My Best Friend Rachel Hoffman Was Murdered At 23-Years-Old

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Pictures courtesy of Elizabeth Patty-Lugo and the Hoffman family unless otherwise noted.

I was less than one mile south and about five minutes away from my best friend when she was shot point-blank five times with the gun she was ordered by police to purchase.

Rachel Hoffman had been a confidential informant with the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) for two weeks in an effort to reduce or eliminate possible charges she was facing stemming from a narcotics raid on her apartment where police found, according to the TPD Chief, Dennis Jones, a “baggie” of marijuana, four ecstasy pills, two valium pills and drug paraphernalia.

There is no doubt  what Rachel did was illegal, she should not have been using drugs or selling small amounts of marijuana to her friends, no one is disputing that fact. However, because TPD chose to use her as an informant they had a duty to protect Rachel as they assured her they would.

Rachel Hoffman's father, Irv Hoffman, at her grave.

Rachel Hoffman’s father, Irv Hoffman, at her grave.

It took two weeks for TPD to send Rachel, a non-violent offender, to death for a petty amount of narcotics. Drugs were seized from her apartment on April 17, 2008 and she was murdered during her first confidential informant (CI) operation on May 7, 2008.

She never spoke to an attorney, in fact she was discouraged from seeking the advice of counsel. She never received any police training, and her use as a CI was secretly withheld from the Office of the State Attorney, a strict violation of protocol.

Although there were 19 total law enforcement officials involved in the operation that day, including one DEA plane flying overhead, somehow all 19 lost sight of Rachel. Rachel was murdered on the evening of May 7, 2008, she cried out for the help of the TPD as she was shot and killed, and nobody was there to hear her.

On the evening on May 7, 2008 I was on my way to film her buy-bust operation when she was murdered.  I was filming the operation because she wanted to have proof it happened so she that got credit for it, in case she was required to perform additional operations to reduce her possible charges.

I wasn’t nervous at all about going to film the operation, she had assured me, what felt like several hundred times that the police would be watching her at all times and that she would be fine. The reason she was so confident is because the TPD and her lead investigator, Ryan Pender, assured her over and over that they would be watching her at all times.

I knew nearly every detail of her operations with police from the moment her apartment was raided, to when police first offered her the deal that ended her life, and up until the final moment when her body was lowered into the ground, when I watched her father weep uncontrollably over her casket.

Nobody has ever said that what Rachel did wasn’t wrong, it was wrong, plain and simple. However, in America we have a right to a trial before we are sentenced to death. She was not afforded that right, nor was she allowed her right to an attorney.  In fact, according to Senator Mike Fasano’s Florida State Bill 44, Rachel Hoffman became a “confidential informant for the Tallahassee Police Department without the advice of counsel because she was told [by police] that she could not tell anyone.”

“In America we have a right to a trial before we are sentenced to death.”

Also, I would consider being sent to death for what the Chief of the Tallahassee Police Department called a “baggie” of marijuana in his nationally televised interview with 20/20, cruel and unusual punishment.

My life changed forever that sunny May 7, 2008 evening in northwest Tallahassee on Meridian Road, every aspect of my life was and has been affected by that day, from school, to work, to my personal life; I would give anything to have that day and my best friend back.

My female cohorts have always been in short supply, so when I met Rachel I was excited to find someone with whom I really enjoyed spending time. I met Rachel through my now-husband, a bond we are happy to share. He met her playing pool with a group of friends, and it turned out they lived in the same apartment complex, coincidentally just one building apart.

Knowing it is difficult for me to make friends, he convinced me to go over to her apartment one afternoon, since it was only one building away and because he just had a hunch that we would be friends.

When I met Rachel I was greeted by a warm hug, the delicious smell of food cooking in the kitchen, and a cute little cat lying in the middle of the floor. That day I met someone who would end up being one of the best friends I had even known.

Rachel as Pippi Longstocking, early 90s.

Rachel as Pippi Longstocking, early 90s.

I had never had anyone ask me so many questions about myself until I met Rachel. She asked me where I was from, why I chose Florida State University for graduate school, how long I had been playing tuba (which she thought was awesome), what did I want to do with music, question after question!  I felt special knowing that someone thought what I did was so neat, but that’s just who Rachel was, a caring, genuine, and interested friend.

I learned some things about her that day as well and learned more about her in the coming months.  I learned that her mother and father divorced when she was very young, but they were both always HUGE parts of her life.  She had a kind-hearted stepdad who used to write for Rolling Stone Magazine.

Her stepdad went by the playful and joking nickname of “ESD,” (Evil Stepdad) which is still a running joke today.  I learned that she wanted to go to culinary school to attempt to fuse her keen knack for cooking with her interest in helping abused children by creating a culinary arts camp for abused and neglected children.

She was a practitioner of the Jewish faith, went to Temple often, worked at the day care at the Synagogue, and had met many of her childhood friends through her faith. I have had the fortune of meeting some of these friends from her childhood and Rachel was definitely right in making and keeping these wonderful folks as friends. That is one thing I have been very thankful for during this whole painful grieving process, the friends I have made through Rachel and because of Rachel, friends I will be bonded to forever because of happy memories we’ve shared, but also because of tragic memories we’ve experienced together.

Rachel’s involvement in marijuana began in high school. I didn’t know her then, but from talking with her friends it sounds like typical teenage experimentation with marijuana, smoking pot after school and on weekends.

She was always a solid student who never let her teenage dabbling with marijuana affect her grades and long-term goals of going to Florida State University to pursue dual degrees in criminology and psychology.

She maintained high grades while attending high school in the Tampa area and was accepted to Florida State University to pursue her goals, she was to be a freshman in fall of 2003. At this point, most people aside from very staunch conservatives who believe all crimes are created equal, would regard Rachel’s experimentation with marijuana as minor, if not typical teenage behavior.

At Florida State University Rachel did well, maintaining a solid B-average at one of the most prestigious division 1 research universities in the southeastern United States. Tallahassee has a somewhat prevalent counter-culture, ripe with grungy bars, hip coffee houses, and several quality music venues. A fair number of decent-to-good bands come through Tallahassee, and Rachel spent many nights and weekends listening to bands and playing pool with friends. The smell of marijuana wafting off of the back porch of a bar or during a concert was not something unusual in Tallahassee, it is something that is not unusual in any college town.

Rachel smoked marijuana during college and still maintained her drive and grade-point average, graduating in four years with dual degrees, just like she had dreamed of when she was younger.  At some point during college she began selling small amounts of marijuana to her friends as a means of making a few extra dollars.  She was careless when it came to possessing marijuana, often driving with it in her car.  She was stopped during her senior year in college in a traffic stop where police discovered 25 grams of marijuana in her purse, less than one ounce.

