyone for the murder?
Candy: No. I think there were suspects but nobody ever went to jail. It has been a cold case for many years.
Interviewer: Do you know if your mother died immediately?
Candy: I remember her trying to reach up to me with one hand after her shooter walked out of the store. So she probably lived for a minute or two but I can’t be sure. I know she was facing me, I remember staring at her open eyes and just crying for so long. I used dream about that moment when I was younger all the time.
Interviewer: How old are you today?
Candy: I am 23 years old, 24 next month.
Interviewer: Do you still dream about your mother.
Candy: No. I hardly remember any dreams these days, but that’s a good thing. I think the last time I dreamed of my mom I was as a teenager. I was probably 12 or 13.
Interviewer: How did your life change after your mother was murdered?
Candy: After my mom died, I went to live with her parents. My grandmother and my grandfather were given full custody of me. There really wasn’t anybody else that wanted me. So I went to live with them right after mom died.
Interviewer: Where was your father or his family?
Candy: My father was never in my life. I was told that he went to prison in Texas for the murder of a girl but I don’t know much about it. I don’t think he had any living relatives and nobody talked much about him. My grandmother said he was a drunk but she wasn’t the best judge of anything.
Interviewer: What was life like living with your grandparents?
Candy: Not good. Both my grandparents were bad people but in different ways.
Interviewer: What do you mean?
Candy: I mean they were bad people, the worst kind. My grandmother was real religious, did work for the church, volunteered, went every Sunday, but then would gamble all the rent money at the bingo hall and drink all night after. Grandma drank whiskey, got drunk, and got mean. She would blackout drunk. Then she’d get violent, she would hit me a lot.
Interviewer: What about your grandfather?
Candy: My grandfather worked in the Sheriff’s department and was part of the good old boys club for most of his life, but his father had been in the Russian mob. So Grandpa wasn’t a good cop. He did all kinds of bad things, too many to talk about. What he did to me always went on while Grandma was at church. He took advantage of me, sexually mostly. He didn’t hit me, but he made me do everything he wanted. I believe he did the same to my mom, when she was a girl.
Interviewer: Are they still alive?
Candy: My grandmother still lives in Dallas, my grandfather died in prison.
Interviewer: Why was he sent to prison?
Candy: He got caught doing stuff he did to me, except with other young girls. He got fired from the Sheriff’s department and sent to prison with multiple charges, he would have served more than a life sentence for all of them.
Interviewer: How long did you live with your grandparents?
Candy: Until I was 15, then I ran away from home. I ran to Arizona and have stayed here ever since but lived on the streets for about four years. Then I got pregnant, so I started making a life for myself in Phoenix.
Interviewer: So you have a child now?
Candy: No, I gave her up for adoption. I named her Cassidy. But I wanted her to have a better start and I wasn’t ready to support us both. I had enough hard times keeping a job, paying the bills, and I know I did the right thing. Probably for both of us.
Interviewer: Now that you are an adult, how is life for you?
Candy: I’m just learning to be happy. Mostly happy with what I have and living one step at a time. My life is far from perfect, but at least I have one. That’s kinda my words to live by.