When I was a senior in college there was a high profile murder in my hometown. It happened around Halloween. I remember my two sisters calling me to tell me about it; I lived in a dorm in another state. Even though I wasn’t there I was creeped-out by it. It occurred in a nicer part of town and was a break in. It’s not usually the way murders happened in the town where I was born and raised. The details of the murder made everyone in town feel very vulnerable.
A young blond-haired mother of three was napping on her couch awaiting her husband’s return from 2nd shift at his manufacturing job. Her little ones slept in their beds. But, when her husband returned from work, he found his wife brutually murdered, stabbed multiple times, blood everywhere, including on the helium balloons that floated loosely in the room, brought home from a fall festival by the kids earlier in the evening.
Knowing she was dead, he called 9-11. He grabbed a gun and headed outside. When the police officers arrived he was immediately cuffed, his hands behind his back. A detective came out later, examined the man and told the cops to remove the cuffs. There was not a speck of blood on him, not possible for the perpetrator of the crime.
I know a lot of details about the crime, the investigation, the perp, the trial and the ultimate punishment of the murderer. The husband of the murdered woman later became my brother-in-law (BIL). I have known him for 35 years now.
This post isn’t about my opinion of the state administered death penalty, although that is the punishment received by this particular murderer. He waived his rights for years of appeals and was executed in Texas in 1986, just five years after being convicted. This blog is about the devastation that murder has on a family and on extended families. It is about their death penalty.
I’m kind of fascinated by murder; I guess I never stopped to think why, but I’m sure it has its roots in this particular crime. I watch Snapped religiously; it’s a show about women who kill men, usually their husbands or boyfriends. I watch Forensic Files, Cold Case, City Confidential, 20/20….any of those kinds of “true crime” shows. I am particularly interested in how the crimes get solved. Criminals, especially murderers, make a lot of mistakes.
The producer of these shows often have a part of the script that focuses on the family and friend impact. And so, for 20 or 30 seconds the viewers will hear the “victim impact statements.”
Well, that few seconds doesn’t begin to tell the story. In the particular crime I’m referring to, three small children were left without a mother. They went to live with their grandparents because they were not the biological children of BIL. I don’t know how they turned out.
A husband was left in perfect fear for over a year, because that’s how long it took to solve the crime (that and a second murdered young woman). BIL has had numerous physical illnesses since then. The stress this caused on this life has been immeasureable, although he doesn’t talk about it. He continued to work for many, many years, until his illnesses would allow it no more. It is likely that he will die sooner than he ought. He still doesn’t talk about it.
And then there is the family of the murderer. My mother went to the same church with his mother some years after he had been executed. Imagine the impact on parents who loved their child and raised him to the best of their ability, and he turns out to be a serial killer. Many killers did once live somewhat “normal” lives until the time of their crimes.
And what of extended families? While my sister did not know BIL prior to the murder, they had mutual friends and met through them. She supported him throughout the trial which she says was stressful beyond imagination. The crime photos and other grisly details are etched in her brain forever. Its taken an emotional toll on her, although she doesn’t talk about it much any more either.
Sure, people “put it behind them” but its always a part of their psyches. Of all the devastating things that can befall one in life, it is my opinion that murder has the most dramatic and long-lasting negative effects on people. I have no data to support that statement. But I have empirical evidence; I’ve seen it. If you or someone you love has experienced the murder of a loved one, perhaps the information below might be helpful. Do you have a story to tell? I’d be honored to hear it. dmzh