This is a work in progress! I’ll be adding to the end of it as I finish each part and create a downloadable .pdf or ebook later.
I could hear the boys stirring in their room and my step-daughter’s alarm ringing. I pretended I could sleep a while longer, lying in bed, snuggled down in my blankets. My husband was already up making coffee and getting ready for work. I could hear him downstairs in the kitchen. It was an old house and every move anyone made anywhere echoed quiet creaks through the wood slats and plaster. My boys came running in to crawl in bed with me as per their usual routine. It was 5:30 am and still dark. Sometimes I could get them to settle down with me and go back to sleep but not today. The giggling and poking each other had already begun and my older son, Tom, wanted his “coffee” which he would not accept from his Dad. Kids.
I swung my legs out of bed in an exaggerated manner and threw on some sweat pants to follow them down the stairs. They ran ahead chattering back and forth with each other, Tom with his mouse tucked under his chin and Jake with the corner of his blankie in his mouth. I warned them to be careful as they headed to the top of the stairs. Their sister passed us with a grumbly morning “Hi” as she headed for the bathroom, the first step toward getting ready for school.
In the kitchen I found my husband getting some coffee and offering me a cup. I took it and smiled. One spoon of sugar already in the cup and a spoon to cool it. He loves me. Tom clamored to the fridge and lugged out the gallon of milk. I took it from his small hands and poured them both a cup of milk over chocolate syrup, twisted the sippy lid on, and shook it vigorously. Little hands reached up for their favorite morning ritual.
Walking back to the living room I heard my mother-in-law’s TV in the next room. She was up early. Maybe she was planning on doing the school run today instead of Dan? He usually dropped her off at school and then drove to work but sometimes she would do it for him if he had an early meeting. One of the perks of having an extra adult in the house. Getting our younger two up and out the door to the car just to drive their sister 40 minutes to school and head home wasn’t fun. It could be done, but no one wanted to if it could be avoided.
I was tired and not feeling well. I hadn’t slept well due to a sore throat and itchy ears, a good spring cold in the making. I told my husband and asked how Nikki was getting to school. He was planning on taking her. I opened the door to Ann’s living room and asked if she could look after the boys so I could go back to bed for a bit. She cheerfully agreed. The boys were tucked onto the couch, chocolate “coffee” in hand, watching cartoons. I kissed them both and headed back upstairs to my bed, passing dear daughter on her way down to the living room for breakfast. I climbed back in my bed, sweatpants and all, and went right back to sleep.
He told me the robbery happened at a mall in the next town.
“I know that mall. I used to work there when I was in high school.”
“Can you tell me where you were on this night?” He asks.
“I’m not sure. I’d have to look at my calendar. I keep notes about our schedule there.”
I explained that I sometimes worked different nights at Disneyland, I had a bible study on Wednesday nights, and that I usually stayed home in the evenings other than that. I’m nervous out at night alone. It’s not the best of neighborhoods. And I’d rather be at home with my husband when he comes home from work.
“After the robbery, the perpetrator went to a nearby restaurant. Have you been there?”
“Yes. It’s right by the mall. We had my Grandfather’s birthday dinner there about three years ago.”
The interview continued for a few more minutes. He asked me about a safe in the house, whether I knew how to open it. It was my husbands. He’d had it before we met and I know he told me the combination was somebody’s birthday but I couldn’t remember who.
He asked if I’d ever fired a gun. At first, I said no, but then remembered we went shooting a couple times with my step-dad when we were kids.
He also asked weirder questions like where I kept my clothes. I’ve never been much into fashion. I had t-shirts and tennis shoes, jeans and sweatpants. It’d be hard to tell between my dresser drawer and my husbands other than underwear. I think I own a dress somewhere and a couple nice shirts for special occasions.
It was such a strange interview. There was never a time when I felt uncomfortable or uneasy. He seemed honest and sympathetic. I answered all his questions honestly and completely, offering additional information as I thought of it. I wanted to help catch this person, too!
At the end of the interview, the detective, in the tone of a man that feels bad but unfortunately has to do his job, told me that I had been picked out of a line-up by two different people as the person that had robbed a woman in a parking lot, attempted to steal a car at gun point, and then used a stolen credit card to buy dinner and drinks, tipping extravagantly.
“You’re under arrest. We’ll go out the back door to a car. We won’t handcuff you in front of your children.”
I just sat there in complete shock. I felt nothing. No tears, no anxiety, nothing. He asked me to walk out back with a couple of police officers. I numbly complied and said nothing as they put handcuffs on me, read me my rights (now that they were arresting me), and put me in an unmarked car.
I wasn’t exactly worried. Shocked, confused how this could happen, strangely intrigued by the event, that’s the best I can describe it. I’ll admit my high dose anti-anxiety medication probably had something to do with my subdued reaction. I just kept thinking it was interesting and that it would all be cleared up as soon as they figured out who I was, that I couldn’t possibly be the person they were looking for. This was not how I thought my day would go at all.
A woman officer was with the detective that questioned me. She handcuffed me and read me my rights before ducking my head to sit in the backseat of the car, buckling the seat belt across me, just like on tv. Honestly, that’s all I was thinking as we drove out and down the street towards the police department.
“This is just like on tv. I feel like I’m in an episode of “Law & Order.” They must really research that show.”
Dumb, isn’t it. You’d think I’d be panicked or at least crying, but something put an aura of peace over me and I just took it all in like I was watching TV. Someone, at some point, would say they were making a reality TV show and I had done a great job.
As we began the drive to the police department, the detective told me that he had explained where we were going to my husband and that he said he would bail me out as soon as he could. Was he trying to reassure me? Did I look scared? I felt numb.
The police department was about twenty minutes away without any traffic. They talked as we drove through the city, but I can’t remember exactly what they said. It sounded like two people talking shop, where they’d eat lunch, what they’d do next. I sat there quietly thinking about the street we were on and the freeway we were headed to. I’ve made this drive a thousand times growing up in this area. I never in my life thought I’d travel it in the back of a police car. I noted the plastic molded seat with a place for my cuffed hands behind my back. Interesting. I always wondered if it would be very uncomfortable riding in a car while practically sitting on your hands. And the metal divider between the backseat and the front. I remember seeing that on “Cops”, when the arrested person was usually angry or drunk, kicking at it or hitting it with their head. Who else had been in this seat? What was their story?
