I Was A Suspect In My Dad’s Murder | Part 2

I’m pretty sure I spent thousands of dollars in therapy to get over this. No, it wasn’t just this, but being a suspect – despite how ludicrous it seems now – was really awful. Therapy can be a real pain in the butt as you go through crap from the past that frankly, you want to leave in the past. But I knew if I wanted to be a good parent one day, I had to get my shit together. I always felt so much shame that folks thought I could do something so heinous. It wasn’t until my therapist re-framed it, that I finally got it. “Jen,” she said, “What if you thought about it like this? Could it be your dad treated you so badly it would have made some kind of sense?” Whoa. Me a victim? Not my jam. But taking it in and thinking about it really did make a difference.

[You really should read part one first.]

Deep down inside I was crushed that someone – anyone – would think I was capable of murder. My god. Two people were dead. It was a messy, complex crime scene. It was an act of brutality. At this point, they hadn’t even told us Charlene was raped. I was convinced they thought I was a horrible person who was capable of this kind of thing. It was so inconsistent with who I was that my friends and I started making jokes about it. Now, as an adult, I get the value of dark humor. I understand irony and how being absolutely twisted is a reasonable way to deal with the unreasonable. As that eighteen-year old, it was the only way I could cope.

For a short while, after the murder, I wore a log necklace. It was a little tiny stick that I attached like a charm to a chain. I know. What the hell? My best friend, Kristin, thought it was hilarious. Or at least let me think she did. I wore it around town and to school. I was no longer a student at Buena High School. I had graduated mid-year because I was so over being in high school. I enrolled at Ventura Community College and was attending classes when the murder happened. I don’t think I ever went back. Somewhere I have a report card from that semester. I can’t remember if I finished those classes. Chances are the teachers knew who I was and just gave me a pass.

My sanctuary was Buena high school.

I had been class president for two years, which meant I was in leadership. This was quite possibly one of the best things that ever happened to me. Our advisor, Bob Cousar, was extraordinary. He believed in young people and he taught us how to govern. We had regular cabinet meetings using Robert’s Rules of Order and we made important decisions about what happened at the school. It was amazing. As a member of leadership, I practically lived at the school. I was always working on projects or events and they let us have run of the place. Needless to say, most of the teachers knew who I was. For sure the administrators did. The Dean of Girls, Lois Shaffer, hated me. I’m not sure why exactly, but I bet it’s because I knew she was a fake. She didn’t care about the students the way the other teachers and staff did. She was a bitter, unhappy person.

Mr. Cousar let me come back to Buena – even though I had graduated – and just hang out that spring. It was incredibly kind and probably saved me from getting in a bunch of trouble or being depressed. I found things to do and was able to spend time with my friends. I also wore my log necklace to campus and it caught the attention of one adult. Lois Shaffer. Apparently when she saw what I had on, and yes, you can now say “Jen, you’re such a dumb shit” with me, when she saw the log necklace she called the investigators. They showed up at campus and asked to see me. I met with them in the Student Center and showed them the necklace. They took it. It was put into evidence. That stupid log necklace is sitting in a box somewhere in the bowels of the evidence room thanks to Lois Shaffer. Lois also blocked me from being Girl of the Quarter and Buena Hall of Fame. It was an honor I had earned and to this damn day I’m still bitter I didn’t get those awards because of that hateful woman.

And then we were done.

When the polygraph test was over, and I passed with flying colors, I was relieved. Intellectually I knew taking the test was a bad thing. I had read stories of people who’d been convicted on bogus lie detector information. There’s one article in the Ventura Star Free Press where I was asked about being a suspect. Of course, I can’t find the darn article but in there, I’m quoted as saying the whole thing was “So Dragnet.” As you might imagine, with some locals, I still haven’t lived that down.

This is Mr Cousar. A true hero. He had a huge impact on my life.


This is Lois Shaffer. Nuff said. Don’t let that smile fool you, she was horrible.

11 thoughts on “I Was A Suspect In My Dad’s Murder | Part 2

  1. Jennifer, I’m in shock and awe and laughing so hard but trying not to. I’m really so sorry for what you have gone through. God Bless you!

  2. Wow. That Lois woman was a monster. To call the police on an 18-year-old, who just lost her father to murder, is beyond the pale.

    I’m a true crime buff and I enjoy the behind-the-scenes, if you will, stories. The things some might think are mundane, I think are informative and tells the complete story.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences surrounding this tragedy.

    1. My friends remember being questioned by her as well – maybe a true crime buff in disguise? She thought she was an investigator? Ugh, thank goodness those days are over. I appreciate your interest. I will try to keep going!

  3. I love your Blog and all of the Many Stories you share with your audience, Jennifer! I read the newest stories about you being a Suspect in your Dad and Step-Mom’s Death. I guess the Police and FBI have to question the family members first, as part of their protocall. Go figure! It appeared that you stayed STRONG during the questioning even as a teenager. It must have been really hard to go through, but you pulled it off with much Strength and Persistence.
    I not only admire your Courage but your Honesty also to share with your readers your relationship with your Dad. This happens in Life. Life is not perfect. But I know you Love your Dad and Miss Him.
    I will be looking to read your Blog about the July 12th Court Date for MEATBALL JOEY. I have no respect for him, as you can tell.

    1. Meatball Joey. That’s funny. I’m glad we can all finally laugh about this idiot. Thank you for your kind words and it’s hard to share but it’s also really helpful. I will keep writing. Don’t worry.

  4. Lois was clearly a heinous human being…the doorknob growing out of her head says it all… 😉

    1. Girl – you KNOW there are more stories. But I didn’t even realize she could still be alive. Leave it to you to see the doorknob! Love ya!

  5. Jennifer,

    You rock! I love your humor even in the face of such scary times. If I had been your friend all those years ago, I’d have totally laughed with you, so I’m sure your friend genuinely did, too. Laughter is such good therapy.
    I also love your blog. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to every update 🙂
    If you ever need anything, I’m sure you have an army of supporters ready to listen/help, me included. Take care of yourself.


    1. Man, I love your note. It’s so good and made me smile. I am a joker and I’m glad you got the twisted humor. Thank you for supporting my work. I appreciate it!

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