Open Letter to the Male Survivors of the East Area Rapist

I’m not sure I want to know what happened inside my dad’s house. Larry Pool shared a lot with me and I know they both went through hell. But the way the story goes in my head, my dad was bound and as Charlene was being led away, I know his mind was reeling. After the shock of being caught off guard passed, I can feel his brain racing to figure out how to get free. Both my dad and Charlene were fighters. He would have considered what was on his night table or in the drawer. He would have strained against the bindings to do something, anything, to help her. Like I said, I don’t want to know if that didn’t happen. I need to believe this is what happened.

Yesterday I wrote about the strength of the female survivors. But the truth is, there are male victims as well.

I can’t imagine the cognitive dissonance those men felt as they balance their own survival instinct with the need to protect their loved ones. They were trapped, struggling with the pain of being bound. They could hear their wives or daughters being hurt. One man died trying to protect his daughter. I don’t know if he’s been officially included by law enforcement, but for those of us who are involved, we include Claude Snelling as another victim.

Add your voice to the story.

As I struggle to understand the complex feelings a woman can feel after being attacked, I can only imagine how it must feel to be the dad, the husband, the boyfriend. The rage and powerlessness my dad felt must have been mind-blowing. I’m not sure our brains were meant to handle this kind of conflict.

We haven’t heard from the men in this story. I’d very much like to. I will keep your story confidential if you choose, but I’d like to share the experience and how your path to healing has worked – or not worked. It’s as simple as sending me an email at jennifer at jcarole.com.

I’m hoping we can all learn from this. Understanding how the men have dealt with this in the last 40 years is just another step in our healing.

 

The Power of Women – East Area Rapist Survivors Are Fierce

Had anyone at a Buckhorn Grill looked our way, they would have seen a group of women, whooping it up, sharing laughter and a meal and singing happy birthday. What a wonderful group of women exhibiting a level of resilience that I believe, belongs to women. No matter what, most women know how to “soldier on”. We might be battered, bruised, traumatized and exhausted, but for many of us, we keep going. I mean this in the best possible way.  

For all the good men out there, please forgive me, in advance, for generalizing. I’m gonna do it. I can’t help myself. Women freaking rock.

I started tonight writing about court, but I couldn’t stay focused. That’s because today was amazing – but not because of what happened in court. It’s because of what happened outside of court. It started at the corner of H Street and 7th in downtown Sacramento. That’s where Victim Services has us meet to walk over to the jail where our courtroom is located. I didn’t realize we’d all be there! It was amazing!

One after another, survivors started showing up just a bit after 8am (we had a couple wonderful men who joined us, don’t want to leave them out). I hadn’t met some of the women because I wasn’t in court for the initial arraignment. Others, I had met two weeks ago at the hearing that ended up being continued to today. There were smiles and hugs and introductions. Damn! This was a squad and we were heading to court to show that man we were not going to back down. It’s our turn now and he’s OUR bitch.

A recess allowed us to head out for coffee.

The judge switched to an “in camera” session – which means “in chamber” but really it was in the courtroom with lawyers only. Like a closed session of a board meeting. He said to come back at noon, so we were off to hang. As we walked away, a reporter was following us. I dropped back and asked him to let us be right now and we’d be happy to talk after the hearing was over. He graciously respected our request and off we went. In private.

We hid in a local cafe and had the most wonderful chance to talk. We were all over the place in our conversations, but it was interesting, funny and bittersweet. The women know I blog but I assured them, our conversations are private and not for blogging. As the time passed, we realized we needed to head back. We joined the media back in the hallway that holds us all as we wait for court to resume. Then we got the message, court wouldn’t restart until 2:15! OMG! We had time for lunch.

How many survivors can fit into a hybrid Accord?

Turns out five (plus driver). We were walking to a local eating joint when Dea pulled up and said, “Hey, wanna go to lunch?!”

Several of us knew Dea, a reporter from ABC, and she has a very good reputation among us. With the caveat that everything we’d say would be off the record, Dea took us over to the Buckhorn Grill. We were like a carload of college women – complete with lots of giggling and the discomfort that comes from jamming bodies into a car. Which is to say, it was awesome.

Turns out it is Dea’s birthday, so we had a reason to celebrate.

And now the part that I must share but I won’t attribute a word. We actually were the table of women discussing the one thing I think mean fear: penis size! Can you even imagine being the most notorious serial rapist and killer in America and the one thing that every victim knows, is that you have a small peen? After studying his hands today, I can only imagine.

