“Out of the Blue”
A stay-at-home Mom accused of a crime she didn’t commit shares how the Lord brought her peace while confronting the possibility of losing everything she had.
Prologue – Mother’s Day Dedication
I’d been attending church for about nine months. Today my children would be dedicated to God on Mother’s Day, with my Husband, Mother-in-Law, and Grandparents in attendance.
I started going to this church at the invitation of a friend. She had been going there for years and they were trying something new. The church was a bit of a drive for me, but it was only once a week and, being a stay at home mom with young children, I enjoyed the time alone in the car. I hadn’t grown up going to church. I considered myself a Christian. I believed in God and I had an idea about who Jesus was. I had a bible and had read some of it from time to time over my life.
I have two memories of church when I was a child. The first was a Lutheran school I went to for the 1st grade. I don’t remember why I went there instead of a public school like the rest of my life, but I remember being dropped off in front of the chapel on Wednesday’s before school started and needing to be quiet as I came in. The second was “Released Time Education” in the 4th grade. I signed up to go because it was once a week during math class. I hated math, so being sent to a small trailer off school property (separation of church and state, you know) with a group of kids from other classrooms was a treat. There was a Catholic and a Protestant one. I went to the Protestant one. I learned the Lord’s prayer and got a tiny bible to keep. That was the extent of my Christian education.
So here I was meeting a good friend at a Baptist church to find out what this new thing they were going to try was. It turned out to be life changing. Services were to be held in the gym instead of the sanctuary. There was a band, a coffee shop in the back, and bean bags in the back rows. The pastor rode in on his Harley. His wife sang with the band. He was passionate and loud. I heard “Can I get an amen from ya!” several times. The people were happy, excited, and outwardly worshiping, hands outstretched with tears in their eyes. I was intrigued and looked forward to coming back the following week.
As the weeks went on, I became more and more comfortable there. Other friends of ours came to Sunday services a few times when they could. I helped in the nursery once a month. I joined a small group bible study on Wednesday nights and joined the ladies for coffee and desserts afterward every week. I felt a part of the family. I began to really fall in love with Jesus and read my bible more and more. I craved to know more about the Lord. The depression I struggled with throughout my adult life, and really fallen into since my children were born, began to abate. I felt like this was what I had been missing, this was the help my heart was searching for.
When the pastor announced there would be a group baptism at the church the next month, I felt led to do it. I’m not an outgoing person and it was very difficult for me to stand up there in front of the whole congregation and be so publicly baptized, but I felt it was something I had to do, something the Lord wanted me to do, a public announcement of my faith, of my being adopted into the Christian family. I had never felt so happy and proud to be a part of something. Looking back, I wish I had made a bigger deal about it. I wish I had a picture!
I typically attended Sunday services alone. My husband always picked up his daughter from her Mother’s house on Sunday morning, so coming with me was not an option. My sons were very young and couldn’t sit through the service just yet. The church did have a childcare option, but I was not comfortable leaving them there. They weren’t happy to leave my side and stay with strangers and our parenting philosophy was not one to force them to get used to it. We were still fully in the bonding stages of parenting and it felt wrong not to honor their desire to stay with a parent. Since my husband was already occupied with picking up his daughter, the boys were happy to go with him. It became a Sunday tradition. I would leave for church and they would get ready to go with Dad. On the way home, they would usually pick up donuts and I would be home just after they were. But it wasn’t always the happiest day of the week for us. There was quite a bit of stress.
My stepdaughter spent the rest of her Sunday decompressing. Our home and her Mother’s were very different. Parenting styles, atmosphere, expectations were all different. At her Mother’s she only had to contend with one other person. At our house, there were five of us. She was always excited to see us, but I’m sure it was a rough transition. She was nine years old and was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic when she was two. The personality doesn’t do well with radical change and she had quite a bit of change to deal with every week. We tried to make the transition as easy as possible, giving her space to relax and unwind, but with two little brothers that were excited to see her and school looming the next day, there were things we had to push and it didn’t always go as smoothly as we planned.
It’s one of the things that still weighs heavily on my heart. I hope she knows we always tried to do the best we could. Parenting is not easy. There are no directions, handbooks, or quick fixes. There are just too many variables. And we’re all growing up at the same time but in different stages. Life is messy.
We had joined families with my Mother-In-Law just before my youngest child was born. I can’t say we moved in with her or that she moved in with us. We found a big house that all of us could fit in and we shared expenses and duties. It was a good move for all of us. She was no longer alone and could live more comfortably. And we were happy to have a third adult in the house, always willing to lend a hand watching the babies or driving someone somewhere. It was a win-win situation for everyone. She attended another church in our neighborhood that she had always gone to, so she was in on the usual Sunday Morning Excitement.
This Sunday would be different. It was Mother’s Day and my church was honoring the newest mothers in the group by having a Dedication Ceremony. Everyone was asked to be there and to invite extended family and friends to witness. My Mother-In-Law was happy to skip her church service to be there. And my Grandparents drove an hour and half to be there that Sunday morning. They weren’t church going people, but they were Christians. My Grandmother had been raised Catholic (something I didn’t know at the time), so she was excited to see a Christian Ceremony in the family again. I still smile when I think of her proud face that day.
My husband had arranged to pick up his daughter on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning, so she could attend. I had to get our sons up, dressed, and out the door by 8am, which was always a feat. They were three and two years old and had their own way and pace of doing things. The big change for them was that I wanted them to wear something other than a camouflage shirt and black rubber boots. The very idea was insulting to them. I was just a young mom trying to show those church people I had it all together and had clean and tidy children. Couldn’t they cooperate, just this once?
The ride to the church was about thirty-five minutes long, so my young sons had already been confined for that long, an eternity for little boys. When we arrived, they sprang from the car and ran toward the grass in front of the church. Dad watched over them as they made circles around a fountain and ran up and down the grass chasing their older sister who always seemed happy to have the attention. We were attempting to wear out the wiggles a bit before we went inside. I met my Grandparents at the front door and told them how happy I was to have them there. I’d always been close to my Grandparents.
Five minutes before the service was to begin, we rounded up the children and walked into the auditorium. We found the place transformed into a perfectly beautiful, feminine paradise. Instead of rows of chairs there were tables draped in soft cloth of different pastels. Each table was clearly decorated for the ladies; flowers, confetti, a small gift for each mother at the table. We came in and sat down, taking up a whole table with our family and friends. As we settled in the music began.
The band was wonderful. All the kids loved the live music. Especially my oldest son. He’s always been drawn to music and he thoroughly enjoyed being able to see each of the band members play up close, with his ears covered by his hands, of course, “just in case it got too loud,” he said. The music lasted about fifteen minutes before it quieted down, and the service began. As the pastor began to speak, I noticed all the other mothers in the auditorium sitting in chairs holding toddlers on their knees or standing quietly in the back rocking their babies while they listened. I know I wasn’t the only Mom praying that the children would remain calm during the ceremony or that the pastor would understand a mother’s plight and make it short, but I felt like I was waiting for a miracle. I knew my stepdaughter would sit and listen for as long as the pastor talked. She was older, in school, and already a good listener and one to wait patiently. My younger son promptly fell asleep on Dad’s shoulder. Being two must be nice. Tired? Just crawl into someone’s lap and snooze! My older son was not one to sit still or be quiet when he was not interested in the subject at hand. At first, he fidgeted with the things on the table. He carefully opened a box of candy, separated each of the colors, and ate them all one by one, telling me all about it in his tiny little voice. He asked several times what the pastor was saying and when the music would start again.
The pastor talked for about twenty minutes. Not long for a church service but for a little boy and his mother, forever! My son began to fidget. Grandma tried to entertain him a bit with some crayons she had in her purse. Grandmas! God bless them! My son really wanted to hear more music and I told him they would play soon but if he couldn’t be quiet, we’d have to go outside. His little face brightened, “Ok!” That wasn’t the reaction I was looking for but just as he said it, the pastor asked all the families to come to the front for the Dedication Ceremony. My son hadn’t heard that part. When we got up, he assumed we were going outside, exactly what he wanted to do. He was so confused when we walked to the front of the assembly and began to cry as the pastor began talking about each family. I knelt next to him and held him close, whispering that this is the part I was waiting for, right afterward the music would start. He just stood there looking irritated. My younger son, held by his Dad, rubbed his eyes in sleepy confusion.
The pastor spoke of each family. His kind and encouraging words for each of us and the loving prayers of the whole church lifted my spirits. I felt connected. I could feel the Holy Spirit in this room full of His children. I felt invincible. Each of the boys received a small New Testament with the date and the name of the church written inside. They loved them. Small books with so many pages they could hold in their little hands. I still have them tucked away in their baby things.
We left the church and headed straight home. There was no going out for lunch for this family. That would be a recipe for disaster. The boys had sat still long enough. But Dad stopped at the donut store on the way back and we all met at the house for donuts and coffee to celebrate. Sitting around the dining room table with my family happily munching away on donuts, my sons and their “coffee” (otherwise known as sippy cups of chocolate milk). I couldn’t be happier. Everything was as it should be.
Looking back now, years later, I realize something about where I was spiritually. I was in love with the church, the experience, the show, not the Lord. I was trying to fit in with a group of people I believed were “doing it right,” not being the person God made me. My focus was not on the Lord or leaning on Him for support.
A lot has changed over the years. There have been many trials and some not insignificant pain. This same month would begin nine months of intense stress I never saw coming, but I know the Lord did. I know now that He was building up my defenses for something that would change my whole worldview. Like giving birth once you’re pregnant, this trial had to happen. There was no way to stop it. I was about to learn some very serious life lessons and I know He was right there, holding my hand as it happened, and we worked through it.
Journal Entry – May 25
I could hear the boys stirring in their room and my stepdaughter’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.
A knock on the door? How long have I been asleep? I look at the clock. It’s nearly 7 am. The dog is barking like crazy. She hates it when people are on the front porch, even if it’s just us; a knock on the door and she goes bonkers. She’s a small dog, only about two feet tall at her shoulders. She looks like a miniature German Shepherd. The knocking gets louder and more insistent. I put my pillow over my head. Irritating people. I hear Dan’s heavy, deliberate step toward the door and the lock unbolting.
