Three years ago, as we hung stockings by the chimney with care, a true-crime book with an inaccurate story about my parents’ deaths landed in stores throughout the country — just in time for the Christmas buying binge. No one in my family had been interviewed or forewarned of the book by the Seattle-based author, Ann Rule.
The book had come out of the blue, from left field, fallen from the sky. Pick your cliché. We’d been blindsided.
For me and two of my three sisters, significant errors in the story intensified the emotional trauma, opening old wounds, compounding a feeling of loss that never goes away. Ann Rule had relied on 30-year-old newspaper articles for the “facts” in her story — newspaper articles that were riddled with inaccuracies regarding the fundamental elements of the murder investigation conducted by the FBI. The way she wrote it, it read more like an episode from Gilligan’s Island.
The story about my parents was not journalism. It was joke. But no one saw me laughing.
Ann Rule had capitalized on my family’s misfortune, yet she hadn’t contacted me or my sisters; she hadn’t cited any official documents involving the investigation. She claimed that she tried to contact my brother, youngest sister and another woman, who were on the boat with my parents, but Rule said these three had “slipped into obscurity.”
Never mind that I, too, had been on the boat, and I was there when the FBI had my brother recount the events leading up to the deaths and the events immediately following the deaths. Ann Rule could have easily tracked me down. At the time she wrote her story, my website ranked number two on Google, just below another Larry Edwards — the African-American female impersonator who performs a Tina Turner routine in Las Vegas. I doubt she would have confused us.
Rule could have asked for my assistance in contacting the others, but she did not. I also could have provided her with accurate information about my parents and the FBI investigation.
What’s more important, the story led to a further disintegration of my family — already divided into feuding factions in the aftermath of the deaths — when a niece refused to cooperate with me in responding to Ann Rule and her publisher.
In my book, Dare I Call It Murder?: A Memoir of Violent Loss, Grief and Clarity, I set the record straight and lay out the case that prosecutors refused to take to trial. I unmask the trauma of violent loss and post-traumatic stress (PTSD) as I ferret out previously unreported facts to get at the truth of how and why my parents were killed.
But rather than relying on inaccurate, 30-year-old newspaper articles, I reveal information gleaned from the official FBI report and the first-hand knowledge I gained from my involvement in the investigation.
The book is scheduled for release by Wigeon Publishing on February 24, 2013.
Learn more about the book and sign up for the mailing list at: Dare I Call It Murder?
Survivors of Violent of Loss Holiday Memorial
Last Saturday, at the annual Survivors of Violent Loss Holiday Memorial, I joined others who have lost loved ones to violent death. We honored cherished parents, siblings, children and friends who had died needless, horrific deaths. (Pictures from the event: http://hopegallery.smugmug.com/Events/Holiday-Memorial-2012)
The irony of the timing of the memorial with respect to the mass murder of children and teachers in Newtown, Conn., did not escape us. We each placed an ornament on the holiday tree in remembrance of the seven adults and twenty children murdered the day before by a lone gunman. We understood the trauma and grief of the surviving family members, and we expressed our fervent wish that those survivors seek professional counseling for traumatic grief and complicated bereavement.
After my parents died, I did not get any counseling. I didn’t need no head shrinker to help me cope. I just popped another beer.
But that grief and anger festered for decades, manifesting itself in PTSD. Then Ann Rule’s true-crime book came out. I not only had to read her pathetic story about my parents, I had to deconstruct it. The pent-up emotion erupted like a long-dormant volcano. My world crumbled. I could no longer hold a job.
Thankfully, Survivors of Violent Loss and its generous staff — along with my wife, Janis, who offered unconditional support — were there to lend a hand when I needed it. I hope a similar organization will be offering its services to those survivors in Connecticut. But such organizations and counselors trained in dealing with those suffering from traumatic grief cannot meet the ongoing need for such services. And those programs that do exist are typically under-funded.
Some 15,000 people a year are murdered in the United States. Others die violent deaths as a result of manslaughter and suicide. Seven to ten people can be seriously impacted by each loss, creating the potential for significantly affecting 150,00 or more survivors annually, or 1.5 million in a decade.
That’s why I’m donating a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of my book to the Survivors of Violent Loss Program — to help provide a bulwark against the grief, deep depression and rage that can result from living in a violent society like ours. I have experienced the hell the survivors live through, and it’s my hope that through such programs they learn to develop their innate resilience to persevere and find joy in their lives — provided that these programs continue to exist.
Meanwhile, each day more people will suffer the traumatic effects of violent loss and criminal death, all the more tragic for occurring near the height of what — so we are told — is the most joyful time of year.
How ever you choose to celebrate the coming holidays, I wish all of you moments of peace and merriment, and a happy and prosperous new year. And perhaps we all can take a moment to reflect on how we might come to grips with our “civilized” society’s seemingly endless parade of violent death and loss.