I literally spent 24/7 with her for the first three months of her life. Her father worked long hours day and night, and my sister returned to college classes. I was mostly free to be Jackie's sitter when she was an infant to toddler, and in to her early years. My joy was hugging, laughing, protecting, conversing, and buying gifts for holidays. I did this for all of the kids, but I do admit my heart was deeply bonded to Jackie. My sister, her mother, kindly said to me, that Jackie was like a daughter to me. She was as close as I ever got.
Just a couple of months before Jackie's murder, we talked online about how I put her on her first real horse... And that year at Christmas I bought a large rocking horse called Black Beauty for her to ride. Those memories gave her great joy, and I sensed her delightful personality yet again.
I had not been feeling well a few months before her death and decided to send to her, and her siblings all the photos, drawings and letters that were written and sent to me over the years when they were youngsters. Jackie was thrilled to see these items again, and perhaps surprised I kept them for all of these years. She wrote to me: You can help me recall some of my childhood times for me. Jackie at age 31, soon to be 32, was reconnecting with this aging aunt. I felt pleased that the little girl I knew so well, was reaching out to me as an adult. She was in New York State. and I lived in Maine. Her personality was the same to me as it had always been. She was introspective, sensitive to others, sweet, thoughtful, and pleasant. She also had a modesty about her own physical attractiveness, which did not go unnoticed.
Jackie was a calm, gentle and most peaceful child, unless she was being picked on during her growing years, then she would show sadness or tears... typical sibling nonsense from this aunt's perspective. But in saying that, I saw Jackie as very sensitive to this world, and with what went on around her. She never was a 'me first' child by forcing attention on to herself. She was simply sweet, open, and a listener at a very early age. As a younger child and pre-teen, she had an innate curiosity with nature, so much so, that I thought she would one day study science. She was the child who bent over to watch a bug and gently pick it up to examine its nature, without a squeal. She climbed trees, absorbed nature, and the fun of movement within it. After her death, I read posts about how she wanted to buy a home, and maybe create a farm type atmosphere.
On a private Facebook message a few months before her death we were briefly discussing the issue of privacy in life and online, when I told her we can never be too careful in life. And her answer was a strongly noted, "Yes, I know!" A powerful affirmation of agreement. Jackie was nobody's fool as she grew up watching and listening to others. She naturally weeded out the good from the bad that came into her life. Like most women her age, she was on a learning curve in life, and in the relationships that form within it. But what does one do when the bad enters your workplace with a knife... and that person is much, much more than 2x's your size?
At the time of her murder, she was very happily involved, in love, and living with a man she felt was a solid relationship. They were happily making plans for their future to become a married couple. He worked and she worked. She was never a slacker when it came to a job, and always strived toward a goal, as she entered school and became a Master Barber in her trade. She was loved by all of her customers, men, women, and children. She developed a clientele over the years. She was a responsible adult at an early age, worked for her living, and never relied on another for her way in life. Her original shop, Jackson's, that she ran with her brother, burnt down about a year before her death. At the time, she felt it was a suspicious fire. They lost everything. She and her loving brother had to split in business, going their separate ways after the fire. Jackie would end up working her last day in a salon. Her brother rented another business space, greatly missing his partner in business. They hoped one day to start up again.
Immediately after the fire at her business, Jackie was made aware of an establishment where she rented a salon chair. After about a year of working there she would be attacked by a man wielding a knife. The alleged attacker who entered the salon in the afternoon in broad daylight was Michael Chmielewski. His alleged co-hort in crime, Sean Moreland, waited in a 'get-a-way' car a short distance away. Chmielewski, allegedly, brutally attacked my niece at the Recycled Hair Salon in Colonie, New York at approximately 3:30 PM on a Friday afternoon, August 21st, 2015. I, and all who know and loved Jackie, have yet to learn all of the details of her final conscious moments. As I write this in April of 2016, trial dates have not been set. But when the trial does take place it will be an open court trial. It was not until November of 2015 that the case broke and arrests were made.
The brutal, uncalled for, and viscous attack proved fatal to Jackie. However it played out in that salon is yet to be revealed. It is alleged that Chmielewski entered the Recycled Hair Salon to commit robbery to fuel an addiction to heroin, but instead he proved his brutality beyond any robbery, and used a knife to slice two of four major arteries in my niece's neck. One to the front and one to the back, and as he did this he nearly severed her ear off in the process. The man who did this horrible act, did not just go in with a threat to give me money, he did not go in for a stab and grab. He went for a severe kill, overpowering small statured woman. One punch from this alleged robber/killer would have knocked her out cold. Instead he did a power-kill, in my opinion.
My sister, Jackie's father, Jackie's siblings, and loved ones sat at the hospital bed of my sister's daughter. When Jackie was initially returned from surgery, the medical staff explained with compassion that they had reattached a part of her ear. Jackie suffered severe strokes, and it was made clear in the two short days to follow that there was no hope for recovery. The attack on her was exacting and brutal beyond measure. Her mother and father made the most difficult and painful decision of their lifetime, to remove all of Jackie's life support. She passed away in front of her devastated family on August 23rd, 2015. Those who felt and knew her love, now miss Jackie with every breath they take. Other than the three children her mother bore to Jackie as siblings, Jackie also leaves behind two beloved siblings from her father's other marriage. She was a most endearing and remarkable human being with so much more to offer in this dance we call life. We must pick up where she left off. She would want us to thrive in this gift of life. We will miss her forever.
Jacqueline Mariah Porreca: Born August 5, 1983. Died August 23, 2015. Rest in Peace.