What a wonderful day.

Courtroom machinations aside, this was an incredible day. It’s probably why I’m so fried tonight. I realize stepping out into the light might not work for everyone, but I personally believe it can be healing. Everyone is on their own journey. Everyone has their own process. But the community we had today was worth the heat, the standing around waiting and the challenge I have to remember names. While many couldn’t be at court today, we held you in our hearts. You were there in spirit. We represented.

At some point we will need to have a spiritual reunion. One woman spoke of a dream that she had the night DeAngelo was caught. At the end of the nightmare, she saw all the victims coming together in joyous celebration. What a wonderful vision.

If you are a victim and need help, please reach out to Sacramento Victim Services.

Today I Saw Joseph DeAngelo, The Golden State Killer, In Person for the First Time

I knew it would be tough to sleep. I felt the dread building into the evening and so I decided half a Xanax would help. Not so much. When the clock flipped to 1:30am, I was still talking to myself. I need sleep. I have to be up early. I was afraid the alarm wouldn’t ring; the traffic into Sacramento would be awful, I’d be late and miss the whole thing. At some point after that, I finally fell asleep. Morning came fast.

My instructions were to meet my Victim Services person at 8:15am at the H Street garage. Somehow I managed to get there a few minutes early and that gave me a chance to get a bit nervous. Ann showed up on time and away we went, to Superior Court, Department 61.

That says Sacramento County Main Jail!

I didn’t realize the court room was part of the jail. I was whisked through security, reminded to turn off my cell phone and walked down a long hall full of reporters. As I snaked my way down the hall, I could hear regular people asking the reporters what the heck was going on.  “East Area Rapist case,” was the typical response. It was 8:25am when we walked through the doors of the courtroom. Inside were only victims/survivors (I’m going to need a really good name for the fierce folks who were part of this group).

I wanted to notice as many details as possible.

The courtroom was small. I found a photo online but our room had the reverse orientation – we were seated on the right and the cage (!) was on the left side of the room. It was outfitted in standard 1970s decor (real wood? fake wood?) and utilitarian carpet. Large calendars were on the wall with days marked out – holidays, weekends. A clock was on the left near the back wall and I watched the time slowly move amid the commotion.

I was in the first seat in the front row. Seated next to me was the woman who was raped on June 18th. I don’t remember her name, but I will always remember her face. She was simply beautiful. She was also nervous and she brought her best friend for moral support (she actually said “moron support”, which was a laugh we really needed). I met a close friend of Debbie Domingo who I need to know more about (note to Debbie!). She was a spitfire and brought photos of the victims to hold up. There were two more folks next to her and again, in the melee, I didn’t hear names very well. Either way, I’d protect their privacy here anyway.

We were ready.

Everyone else was held outside until a little before 9am. The attorneys trying the case, the prosecutors, introduced themselves. [I am going to find out their names because they told us but we didn’t have a way to write things down. I will update when I get the names.] She was dressed in a black sheath dress and a jacket and simple string of pearls. I noticed because it was in contrast with DeAngelo’s attorney who was in a red sweater/jacket, black slacks and silver necklace. They both looked very put together and prepared. [Honestly, I want to smack myself for commenting on the women’s attire – but I found the fashion choices interesting and clearly intentional.]

The most striking thing in the room was the cage. You can see it in the courtroom photo (here’s another angle, his wheelchair is in front of the cage here).  It is an imposing site. It’s a cage with a lock on the front that needed a key to open the barred door. The bars were thick steel and then, as if someone said, “Can’t we make this fit the motif?”,  some paneling was added to the sides so, you know, it would bring the whole room together. The cage was empty and it was intimidating. I couldn’t imagine what kind of criminal would need something so substantial. Unless someone was mid-Meth trip, I couldn’t imagine someone needing that level of security.

As members of both legal teams, bailiffs and court staff moved easily from the courtroom to the backroom, we assumed that’s where DeAngelo would come from. I thought they would walk him out and lock him in the cage and we’d get started. But I was wrong.

DeAngelo enters the courtroom.

The bailiff read the rules (no noise, cameras, recordings, cell phone noises, etc) and in a jiffy, the judge entered the court. I’m not sure what he said because suddenly the lawyers for the defense jumped up, moved toward the cage and that’s when I realized there was a door that opened into the cage and it was through that door, DeAngelo entered.

