Coping with the pain
light. I can call her right now and spill my guts out, and she will come over.”
Mosley, who works at night as a security guard, said she has not gotten more than four hours of sleep in a row for the past year because her phone hasn’t stopped ringing. But she always answers it, she said.
Mosley grew up in Dallas with two sisters and a brother. Her mother had substance abuse problems and physically abused her during her childhood, she said. Mosley graduated from high school and took some classes at a college before she got married in 1981 and became pregnant with a daughter.
She divorced her husband, married again in 1983, became pregnant with Ortralla, then divorced her second husband and left for Denver in 1985 to manage a copy business, she said. Mosley returned to Austin in 1994 to open a new store for the copy business. In 2003, she married her third husband, but they divorced after Ortralla’s death.
“I can’t physically give Trella (Ortralla) my love anymore,” she said. “I have to give love. It’s a necessity in my life. When I wake up in the morning, I’m thinking … ‘What can I do to help a child?’”
Her two daughters were the most important part of her life, she said.
“We were best friends,” Mosley said. “I didn’t deal with a lot of grown-ups because I was too into my children.”
She said she went to Reagan High School regularly to have lunch with Ortralla.
“Just to show you how close we were,” she said, “her classmates invited me to her prom after she died.”
Mosley said that three days after Ortralla was killed she went to Reagan to talk to the students about her daughter. A few months later she started talking to students at other schools, she said.
Mosley said she barely survived her own painful feelings in the years immediately after her daughter’s death.
Mosley said that in 2004 she tried to kill herself by slicing one of her arms with a box cutter. But the cut stopped bleeding and healed, she said.
“I felt like I let my baby down by not being the one killed instead of her,” Mosley said. Carolyn Mosley, speaking at Huston-Tillotson University, began talking to students about abusive relationships three days after her daughter Ortralla was stabbed by an ex-boyfriend in 2003. “A mother shouldn’t have to bury her children. She should go before her children. I lost my angel.”
In 2005, Mosley worked for a year as a prison guard in North Texas for the Texas Department of Corrections. “I felt like I needed to be imprisoned for being a bad parent,” she said.
At the prison unit where she was working, one of the inmates told her that “my daughter deserved what she got and I needed to be dead,” Mosley said. “I could have given up everything in my life and beat him down with a baton, but I wrote him up instead.”
Mosley began to work through her grief by reconciling with her estranged mother in 2006, a few months before her mother died.
“I didn’t want her feeling like I did over the loss of a child,” Mosley said.
Then, in 2007, Mosley helped spur a state law that requires school districts to protect students from being physically or emotionally abused by their significant others.
This spring, Mosley was invited to talk to students at LBJ High School, Bowie High School, Hutto Middle School and Huston-Tillotson University. Mosley told the students about her own childhood as well as her daughter’s death.
“My mother used to beat me,” she told a room full of Huston-Tillotson students in March. “I would get hit with extension cords, and one time I was so bruised she told me to get in the bathtub, and then she poured alcohol all over my body.”
After graduating from high school, Mosley told the students, she got married to her first husband, who hit her on their wedding night. She left him after she became pregnant with Ortralla’s older sister, Cassma. She said her second husband turned out to be a drug addict.
Her daughter’s life seemed to be on a much brighter path. The year Ortralla died, she was a cheerleader and dance coordinator at Reagan, Mosley said. Her boyfriend was a quarterback on the football team, and they both wanted to go to college, Mosley said.
“In my mind, it was the perfect relationship,” she said.
But McTear started telling Ortralla what she should and shouldn’t wear to school, so Ortralla broke up with him, Mosley said.
Mosley said she was on her honeymoon in March 2003 when she got a call that McTear had stabbed himself in the neck inside Mosley’s house after Ortralla refused to get back together with him. Mosley said she immediately returned home and asked McTear’s parents to get counseling for him.
Later that month, Mosley had gone to Ortralla’s godmother’s house to talk about applying for a call center job when her pager started beeping continuously, she said.
She stopped at a pay phone and called the person who had paged her — one of Ortralla’s friends.
“All I could hear were the words “Ortralla. Knife. Brackenridge,” Mosley said. “I got to the hospital and said, ‘I’m here to pick up Ortralla Mosley.’ A nurse said, ‘We sent her to the morgue.’”
The Huston-Tillotson students listened to Mosley quietly and had few questions after her presentation.
Audrey Morgan, a parent support specialist at LBJ, said that when Mosley went to the school this spring, there “wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
“I usually get outright about two or three girls that request her number,” Morgan said. “When she first started coming here, kids didn’t know what to make of her, but now they ask me, ‘When is that lady coming back that talks about dating violence?’”
Gloria Terry, the president of the Texas Council on Family Violence, said she has referred a woman whose daughter was killed to Mosley for help. Terry met Mosley this spring when Mosley spoke at an event during National Crime Victims Week.
“I admire her commitment and strength,” said Terry, who also has daughters.
“She told me, ‘Never say goodbye to your daughter. Just say, ‘See you later,’ ” Terry said.
Mosley, who has three grandchildren, is studying for an online degree in psychology and criminal justice so she can become a licensed counselor, she said.
Mosley said she still has all of Ortralla’s belongings, even the white shorts and white spaghetti strap top that she was wearing when she died. She said she keeps them in a box in a spare bedroom.
“I’m not getting rid of them,” she said. “That’s her. Even though it is bloody and messed up and cut up, it’s still her.”