Male voices. I can’t hear exactly what they are saying but they are serious. “Hold the dog, sir.” My husband, “Ok. I’ve got her. She doesn’t bite.” Seconds of talking and big, hurried footsteps on the stairs. Now I’m curious. I sit up in bed to watch two men with guns drawn walk into my room. The guns are pointed at me. “Don’t move.” I don’t see uniforms, only yellow writing on black bullet proof vests. I can see the Velcro straps sticking out. There is enough light to see clearly by, but the room is still shadowed by the big avocado tree outside. I hear “Don’t move.” again. “Ok.”
I’m sitting up in bed confused but not scared. The first man to enter the room holds his gun on me, while the second walks past him. He swiftly walks through my room and into the small dormer room at the front of the house, another bedroom, gun drawn. A second passes. “Clear.” He comes out.
There is a third man on the landing. “Single female. Second story clear.” I hear the radio cackle, two or three other voices say “clear”, and then one minute later an “all clear.” The man looks at me. “Ma’am. Come with me.” “Can I put some pants on first?”, I soberly ask. He speaks down the stairs. “We need a female officer up here.” Two seconds later, she arrives and the men head back down the stairs.
The female officer says nothing but “Go ahead and get dressed.” I quietly grab my sweatpants from the floor and put them on. “Come with me, please.” She follows me down the stairs and has me sit on the bottom step. “Wait here.” I hear my boys talking quietly with their Dad in the next room.
Sitting on the lower landing of our staircase, looking at the downstairs bathroom door, the light is on. My stepdaughter must have been just about ready to leave for school. It’s 7 am. She’d be leaving about now. I hear her questioning voice with Grandma in her living room on the other side of the bathroom. To my left is our front door. It’s open. There is a man on the front porch and one in the doorway to the living room with my husband and sons. Why are we all separate? I hear lots of people walking and talking, looking for things? Who are they looking for? “This neighborhood is getting ridiculous.”, I think. “I bet this is really about our next-door neighbors.” Strange people moved in a year ago and they have different people in and out of the house all day. They are going to be so embarrassed when they realize they have the wrong house.
The officers continued to search the house while we sat there. Once the house was thoroughly searched for people, they began to interview the adults. They asked my mother-in-law to speak with them and I heard the door shut. I hear my sons asking their Dad if they can get up, they need a drink. Even in the serious air of the situation, little boys just aren’t able to sit quiet and still for very long. A few minutes later, she came out and they asked my husband back. Grandma came over and sat with the kids. I hear their sister talking about getting to school. When my husband returns, I hear my mother-in-law ask if she can leave to take my stepdaughter to school.
About twenty minutes passes when a man in a suit comes up to me at the stairs and asks me to come with him. He escorts me to the back of the house. We pass by my family. They look worried. I see my sons’ toy guns laid out on a cabinet near the officers in the room. The boys jump up. “Mommy!” Dad holds them close to him. “Stay with me. Mommy has to talk to the policeman.” “Are they looking for bad guys, Dad?”, I hear my older son say. “My gun.”, my youngest babbles, pointing to his toys. “My In Jone!” He’s two and believes he is Indiana Jones. He takes it very seriously.
I walk into the room and he asks me to sit on the couch. The officer sits down in the chair across from me. He’s pleasant and polite, not rushed, not angry or gruff. “Do you know why we are here, Mrs. Huelle?” Confused I answer, “No.” “Are you sure about that?”, he says. I’m still in shock that this is happening at our house. I feel like we’re in a TV show. It’s all happening just like “Law & Order.” and I say so. He introduces himself as Detective Ash. He says he’s looking for a robbery suspect. They have a warrant to search the house. I just look at him. I honestly didn’t react at all. I just sat there staring. I’d never had cops in my house. He looks unfazed. “If you really have no idea why we’re here, I’m sure this is a bit shocking. I have some questions if you don’t mind. Maybe we can clear this up.” In my naivete, I nod my head, “I’m willing to answer anything. I hope I can help.”
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 didn’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 could tell he had worked with him many times in the past. 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 our character references, 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 the 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.
June 23 – Wednesday
I got a letter from my lawyer this morning about yesterday’s court appearance. It came with a copy of the warrant and the original police report from the crime scene. Sitting there reading through those documents was sickening. It made it all so real to see my name in print on all those reports. I’ve never seen one except on TV and to see it now, in my hands, with my name all over it… It was so surreal.
The worst part about it was reading how they came to the conclusion that I was a suspect and how they got a warrant to search my house and arrest me. It turns out the victim’s cell phone was stolen and after she got her bill, she noticed there were ten calls made from the phone after it was stolen from her. All the numbers were unlisted, except for one. That one was mine. Phone calls are listed in one-minute increments. It can’t have been listed as less. That means it was either a very short call, the machine picked up or it was the wrong number and the caller hung up. The number is listed in my husband’s name, so they looked up the address to see if anyone living at that address matched the description of the suspect; mid-thirties, blond, female. They found my name. They contacted the DMV and got driver’s license photo, put it in a photo line-up, and two separate people pointed to my photo as the person they saw that night. One was the victim, the other was the bartender at the restaurant where she used the stolen credit card.
Looking at the photo line-up, it was obvious why they picked my picture. Out of the six pictures of similar looking females, mine was the only one that wasn’t a mug shot from a previous arrest. It was obviously different. My DMV picture was from the week after we were married. I went down to the DMV to get a new license with my new married name and they took a new picture. I was elated that day! The other pictures were angry and tired looking women. I going to ask my lawyer if that’s the way things are usually done. I can’t believe that it is.
The other ugly part was the report about the bartender when he identified me in the line-up. It was written as if he already knew it was me. “Tim said Huelle told him she needed to get home to her residence in Huntington Beach.” That’s when my heart sunk. Dan’s ex-wife lives in Huntington Beach. Another connection to her. What are the odds? I’m sick thinking she could have something to do with this, but there is nothing I can do about it. Then again, the connections to me are just as strong from an outside point of view and I know I did not do this.
I really needed to put this all aside and get some rest after yesterday’s stress but that just wasn’t in the cards for me today.
On another note, parenting right now consists of more laundry than I ever thought could exist in one house. Thank God for washing machines. When I woke up this morning, one child was sick and the other wet the bed. The world’s biggest pile of laundry was the result.
The strange part was that Nikki didn’t come and get us when she woke up sick in the night. She’s only ten years old. I wouldn’t expect any child to be alone throwing up all night, especially if she didn’t get up and to the bathroom in time. I told her to come get us if she isn’t well and we’ll help, but she can’t explain why she didn’t. I just don’t understand. She laid recovering on the couch today while I cleaned up her room. I dusted and vacuumed as well after her mother came to get her since the loud vacuum always bugs her and the dust in the air aggravates her allergies.
This was not a fun day for any of us.
June 28 – Monday
Another fun playdate with our friends today. Afterward, Ann watched the kids while Nat and I went to get a haircut and see “The Notebook”. It was such a great movie! We cried and cried! It reminded me of Dan and me, so much like a movie. We sat in the car after the movie and I told Nat all about it. Dan and I met when we both worked at the park when I was in high school but I left the park abruptly in college and we didn’t really know each other well enough to keep in touch. When I went back to work there in another department, we met again and started a crazy course of an on again, off again relationship that ended in a pretty damn romantic way.
Just thinking about that, I’m choked up again. My imagination runs away with me over this case. I wonder how this romance will end. I hope it’s not with me in jail for ten years over a crime I didn’t commit and my sweet husband caring for our children alone, bringing them to visiting days! It makes me sick. I’m just going to move my thoughts elsewhere. I’m starting to get good at that.
Nat and I a lot talked about Nikki and her situation. They both have trouble with their mother’s, but Nat is older and been through more. I’m hoping she can be an understanding older cousin that might keep Nikki anchored to something positive, or at least be someone she can openly talk to without fear of judgment. I wish I could be that for her, but step-mom’s get a bad rap. In a way, I understand. I had a step-mom too and I never trusted her as a child. I regret that now, but I have firsthand experience with the big jealous wall in step-families that can’t really be climbed easily. We all have to work through family dynamics in our own way. Nat told me she will write to her often when she goes back to her Dad’s house. I told her that even if she doesn’t write back to keep writing. Just knowing there’s someone out there should help her at least a little, I hope.
I was cleaning out a closet this afternoon and found my high school Letterman’s jacket. The memories started flowing when I saw it in the back of the closet. I “lettered” in theatre! Even back then I didn’t know that was possible, but I was excited to be able to get my own jacket just like you see in the movies, except I didn’t have my boyfriend’s sport letterman’s jacket, I had my own. I even bought the men’s one not the women’s version because it was so much cooler.
Just about every day my thoughts revolve around these accusations. I get involved in one thing and get carried along and then suddenly I’m having a hard time breathing because it all comes crashing in on me. I can’t believe I have to wait another whole month to find out what is going to happen next. Luckily, I feel very confident in my lawyer. He seems so on top of things, like he has this all under control and that whatever can be done, will be done. He’s hired an investigator to look into the reports and find more information than the police have. All I have to do is try to relax and wait. I’m not sure how well I’m doing. Today, I looked at those reports that came from my lawyer again and found new things to occupy my thoughts.
A woman of my build, in a skirt and blouse (anyone that knows me would attest that that information right there rules me out), robbed a woman in a mall parking lot at gunpoint. She tried to steal the car but couldn’t start it, took the woman’s purse and packages and left, running in the direction of a nearby hotel lobby.
The other “evidence” that got them a warrant for my arrest was that we have a white pick-up truck like the one a witness said picked up the criminal.
The warrant listed what evidence they were looking for when they searched my house. A few of them were “new women’s clothing,” “a black handgun,” and “gift cards from the mall.” They did find a black handgun (one my husband’s father passed down to him) in a safe at our house, but they found nothing else. It says they took the gun and an article of mail with my name and address on it.
