With 100-plus students in my classes every semester, I don't think much of it when one misses an appointment with me.
But on May 1, 2013, when Angelina Sicola didn't show up for her scheduled time, I was surprised. Angie, a communication major at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was a great student. She sat in the front row of my Writing for the Media class, never missed it, and was always attentive and engaged. I checked email and there was nothing letting me know why she wasn't there.
Two days later, while watching the local news, I learned why she missed that appointment. On May 2, Angelina Sicola had been found strangled in her apartment near Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard.
A year later, her murder remains unsolved.
"I don't talk of her in the past," says Pam Lively, Sicola's mother. For example: "She has the most infectious giggle. I miss that the most."
It is, of course, every parent's nightmare to lose a child. In Lively's case, there's also a peculiar irrationality she wrestles with: Her daughter was a healthy 20-year-old about to test for her second-degree black belt in taekwondo. "Angie knows how to defend herself," Lively says.
Anyone who's watched an episode of CSI will presume that Sicola knew her killer, and Lt. Adrian Vasquez with the Colorado Springs Police Department's Violent Crimes Section confirms that most murders are committed by someone the victim knew. But the police are sharing few details — for instance, was there a forced entry? — as they continue this investigation.
"There's a lot that we know," Vasquez says. "There's not a lot we can tell."
He says they've spoken with Lively about how frustrating the process can be. As he explains to me, "We try not to focus on any one person until we're more certain."
Of 32 murders in our city last year, Sicola's is just one of three unsolved. Vasquez says the department needs to hear from anyone they haven't talked to already who knew Sicola or saw her in the few weeks prior to her murder. He believes someone knows something that can help identify the killer. (Anyone with information can call police at 444-7000.)
In the meantime, Lively relies on strategies she's developed to get out of bed each morning. "You learn how to put one foot in front of the other," she says. One thing that's helped is continuing her work as a U.S. government and politics teacher at Air Academy High School. "Having that purpose," she says, "has been life-saving."
Lively also credits friends and family for getting her through. Last Thursday, the family planned to go through Angie's belongings, which had been moved from her apartment to her father's garage and left untouched since then. On Friday, Lively was going to hike with a friend.
Also on Friday, she was planning to get a tattoo of a heart bearing the letter "A," with angel wings wrapped around it.
"Maybe three days after her murder, I felt her enter my body through my chest," Lively says. "And I felt her wrap herself around my heart."
In honor of Sicola, the family has started scholarship funds. One is dedicated to students involved in the Key Club (a service-focused, school-based international Kiwanis club) or the yearbook at Palmer Ridge High School, where Angie was the yearbook editor for three years. The other, for UCCS communication majors in their junior or senior year.
Next May, the university plans to present her family with the bachelor's degree she was on track to receive. It will go with the honorary second-degree black belt she received last July, at the time she would have tested for it.
"It doesn't get any easier," Lively says. "I've been through hours of therapy, but the heartbreak will never go away."