Florida has the strictest drug laws in the United States, where 20-grams, 8 grams shy of an ounce, is a felony. So, the 25 grams of marijuana found in her purse was enough to warrant a felony arrest.

Every single other state in the United States has more reasonable drug laws than Florida, and in no other state is less than one ounce of marijuana a felony. In any other state, that same 25 grams would have been at most a misdemeanor, and she would have been considered a first-time offender, likely only being required to pay a small fine and perform community service.

Rachel always loved to cook and was always preparing food for her friends.

Rachel always loved to cook and was always preparing food for her friends.

But, since she was arrested in Florida she was charged with a felony (this isn’t a “don’t live in Florida” argument, this is a “Florida needs more sensible drug-laws because clearly this isn’t working” argument).  Her sentence was Drug Court, fines, fees, and weekly and random urine-analysis tests.

For the first part of her Drug Court sentence she stayed clean and passed her urinalyses tests, but over the next few months she began smoking marijuana again and eventually began selling small amounts of marijuana to her friends.

This is the part of Rachel’s story where people begin to say things like, “well she was a criminal, she deserved what she got” and “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” and like I said previously, nobody has ever said that what she was doing wasn’t wrong, it was wrong, but the argument here is that she wasn’t afforded her right to due process and didn’t deserve to pay with her life for a “baggie” of marijuana.

During her one year of Drug Court she had only missed one random urine test because she was out of town with one of her childhood friends from synagogue, his father had passed away suddenly leaving behind his wife and three children. Rachel dropped everything when she found out that her friend’s father had passed away to attend his funeral, that’s who Rachel was, she was there when you needed her.

Since she missed a random urine test while attending her friend’s father’s funeral in Tampa, she was sentenced to one weekend in jail. I remember that weekend very clearly, it was a quiet weekend for me.  When left to my own devices I usually choose to stay at home and cuddle up with a book or a movie, it is people like Rachel who keep me from being a homebody. Her absence was painfully obvious the weekend that she was in jail, little did I know that in less than a month I would be dealing with her painful absence on a permanent level.

The weekend in jail was a definite eye-opener for Rachel, she had a first-hand glimpse of what life is like for non-violent criminals in the Florida prison system. After she completed her weekend in jail she became much more selective when it came to selling marijuana.

Initial TPD reports claimed Rachel sold 35 pounds of marijuana per month, which would gross about $1.2-$1.5 million annually.

Now Rachel was a generous person, often cooking meals for friends or buying a plate of sushi for all of us to share, but I can assure you that she did not live the lifestyle of someone who made $1.2-1.5 million tax-free profit every year.

The Special Master’s Final Report of State Bill 44 says Rachel made a living selling marijuana. She did not make a living selling marijuana, she was living off of her parents. Her father paid for the rent on her apartment, paid for her car and related expenses, and on top of that sent her gift cards to the grocery store every few weeks.

I remember the day Rachel’s apartment was raided by the Tallahassee Police Department, April 17, 2008. It was a quiet raid, nobody in SWAT gear banging down the door, the whole thing was a very mellow operation given the nature of the alleged offenses, and especially considering the outcome of this raid in two weeks.

I was waiting to hear from her that afternoon about going out shopping, I didn’t hear from her until later that evening when she called to tell me that she had been raided and that I needed to come over so that she could tell me about it. Her nonchalant attitude and her chipper tone of voice led me to believe this was not your typical raid. I was only an apartment building away so I got to her house quickly where she was hanging out with her boyfriend and watching the Food Network channel.

I have always loved this picture of Rachel.

I have always loved this picture of Rachel.

She told me that earlier in the day she was backing out of her parking spot at the apartment complex when an unmarked car pulled in behind her, preventing her from backing out. She said  two men in suits approached her vehicle and identified themselves as police officers and they asked Rachel if “there [was] anything inside that [they] needed to know about.”  While executing the search warrant in her apartment, police turned up just under a quarter pound of marijuana, four ecstasy pills, two Valium pills, and some pipes used for smoking marijuana.

Rachel was facing several possible felony charges including, possession of cannabis with intent to sell, possession of ecstasy, maintaining a drug house, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, and possession of paraphernalia.

However, she was never arrested on these charges and certainly never charged with these alleged crimes. Instead she was told by police she “could make all the charges go away” by agreeing to become a confidential informant.  (State Bill lines 25-26).

It is unclear how the issue of her contacting an attorney unfolded, but according to SB44 she was told not to seek the advice of counsel. From what she told me; police said if she told her attorney about the raid, that her attorney would have to tell the Drug Court, where she was doing her urine tests for her first arrest.

If Drug Court found out about the raid on her apartment, they would then extend her time in the program and she wouldn’t be allowed to be used as an informant to work off a possible four-year prison sentence. They had scared her into not telling an attorney.

“They had scared her into not telling an attorney.”

Instead of being offered the right to seek the counsel of her attorney she was offered a deal by police, specifically by lead VICE Unit Investigator Ryan Pender. Rachel could either go to prison for four years, or she could assist them as a CI. Given those two options, I guess you could say she “chose” to be an informant.

As she is telling me the story of her afternoon, a thousand different thoughts were racing through my head, but the one I couldn’t shake was, “what if somebody kills her because they know she is working for the police.”

I quietly continued to listen to her, I needed to hear every detail of what sounded like a movie script.  She told me that Pender said the worst thing that could possibly happen to her is that police would fake arrest her during the operation so it wouldn’t look like she was in on it.

Obviously that wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to her during her involvement with the Tallahassee Police Department considering she was going to be dead in less than two weeks.

The day after her raid, she went to the police station to figure out the details of becoming a confidential informant, and to make her first controlled phone call. She made her first call to a friend named Dan Snyder under the direction of Investigator Pender.

Dan was a low-level marijuana dealer that dabbled in the sale of other drugs as well. The intent of the phone call was to set up a controlled buy from Dan to purchase ecstasy.

After leaving the police station, Rachel called Dan on her own accord to tell him that when she called him earlier it was a controlled phone call from the police station. Somewhat surprisingly, instead of being upset at being a target, Dan agreed to become an informant as well, attempting to work off a few charges of his own and to “help Ms. Hoffman avoid her potential charges.” Masters report page 5.

By disclosing to Dan that he was the target of the controlled phone call, Rachel was in violation of the confidential informant agreement that she had signed only hours prior, her first of many violations.

When it comes to violating policies the TPD cast the first stone by allowing her to become a confidential informant in the first place.

Because Rachel was involved in the Drug Court program for her first arrest, TPD had a duty to inform the Office of the State Attorney that she was being used as an informant.

Rachel, in college, dancing.

Rachel, in college, dancing.