There are comments in the police report that really bother me. It says they found “few articles of women’s clothing” at the house. This led them to believe that I spent time somewhere else than at home. I remember my husband telling me that they had asked if he really knew me and that I was probably hiding a secret life somewhere with another man. It also says that I was very familiar with the area that the robbery occurred. When they asked me those questions, I believed that you could not incriminate yourself if you didn’t do the crime. I answered honestly and openly. I know the area because I grew up there. It’s the biggest mall around. There are millions of people that know that area well. That is a lesson that has really hit me hard. There is a legitimate reason that you do not talk with the police about anything without a lawyer present. Everything you say “can and will be used against you.”
They made remarks about how flat I was emotionally when they informed me of the warrant for my arrest and that they would be taking me to jail. I did not perform the way they believed a stay-at-home mom with nothing to hide should, therefore I was probably the person they were looking for. To be honest, I was in shock. I was dragged out of bed, separated from my family, and questioned before I had my coffee. I was accused of things that I would never in a million years think anyone would ever associate with me. On top of that, for the past several months I have been taking a very high dose of anti-anxiety medication that slows my reactions down so that I may learn to cope with them. These things make me suspect?
Reading it, thinking about it, wondering what will happen to me, it all makes my head spin. I feel nauseous. Lord, help me to remain calm and not panic. I am in constant prayer that this doesn’t affect my children. The point of taking the medication was to lessen my stress so that I could be a better wife and mother, and here I am facing having all of it taken away from me.
July 1 – Thursday
We had a pretty boring day. Other than decorating the house for the 4th of July, we went to Costco and Nat went to Grandma’s church group with her.
My bible study with my friends isn’t working out. We are just too busy during the summer to make a weekly date without the kids. I’m continuing the study on my own, but it just isn’t the same. Sharing what we’ve learned and praying for each other is the best part of a bible study.
I wish I could go back to the bible study at my church, but I’m too hurt. Hearing my friend report that not one of those ladies will write a character reference for me just wounded me so deeply. How could anyone meet with me every week over an intimate bible study for months and believe that I could possibly commit a violent crime? I feel betrayed, as if the whole “church community” thing is a lie.
Lord, please heal my heart from the wounds that my brothers and sisters have inflicted.
July 7 – Wednesday
We had a meeting with my lawyer at 4pm today. I brought the character reference letters from friends and family that I have collected, and my journal that has the dates the crime was committed in it. Looking through that journal makes me so nervous. I never intended anyone to read that or imagined anyone ever would. It’s just what I write while the boys are going to sleep. Sometimes it’s not very nice and sometimes it’s mushy. And the worst part is the date the crime was committed, I didn’t write anything. Just like on my calendar, I wrote the day before and the day after, but not on that night. Will this only make them think they are right about me? Why did I not write on that day?!
The strangest part of the meeting was when my lawyer told us that the District Attorney had begun to call a Grand Jury on our case. I’m still not sure what that means exactly, but the lawyer said it meant that they really believed they had a good chance of convicting me and wanted to get a trial moving quickly. He found out about it through his contacts in the court and convinced them to stop for the time being. I can only imagine that scene, right out of a “Law & Order” episode. He said he is going to work more quickly to show that I’m not the person they are looking for but to be prepared to be arrested again if the District Attorney gets his way. That’s just the kind of extra stress I need. Just when I start to believe that this whole thing is going to blow over, another card is turned, and I’m left feeling like the world is closing in around me. I’m tired of living in a TV show.
Since I had to leave my journal with my lawyer as evidence (boy does that feel strange to write) I’m writing in a pretty new one that my Mother-In-Law gave me.
Nat and I went to see Beth Moore speak the past two days. What a blessing that was! We spent the night there and had plenty of time to talk and get to know each other even better. Thank you, Lord, for the chance to be in this young woman’s life. I love her so much. I did miss Dan and the boys but it was fun to be just girls for a couple of days.
Today, we went back and brought Grandma with us to see Jennifer Rothchild speak with. That was just as fun and inspiring as the last few days, but now I am really sick with a sore throat and an earache. I just want to crawl into bed and sleep. I had planned on taking all the kids to my Mom’s tomorrow, but I had to cancel and hope to be able to do it next week instead.
The boys sure missed me. They came running to the front door when we pulled up and threw themselves at me the minute I opened the door. They had a lot to tell me about. Mostly about how Dad did everything differently, including “one-at-a-time baths” which were “not fun at all.” I know I’ve only been away for two days, but they look so much bigger. Kids grow way too quickly.
July 14 – Wednesday
We spent the day at my Aunt’s house, swimming in the pool and visiting with Great-Grandma and Poppy.
This morning Tom was climbing where he shouldn’t in the tree house and got a bunch of splinters in his foot. I had him on the couch and was trying to get them out with tweezers. He was laying there going “oh” and “sheesh” but not crying when he said, “Hold on a minute Mommy, God is talking to me.” Then he was real quiet and said, “He said never mind.” I asked him if He said anything else and he said, “He said I was lying but I really wasn’t.” He is so weird.
Later, I was trying to get them ready to leave for my Aunt’s and I go out in the yard to find Jake fully dressed and in a box in the little pool! He said, “Look at my boat, Mom!”
Want more proof that children raised in this house are a bit odd? I told Nikki this morning, “Look! A blue bird!” and she says, “Really? Where? Let me see if I can call it over here.” She then proceeds to yell “CAW! CAW!” at the top of her voice. I cracked up laughing. I’m surrounded by comedians! Help!
July 15 – Thursday
We went to the beach in Carlsbad today to meet my husband’s brother and sister-in-law visiting from Arizona. It was so miserably hot, even at the beach. We didn’t get much of a chance to talk. Their kids were out in the water, playing in the waves. Nikki looked like she wanted to join them but didn’t really know how. I was busy trying to keep Jake from drowning himself. That kid and water! And Tom wouldn’t go anywhere near the water for fear of a “rogue wave.” We ended up leaving after an hour and coming home.
My Dad came over on his way home from work. That was a nice surprise! They all rushed to the door to greet him and talked his ears off while he was here. Nat went with her Grandma to her crochet club. She came back with a ball of yarn and a new scarf she is working on.
I received several more character reference letters from friends and family that I’m supposed to bring to my lawyer at our next meeting. I wish they’d send them directly to the lawyer, so I can’t see them. I can’t help but read them and it’s a little embarrassing, like I’m reading someone else’s mail.
I am so tired! I’m not waiting for these boys to go to sleep tonight. I’m finishing this and then laying down on the floor between their beds until they fall asleep. I dare not get in bed with one of them. The other would just cry that it wasn’t fair!
July 16 – Friday
My friend Tia came over with her daughter yesterday and we played in the sprinklers all afternoon. Our friend Laura came over too. She used to be a parole officer and she had some insight on how the justice system works. I heard, once again, that this kind of thing happens all too often and that it is serious. It isn’t comforting to know that innocent people go to jail fairly often, and mostly because they don’t have a decent lawyer. I know she thinks she is helping, but it only makes me more nervous listening to her stories. I changed the subject after a while, explaining that I was confident my lawyer would handle it and that I was just trying to keep it out of my mind as much as possible since there wasn’t anything else I could do.
When Dan got home from work, we walked to Downtown Disney and got hot dogs for dinner. Watching the kids have fun, sharing hot dogs and lemonade, telling their Dad crazy jokes they made up, relaxed me. I know this will all come out well in the end. God has it all under control. I keep putting it in His hands and looking for what I’m supposed to be learning from this experience.
July 18 – Sunday
Nat and I went to Grandma’s church this morning. Ann had gone to the earlier service but we weren’t ready, so we went on our own to the late one. While we were standing in the lobby, waiting to go inside, I kept thinking about Shoreline. I felt like I all I wanted was to go home. This church isn’t my home. I looked at my watch. If we left right away, we could still get there in time for late service. I told Nat and she was all for it. We ran back to the truck and headed down the road.
When we arrived, everyone was happy to see us. It felt warm and welcoming. Maybe I’m overreacting to my bible study leader’s attitude toward me. What if it’s just her that has a problem with me and my arrest? No one is perfect and I can’t take one rejection out on the whole church. I talked to the pastor after the service and have an appointment to talk with him more in his office later this week. I need to be more open about how I have been feeling. I can’t expect things to change if no one knows there is a problem.
The sermon this morning was exactly what Nat needed to hear. She was so happy to be there. On the way home, she called her friend back home that is going through a similar experience (staying with family for the summer because her parents are struggling through a divorce). She found out that her friend also found Jesus and they are so excited to have each other for support when they get back home and to high school. It makes me so happy to see their joy.
After church, we spent the rest of the day at my Dad’s house swimming and eating BBQ!
July 19 – Monday
It was so hot today! I hate summer.
Our regular playdate was today at our house. It’s so much fun to have so many families over and playing together. We had all the little pools, buckets, and water toys out in the backyard. The kids ate popsicles and played with the hose for hours. I look forward to Monday’s more than any other day.
My pastor called but I didn’t answer the phone. He left a message asking how I was doing. I’m going to call him back tomorrow. I was busy with all my mom friends. That’s my excuse. My real reason is fear. I’m afraid to talk to him and find out the truth. What if he shows me the same attitude as my bible study leader? What if he only calms me with platitudes and then distances himself from my situation instead of offering spiritual help and support? I’m not sure I can take that right now, better to assume everything is fine, that they’re all praying hard for me and not gossiping about the violent criminal they accidentally let into their midst. I can just hear it, “You just never know about people, do you?” “What else can they be hiding?” “They seemed like such a nice, normal family.”
On top of everything else, my family is driving me crazy about my case. Every day someone calls me to ask if anything has happened. It’s as if they don’t trust that I will keep them updated. I keep telling them that the minute anything happens, I’ll let them know. I wish they could imagine how I feel about all this. I’d love for it to move a little faster as well, but it keeps trudging on. Court appearances are a month apart and there is nothing to do but wait in between. The lawyer and the investigator are working on it, but there is nothing for me to do. It’s bad enough that I have to trust that these people are working on my behalf; at the same time, my family wants me to reassure them, keep their minds at ease as well!
