The Spring of '99
My eyes could see flowers blooming. My ears could hear the birds singing. But in
my mind, there was still blood everywhere. I was on Channel One--the torture and
murder of my wife. I was trying to make sense of what had just happened. I don't
know which was worse, honestly--the details I did know, or the ones I didn't. I called
myself "tripod," because I had to hold onto things to keep from falling.
I tried to keep things as normal as possible for the girls. But, given that their mother
was dead, their daddy was half-dead, and we had no home...we did the best we could,
surrounding them with familiar faces and caretakers. I was reading sympathy cards--a
lot of them. I was taking a few more phone calls from old friends wanting to help. I
was talking to the police.
I realized we could never live on Chapel Hill again--that the children would never
return to what had been their home. I made seven trips back to the house in all, each a
nightmare in itself. It was a gruesome crime scene for almost six weeks. Forty days
after the murder, Karen's cat came out of the woods for the first time, and I took her
home to the girls.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn one night about a week after the murder, just to let the
girls swim. There was a little girls' beauty pageant going on, so there were little girls
everywhere with makeup and ridiculous hairdos. It made me think of a Jon-Benet
Ramsey look-alike contest. That very strange scene, combined with vivid flashbacks,
would have made Stanley Kubrick proud. It was the night Catherine asked me when
mommy was coming back from heaven. Although I've never been accurately quoted on
it, it was being asked THIS QUESTION I said was the worst moment of my life. It was
worse than anything else. Because it was little Catherine having to learn her mommy
wasn't coming back. Ever.
Just after the murder, I had massive expenses--including the funeral and cemetery
bills, and the expenses of living outside my home. At that very time, every checking
account and credit card was cancelled, because of Karen's purse being stolen. So
before I could even begin to pay the bills for the disaster, I had to start new accounts,
and make multiple phone calls. First USA cancelled our cards when asked not to, then
sent Karen a new card and not me. I still get phone calls and mail from First USA's
selling Karen's name, address (where she never lived) and phone number. It's a little
strange to have to say, "No, you can't. She's dead." But you get used to it after the
first dozen or so times.
After about two weeks, I was able to drive. I went back to work the first time about
three weeks after the murder, hoping it would be "normal" for me, and take my mind
away from Channel One. It didn't work. For many of my patients, the biggest problem
in their life was that their doctor's wife had been killed. I was a high-profile news story.
Instead of helping others, I spent my day answering personal questions--or not
I sold the Chapel Hill house at a massive loss; I had no choice. Not many people are
interested in buying the site of a heinous crime. The life insurance company (Allstate)
sent me the wrong forms, and gave me bad information the first six times I talked with
them. I bought a new house, in the same school district for the girls' sake.
Five weeks after the murder, I "celebrated" my fortieth birthday. Then we had our
first Easter without Karen. Then Mother's Day. Then what would have been our tenth
wedding anniversary. For a long time, every day about noon, I'd start reliving March
12--mine and Karen's. Then, it was only really bad on Friday afternoons. Or the 12th
of the month. Every birthday, every anniversary, every milestone was a reminder that
Karen was dead. It was a reminder that a sexually sadistic killer had come to my home
and killed my wife, and was still walking free. The flashbacks were less frequent, but
when they came, they were as intense as ever.
Six weeks after the murder, we were in our new house. We had a nanny to help with
the girls and the house. I was working about half-time. I was exhausted all the time,
and I wasn't sleeping.
I still hadn't bought a bed.