In his interview with 20/20, Chief of Police Dennis Jones tells reporter Brian Ross, “In hindsight, would it have been a good idea to let the State Attorney know [that Rachel was being used an informant]? Yes.” State Bill 44 states; “in spite of its [Tallahassee Police Department] duties as a branch of the court system, the Tallahassee Police Department violated its own policies and procedures and secretly concealed from personnel of the supervising Drug Court and the Office of the State Attorney of the fact that Rachel Hoffman was not in compliance with orders of the drug court…. If the Tallahassee Police Department had advised the State Attorney’s Office of its findings, Rachel Hoffman would not have been allowed to participate in the Tallahassee Police Department’s confidential informant program because such participation would violate the terms of the order of the drug court.”

According to the Grand Jury report, “TPD should have immediately notified the Office of the State Attorney of the search warrant that was executed on Ms. Hoffman’s home and of its intention to use her as a confidential informant. Drug Court is not a diversion program but is an intense supervision program and is supervised by a Circuit Judge rather than a probation officer. [sic]”  The Drug Court program was a means of rehabilitation and the Tallahassee Police Department’s encouragement of Rachel’s further involvement with drugs goes against the entire mission of the Drug Court intervention program.

Initially police wanted Rachel to turn in some of her marijuana suppliers to earn credit toward reducing her possible charges but Rachel’s cannabis suppliers were non-violent people, some with families and children, and she refused to use them as targets. Instead, she asked Dan, the target of her first controlled phone call, turned informant, if he knew any “bad guys” that she could use as a target.  Rachel told me that she did this because she wanted to get some “real scum off the street.”

On April 21, 2008 Rachel and Dan went to the Police Station where Dan told Investigator Pender about an auto tint and detail shop in a main area of town where two guys were employed who “were big dealers in drugs and other illegal items, including guns.” Page 5 master report. After leaving the Police Station Rachel and Dan went to the tint shop where Dan introduced Rachel to two convicted felons, the men who would murder her in two weeks.

When Rachel and Dan met with the targets after being at the police station, they were again in violation on the confidential informant agreement. The TPD has an established protocol that if someone proves himself or herself to be untrustworthy or unfit to be a confidential informant then they should immediately be terminated from use as a confidential informant.

Not everybody is cut out to be a confidential informant and Rachel was a very honest, fun-loving, and carefree person, pretty much the exact opposite qualities police typically look for in an informant.

Rachel had proved herself to be an unreliable informant and her punishment for that should have been her being terminated from use as an informant, charged with her crimes, and been given the right to face a Judge for sentencing.

“Rachel Hoffman repeatedly demonstrated a lack of maturity and experience in serving as a confidential informant so that the supervising case manager should have terminated her use as a confidential informant,” according to the TPD Chief, Dennis Jones.

The Grand Jury said that “based on the immaturity and poor judgment Ms. Hoffman used from the beginning of her relationship with TPD she should never have been used as a confidential informant.”

It isn’t Rachel’s fault she was not cut out to be an informant, she was young, naive, and never had any form of police training whatsoever.  She proved time and time again that she should not have been an informant. I know I would much prefer that Rachel had been terminated from use as an informant, had been given a sentence, and then gone to prison. At least there I would have been able to visit her every weekend, at least she would have been alive.

After meeting with the two male targets, Denelio Bradshaw and Andrea Green, at the tint shop, Rachel called them the next day from the police station to inquire about the deal that would eventually end her life.

Investigator Pender developed an Operational and Raid Plan (OPS Plan) where Rachel would purchase 1,500 MDMA pills, 2-3 ounces of cocaine, and a weapon from Andrea Green and Deneilo Bradshaw, with whom Rachel had no previous contact other than a mere introduction.

Furthermore, she had never purchased any amount of drugs from them previously, let alone $13,000.00 worth of drugs, a big red-flag for drug-dealers and police know this.

The OPS Plan incorrectly listed the amount of drugs that was to be purchased and fails to even mention the fact that a firearm is being purchased. However, following TPD protocol the OPS Plan was “reviewed” and signed off on by a lieutenant. However, that same lieutenant later testified that she did not actually read or review the OPS Plan before approving it, but indicated that the transaction was “discussed” with her and then she approved it.

The issue of the firearm is interesting and important.

The Tallahassee Police Department knew, or should have known, that on May 5, 2008, 2 days prior to the controlled buy-bust transaction, Deneilo Bradshaw was the prime suspect in the theft of a .25 caliber handgun from the car of a customer at a Tallahassee carwash [and tint shop] at which Bradshaw was employed, that all according to State Bill 44 submitted by Mike Fasano.

TPD conducted an investigation into the theft of the firearm but somehow Investigator Pender was not aware of this recent occurrence. Of course some things are going to fall through the cracks at a police station, or certain reports don’t get relayed to the proper parties in a timely manner, that is expected in any office and even police department. But as an Officer of the law, Ryan Pender had a duty to know that these targets were convicted felons of violent crimes, and that one of them was the prime suspect in a recent gun theft.

Rachel (left) and Me.

Rachel (left) and Me.

Rachel’s next operation was scheduled for May 5, 2008 where she was to purchase the large amount of drugs she had ordered from the two convicted felons as well as the purchase of the handgun. May 5 was a Monday that year, and the weekend prior I went to a nearby beach with Rachel and had one of the best weekends of my life and I am so thankful for those last few days with her before I lost her forever.

The tint shop where the two targets worked is a very busy area of Tallahassee with a lot of auto, bike, and pedestrian traffic due to Florida State University being less than a block away. Rachel had asked me if I would film her operation with my camera so she could have evidence that she completed the deal with the police. Directly across from the tint shop there is a Greyhound Station with a parking lot that faces the tint shop head-on with a perfect view of where the operation was to take place.

I have had people tell me that she only wanted me to film it so that she could have her own mini version of a television show, or something along those lines. Had that been the case, I can guarantee that I would have taken a better camera than my mediocre 8 mega-pixel camera.

She wanted to be able to have proof that she had completed what was asked of her, she wanted to be sure she got credit toward her possible charges since that is the reason she became an informant in the first place.  Rachel went to the tint shop that day and was told by Bradshaw that he and Green worked as a team and the deal wouldn’t be taking place that day because he and Green could not get the 1,500 ecstasy pills for a few more days.

If Bradshaw and Green were the drug kingpins that the TPD made them out to be, then acquiring 1,500 ecstasy pills should have been no problem for them.  The problem was that they were not drug kingpins, they were low level street dealers with felony records for violent crimes.

The ill-conceived buy-bust operation was rescheduled to take place on May 7, 2008 at the house of one of the parents of the targets, in a large subdivision off of North Meridian Road.

Rachel spent the morning with her boyfriend who was really quite worried about the entire operation from beginning to end. He is street savvy and highly intelligent, he told Rachel from the beginning that she was going to get robbed and that she needed to be careful.

She assured him for the millionth time that the worst that could happen is she would get fake arrested just so that it didn’t look like she was in on the operation, her reassurances were never enough to comfort him. He drove her to the police station where they said what would be their final goodbyes.

