Normally I don’t write about current stories or those recently in the news but every now and then, there is a case that grabs my attention, really shakes me up, and I can’t walk away without talking about it.
And that is exactly what happened with a recent book I read about the 2009 Pinellas Park, Florida, murder of Sarah Rose Ludemann.
Only 18 years old at the time of her death, Sarah died because she loved a boy – a boy who isn’t worthy of giving a second glance, much less risking your life over.
Sarah’s story is terrifying in so many ways. It is a story symbolic of the burdens technology has placed on our youth and how lackadaisical parenting is a plague which has detrimental effects on society as a whole.
Please, if you have young children, teenagers, or plan to have children, spare me a moment of your time to share a story that should forever stay with you.
Especially during the most difficult parenting years.
Sarah Rose Ludemann entered the world on December 7, 1990. She was an only child to parents Charles Ludemann, a cab driver, and Gay Ludemann, a surgical nurse. Charles and Gay were natives of New York but, by the time Sarah came along sixteen years into their marriage, they had moved to Florida to be “warm and safe.”
For most of her childhood years, Sarah had been a little overweight. Although the weight issues never reached anything near morbid obesity or the likes, it didn’t stop other kids from teasing her about it or creating low self-esteem in a growing young girl.
In high school, Sarah was on a fast track to success. Charles and Gay were happy about their daughter’s high school curriculum focusing on a career as a veterinarian. This professional path, to her parents, was proof of her kind and loving nature as well as one that would bring their only child much success.
Then Sarah met Joshua Camacho and everything changed.
Sarah had never had a boyfriend before so when she met Joshua at 16, she fell head over heels in love. Joshua made her feel so special, Sarah told her parents when they questioned her love for a boy who obviously loved no one but himself and dated gullible girls from all over hell and half of Georgia. But being older parents, Charles and Gay had the patience and wisdom to let the relationship, hopefully, run its course and, of course, Sarah was an only child which typically results in more laid-back parenting.
Instead of running its course, however, the teenage love affair grew more intense. So much so that Sarah dropped her studies at her current high school and transferred to Pinellas Park High School to be closer to “her man.” Mr. and Mrs. Ludemann weren’t happy with Sarah’s decision but still clung tightly to hopes Sarah would someday “see the light” about Joshua and things could get back on track.
But Charles and Gay didn’t know about a very big problem. This problem was named Rachel Wade.
On February 27, 1990, Barry and Janet Wade welcomed their second and last child, and only daughter, Rachel Marie Wade, into their hearts and home.
Rachel grew up in an average middle class American home. She was happy and well-behaved. Rachel loved Disney princesses, reading, and drawing.
Something changed when Rachel turned fifteen though. A dark, argumentative side emerged. Rachel was sullen, fought constantly with her parents, especially her mother, about curfews, friends, clothing, or just whatever made her angry in general. And when Rachel didn’t feel things were going her way, she’d runaway.
At first, Barry and Janet would go in search of their daughter and drag her back home. But as the runaway incidents became more frequent, Rachel’s parents resorted to calling the police to look for their daughter. It happened so frequently, the Pinellas Park police officers became very familiar with the Wade family.
Mr. and Mrs. Wade soon came to realize a big part of their daughter’s problem was boys. She was crazy about boys and willing to do anything to make them like her. And once a boy liked Rachel, even if it was just for the easy sex she was providing them, she became obsessed over the guy. As a result, few relationships, if any, ended on good terms for Rachel but as soon as she found another interested boy, the vicious cycle would begin again.
By the early months of 2007, Rachel’s parents had had enough. Rachel had escalated to physically assaulting her Mom and Dad and now when she ran away, she didn’t even bother to lie and say she was with a female friend. No, Rachel, didn’t offer any explanation as to her whereabouts or with whom she had been. When Rachel told her parents she was moving in with a boyfriend, they didn’t try to stop her. She was a month shy of her 17th birthday.
That relationship was just as volatile as the one at her parents home. Several times the Pinellas Park Police was called to the apartment about domestic disputes. Eventually this relationship too ran its course, ending on a sour note, of course, but Rachel wasn’t too upset about it.
Rachel had met Joshua Camacho. And he was just the kind of bad boy Rachel loved to love.
Jay and his younger brother Joshua Camacho were well known among their circle of peers in Pinellas Park. The boys were best known for the number of girlfriends they kept in play at one time, some of which had bore their children, and for depending on these gals for income as they seldom had a job.
Quite frankly, outside of their little group, most girls wouldn’t give these Dominican-Republic born, tattooed, arrogant, and unemployed guys a second glance but, for whatever reason, they were quite a catch among the Pinellas Park clan.
With promises of undying love rolling from their tongues as easily as most people breathe, the boys were modern-day Svengalis. And they each liked to keep their women “in check” with abuse and pitting them against one another. Physical confrontation in public places, hate-filled text exchanges, screaming-match phone calls, and road rage battles were a regular occurrence among “the Camacho girls.”
But Josh, as he was called, one-half of this dynamic duo, would take the game to far. And although he didn’t plunge the knife into anyone’s heart literally, he, in the end, will always have the taint of a lover’s blood on his hands.
