Shooting victim's mum: ‘We should be planning a wedding’
EXCLUSIVE The mother of murdered 24-year-old Chynna Deese wants to change the narrative.
It has been two weeks since Chynna and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler were killed in British Columbia but for most of that time the focus has been on the two teens suspected of murdering them.
In a two-hour sit-down conversation with News Corp Australia at her favourite coffee shop in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sheila Deese doesn't mention their names once, and for this article neither will we.
"I don't want to hear more about the boys," she says.
"Yes, I want them to be caught and I want there to be consequences but this story is about Chynna and Lucas.
"Chynna and Lucas' whole story is like a novel, it is a romance," she says.
Even in her darkest hour, Ms Deese has a luminance about her that she says is "what people would always say about Chynna".
"She was always my mini me, except she was fearless," Ms Deese says.
The 54-year-old wears a tie-died T-shirt which says "I am living my best life" and dons a sunflower in her hair - a tribute to her daughter's favourite things but also items she confesses she already had in her own wardrobe.
"I just want the world to know Chynna was our angel. She was resilient and she was such a giver. Her kindergarten teacher … said to me years ago that Chynna would give away her snack every day to a troubled young child just because it would calm him.
"When she was packing for her trip with Lucas she had these size 12 boots for him and they were taking up the whole top of her suitcase. So despite the fact she wore size 8 women's shoes she was going to wear them on the plane just so she could get them to him. That was the kind of person she was."
In the final CCTV footage of Chynna and Lucas at a petrol station, Lucas is wearing those boots.
"I have watched that video over 100 times. That last hug they give each other is such a gift for me. I can literally hear them say 'Let's do this'. It comforts me to know they were together and so in love," she says.
As for Lucas, Ms Deese says he was like a son to her.
"I still remember my first conversation with him. Chynna called one day and she said 'mum, just to let you know you are on speaker phone, the Aussie boy just wants to hear you speak' and straight away I said 'well, hey y'all'," in her charming Dolly Parton-esque southern lilt. "They were just screaming and I thought to myself, what a beautiful person. I said to her 'baby, you picked a good one',".
"Lucas lived with us for three months. He was part of the family. I bought him matching pyjamas just like my kids for Christmas. All the boys had matching Old Navy pyjamas and the girls had matching Old Navy pyjamas," she said.
"Lucas helped my son paint the whole inside of his house. At Thanksgiving he wasn't in the living room with everyone, he was in the kitchen helping me cook.
"Lucas was a gentle giant. A little more quiet then Chynna but he was very articulate and very intelligent," she said.
Ms Deese said the Fowlers would forever be a part of her family.
"Someone said to me you are all now part of a club that no one wants to be a part of," she said.
"My kids talk to Lucas' brother daily. We will forever be attached."
"Lucas and Chynna were really preparing on getting married. We should be planning a wedding," Ms Deese said.
"I would joke with my friends and say 'Australia is really far you know what if they move there?' and ever since this has happened I wish with my whole heart I had that option. Get married, move to Australia, we will see you. I wish I had that option."
Ms Deese says she is taking inspiration from Chynna and her faith as she works through her grief.
"I cannot allow bitterness and anger to change the person I am. Chynna would not want that. She was kind and generous and giving."
Ms Deese, who works for a non-profit blood service, says Chynna was the only one of her four children who would donate blood.
"If I could tell people anything it would be to give the way that Chynna did. Pay it forward," she said.
"My kids said to me 'we have had an epiphany; Chynna was here for a purpose. She has travelled to so many places, now the whole world knows that love."