Thirty minutes later, we pulled into a familiar parking lot. The police station was on the same block as the mall that was robbed, the one that I worked at when I was in high school, the one my friends and I used to go ice skating at as kids. It’s also near a local theater that I always wanted to work at. I’d been doing live theater since high school. I started acting in junior high, but by my second year of high school, I knew I’d found my art, set design and building. I dreamed of going to college and becoming a famous designer on Broadway. I’d been to so many shows at that theater and I knew the police department was in the same center. It was so strange to be coming in this way.
They parked the car and the detective got out and opened my door, helping me stand up without my hands and not bump my head. They walked with me across the parking lot, one on each side of me. I’ll admit I was embarrassed and hoped no one I knew saw me at this moment.
Everyone I know will attest that I’m quite talkative, especially when I’m nervous, so it would come as no surprise to them that I remarked as we walked up, “This is so weird. I never thought this could happen to me. It’s like I’m on tv. It just can’t be real.”
The woman officer with me said, “It’s probably very weird to you if you really are innocent.”
I sensed a tone in her voice. Was it disbelief, cynicism, incredulity?
When we walked through the double doors and into the lobby, there was a lot of hustle and bustle. People lined up to talk to the clerk at the front desk. People at sitting on benches. People waiting with papers. We moved toward the back of the office. Several other officers greeted the detective as we passed.
I heard things like, “This your robbery suspect?” and “Hey! No troubles picking her up?!”
I just hung my head and followed him. Humiliated is the word for what I was feeling. They couldn’t be talking about me.
We continued walking, passing through a locked door with a bullet proof glass window, and he sat me down in an interrogation room. One table, two or three chairs, a recording device, and one-way glass mirror. It just got more and more surreal. He told me we would talk here and I could answer a few more questions for him. Maybe we could get to the bottom of what happened. He was cheerful and seemed sorry to have to do this to me. I was grateful for his kindness. He left the room.
A few minutes later, he came back with a small stack of papers in his hand, hand written notes, and printed things. He asked me if I needed anything to drink and I asked for a glass of water. I really could have used a cup of coffee though. They had pulled me from bed and I’m used to at least a couple of cups before I face the day. I was starting to get a caffeine headache. He brought a paper cup of water and sat down across from me.
“Have you been read your rights? Do you understand them? Do you waive those rights and wish to talk to me?”
I answered yes. “I haven’t done anything wrong and I’d like to clear this up if I can.”
He started to ask more questions. I don’t remember the conversation word for word, but I do remember certain things. He asked why I knew the area so well and I explained that I grew up here, my family still lives in the area, and we come here often. I mean, seriously, it isn’t a small town. Forty thousand people live in this one city alone and it’s surrounded by cities that have a considerably higher population. The odds of talking to any random person in the area that knows the mall and its surrounding restaurants is pretty good. It seemed like a strange thing to be hung up on.
He asked about my family. Did my husband and I get along? Who watched the kids when I was out? Where did I keep my clothes in the house? Were we having any financial trouble? I told my life story and all the details. I like to talk and I’m not hiding anything. What could they possibly take and use against me?
He then told me that I had described perfectly all the places that the robbery suspect had been, that they didn’t find any of my clothes around the house so I obviously had another place I was living, and that two people had identified me in a photo line-up as the person that robbed them and the person that had used a stolen credit card. They were charging me with armed robbery, attempted carjacking, and fraud. Felonies. I’d be held until bail was paid, $50,000. He assured me my husband was probably working on it. He could get a bail bond anywhere. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through at that moment.
He asked me to follow him and we walked down a hall to “processing.” There the detective took his leave and I was finger printed and photographed by another officer. Believe it or not, there was levity here. The officer couldn’t remember how to make the finger printing machine work and had to leave to get help. We both laughed. I wondered how many people they put in jail here. Then he took me to a holding cell. He told me I’d be there for a while.
“It’s not very comfortable. Sorry about that.”
Amazingly enough, I was still cheerful, though nervous. I told him that I was the stay-at-home mom of two small children, any chance to take an uninterrupted nap was a good one. He smiled, shut the door, and left.
I sat there alone for the first time since I heard the knock on my door. I quietly looked around me and took it all in. A real city jail cell, just like Mayberry. A cot, a chair of sorts, and a toilet and sink, all out in the open with no privacy whatsoever. At least I was alone. Bathroom privacy is a hang up of mine. I hear about couples that shower together, leave the door open when they use the toilet, or let their babies in while they are in the bathroom. Not me! This is one of the things that separates us from animals. Growing up, I dreaded using the public bathroom stalls at school or worse going outside in the woods on camping trips. I even shut the door when I lived alone in my own apartment. Looking over at the open toilet, I thanked God that I had gone before we had left my house. My husband would bail me out soon. I can wait.
As I sat there on the edge of the cot looking down at my feet, I took in my appearance. I had thrown on the first sweatshirt I could find and the jeans that were at the end of my bed. I didn’t even put socks on, just my tennis shoes. I had pulled my hair back in a pony tail, brushing it with my fingers. I looked like I had been up all night drinking. I was tired, very tired. At that moment, I prayed. “Lord, help me remain calm. Help my husband through this.” I laid down on the bed after a bit and fell asleep. My personal best defense against stress!
The next thing I knew there was a voice at the door. An officer asked me to get up; they were transferring me to the county jail. It was several hours later. I asked what was going on and the officer said that bail had not been paid, they can’t keep people at the city jail overnight, so they were transferring me to the county jail so that I’d be processed in time to get a cell for the night.
“It looks like your husband doesn’t believe your story. He hasn’t even been here to bail you out.”
I knew in my heart that wasn’t true. I knew he would be doing everything he could, as quickly and smartly as he could. I trusted my husband. He’s always been my hero. But then my heart sunk to my stomach. I’d be spending the night in jail? Movie scenes kept running through my mind and they were not pretty. Suddenly, I felt warm, protected. I’d be ok. This must happen all the time. It’s really no big deal.