I feel bad because I yelled at my mom on the phone. I try to tell her about what the kids are doing and our plans, but she only wants to hear about the case. I realize how worried about me she probably is but I wanted to scream and hang up the phone. I’ve told her several times that I can’t give her information I don’t have and that my lawyer specifically warned me to talk about the case as little as possible with my family and friends. Being a stay-at-home mom, I have no solid alibi for the night of the robbery. If this ends up going to trial, all I have are character witnesses and the less they know about the case as it unfolds, the more reliable they are in court. I tried to explain that to her.
She tried to tell me that I’m not taking this all seriously enough. Why, because I’m going on with my life while I wait for the hammer to drop on me and end it all? Am I supposed to stop everything and sit in my room and cry? I don’t think that’s going to help. I have children, a family to take care of. This may be the last few months I have. Why would I ruin that for them by having a nervous breakdown? I really yelled at her and I feel awful about it, but shit, it’s my life that is being threatened not theirs. I’m facing losing my whole family, ten years of my life. At the very least we stand to go into serious debt we may never recover from over this.
No, I’m not sitting around thinking about it every moment. It won’t help me and it makes the waiting worse. For the sake of my children, I’m going about my business as if nothing is happening as much as possible, but every day I think to myself, “This could be my last month with my children. Worse than dying, I’ll be living in prison, locked away from them for years thinking about what I’ve lost.” I’m working so hard to keep my mind off it and every day someone calls and brings me right back to it. And then I sit there, second-guessing myself, wondering if there is anything I could be doing. It makes me want to not answer the phone.
July 20 – Tuesday
What a lazy and hot day! I feel like I’m moving in slow motion.
The phone rang at dinner tonight and my stomach lurched when I saw my lawyer’s name on the caller ID. I work so hard at not thinking about the case that when I see it I’m jerked back into reality. What will happen now? Is he calling to warn me that I’ll be arrested again?
He was just checking in on me and making sure I knew where and when to meet him for tomorrow’s arraignment. Unlike last time, I will need to talk to people. The DA wants to meet me in person and ask me a few questions before our appearance. My lawyer hopes that after he meets me and reads through more of the character references I have, he’ll finally realize he has the wrong person and drop the charges. I’ll be praying that is exactly what happens and I can get back to my life.
I had a beer at dinner to try and relax but it isn’t helping. I’m on edge. The kids are driving me crazy, not because they are misbehaving but because everything around me feels so much louder and more irritating than usual. I’ve gained so much weight in the last few months that I feel as big as a house. I just can’t stop eating! I’m in a very negative and ugly mood now and it’s so hot!
July 21 – Wednesday
They did not drop the charges. I’m stunned. My lawyer can’t believe it either, which isn’t encouraging.
The last court appearance we were at didn’t take long so we left the boys with Ann today. Dan took the day off from work to be there for me at the courthouse and especially afterward on the drive home. I prayed all the way there that this would end today.
My lawyer found us in the lobby right as we arrived and went over what he expected to happen. The DA wanted to ask me a few questions before we went before the judge, so we stood in the lobby to talk. My lawyer was right behind me.
He asked such strange questions. The first was if I was smoker. That was easy. No, I’ve never smoked. I thought about mentioning that my husband was but remembered that my lawyer said not to volunteer any information, to answer only the questions asked of me and in the simplest way.
Then he asked if I had cut my hair recently. Another no. I’ve always had long hair. I look almost exactly as I ever have, except older and fatter. My third-grade teacher recognized me immediately when I was in college!
That was all. Two small, seemingly insignificant questions. And then we politely separated and went inside the courtroom to be called. We waited only a couple of minutes before our case was called forward.
I followed my lawyer to the Defendant’s table and the DA came to his table. I can still see it in my mind.
My lawyer presented our evidence; character references, instant messages from my computer the time of the robbery, and statements from my husband and mother-in-law that I was at home that night. Then the DA moved to start the trial. I pled not guilty and we have our next court appearance scheduled for September 2nd, more than a month away! The waiting begins again. I don’t know how I’ll survive it.
Since I don’t have a strong alibi for the night of the robbery, our next step is to show the court that it could just as easily have been someone else that committed the crime or, better yet, prove that it was someone else. Our private investigator has already been working on it. I can’t believe this is how our justice system works.
My lawyer has me scheduled to take a lie detector test on Monday. Strangely enough, I’m looking forward to that, purely out of curiosity. Will that be like I’ve seen in the movies too?
From the police report that he shared with me, we found out that the robbery suspect used the stolen credit cards she got from the victim to buy two separate dinners and tip the waiters $50 each (double the cost of the meals), both charges were within minutes of each other, at the same restaurant, with the same waitress, with two vastly different signatures. The waitress didn’t notice or ask to see an ID with that credit card. The bartender said he talked with the suspect for some time while she waited for someone to pick her up at the restaurant. He had seen who picked her up and described him and the vehicle. My lawyer told me that this bartender will be at the next court date so he can talk to me in person and tell the DA if he can confirm I’m the person they saw that night. He is their strongest witness.
I still can’t believe this is happening. I keep thinking someone is going to call and say “just kidding” any minute. Once again, I had gotten my hopes up that this would be all over today and we could go on and our summer camping trip this weekend as a celebration. Now I’ll still have this over my head, but at least I’ll be distracted for a few days. It’ll be a whole month before we go to court again!
My lawyer made an appointment for me to have a polygraph test today and my Grandma really wanted to go with me, so we decided to make it a lunch date. She drove to my house and then we made the two-hour drive to San Diego together. It’s been a long time since we’ve spent the day together, just the two of us. Sometimes the ugliest events can make the most beautiful memories.
I had the appointment made for 11:30am hoping we’d miss the morning commuter traffic and it worked out flawlessly. My Grandma had the directions to the office printed out and we planned an extra hour for the drive down, just in case, but ended up getting there half an hour early. We found the place easily. It was in a tall building with parking underground.
On the drive down, we had plenty of time to talk about family, kids, work; or in my case the lack of it since I’ve decided to stop working and stay home with the kids six months ago. I used to think I could keep working at night a few days a week while taking care of the kids during the day, but my work is exhausting and being that tired the next day makes me much less than patient with the kids. We’ve decided to work it out without the extra money each month for the sake of sanity. We’ll just have to do with less. I feel lucky to have a husband that wants me to do what’s best for us all and supports me whatever I try to do.
The office was on the third floor. As we got into the elevator, I started to get really nervous. My Grandma took my hand and squeezed it tight as we left the elevator and walked toward the door. I was shaking as I entered and told woman at the front desk that I had an appointment. She took my check for the service and then told us to wait just a moment, so we took a seat in the small lobby.
I’m not sure which was worse, shelling out $350 for something I didn’t really want to do or taking the test itself. I’ll admit that it was an interesting procedure though, mostly because it was just like you see in the movies.
The technician made me feel comfortable and safe as he led me back to his office. I couldn’t help but wonder if he really believed my story or if he was just good at making his clients think that so that he could get a better reading. Whichever it was, I did relax in his presence as much as possible and the appointment was over quickly.
He spent some time explaining how the machine worked and what he would be doing. He read all the questions to me before I took the test, so that I wouldn’t be surprised. Then he hooked me up to a machine that measures my heart rate and breathing.
He asked test questions first, ones that were easy and he knew the answer to. He said it was for a baseline. I have no reason to lie about things like “How many kids do you have?” and things like that.
July 28 – Wednesday
Then he asked the questions the police and my lawyer wanted answered. The questions were simple and direct. “Did you use a black handgun on this date?” and “Did you change your hair color in the past couple of months?” Nothing vague at all. If my reaction was vastly different from the baseline questions, that implied that I may be lying about it. I passed, of course. He said there was no way I was lying, unless I was a sociopath.
It was all over in about an hour. But, to add insult to injury, the parking fee was $25 when we tried to leave the parking lot. We were in that parking spot a total of two hours. My Grandma knows how to cheer me up though. She took us to the Hard Rock Café for lunch!
Sitting there, eating lunch with my Grandma, it was hard to believe that we were unwinding after a stressful polygraph test. I bet no one there would have ever guessed that’s what we were celebrating. I looked around at other diners and wondered what their story was. Where were they an hour ago? Where were they going? Were their lives in upheaval too and we’re all just chugging along like it’s all normal?
After a long lunch, we made the drive home, which, in California for some reason, is always way longer than the drive down. It took us three and half hours in the afternoon traffic.
Ann had watched the kids all morning and then my friend Tia came over and watched them until Dad got off from work. He brought El Pollo Loco home for dinner and they had just finished eating when we pulled up in front of the house.
The boys were so wild when we walked in. One hid under the table until I went looking for him. They were running and screaming and wrestling, all in fun though, no fighting. Tia said they had been abnormally calm until I got home. They must have saved it for me!
Grandma only came in to say goodnight to the kids and then she made her way home. It was a long day of driving for her, but I’m so grateful she came with me. I know she’s so worried about all this. Her calm way of dealing with life’s drama always brings me joy. I wish I could be more like her.
The boys are in bed trying to calm down and go to sleep. Sitting here, writing this, I’m thankful for the family and friends I have. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I were facing all this on my own.
August 13 – Friday
Last night I completely lost it with Dan and Nikki. I know I have to do something about my anger issues before they decide they can’t be around me anymore.
I’ve been feeling the anxiety really building up lately and I just don’t feel capable of handling it well. I don’t have a healthy way of dealing with stress and I end up exploding over something stupid and hurting everyone around me. I usually lose control during arguments and end up yelling and crying, making everything worse. The worst is the look of concern I get from my husband. I know he’s so worried. I’m doing the best I can to hold on but it’s all too much.
Two years ago, we bought and moved into this house with his Mom, had another baby one year after the first, and now this arrest…I feel lost and overwhelmed. I really wish I had someone to talk to about it and get real help. I know if I go to my doctor again, she’ll just give me another anti-anxiety medication and tell me to get counseling. The last couple of counselors that I talked to really didn’t seem to be helping. And it’s so expensive! I can’t add another cost to this family!
