Louisville family heals decades after man shoots wife in front of kids


by Maggie Ruper


Posted on May 8, 2013 at 6:37 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 8 at 6:42 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Lynnie Vessels, 53, and her mother Fran, 84, share a bond of survival. Their story is told in the first book Vessels has ever written. It’s titled To Soften the Blow and it begins at their former home in Valley Station in 1967.

Vessels is the second youngest of six kids. Pictures of her parents seem to show a happy life, but the old photos are deceiving. By all accounts Ken Vessels, her father, was an alcoholic. His rage turned into abuse of his kids and Fran wanted a divorce. Then came the night of January 20th.

“I had no idea what happened. I was in a daze,” Fran said.

“One of them came down here saying their father just shot their mother,” neighbor, Bob Thrasher, said.

He recalled the horror that was witnessed by the children. Fran was wounded and her children pleaded for her life.

“My father was holding a gun on her and my older sister Mary, who was nine at the time, was standing 3 inches from the barrel of the gun and he kept saying, ‘Get out of the way! I’m going to kill your mother, you kids are going to an orphanage and I’m going to jail for 10 years!’ and she (Mary) jutted her chin up the gun and said, ‘No!’” Lynnie said.

Mary broke her father’s trance. He did go to jail, but only for a few hours.

“They said, ‘What should we do? Should we press charges?’ and she said, ‘No. How am I going to feed my children? Let him out so I can feed my children,’” Lynnie said.

Fran went through dozens of surgeries, but her arm was left crippled from the shooting. Ken came in and out of their lives, but died nine years later from cancer.

“I always say my father died of shame,” Lynnie said.

The violence of that night shattered their family and the shotgun blast echoed for decades. Lynnie dealt with years of hurt and anger in therapy.

“I’m worthless, I’m terrible, I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’m not this, I’m not enough and I’m stupid and then when I sat in all that silence all of a sudden I would hear this voice say, ‘I am full of worth.’” Lynnie said.

It was a life changing realization. So she purged her past onto the pages of her book, for herself and for others.

“I want to get this into the hands of every educator in the world,” Lynnie said.

It’s a lesson about turning the negative into positive and making peace.

“It takes an incredible commitment to heal something really bad, so I did it,” Lynnie said.

The first part of the book was written out of fear of a father and a husband, but even chaos has closure.

“Did I forgive him? Yes. Finally,” Fran said.

Vessels now lives in Washington, DC and works as a teacher. She self published her book. For more information on Vessels, click here.