After arriving at the police station she was wired and readied for the operation. The person typically responsible for handling the wiring procedures was not at the police station on May 7, 2008 and Rachel was wired by another member of the police force.

I mention this because it was the first of fatal errors to occur that day, Rachel’s wire failed soon after it was set up. After Rachel had been improperly wired, she made a controlled phone call to the targets and then she began the trek to northwest Tallahassee to meet Green and Bradshaw with $13,000.00 in marked bills in her purse, and a faulty wire.

Rachel and her mom, Margie.

Rachel and her mom, Margie.

The number of law enforcement officers involved that day is quite impressive. Rachel knew there was going to be a substantial amount of law enforcement involved in this operation, it was one of the things that made her feel comfortable with the situation.

She was absolutely certain that someone would be watching her at all times.  Police assured her that they would always be watching her and up to that point she had no reason to doubt them. She trusted Ryan Pender, at one point even saying that he was almost a cool guy… almost.

Pender had Rachel save his phone number in her phone under the name “Pooh Bear” so that if he called while she was with the targets they wouldn’t know it was a police officer calling. She truly believed in her mind that the worst thing that could possibly happen was that she would be fake arrested and then she would be driven home by police.

Rachel was not familiar with the area in which the transaction was set to occur, but yet she still wasn’t nervous because she had assurances from Investigator Pender that she would be fine, he had her life in his hands.

The location of the transaction was an issue from the beginning, having been changed no less than five separate times, each time by the targets.

After the briefing and just prior to leaving the police station, the location was changed again by the targets, in violation of policies and procedures of the Tallahassee Police Department.  The targets changed the location to Forest Meadows Park, which is a popular, highly frequented public park where families and children congregate, and was not a suitable and safe location to conduct a dangerous operation involving a known violent criminal who was expected to be in possession of a fully loaded firearm, this according to State Bill 44.

Nevertheless, the police set up two arrest teams in the park, a vehicle to block the targets way out of the park, four officers in individual vehicles to drive north and south along Meridian road where the park is located, an additional surveillance vehicle, and a DEA plane which was to monitor the area overhead, however, due to the incredibly thick tree cover from the canopy roads, the DEA plane was basically useless.

After Rachel had been wired she texted me to let me know she was on her way to the location which was now at a park in north Tallahassee, she told me that it was on Meridian Road and that it was far away.  I was planning on going to film the operation that evening like we had planned and I was in my car with a friend of mine heading to the park.

I knew where Meridian Road was and used my phone to figure out where the park was located.  I remember not being nervous at all about heading to the park to film Rachel’s operation, I can’t stress enough how many times she was assured by Pender they would have visual sight of her at all times regardless of the circumstance.  This is what made her feel comfortable about the entire plan, and ultimately what made me comfortable as well.

At 6:28pm Rachel received a phone call from the targets telling her they were at Forest Meadows Park.

Rachel, Investigator Pender, a DEA Special Agent, and an additional Tallahassee Police Officer left the police station on the way to Forest Meadows. Rachel was driving her car to Forest Meadows and was in contact with Pender via cell phone while en route.

At 6:40pm Pender pulled into the parking lot of a nearby school to monitor Rachel’s wire.

At 6:41 Rachel called Pender to tell him that the targets changed the location to a plant nursery 1.5 miles north of Forest Meadows Park. There are two parks located on Meridian Road, Rachel turned into the wrong park at first, and she turned into Meridian Park instead of Forest Meadows Park, which are about a mile apart.  She was informed immediately that it was the wrong park.

Pender left his spot at the school and slowed the heavy evening traffic to allow Rachel to turn left out of the incorrect park and head north toward Forest Meadows, the correct park.  Since TPD had immediately informed her about her wrong turn, she was certain law enforcement officials had eyes on her at every given point, and that she was in constant communication with officers.

Pender remained at the incorrect park to monitor Rachel’s wire from that location. Rachel continued north on Meridian Road when she began a roughly two minute phone conversation with the targets where she informed them she was turning into Forest Meadows Park “right now,” which was approximately at 6:45pm, but instead of turning into Forest Meadows Park she continued north on Meridian Road.

Pulled over during a road trip.

Stopping for food and gas on a road trip.

Pender was informed at 6:45pm that Rachel had not turned left into Forest Meadows Park but continued north on Meridian Road. Pender attempted to call Rachel several times to determine where she was, but she did not answer. She was on her the phone with the targets until 6:47:15pm, so if Pender was calling at 6:45 she was not answering Pender’s call because she thought he could see her. She wanted the targets to direct her to the new location while Pender and other law enforcement followed.

Knowing how Rachel felt about the operation I can nearly guarantee that she was not at all worried at this point. Even though the targets changed the location again this likely did not strike Rachel as strange, police had allowed the targets to change the location several times up to this point.

Also, even though she had missed the turn into Forest Meadows I am sure she thought police still had eyes on her, after all, they immediately informed her of her incorrect turn no less than four minutes ago, surely they were watching her as she drove north past Forest Meadows Park, I am certain that she thought she was being watched by police.

At 6:46 pm DEA Special Agent Lou Andris was driving past the plant nursery and noticed the two targets sitting in their BMW. Agent Andris was about one minute north of Rachel on Meridian Road.  At the same time, Investigator Pender informed the units that Rachel’s wire had failed, that he could not hear her, nor could he reach her on her cell phone.

Since Agent Andris had already passed the plant nursery on Meridian Road where the targets were sitting in their car, Agent Andris needed to make a u-turn and head back down south on Meridian Road. Agent Andris executed his u-turn in the parking lot of Hawks Rise Elementary School. During his u-turn he was unable to see the traffic on Meridian Road from the Elementary School.

As Rachel approached the plant nursery she slowed to allow the targets to pull in front of her so that she could follow them to the new location to complete the transaction. At the precise moment that Agent Andris was executing his u-turn, the targets and Rachel passed by him on Meridian Road unbeknownst to Andris.

Agent Andris pulled out of the school and headed south on Meridian Road back toward the plant nursery, where he last saw the targets. Of course when he arrived the targets were no longer at the plant nursery because they were heading north on Meridian Road, with Rachel in-tow. Rachel and the targets were now approximately two minutes north of every law enforcement official, none of the officers had seen or heard from Rachel in nearly three minutes.

After her phone call to Green ended at approximately 6:47pm I got the last text message that I would ever get from Rachel saying that she would call me later, but I never heard from her again.  Little did I know, that less than five minutes after her last text message to me, she would be dead in the back seat of her car riddled with bullet holes.

Since I was already on Meridian Road and in the area I just continued northward looking for the left to turn into Forest Meadows Park, where I thought the transaction was going to take place.  At approximately 7:00pm I made the same wrong turn that Rachel made into Meridian Park instead of Forest Meadows Park, I drove through the park and turned left to head north and look for any sign of Rachel or police activity.

