Michelle Hord Has Fought Every Day Since Her Daughter’s Murder, But…

Michelle Hord Has Fought Every Day Since Her Daughter’s Murder, But Here’s How She Stays Afloat

A Former GMA Producer has written a memoir about her daughter’s shocking murder.

Michelle Hord, herself, isn’t always sure what’s going on.

“I battle with it every day,” the former TV producer told EJustin!’s Sylvester of coming to terms with the fact that her daughter was murdered by her own father. I’d like to be able to say that I was with Gabrielle and her father at Disneyland in some bizarre Facebook pop-up photo from several years ago. This is correct. “

But, as she writes in her new book, The Other Side of Yet: Finding a Light in the Midst of Darkness, in which she chronicles the depths of her despair and how she clawed her way out, “It’s crucial to ultimately be able to tell yourself,” Things have changed. Now I have to make other decisions. My world has shifted, and I now live in a new one. “

Hord told E! that she hadn’t meant to publish a book about her experience until the COVID-19 outbreak threw everyone’s lives into disarray in 2020, generating a “global “before” sensation as people battled with the so-called new normal.

Whether it’s divorce, breakups, infertility, or losing a job, we all experience these “before” moments in our lives, she noted. So the book is about how to get there while also pivoting to the other side, where you can hopefully find more pleasure, abundance, and life.

Hord’s journey to a position where she could allow herself to enjoy happiness without feeling guilty about it was a battle in and of itself.

“Who did it, how it happened, it was evident this was worse than my wildest dread,” she claimed. “I felt like something in this cosmos was attempting to extinguish me.”

But something inside her wouldn’t let her go.

She recalls thinking, “Whatever this is, I’m not going to let it beat me.” “I’m not going to let it have the upper hand. As a result, I believe a little of that angry, defensive black mama in me guided me and gave me power.

Hord spent several years as a producer on America’s Most Wanted, her first job out of journalism school, watching the darkest moments of people’s lives, and a recurring theme on the show was incredulous insistences from folks reacting to a crime that “this doesn’t happen here.” Whatever “this” happened to be at the moment,

She said, “It’s odd to be on the other side of that tale after working as a producer for so many years,” she said, “to be on the other side of that police tape.”

Hord claimed that her marriage had shown no “visible indicators” of peril. “I wanted a divorce because it wasn’t working out,” she told E!, “but [there was] nothing that signaled physical or mental danger for myself or my daughter.” She stated in her book that her ex had “angry issues” that surfaced when their romance began.

When her brother was a resident assistant at the University of Connecticut, she met Neil White (whom she refers to in the book under a pseudonym because, as she told E!, “I feel that person no longer lives”). There was an instant attraction between them, but they were only acquaintances for a decade, keeping in touch by email.

Hord began dating when he came to New York to work as a producer for Good Morning America, and the couple married on Sept. 29, 2007.

Looking at her wedding photos now is “complex and upsetting,” she admitted in her book, while she couldn’t dispute that “everything was real,” that it had been a happy, loving day. Hord’s friends and loved ones assisted her in going through the images and cutting them out after her daughter’s death, she wrote.

Their “miracle baby” was born Aug. 3, 2009, after an unremarkable pregnancy that doctors had classified as “high risk” because Hord was 39, she wrote, “a dream come true.”

“Like most small girls, Gabrielle loved her dad,” the author said.

While they had a strong father-daughter bond and “on the outside, our lives were a model of the American dream,” Hord wrote about watching “fault lines” in her husband’s character emerge when his fears surfaced. “Our daughter’s safety and well-being were never a worry,” she added.

While they had a lot of fun, White’s career insecurity, compared to Hord’s steady upward trajectory, caused “cracks in the foundation of what we were building,” she wrote. Hord thought her marriage was “beyond repair” by the time Gabrielle turned 7 in 2016, despite many efforts at counseling, and she requested a divorce from White.

Hord told E! that the procedure was “tumultuous,” to the point where she had to move out of the family’s home in New Rochelle, New York, and into a rented home. She agreed to sign the documents on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017, but “then continued to fight and manipulate me for the following six to seven weeks,” she wrote in the book, before they settled on a new date: June 5, 2017.

Hord told E! that she “slept great” that night. “I went to work the next morning, hoping to see him and my daughter that afternoon.”

