Remembering Why: Murder of 23-year-old Lee Standifer
When David Miller is scheduled to die in the electric chair in Nashville on Thursday night, the family of his victim will not be there.
The surviving relatives of Lee Standifer now live across the country. They don't want to return to Tennessee for an execution or have the cameras and news reports focus on their pain since Standifer was brutally murdered in May 1981.
Lee Standifer's mother, Helen Standifer, now lives in Arizona. While she did not want to be on-camera, she graciously agreed to speak to 10News for a phone interview and sent us photographs of her daughter.
"Lee was a very positive person and a very happy person. She got a lot of joy out of life. When we lived in Colorado, she swam the backstroke and got a Special Olympics gold medal, which I still have," Helen said.
A POSITIVE LIFE
Doctors diagnosed Lee Standifer with diffuse brain damage when she was five years old. Helen Standifer said the disability did not prevent Lee from living a vibrant life and pursuing her education. Lee Standifer graduated from Farragut High School in 1976.
"She was quite capable in many ways. She could do basic math and read at a 12th-grade level. She enjoyed reading and went to the library a lot. The issue was more with comprehension. The best way to explain it is the difference between an adult and a child reading 'Alice in Wonderland.' An adult will read the same thing and interpret it differently than a child," Helen said.
Lee Standifer's younger sister, Audrey, attended the University of Tennessee. Audrey Standifer and a group of college roommates invited Lee to move into a rental home with them near campus. The experience gave Lee a taste of independence. Her parents were still nearby to help, but she did not have to live under the same roof.
"When the girls stopped renting the house near campus, Lee wanted her own place. After a lot of research, we let her move into the YWCA in Downtown Knoxville. She was very happy. She had a job at a chicken packaging place and they loved her because she was never late. She rode the bus to work and called me every night. She was in a very good place at that point."
Lee was 23 years old with a job, a support system that allowed her to live on her own and was just a couple of blocks from the library in Downtown Knoxville. In May 1981, that's where she met 22-year-old David Miller.
"She spent the weekend with me and said she met someone at the library, but that was all she said. Evidently, he asked her for a date. So, that was the one and only time. She loved people and was obviously not a good judge of character," Helen said.
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