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'It is up to us': Mother of slain USU student shares story in call to end domestic violence

Utah State University and Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse partnered to host the first Northern Utah Conference on Sexual and Domestic Violence on June 28.

Utah State University and Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse partnered to host the first Northern Utah Conference on Sexual and Domestic Violence on June 28. (Utah State University)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

LOGAN — The devastation Carrie Madden felt when she was awoken by police officers in the middle of the night has persisted nearly eight years.

Madden and her husband were informed that one of their daughters had been killed.

"In my mind, I kept thinking: 'How could that be?' We were told that she was a victim of a homicide and the information they could give us was very limited. My mind was racing as I tried desperately to piece together what was happening," said Madden.

Their daughter MacKenzie Madden, 19, had been shot to death in her apartment by her former boyfriend Jared Tolman. Tolman had also shot and killed Johnathon Jacob Sadler, who had been on a date with Madden.

Tolman later died from a self-inflicted bullet wound, according to police.

"I will never forget what Kenzie looked like that day. The makeup she had been wearing was still smeared around her eyes. She always had the most amazing eyelashes, button nose, tiny ears and magnitudes of freckles. I'll never forget trying to hold her," said Madden. "Almost eight years later, we still struggle sometimes. While life has gone on, it will never be the same."

Despite the continued pain and grief throughout the years, Madden and her family have persisted forward.

"Jim and I knew that we cannot allow Jared to have any more victims — what that meant was that we could not just sit on the couch, crumble and give up on life. We had to continue living a life Kenzie would be proud of. We have chosen to turn this around as much as we can," said Madden.

That life now includes continued advocacy and educational opportunities surrounding domestic violence. Madden shares her daughter's story across agencies and works with advocates to raise awareness.

Madden was the keynote speaker Wednesday at the first annual Northern Utah Conference on Domestic and Sexual Violence hosted at Utah State University. The conference was held on campus and featured speakers and work sessions.

"We're recognizing that there were a lot of networking moments that were missed during COVID — those two years really, solidly, where people were not engaging with each other on a regular basis," said Emmalee Fishburn, Utah State University prevention specialist. "We know that networking and collaboration and relationship-building is really important in the realm of responding to and preventing sexual misconduct. It's certainly not something that people can do alone in their various respective parts of the process."

Presentations and attendees included advocates, legislators, community members and law enforcement officials and discussed where gaps in care were present and how to address them.

"Knowing that domestic and sexual violence are one of the most underreported crimes, we really wanted to focus on being able to make sure that the community is informed, and the survivors are informed, on how to access those services," said Misty Hewitt, chief program officer for Citizens Against Physical & Sexual Abuse.

Despite the conference being an opportunity for engagement and collaboration, experts say those conversations surrounding domestic violence and sexual violence need to expand into the broader community.

"It's important for everyone to recognize that they are part of the issues even if they're not doing this work formally," said Fishburn. "Although the conference was certainly bringing people together who do this work on a regular basis, we also think that the call for collaborative leadership applies to all members of our community."

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Ashley Fredde covers human services, minority communities and women's issues for KSL.com. She also enjoys reporting on arts, culture and entertainment news. She's a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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