The last time Stephanie Johnson saw her daughter alive, she was wearing a pair of old, red and navy blue 5-inch high heels with large white polka dots and stripes.
Johnson wore those same shoes Thursday during the Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event on Seawall Boulevard in Galveston to bring attention to domestic violence.
League City police found the body of Anne-Christine Johnson on Dec. 30, 2016, in her ex-husband’s suburban garage.
Shaun Hardy, her ex-husband, was charged with her murder and with tampering with her body. His trial is tentatively scheduled to begin Feb. 26, 2018, in Galveston County District Court. He is out on bail and has to wear an ankle monitor, according to court documents.
Anne-Christine Johnson’s death came after years of abuse, her mother said.
Stephanie Johnson is now becoming an advocate for victims of domestic violence.
She learned about the Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event on Facebook, and at first she was a little put off by the cute and silly idea of having men with hairy legs wearing bright red high-heel shoes wobble down Seawall Boulevard.
The annual event is a tradition that does raise awareness and offers another way for people to participate for a cause, organizers said. Texas A&M University at Galveston, The Pleasure Pier and the Resource and Crisis Center of Galveston County sponsored Thursday’s event.
“We had 150 people participate last year,” crisis center spokeswoman Amber Wilhelm said. “Anyone and everyone is affected by domestic violence. We need to talk about those things people don’t want to talk about.”
The Galveston College Whitecaps baseball team showed up Thursday for the walk, along with many other area university clubs and organizations.
Anne-Christine Johnson’s old shoes are about a half size too small for Stephanie Johnson, but she has bigger concerns than blisters and sore feet. Her daughter left behind two sons, Julian, 9, and Roland, 6. Julian is a son from a previous marriage, but Roland is Hardy’s son.
Roland was in Hardy’s custody at the time of Anne-Christine Johnson’s murder and is now in the custody of his grandfather, Barry Hardy.
Stephanie Johnson is appealing a family court decision that prevents her from seeing Roland, who is autistic. Right now, she is not allowed any visitation, she said.
The situation chafes her like the ankle straps on her daughter’s shoes.
“Can a confessed murderer be considered a fit parent?” she asked. Hardy told police Dec. 31, 2016, that he killed his ex-wife, according to an affidavit. Hardy went into detail about killing her, as documented in the affidavit.
Stephanie Johnson read some of the Facebook comments by men joking with other men about wearing women’s shoes; then she posted her own concerns about people not taking the dark reality of men killing their girlfriends and wives seriously. It irritated her that women’s issues are often trivialized with cutesy events to attract attention, she said.
“They don’t do that for men’s issues,” Stephanie Johnson said. “I thought, ‘I’ll do you one better.’”
That’s when she decided to wear her dead daughter’s shoes in the event, she said.
“I hate those shoes,” she said. “I would ask her, ‘Why are you walking all over League City in those tacky shoes? I’ll buy you another pair.’”
But Anne-Christine stayed with that pair of shoes.