Slain mom's letters to children read at her funeral

After reading the obituary for Monica Paul, Rodney Campbell read letters she wrote to her children, Essence and Noah Duckett.

The children of Monica Paul - daughter Essence, 11, and son Noah, 4 - heard their mother's final loving farewells today in letters she left behind before being gunned down at a Montclair YMCA a week ago.

The letters, dated the same month in 2007 as a restraining order issued against the father now accused of killing Paul, were for the first time read aloud by a friend, Rodney Campbell, during a tearful and packed service today at Christ Church in Montclair.

"My boy and smiley face...a.k.a. spiderman, you know I'm going to miss you," Paul wrote in a letter dated Oct. 7, 2007 to her son, whose father is now a fugitive. "Like I told your sister, if you're reading this, then something must have happened to me.

"I love you...even though you don't let me kiss you anymore. You say there's too many germs in kissing. You are so funny...Know that I am in a better place. I love you. Mommy."

The family of Monica Paul, including son Noah, front, and daughter Essence, top left, leave Christ Church following funeral services today.

The reading of the letters set off a chorus of moans and gasps in the church sanctuary early in a service during which the Rev. David Ireland implored the children's father, Kenneth Duckett, 37, of Orange to surrender and face a murder charge.

"The most powerful thing that can happen," Rev Ireland said, "is to have Kenneth Duckett turn himself in...Let there be the giving of himself to the authorities."

At about 6:30 p.m. last Thursday, Paul, 31, was shot multiple times in the presence of her daughter in a glass-enclosed pool observation area at the Helen and Bill Geyer YMCA Family Center as her son was taking a swimming lesson.

As many as six shots rang out, sending terrified children pouring out the exits and prompting other 4- and 5-year-old swimmers to seek refuge with their young counselors in a pool-filter room until police - responding to multiple 911 calls - secured the building.

Today James Paul, the deceased woman's cousin, said Monica Paul gave the letters to Campbell, who did not open them after her death.

"There were occasionally violent situations," he said of the estranged couple's relationship. But, he said, Monica Paul, while feeling in danger, did not necessary believe her life would be cut short.

"This is the first time the children heard them," Ireland said of the letters. 

Mother Of YMCA Murder Victim Breaks Silence

For the first time, the mother of a Montclair woman gunned down by her boyfriend inside a YMCA last summer talks about the murder, and how she's working to change New Jersey's domestic violence laws.

"Every night I cry and I miss her," Joanne Paul said.

Her daughter, Monica Paul, was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in front of their 11-year-old daughter inside a Montclair YMCA on June 26, 2008.

"Every day, I struggle with the pain of losing her and the pain of thinking of what she went through and the terror and how she must have felt," Joanne Paul said.

The 31-year-old mother had filed a restraining order against Kenneth Duckett, the father of her children. The man now charged with her murder.

"She loved life and I want her life to count for something for other women," Joanne Paul said.

That is why this mother and her family are circulating a petition to establish "Monica's Law," which would require those who have been issued a final domestic violence restraining order, under certain circumstances, to be administered a risk assessment prior to establishing parenting time with their children.  "My desire is that stricter laws be put in place to protect women," Joanne Paul said.

Family members would like to see anyone who violates a restraining order to face a three-to-five year prison sentence because they truly believe Monica would have been alive today had Duckett faced penalties earlier.

"He didn't care. He continued to come around," Joanne Paul said.

Assemblyman Thomas Giblin plans on working with Paul's family.

"Unfortunately in Monica Paul's case it was very tragic," Giblin said. "I am going review the petitions that are being submitted."

Women's rights groups say New Jersey has the toughest domestic violence law in the nation. Lawmakers say their goal is to make that law even stronger.