FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — While April 10 may seem innocuous, five years to the day the world changed for a Fort Worth family.
“The first April 10th and the second April 10th and so on…those were hurdles. Honestly, every 10th of every month for several years was tough,” Tracy Matheson said.
April 10, 2017 is the day her 22-year-old daughter, Molly Matheson, was raped and murdered by Reginald Kimbro, a man she says engaged in behavior that should have been identified by law enforcement long before. his death.
“This particular offender was known to multiple law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas for raping and strangling women, and they never did anything about it,” Matheson said. “When I heard about this, I thought, ‘We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing. We have to do better.'”
Last month, Kimbro made a deal and pleaded guilty to her murder. But Matheson says that while justice has been served, the fight has only just begun.
“I’m a mom on a mission,” she said.
Matheson spent the last five years of her life dedicated to a nonprofit she started called “Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission.”
The name was inspired by a tattoo she didn’t know her daughter had and the mission is to advocate for change to help victims and survivors of sexual assault.
“Beloved Packages” was the first initiative. In many cases, Matheson has found that when women go to the hospital for a rape exam, their clothes are often taken away as evidence.
“We decided to create something so that when a victim goes for a checkup…they can walk out of the hospital with dignity,” she said.
Beloved bundles are filled with personal hygiene items, clothing, and coloring books. They were sent to rape crisis centers and hospitals across the country. Since 2018, they’ve delivered over 10,000 beloved bundles to over 30 states.
A year later, they will set up their first soft interview room, a space to help survivors of sexual violence feel comfortable telling their stories. There are now 42 across the United States.
And then there are social work scholarships for students at the University of Arkansas. In honor of the school Molly Jane attended and the major she planned to pursue, scholarships are awarded in increments of $2,200 in honor of her 22 years on earth.
“We just thought it would be appropriate to honor his dream,” Matheson said.
But there was still a goal to achieve.
She says there were simply too many loopholes in the justice system that allowed her daughter’s death. So she helped defend Texas House Bill 3106, now officially known in Texas as Molly Jane’s Law.
“It was signed by the governor in September 2019,” she said.
The law requires all state law enforcement to enter information about sexual offenses into the federal database called ViCAP, otherwise known as the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program that was designed in the 1990s. 1980 but has not always been used.
The national database helps identify serial killers and rapists.
“They have behavior patterns, and ViCAP will help identify those behavior patterns because law enforcement doesn’t talk to each other, naturally,” Matheson said.
It’s meant to help connect the dots and save more lives.
“It’s all things that our Molly inspired. If she could, she would be right here beside me, fighting this fight with me,” she said.
And while Matheson has accomplished a lot in the past five years, she says April 10 is a reminder of how much work remains to be done.
“It will forever be an important day in our lives because everything changed on April 10,” she said. “It’s not the end of the story, Molly’s story will live on, Molly’s story will impact change. That’s what our focus has been from day one… How to do it bring out the lightness of this darkness.”