The officer cuffed my hands again and walked me to a police car. He put me into the back seat of the car and got in with his partner, a woman police officer. They seemed in high spirits, just doing their daily work. Did they even care about the person in the back seat? Or was I just cargo to them? That’s when the officer driving glanced back at me.
“Scared?” he asked.
I answered, “A little, yes. I’ve never been in any trouble before.”
He just smirked and looked at his partner. We pulled out of the parking lot and headed toward the freeway. I knew where we were going. I’ve had jury duty before and I had to walk by the county jail from the parking garage.
When we were on the freeway the officer said, “If my wife were in jail for something she didn’t do, I’d sell the new truck I just bought for bail money and get her out immediately. Ten percent of a $50K bail? I wouldn’t let my innocent wife go to county over night for $5000.”
I sat there thinking that would be ridiculous. We just bought that truck the previous weekend, on credit, brand new. Everyone knows it’s not worth what you have a loan for the moment you take it off the lot. We’d planned on having that truck until it fell apart. Sure, he’d get cash for a bail bond, but we’d be out a truck and all the money. I’m innocent, so I’ll be getting my bail back right away. I’m sure he’s just looking for the cash from friends and family. That takes time. I was proud to sit in jail and not do something stupid out of panic.
“It doesn’t look like he buys your story this time. Probably been suspecting something was going on for a long time. He’s taken your kids and left you to us.”
I just sat there dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe he was talking to me like that. What a horrible thing to say. What kind of a monster do they think I am?
They continued to chat in the front seat as we drove the county jail. Pulling through the large gate with barbed wire along the top, my heart dropped again. This was real. I was walked in and sat on a bench with several other women. They chained me to the bench by the handcuffs with several others. Some paperwork was exchanged, and the officers left, the heavy door closing and buzzing locked behind them.
Within a few minutes, a guard came and unlocked our handcuffs. We were asked to follow him to another room. It was a processing room. Completely made of concrete block. The bench seats were built into the walls with the same concrete blocks. The whole room was painted a dull beige. It was cool and quiet. A large window covering one wall faced into the main building. The whole thing reminded me of a warehouse, like Costco only for people. I walked in and sat down among the other women. Some were just sitting there, some were worried, some seemed a tad frantic, probably on drugs, I guessed. Most of them were talking to each other.
The women I sat alongside of began to tell me her story.
“I hope this doesn’t take long. I turned myself in, outstanding warrants.”
“What for?” I asked, being polite.
“Unpaid parking tickets. I got a babysitter for my kids and came in because I knew the baby’s father would do it when he found out. I can’t have the police coming to the door. They’d put my kids in foster care. Who knows when I’d get them back?”
Unpaid parking tickets? Here in this dungeon place for unpaid fines. Another woman chimed into the conversation.
“I’m here busted for driving with a suspended license.”
Most of the women I talked with were in county jail for minor crimes against the state, fines not paid, etc. None of them were there for violence against others, thrown in jail to keep them from hurting anyone else. Most of them would spend at least a few days here, I found. They couldn’t afford the bail until a hearing, so they sat in jail until they were called to court. So strange. This doesn’t seem the way we should be treating “innocent until proven guilty.”
I sat there worrying about my babies. Everyone seemed so worried as I walked out of the house. What was going on? Was my husband going to be able to find the money and bail me out anytime soon? How long was I going to be here? My sons had never spent the night without me.
A woman opened the door to the room we were in and called several names to stand and follow her. My name was one of them.
We were walked down a long hall through several locked doors and ushered into a bigger and brighter room much like the previous one, concrete block walls, block benches along the walls, a drinking fountain in one corner and a toilet in another. My eye was drawn to it. No privacy whatsoever. Thrown in a room together with no privacy, no contact, no personal kindness or respect, because we were accused of a crime.
I sat down in the first open spot on the bench. A woman with long black frizzy hair looked up at me as I sat down. She smiled and I smiled back.
“Yes,” I answered.
“It’s ok. We’ll get dinner soon. How long have you been here?”
I told her I wasn’t sure, I didn’t have a watch, but they had brought me to city jail early this morning.
It was strange to sit among these women and talk like we were at the beauty parlor or a doctor’s office. Most of them seemed nice and a little worried. The subject of bail came up. I’m not sure how, but I distinctly remember saying that I was waiting for my husband to post bail.
“How much did they set for you?” one woman asked.
“$50,000,” I said.
Several others looked up in surprise.
“What in the world did you do?”
“They accused me of armed robbery and attempted car-jacking.”
I suddenly had an audience. The girl sitting next to me just stared at me. We all swapped stories for a bit and felt a little more at ease. These women were just like me. There was nothing to fear except the unknown.
Every so often, while we were talking, an officer would come to the door and call a few names. Those women would follow that officer down the hall.
“Processing.” a woman said when I looked confused after them.
“We’ll have our turn eventually.”
In time my own name was called. I stood and followed the officer. We were led to a large open shower room, much like the gym showers in high school (which I had never used). Again, there was absolutely no privacy. In threes, we went to a window where a female officer stood. They handed us prison clothes, instructed us how to use the shower, and informed us that we were required to use the soap they provided. We walked to a bench by each shower head, stripped down, showered for three minutes exactly, toweled off and put on our “uniform.” Our personal effects were picked up and put in a bag with our name and number. Then we were led to another large holding cell like the last.
I have to stop here for just a minute.
At this point, I was mortified. I don’t think I’ve ever been so embarrassed in my life. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever shared this part of my experience. This is how we treat humans, like animals in a cage. Before you mutter to yourself something about “That’s just what has to happen.” “You’re in jail, what do you expect?” “Unfortunate, but it’s for security.” or “Don’t get in trouble with the law and these things won’t happen.”, I have a few things to say.
