Thoughts from the Publisher | Oct. 25, 2019

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Tomorrow would have been my best friend’s 64th birthday. Her name was Charlene Hopkins Babcock. I say “would have been” because she was murdered 25 years ago along with her husband Joe on August 26.

Charlene and I were best buddies since second grade at Signal Hill Elementary School. Living just around the corner from one another made it easy for us to spend time together after school–– on weekends and on school breaks. We were pretty much inseparable until junior high when she went off to school to Long Beach’s St. Anthony School and I to Jefferson Junior High and then to Wilson High School.

We stayed close in our adult years, even when she moved to Arizona to, in her words “get away from all the people and the crime.” Unfortunately, we didn’t have internet or Facebook to help us stay in contact, but visited each other often and spent time on the phone sharing stories as often as we could.

Courtesy Neena Strichart
Neena and Charlene in the early 1990s

The morning after the murders, I received a call from Charlene’s brother Alvin telling me of the horrible tragedy surrounding her death and the death of her husband. According to Alvin, two men named Allen Nicklasson and Dennis Skillicorn got their car (a stolen vehicle) stuck in a ditch and walked to the Babcock’s isolated home to ask for help. Joe went with them and tried to pull the car out of the ditch, and when he couldn’t, they executed him. The killers then went back to the Babcock home and murdered my friend Charlene. After all that, the men stole the Babcock’s truck and took off down the highway. By the way, the killers had also murdered several other innocent people on a cross-country rampage before and after they took the lives of my friends. Thanks to the television show America’s Most Wanted, the murderers were eventually apprehended and convicted.

Five years ago, with the 20th anniversary of this horrific event still so vividly on my mind and in my heart, I decided to check online to see the status of these bastards. I guess I was afraid that since this dastardly-duo had been convicted two whole decades ago I would find that the they had been paroled. I suppose I was trying to put the whole thing behind me as much as possible, therefore I had not followed the case after the men were convicted. Much to my surprise, I discovered that Skillicorn had been put to death in 2009 in Missouri as part of a death-penalty conviction for a murder he committed there before the Babcock killings. Nicklasson, who was convicted of all the above as well, was executed in Missouri in December of 2013.

When I read the news of these monsters’ deaths, I didn’t know what to feel. I didn’t feel happy, sad, angry or any of the other usual emotions one might expect. In fact, I still don’t know how to categorize my feelings. I do know that I was relieved that these two demonic individuals, now deceased, will never again hurt another human being or break the hearts of those who were left behind to grieve.

My darling, sweet Charlene was the kindest soul I’ve ever known, and my heart will forever be broken. She was an angel on earth, and for the last 25 years, I have thought of her as a true angel– one with wings.