A survivor and a 'fighter,' state trooper Sayeh Rivazfar shares her story of overcoming horror to reach her goals
Throughout her life, Sayeh Rivazfar says, people have told her she's a survivor. The 35-year-old state trooper thinks "fighter" is a more accurate adjective to describe her refusal to give up. Throughout her childhood Rivazfar was struck with overwhelming challenges. While a little girl living in Pensacola, FL, she had been abused and neglected at the hands of a mother who pursued drug- and alcohol-fueled partying, leaving Rivazfar and her siblings behind. She would also endure sexual abuse at the hands of a man who threatened her, demanding secrecy for the crime he committed. The darkest storm came when she was 8 years old. Rivazfar was kidnapped and raped repeatedly by the same man who molested her a year before. This took place moments before he slit her throat, narrowly missing her jugular vein. The man then murdered Rivazfar's younger sister, Sara, in her presence. It was a reality to be faced with, but it wasn't enough to keep Rivazfar from pursuing the life she knows she was meant to live. For her, the brutality she experienced in the vulnerable years of her childhood served as fuel to meet her goals. On Tuesday afternoon, the trooper conveyed the battle she won to approximately 30 students of Brian Amphlett's criminal justice class at the Finger Lakes Technical and Career Center. "There will be times in your life that it feels like you can't get above it," Rivazfar told students. "But I'm telling you, I surrounded myself with positive people and positive things and I fought. I kept fighting to push through and move on. I'm telling you what, it has not failed me yet." As she did last year at FLTCC, and as she has done repeatedly on a variety of stages since the horrific incident occurred, Rivazfar told her story to students. She included the majority of the brutal details along the way. Rivazfar lived with her mother, Patricia Pafford, and her father, Ahmad Rivazfar, in Pensacola. When she was 5, her parents got a divorce. Despite doubts about her ability to support her children, Pafford was granted custody of Rivazfar and her two younger siblings, Sara and Arash. The children would bounce from house to house with their mother as she regularly consumed drugs and alcohol amid run-ins with the law. The lifestyle came to a head the night of Sept. 21, 1988, which was a school night, Rivazfar vividly recalls. Her mom had gone out to party. Shortly after falling asleep in the bedroom she shared with her 6-year-old sister Sara, Rivazfar remembers being awakened and carried out of the home. When she looked up she immediately recognized the man carrying her as a boyfriend from her mother's past — Ray Wike. It was a year prior that Wike had molested her, Rivazfar explained to students. It was a dark fact that Wike threatened her into keeping a secret. "He told me that if I told anybody, he would kill my family," Rivazfar said. After he placed her in his beat-up old green Dodge, Wike went back inside Rivazfar's home, reemerging with her little sister. It was later determined that after finding out that the two little girls were alone at their home, Wike used a crowbar to pry the back door of the residence off its hinges at some point between midnight and 1 a.m. Sept. 22, 1988. After loading the girls into his car, he drove to a secluded area, pulled off onto a dirt road and parked the car. After he bound Sara's hands and feet, the fear between them became palpable, Rivazfar said, and they began to cry. "Ray told us if we are good, he'll bring us to our mother," she recalls. "He told us she's right up the road." Wike then raped Rivazfar "until daybreak," she said. When that terror ended, Wike moved on, having Rivazfar walk into a portion of the woods as he carried her 6-year-old sister behind her. Around 150 feet off the dirt road, he stopped. "He says, 'Say your prayers,'" Rivazfar said. "And as he says that, he takes out this large black-handled knife and he begins to cut my throat." She recalls the blood and then dropping to the ground, aware that if Wike saw her move, he would finish killing her. Wike then turned to Sara, who Rivazfar heard begin to panic. Rivazfar looked down as she told students that she could feel the vibration on the ground from her sister, who was kicking at the earth at Wike turned the knife on her. "And then all the sudden, she doesn't make any more sounds," Rivazfar said. When done, Wike jumped over Rivazfar's motionless body. She heard the rustling of the brush as Wike retreated from the scene, hopped into his car and drove away. Rivazfar would stand up and approach her lifeless sister, who also had her throat slashed. "I looked at her," Rivazfar said. "I knew she was not going to answer, but I still called her name over and over again." According to court documents from Wike's murder appeal process filed in Florida Supreme Court, at approximately 6:30 a.m. Sept. 22, 1988, a couple saw an 8-year-old Rivazfar longside a rural road in Santa Rosa County. The little girl was waving one hand and held the other to her bloodied throat. The couple picked her up and drove her to a nearby store to call for help. During the drive, she told them that a man named Ray had taken them from their home and killed her 6-year-old sister. On Tuesday, Rivazfar played for students the audio clip of the call the woman who picked her up that morning made to 911. Rivazfar also played for students a clip of the 911 dispatcher calling Wike hours after the murder. Thanks to the information Rivazfar provided to Santa Rosa County sheriff's deputies, Wike was located along with his green car and his bloodied clothing at his parents' house. The dispatcher woke Wike up when she called to tell him that his house is surrounded by law enforcement and he needed to come out with his hands up. "Is this a joke?" you can hear a drowsy and baffled Wike ask the dispatcher. As for Rivazfar, a doctor told her that the tip of the knife barely missed her jugular — which, if punctured, would have ended her life. "The doctor said I survived by the grace of God," Rivazfar told students. "I don't consider myself to be a religious person, but I am spiritual and I believe that there is a higher power and there are reasons for things that happen. I believe that I was supposed to survive. I was supposed to make sure that this monster paid for what he did to my sister and I, that he was not able to do this to anyone else." It was a mission that was fulfilled. With the help of Rivazfar's testimony at trial, Wike, who was 30 at the time of the offenses, was convicted of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, sexual battery and attempted murder. Wike was sentenced to death. With appeals, he evaded execution for 15 years, but in 2004 he died of cancer while behind bars. Ahmad Rivazfar, who lived in Greece, was granted custody of Rivazfar and Arash, considering Pafford's displayed inability to provide a stable environment for her children. Pafford would fight to get her children back, but through the support of politicians, the media and the masses, Rivazfar and her brother stayed with their father, who she describes as "a rock." With her experiences in place, Rivazfar passed the New York State Police exam in 2001. She would then marry in 2010. Next month, her son Noah will turn 4 years old. "It a very happy life now for sure," Rivazfar said. Rivazfar provided a series of important messages to students on Tuesday: the importance of family, surrounding yourself with positive people, not ignoring something suspicious or someone in trouble. Underlying it all: Rivazfar was a victim, but she survived. "The best advice I can give you is don't give up, especially when times are tough," Rivazfar said. "When you're provided a challenge … it's not there to beat you, you're there to beat it. So keep fighting, keep pushing through the tough times and the good will come." Canandaigua Academy student Tristan Jiroux expressed gratitude for Rivazfar's appearance after Tuesday's presentation. "It was a sad story, but the message is important," he said. "It's nice to know that you can overcome it."
Story Courtesy of Irondequoit Post
Wyoming Highway Patrol Receives Teddy Bears
The University of Wyoming’s University Store recently donated 100 teddy bears to the Wyoming Highway Patrol Association through the customer-supported Share a Bear program. The bears will be placed in patrol vehicles to help comfort children who have experienced traumatic events. University Store Director Misty Eaton says the program began back in November and has seen great support from customers and the community. “The program allows customers to purchase a plush teddy bear at checkout and donate it back to the store,” says Eaton. “The University Store then collects all the bears and donates them to the Wyoming Highway Patrol Association.” “These bears provide a lot of comfort to those children in one of the most difficult times in their lives,” says Wyoming Highway Patrol supervisor Lt. Michael Simmons. Eaton says that the University Store plans to bring the program back during the next holiday season. “At this point in time we have a few bears left,” says Eaton. “We were really excited to partner with the Highway Patrol Association, and hope to continue the partnership.”