I really needed a day to myself, so the boys spent the afternoon swimming at Aunt Cindy’s with Grandma Shelly. Nikki spent the day with Grandma Ann watching movies and playing video games. Nikki’s Mom came to pick her up and when Dan got home from work, we went out for Mexican food just the two of us before we went to pick up the boys.
I spent the afternoon looking up information about anger management on the internet. I had really started to make progress before this arrest! I ordered a book on CD, something about meditation and another workbook/journal to help get my thoughts in order. Maybe that will help me find some healthier coping mechanisms. I started to wonder if the church may have some low-cost counseling, but then they know about my arrest and won’t want to help me.
Lord, please help me. I feel stuck with no good options. All I can do is try to relax, take one day at a time, and wait to see what happens. I’ve never been good at that; the “what ifs” come on full force and I end up trying to take control of things. It never ends well and I’m so scared.
August 16 – Monday
Our regular Monday playdate was at someone else’s house today. It was her daughter’s birthday and she wanted to have a party. The kids had a great time running around someone else’s yard and getting all their toys out! They found their big box of dress up clothes and kept coming out as different characters like a fashion show. Tom came out in fairy wings over his camouflage and Jake came out in a jacket and said he was getting married today. Too much cuteness!
Dan came home early from work so that we could meet with the private investigator my lawyer hired. He met us at our house this afternoon. The only private investigator’s that I know about are from TV shows, Columbo and Magnum P.I. This was the person I was expecting to show up at my house and I wasn’t disappointed. He was so likeable, like someone you’d love to have over for coffee. I got the feeling that he is just as disgusted about these accusations as we are.
He had a lot of questions about my case and the arrest. He wants me to get pictures of Nikki’s mom, so we can rule her out. We heard that her brother is in jail, so he’s going to investigate that situation in case it’s related to our case. He’s planning on interviewing the victim and the witnesses himself to see if their stories have changed at all or if they have any more information. There were other unlisted phone numbers called after the phone was stolen, so he’s going to find out who those people are. Basically, he plans on finding out who was more likely to have committed the crime, solve it for the police in a more thorough way, and that will help get my case dismissed. I asked why the police wouldn’t have done all these things already and he said that it’s common that they take the easiest, fastest route to any conviction. They have time and funding restraints. So do I, damn it!
The whole meeting took about an hour and the boys played in and out of the living room and back yard as we spoke to him. Tom had a few questions for him as well and he answered them good naturedly. He made us all feel good about the work he was going to do for us.
I’m so scared about the pretrial hearing in September. What is going to happen? What if their witness says it is me when they see me in person? What if this goes to trial? What if we lose our house over defending me? I can’t stand just sitting here, waiting to see if my life is going to be destroyed or not. This is an amazing amount of stress. Every time we meet with the lawyer, the investigator, or go to court, I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of a cliff. And then I go back to my regular activities and continue my life as if nothing is happening.
Lord, please help me. I’m not sure I’ll survive intact.
August 18 – Wednesday
Our second “preschool day” went smoothly, considering the circumstances. We read a book, did a small project and then walked to the park for a picnic lunch. We had three parents there today including me!
Tia stayed after our “class” and we spent the afternoon napping and then made cupcakes. She tried to take pictures of Nikki’s mom through the window when she came to the door to pick her up, but they didn’t come out very well. The things friends will do for you! I wish I could just take a picture without the subterfuge, but I can’t just walk up and ask my husband’s ex-wife, “Hey I need a picture of you because I’ve been accused of carjacking and armed robbery and my lawyer wants to know if maybe it was you.” That would go over well. I’m still wondering if Nikki has ever mentioned the police being here. I’m sure she’d be on the phone asking Dan a million questions if she did, but I can’t help but worry.
After dinner, I took a long bath to try and relax a bit before bed. Maybe if I can relax, I’ll sleep better. It was nice, hot water and a glass of wine. I could hear the boys in their room arguing over who’s stuffed animal was toughest with sweet voices as I soaked. It is late now, and the boys are being pills about going to bed as usual. Tom has taken to telling everyone what everyone else is doing and how you should be doing things. Jake and Nikki are constantly coming to defend themselves. I think he just likes to point out what he sees and he’s so little he doesn’t realize that it sounds like he’s accusing them of something.
August 20 – Friday
The boys went to the Huntington Library and Gardens with Grandma Shelly and Poppy yesterday, so I spent the whole day pulling weeds in the front yard, washing the dog, and shopping at Costco with Tia. I was busy but, it was nice to have some hours to myself. I didn’t have to answer any screams or calls for help for a whole nine hours.
Dan came home for lunch so that we could meet with the investigator and go over some things he found and ask more questions. He found out who all the other phone numbers that were called belonged to and found something interesting. There were ten phone numbers called after the phone was stolen and before it was disconnected by its owner. Of the ten phone numbers, only ours was a listed number and was shown on the call record. The investigator was able to get around that and find out who those other phone numbers belong to. The phone number that was dialed right before ours used to belong to a person named Chris and his new phone number is one digit off from our current number. The thief stole the phone and called his old number, got nothing, misdialed his new number, got us and hung up, and then correctly called his new number. The person she called has a criminal record and there is a woman he is associated with that looks similar to what the victim described, and she has a criminal record as well. So, he’ll be looking more closely at those people in the next couple of weeks.
My question is this, the police seriously couldn’t find this information for themselves? They could only look at the only number that was listed in the phone book and pick up that person even though they knew I had no past record? And, it turns out, they had been watching our house for a week before they arrested me. They watched a normal house with a normal family coming and going, a Dad leaving for work and coming home, a Mom having playdates with other Mom’s and going to church, a Grandma taking her Granddaughter to school, and it never occurred to them to look into possible other suspects? I’m not sure what frightens me more, the fact that this has happened to me or that it happens all the time and no one even knows about it.
I need to redirect myself. The more I think about it, the more it bothers me and there really is nothing I can do about it right now other than trust that God has this all planned out for a greater good. Maybe there is something I’m supposed to learn from all of this, but right now I just need to focus on surviving with my sanity intact.
I started to read through some old journal entries from last year. Wow was I angry! I feel like, other than my arrest, things are so much easier now. I think it is partly because of the anti-anxiety medications I take and because the boys are getting older and easier to manage, but mostly because I turned to God for help. The counseling was getting me nowhere, but when I started going to church with Carol, the world seemed to lift off my shoulders. I feel like I’m not alone in my head and I couldn’t have come this far without His love. I need to get back to church. I’m going to go with my Mom to a church close to her house on Sunday. It should be good, but even if she decides not to go with me, I’m going to keep going. I need to hear the Word of God through some other medium than my own books and journals.
August 30 – Monday
For the last three nights in a row, Tom made a big fuss about going to bed, but tonight he was a little more reasonable. I sat next to him while he went to sleep, instead of across the room, that seemed to help a bit.
I wonder if my nervousness is influencing him. He’s always been so very sensitive. I’m on pins and needles waiting for the pre-trial hearing on Thursday. It’s filling my thoughts and making me a little edgy with everyone. I’m so scared that my stomach is sick. I keep eating comfort foods to keep the queasiness at bay.
On Thursday, I’m supposed to talk with one of the people that identified me in a line up. He was a bartender at the restaurant where the thief used a stolen credit card and spent a considerable amount of time with her. He said that she stood out to him because of things she said and that she was alone and waiting for a ride. My lawyer hopes that if he meets me in person, he’ll realize that I’m not the person he talked to that night. I hope the interview goes quickly. I don’t know how long I can sit in the courtroom and not throw up.
September 1 – Wednesday
September is here already! Summer is on its way out.
It’s been an incredibly nervous day. I feel like I’m walking around with a monster creeping up behind me. I’ve been on the verge of breaking into tears or throwing up all day long. Tomorrow, this could all be over, right? Please?
Lord, give me the peace of mind to get through this court appearance without making a fool of myself. I used to think there was nothing I could do to incriminate myself since I didn’t commit any crime. Now I see that anything I say or do WILL be used as evidence against me and I’m terrified to speak at all.
September 2 – Thursday
Dan took the day off from work, again, to be with me in court today. Once again, my lawyer reminded me to dress “nicely but not much more than I typically do.” That sent me into a whirl of ‘what to wear’ for the entire morning. I mostly wear jeans and t-shirts, so I wore pretty much that but with a nicer blouse. Thinking back on the original police report about my arrest, I remember that they had commented that they couldn’t find much in the way of “women’s clothes.” My lack of fashion sense apparently is a sign of a criminal?
I’ve started questioning everything I do and it’s making me a nervous wreck. I feel like someone’s always watching me, ready to jump out an accuse me of something else.
We met my lawyer in the lobby outside the courtroom and he walked us around a corner for some privacy. He told me that the DA was already there with his witness and that they were ready to talk with me right away. He looked me over, literally, like I was a prize animal to be presented. That made me feel sicker and more nervous. He tried to comfort me a little with words like, “This is a routine thing we do. Just be yourself. Try to relax.” It didn’t help. I had this horrible feeling that I would look guilty in front of my accuser.
Thank God for my sweet husband. He has been there for every step of this, always strong, always quietly there. I don’t think I could do this without him.
My lawyer walked us back into the lobby and pointed to a group of men on the other side of the room. He told me to just relax and answer any questions honestly. He’d be there the whole time. I took a deep breath and prayed silently, “Lord give me peace.”
We walked up the group and my accuser and I sat on a bench next to each other with our lawyer’s close by. My lawyer asked me to give some “identifying information” so that the witness could hear me speak. I started to talk about my family and my work, like I was introducing myself to a stranger. “I’m a mother of two young boys, four and two years old. I used to work at Knott’s in Entertainment and now I work at Disneyland. I’m a girl scout leader for my stepdaughter. I go to church with my friend on Sunday mornings.” I felt like a fool. What exactly did they want me to say?
The only question the witness had for me was if I liked sports. I said I didn’t. I’ve never been a fan or follower of any sport really. I thought it was a strange question.
