Editor's note: The following letter was written by Tai-Ling Gigliotti to Circuit Judge Jack Springstead on the eve of her sentencing on child abuse charges. The name of the victim in this case, her 17-year-old nephew, is being withheld because of the nature of the offenses.
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Dear Judge Springstead
Ever since (my nephew) came into my life, my life has been for (my nephew) and about (my nephew).
We did everything together, even though my health was very poor, even back then. With my blood pressure over 190 and my blood sugar at times over 230, my vision was impaired, especially at night. (My nephew) would be the navigator and read me all the road signs and the maps while I was driving. I was scared for (my nephew) with the thought of what would happen to him if I could no longer be there for him. I started to train him in all of the skills that he would need to live as an independent person in both practical and spiritual life. We started his clarinet lessons, beginning with fifteen minute sessions, progressing to thirty minutes, then one hour or longer. Finally he became the first chair of the Powell Middle School band.
Our move to Florida afforded us the opportunity to swim together. We began with (my nephew) using a flotation device and progressed to lap swimming, including twenty laps at high speed per day. This training prepared him to join the Springstead High School swim team.
We cooked together. He is a proficient cook. We fished together and he is able to fish from shore or from a boat. We adopted sick animals (ten cats and two dogs) in order that he might learn compassion and ease his pain from not having his biological parents in his life. We have so many good memories. He knows that there is much love that we can give and receive through the relationship formed by adoption.
And yet, I was blind to the fact that (my nephew)'s needs are far beyond what I could provide. In the attempt to protect (my nephew's) reputation and spotless record, when (my nephew) stole repeatedly, lied extensively, and acted out his rage in retaliation to harm someone else's children and property, I did not take the steps to get help. I thought I was giving him another chance to redeem himself, but really I was sending him to the next level. I have failed as a parent, I became an enabler.
As a result, we are here in front of you, our family tragedy sensationalized by the press. My mother had to leave my ailing father to witness her own blood turning on his own family, her daughter in shackles, her grandson in a quandary about his future.
My life has always been about producing something positive and beautiful. How could this tragedy be? I am broken. I am turning to you, Your Honor, for your mercy and guidance. With the deepest sorrow and pain, I am hoping that with your help (my nephew) will be able to find a safe passage to enter adulthood and that my family will be able to heal with God's blessing.
Most respectfully yours,