Everyone in this room is only ‘accused’ of a crime. They are supposed to be innocent until they are proven guilty. The only thing they are guilty of at this point is being unfortunate enough not to have been bailed out of jail until they can be tried for their alleged crime. Your mother or sister or daughter could have an unpaid parking ticket and be treated this way. I used to not care before this happened. I used to grumble the same statements before I learned, first hand, what our “justice” system does to people. I really have no words to describe how this experience changed me and my way of thinking. In some ways, I’m thankful for the education. In other ways, I weep for those who do not have resources and spend inordinate amounts of time in jail away from their families and treated like an animal because of it.
I wasn’t thinking about this as I walked from the shower to the next holding cell. I was thinking only of remaining calm. I was terrified by stories of jails. I was haunted by the looks of my husband and children as I left. And I was filled with anxiety about what was going to happen to me next.
I sat there, quietly praying. “Lord, protect me. Lord.”
I couldn’t think of anything else to say but I did feel peace. If I had imagined this situation, I’d have seen myself falling apart in tears, holding my knees to my chest, hyperventilating or refusing to move. But here I was going through the motions, following instructions. I was not crying. I just sat there. And then they called my name. Bail had been paid. I was free to go.
Approaching the window that called my name, I was handed a bag of my belongings and something to sign. There was a piece of paper I took with me that had a date and directions to appear in court. I took my bag and sat on a locker room style bench to dress in my own clothes. Instructed to leave through a door to my right after I was dressed, I looked at it. My family was on the other side. This will all be over soon.
As I walked through the door, I saw my anxious husband waiting there for me. As he put his arm around me and led me to our truck in the parking lot, I had never been so relieved in my life. We didn’t talk until we got inside the truck. He asked if I was ok and I responded yes but I was hungry. He told me our boys were with my Aunt and my step-daughter was at home with Grandma probably doing her homework. We had to go get the boys, but I wanted to stop and eat first, try to gather my wits and relax with my thoughts for a few minutes. We drove to a fast food burger place. As we ate, he related his end of the day.
After I’d been taken, the officer told him that he could post bail at the city jail and gave him the address. He called my Aunt and Uncle, the closest relatives we had at the time in both physical and emotional proximity. They take the boys for the day often and we spend a lot of time at their house swimming and visiting. They’d be the best to look after them while he did what he needed to do. He said it was the oddest feeling in the world to relay what had just happened over the phone. They were shocked and told him to bring the boys over right away and they’d help figure out what to do next. My mother-in-law, Ann, was still dropping Nikki off at school 45 minutes away and wouldn’t be back for a while and then she’d need to drive down again in the afternoon to pick her up, so waiting for her wasn’t an option.
He dropped the boys at their house, explained a few more details about the morning, and then left to come to the city jail to see about posting bail. My uncle came with him. None of us had ever been anywhere near being involved in any kind of incident like this. He knew Dan would need support.
At the city jail, Dan checked in at the desk and told him why he was there. He was instructed how to post bail and given a list of bail bond places nearby. He asked if there was any way to get a message to me so that I would know that he was working on it. The officer said no. After looking into bonds, he found that if he bought a $50,000 bond and posted bail with that, I’d be out immediately but the cost of the bond would be $5000 that we wouldn’t get back regardless of the outcome of the charges. That is a lot of money for us to lose. Knowing that we weren’t going to skip court, that I hadn’t done anything wrong, and thinking this would all be over in a few days, it didn’t seem worth the cost if he could find the cash instead of getting the bond. Talking with my uncle, they went to get the cash. Finding that it was going to take a few hours, he attempted to relay that message to me through the police so that I wouldn’t worry. They finally got all the cash together, posted bail, and an hour later here we were.
We sat across the table from each other quietly in shock. Never in a million years would we have guessed this could happen to us. We went over each other’s versions of the morning. My husband said that the detective interviewing us all at the house told him that he didn’t really know me, that I had a boyfriend and another apartment nearby and that I was robbing people and cheating on him. I probably had a drug problem that he didn’t know about. The detective told him that it happens all the time. We think we know people but really don’t. Dan said he just sat there thinking that he had to be on some hidden camera show. Did this man really think this? Was the detective trying to put doubt in his mind so that he’d give up information that would strengthen the case against me? Dan only repeated the same things that I and his mother had said. We are a close family with few internal problems. I’m home most of the time because we have small children. I have a job that I work one or two nights a week, nearby and at most for about four hours a night. I’m a girl scout leader and I attend church on most Sunday’s and bible study on Wednesday nights. The detective only reiterated what he had concocted about me and told my husband to think about it. Was I really out at a bible study? Could I prove that? My husband was amazed that someone would try so hard to convince him his wife that he knew so well was hiding something like this. How could anyone hide something like this completely?
We finished eating and went to pick up our boys. When we pulled up in front of the house and walked up to the front door, they both came running out and threw themselves at my legs. They were excited to tell me all about their day. They had hot dogs and went swimming. My aunt hugged me tightly. The feeling of something big was there, stress between all of us. We couldn’t think of anything to say.
My Mom called while we were there and I filled her in on what was going on. My aunt had called the whole family throughout the day to explain what had happened but there was little to tell. My Mom told me that she had called a couple of her friends to see if they could help and that she’d call me the next day with a phone number for a lawyer. We all sat and talked for a few more minutes, but I was exhausted and really wanted to go straight to bed.
We loaded the boys up into the truck and headed home. On the way, my older son piped up from the backseat, “Did you get the bad guys, Mom?” I looked at my husband. “You left with the police after they had searched the house for bad guys,” he explained. “Yes, we did. And they are very sorry now. The police fixed it up.” That was enough for them. Kids. They were very excited that I got to “help the police” and now that it was all over, all they wanted to know was what was for dinner.
At home, Ann and Nikki were watching tv and eating some fast food they had gotten together. Nikki had few questions about the incident. I was starting to doubt that she even remembered that anything out of the ordinary had happened. Autism is strange. The information is in there, it just isn’t communicated in verbal ways. I still wonder what she thought about it, if she ever thinks about it now. At the time, I was just too tired and worried to delve into it with her. Our relationship was always strained, and no discussion was better than the battling we did over homework and getting the laundry to the hamper. I did worry what she might say to her mother when she returned in the middle of the week. What if her mother got the wrong idea and made life even more difficult for my husband to spend time with his daughter?
