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Garden honors lives lost to violence

Time heals all wounds, or at least that is what people tell Susan Taynor. A year after her daughter’s murder, she knows she’s still broken.

“I don’t know how I would feel if they hadn’t been caught because so many families don’t get that,” Taynor said as she wiped away tears with a tissue. “It’s a journey. It really is. You have your good and your bad days.”

The build-up of emotion in anticipation of today, the one-year anniversary of the day her daughter Jessica Rae Sacco was stabbed, suffocated and dismembered inside her Urbana apartment, was unbearable.

But even that didn’t compare to the holidays, when Taynor said she’d sometimes find herself forgetting her daughter was gone.

“I was excited about this shirt I found (for Christmas) and was like, ‘Oh, she’ll love this,’” Taynor recalled. “Got it to the cashier and realized she won’t be receiving this gift.”

“Those are the hard moments.”

The man accused of her murder, Matthew Puccio, was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 42 years. Four friends who helped Puccio dismember her body and hide the evidence — Kandis Forney, Andrew Forney, Sharon Cook and Christopher Wright — are also in prison.

Taynor said that brings some closure, but doesn’t ease the pain.

“The first hardest day of a parent’s life is the phone call when you find out your child was murdered,” she said. “The second hardest day of your life is when the realization hits and you realize they’re never coming home.”

Taynor’s faith helps guide her. She keeps a photo of Sacco — looking young and sassy in her favorite glasses — in a frame with a cross on it. It’s a reminder “she’s in a better place,” she said.

Rather than a traditional grave site, Sacco’s family constructed a memorial garden for her off of Ohio 560 outside Urbana. A stone bird bath holds her ashes. Although the ground is hard and frozen now, Taynor knows soon the flowers will bloom.

The plantings have brought her comfort, which is why she will open the site Memorial Day weekend to all families who’ve lost someone to violence. People can plant their own flowers and trees, and Taynor will provide a plaque to memorialize their loved one.

It’s her hope the garden will bring a sense of connection and closure as well as beauty in the face of heart-breaking tragedy.

“We want to take the ugliness out of it,” she said. “And you never want their legacy to die out. You always want to keep their memory going.”

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