Josh Henle is running to help a battered little girl
Jurors in the murder by abuse trial of Donald Cockrell first saw photos of 3-year-old Lexi Pounder when she was healthy, happy and beautiful.
Later they viewed photos of her corpse on a table, starved and covered with 75 bruises that could be counted.
Among the jurors was Josh Henle of Lake Oswego, a young husband and the father of a baby girl. Even a life sentence for Cockrell was not enough to give the slightest solace to Henle, who remains haunted by the trial. Finding any silver lining in the incident seemed to be preposterous.
I searched and searched and asked, What good can possibly come out of this? Henle said.
Yet there was another little girl, Lexis sister Kara, who was also starved and covered with countless bruises. Only she survived. Henle decided he could do something about her, and that is why he has teamed up with Angels in the Outfield, a Portland-based organization dedicated to assisting abused children, on the project that is solely for Kara.
The Kara project works like this: Angels in the Outfield provides credibility, stability and the framework; people touched by Lexi and Karas story contribute their money and time; and Josh Henle runs.
He dedicated his performance in the Vernonia Marathon on April 14 and asked people to sponsor him. Originally $5,000 seemed like a good goal, but it wasnt even close to how much money he has actually raised $22,000 has already flowed in and there is more to come. Henle is stunned and gratified.
There is a community of people in Clackamas County and from Thailand to Europe that believes in Kara, Henle said. Her story moves people immediately. I didnt have to pound the pavement to raise the money. Three hundred people have given money. Its inarguable that they care about her.
Henle was not looking for a life-transforming experience when he was assigned jury duty on the Cockrell trial in Clackamas County in February. He actually had an awful lot going for him and was forced to put a major work project (he is in corporate finance) and a Hawaiian vacation on hold to serve on the jury.
However, his personal concerns vanished as soon as the trial began. He heard about the murderous abuse of a child only slightly older than his own little girl.
I immediately realized the importance of what I was doing, Henle said. I looked at photos of Lexi and I could never imagine something like that happening to my own daughter.
The evidence of what happened to Lexi was so grisly and heartbreaking, it was like the jurors were victimized themselves. Normally an ebullient, upbeat person, Henle underwent a change of personality as he had to hold inside everything he was hearing.
My normal coping mechanisms were rendered useless, he said. Normally I would talk to my wife Katie about problems, but I couldnt talk about this and it hurt her.
However, there was one thing Henle could do: run. And it was while running that he discovered there was actually something he could do about this tragedy, and in doing so he helped other people cope with this tragedy, too.
The idea came to me gradually as I was running, Henle said. I was running on this miserable March day near the end of the trial and I was tired and cold.
I told myself, Think of what those girls endured. Suck it up! Why cant I do my own little Race for the Cure?
Running a fundraising race to help Kara Pounder was a wonderful idea, but Henle realized he needed help to give his cause credibility.
Otherwise I was just a dude panhandling with a cup in my hand, Henle said.
Angels in the Outfield proved to be Henles perfect partner. The organization founded by former district attorney Shannon Kmetic, Portland, has helped hundreds of abused children. Kmetic started Angels in the Outfield because she felt a curious lack of justice after winning a case that concluded with the sentencing of a father to life in prison after raping his daughter for three straight years. Kmetic said she was unable to celebrate the outcome.
It was like, How do we help her now? Kmetic said.
Accepting Henles proposal was unusual because it was focused on helping one child. But Kmetic and her comrades were open to hearing him after he was referred to them by Judge Susie L. Norby, the judge who had sentenced Donald Cockrell to life in prison.
Josh came and made a presentation at our board meeting about what he wanted to do and we, of course, wanted to help him, Kmetic said. It fit well within our mission statement.
As soon as he started fundraising, Henle found that he was no island of concern when it came to Kara Pounder.
Im not a fundraiser by nature, Henle said. But I provided an outlet for so many others to do something for Kara. They are my fellow jurors, friends and even strangers.
All of this help forced Henle to raise his goal, and he now hopes to ultimately raise about $30,000. This money is intended to pay for Karas college education.
Meanwhile, from a distance, Henle will be keeping an eye on Kara as she adjusts to a new life with her biological mother. Her bruises have healed. Now her heart, soul and mind must recover.
Kara is now 5, Henle said. When she gets older its going to hit her. Shes going to ask why is my father in prison? Why would he let my sister die?
Henles questions about Lexis murder and Karas suffering may never be answered. But he did get an answer for one of his questions: Yes, some good was able to come out of this tragedy.
For more information about Angels in the Outfield or to donate, go to theangelsintheoutfield.org.