The following is the full text of Ashley Markham's prepared comments from a July 13, 2009, press conference in regards to the murders of her parents, Byrd and Melanie Billing:
Our family cannot begin to find the words to express the pain and disbelief that we are in. To know that there are people capable of this type of violence and people with this magnitude of hate in their lives is sickening.
Our mom and dad only had love in their lives. Since the day they met 19 years ago, they knew they were soul mates. They chose a life that many people did not understand. Together, they decided to adopt a child, which turned into the adopting of many children.
They had a calling to adopt and love children that others did not see as normal. To our mom and dad, their children were perfect – angels that God provided them with to love eternally. They had the ability to provide their children with lives full of fun, patience and love. Though they had 17 children, love was never scarce. They loved each child as much as a person is cable of loving.
My mother always told me that some people grow up wanting to be doctors, or lawyers or teachers. She just wanted to be a mommy. She had the patience that is indescribable. If you had the chance to meet her, you know the radiance that she gave off. And she never met a stranger. Her lifelong dream was loving her babies and being a voice for them.
Our father was the smartest person that we ever had the chance to meet. He taught through example. He had a passion for life and was crazy about my mom. There was not a day that went by that he failed to tell her how much he loved her.
Our mom and dad spent most of their time together. They shared the daily duties of getting the children ready for school, getting the children off the bus in the afternoons, and always preparing and having dinner together as a family.
Installing values and traditions in the children was very important to them. Those who have met any of the Billings children know how well-behaved and well-mannered they are. Our parents taught us to love despite differences in people. Christmas was always the favorite holiday in the Billings house. Our mom never left out anything when it came to Christmas.
My mother and father touched many, many lives around the country and we plan to carry on their legacy. We children have experienced a loss that is unimaginable but as a family we'll pull together. We'll take each day one day at a time. Our most important concern right now is upholding the wishes of my parents. And we are fully prepared to do that. The family is capable of following through with those wishes.
We're coping as a family and request that everyone continue to pray for our strength and also keep our privacy in mind while we grieve. Again, thank you for all the support. Everyone has been wonderful. We hope people will use our parents as an example to look past race or disability of any person.
We know our parents are watching over us now, reunited with their three angels in heaven. They will give us strength to make it through the hard times and their love to make the world a better place just as they always did.