Brittney tries to move on, away from mother


The second thing you notice about Brittney Bergeron is that she’s a pretty girl with a playful smile, a honey-colored ponytail and a summertime tan.

She laughs easily with her Las Vegas Blaze Sports teammates as she wheels through the staging area during a break at the National Junior Disability Championships at Spokane Falls Community College. It’s one of those picture postcard days with endless blue skies and a slight breeze rustling the big spruce trees, and Brittney is competing in her division against the best young wheelchair athletes in the country.

I have had the chance to get to know her over the past year as she and my daughter, Amelia, have become friends as members of the Blaze team. From the start, Brittney encouraged Amelia to fight through her pain and fatigue and keep pushing, whether the girls were in the gymnasium, at the pool or on the track. Brittney was friendly and kind.

The first thing you notice about Brittney is how together she is for a 15-year-old girl who has been through hell and is now in limbo. She not only has managed to make the adjustment from walking to a wheelchair, but these days she’s thriving on many levels.

She lives with her foster parents, Judy and Bill Himel, but wants to be adopted by them against her birth mother Tamara Schmidt’s wishes. Schmidt is fighting the attempt to terminate her parental rights from a prison cell, where she’s serving time for felony neglect after her irresponsibility resulted in the murder of her 3-year-old daughter, Kristyanna, and the paralyzing of Brittney.

The absurdity of that last sentence tells you all you need to know about Brittney’s predicament. The District Court has seen fit not to grant her very reasonable request, and her case is on appeal at the Nevada Supreme Court.

The injustice being done this young person borders on cruelty. Her request is not some childish whim. Once you get to know her even slightly, it becomes obvious that she’s trying to move on with her life and leave behind a nightmare no child should have been forced to endure.

Brittney somehow managed to survive a horrific knife attack in January 2003 in an RV outside the Casablanca casino in Mesquite. That attack killed her little sister.

Beau Maestas later told police he committed the crime after being ripped off in a minor methamphetamine deal with Tamara and Robert Schmidt, who sold him salt instead of the drug.

Maestas received the death penalty. Tamara Schmidt was sentenced to four to 10 years for child neglect.

After Brittney’s physical wounds healed, she went to live with the Himels, who have spent years caring for foster kids with extreme needs. For more than four years they’ve nurtured Brittney into the independent person she is today. Their bond is great.

With their help, Brittney travels the country to compete. At home, she has her own room, maintains good grades, cares for the three family dogs, and plans to become a veterinarian. She receives daily help with her physical issues and is constantly on the move.

Brittney should be applauded and assisted in her journey, and instead the court system is attempting to block her already difficult path.

You want the unvarnished truth about this girl?

Here it is.

“I have to say that I think it was better that it happened,” Brittney says. “I got a better life. If this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be doing anything. I would be sitting in a trailer taking care of my sister, doing nothing, just sitting around. I get to be a kid now. When I was at home, I never got that. I had to be a grown-up. I had to take care of my sister and be the grown-up.

“I can’t do everything, but I can do a lot of things. In a way, I’m glad it happened. It changed things for me. It’s better this way.”

She knows how that might sound to some people. She lost her little sister on that night. She fought her attackers and lives with the scars.

“I wish that it could have played out differently for my sister and that she could be here, too,” Brittney says. “It probably was kind of better that she passed on. She would have been … damaged, but then again I wish she was here. It’s hard.”

Brittney admits she doesn’t have much patience for her mother. The court has ordered them to speak over the phone, and the Himels have insisted that Brittney take the calls from the prison.

“But I don’t want to talk to her,” she says. “There’s really nothing to talk about. The only thing I want is to be adopted. I don’t have much to say to her. I love her, but I don’t have much to say to her.

“I love my mom. I’m not trying to hurt her and stuff. But she didn’t take care of me before, and there’s no way she can take care of me now that I need so much more. I love her and I will always love her, but I have a family now. And my new family loves me and can take care of me. She says that she loves me, and she says, ‘I’d do anything for you.’ But the only thing I really want is to be adopted. And that’s the only thing she won’t give me.”

For now, Brittney waits for Nevada’s high court to do the right thing. She understands better than some adults where she wants to go.

Our conversation over, she pushes her racer toward the starting line for another event.

That’s another thing you notice about Brittney.

Against daunting odds, she’s moving forward with her life.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call 383-0295.

The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
The world's longest racetrack could be coming to Pahrump
Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club in Pahrump might be the first racetrack in the world longer than 16 miles long once the expansion is complete. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Gold Point townsperson talks about why he choose to live in a ghost town
Gold Point townsperson Walt Kremin talks about the ghost town in Nevada he calls home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Search for missing 3-year-old boy at Sunset Park
Las Vegas police and Red Rock Search and Rescue team search for a missing child at Sunset Park in southeast Las Vegas on Sunday, Sept.2, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai speaks at Las Vegas tech conference
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban on her way home from school in Pakistan after advocating for girls' education, spoke at VMworld 2018 at Mandalay Bay. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like