I spent a few minutes talking with Ann about her version of the day and going over some of my end of it again. I was so tired and just wanted to go to bed. I’m afraid I was rather short with everyone that evening. Dan fed the boys some dinner while I laid on the couch. He told me not to worry, that we’d figure out what to do tomorrow. We headed up to bed together after dinner and we started our bedtime routine. The boys got their books, I got my journal and my bible. My step-daughter finished using the bathroom and headed to her bedroom. The boys got a bath, brushed their teeth, used the bathroom. We read “Where the Wild Things Are” and listened to “Puff the Magic Dragon.” I tucked them into their beds and sat in my rocking chair while they went to sleep, a ritual we continued for years afterward and rarely a very peaceful ending of our day.
That’s when the “what-if’s” began. What if the boys had run to the door with their toy guns? What if my husband believed the detective’s story? What if I don’t find a lawyer? What if no one believes me? What if I go to jail for this? I looked at my journal and began to write. “I won’t go into the details about what happened today because I doubt I’ll ever forget it.” Hand writing things always seems to help me sort my thoughts. Looking back at them, it doesn’t look that way, but it helps as I’m writing. Sometimes reading my old journals makes me cringe. I wrote a page then closed it and read my bible for a while. The boys finally fell asleep and I got in bed with my husband. He was already asleep when I collapsed into unconsciousness.
Journal Entry – May 26
What an awesome God we have! It really is a miracle that I slept as well as I did last night. You’d think I would have been up all night tossing and turning, worrying about what is going to happen, but the peace I had felt come over me the short time I was in jail yesterday continued with me throughout the night. And the miracles have continued today. So many loving and helpful people have come into our lives today and shown me that we are never alone.
I am scheduled to appear in court on June 22. I can’t believe I have to wait for over a month with this hanging over my head, but at least we don’t have to feel like we’re rushing to get a lawyer. Maybe when we talk with him, it will all be cleared up and be over quickly.
I drove down to the church today and told my pastor what happened. I called ahead and made sure he’d be there and told him that I needed a few minutes of his time to talk. I was nervous on the drive there. These are the times when I wish I weren’t so shy, that talking with people was easier for me.
It felt so strange to sit there and tell him the story. I felt like I was telling him about a TV show I watched, not something that happened to me. He sat there calmly listening to my story and then he told me that he thinks one of the deacons of our church may be able to help. He used to work for the Sheriff’s Department and might be able to give us some advice about how to proceed. I have his number and I’m going to call him tomorrow.
My Mom called a close friend of hers that also used to work for the Sheriff’s Department to see if he knows anyone that can help. He gave her the number of a criminal defense lawyer he highly recommends. This lawyer has already been told about the case and I was strongly urged to call him right away. My uncle knows another good lawyer from his work in case the first one doesn’t want my case, and he’s offered money to help. Lyn, a mom friend from the boys’ playgroup, was a parole officer and is going to see how she can help as well.
People are coming out of the woodwork to help. Several of my friends called to be sure I was OK and ask if I needed anything. It’s truly a blessing and I just keep thanking God for it all. I’m not sure what we do if it weren’t for our friends and family.
Dan took Nikki to school this morning. I don’t think she realizes that I went to jail, at least I hope not. She wasn’t there when I was arrested. I just keep praying she doesn’t say something to her mother. I can’t imagine what she would think or what she would do. I mean, I know what I’d do if my ex-husband’s wife was accused of armed robbery and car-jacking! I wouldn’t want my child there until it was proven not to be true. I’d hate for this to interrupt his relationship with his daughter. Man, what a mess.
Our playgroup (the one we meet with every week) has been planning a group dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen tonight for over a month. We recycled cans and had a big yard sale to raise money, so we could all go together. After yesterday’s nightmare and the uncertainty looming over me, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. Honestly, I’d rather just curl up in a ball and stay in bed. My sons had a different idea about that. They may be little, but things like this don’t get by kids. “Mommy’s having a crisis” was not going to get me out of it. I’m glad we went, though. It was loud, riotous, and totally fun! It was exactly what I needed. And we got the greatest picture of all of us to remember it by!
The boys were extra weird before we went to the restaurant today. Jake won’t let me out of his sight. He starts crying the second I leave the room. And Tom keeps asking where the bad guys are. He doesn’t want to go in Grandma’s room because he thinks the police were looking for bad guys there.
Sitting here in my rocking chair, writing this while waiting for them to go to sleep, it’s all still so unreal. Can this actually be happening? Lord, let this be over quickly and not ruin us.
June 1 – Tuesday
Playgroup met at our house again today. It sounds strange to just keep going along like nothing is happening. Drop Nikki at school, playgroup, shopping, etc. It’s easier than cancelling everything and waiting. Life just doesn’t work that way. The boys had a lot of fun today running around the yard and in and out of the house with all their friends. Afterwards, Jake took a long nap, but Tom refused to be still. He asked to go play video games with Grandma while we rested. He kissed me on my head and headed down the stairs. Another of the benefits of having a Grandma in the house!
My best friend, Tia, stayed after playgroup to watch the boys and Dan came home early from work so that we could meet with the lawyer at 3pm. Grandma said she would pick up Nikki at school for me. With our bases covered, we headed to the lawyer’s office.
I’m still experiencing all this as if I’m on movie set. It sounds crazy, but I just can’t shake the feeling. I’ve never been to a lawyer’s office before but walking in was exactly as I expected from watching tv. From the tall building to the polished floors and heavy furniture, it was just like a scene from Law & Order.
On the drive there, we talked about what might happen. I think we were both convinced that we were worried about nothing. This kind of thing must happen all the time. We were going to go in there, tell our story, and then this lawyer was going to say, “No worries folks. I’ll take care of it. We’ll talk to the judge, show them who you are, and they’ll drop the case right away.”
We were wrong. He was polite, kind, and serious. We were very comfortable talking to him. My understanding of defense attorneys comes from TV and movies as well. They help the bad guys get away, right? I’m starting to think I’m going to learn a lot through this ordeal. Does one ever know how naïve they have been until after a crisis occurs? I never knew a defense attorney could make a person feel so supported. He explained the process and we both feel much better knowing someone is working on our side.