Forever. And when you’re 21 years old, forever is a very, very long time.
Rachel was introduced to Josh through her live-in boyfriend and, as soon as they split up, she was keeping Josh’s bed warm. But she wasn’t the only one.
Josh was still sleeping with Erin Slothower, the teenage mother of his infant daughter, and he was seeing Sarah as well.
For a while, things worked out perfectly for Josh between Sarah and Rachel. Sarah had a curfew of 11 p.m. and Rachel, working at Applebee’s, didn’t get off work until most evenings until well after that time, so he was able to juggle them both. And, of course, there was still Erin but that insane relationship was manageable because, even when she caught him with other girls and went verbally psychotic on him in public, she always came back.
A few times, Josh and Rachel called it quits but, like the others, this only seemed to make her want him more and she always returned. The stormy relationship would usually start up again after Rachel left him crazy, rambling messages on his MySpace page about how she was over him, hated him, or had found someone else – or, on a particularly good day, all three.
Sarah and Josh were on-and-off again as well. But unlike Rachel, Sarah was seldom the one to call it quits. Not that she didn’t want to, but she loved Joshua, despite his constant infidelity, and couldn’t bear being away from him for too long.
The status of the relationships between these three seldom mattered, however, and the girls constantly tried to win the title as “the girl” of Josh’s entourage. The way they tried to accomplish this was by “calling out” the other.
One day might consist of a wild game of cat-and-mouse with cars through the streets of Pinellas Park while another might find a flurry of texts and voicemail messages threatening to kick the other’s “f***ing ass,” and a different day would find one of the two driving past the others house and shouting, “Come out and fight me” along with enough four letter words strung together to make a sailor blush.
There were cases of slashed tires, broken car mirrors, sidewalk showdowns of a verbal nature, and any other childish, trashy act that came to the mind of these little brains walking around in adult-sized bodies. But these only drew tears, never blood.
Yet, with hindsight, one should notice Rachel’s threats and taunts were always of a more violent nature than Sarah’s. While Sarah might threaten to pummel Rachel into the ground, in a manner of speaking, Rachel was prone to threats that involved murderous violence with a knife. After Josh and Sarah took a trip to New York and Sarah posted pictures of the getaway on MySpace, Rachel left Sarah a voicemail which said, “Please tell me Sarah why you would be a dumb-a** c**t and put a brand new picture of you and Josh at the beach on your MySpace. Seriously, I told you to watch your f***ing back and not to f***ing chill with him. I’m guaranteeing you that I’m going to f***ing murder you, I’m letting you know that now.”
Whether it was a feeling of foreboding or just a “cover your ass” kind of thing, either way Sarah Ludemann was smart enough to save Rachel’s messages.
And those recordings would one day serve to be the undoing of a smart-mouthed, desperate teenager who would learn the hard way that silence is always golden.
Honey, He Wasn’t Worth It
On April 14, 2009, Sarah Ludemann spent most of her day upset because she found out Joshua was again seeing Rachel. It was an old song and dance, but nonetheless heartbreaking to Sarah. And her despair only deepened when she checked Rachel’s MySpace and saw her rival had updated her status to say, “Lovin’ my boo.” It didn’t name Josh specifically, but Sarah knew well enough to whom Rachel was referring.
She sent Josh several texts speaking her mind about him and Rachel. When those failed to illicit a response from Josh, she sent another saying, “You say you love me but you don’t have the decency to text me back.” After a long stint of silence, Josh responded, “Bring the movies.” Although he hadn’t responded at all to her cries about the love triangle, she melted at this text and went bounding out the door to meet Josh.
Rachel wasn’t working at Applebee’s on this evening and had wanted to spend it in Josh’s bed but he’d brushed her off by saying he had to babysit for his 27-year-old sister Janet Camacho at her place.
Rachel didn’t trust Josh (go figure!) and drove by Janet’s to see for herself. She was outraged when she saw Sarah’s mother’s car parked in the drive. How could her man pick that overweight bitch with a curfew over her! Janet, Janet’s friend, Josh, and Sarah watched as Rachel drove past the house several times. Throughout the evening, Rachel sent wordy texts to Josh asking why he was with Sarah and several times he responded by telling her to go home, claiming he didn’t like her “no more.” Of course, those statements were simply to placate Sarah; he fully intended to “hook up” with Rachel after Sarah went home.
As the hour neared eleven o’clock (Sarah’s curfew hour), Rachel was still driving up and down the street, hurling out dares for Sarah to come out and fight her. Josh and Sarah decided it would be best for Sarah to stay there until Rachel gave up and Sarah sent a text to her parents telling them she would be late. Sarah told them she was finishing up a game instead of worrying them with the truth about Rachel’s obsessive behavior.
It was after midnight when Sarah knew she’d pushed her extended curfew to the limits and decided to leave. It had been a while since anyone had seen Rachel and Janet and her friend asked for a ride to McDonald’s, so Sarah thought she’d be safe.
