Long road ahead to ease pain of stabbing death
IT BEGAN as a day of celebration, but ended in one of mourning.
The family of Charlie Larter have spoken publicly for the first time of the pain following the father-of-four's death in a Murwillumbah stabbing last June.
Mr Larter was at the Murwillumbah Community Centre with his wife, Tasha, when a fight broke out in Knox Park.
It was his 46th birthday, and they had planned to visit the pub for celebratory drinks later on.
But about 12.30pm, the lives of the Larter family took a devastating turn.
James Paul Alderton, 22, has been charged with murder, two counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and larceny following a wild brawl.
Mr Alderton has not yet entered a plea and remains in custody.
The full police brief in Mr Alderton's case has now been served and he is due back in Lismore Local Court on March 6.
Police allege Mr Larter lost his life while coming to the aid of his son, 18-year-old Zack, whose injuries in the attack later required four blood transfusions to save his life.
The incident sparked shock in the community and inspired residents to launch a petition calling for increased police presence in the town, with some claiming stronger police numbers could have prevented the brawl.
Mrs Larter said she didn't witness the stabbing, but rushed to the side of her husband of 18 years to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
"At least we got to tell each other 'I love you' and kiss each other three times,” Mrs Larter said.
"There was never only one kiss, it was always three kisses.”
With the "unbelievable” events of June 6, 2017 still lingering like fresh wounds in her mind, Mrs Larter said she and their four children were still working through the pain.
Funded only by a disability pension and the sole carer of their youngest child, 11-year-old Imogen, Mrs Larter said the family's strong bonds had proved vital.
She said Charlie and Imogen had been extremely close.
"She was daddy's little girl, that's for sure,” Mrs Larter said.
Her greatest fear, Mrs Larter said, had been seeing Imogen begin to lose trust in people or harbour anger about the incident.
"I suppose it helped her because we didn't know (the accused),” she said.
"I was more afraid of anger. She hasn't seemed to have any aggression or anger about it. It's just 'I miss him, mummy'.”
As the tight-knit family works through their loss, a program which was founded by Tyalgum woman Bianca Mercuri is helping young Imogen to forge a fresh path.
The Second Chance Equine Program, which had its first intake late last year, has helped, Mrs Larter said.
A letter from a classmate's parent inspired her to reach out to Ms Mercuri, who runs the program with a host of horses.
"I jumped on it because it's something to keep her mind off things,” she said.
Mrs Larter said it was Imogen's first opportunity to really delve into her passion for the animals. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
"Charlie used to throw her on their back without a saddle or anything, but not really going for a ride,” she said.
"It is her passion. She's always loved horses and wanted to go riding.”
Early in the program, participants build bonds with the horses at Ms Mercuri's property.
Imogen, who said the lessons brought her great joy, fell in love with gentle giant Nelson early on.
"(I liked) getting used to the horses and remembering their names,” Imogen said.
"It means a lot to me. (Nelson) is always really happy to see me.”
Mrs Larter said it was special to see her daughter channel so much passion into the program.
"She trusts Bianca and she loves Bianca which I think helps a lot,” she said.
"Nelson is so big she was rather daunted. And I think it's really about facing her fears of a big thing.”
Mrs Larter said her daughter had shown enormous strength in the months since her father's death.
"She's very resilient. She's much stronger, when I was having a bad day she would look after me,” she said.
She was grateful for the community's support of her family, including Ms Mercuri who was sponsoring Imogen's lessons for the next six months.
Ms Mercuri said it was special to see Imogen progressing so well.
"After the 10-week program was up I felt like it helped her so much I wanted to continue it for her,” she said.
Find Second Chance Equine Experience on Facebook or phone Ms Mercuri on 0413552928 to sponsor a child.