The hardest part of the meeting was writing out a check for $12,000 as a retainer for the lawyer. It’s surreal. I keep thinking that he can’t possibly use all that money and maybe we’ll get some of it back when it’s all over.
In the meantime, I have homework to do. I need to get together a list of calls I made from my cell phone, my friends’ addresses and phone numbers, emails and instant messages, journal entries, etc. Since I was home that night, I need to try to prove it, or at least show that I am normally home in the evenings and I’m not the person they believe me to be. I must prove myself innocent. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around. The strangest thing is that I need photos of myself, ones from just before the event and after. He says it’s to show that I haven’t changed my appearance in the recent past. The problem will be finding pictures with me in them. I’m the picture taker, so I’m rarely in them! I’m hoping maybe my family has some.
I do have one confession. I’m still feeling positive. I’m sure this will all iron out soon, but I’m getting tired of telling everyone the story. This is so stressful, not to mention expensive. I really don’t feel like defending myself on how we are handling this and some of my family is constantly at me. I know they are worried too and I know they are trying to help, but I just don’t have the energy to fight these allegations AND explain my process to others at the same time. They will just need to deal with their own feelings for themselves for the time being.
June 2 – Wednesday
An uneventful day, as Wednesday’s usually are. Ann took Nikki to school this morning and her mother will pick her up. Dan’s working. And me? I’m anxious to get together things for my defense, but that involves concentration and the boys refuse to let me have any of that. I just don’t have the energy to take two little boys out right now. They know I’m distracted, and they want my attention, but I’m at a loss as to how I can give it to them. The stress I’m under is making me so sleepy, I just can’t play right now. I know it is bad. I promised them we’d will do something fun tomorrow.
In case you are wondering why every entry ends in describing the boys’ going to sleep behavior, it’s because I write here in my journal after story time. Our bedtime routine starts with baths, pajamas, and teeth brushing. Then stories, one for Tom, one for Jake, and one I want to share with them. Right now, we’re reading Pinocchio, the original version. It’s fun explaining old words and hearing their reaction to this bad little wooden boy’s actions. They are usually very upset with him.
Tonight, we tried going to bed one at a time again. It didn’t work. Jake came up after the story and climbed in bed. He doesn’t want to leave his brother’s side. Tom is so over tired by the evening, but he won’t take a nap with his brother. He rolls and wiggles around in bed so much he won’t go to sleep.
Recently, Tom has found the wonderful phrases, “I am!” and “OK!” Four is a glorious age. And Jake copies him in his two-year-old voice. It’d be funny and cute if I weren’t in such a mood.
Jake just talked himself to sleep. One minute he was babbling away and the next he was sound asleep! I’m going to lay down with Tom until he falls asleep and then get in my bed. I’m just too tired to sit here and wait.
June 7 Monday
It was a small playdate at our house this week but it was still fun. Sometimes a small group is exactly what we need. The kids get to play with one or two of their closer friends, sharing toys is easier, and us Mom’s get a better chance to really talk to each other. It was a nice change of pace.
The boys and I took a long nap on the couch after our friends left. Grandma picked up Nikki at school today and she had very little homework tonight since school’s out in two weeks.
I took the easy way out tonight and we got pizza for dinner!
I found the weirdest thing in Nikki’s backpack today. When I went to put in the shorts and flipflops from her mother’s house, so she could take them home tomorrow, I found a few homework papers out of the folder.
Writing this I just realized that tomorrow is Tuesday not Wednesday, the day Nikki goes to her mother’s after school. Sometimes my days get so confused. Thank God that I keep a detailed calendar.
I was going to ask her if the papers were something that she needed to turn in but then I noticed on the back of one sheet was her mother’s handwriting. It looked like a note from work, but it mentioned a hotel, the same hotel lobby that the police said they had video of the suspect (well, they said me) running across the day of the robbery. Weird.
Reading it reminded me that a while back she called to have Dan pick up Nikki from a hotel in the same area as the robbery. We usually pick her up at her house, but for some reason they were at a hotel that day. We’ve learned not to ask a lot of questions about her situation. We just take her whenever we are asked to, even if it means changing our schedule or driving farther. The hope is that we get her more often than the court says we are supposed to. The more she is here the better for all of us, we think.
So here I am having very suspicious thoughts and I’m not sure what to do with them. I showed Dan and he was just as curious. We’ve had no other contact with that area or that hotel recently and now I’m the suspect in an armed robbery in that same area. What are the odds? Could she have something to do with all of this? The one thing the police told me when they arrested me was that they were led to me because the phone that was stolen was used to call our house after the robbery. Who could have called me?
I have another appointment with my lawyer soon, but my court date isn’t until June 22. I can’t believe I have to wait that long with this hanging over me. And now this. Should I bring it to my lawyer? This all just keeps getting stranger and more stressful every day.
June 9 – Wednesday
What a busy day! I went to the gym. I’m still trying to get back into shape since Jake’s birth. It’s been two years. I don’t think it’s going well. My niece, Nat, is staying with us for the summer, so we went to the mall to look for a job for her. She applied at several stores and had a couple of interviews scheduled for the afternoon. We came back to the house and visited with my Mom for a while, then my Dad and Step-Mom came over for a bit.
My Mom and I talked a lot while Nat played with the boys. She seems ok. Moving back here from her rural town is going to be hard on her, as if the divorce isn’t enough. We tried to remember the positives. I know that I’m happy she is here. I could really use a friend right now. I’m sure she will be alright. It’ll just be another adjustment for her. I know she feels like nothing ever goes her way.
Later in the afternoon, I took Nat back to the mall for her interviews while Grandma Ann watched the boys. I know she’s only been here for two days, but she just fits right in with our family. She is such a great kid. I’m sure this will be a good summer for all of us. It helps having all this activity going on while I wait for my court date. It makes the days go by faster by changing my focus. But, occasionally, I look around and get scared. What if this doesn’t end? What if this is my last summer? What if?
June 14 – Monday
It’s been a busy weekend: my Mom’s birthday bar-b-que, a day at the beach, playing with friends.
