A young American woman whose Irish husband drowned their three-year-old daughter and then herself said she was “thrilled” to have received an exhumation license to remove her daughter’s body from her husband’s grave.
ebecca Saunders launched a special appeal last year to raise funds to bring her daughter Clarissa from Ireland to the US for reburial.
This appeal met with tremendous support for the American mother.
Today she confirmed that she has received an exhumation permit.
“Exciting news! Today I was granted the license to exhume Clarissa!
“After nine years I will be able to correct my terrible mistake! I can’t wait to take Rissa home with me! That was really a long time coming. an account set up to support the exhumation campaign for her daughter.
“A heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped make this a reality. You have no idea what this means for me and my family.”
The California native was 26 when her husband Martin McCarthy (50) drowned their daughter Clarissa (3) on March 5, 2013 in Audley Cove, west Cork.
Three days later, father and daughter were buried together in a coffin after a funeral mass in the Marienkirche in Schull.
She now wants her West Cork daughter’s body exhumed and returned to Texas, where she now lives.
She said Clarissa is “an angel” now taking care of her two young daughters.
“I am deeply grateful for the support and all the love and warmth that has been shown to me since telling my story,” she said.
She acknowledged she would face major hurdles – including the potential need to hire lawyers if court proceedings are needed to facilitate the exhumation.
But the young mum said she was determined to “undo that terrible mistake” by having her little Clarissa brought to the United States.
Rebecca said she was absolutely blown away by the support for her appeal to have her child’s remains exhumed and brought to the United States for reburial.
She reached the €42,000 ($50,000) fundraising goal after days of appeal last year, thanks to the incredible public reaction to her hard-hitting performance on RTE show Claire Byrne Live.
She was interviewed from her home in Houston, Texas – and outlined the shocking details of the March 5, 2013 tragedy in which her husband killed their daughter and then himself.
In a farewell letter to Rebecca, Mr McCarthy wrote, “If you can take Clarissa to America, I can take Clarissa to heaven.”
He also vowed it would be a day his wife would never forget.
“You can move on with the rest of your life now as mine and Clarissa’s are about to end. By the time you can read this letter, me and Clarissa will be in heaven. You didn’t realize how much I love you – I couldn’t imagine my daughter being raised by a stepdad,” he wrote.
Rebecca revealed the shocking content of the note as she explained how she planned to raise funds to have Clarissa’s remains exhumed and brought to the United States.
Following the RTE interview, donations poured in to her Clarissa’s Cause GoFundMe appeal – with nearly €37,000 raised in just 48 hours.
Rebecca explained that nine years ago “in a haze of sadness and shock” she allowed her daughter Clarissa to be buried “with the father she loved but who took her life”.
Any funds not used for the exhumation of Clarissa and the shipment of her remains to the US will be split between Edel House in Cork, which supports victims of domestic violence, and the neonatal department at Cork University Maternity Hospital.
She said that if she had been given additional time in March 2013 to reconsider her position, she would not have allowed her daughter to be buried with the person who took her life.
“I really can’t say I feel like I’ll ever be able to forgive him. I feel like he used his daughter as a sword to stab me in the heart. And I think that’s very, very wrong,” she said.
“Clarissa and her father died on a Tuesday and they were buried on a Friday. In that short time I had to decide what would happen to this little girl who was my world. The first thought that hit me in the shock I was in was that I didn’t want her to be alone.
But in the weeks and months after the funeral, she realized just how much her husband had planned the tragic events.
“The totality of the steps he took to ensure that if it wasn’t that day, he had the steps in place to execute his endgame another day.”
She later learned that her husband had gone before a family court to ensure his daughter was not allowed to leave the country without his express permission.
“Your passport has been blocked. If I wanted to leave the country with Clarissa, I couldn’t have.”
“The way his will was written makes it very clear to me that he had planned what he was going to do to me as punishment.”
The couple met when she was a teenager studying in Ireland and he helped her with an agricultural studies project.
Both later began a relationship, although there was a 24-year age difference.
They married in 2006 and Clarissa was born in May 2009.
Within months, the marriage was under pressure.
She said her husband was obsessed with his farm work and the legal battles he was involved in over land.
She and her daughter are increasingly being forgotten, says the young mother – and finally brought up the topic of divorce.
On the night of the tragedy, she wanted to meet someone for legal advice.
“He got extremely angry and bitter. It was really sad to see Clarissa see her father withdraw into himself.”
The alarm was raised when she returned to her remote farm and there was no sign of her husband or daughter.
Fears grew when a note left by Mr McCarthy was found in the milking parlor and a major search operation found both bodies in the sea off Audley Cove.
Rebecca is now remarried and has two children. But she never forgot Clarissa.
“Some days are worse than others. Really accepting that it will never leave me. If it left me it would mean forgetting that little girl and that would be the worst part.”
A Cork Coroner’s Court inquest in 2014 found that both father and daughter had drowned.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/mother-granted-license-to-exhume-toddler-clarissa-drowned-by-father-in-cork-double-tragedy-41473350.html Mother granted license to exhume infant Clarissa McCarthy, drowned by father in double Cork tragedy