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Edwin P. Stevens remembers his late sister Alice Stevens as having been a ‘very, very kind’ person – empathetic, utterly selfless and always willing to give people a chance.
Like many, Alice had her difficulties as a teenager. She sadly endured periods of bullying and, as an adopted child, struggled to come to terms with her biological mother having given her up shortly after she was born.
However, as tough as it was for her family to see their beloved Alice suffer, Edwin feels these early experiences shaped her into a ‘stronger and maybe even an even better person’ – the sort who stuck up for others. The kind of person who, in the words of one family friend, left ‘a trail of sparkle wherever she went’.
Tragically, Alice was killed on November 3, 2013 at the age of just 24, leaving behind those who loved her kind heart and many admirable qualities; the opportunity to blossom and thrive snatched away from her in a matter of moments.
Alice and her boyfriend Forrest Ison, 27, had returned home after a night out in Thunderbolt, Georgia, when they were attacked by Nathanial Wilkins and Michael Jones. Forrest, an accomplished chef, had fired Wilkins from the restaurant where he worked, leaving him feeling disrespected. It’s believed this is why he shot the young couple at point-blank range.
Police were called to the house after a neighbour reported hearing five to six gunshots, as well as a bloodcurdling scream. They would later describe it in court as being like something out of a horror movie.
Forrest was pronounced dead at the scene, while Alice died on the way to the hospital, leaving her family bereft. Alice had nothing to do with the altercation between Forrest and the assailants, her only connection being that she was Forrest’s girlfriend.
Speaking with UNILAD, Edwin recalled how he had learned of Alice’s death the following day while helping a friend move house, realising that something was wrong at around lunchtime when he noticed multiple missed calls from his mother and wife.
I ended up being able to finally get back in touch with my mother, and she just flat out told me that Alice is dead. She was shot. We don’t know anything else. Forrest is also dead, and we don’t know anything at this time, and it was just such a shock.
Having grown up in Maine, a state with relatively low levels of violence, Edwin never believed something so terrible could happen to his own family, describing the aftermath of Alice’s death as akin to ‘starting all over again’.
‘I don’t think once you’re touched by that kind of darkness that you’ll ever quite be the same if you’re touched by that kind of grief and loss that you’ll ever quite be the same,’ Edwin told UNILAD. ‘You know, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about it, that it’s not something that I think about introspectively and contemplate.’
For a while, Edwin’ mental health was significantly impacted. Like many bereaved people, he stopped looking after himself and his body properly, and also began to question his lifelong Christian faith.
However, he has since endeavoured to ‘create a silver lining’ out of his unimaginable loss, which he feels has encouraged him to ‘live more spontaneously’:
[It’s encouraged me] to not wait to do things that I want to do, because tomorrow is never promised. Within reason, I like to go on vacations when we can and and try to see things that we want to see because you just never know.
A cinematographer by trade, Edwin moved from Maine to the West Coast some 15 years ago to pursue his love of film, and went on to work on various high-profile projects, including HBO’s The Defiant Ones (2017).
Channelling this creative focus and passion, he has now sought to find some closure and to get a better sense of who his sister was towards the end of her short life, through his poignant documentary Alice Is Still Dead.
In most true crime documentaries, the questions at hand are usually answered throughout the course of the police investigation and subsequent court trial, ‘closure’ brought about once the perpetrators are handed a lengthy sentence. However, for the families left behind, the conclusion is far less neat.
Like many of those bereaved under terrible circumstances, Edwin, who now lives in Arizona with his wife and three children, found himself torn between never wanting to forget his sister, and knowing he needed to move forward with his life.
Alice had experienced some difficulties, and there had been some domestic violence issues within her relationship. Aware that her family didn’t approve of Forrest, Alice more or less cut herself off during these final years, meaning that the last few years of her life were somewhat ‘hazy’ to Edwin.
He admits he finds it difficult to forgive Forrest, a troubled man who would sometimes take his ‘demons’ out on Alice. It was within Alice’s nature to give those she cared about more than one chance, an attribute Edwin has described as being both a ‘blessing and a curse’.
Keen to learn more about the young adult Alice was becoming during these difficult years, Edwin decided to travel across the country to speak with some of the most important people from Alice’s 24 years on Earth, hoping to get a better understanding of his sister.
His journey is documented in Alice is Still Dead, an unforgettable and profoundly personal film that asks whether or not it’s possible to ever move forward in the aftermath of a traumatic event.
While filming, Edwin spoke with those who cared for and knew Alice during this period, piecing together moving anecdotes from friends who recalled how full of fun she’d been, how she’d always wanted everyone else around her to be happy.
Speaking with UNILAD, Edwin spoke of feeling reassured after these conversations, which ‘reinforced that she was still that that bright eyed, fun-loving, beautiful girl’ he grew up with:
It was nice to see that young girl was still in there somewhere. Despite her struggles and being in this relationship that was tumultuous. The good in her was still there, and it was really nice to find that out.
[…] I guess we didn’t quite know just how generous she was. There were so many stories about how she would give her time, where she would go out of her way to to brighten up someone’s day.
You can check out the trailer for yourself below:
All too often, the pain and anguish of those bereaved by murder is a secondary factor within true crime documentaries, which are usually created by those with an emotional distance from the horror at the heart of the story.
With Alice Is Still Dead, there is no cold, distant eye guiding the narrative, no grim fascination with the killers. The docu-feature is a true labour of love by Stevens, who serves as both director and narrator, with the focus being primarily on Alice and her family.
Viewers get a real glimpse of the Alice behind the headlines, beyond that final tragic night, and her presence is felt in every scene. This is particularly true in interviews with her mother Dorothy Stevens, whose fierce grief is palpable throughout.
Like all mothers and daughters the world over, Alice and Dorothy had their moments of disagreement, but their love for each other overshadowed all frustrations and misunderstandings.
Alice Is Still Dead is tied together with pages from Alice’s own diaries, revealing an intelligent, reflective person who thought deeply about the world around her and her place in it. A person who was so much more than the shocking news story of her death.
By the time you reach the bittersweet conclusion, you feel as though you’ve truly heard from Alice. A creative young woman with a burgeoning interest in photography, a love of sunflowers and a relatable tendency to be too hard on herself.
You sense who Alice might have been had the years ahead not been stolen from her, had she been allowed to move beyond her situation. Most importantly, you see the lasting impact she had on those around her, and the spots of sunshine that she left behind.
Alice is Still Dead was released on VOD and Digital on November 5, 2021, and is available to watch now on Tubi, Google Play and YouTube.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please know that you are not alone. You can talk in confidence 24 hours a day to the national domestic violence helpline Refuge on 0808 2000 247
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