Today was playgroup day! My anxiety was through the roof all day long. I feel like I can’t breathe and I’m in a hurry all the time, more like everything around me is in fast forward and I’m in slow motion. It’s the worse feeling and I try to ignore it.
We went for a walk after dinner. I’ve been told regular exercise can help with anxiety, but I’m not sure this kind of anxiety was what they were thinking of. It does help a little to get some exercise (other than kid chasing).
I brought Jake’s old crib to a friend to borrow. I’m praying for her and her baby. Her new baby has lots of problems and isn’t eating well right now. There is talk of surgery and putting in a feeding tube. Talking with her puts my own problems into perspective. At least my children are healthy, but my mind goes right back to “but I may not get to see them grow up!”
June 16 – Wednesday
The calendar is amazingly full. Am I always this busy? Looking at the past year, it sure seems to be true. Between all the kids and their stuff, my stuff, and weekend things with the whole family, we are constantly in motion.
Yesterday, I had to finish my bible study, so I didn’t get a chance to write anything here. We spent the whole day in my aunt’s pool. Nothing better on summer day than to watch a bunch of kids be crazy in the water. It’s also good for tiring out energetic boys. They went right to sleep tonight!
I have been going to an evening bible study at church for a while now and enjoying it very much, but it’s so hard for me to get out in the evenings. I can’t leave the house until Dan gets home from work and then I drive all the way down to church and back. The boys usually refuse to sleep until I get home and Dan starts work so early in the morning. It’s just a disaster most evenings. After talking with a few friends, I found that there were a least four others that have the same problem, so we decided to start our own morning bible study. Today was our first meeting. We met at the book store and it went surprisingly smooth!
Afterwards, Carol and I went out to lunch. It’s the same friend that got me started at the church we go to now. We had lots of time to talk which ended up not being a good thing. She proceeded to tell me that our bible study teacher at church told her that she wouldn’t write me a character letter for my lawyer because she doesn’t really know me. The pastor’s wife, who also attends the bible study, said she doesn’t really know me either and doesn’t really know if I’m innocent.
I was speechless. I’ve been at bible study every week for six months. We openly share our lives through this study. Afterwards, we all go out for dessert and coffee and talk more. We sit there for several hours a week talking about our lives, our families, our prayers. How could they possibly say they don’t know me well enough to write me a character reference? I’m not asking them to stand up and say I didn’t do it. They can’t say that. They weren’t there. I’m only asking that they write a letter describing the kind of person they believe me to be based on our time together.
If people that have met and interacted with me feel this way, how will people that have never met me feel? What if this goes to trial? What if it’s on the news? Does the whole church feel this way? Will I even hear from the Pastor or the Deacon about helping with my defense, like they said they would?
Then the afternoon got worse because my “close friend” flat out asked me if I did rob that woman. Seriously. We’ve been friends for over a year, and she asked me that. I looked at her like she’d lost her mind. It took everything in me not to just break down and cry right there. I never, in a million years, thought anyone I know would even think for a second that I would do anything that violent.
I guess I’m just that naïve. She said she was just asking because someone at church last year was embezzling and they really had no clue he would ever do something like that. I asked her if she didn’t think stealing money out of the till a little each night was a little different than pointing a gun at someone and taking their car in a parking lot!
I was so upset that I cried all the way home. My Mom was watching the boys while I was out and when I walked in the door, I just fell apart and had to sit down and tell her the whole story. Poor Mom.
So, here I am again, putting my babies to bed, reading my book, and writing this, feeling like my whole world is coming down around me. Why is this happening to me? How could this happen? Will I lose all my friends over this, too? Who else is judging me? I’ve never been so scared in my life. I could lose everything over something I could not possibly have done.
June 17 – Thursday
Last month, I had signed up to help with Vacation Bible School. Today a woman from church called and left a message about a meeting tonight at 7:30pm and I really didn’t want to go after hearing what Carol told me. I just feel so abandoned. I thought about it all afternoon and decided that I should go. I said I would and backing out now would only make them think they are right in what they have decided not to do.
Nat came with me for backup. We are going to have the 2 and 3-year-old group together. But I haven’t told you the best part! The deacon that the Pastor told me to talk to about my arrest was there. I have been trying to get in touch with him. I called and left a message a couple of days ago, but I haven’t had a chance to talk with him in person. I knew it was him when I saw him, but I’m so shy. I couldn’t bring myself to walk up and introduce myself.
I went and talked to the vacation bible school leader about what exactly I had to do with my group of kids and she told me that the person to talk to would be the deacon and his wife. I had another reason to walk up and talk to him! They started to lay out what we were going to do and when. And when they were done, I told him who I was and we talked about the case.
I told him that I had already hired a lawyer and who he was. The deacon reassured me that I was doing what I was supposed to and how things were going to proceed. Wow! Talk about God intervening on my behalf.
Talking with him, although he didn’t offer any help other than to confirm what I already knew, was really what I needed today. I feel so much better and I was feeling terribly anxious today. Five more days until I go to court.
June 20 – Sunday Father’s Day
I stepped in to help run the sound at church this morning and I had lots of time to think. What was I thinking about? I was wondering why I am spending almost my whole weekend here doing this. I’ll go back a bit. Yesterday, I left for church at 6:30pm and got home at 10:30pm. I was helping get the new sanctuary ready for Sunday service. They asked for my help because I have worked with sound systems before and thought I’d be of use. It didn’t take that long to do the work, but the church is an hour from my house, so that adds a couple hours of driving to any work I do. And it was in the evening. I had to miss dinner and bedtime.
This morning I left at 7:30am and got back at 12:30pm. It’s Father’s Day and I have my family to attend to, so I got home, gathered the family, and headed to my Aunt’s house.
So, here I am wondering what to do. I love this church. It’s the first one I’ve ever gone to regularly. I feel like I found the Lord here. I was baptized here. The people are nice, and I used to feel closer to them before this arrest thing. I feel like I’m losing my church to this.
I know God is everywhere and there are nice people in churches right close to my home. I should start going to one of those. But what if I don’t feel the same there? What if it’s different? I used to feel so safe at this church. Now I just feel that I have skills they need but they don’t really trust me. I’m so confused right now. It’s something I really need to keep praying about.
