I am not saying I still believe that I’m guilty of murder, but being a witness was something that moved me on, made me turn over stones, and hunt for evidence.
All my life, I knew something happened in a motel room with my father and his best friend, Craig. I always assumed that they’d just played their child-porn games with me like they always did. It wasn’t until my 30’s that the curtains were finally pulled back and I could see fully and clearly: the murder.
Flashbacks from the scene of the crime were staggeringly strong for years after my first memory. But the piece I found the most difficult to live with was the guilt. It was a current that wanted to haul me off by my heels. I had to fight constantly to struggle against it. My daughter and I were recently chatting about “perpetrator trauma,” also know as perpetration or participation-induced traumatic stress (PITS). This occurs when PTSD has been caused by an act of killing or witnessing an act of killing.
When I’d see this murdered woman in a full-blown flashback, with her blonde hair and white, short sleeved buttoned down shirt, walking towards me, it was terrifying. To live with the guilt of watching a soul leave this earth was, well – there are no words. I’ve talked with a few war veterans who have seen people die in front of them. I asked one point blank, “What do you do when you see a spirit leave the body?” His reply stayed with me always, “You don’t do anything.” When you witness a human spirit be extinguished from their mortal body you are left completely immobilized by fear and anguish.
The problem with not doing anything was I had this tremendous burden to solve her murder and bring justice. So, I hired a detective that was a 30-year-homicide veteran to help me. I gave him a file with all of the facts I’d gathered, the date of the murder found on hospital records from 1968, and the only matching woman in the missing persons’ database that fit those facts.
I can never be certain that we found the right woman, but I have so many reasons and facts to believe that we did. It was an extremely nasty pill to swallow when I had to give it all up and stop.
My father and I spent 6 hours talking on his last night on earth. The only thing he apologized to me for was the guilt I told him I lived with since the day we left that room alive and she did not.
He never said he loved me.
Without a confession or a body, the police closed my case at his death. I carry on and try tremendously hard to lay down my desire to set her free by convicting the men who killed her. It’s just not going to happen, but I can and will tell her story and keep her memory alive and along with me.
She deserves that.
Read our full story in the book A Prisoner by No Crime of My Own: