SWANTON — When her children were young Jen Muir Chevalier would stroke her thumb across their foreheads to sooth them when they were fussy.
Three years ago she did that one last time for her oldest child, Christopher Muir-Davis, age 22. The caress happened in the morgue after her son’s body was found in the St. Albans City municipal swimming pool.
“It wouldn’t have been as hard if he was sick with a disease and I have held him and been there with him,” said Chevalier. “Everything was taken from me. Nobody has the right to take a human life away from their families.”
Chris was reported missing in late March of 2012 and found in the city pool three years ago today.
Two men, Brian Ross and Travis Bugbee, both 26, and of St. Albans, pled guilty to assaulting and robbing Chris on the night he disappeared. At a re-sentencing hearing for Ross in October, Chevalier described for the judge seeing the injuries the assault left on her son’s body.
Despite a lengthy and ongoing investigation, police have been unable to determine how Chris’s body ended up in the pool.
“I’ve been to that pool countless times,” said Chevalier. She’s walked around it, trying to figure out how her badly beaten son could have gotten past the high fence and into the pool. “To me there’s no way Chris could have gotten in there or had a reason to go in there,” she said.
“I really think there’s more to it and we just need some more information and help from people,” said Chevalier. It was the hope that someone with information about the night Chris died would come forward that has led her to speak with the press, something she has previously avoided.
“I think they’re probably not the only ones involved,” she said of Ross and Bugbee.
Chris was reported missing soon after the assault. Even though he was 21 and no longer lived at home, Chevalier knew something was wrong because she hadn’t heard from him. “He always checked in with me,” she said. “It was always a text of at least, ‘Mom, I love you.'”
“I was used to constant contact with him,” said Chevalier, who described a close-knit family with a fondness for camping and outdoor activities.
Chris was the oldest of four, with three younger sisters. Two of his sisters were born when Chris was in middle school. Chevalier described him as a protective older brother, who would read bedtime stories to his youngest sisters.
His middle sister, in particular, was fond of her older brother, following him around. “We always called her Chris’s little Velcro,” said Chevalier. When the family planted fruit trees, Chris worked with her – then a toddler – letting her pack the dirt around the newly planted tree. “It just showed his patience,” said Chevalier.
Chris’s sisters, said Chevalier, are devastated.
Chris also left behind a young daughter. “She’s my heart and soul,” said Chevalier. “She reminds me of him a lot.”
As a child Chris was intelligent and full of energy, said Chevalier. He began in sports early, playing hockey, soccer and basketball. He also was fond of camping, fishing and hunting.
Then there were the skateboards, which always started out nice and shiny, but quickly ended up showing the wear and tear that comes with constant use. “We went through a lot of skateboards,” said his mother.
Chris made friends easily and more than 400 people came to his funeral, said Chevalier. Some of his closest friends still check in on Chevalier.
“He was goofy, good-humored,” said Chevalier, showing a family photo of Chris at Christmas wearing a red Santa hat atop a winter hat with long tassels.
Asked how she’s survived every parent’s nightmare, Chevalier said, “I have to and have had to stay strong to see this case through to the end. I’m doing this for Chris and that’s what drives me.”
There are also her daughters and granddaughters. “The task at hand was I have children at home to raise and my grandchildren need me and Chris needs me,” said Chevalier. “That drives me to be able to continue on every day.”
But not knowing how Chris ended up in that pool continues to take a toll. Chevalier said she has yet to fully grieve for her son. She said a friend told her that she will “carry this burden for the rest of my life, but when it’s over I’ll be able to sleep at night.”
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Anyone with information regarding the death of Chris Muir-Davis is asked to contact the St. Albans Police Dept. (SAPD) at 524-2166. Those wishing to remain anonymous may provide information to police via the Vermont State Police Web site (www. vsp.vermont.gov). The SAPD may also be reached on Facebook (www.facebook.com/StAlbansPoliceDept) and Twitter (@StAPoliceVT).