June 21 – Monday
Playgroup was busy today! We had five families at the house! Afterward, Tia took Tom to the park while Jake and I took a nap. Then my Mom came over and we went to the grocery store for enchilada supplies. We had a very full table for dinner tonight! We played in the front yard until the nightly fireworks (one of the perks of living so close to Disneyland) and then went straight to bed. Pretty much a perfect day!
I’ve been busy to keep anxiety away and I know my closest friends and family have been staying close so they can help me through. I feel supported and safe. But I am still feeling a lot of stress about tomorrow’s court appearance. Lord, please take these thoughts off my mind so that I can get a good night’s sleep. And if it is at all possible, please let this court appearance be my last. I’m just not sure how much more stress I can handle.
June 22 – Tuesday
One month later and it’s finally the day of my arraignment!
Just writing those words sends a chill down my spine and turns my stomach inside out all over again. I have no idea how I got through the day from start to finish without losing my cool. I prayed constantly, “Lord, please.”
I woke up exhausted as if I hadn’t slept at all. All night long I woke up every hour for fear of oversleeping this morning. Funny the irrational things we do out of fear. I couldn’t sleep past 6 AM if I tried, my sons won’t allow it, but I just laid there in bed dreading what might happen over the next 24 hours.
I’d scoured my closet for “modest and clean” clothes like my lawyer told me to wear. “Wear something not too much unlike what you usually wear but slightly dressier, like you’re going to an interview for a job you really want to have.”
You mean like the job of keeping my life? I have a hard enough time deciding what to wear to church or my husband’s company Christmas party. What does a stay-at-home extremely casual mom wear to her first arraignment?
The boys woke up and were giggling and playing in the other room as I picked out my nicest pair of Lee jeans, a dressier blouse (not my usual men’s t-shirt) and my new tennis shoes. They were starting to get rowdy, so I told them to go downstairs with Dad so they didn’t wake up their sister. It’s summer vacation for her now and she likes to sleep in.
I showered, got dressed, brushed my hair back and pulled it into a pony tail as I always do. I have never worn makeup or been one to do much with my hair and nails, but I thought I looked nice, like I was going to Thanksgiving at my Grandma’s house.
When I got downstairs, my husband was fixing the boys some breakfast, fruit and cinnamon toast. Ann was talking with Dan about our plan for the day. Both of them looked as scared as I felt. I tried to be positive through my fear though. Ann said she and Nat would watch Nikki while were gone. We had already planned on taking the boys to my Aunt’s house to play. We weren’t sure how long we’d be gone and all three kids were just too much for her to handle, especially on a day like today. They’d be happier running wild and swimming with their favorite Aunt.
We had to be in court to meet the lawyer and 9 AM, so we left early and dropped the boys off on the way. Pulling into the courthouse parking lot, my husband reached over and took my hand. He parked the truck and we sat there for a moment looking at the building. We both prayed silently. What do you ask God at this moment? “Lord hold me up. Don’t let me make a fool of myself. Take this away.”
We took a deep breath, got out of the truck and walked toward the front entrance.
“It’ll be ok. I’m sure it will be over soon.” He said as he took my hand and we walked up the staircase.
I have to take one minute and mention what a wonderful husband I am blessed with. I don’t think I could get through this so far without him. At every turn, there he is. He knows where we’re supposed to be, how long it will take to get there, and what we’ll need. I cannot imagine how difficult this is for him to go through with me. Luckily, the way he deals with stress is to take charge of getting things done. Mine is to go to bed and wish it away. All I had to do today was just follow him and work intensely on keeping my anxiety under control. I kept my focus on breathing calmly, praying for peace and that this would end soon.
My lawyer was amazing to watch. I have a whole new understanding of Jesus as our advocate in heaven after watching him. The courtroom was intimidating. It was big and there were so many people standing around waiting. There were rules and protocols I don’t understand. Everyone was in a hurry and worried. The moment my lawyer showed up, he took charge of the situation. I could feel the tension lessen. He told us what to do, where to go, what was happening, and how to deal with it. We were safe and assured in his instructions and knew that he would intercede on our behalf in front of the judge. As the court opened, he interacted with the judge as if he were an old friend. I’m sure he has worked with him many times. We just stood near our lawyer and waited. A few words were exchanged. And we left the courtroom. It was all over in a few minutes. I’m still scared of what might happen, but after this day, I’m thanking God for the enlightenment alone.
After we left the courtroom, my lawyer led us outside onto the front steps to talk over what had happened and what we were going to do next. He was hoping the DA would realize through a little character reference, that he had the wrong person and drop the charges, but it looks like that’s not happening. The arraignment has been postponed for further discovery. We have another court date in a month. We have work to do. Translate that to, “This is going to bankrupt us.”
We were disappointed to say the least. I had hoped this would be over today and I could go back to my life in peace, but there are other plans for me. Again we found ourselves driving away in shocked silence.
It was only 10:30AM when we picked up the boys. We stayed long enough to relay the news from the morning. I called my Mom and filled her in. On the way back to the house, Dan suggested we pick up Nikki and Nat and drive up to Lake Arrowhead for a picnic. He’d taken the whole day off from work, no sense in wasting it, and it’d be fun for all of us.
I haven’t been up there in years so I wasn’t sure what there was to do. We went to the Village and the kids played on a huge inflatable slide by the lake while Nat and I went window shopping in the little stores. I found a present for my Mom and Nat picked up some pretty postcards. We drove around looking for a nice campground to take the kids to in the future but the fires from earlier in year had burned up the nicest ones. They’d be prettier in a few years but this year I think we’ll camp somewhere else.
It was a nice way to spend the rest of a stressful day. We put the court case behind us and immersed ourselves in enjoying our family. There is nothing else we can do right now. As the sun stared to set, we all headed down the highway exhausted from the mountain air, got some burgers for dinner on the way home, and went straight into the bedtime routine when we walked in the door.
Thank you for sharing your story Michelle. I know that wasn’t easy for you. Love you…and guess what? You not only survived…but are all the smarter, more wonderful and sensitive for it. 😉