“I got this call from my nanny with this bloodcurdling scream,” Hord added, “and it was evident she was at a crime scene.” “It took my brain a few minutes to just grasp what the possibilities were because I assumed my daughter was in school, where she was supposed to be.”

Hord reached out to a good friend and another mother to see whether she had seen Gabrielle at their children’s school that day.

“My heart simply sank when she said no,” Hord added. I realized what had happened, and I went into a small room and slammed the door. God, I have no idea what I’m getting into,’ I whispered in the closet, closing the door and kneeling. But whatever it is, just give me the strength to handle it. “

Tonette Mahon, the family’s nanny, had arrived at the house after White texted her that the second-grader was sick and would be absent from school that day. Hord hadn’t phoned Mahon to tell her that herself, which Mahon found odd.

The sitter arrived at the house and walked upstairs, where White emerged from his bedroom bleeding from self-inflicted wrist wounds, according to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and WABC TV. Gabrielle was “resting,” he assured her. Mahon bolted from the residence, calling the cops and the child’s mother.

Gabrielle’s body was discovered in her bed just after 3 p.m. by officers. Asphyxia by smothering was the cause of death.

Hord’s longtime pastor, the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, was waiting for her outside the house when she arrived, and she told Good Morning America last month that “that moment, clearly, will just be scorched in my memory.” “My pastor was waiting there, grabbing my arm and pulling me out of the car to inform me that she had left.”

White, who was in his room when police arrived, was brought to the hospital for sutures before being arrested on the night of June 6 and prosecuted in New Rochelle City Court the next day on murder charges.

Reporters descended on the crime scene, completing the America’s Most Wanted scene Hord was all too familiar with. Derek Lewis, a neighbor with a son Gabrielle’s age, told ABC 7 in New York, “They were always friendly and they always appeared happy.” “This was completely unexpected, and I’m upset.”

Evoni Legette, another neighbor, told CBS 2 News, “There’s nothing you can do but pray. Please pray for the family and the little daughter. That’s the only thing you can do. “

According to USA Today’s LoHud.com, New Rochelle Police had previously responded to a call to the property in January 2017, following an incident between White and Hord that was resolved without further action.

(Hord said in her book that it wasn’t until they were in the middle of divorce procedures that they realized they were having problems.) My physical safety was the last thing on my mind. Even back then, the one thing I knew for certain was that he would never harm our child. “(

According to a typed summary of the interview acquired by The Journal News, White told Detective Michael Messina at the hospital that “all feelings came through” when the divorce papers were presented to him to sign.

According to Messina, White was angry that his daughter would be living in a single-parent family and that he wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with her, and “he didn’t want her to suffer.”

According to the investigator, White first told Messina that he last spoke to Gabrielle at 11 a.m. on June 6 and that she informed him that she was sleepy.

She wasn’t breathing well and she just lost her breath, White stated when asked how she died. When pressed further, White said that he placed a pillow over his daughter’s face between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m.

At the time, Richardson, the pastor, told CBS 2 News that Hord was “a woman who has a lot of faith.” I’m confident she’ll be able to get through this. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be over anytime soon. “

When you want to drift away, “I think being tethered—whether it’s [to] a deity, the universe, Mother Nature, or something bigger than yourself—helps you when you want to drift away,” Hord told E! when asked how she eventually found the unfathomable courage to keep going each day after this happened.

She also stressed the importance of seeking trauma counselling as soon as possible.

“I realized I needed every instrument available if I was going to fight to survive,” Hord added. As a result, I relied significantly on treatment, which I believe contributed to my humiliation.

Black women are meant to be superwomen and incredibly powerful. Somehow, I’m doing it, and you would, too, if you were in my shoes, “I’m the first to declare.” I don’t have a cape with me. I’m not a fan of supernovas. “

Therapy also helped her deal with the inevitable inquiries and pointing fingers from others who thought she should have seen it coming, that there must have been warning signals.

She explained, “I think people feel compelled to speak up.” “People who told me it was God’s will, and I told them how I felt about them and their interpretation of God’s will.

People want to know why something happened, so if they can point the finger at someone—it had to be the mother, it had to be the neighbor, it had to be [whoever]—they believe they can see something. But if you live in it, the only way to find peace is to admit that there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. “

The Hord Foundation, which Michelle’s parents founded in 1993 to give scholarships to needy students in their home state of Connecticut, donated $10,000 to the Girls Scouts Heart of the Hudson in Gabrielle’s honor in August 2017. Gabrielle was a member of her local troop.

