Gun violence can happen anywhere. Chelan Schreifels knows that all too well. Her daughter Caia Delavergne was shot by an Anchorage man, Christian Beier in October 2015. Beier was recently found guilty after a trial in Anchorage.
Caia had started freshman classes at UAA and had known Beier for three weeks before Beier shot her and a friend at a home in Anchorage’s Bootlegger’s Cove neighborhood. Caia lost her left eye in the shooting. Beier was found guilty on all charges. He will be sentenced later this fall.
Schreifels lives in Japan and she traveled back for the trial to support her daughter. Schreifels told Alaska Public Media’s Lori Townsend it’s been a long road of recovery for the family but she says Caia is thriving.
SCHREIFELS: Caia is doing amazing now. She is, to use her words, she’s living her best life. She is working full time at the Washington Capitol visitor’s center. She’s gotten to do backstage tours of the Senate halls and tours of the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress and absolutely loves that job. And then she’s also attending school online, and she’s just doing absolutely amazing. She’s so strong and composed through when she had to testify. And she’s done so much healing, cause it’s been almost three years, so she was probably at her best now, and has a lot of self confidence and has kinda put that all behind her, as far as what happened those three weeks after she met Conor and Christian to the time when Christian shot them both, and then basically tried to end her life.
TOWNSEND: Caia lost an eye. Has she struggled with anger and bitterness about that?
SCHREIFELS: That’s a tough question. So obviously, her life changed forever in a very dramatic way. Sometimes I put my hand over my eye and imagine how she feels and what she sees, missing an eye. And it can be pretty emotional for me, but her… I’ve seen her just pick up her bootstraps and soldier on and resume normal life. Within about eight weeks after that happened, we went to Japan, and within 12 weeks, she was riding her bicycle regularly again. And then about 16 weeks after she was shot in the face and lost her eye, we played in our first hockey game with our women’s team in Japan, and Caia scored the game-winning goal. So I think she’s come back with a vengeance. After she got shot, one of my hockey teammates in Alaska gave her a bracelet that said “Resilient” on it, and she wore that bracelet every day for about eight weeks and during the initial healing period. And I think that pretty sums it up in a word, that she’s resilient.
TOWNSEND: So you came back from Japan. Caia came back from Washington D.C. for this trial. Tell me about that.
SCHREIFELS: So, Caia testified, and she had a really tough day on the stand. Her testimony was the longest besides Christian himself, when he testified. She testified for about two and a half hours. And it was intense cross examination by the defense and a lot of slandering and victim-shaming and trying to make it seem as though something that Caia had done had brought this upon her. And it was really enraging to have to witness that and stay calm and try to believe that this is the process of justice that we need to go through in order to make sure that Christian gets put behind bars.
TOWNSEND: Christian was eventually found guilty on all charges. How does that feel? What do you think of when you think about the fact that he was found guilty? He hasn’t been sentenced yet but how was that moment when the verdicts were read?
SCHREIFELS: It was a sense of relief and feeling just a huge sense of a weight being lifted off our shoulders. It was a major milestone in our healing process, and then I also felt incredible sadness for Christian and for his family because they lost their son and, just by some miracle, my daughter is still with us, and it’s hard to reconcile those feelings of this person tried to kill my daughter and shot her all the way through the head, looked her in the eye and did it deliberately with a 40-caliber gun, which is a big bullet. And trying to reconcile those feelings that I have of happiness my daughters still here , relief that the trial is finally behind us after almost three years of waiting, and then some anger but also a tremendous amount of pity and sadness for the fact that Christian was 21 when he did that crime, and his life is gone as well. But then also, in that same respect, I’m concerned about the sentencing and how long will he be put away for, because the judge has a lot to work with with his discretion, but even if he gets 60 years, in 20 years he could be out of jail, and he still would have a lot of life ahead of him, and I didn’t hear any remorse for what he did or ownership of what he did, which was really concerning, thinking that he’s not healing. He’s not moving forward. He’s not making himself a better person either, so it was really hard.
TOWNSEND: Chelan, is there something you would want coming out of all of this horrific experience for your family? Something that you would want other parents to know, other young people to know?
SCHREIFELS: So for my self personally, I wish there would be change. So I got involved with Moms Demand Action, which is a grassroots group that is trying to pass responsible gun legislation such as a red flag bill which can remove a gun from somebody that’s dangerous based on a report by a family member or concerned friend or something. And the night before Christian shot Caia and Conor, they had actually taken his gun away from him. He was a person that carried a gun with him, everywhere he went on his hip, and he had threatened to hurt himself the night before. They took the gun away from him, and then he came back the next day and took the gun back from them. They gave it back. But maybe if there had been a red flag bill, or something that they could’ve done to keep that gun away from him when they knew he was dangerous at least to himself, that would’ve been huge, and could’ve prevented this whole thing form happening.