The defense team used their bodies to create a wall between DeAngelo and us. All I could see at first was what appeared to be orange Crocs (actually, you can see them here when he was wheeled in before).  He was standing. I followed the bright, orange shoes up the matching orange legs and then couldn’t see anything. He was effectively blocked. At the same moment I heard that door open, I had grabbed for the hand of the brave woman sitting next to me. I knew it had to be horrifying to see him there, in front of her, after all these years. We held hands the whole time.

The judge listed off what seemed like a rather significant number of motions and responses and one caught my attention. There was a lawyer there representing the media: I believe the New York Times, the American Broadcasting Company and possibly others (news stories are mentioning others). They are working to make sure nothing is redacted from what was found during the searches of his home. But more about this later.

Finally, the male attorney moved and I was able to see DeAngelo’s profile. There he was. Just a man. An old, craggy-faced man who didn’t look pleasant. He looked angry. He had whiskers on his face and he shoulders where slightly stooped. His mouth barely moved when he whispered to his female attorney. She appeared to be soothing him and making a point of touching him and talking very close. It appeared intimate and it nauseated me. There’s nothing in the lawyer handbook about mothering your client. I mean sure, someone go check the index, but I’m 99% sure it’s not there.

And then as quick as it started, it was over. The defense lawyers closed ranks again and we could barely see him slip out the door. He shuffled a bit and I wasn’t sure if he was shackled or not – one of the news stories said he wasn’t. The reporters would have had a much better look as they were behind him on the left side of the gallery.

How did it feel?

Reporters ask this all the time. The problem with the question is it misses so many things: the context, the history, the assumptions and the reality. I think it’s maybe easier describing two things I didn’t expect to feel.

The first is catching DeAngelo doesn’t bring closure. I have been saying this for the last two weeks – there needs to be a word for the opposite of closure. I guess beginning could work but it misses the nuance. This is like re-opening an old wound.

I was instantly validated when I asked the others in the courtroom this morning if they felt closure and they said no, it’s made all the memories come back. Those damn memories. Which lead to the nightmares and images of brutality that live in each of our minds in our own way.

It also adds a level of complexity to our lives I didn’t anticipate. I’ll give you one example: how does one stay involved in a trial like this and work?!  I’ve taken some time off but we are looking at months if not years for this case. I don’t know what the answer will turn out to be on this front.

The second feeling in had today, might be considered cognitive dissonance – but at an abstract level. I was looking at another human being, a man I might pass on the street or in the grocery store. He might have been with his daughter or granddaughter. I would think nothing of it. But this man has lived in my mind as a monster for 38 years. I don’t know what I thought he would look like, but I didn’t think he would look human. That maybe makes me the most sad. Because he was a dad and a grampa and literally nothing matters to him. He’s just left destruction in his path. Brutal, evil, dark, compulsive, destruction. And no matter what happens at this point, we can’t get any of the goodness that’s been lost.

There was a bit more to my day, but I have to stop and get some sleep – long drive from Sacramento back home. I am glad I went. I treasure that moment holding hands. The next hearing is on May 29th.

Here’s part two! Finally! 

Venue Decision for Golden State Killer: Where Will We Hold the Trial

The press release below went out on May 11 regarding the on-going discussions among the district attorneys and the right venue for trying the Golden State Killer (I still can’t bear to use his name).

The pros and cons of different locations.

Since my dad was a lawyer, we have old friends who have shared some insight on how these talks might be going. With that said, these are only points of view – not facts.

Sacramento: I think most people agree that Sacramento was deeply wounded by this beast and there are so many here that have been impacted by him in some way. The challenge is, as I understand it, the rapes may be considered ineligible for trial based on the statute of limitations (note: this needs to change). The two murders here I believe can only be connected by ballistics. But I also heard they pulled guns out of his home, so there is hope.

Ventura: We offered up the DNA that was used to make the arrest. Our district attorney has a stellar reputation and I would find great satisfaction in doing our part to lock this guy up.

Orange County: There were more victims there and their Cold Case Division helped put these murders together. Potentially they have the most conservative jury pool. That is a compelling argument but I find it hard to believe that will be necessary.

This is just the beginning of the rationale they are using to work this out. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the venue. Looks like we know where and when until the end of June – if then. As I keep saying, we’ve waited this long for him to be caught, we can wait to make sure this is a slam dunk.

Press Release regarding Golden State Killer Meeting 5.11.18