The stories of what happened next are a jumble of self-serving lies designed to keep unruly kids out of legal trouble, but it goes something like this:
Ashley, a friend of Sarah’s and foe to Rachel, told Sarah that Rachel was at Javier Laboy’s house. Rachel, who put a kitchen knife in her purse earlier in the evening as “protection”, was standing in the street when Sarah came screeching to a halt in front of her car. Sarah, Janet, and Janet’s friend jumped from the van and rushed at Rachel. Somehow the knife made it from Rachel’s purse to her hands and, when the fight began, Rachel stabbed Sarah twice in the chest.
As Sarah lay bleeding in the street, panic erupted. On the phone with 911, Javier ripped off his shirt to try and stop the bleeding. Rachel calmly (or stunned, as she would later claim) walked over to a bench, sat down, and hurled the knife onto the adjoining neighbor’s property.
Josh rushed to the Ludemann’s home and told them Sarah had been stabbed and her father rushed to the scene. But he knew Sarah was gone. And an hour later at the hospital, his fears were confirmed.
Sarah Ludemann was dead, all because she loved a pathetic punk.
Get It Now?
Even after she was arrested and locked behind bar, Rachel still didn’t seem to comprehend the gravity of her situation. Talking with friends and family by phone, Rachel constantly made plans for when she got out. Rachel really believed a jury would see she was only defending herself. What happened to Sarah was Sarah’s fault, not Rachel’s.
Besides there had never been any real consequences for the things she’d done before, why should there be any now?
Oh, but there was… Following a trial by jury, Rachel Wade was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 27 years in prison. If she can behave herself during her incarceration, she will be eligible for parole in 20 when she is 40 years old. If she is released at that time, she will have spent over half of life behind bars.
That’s an awfully hefty price to pay for a boy who wouldn’t know how to keep it in his pants even if given step-by-step instructions with pictures.
So Many Thoughts I Don’t Know Where To Begin
Many of Rachel’s friends don’t believe Rachel got a fair trial. They say the threats of killing someone is just how people their age talk and the jury was too old to understand it was “just talk.”
That has to be the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. No, not everyone of their generation talks that way – only a select few. I know, because I’m a mother to children their age. I can assure you they do not threaten to kill people or race through the streets using a car as intimidation or drive down the street calling for someone to come out and fight. And I can tell you why. If they did, I would, as we say here in the South, “jack their jaws” for them and they wouldn’t breathe fresh air again until the day they could legally move out on their own.
There are so many things I see wrong in this case. Just to name a few:
- Rachel’s parents knewtheir daughter had a problem. Whether it be depression, low self-esteem, or whatever, they didn’t seek any help for her. Oh, they said they “might” reach that point but they never did. The Wades never even gave Rachel a small taste of consequence (sorry, with a child this out of control, “grounding” doesn’t qualify as real attempt at discipline) by filing a juvenile runaway petition the Courts. When she insisted on living with a boyfriend, they gave in and hoped for the best.
Look, I know you can’t make a horse drink but remember, you sure can walk him to the water! And nobody was walking this child. Nobody.
- I don’t fault Sarah Ludemann’s parents for not battling their daughter on the issue of dating Joshua. I understand their line of reasoning, but I do fault them for allowing an underage girl to decide to drop her plans for her future and change her high school – all for a boy. But I’m not going to say much more because I’m sure if they had it to do over again, things would be much, much different.
- No one was monitoring these kids’ internet or cell phone activities. Granted, Rachel’s parents had let her go so they were in no position, but the others involved (except for the mid-to-late 20-somethings who were way too old to be participating in this drama) were allowed to text and surf with no supervision. If someone, anyone, had been monitoring the goings-on of these kids they would have seen the danger lurking on the horizon.
And don’t preach to me about kids being entitled to privacy. Privacy does nothing for Sarah Ludemann, does it? As long as my children live in my home and use my internet and eat my food…you get the picture…they will be monitored. If I ever think I’m being overly strict, I’ll think of 18-year-old Sarah.
- The lackadaisical parenting, especially fathering, is abundant in this case. Both boys and girls need strong, firm-handed father figures but especially girls as they are, like it or not, the weaker of the sexes both physically and emotionally (not always, but most often) during these developmental teen years. Strong mothers are awesome but strong daddies keep the Joshua Camachos away; far, far away since they always avoid fathers who will see through their sniveling, manipulative, and pathetic ways.
There are so many more things I wish to say here, but I think I’ve said enough already. I’ll end by saying this: It is a cruel world we live in full of bullies and predators. It is very, very important that we be strong parents who clearly define our roles with our children. They have enough friends, they need parents. And part of parenting is being involved in every. single. aspect. of their lives – whether they like it or not.
As a matter of fact, Frank Barone of Everybody Loves Raymond said it best when he said, “If your kids don’t hate you, you’ve failed as parents.”
Please, also remember, children live what we teach them but mostly by what we show them. So let your children see kindness is a strength not a weakness; respect is earned not forced; hate will consume you, love will fulfill you; and actions have consequences.
For information on how you can affordably monitor your children’s internet and texts, visit Safe Eyes or AVG. And to read an absolutely fantastic book on the importance of a father’s role in his daughter’s life, I strongly recommend Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker.