That was 13 years ago, the age that her baby girl, Bryanna Faith, would be today if she had lived.
Wills’ documented journey through the death of her 4-month old girl began as a daily journal in 2000, but just this year was published in a book, “My Little Piece of Sunshine,” that she hopes will help others.
The abuse Bryanna Faith suffered at the hands of her father, Danny Draper, started when she was about a month old. For some reason, the presence of an infant in his life — and the subsequent crying, squirming during diaper changes and spitting up — sent him into rages. He took that anger out on little Bryanna, Wills said.
Publicity and news coverage on the Bristol case started as soon as Draper was arrested. He eventually pleaded guilty to the murder and received a life sentence he is now serving.
By the time of Draper’s arrest, Wills already had much of her daughter’s illness documented. She started a journal when Bryanna was hospitalized for the second time in her short life.
“My dad gave me a piece of notebook paper and said, ‘Start writing down everything that’s happened,’ so I started a diary of her illness at that time,” Wills said.
After her then-husband’s arrest, Wills’ counselor urged her to write letters to Bryanna and the infant’s father. It would help with the grief of both losses, the counselor said.
And it did, because dealing with the double blow was extremely hard, she said.
“It’s hard to describe ... I lost her, then about a year later I lost him, too. I lost my husband, my marriage, my life,” Wills said.
So she turned the journey, and all the pain that accompanied it, into her first publication.
“I wanted to help people who had also lost children,” she said.
Part of the proceeds from book sales will fund continued training for officers through grants and scholarships at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Sullivan County. CAC’s across the nation assist local law enforcement agencies investigate child abuse and provide services to the victims so they can rebuild their lives.
Wills said she’s already had a lot of positive feedback from the book.
“One girl said it changed her life. She had lost a child and had been depressed,” Wills said.
Right now, the book is only available online, but her publishing company, Tate Publishing and Enterprises LLC, is trying to get it on local bookstore shelves.
To order the book or download the eBook, go to http://bit.ly/1drTwyN.