In the next month, Hord held a memorial to spread Gabrielle’s ashes at sea. It was attended by 25 of Gabrielle’s classmates and their parents, with collective healing also being on the mind of the bereaved mother.

Hord gave each youngster a white rose to place in the water as they played Gabrielle’s favorite songs.

Hord has recently founded Gabrielle’s Wings, a nonprofit dedicated to improving access to education, extracurricular activities, and recreational space for children in impoverished neighborhoods.

“It was crucial to me as a mother that the work and legacy in her name be 10-times bigger than what happened to her,” she told E!, “and that what happened to her would not define who she was.”

In July 2019, White pleaded not guilty, but in July 2019, he was found guilty of second-degree murder.

It was in October when Hord went to court for sentencing. He told the judge that Gabrielle’s death was “a razor-blade slash of trauma, memories, pain, uncertainty, betrayal, and disbelief.”

Hord said, holding one of her daughter’s dolls, that all three of them had asthma, and despite the fact that White had experienced what it was like to be unable to breathe, “Gabrielle’s father purposefully and evilly chose to take that away from a baby he appeared to love and a daughter he eventually used as a pawn.” This man has practically taken my heart and soul from my body. “

White received a sentence ranging from 25 years to life in prison.

While forgiveness was out of the question—”Forgiveness is about someone who is seeking forgiveness, which is not the situation,” Hord told E!—she instead focused on reconciliation.

“My form of making peace has been reconnecting with [White’s] mother, Gabrielle’s grandma, who not only lost a grandchild but also had her only kid do this to her only grandchild,” she said.

So reconnecting with her, going back to church with her, to the church where we used to go with her son and granddaughter, that reconciliation has been the most important olive branch.

It was an uphill battle to get to a point where she could enjoy herself again, let alone find love and trust another person, and there were plenty of Sisyphean moments along the way. But it just… happened when it happened.

Hord admitted, “I wasn’t looking.” I didn’t think much of it because he seemed like a lovely man. And then it occurred to me that I was falling in love. “

Hord remarried last year, and she shared a favorite phrase from her new husband, Axel Johnson: “‘Good things happen for a reason,'” as opposed to the old “everything occurs for a reason,” which she finds questionable.

But she is a staunch believer that when life throws us a curve ball, we only need to rely on what we already have.

Hord stated, “I don’t believe there is a grief index.” It’s easy to look at me and say, “Oh, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish that.” But we all have things in our lives that make us want to say, “Yet, despite that, I’m going to keep going.”

Of course, she also mentioned that she wanted to be a source of strength for others. “This was not my choice. People wrote me emails saying things like, “Michelle, I hadn’t prayed in years until I saw you speak at Gabrielle’s funeral.”

Michelle, every day I watch you go to work and it inspires me. And I recognized that the cracks in my heart were allowing hope to shine through for others. So this wasn’t really about me; it was about honoring her spirit and, maybe, providing hope to others. “

Hord said that seeing her daughter’s classmates and her own friends’ children get older has been “a double-edged sword” as Gabrielle’s 13th birthday approaches.

“I want to stay in the lives of the individuals I care about,” she explained.

I was a class mom, so I knew everyone in the class. Two weeks before [I did], one of my best friends had a daughter, and they’re both called Gabrielle. We had no idea we were expecting daughters. “

It’s difficult, but “I wouldn’t be in their lives if I didn’t have to,” Hord added. “And it’s still worth it to me to be linked to that love,” she says.

To be clear, her book is “not a happily ever after” story, she stated flatly. It’s not as simple as saying, “I lost a limb and it grew back.” How can I learn to carry this with me?’ It is.

No matter how many people she speaks to or how much she writes down, talking about what occurred is still difficult. “This is a testament, not a book anyone would have chosen to write,” she explained.

Hord described how she still struggles to understand what happened on a daily basis, saying, “I had to let go of my desire for an explanation and realize that there would never be one.”And if anything, that has given me some peace, knowing that it would never make sense. “

Here’s where you can learn more about Gabrielle’s Wings. Wherever books are sold, The Other Side of Yet: Finding Light in the Middle of Darkness is easily accessible.