What I find strange is that the woman that was robbed, and picked my photo out of a lineup, isn’t meeting with me to confirm, only this man from the restaurant down the street is here. I wonder why?
The lawyers talked for a couple minutes and then we all walked out of the building. My lawyer said it would be a while before they made any decisions and that I should go home for the day.
A few hours after we got home, my lawyer called to tell me that the witness confirmed his belief that it was me that he talked to that night and that our next court date would be September 23rd.
Lord, please hear my prayer. I know all things are in Your hands, but I am so scared. I want to trust that you have control of this, that it’s all happening for some bigger purpose. I don’t know how these people can think I was the one who robbed them. If there is something I can do to make this stop, please make it known to me. I was confident these charges would be dropped today. I was angry with the men accusing me. If this is sin, please forgive me. I beg You in earnest to change their views of me, to soften their hearts towards me. I pray for this witness to know it was not me and (not be afraid to say it) tell the police so that the charges will be dropped. Protect me and my family.
September 3 — Friday
What a beautiful change in the weather, Lord! The sun was warm, and the wind was cool. Even the air smelled different. Fall is coming. My favorite time of the year.
My pastor called today to find out what happened at the pre-trial hearing yesterday. At least now I know he is still aware of what’s happening to me. He seemed as disappointed in the outcome as I was. I guess I should make an appointment with him and tell him more about the case and what’s going on. I hesitate to do it. I’m afraid he may only be curious. I’d rather just walk away not knowing what he believes about me.
Tom was sick with a fever today. That might be why he has been having a hard time going to sleep and having bad dreams all week. He seems fine tonight. This morning, I thought he was playing upstairs with Jake, but when I went up to put away some laundry, I found him in my bed just lying there half asleep. He said he was feeling tired, but he had a fever of 103°. He is so cute when he is sick! He spent most of the day lying on the couch and watching cartoons. He did go outside a couple times to play but ended up on the chair on the porch “to rest a little.” Poor thing
September 6 — Monday — Labor Day
It’s a holiday, so Dan had the day off from work. We spent a relaxing day doing yard work together. The kids helped him cut down the dead tree in the yard. It proved to be hours of entertainment for them! I went to the grocery store, which was not as exciting for me.
Jake was in the tree house today, yelling at bad guys, acting out a scene from Indiana Jones like he frequently does. I noticed him frantically trying to climb out a low window but didn’t get there in time to catch him. He fell about two feet down and scratched his leg. When he was done crying, Tom asked him what happened. He said, “Bad buys came and pushed me and I almost died!”
I got the letter from my lawyer re-capping what happened last week and what we need to do next. There was a “supplemental police report” inside as well. It had the details from the D.A.’s side about what occurred in court. I was floored.
The witness states that he was convinced after speaking with me that I was the same person he talked to at the restaurant the night of the robbery. He has no doubt at all that it was me, except that I cut and colored my hair. He said I was fidgety with my hands just like the last time he saw me. And that he asked if I liked sports because he had asked the same thing at the restaurant that night and the thief said she didn’t, even though she had mentioned that she worked at a Sport’s Bar and he thought that was odd.
My lawyer says the investigator will be looking into this witness and find out what his background is and why he is so eager to help the police. It’s part of gearing up for a trial, knowing everything about all the witnesses, trying to cast them in a different light so they may not seem reliable to the jury. He’ll also be looking into why the victim isn’t being asked to meet with me. His thinking is that she may have backed down from her initial response to the photo line-up she picked me out of. If he finds out that she, the person who was robbed, isn’t sure that I’m the one that robbed her, he may be able to use her on our side during a trial. This just keeps getting worse and worse.
September 22 – Wednesday
Hot, dry, and windy today. We went to the mall to escape the heat for a bit and got the boys’ pictures taken. They were incredibly silly. We bought a membership at a portrait studio last year so that I can bring them in a couple times a month when the mood strikes. It’s so fun because we can go whenever they get new outfits, or when they seem especially adorable. We don’t need to the wait for an appointment. Today, we went because it was hot and I wanted to be inside an airconditioned mall. Besides, they decided to wear matching camouflage clothes!
My church started a new bible study this week and I decided to go even though I’m still feeling a bit awkward about it. My friend Carol met me there and it was nice, not the same, but nice. I feel guarded. I’m resigned to the idea that I’m not there to meet new friends, just to hear the bible and have time to myself. It started to make me sad, but what else can I do? It’s so hard for me to go new places and meet new people. I’m already here, so why not just make the best of it? Besides, all the churches are probably the same, friendly and inviting on the surface, but not there for you if life gets rough. I’m on my own, but at least I have God with me.
My court appearance tomorrow is haunting me. I have no idea what will happen. My lawyer says he will present “preliminary evidence” and see what the DA has on his side. Then they will set another date to pick a jury and start the trial. A jury. I let that sink in and started to feel nauseous. I doubt I’ll sleep well tonight and I could really use it.
My Mom is still driving me to give her more information. I lost my temper with her today, again. I feel bad, but there’s so much for me to keep a lid on. I really don’t have any extra energy to help her through this, even though I know how hard this must be on her. I tried to explain to her again that my lawyer needs me to keep all the details to myself.
I know she’s upset and worried about me. I know she wants to be there for me, be someone I can talk things out to, but I’m not allowed to right now. On top of my lawyer’s instructions, I feel like if I really started to talk about how I’m feeling, I may have a nervous breakdown and I don’t think my babies would benefit from their mother being committed to a mental hospital.
I just need to remain calm, keep my head, keep praying for peace and that all of this washes out sooner rather than later.
September 23 – Thursday
The only thing positive about this day was that my time at court was extremely short. We arrived, met the lawyer in the lobby and entered the courtroom together. I thank God for this lawyer every single day. I know he was sent to help us through this, even if this gets worse. Watching him work is reassuring every time we enter the courtroom. He knows everyone, he seems respected and confident. He makes us feel taken care of.
Today he asked the court to move our case to the top of the docket because he had other engagements today, and the judge seemed so happy to accommodate him. It was so impressive!
My lawyer and the DA exchanged evidence, we set a new court date, and then we left. It was all over in about fifteen minutes. On the way out, we talked about what would happen next. Once again, my lawyer believed that he would be hearing that the DA was dropping the charges today, not be handed more “evidence” against me. He’s not sure why they are so adamant about convicting me, but he believes it will go to a trial at this rate, probably by Christmas. Our next appearance is November 2, over a month away! It took everything I had not to throw up.
We got a copy of the DA’s evidence to go through at home. That’s was unnerving. From the night of the robbery, there was additional information about fingerprints and hair taken from the car. My lawyer is getting those checked against mine. If they don’t match, you’d think they would drop the charges then, but he says it would just be a little more evidence in my favor.
There was also a report about my meeting with one of the witnesses from our last court appearance. Their version of the meeting and what they took from it was so different from mine. My nervousness about meeting with my accusers was taken as knowing my guilt. He said I must have changed my hair color and gained weight, but it was “definitely the same person, with the same hand gestures and mole on her chin.” It was scary to read. These people really believe I’m the one that did this.
When we first met with the lawyer after I was arrested, he told us he would do everything he could to keep this from going to trial. You just can’t trust juries, he said. They can be very unpredictable and fickle. One small thing can turn them against me personally and they can convict on their opinion of me instead of the facts. Since I have no hard alibi of evidence that it wasn’t me that night, my character and warm feelings about me and my family are all I have to keep out of jail. How can this possibly happen?
On top of everything else, I’m worried about money. How can we afford this if it goes to trial?! We have been barely getting by the last year or so. It was ok as long as we didn’t have a lot of extra expenses. Just before this happened, we refinanced the house to pay off our credit cards and put a down payment on the new truck. We needed a car we could all fit in and a truck made sense for us. Then the arrest happened, and we had to use that refinance money on lawyer fees instead. Now we have the house payment AND the credit cards and truck payments still. I was hoping I could stop working completely, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to afford it, that is if I don’t get convicted of this. If I do, Dan will be stuck with all of the bills and the kids on his own.
What am I supposed to do? How can I even wrap my brain around what might happen? Lord, please make this stop. I feel like I’m on the edge of insanity. At any moment I may just break down. I can’t imagine how my family feels. I wish I could comfort them. I wish there was something I could say or do to make it easier for them, but I just don’t have the energy to even address it.
I do have something to be grateful for. I’ve never really had a lot of close girlfriends, but I have the ones I really need right now. They are really supporting me with their love and laughter right now. They are always there to distract me and give me a hug. My Dad seems to be coming by more often as well. I know he’s worried sick, but he’s the only one of my family that isn’t at my door asking for answers. He’s just quietly there and it helps. My husband, wow. I’m so lucky to have him on my side. He has never complained, never voiced a doubt, never worried about the future. If I break down and need to be alone, he’s right there picking up the slack. What would I do without them?
September 26 – Sunday
I slept through most of Friday. I just couldn’t wake up. Thank God for live-in Grandma’s! Ann watched over the boys all day and kept them busy with movies and snacks until Dan got home from work.
I was able to pull myself together enough to get out of bed on Saturday, but I spent most of it on the couch watching TV with my babies. Dan went out and got us chicken for dinner on both nights. Popeye’s one night and El Pollo Loco the next.
I went to church today and came home for donuts with my favorite people, but sitting there, listening to Nikki’s silly chatter with the boys, I just fell apart. I just couldn’t get a hold of myself. Seeing my family worried, not understanding why Mom is crying, makes is worse.
I feel like I’m always on the verge of tears. It’s like the whole world could cave in on me at any moment. I cannot even imagine what I would be feeling if I weren’t still on anti-depressants. Hopefully I can put this ugliness on the back burner long enough to enjoy my family one day at a time.
September 28 – Tuesday
I’m starting to feel better today, calmer. The wave of anxiety about the future washed over me and I have bobbed to the surface again, partially at least, although I still feel like I’m swimming with a weight around my ankles.