Iowa State Patrol Surprises a Child's Family.
For a little boy enduring grueling chemotherapy sessions, state troopers decided to brighten the family’s holiday with a $500 donation. Since he was diagnosed with Burkitt leukemia in July, 5 year-old Cohen Smith has endured six chemotherapy rounds at Mayo Clinic in Rochester to battle the aggressive cancer. When his story came to the attention of troopers at Mason City’s post, their union unanimously voted to give their yearly $500 charitable donation to his parents for medical and travel expenses. Two troopers surprised the family with the check at their home on Thursday morning. With a bald head, clad in a red GAP sweatshirt and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajama pants, Cohen was subdued by the unexpected attention, clinging to his mother as cautiously gave one trooper a high-five. “It breaks your heart,” said Trooper Keith Duenow afterwards. He hoped “maybe it makes a little bit of an impact.” When Cohen started complaining of stomach pains and flu symptoms for about a week last summer, his parents Steve and Brenda Smith took him to Iowa Specialty Hospital in Belmond, thinking he had a gastrointestinal issue. Doctors told them he might have a twisted intestine. None of their four older children have had any serious health problems. The cancer diagnosis at Mayo was a shock. “Some days are good and some days are bad,” Brenda said of her son. “He very rarely complains about not feeling good.” Since July, she has given up her daycare business until at least the spring to take him up to Rochester every two weeks for appointments. When he goes through chemo, they are typically in Minnesota for three to five days at a time. In September, daycare customers and church friends held a benefit that raised several thousand dollars for his cancer costs, she said. Cohen is currently in remission, but has two chemotherapy rounds left, and will subsequently be checked for cancer every year. “We just left it to God, it was really out of our hands,” Brenda said. As the two troopers left her son with a patrol hat, badge sticker, temporary tattoos, coloring books, and stickers, she said he was normally an outgoing child who likes to play outside and loves watching “Paw Patrol” cartoons on television. He wants to be a firefighter or police officer when he gets older. She couldn’t guess how much the final bill will be for his cancer treatments, she said. The $500 check the troopers left will probably be used for gas expenses to Rochester. Dealing with pediatric cancer has reset some of their priorities, now more grateful for the time they spend together, especially at Christmas. “The kids could have had nothing under the tree and all of us being together would have been plenty,” she said. And, enjoy every moment: “Life is just too short to do anything less than that,” she said.
Story Courtesy of Globe Gazette
State Trooper Brings Holiday Gift To Toddler Who Dressed Like Him On Halloween
A little boy got a special gift this Christmas from an Ohio State Trooper who made a big impact on him earlier in the year.When two-and-a-half year old Jibsen’s grandmother, Linda Miller, was pulled over by trooper Adrian Wilson several months ago, the little boy was scaredbut the trooper managed to comfort him. Wilson made such an impact on the child that the little boy dressed as a trooper for Halloween. The boy’s mom, Natalie Miller-Stulley, told INSIDE EDITION: “This little act of kindness before he allowed his grandmother to pull away was much appreciated. Taking a few extra seconds to make this little guy more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation certainly has allowed Jibsen to see the positive side of law enforcement rather than only a negative.” She added: “Unfortunately, too often here lately law enforcement is getting negative media attention so I was just hoping to share some positive light here locally for these men and women.” According to Natalie, her mother wrote a letter to commend Trooper Wilson for his kindness. Just in time for the holidays, Trooper Wilson stopped by the boy’s house to deliver a special gift – his own police car. “When I told Jibsen that Trooper Wilson would be visiting, he immediately wanted to put his costume on for his visit. We appreciate Trooper Adrian Wilson going above and beyond as do we appreciate all the other men and women in law enforcement,” Natalie said.
Story courtesy of Inside Edition.