BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (WLS) --Nearly three years after Kelli O'Laughlin, 14, was killed, the man accused of murdering her goes to trial on Tuesday. Her parents, Brenda and John O'Laughlin, never speak her alleged killer's name.
But on Tuesday, they will come face-to-face with John Wilson, Jr., in a Bridgeview courtroom. Both will likely have to testify. It's why they're not talking publicly Monday night, but in the last few years we've come to know a family intent on not letting their daughter's death define her life, or theirs.
"The only rights she has is us coming, making sure the system is working for her," Brenda O'Laughlin told ABC7 in February 2013.
Time after time the O'Laughlins have been to court for hearing after hearing, dozens in all. They act as a voice for Kelli, who was killed during a botched burglary three years ago.
Wilson is the career criminal charged in her murder. In the days after the crime, Wilson allegedly sent Kelli's mom taunting texts. In court, Wilson represented himself enabling him to file motions, make speeches and delay the start of the trial.
"Now that we're living it we really can see how the judicial system works and how it's not for the victims in my opinion," said Brenda O'Laughlin.
"They said we're going to probably have to say something in court on the witness stand and that frightened me. So we had to get used to it. So we told ourselves we have to get used to being in court," said John O'Laughlin in 2013.
Kelli was just 14 years old, a freshman at Lyons Township High School. She seemed to have a smile in every photo and a friend in everyone she met. There have been community events to raise money for scholarships in Kelli's name. There are also messages of support posted over the Tri-State Tollway in Indian Head Park. This week, the message reads "Justice for Kelli."
No one would have blamed the O'Laughlins if they crawled into a corner or moved away.
"I've tried to visualize going somewhere and no one would know our story," John O'Laughlin said. "It's sort of hard to start the conversation about what happened, how traumatic it was. I just don't want to do that."
"We can't run from something that's happened because then it's like we are the victims. We can't be known as victims. This is our home," Brenda O'Laughlin told Eyewitness News in 2012.
John and Brenda O'Laughlin are appreciative of the community's support, which has given them strength and hope. Two things, they say, they'll need during this trial that's expected to last a few weeks.