I asked the boys to help me clean up their room this morning. It was fun for all of us. I told them to find all the cars and then all the books and then all the army men. They went around like it was big game, collecting things and putting them in the bins I bought to organize all their stuff. Now when they make a big mess with all their toys, it’s easier to clean up for bedtime or vacuuming by throwing it all in the bins and stacking them up.
The moment I left the room, the toys came back out in full force. I swear I was only gone for five minutes but when I came back in it looked like a tornado had hit. I just sat down in the middle of the room and cried. It just seemed so deliberately destructive! Tom came and patted me on the back like I do to him when he’s upset. I went to the bathroom to count to ten before I exploded and when I came back, they were sweet about helping me clean it up again. I think they could tell I was at the end of my rope. They just think it’s another chance to play the game!
I know it really wasn’t about the mess though. I’m just so easily frustrated these days. I’m not getting enough sleep because of the stress. Maybe I should look for more mental help, a therapist to help me get through all this. I feel like I’m drowning.
September 29 – Wednesday
Today was exactly what I needed! A friend and I took our boys to the big regional park today to see the zoo and go for a hike. I used to go there with my Dad all the time when I was a kid. Dan and I got married there! It was a gorgeous day. It wasn’t cool but at least it wasn’t hot since we got there early in the day and there was still a nice ocean breeze.
We spent some time at the zoo looking at all the animals and “talking” to them. Both the boys like to try and make the noises the animals make and there is a raven there that repeats words lik e “good morning” and “hello”. We hiked out to a big sandstone outcropping I used to climb when I was a kid. My friend stayed at the bottom with her babies and I took the three bigger boys up to the top so we could see the whole world.
We came back down into the park and had a picnic lunch by the lake. Tom was feeding a peacock some crackers from his lunch and it took one right out of his hand! He was thrilled! Jake was too scared of them. Those birds are as big as he is. We fed the ducks too and then headed for home.
Those two boys sure like to move. After all that playing outside and walking, they played in the backyard for rest of the day, riding their bikes from the garage to the front gate as fast as they could. They had me timing them to see who was the fastest.
It was nice to be somewhere calm and green for the day. I think we’ll all sleep better tonight.
For whatever reason, my journal entries end here for a while. Looking back, I’m not sure what changed. Maybe it became too real for me, too overwhelming, to sit and write out what I was going through each evening. Maybe I wanted to stay completely focused on my babies each night instead. I do know that I believed I’d never forget it and in some ways I haven’t. The rawness of the wound has healed, but the scar remains today.
October rolled along though, without my journals. What I have is my calendar and my memories spurred by pictures and mementos I’ve kept.
My son’s 4th birthday party came and went. It was a huge success for us. I have always loved having all our friends and family over for parties. There’s so much joy in one place. The kids running in and out of the house, the food, the friends, it’s all so magical. Watching him blow out the candles with so many friends, so many grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I felt time stand still for a moment. I tried so hard to keep my chin up that day, but I couldn’t help but breathe it in and hold it from time to time. I kept having that terrible passing thought, “What if this is my last one?” Once everyone was gone, the food was put away, and the boys were tucked in their beds, I just sat and cried in the livingroom. My poor husband didn’t know what to do. He just sat there with me, holding me until I stopped, and we went to bed.
I gave up going to my church. The longer I was there, the more resentful I became. It became less about worship and more about proving to them that they were wrong to judge me, silently or otherwise. I started going to church regularly with my Mother-In-Law. That woman was my rock through this whole thing. I could not have special ordered a better person to have as a friend and mentor. Her faith is unshakable and every time I felt the earth beneath me start to sink, there she was with the scripture I needed to hear. I felt the love of Jesus every single time she took a moment to share her heart with me. Going to church with her was a load off my mind every week. She’d introduce me to her friends, and they’d all tell me how they were praying for me and my family. I still thank God for her every single day.
She wrote this on a scrap of paper that I still carry in my bible, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:16-18
I cried when she handed it to me. It seemed like words straight from God and it still does. Right now, as I typed out those words, I remembered why I’m writing this in the first place. Out of the blue, I was accused. For no good reason, I felt betrayed by my church family. I have never felt so completely terrified. I could have taken this as a reason to be angry at God. Wasn’t I living a good, decent life? I was married. I had children. I was going to church. I don’t drink or run around. I was a model citizen. How could anything like this happen to me if God was so good?
I know that God is good because at my darkest moments, it wasn’t God that deserted me, it was humans, fallen and weak humans that cannot always do what is right. God moved mightily in my life from the moment I was accused and arrested, all the way through the end. He brought me peace at the jail when I believed I would collapse in fear. He gave me strength to keep living a normal life with my family while the case moved forward. He brought lawyers, money, investigators, and friends and family for support exactly when I needed them.
There were times when I felt like it was all closing in around me, or that I couldn’t take another step, and then I did. He lifted me up and carried me. And He continues to do so every single day.
Like I said, October went along as it usually did. Play groups at our house, roller skating, trips to the museum, the park, and the gardens, were all on the list.
About halfway through October, we got the first bill from the investigator. This was something we weren’t expecting. We had written a check to our lawyer for a retainer and that money was quickly being used up, even though he wasn’t billing us for much of his time. We knew we’d need to write a bigger check if this case went to trial. Luckily, the investigator was an incredibly kind man, another Godsend. He reduced his hours by half to help but the total was already $3400 and there would be another bill in the future.
Throughout the whole ordeal, I worried some about what would happen if I were convicted of this. The bigger worry for me was how we were going to pay for my defense even if I weren’t convicted. If it went to trial, we would be ruined for sure. I couldn’t see us getting out from under that kind of debt while living in Southern California on one income. That’s when we started thinking about moving away once this was all over. Maybe a fresh start in a cheaper location would help. Maybe it’d be safer to raise our kids in a more rural setting. Honestly, it wasn’t something I could even consider at the time. I just needed to focus on remaining calm until it was all over. My husband kept his own mind off the looming trouble by making plans for our future, whatever that might be.
A few days before the court date, my lawyer called to tell me that he had a good meeting with the DA and had good feelings about the case. He felt they were letting up a little and that they would most likely drop the charges by the way they were talking, that is, if nothing else came up beforehand to change their minds.
Listening to him talk and then relaying the information to my husband, I felt a tiny bit of the darkness lift. Could this be the end? I had had that feeling before. I had it every time we met with the lawyer or went into the courtroom. And every time I left sorely disappointed. We all went out to dinner together that night feeling hopeful. I didn’t tell my family or friends anything. I just let them know our lawyer was ready and that we’d let them know what was happening as soon as we knew. I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, let alone my own. I felt like if I spoke those words, something terrible would crop up and ruin everything.
November 3 – Wednesday
Our court time was at 9am this morning. The morning went along as it has every time we have gone to court. I got up early, around 5am, not because I couldn’t sleep, that doesn’t seem to be a problem lately, but because the boys were already climbing across my bed, poking their fingers in my face and asking me to come downstairs. We stumbled our way down the stairs and into the livingroom, where their Dad was already in the kitchen. I sat on the couch with the boys while Dan brought us our “coffee,” mine in my favorite Winnie the Pooh cup with a spoon of sugar and the boys’, a sippy cup of warm chocolate milk. They snuggled up next to me while Dan and I talked about the plan for the day. I heard Nikki come downstairs a few minutes later. She got ready for school and Dan got her breakfast and packed her a lunch.
Dan took Nikki to school and then came back to the house to pick me up instead of going to work. While I waited for him to get back, I got the boys some breakfast and tried to eat something myself while they watched Spongebob. I told them that I had an appointment to go to with Dad and that Grandma Ann would be watching them this morning. As far as they were concerned, this was going to be a great day. They love staying home with Grandma. Tom loves playing Xbox in Grandma’s room more than our own living room and Jake could spend the whole day unloading her curio cabinet one piece at a time and then rearranging all the pieces back inside.
Dan got back to the house at 8am. I kissed the boys goodbye, told them to behave for Grandma, and walked out to the car. As we headed to the courthouse, I felt so out of touch, like I wasn’t completely there. I heard Dan talking about something silly Nikki said on the way to school, I saw the other cars on the road, noticed we were getting on the freeway and that the traffic was light for that time of day, but I felt like I was outside of it all, just watching someone else’s life happen.
When we arrived at the courthouse and walked up the steps, my lawyer was there to greet us. He seemed confident and cheerful. He reassured us both that this wouldn’t take long. We walked into the courtroom, took a seat in the back of the room, and waited to be called.
Within a few minutes, our case was called. I don’t think I’ll ever get over hearing my name called that way, “The People of the State of California vs Michelle Huelle.” I walked up the defense table led by my lawyer, my husband close beside me. My lawyer smiled and pointed to a chair and we sat down. The DA spoke first…moving to drop the case.
I swear I almost fainted away. There were more words, confirmation from both sides. I heard my lawyer talk about a “motion to seal and destroy my records,” but I didn’t hear them. I just sat there dumbfounded, wondering if I had heard correctly. I heard, “Case Dismissed,” the sound of the gavel, and then we stood and left the courtroom.
My lawyer led the way down the aisle and out of the courtroom, holding the door for my husband and I. As I held the door for the person behind me, the DA walked by me. “Congratulations.” He said to my lawyer. My lawyer nodded, “Nice working with you again,” he said. The DA looked at me. He didn’t say anything, but the feeling was something I’ll never forget. I felt like he thought I had gotten away with something, like he was disappointed that another obvious criminal was wandering the streets because of a defense attorney.
He started to walk away but then turned to me, “Well, you have a good lawyer, but we’ll be watching. You’ll screw up again.” I’m sure I turned white. I felt sick. My lawyer just smiled and put his arm around me, and we walked out of the courthouse.
Outside, he told me not to worry, that it’s just sour grapes. He congratulated us both, shook hands with Dan. We thanked him profusely and asked him what was next for us. He said nothing for the time being. He said he’d be sending a letter explaining all the details, but that the case was virtually over. The case had been dismissed due to lack of hard evidence for the prosecution. He had requested the records of the arrest and arraignment be sealed for three years and the judge agreed to consider it.
