I love my family. But if there were ever another family whom I’d love to call my own, it would be the family of Kendra Webdale. I never knew Kendra – because it was her terrible, untimely death that led me to tell her story. But her mother, father, sisters, brother – to hear them talk about Christmas makes you want to be snuggled up right there around the tree when they celebrate. And it was especially poignant to hear the family talk about the last Christmas they were all together – in 1997 – a month before Kendra was murdered.
Kendra Webdale was pushed in front of an oncoming subway train in New York City by a man who was schizophrenic. She was 32, did not know a stranger in this city she loved and was trying to “make it” in, and she never saw it coming. A promising life cut short, an extraordinary family unit with its heart ripped out. All because a loner with a seriously diseased mind had slipped through the cracks of New York’s safety net and was out on the streets — unmonitored and untreated.
Instead of wallowing in bitterness, Kendra’s family poured its grief into action—eventually gaining passage of “Kendra’s Law” in New York – which compels mentally ill patients to comply with outpatient treatment or be committed involuntarily. Kendra’s killer Andrew Goldstein pled guilty to manslaughter and is serving 23 years in prison.
I caught up with the Webdales for follow-up stories several times over the years, and each time I found myself overwhelmed by the enormity of their pain and the resilience and generosity of their spirit. To Pat, Ralph, Kim, Suzanne, Krista, Kelly, and Ralph Jr, — I will always be so sorry for your loss. And profoundly grateful that I met you.
This story was produced by Liz Cole, who is now an executive at NBC Dateline and part of the senior leadership team that continues to put compelling stories on the air every week. With her know how we got access to Goldstein’s voluminous medical record which showed just how dangerous he was and how the system essentially looked the other way. She remains a dear friend and I’m so proud to have worked with her on this and many other extraordinary stories.