The targets were leading Rachel to Gardner Road, a dead-end, dirt road approximately one-mile from the plant nursery and approximately 2.7 miles from Forest Meadows park where the rest of the law enforcement officers remained awaiting orders from Pender.

At approximately 6:48pm Rachel turned left onto Gardner Road and continued to follow the targets.  Rachel had no way of knowing that none of the law enforcement officials she entrusted to monitor her safety were watching or listening to her (SB 44).

At 6:48:11pm, Pender was able to reach Rachel on her cell phone when she told him she was following the targets down Gardner Road.  Apparently, during his phone call with Rachel, Pender radioed the units that Rachel was on Gardner Road “all the way at the end,” and was “following [the]m right now.”

The conversation between Rachel and Pender lasted 42 seconds from 6:48:11-6:48:53pm.

At 6:48:32, 21 seconds into his phone call with Rachel, Pender again radioed the units: “Alright guys, we’re gonna have to do this on the fly now.  She pulled and followed them all the way down where the nursery is, and go, followed them down the back street . . . and now she’s down at the back end of where that nursery is. You turn off Gardner where the nursery is and go all the way to the end of the street – that’s where she’s at [all sic].”

This is not only misinformed but also highly suspicious on the part of Ryan Pender.

If he was on the phone with Rachel while he was radioing his units, why was he not more emphatically telling her not to follow them, or why didn’t he tell her that they couldn’t see her?  Why was he not more emphatic while radioing his units, using casual terms like “alright guys”?

Not to mention the information that he radioed to his officers was incorrect.  Gardner Road is not where the nursery is, in fact, it is approximately .9 miles and about 90 seconds north of the nursery.  He says “go back down at the end of where that nursery is,” which are the complete wrong instructions.  None of the units were far enough north, and only 1 of the 19 law enforcement individuals actually knew the location of Gardner Road.

Rachel reached the end of Gardner Road around 6:49pm. Gardner Road is remote with a lot of rural and undeveloped farm land surrounding it.

Interestingly, Gardner road is not covered by canopy trees, and could have easily been seen by the DEA plane had it been in proper location.

Rachel and friend Teresa, being silly.

Rachel and friend Teresa, being silly.

Rachel parked her car and met with the two targets. Rachel thought she was being listened to at all times because of the wire on her person and in her purse, and she also thought she was being watched by police at this time.

Tragically and unknown to her, the wire on her person as well as the one in her purse had failed and police could not hear her, she also did not know that police could not see her, or that they didn’t even know where she was.

The Grand Jury report said, “The audio surveillance equipment failed and there is no way Ms. Hoffman would have known that.  The Law enforcement officers tasked with the responsibility of visually monitoring Ms. Hoffman, lost site of her [sic].”

The lieutenant at the Police Station who was tasked with monitoring the radio contact that day testified that she was distracted and was not fully paying attention. Furthermore, she had only been in that position for less than three months and this was her first operation with the VICE unit.

Since the wire failed and police couldn’t find Rachel, it is unlikely that we will ever know exactly what happened during those final moments. One thing that is certain is the targets did intend to rob her.  It was later found that the targets didn’t bring a single drug with them, and robbing her was at least part of their plan the entire time.

Maybe they found the non-working wire in her purse when they went for her money and then they shot her. Maybe she told Green and Bradshaw she was working for police so they panicked and shot her. I guess the details of what really happened don’t really matter, all that matters is that Rachel was shot five-times, three times in the chest, and twice in the head, with one of the gunshots blowing off her fingers as she put her hand up to shield herself as she was murdered between 6:50-6:52pm on May 7, 2008.

The Grand Jury found that letting a young, immature woman get into a car by herself with $13,000.00, to go off and meet two convicted felons they knew were bringing at least one firearm with them, was an unconscionable decision that cost Ms. Hoffman her life.

“There is no doubt that Andrea Green and Deneilo Bradshaw are the ones that brutally murdered Rachel Hoffman. But through poor planning and supervision, and a series of mistakes throughout the Transaction, TPD handed Ms. Hoffman to Bradshaw and Green to rob and kill her as they saw fit.  Based on the immaturity and poor judgment Ms. Hoffman used from the beginning of her relationship with TPD, she should never have been used as a Confidential Informant. But, if they were going to use her, they certainly had a responsibility to protect her as they assured her they would. Less than fifteen minutes after she drove away from the offices of TPD, she drove out of sight of the officers who assured her they would be right on top of her watching and listening the whole time. She cried out for help as she was shot and killed and nobody was there to hear her.” Grand Jury Report.

The Tallahassee Police Department was so slow to respond that by the time law enforcement personnel arrived at the Gardner Road location, Rachel Hoffman, Andrea Green and Deneilo Bradshaw were no longer there, and the only recorded evidence was a flip-flop sandal, two live .25 caliber rounds, one spent .25 caliber round, and tire marks. (state bill 44).

Around the time she was shot I was in my car pulling into Meridian Park, approximately 2.7 miles and about 4.5 minutes south of Gardner Road.

I hadn’t heard from Rachel in about ten minutes but since I was in the area I decided to continue driving north to see if I saw any police activity or if I was able to find Rachel’s car anywhere. I turned into Forest Meadows Park and everything seemed perfectly fine. I certainly didn’t see anything that would lead one to believe that a $13,000.00 buy-bust operation of 1,500 ecstasy pills, 3 ounces of cocaine, and loaded handgun was scheduled to have taken place in that park less than ten minutes prior to my arrival.

There were kids on the playground, pairs of tennis players practicing their backhands, it almost looked like a scene from Leave It to Beaver. I saw no marked or unmarked police vehicles, I kept my eyes peeled and was on full alert and I saw nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever. Needless to say, I didn’t see Rachel anywhere either, so I turned left out of Forest Meadows Park and continued north in hopes of seeing something, anything.

By the time I was heading north on Meridian Road so were the targets, one of them in their car, and the other target in Rachel’s car with her dead body in the backseat. I venture to guess the targets and Rachel were about five minutes north of me on Meridian Road heading north. Had they been headed south on Meridian Road we would have crossed paths and I would have seen Rachel’s car, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not have missed her car, I still see cars like hers on the road and think, “that looks like Rachel’s car.”

I continued northward on Meridian Road looking for any type of police vehicle.  I saw one burgundy colored, unmarked police cruiser at the nursery at approximately 7:05pm, but that was the only police vehicle that I saw of any kind.

I continued north, passed Gardner Road and turned left down a street that was about two miles north of Gardner Road which dead-ended into Lake Jackson. I recall that the sun was about to go down and that it looked really pretty so I got out and took a few pictures of the sunset. The reason that I was calm and relaxed enough to get out of my car to take pictures of a sunset is because at this point I wasn’t worried at all. I figured that I was just a little too late and had missed the operation, or maybe the operation had be cancelled like it had in the past.  I wasn’t worried because of the assurances that Rachel had from the police that they would make certain that she was safe.