It’s all over. We drove home in silence, in shock really. “It’s over.” I kept thinking. I know Dan was just as relieved as I was, maybe even more so.
When we got home the boys came running into the livingroom as if we’d been gone for days. It had only been a couple hours since we left. Dan told Ann what had happened, and we all prayed thanks to God together. “We can finally put all this behind us.” She said.
I called the rest of the family and gave them the big news. Everyone was so relieved and happy to hear it. They wanted to know every detail, but all I could give them was that it was over, the charges had been dropped, and that I needed time to process before I went into it more.
I’ve never felt such relief. We’re still broke now, but at least there isn’t more looming over us. We’ll work out the money somehow, I’m sure. The Lord has provided before!
It’s after 9pm and the boys are still messing around, singing songs and giggling. They’re fighting sleep as usual, but tonight I can’t get irritated. They don’t have a clue what we’ve been through, how close they came to losing their Mom…oh, Lord, the thought still makes me sick…We read extra stories tonight and played a quiet game of “I spy” too! I’m sitting here writing this, quietly enjoying them. We’ll work on going to bed in a timely matter another night. Tonight, I’m just thankful I can be here with them. I’m thankful that I’ll lay down next to my husband and not wonder if these are my last weeks to do so.
November 6 – Saturday
Ann took me with her to her Bible Study today. I wanted to tell them all thank you for their prayers. They didn’t have to do that. They barely know me, they knew less about my case than anyone else, yet there they were. I’ve never met such kind supportive people.
As the class came together, the leader stood at the front and introduced me as I came to up to the podium. All I was going to say was that the case had been dismissed and that I was so grateful for their prayers, but I felt led to tell more of my story. I was up there for about ten minutes and I know it was God that kept me talking because I have never been much of a public speaker. I’ve always preferred to stay behind the scenes and rarely speak up in a group, even when I feel I have something important to add. At that moment, though, I felt so confident and calm.
Even though I’m still in shock, processing what happened, I feel like I could conquer the world. I started writing my story tonight, mostly just notes and memories. I’m going to write out what happened and then go back and comment on how I was feeling later. I’m also going to write about my thankfulness, and new-found self-control, the play group and the like. I don’t want to forget any of this.
I feel that God really moved mountains for us. There is evil in this world. I know it for real now. Right as I began to get close to God, to feel like I belonged to a community, something evil moved to stop it. From the moment I was arrested I knew the Lord would not desert me. At every turn, I was reminded to lean on Him and see what happened. I’m not sure what good will come from this, other than my own strengthened faith, but I know that I will always have His peace and strength to lean on no matter what happens.
Thank you, Lord. I have no other words.
February 2 – 2006
Yes, 2006, one year and three months after my case was dismissed my lawyer received the signed court order that my record would be sealed for three years and then destroyed.
What does that mean? It means that if the police search my name in connection with any current crime, it doesn’t come up that I was arrested. I can say on any document that I have never been charged with a crime. But if I’m arrested and tried, they can open those records and use them against me. At the end of three years, it will be destroyed and cannot be used against me at all ever. It’s like it never happened, except for my bank account being drained, my things that the police took from my house as evidence never returned, and my faith in the justice system has been destroyed completely.
It’s going to take a lot of work for me to feel safe again now that I know this kind of thing can happen to anyone at any time. There’s no defense against it other than money and a good lawyer.
When I started writing this, it bothered me that I didn’t write more about the case while it was going on. Why didn’t I write more details about the biggest thing going on in my life as it happened? What’s a journal for anyway? Most of what I wrote in my journal was what the kids were doing and our day to day lives. As I wrote my story, I had to fill in with memories, aided by court documents and letters from my lawyer to complete the picture.
As I continued to write, it dawned on me why there was such a scarcity of details. I was afraid to write about it. My journal had already been taken as evidence in my defense. Every innocent statement I made during the search and the arrest, every honest answer to their questions, was used, puzzle piece like, against me in their report. I didn’t want to write anything down for fear the prosecution would take my journal at some point in the future and use those words against me, too.
In order to protect myself, I kept everything privately up in my head. It drove my family crazy, I know, but not nearly as much as me. I’ve never been a very private, ‘in my head’ kind of person. I talk things out to process and let bad feelings go. This was seven long months of torture.
And here we are, fifteen years later. Nikki has a life of her own. Tom and Jake are nearly grown. About four years after the arrest, we moved to a rural community to save money and find peace and quiet. And I’m still thinking about this case. It changed my life. It opened my eyes to the reality of our justice system. It made me more wary of my church family. They are, after all, only human. It made me thankful for my family and close friends. It made me realize how much my husband loves me and what a wonderful thing we had started together, how lucky we were to find each other.
Most of all, it made me painfully aware that I am not in control of what goes on in this world, but I am in control of how I react to it. I did nothing to deserve what happened to me. It just happened. I could have been angry at God for letting it happen, at the police for doing it, at the DA for prosecuting me, and at my church for letting me down. I could have let the experience destroy me and my family in the aftermath, but here we are stronger because of the experience. In a way, I’m glad it happened, and I wouldn’t change a thing. It made me a better person.
Isn’t that the way it always goes?
It’s taken me two whole years to write this story out. I started with a small plan. I’d just transfer my journals, notes, calendar, and letters into a timeline of events. I’d make comments and keep it saved for myself and my family, so we’d remember what happened. After I shared a bit of it with some friends and family, I felt encourage to expand the story and consider publishing it.
At first, every time I sat down to write, I was an emotional wreck. I haven’t looked back on those journals in years. I’d start to transcribe them, add my memories, and start to cry. I’d have nightmares about losing my children, even though they are nearly grown now.
When I write, I go to that time and place in my mind. I try to live it out and write down what I’m seeing and feeling, as if it’s happening right then. I have a vivid imagination. The panic came flooding back when I looked at pictures of my kids from that time. They were so little. Fear quickened my heart when I read the police reports and the letters from my lawyer. Seeing the bills from the investigator made me sick all over again wondering how we’d pay for it all. I’d write a page or two and then need a break, sometimes for several days or weeks. It was that painful.
Once I got through the first draft, I went back to the beginning and began re-writing each section to post to my blog. There were long stretches of family life journal entries that I’m sure only I would be interested in reading, so I cut those out and made it considerably shorter. The whole episode lasted seven months, but it felt like an eternity to us. Every day dragged on with all that weight on our shoulders. Luckily, I never had to carry it alone.
Then I started posting pieces of my story on my blog. I had a couple of false starts. At first, I thought I’d write every day and just post what I had as I finished. That proved to be difficult because, even the second time through was hard on me emotionally. I needed a recovery time after each post.
I’ve had a lot of fears about posting my story publicly. When this happened, I had several people not believe my version of events. At the time it happened, I wouldn’t have believed it myself if someone told me it had happened to them. I believed that things like this didn’t happen out of the blue. There’s always some logical reason that the police are led to you. You may not have committed this crime, but you did something that led police to look at you. And if you were completely innocent, there was no way anything you say could incriminate you. Always tell the truth, problem solved. My entire worldview dramatically changed this year of my life. It changed us all.
Some of my fears were confirmed when I received a few comments along those exact lines. I was crushed. Not only did this happen to us, but I learned through my lawyer, articles in the local newspaper, and some research of my own that it happens all the time. There are innocent people in jail, lots of them. I’m not making this up.
While we were gathering character references and getting ready to go to court, I read an article in a local paper about a man that had been in jail for murder. He swore that he didn’t do it, that he was at a baseball game, but he didn’t have any proof. Ten years later, someone found a picture of him at that game from the stadium cameras and he was released. Ten years of his life was gone. There is nothing anyone can do to replace that time. I had nightmares for months that this was what was going to happen to me.
I don’t blame people for being skeptical. I was too until something traumatic happened to me that changed everything. I lost friends. I lost my church. We lost money, stability, and peace. We will never be the same. People don’t choose that kind of pain; it must be thrust upon them. It’s like peeling off a bandage times a million.
So why write it?
Writing this story has been serious therapy for me, therapy I probably should have gotten years ago. I feel as though I’ve finally healed from the experience.
Why share it?
Surprisingly, I’m not angry at the police and I’m not disappointed with our justice system, anymore. I think what we have on paper is the best a justice system can get. But I am continually disappointed that we, the people, don’t understand it, why it is set up the way it is, or what our part in it is supposed to be.
Before I was arrested, I didn’t understand what a search warrant was. I understood my rights when they read them to me, but I didn’t understand why I had them and that they were there to protect me from the police. I didn’t have any respect for defense lawyers and their critical role in our system. And so much more, more than I can really put into words. It’s a whole other book!
I’m sharing this story to encourage people to learn the details about how our justice system works and what our part in it is. Politics, legislation, police, judges, lawyers, jury duty, the prosecution, and defense all have roles to play that balance out our legal system. With a population ignorant of how it all comes together, we’re setting ourselves up for tyranny. It’s not about honoring the system. It’s about respecting it, the same way we respect a beautiful and dangerous animal. Without that respect we are all in danger.
I always used to cringe when I would hear the cliché of people thanking God and their family for getting them through something traumatic, but here I am doing it too. Church and family are a pain in the butt sometimes; so many responsibilities, navigating personalities, wants and needs, trying your best to get along. But things like this are why we keep doing it, why we need to stay connected to people and build strong relationships.
I cannot imagine what would have happened to my marriage if we weren’t already built on a strong foundation. What would have happened to my children if I had decided to focus on myself instead of staying strong for my kids? How would I have found a lawyer, gotten bailed out of jail, or paid the investigator, if it weren’t for my extended family pulling together to help? If it weren’t for my friends jumping in to distract and encourage me, I think I might just have given up. And my faith? I can’t thank God enough for the spiritual backup. His spirit was always felt, from the moment I was arrested, all the way to the dismissal and beyond.
Keep putting the work into your relationships. Keep working on your marriage. Don’t give up. Spend time with your kids. You never know when your last day will come. Keep building friendships even when it seems like it’s going nowhere. Keep talking to the Lord, however you choose to do so. Terrible things happen to all of us, all the time. Our connection to each other is what gets us through.