My name is April Estling, I’m 38 years old, and I am born and raised in northeast Iowa. While I spent a majority of my life in Oelwein, we have lived in Maynard for 8 years now. I’m a single mom of two boys, one in Heaven and one here on Earth. My boys, Kaiden and Amir, are my world and come before anything or anyone. We were like the Three Muskateer’s, going to do fun things, our Wednesday night youth groups at church, taking Kaiden to see WWE events annually, trips to Adventureland,camping. I loved watching Kaiden play football and basketball every year, starting with soccer when that was his only option as he was younger. Usually if there was one of us, there was all three of us. But that all came to an abrupt halt on the the night of Thursday June 28th, 2018.
Kaiden Douglas Estling, was a light in so many peoples lives. He made sure he stood up bullies at school and befriended anyone who needed someone in their corner. Kaiden had a heart of gold and would give you the shoes off his feet if you needed them. Kaiden was my firstborn son, my best friend, and protector. He always made sure everyone had a smile on their face with his goofy antics. He was a big brother and Amir’s best friend. He was so kind and helpful for his grandparents, always there for them when they needed their lawn mowed, or even the nasty times of having to dump their camper during the summer. He was carefree, happy, and so full of life. Kaiden and his 3 cousins closest to him were best friends always hanging out together, from their BMX biking days to the days of their fast cars. He always wanted an adventure. Without him here, our house is so quiet. My little one is bored and misses having his big brother to pick on. His grandparents are lost and long for the days that we had Kaiden here. His cousins have all fallen apart, no longer spending time together with the way they once did. And for myself, I can’t even put into words what life is like without him here. I love him so much and miss him beyond measure.
Kaiden was doing what he loved, being a teenager in small-town Iowa that night on June 28th. We live in a cluster of small towns, and a majority of the kids come here to Maynard at West Central schools. He decided he wanted to ride his moped to his friend Austin’s house in Fayette, just 8 miles from here. It wasn’t the first time he went there, but it turned out it would be his last. On his way home from Austin’s house, he went by his martial arts dojo, and the class was letting out. He saw his instructor and youth group leader, as well as many other people who meant so much to him, so he stopped to talk to them for a bit. Kaiden lost track of time and left town a bit later than he should have. On his way home, about 2 miles south of Fayette, someone came up behind him and slammed into the back of his moped. The driver then proceeded to leave Kaiden on the side of the road to die alone. They didn’t stop and call 911, they just left him there, as if his life didn’t matter. Once I realized how late it was getting and that Kaiden wasn’t home, I started calling his phone. He didn’t answer any of the times I tried, and I had this knot in my stomach, that wasn’t like my son at all. Even if he missed my call, he would call back right away, or send a text. About 30 minutes later, I loaded up Amir, and we went out to look for Kaiden. About 5 minutes after we left, my phone rang. It said it was Kaiden calling, but when I answered, it wasn’t Kaiden on the other line. It was Deputy McCready, Kaiden had been in an accident. Every mother’s worst nightmare, they were doing CPR and going to take him to the hospital. I got there within a couple of minutes, and tried so hard to get to my son, but the firefighters were blocking the road, not allowing me to go past them. I begged and pleaded with God not to take Kaiden, to give him back. Kaiden was hit so hard, that it killed him instantly, despite multiple life-saving attempts, they were unable to bring my son back. And instead of taking him to the hospital, they left him there on the road. Myself, Amir, my parents, brother and sister in law witnessed something that night that no one should ever have to go through. We had to watch as Kaiden lay down the road, covered in a white sheet, we couldn’t help him, hold him, stand with him, or get him up off the ground. We had to stand there and wait for the medical examiners van to come to pick up his lifeless body off the side of the road, and say our goodbyes to him as he lay in the back, in a body bag, with a tube protruding from his mouth. I begged him and begged him as I kissed his face and ran my fingers through his curly hair, just wake up Kaiden! Please wake up! I couldn’t hug him or help him, or take him home, ever again. He was only 14 years old, his last day of drivers ed was the very next morning. He should have been able to get his school permit and start his first day of high school. His football jersey was in the seat of his moped, he had just picked it up from his coach, and was excited for practice to start in a matter of days. Kaiden looked forward to Homecoming, and dances, and driving his teachers crazy (but in a good way). All of that taken away in the blink of an eye. He would never walk this earth again.
When I learned that crime victims don’t have the protected rights that they should, I was appalled. I know all about the offender having all kinds of rights, and the right to be innocent until proven guilty. What about Kaiden’s rights? What is right to live? What about our rights as the survivors? We deserve to be protected too. None of us asked for this to happen. We didn’t hit and kill him, leaving him on the side of the road dead. It’s facts, what’s done is done. He had that right to live. The driver had the obligation to stop and render aid. When they are arrested, they don’t deserve to have more rights than Kaiden, or our family. We have to live with this nightmare day in and day out. Our country is all about equal rights for all, that should include a crime victim and survivors! It is imperative that we take a stand and make this happen!
For our family, having a voice in the criminal processes and proceedings, it would mean that we would be able to fight for justice. That we can voice our opinions, in a respectful manner. The Estling family can be present and take a stand for Kaiden in the criminal justice process. My son no longer has a voice, so it is up to me to speak for him. While the accused will be sentenced, and serve their time in jail, they will be able to get out and come home to their own family. As for me and my family? We have a life sentence. This person sentenced us to live when they made their decision to hit and kill my son, and not even bother to get him help. Here we are over a year out and still have no answers. We have to face each and every day for the rest of our lives knowing what happened to Kaiden, and that he will never walk through that door again. I will never see his smile, or look into his big brown eyes so full of life. It is up to us to make sure that Kaiden gets the justice he deserves, and give our family a tiny piece of closure so we can move forward in the grieving process. Kaiden was given a life sentence of death when the driver chose to leave the scene of a fatal accident.
If you are a victim or survivor, stand firm in your faith. Cling to the hope that someday justice will be served. Take a stand for yourself and/or your loved one. Be the voice to make that change! We can’t change the world, but together, we can change the world, one step at a time!