I continued north on Meridian Road and made it to the Georgia State Line and then came back south into Tallahassee on another road. I headed over to my boyfriend’s house for the evening and drove by Rachel’s apartment since it was in the same apartment complex. Her car was not there and I just assumed she was just finishing things up with TPD and that I would hear from her shortly.

I started to worry a little bit around 11pm when I still hadn’t heard from Rachel and neither had her boyfriend. I went to a pool hall down the street with my boyfriend so that I could try to take my mind off of the situation. I was still only slightly worried at this point, I really had believed all of Rachel’s assurances and put my trust into the TPD.

We got back to my boyfriend’s house around 2am and I still had yet to hear from Rachel, I checked with her boyfriend and he still hadn’t heard from her either. I remember being worried and not at all sleepy, so I made myself some tea and sat down to play video games with my boyfriend and his roommate.

At 3:00am, I was startled by a loud banging on the door of the apartment, it scared me so badly that I remember pouring a fresh cup of tea on my leg. The second I heard the banging on the door I just knew that it was the police department, but instead of being worried about what they may or may not find in my boyfriend’s apartment, I was worried and anxious about Rachel.

When I opened the door there stood no less than ten police officers. Some in jeans, t-shirts, and bulletproof vests, and some in full uniform, all with guns in-hand.

When I opened the door the first thing that they yelled was, “is Rachel Hoffman here?!”  And I said “No, I thought she was supposed to be with you.”

They asked if they could come into the apartment and I, of course knowing me, said no that they could not come in the apartment. They knew I didn’t live there and they asked my boyfriend’s roommate if they could come in and he said that they could.

Rachel and her father, Irv.

Rachel and her father, Irv.

The next thing I know, I had three police officers in my face barking questions at me, questions that I didn’t have answers to and only made me more concerned.

They asked (yelled) if I knew about Rachel’s involvement with TPD and I said that I did, they asked if I knew where she was, and I said I thought she was still with police. I began to get upset because at this point I was worried about Rachel, I knew that she was not safe, as the police had assured her that she would be.

After about 20 minutes of intense interrogation, the TPD seemed satisfied with my answers that I knew absolutely nothing at all other than they lost had lost her during the Operation.

Immediately after the police left my house I called Rachel’s boyfriend to tell him that they were likely headed to his house, which they were. The TPD arrived at her boyfriend’s house in minutes, where they proceeded to ask him the same questions that were asked of me.

Like I said previously, Rachel’s boyfriend is very intelligent, and he knows how to assert his rights. He did not let the police into his home and was very forward with them asking them what had happened to Rachel.  The only response he got from the TPD was that “shit got crazy.”

That was one of the longest nights of my life and sleep never came.

The next day on May 8, 2008 none of Rachel’s friends or family had any idea where Rachel was or what had happened to her. Rachel’s cat was at her apartment and had not been fed since the previous day, so I went to the office of the apartment complex and pleaded with them to let me into her apartment, which they did after about 15 minutes of contentious conversation.

I was escorted by the property manager into Rachel’s apartment where I was surprised to see her apartment in such disarray, she typically kept her apartment tidy. Couch cushions were overturned, her personal items were strewn about, it was obvious that someone, likely TPD, had ransacked her apartment at some point during the night looking for something. Who knows that they were looking for, more evidence against her possibly?  What was clear was the TPD had no idea where Rachel was and at this point they were grasping at straws.

Rachel’s parents, Irv Hoffman and Margie Weiss, had been called at 2:00am on May 8th by Sgt. Odom of the TPD. They were told that they needed to come to Tallahassee as soon as possible because Rachel was missing, they were provided no further information.

Margie and Irv began the four-hour drive to Tallahassee. Upon their arrival in Tallahassee, they went immediately to the police station where they were greeted by the Chief of Police Dennis Jones who told them that their daughter was missing. It is highly suspicious that the Chief of Police would greet the family of somebody who was merely “missing.”  Irv and Margie were taken to the narcotics unit at the police station, something Margie noted as odd since Rachel was only “missing” and narcotics had never been mentioned.

Rachel her boyfriend and cat

Rachel, with her cat and boyfriend.

Rachel’s parents left the police station that afternoon with more questions than they had answers. They had not been informed during their meeting with police that Rachel was working as an informant and that she had been lost during a buy-bust operation conducted by the Tallahassee Police Department.

The only information that they were told is that Rachel was missing and that they did not believe her to be in danger, clearly a lie. After Rachel’s parents left the police station, they went to her apartment to await word from TPD regarding Rachel’s whereabouts, it was there that I met her parents for the first time.

I could not imagine worse possible circumstances for meeting the parents of one of my best friends. I met her parents, boyfriend, and Rabbi at Rachel’s apartment in the early afternoon on May 8, 2008.  I remember being scared. I was scared because I didn’t know what I was “allowed” to tell them. I wanted to divulge all of the information I had to them, but I was scared it might get me into trouble with the police, and at that point I was petrified of TPD. I still am.

“I wanted to divulge all of the information [to her parents], but I was scared it might get me into trouble with the police, and at that point I was petrified of TPD. I still am.”

I wrestle with a lot of guilt for not telling Rachel’s parents everything that day, not that it would have changed the outcome, but they wouldn’t have spent that entire day in the dark about why Rachel was missing.

The local news was covering this breaking missing person’s story and was plastering pictures of Rachel on the TV asking the community for any information regarding Rachel’s whereabouts. Rachel’s boyfriend was at her apartment that afternoon and I remember him saying that he wasn’t worried she was dead, he said that he thought she was just “hiding in the woods” and that she would be found.

I was worried she was missing, but I didn’t believe in my heart that she was dead. Her boyfriend and I had such confidence in the assurances that TPD gave Rachel that even 18 hours after we last saw her, we still believed that TPD would keep her safe and that she was alive.

We spent that entire day at Rachel’s apartment cleaning it from top to bottom so that it was clean when she returned.

We ate the delicious food that she prepared that was in her refrigerator so that it wouldn’t go to waste, we played with her cat, we held out hope for her return. We talked in the present tense to keep hope alive, to keep her alive.

The entire afternoon a “victim’s advocate” from the Tallahassee Police Department was at Rachel’s apartment with us, a woman named Kim. She gave us “up-to-the-minute” updates about Rachel, she made us feel that she was on “our” side. She told us that Green and Bradshaw had left a money trail with the marked bills they stole from Rachel’s purse, and that police were on the trail.

We knew that Rachel’s car had been found but was abandoned. We were told by Kim that there was no blood found in Rachel’s car, which later turned out to be a lie. Rachel’s car was covered in her blood, so much so in fact that her car had to be “totaled” because of its condition.

