More from the series
Missouri’s child brides
This state has the most lenient law in the nation for 15-year-old brides. Some may have even married their rapists.
It would be impossible to blame the high school bus driver.
Shane Stracener was just a freshman — lean, shy, but also a 15-year-old groom in 2014 who had just married his girlfriend, Christy, 17.
No, no, Shane remembers the bus driver telling him. On his bus, boys and girls weren’t allowed to sit together.
“We were like, ‘Well, we’re husband and wife,’” Shane, now 19, recalled. “He looked back there and said, ‘You’re lying. You’re lying.’ He said, ‘No way.’”
But on that day Shane and Christy happened to have brought their marriage license to Kennett High School in southeast Missouri’s Dunklin County, so Christy could officially change her last name from Smith to Stracener.
“And he said, ‘Oh. Well, congratulations!’”
That’s what Shane and Christy think they deserve. She was pregnant when they wed. But no one forced them. The news was delivered to their families as a Christmas present.
“We heard a lot of we wouldn’t last,” Christy said. “But here we are three years later and we been married that long.”
They have two kids now — 3-year-old Faith Renee and Isaac Lee, age 2.
They’ve had troubles. They rely on food stamps, Medicaid. Hardest of all: “I think it has to be the money thing,” Christy said. “As young as we were, not being able to get jobs or anything like that.”
Not long ago, their home burned nearly to the ground. Photos, along with their wedding rings on a side table, were engulfed in flames. At 15, Shane couldn’t get a full-time job. He left high school in the 11th grade. Now he mostly stays home while Christy has worked at McDonald’s, GameStop and, now, Walmart.
“I mean, I’ve got a job now,” Christy said. “We’ve got a house. We’ve come far.”
They have no regrets. The children, Shane said, “they’re the reason I get up in the morning.”
“We just decided we love each other,” Shane said. “There might be the occasional sadness. You can’t let that break you apart. …
“I get to wake up and see her face every morning. That’s a big positive.”