JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One year after her 7-year-old daughter was kidnapped and killed, Diena Thompson said it feels like it was just yesterday that she was sending her first-grader off to school.
Thompson said her first thought every morning is still of Somer.
"For the first couple of minutes you sit up in bed and you think, 'It was just a bad dream,'" Thompson said. "And then you come out into the living room and you see the pictures and the stuff that people gave to remember her, and you realized it's not a dream, it's not a nightmare. It's real."
Thompson talked to Channel 4's Jennifer Waugh about life without her daughter and the call that changed her life.
"I knew she was gone. Really," Thompson said. "My stomach said to me at 4:03 (p.m.) Oct. 19, 2009, that somebody's got your baby and you're never going to see her again."
It was a mother's painful intuition, and something she'd been unable to tell anyone, until now.
Somer disappeared in broad daylight, walking home from school, with children and parents all around.
"The police looked at me and told me they were going to bring her home, but there was something inside of me," Thompson said.
After a massive search, her precious daughter's body was found in the landfill in Charlton County, Ga., where Orange Park's trash is dumped.
Five months later, Clay County detectives arrested a neighbor, Jarred Harrell, on charges of child pornography. After more investigation, Harrell was charged with murder.
Harrell had lived in a house his parents owned that Somer walked by every day on her way home from school.
"I don't even remember seeing that house on the times that I have taken my children to school or the times that I have picked them up from school," Thompson said. "It was just a house, and a house can't hurt you."
While remaining in the neighborhood with that house -- that constant reminder -- is difficult, in the words of Somer's twin brother, Samuel, "You can't leave all our memories behind. This is where all of our memories are. This is where Somer is. You can't leave that," Thompson said.
Diena Thompson said she can still remember the smell of Somer's hair, the feeling of Somer's arms around her waist. And she still feels torn between two worlds: wanting to be in heaven with Somer, but knowing her other children need her even more.
"I don't ever want my children, my surviving children, to ever think, ever, that they are not enough to make me happy," Thompson said. "If Somer's taught me anything, she's taught me how to be a better mother, how to love deeper."
Thompson attends every court hearing for Jarred Harrell, still unable to fathom what happened to her little girl.
"To throw her in the trash like she was nothing ...," Thompson said, not able to finish the sentence. "You throw things in the trash that you don't want. He may not have wanted her, but I did."
Thompson said Somer's favorite song -- "You Are My Sunshine" -- still brings joy to her home through music boxes given to her right after Somer was lost. When they hear the music, it makes them feel like Somer is still here -- standing next to them.
Thompson addressed a crowd at a vigil for Somer on Tuesday night.
"It's time for these predators and monsters to start being scared of us, and us stop being scared of them," she said, drawing an applause from the crowd. "I will do anything in my power humanly possible, even if it's travel all over the world telling my story that hurts really bad. But I'm going to save somebody else's kid."
Kindness Of Strangers
For the first time, Thompson allowed Channel 4's camera to show for the first time the family's private memorial to Somer.
"This is a prayer blanket that someone made for us," Thompson said. "I wanted to put out everything that anyone made me because I wanted them to know that they bring me comfort."
Pictures of Somer are everywhere. Everything placed at a makeshift memorial outside the family's home those first days and weeks was saved. Thompson calls them her treasures.
"I believe everything happens for a reason and I've been chosen for this," Thompson said. "Why? I probably won't know the answer to that. All I can say is that I just won't lay down. I will stand up until I take my last breath for our children."
Thompson funnels her energy now into helping protect other children from sexual predators, and in making sure that the man police say raped and killed her daughter will never get out of jail.
She now shares with other children her private conversations about the day Somer ran off from her older sister and twin brother as they walked home from school -- the day Somer disappeared -- and wondering if it was Harrell's dog that lured her daughter into his home -- and to her death.
"She loved animals, so she went there looking for that little dog so she could put her face up to that fence and let him lick her and she would have felt better," Thompson said. "Maybe (he) told her the dog was inside. I just don't know. That's why I want to go to trial. I want to know what happened."
Thompson realizes she may never get her questions answered, but she'll never miss a court date. Harrell has pleaded not guilty and is not expected to appear in court again until his trial begins, probably next year.
"I'm left here to pick up the pieces to try to make sense of what happened," Thompson said. "I want her to smile down on me from heaven and look up at God and Jesus and say, 'See, that's my mommy.'"
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