Since Kim told us the car was fine, we were still holding out hope that Rachel was safe. It is my stance that anything and everything that was said by Rachel’s friends and family in her apartment that day was reported by Kim back to the TPD. In the evening we were told by Kim that Green and Bradshaw had been captured in Orlando but Rachel was not with them.

It was then that I began to worry.

When I learned she wasn’t with Green and Bradshaw, I knew that she was not even remotely close to safe and something horrific had taken place. We all remained at Rachel’s apartment May 8th well into the night hours, waiting to hear any word from TPD.

I told her family I would have my phone on me at all times and to call me the moment they heard anything, then I went one building over to my boyfriend’s apartment where I stayed awake all night.

The next morning, May 9, 2008 at approximately 8:30am I received a call from Rachel’s mother. I’ll never forget what she said and the tone of her voice, flatly she said, “You need to come over now, call [her boyfriend] and everybody and get them over here now.”

I had stayed with my boyfriend that night since I was emotionally distraught and so I could remain close to Rachel’s apartment in case we heard anything. I quickly got dressed and ran to Rachel’s apartment.  I climbed the two flights of stairs and opened Rachel’s door to find her family solemnly sitting in her apartment on the couch. Nobody said anything, Margie got up from the couch and walked over to me, she shook her head “no” and held me in her arms as I cried.

I didn’t need to hear the words to know that Rachel was dead.

Rachel’s body was found early in the morning on May 9, 2008 near Perry, Florida, approximately 50 miles away from Tallahassee. Her bullet riddled body had been dumped in a ditch and covered with a Grateful Dead sweatshirt that she had in her car.

I honestly don’t remember much from that day, it is clouded with tears and anguish. I do however, clearly remember the local TV broadcasts that I saw that day.

“Upon the discovery of Rachel Hoffman’s body, the Chief and Public Information Officer of the Tallahassee Police Department appeared before the media and blamed Rachel Hoffman for her death, stating that she had failed to follow “established protocols,” but failed to explain what those protocols were and admitted no negligence or wrongdoing on the part of the Tallahassee Police Department.  It was while watching television that Irving Hoffman and Margie Weiss learned that their daughter who had been missing was murdered while serving the Tallahassee Police Department in an undercover capacity.”  That is a direct quote from Senator Mike Fasano’s State Bill 44.

Once Irv and Margie knew Rachel was murdered working as a Confidential Informant for the TPD, that’s when the real confusion began, and the slander against Rachel’s character.

TPD’s David McCrane was quick to alert the media that Rachel was a “drug dealer” and that it is not unusual for known criminals to be used in narcotics operations. TPD conveniently left out the fact she had never been charged with a single crime, granted she was facing possible charges, but this again is America where we are presumed innocent until proven guilty, it is obvious that Rachel was presumed to be guilty all along.

TPD was also quick to point out it was Rachel who violated “established protocols” by allowing the targets to change the meeting location. Again, TPD conveniently omitted the fact Rachel had received zero police training. Something that the Chief of Police is asked during his 20/20 interview; Brian Ross flat-out asked Dennis Jones if Rachel had received any police training and Jones said they do not provide training for informants, even for informants that are being required to purchase firearms. Nor did the TPD mention to the media that they themselves had broken protocol first by allowing her to become a CI and also omitted that they themselves broke established protocols by letting the targets set the location, and that they never listed the firearm in the OPS Plan.

As Rachel’s friends and family, we were now faced with not only extreme anguish over her murder, now that anguish was coupled with intense anger toward TPD for using Rachel in the first place and then having the audacity to blame her for her own murder.

“As Rachel’s friends and family, we were now faced with not only extreme anguish over her murder, now that anguish was coupled with intense anger toward TPD for using Rachel in the first place and then having the audacity to blame her for her own murder.”

Rachel’s funeral was held as soon as possible after her death, per Jewish custom.

My boyfriend and I drove down to Clearwater, Florida the night before her funeral and Rachel’s mother arranged for us to stay with a neighbor. Rachel was a lot like her mother, making sure that everybody was taken care of even during her time of need. There were so many people at Rachel’s funeral that the synagogue was overflowing with people, it had to open additional rooms and spaces to accommodate everyone.

Over 800 people attended Rachel’s funeral, she was certainly very loved, and was going to be very missed.

The cemetery where she was to be buried was next door to the synagogue. After the funeral service, all 800 people walked together from the synagogue to Rachel’s final resting place. I remember my boyfriend was my rock that day, literally holding me up at times. I remember my incredibly caring, and incredibly tall friend Karl picking purple flowers from a nearby tree to leave by her grave and being by my side during the burial.

The Jewish burial custom of Chesed Shel Emet, is the ultimate act of love and kindness, it is shown to the deceased when the mourners and friends participate in the actual burial. Many people participate by placing a few shovels of earth onto the casket or vault. They do this because this is something the deceased cannot do for themselves; because the deceased cannot ask the mourners to do it for them; and since the deceased cannot repay–or even simply thank–the mourners for seeing to her proper Jewish burial, this becomes the ultimate, unselfish act of love and kindness.

“I remember placing my shovels of earth on Rachel’s coffin, seeing and hearing the tiny pebbles hit the wooden box that she was in for eternity, and I remember crying.”

The more I listened to TPD on the news and read what TPD was telling the local newspaper, the more I became vehemently angry with TPD and their one-sided slant of the truth.

Within a few days, Rachel’s story began to garner not only extensive local coverage but also began to receive national media attention. I could not sit idly by and listen to the half-truth that I was hearing from TPD, so I began to speak out about the injustice that was the death of Rachel Hoffman.

I gave a few local interviews at first, so that Rachel’s side of the story was at least being somewhat heard and reported.

I was a graduate student at Florida State University pursuing my second master’s degree at the time, and word got around like wildfire that I was involved in the “Rachel Hoffman Tragedy,” as it came to be known.

My professors soon knew that I was deeply involved, and all but two of them were quick to jump to conclusions and quick to judge. Suddenly, many of my professors thought I must be involved in drugs and that I too must be a criminal. I only had two professors (out of dozens) ask me if I was “ok” and if there was anything they could do to help me through this trying time, school became a place of persecution for me.


The community was being fed numerous inaccuracies of fact and due to the one-sided story proclaimed by police, most of Tallahassee had formed their opinion of Rachel, and they were siding with TPD.  “Trust, Loyalty, and Commitment” is the motto of the T.P.D., which is emblazoned on all of their police vehicles, so the community was believing what they were being told by the people that they were supposed to trust, the people that were loyal and committed to them, their police force.

Rachel was already guilty in the court of public opinion.

