The Story of Emmaline Mitchell, and her mom, Zzkora Ringger
To describe the pain a mother feels when losing a child is akin to opening Pandora’s Box. It’s incomprehensible, and not even the mother can fully fathom the depth of emotion running through their mind.
This is the story of one such mother from St. George, Utah, and her 2-year-old daughter, who was taken from this world far too soon at the hands of one thought to be a trusted family member.
Zzkora Ringger and her daughter Emmaline Mitchell had already dealt with difficult fathers, thanks to Emmaline’s birth father and his drug addiction.
“Her birth father had stepped out to do drugs,” said Zzkora. “I kept him out of her life since then.”
Zzkora felt that it was better to move on to a new chapter for her little one.
Fast forward to July 19, 2023, and Zzkora managed to find a new father figure for Emmaline in Randy Lessing. Zzkora and Lessing had been together for about a year at that time, and she thought that she would spend the rest of her life with this man.
Zzkora said, “Randy really replaced him as a father figure to her, and they were best friends.”
Zzkora stepped out of their home to run some errands for Lessing since it was his birthday. Lessing promised to watch over Emmaline, who was napping at the time.
This would sadly be the last time that Zzkora would see her daughter conscious.
While she was out, Zzkora received a phone call from Lessing. Lessing said Emmaline wasn’t responding, and that she was “drowsy.”
Panicked, Zzkora drove at a blistering speed to get to her daughter, but when she arrived at her home, she found Lessing in the middle of the room with the lifeless Emmaline on the floor.
Zzkora said, “My daughter was lying there lifeless on the bedroom floor as he was rubbing his knuckle across her chest, trying to bring her to. I was screaming at him, ‘why didn’t you call 911? Where is the ambulance?’ I picked her up while supporting her head and I yelled, ‘Get in the effing van.’”
Without a single bit of hesitation, Zzkora put Emmaline in the van as Lessing hobbled behind her due to a previously broken leg, using his crutches to get into the back of the vehicle.
What was usually a 10-minute drive to the hospital became just 4 minutes as Zzkora did everything she could to save even a millisecond of time in order to save her daughter.
The van arrived at the St. George Regional Hospital, and Zzkora took the unresponsive Emmaline into the Emergency Room.
Lessing followed slowly behind the mother and daughter.
Zzkora said, “I rushed her into the hospital and I screamed, ‘Help! My baby’s not breathing!’ The staff immediately took her from my arms.”
Medical Personnel discovered that Emmaline was suffering from bleeding in the brain, and they needed to perform emergency surgery to relieve the pressure from in between the child’s brain and skull.
Lessing stands emotionless behind them.
“He was pretty emotionless whereas I was panicking and crying,” said Zzkora. “I didn’t see it as a red flag until recently.”
After the surgery, Zzkora and Lessing were told they had two options. They could try to make the rest of her fading life as comfortable as possible, or they could fly Emmaline to Las Vegas to receive further treatment.
Though the chances of success were slim, Zzkora didn’t hesitate in deciding to go to Vegas with her daughter.
Zzkora said, “You better fly her out to Vegas and give my baby a shot at life.”
It was at this time that Lessing finally started to react accordingly to the situation, crying tears from the sight before him.
Lessing stayed behind, saying he had complications with his probation that he had to take care of.
Zzkora said, “I didn’t think it was a red flag at the time, but seeing it now, why wouldn’t you go to the hospital with me in Vegas for our child?”
Zzkora traveled to Las Vegas to spend as much time as she could by her daughter’s side.
Hours turned to days, and Zzkoras worst fear sadly became a reality that no mother ever wants to experience.
Zzkora said, “I spent the most painstakingly few days in the hospital where she fought for her life with me by her side…until she was pronounced brain dead.”
On July 24, 2023, Emmaline Marie Mitchell passed away.
Throughout this process, it was discovered that the main cause of Emmaline’s passing was due to Shaken Baby Syndrome, a brain injury caused by an infant or young child being shaken violently.
As more and more work went into what caused Emmaline to suffer from such a condition, it became more and more clear that Lessing may have had a more purposeful hand in the child’s untimely passing.
The St. George Police Department began their investigation into this incident while Emmaline was in the hospital, taking pictures of of Zzkora’s home to find out what really happened at the scene.
When Zzkora returned to her St. George home on July 25, she found that the place was uncharacteristically clean.
Emmaline’s room was also very clean and had also been re-arranged to coincide with Lessing’s account of the events.
“He laid foam pads down around her crib,” said Zzkora. “He supposedly said that she threw herself backwards off of her bed, throwing a tantrum because she didn’t want to go to bed.”
Police were able to tell the difference thanks to the photos they had taken of the room before Emmaline’s passing.
Zzkora tried to get Lessing to tell her the truth about the situation, but he would only tell more lies that didn’t line up with reports from medical personnel and the SGPD.
Zzkora said, “Eventually, his story did switch up, and he stated that she was on his shoulders and his crutches slipped and he fell backwards and this attempt to catch her didn’t work. That story also doesn’t line up with the head injuries that she had sustained by being shaken.”
On August 8, Randy Lessing was arrested on charges of Child Abuse Homicide.
After Zzkora lost her daughter, she also ended up losing who she thought was her partner-in-life.
Zzkora said, “I lost two loves of my life because I thought that I was going to spend forever with both of them, and the person that I should be grieving with is now the suspect of murdering my own child.”
I asked her if she would be willing to tell me some of the things that made Emmaline so special.
“She was my world,” said Zzkora. “She was the smartest and the most gentle child that I had ever met in my entire life. You know how the average toddler gets into things? You’ll catch them stacking on a box of cookies or something. She would always bring the cookies to me and say, ‘I have one please? Cookie please? You say okay?’”
Emaline apparently knew a bit of sign language as well, and was known for calling everyone precious, including herself.
Zzkora said, “She was a light to many people’s lives. She had the most beautiful smile. She truly was the most precious.”
Zzkora decided to speak with me about this very recent tragedy in her life to create awareness of this unspeakable act. She knows that there are many families who are going through very similar situations.
Zzkora simply said, “I want to have a voice for them.”
A mother’s love knows no bounds, even when their beloved children are no longer with them.