Hard Life, Hard Death

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Tascha Boychuk says she recites a prayer for Amber every Valentine's Day. Last summer, in memory of Amber, she wrote the poem that introduced this story.

A while ago, Kay Rauth-Farley of St. Joseph's Hospital wrote Amber's name and date of death on a Post-it note, which she stuck above her desk.

"There were outrageous things done to that little girl," the pediatrician says, "over-the-edge, sick stuff. I hope someone suffers the consequences of their actions someday. Some way."

Linda Rhea says the last few years have been good for her. Now 34, she dotes on her three surviving children and vice versa.

Rhea says she's been sober since her prison term ended in July 1995; court-ordered drug tests back her claim. She's been working as a waitress at a west Phoenix restaurant since the week after her release, and shares a tidy home with her children and her companion, T-Ray Esquer.

School awards won by her sons and family photos line the shelves. A framed sketch of praying hands that T-Ray drew in Amber's memory hangs near the front door.

"I thought she was impossible for anyone not to love," Linda Rhea says.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin