At age five, Alexis Storkson -- the child at the center of "Little Girl Lost," one of the saddest stories ever to appear inWestword
-- was the sole survivor of an assault that took the lives of her closest family members. Today, however, she's a high-school graduate who prefers looking ahead rather than obsessing over the past. "I've been busy living my life," she says, "not busy dwelling on the bad things that happened to me."
Part one of "Little Girl Lost" (published in October 1994) tells how Alexis nearly died when she was struck in the head with a claw hammer by a man who murdered her mother, Julie Storkson; Julie's live-in lover; and the couple's two-year-old daughter, Gloria, at an Atlantic City, New Jersey print shop that Julie managed. The killer subsequently set the shop ablaze, presumably to cover his tracks. Part two details the ensuing custody battle over Alexis that pitted Commerce City's Chris Perry, her mostly absentee father, against Don and Debra Buck, the owners of the print shop. The fight exploded into a full-blown media circus complete with family tragedies put on parade for the viewers of Montel Williams' talk show.
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As noted in this May 1995 followup, the New Jersey Superior Court eventually affirmed a lower court decision that awarded custody of Alexis to Chris. But that didn't mean Alexis' problems were over. For one thing, she had a tough time shaking feelings of uncertainty about the attack itself. Clarence Reaves, who'd been fired at the print shop shortly before the killings, pled guilty to three counts of murder in August 1995, but Alexis remembers a second person on the scene. Plenty of folks have tried to tell her that she's wrong, but she remains convinced that someone complicit in the crimes is still out there.
Fortunately, Alexis' outlook began to improve when she reached her middle school years. "That was when I finally started to figure out what was going on in my life, and who I was," she says. Today, she holds a diploma from Rocky Mountain High School, in the Fort Collins area, and hopes to attend a local college this fall. "I want to work in child development," she maintains. "I would love to be a school psychologist or a school therapist. I've worked with so many of them over the years, and they've personally touched my life in so many ways. I want to help people the way they helped me."
According to Alexis, Chris has remarried and is doing well. Meanwhile, the Bucks have been trying to contact her, and while she thinks she'll eventually respond to them, she hasn't found the right words. "I'm still in the middle of writing them a letter," she says. "I think I've written that letter forty times over. If they want to talk to me, that's fine, but I think they're still at the point where they think I'm their daughter, and that's not cool. I have no problem talking to them, but I don't want to be brainwashed, like they've tried to do in the past."
This still-unresolved situation is only one of the reasons why Alexis' loved ones are concerned for her. But she's optimistic that none of the terrible incidents that have befallen her will stop her from achieving her goals. "Yeah, everybody worries that I won't be able to do things because of such and such," she concedes. "But I'm looking forward to trying. I just want to live life and keep going. Just keep going." -- Michael Roberts