WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE 28 WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS) – A painful anniversary is marked with a solemn ceremony – a vigil for a woman murdered 15 years ago.
Her killer will be a free man Wednesday. This memorial marks the spot where 21-year-old Amanda Kates’ car veered into the bushes when she was shot in the head.
She died here at the steering wheel. It was 15 years ago, today.
It’s been 15 years since Amanda Kates was taken from her family.
“This anniversary, it means I spent half my life without her. It’s hard, it’s really hard. And I don’t know how I’m going to feel tomorrow when I wake up knowing that he’s going to be a free man,” said Annina Kates, Amanda’s sister.
When the sun comes up, her killer will be back on the streets.
On June 8, 2006, a jealous Brandon Dennison shot and killed Kates, after he shot her fiancé in the leg as the couple tried to leave a party on Carey Avenue in Wilkes-Barre.
“I come here every year around the same time and I come to the cemetery and I come to the memorial and I light a candle for her. She never got to see her kids grow up,” said Annina Kates.
Annina says grief tore the family apart. Dennison pleaded guilty to third degree murder and served his minimum sentence of 15 years in prison at SCI Waymart.
Kates’ family never thought he deserved the plea bargain. His upcoming release is salt in the wound.
“I’m angry. 15 years ain’t enough for taking someone’s life. She was a beautiful girl, a beautiful mom. She would do anything for anyone,” said Hannu Kates, Amanda’s father.
Annina says all they can do is keep her memory alive and teach her sons about their mother.
“We used to tell them that she was a butterfly so every time they saw a butterfly, they would say ‘hi mommy.’ I talk to her about my kids. My sister talks about her to her kids,” said Annina Kates.
“She was an amazing person. she always helped people, she loved her kids more than anything in the world,” said Annina Kates.
Dennison is now 36-years-old. He will be on parole until 2046. One of his conditions for parole is he can never return to Luzerne County.