Special Reports

The children: Crystal Brame was 'the most loving, devoted mother in the world,' says sister

Last weekend, Haley and David Brame Jr. lay down on Crystal Brame's grave and cried.

"It's pretty tough when you see an 8-year-old lie down on her mother's grave and say she misses her," Crystal Brame's father, Lane Judson, said Monday. "It's pretty tough when you hear a 5-year-old say, 'I miss my mom and dad, and I don't have one anymore.'"

Lane Judson, in announcing the family's plans to sue the City of Tacoma, said his two grandchildren are doing as well as can be expected.

And the family - with the help of friends and even strangers sending well wishes - is muddling through, trying to make sense of Crystal Brame's death at the hand of her husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame.

In an interview with The News Tribune, Lane and Patty Judson; their daughter, Julie Ahrens; and her husband talked about David Brame's hold over Crystal Brame and the 35-year-old mother's struggle to get away.

Patty Judson said her daughter stayed with an abusive husband out of fear rather than love, living in a situation where she had to account for every cent spent and every minute away from home.

"She was told by David, it seemed almost on a daily basis, that no one would ever believe her," Julie Ahrens said. "And when you hear that, I think you believe it yourself."

During the Monday news conference announcing the claim, Ahrens said Crystal Brame lived for her children.

"She was the most loving and devoted mother in the world," Ahrens said, crying.

Crystal Brame changed after she left her husband, took the children to live with their grandparents and filed for divorce.

"She was no longer a scared woman, but a woman who had her life and her children's lives in front of her," Ahrens said. "Now all that's been taken away from her."

The two children were nearby when their father shot their mother and then himself April 26. Afterward, the community rallied around them, sending letters, teddy bears and hope, the Judsons said.

The children still live in Gig Harbor with the Judsons. Julie Ahrens and her husband, David, have started court proceedings to become their legal guardians.

Lane Judson said the children recently asked whether they could call their grandparents "Mom" and "Dad."

"That's a pretty tough question to answer," said Lane Judson, who told the children they could call them whatever they want.

But the kids are still kids, he said. Some days, as soon as they express sadness over their parents' deaths, they want to play Nintendo.

They're still visiting a psychologist they started seeing before the shootings to help them deal with their parents' divorce.

Patty Judson said she takes them to school and to swimming. Haley takes voice classes; David has not yet returned to karate. Next year, the children will attend the same school together.

The Judsons said their top priority is to support the children as they learn how to live without Crystal Brame.

"We're going to have a tough day every day," Lane Judson said. "What do I miss most about my daughter? Everything."

Karen Hucks: 253-597-8660