The comments on the newspaper’s website were along the lines of “Rachel was a drug dealer and got what she deserved.”  I fully acknowledge that Rachel selling marijuana was wrong, but I will never know how someone can make the conclusion that because she sold small amounts of marijuana she deserved to be shot five times, that she deserved to be used by police, that she deserved to have her body thrown in a muddy ditch.

Rachel could no longer speak for herself and speak to the injustice that was her final two weeks on earth, so I spoke for her, the best that I could at 23-years old.  I want to make it abundantly clear that I have never received a single penny in compensation for speaking out on Rachel’s behalf.

The first national interview I gave was to Brian Ross with 20/20.  The first sentence of the 20/20 segment states; “She could have been anybody’s daughter, even yours,” so the interview hit home for a lot of families with college-aged children. I had never given any sort of on-camera interview before in my life, and although I am embarrassed by how naive I come across in that interview, I am very happy with the 20/20 interview, especially with the way Brian Ross was able to discredit Dennis Jones’ rendition of the “truth.”

My family begged me not to be so outspoken about the events that unfolded that cost Rachel her life.  My family was concerned for my safety, reputation, and future if I were to be as outspoken as they knew I would be, I have never been a person that goes quietly into the night.  I was going to tell Rachel’s story to anybody who would listen, and still do to this day, which is why you’re reading this.

“I was going to tell Rachel’s story to anybody who would listen, and still do to this day, which is why you’re reading this.”

Over the next year there were many interviews for me with TPD and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, phone calls on my phone from one media outlet or another, but I just always felt hollow. Of course I was happy with myself for speaking on Rachel’s behalf, but I wasn’t happy in life, as I grieved I became depressed and my anger deepened, I just wanted Rachel back.

The Grand Jury indicted Andrea Green and Denelio Bradshaw on first-degree murder charges, they are both currently serving life-sentences in the Florida Department of Corrections.  The Grand Jury report stated there was no doubt these two men were the ones responsible for Rachel’s brutal murder, but also found TPD to be negligent in the duty they had to Rachel.

“We find that the Tallahassee Police Department should take corrective action immediately to ensure the safety of the citizens of this county including changes in policy and procedures relating to the use of confidential informants, and whatever disciplinary action it deems appropriate with regard to its employees that participated in this case.”

The disciplinary actions that were taken in this case were small and ineffective, every police officer involved still has his or her job with TPD, specifically Ryan Pender, her lead investigator, the man responsible for concocting the ill-conceived plan that cost Rachel her life.

Ryan Pender was initially fired for his role in the botched buy-bust operation. The internal investigation conducted by the Tallahassee Police Department cited 14 separate policies or procedures that had been broken, most of them being under Ryan Pender’s “watchful” eye.

Pender had precious moments to try to save his hastily and “ill-conceived” (SB 44) drug bust, and less importantly to him he had mere moments to save Rachel’s life, and he did neither.  After he was released from TPD he became employed with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for several months until he was reinstated at the Tallahassee Police Department, in his previous capacity, with back-pay.

Ryan Pender essentially profited from the death of Rachel Hoffman, and I can almost guarantee that he never thinks about her.

“Ryan Pender essentially profited from the death of Rachel Hoffman, and I can almost guarantee that he never thinks about her.”

My depression grew much deeper and in the fall of 2009, I stopped pursuing my second master’s degree, dropped out of school, and moved 1,400 miles back home to live with my parents in their basement. By this time, a lot of the initial fervor that surrounded her murder had mostly dropped off, as things do when we are flooded with so many horrific current events in the world, but I was determined to keep Rachel’s memory alive, so were her friends, and most importantly her family.

Rachel was lucky to have the parents that she did in life, and she is lucky to have them as parents in death; they live every day for her.

Rachel’s father sat next to her grave-site every single day for at least the first three years after Rachel was gone, I have never seen sadness is someone’s eyes the way I have seen it in his.  Rachel’s mother has had some serious mental health issues going as far to thinking she is Rachel at times, but I think that has gotten better over the years.

To this day I can barely see or talk to Rachel’s mother. It isn’t because I am calloused or closed-off, or that I don’t like or love her; it’s because every time that I see Margie’s eyes or hear her voice I am immediately transported back to that morning when she told me Rachel was dead, and I am not strong enough to handle those thoughts and feelings.

They began to lobby the Florida Congress, with the help of Senator Mike Fasano, to pass a law to protect confidential informants, fittingly called “Rachel’s Law.”

Rachel’s Law received fierce opposition from law enforcement agencies saying the provisions in Rachel’s Law would make it nearly impossible for them to use confidential informants in any capacity. The law was watered down so that it would pass, but it is a start and better than nothing. The bill establishes minimum standards that law enforcement groups must meet when dealing with informers.

It calls on agencies to take into account a person’s age and maturity, emotional state, and the level of risk a mission would entail. Police also would be barred from promising an informer more lenient treatment; only prosecutors and Judges can do that. Rachel’s Law was passed on the two-year angel-versary (I hate the word ‘anniversary’ for this situation) of Rachel’s death on May 7, 2009.

All of Rachel’s friends and family use the symbol of a butterfly to remind us of Rachel.

I heard once that if you see a yellow butterfly that means a spirit is with you, so I got a yellow butterfly tattoo that is easy for me to see so that I am always reminded of Rachel and that she is with me always.

Things for me have never been the same since losing Rachel, I tell people that I lost all innocence and naivety when Rachel was murdered. I still have anxiety attacks when I see police vehicles, regardless of the circumstance. I have an incredibly difficult time keeping close friends these days, with only a handful being as close to me as Rachel had been.

There are, of course, a few positives that I have taken from the situation like the vast amount people I have met through Rachel and because of her, people I am forever bonded to, like Rachel’s boyfriend.  He has only dated one woman seriously since Rachel was murdered and they recently became engaged, I couldn’t be happier for him!  But he and I share a bond that I wish upon no one, a bond that I would give anything to break.

Through the grieving process my boyfriend told me that he could not imagine life without me and that the losing Rachel is what made that evident to him, we will celebrate three years of marriage in November.

Former FBI Agent Brad Garrett and ABC News Consultant said in his 20/20 interview “that [the entire operation] was a flawed plan to use someone like Rachel who had no experience with weapons.”

Furthermore he said, “it is beyond my imagination how the police lost her. It’s clear that no one followed her and once they lost her for whatever reason, she was just on her own.” Garrett went on to say that, “Typically in a drug deal if the source [Rachel] doesn’t do what you tell them to do, safety is the key, it’s just a drug-deal, that’s all it is. Who cares if it blows the deal, it’s all about safety, it’s all about people’s lives.”

Rachel was used as a pawn in a deadly game where Ryan Pender was more concerned with his precious drug-bust than he was with Rachel’s precious life, we can all agree that a human life is more precious that any amount of drugs. Rachel’s father Irv said that police played a shady and underhanded game with her, a game that cost Rachel her life, and I couldn’t agree more.