Strange Encounters of the Murderous Kind

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This is a true story of a personal encounter that happened recently. It was one of those strong life coincidences that occurs when you least expect it. Whether it was fate, a communication from heaven or something else, I do not know.

On a recent drizzly Sunday afternoon trying to do my due diligence paying bills a kindly looking gentleman approached me after viewing my car advertisement for my radio show.

As I explained about the show and gave a brief explanation of my Dad’s murder, the man, volunteered that he went to high school with a man by the name of PH. To my shock it was he who said the name, not me, – the same name as the murderer of my father!  (How could this be?) I was truly shocked. I gave no details at that point in time, but yet this man seems to know a great deal about the background of the perpetrator.

The man stated that PH was “a bad seed,” always getting into trouble at a youth.  (In fact I believe he was about only 21 years old or so when he was convicted of my father’s murder.)  His high school peer knew PH would end up in serious trouble.   In fact, he related that PH was one of three brothers – Perry, Harry and Larry…. or something like that. Seriously, they all rhymed!  My mind raced and ironically could only think of Moe, Curly, and Larry of the Three Stooges. But this indeed was no laughing matter!

Apparently at a very young age, running the streets of Hartford, PH was always looking for partner in crime, frequently approaching him saying, “Let’s rob a bank.”    This man was in no way a would-be criminal, but a was a member of the national honor society and was on the path to start a career in the insurance business.

He made it clear that he wanted no part of THAT world. Mr. S. was familiar with the murder of a second man “the perp” committed, after he killed my father. (The second man was an accomplice in a bank robbery who could identify PH, whose body he dumped in a cemetery.) However, “my informant”  was unaware of my Dad’s killing.  He said, in all sincerity, ,”Ya’know, the word on the street is that PH killed other people, he just got caught for these.” I definitely believed that statement from the way PH acted at the parole hearing.   Mr. S. asked for a current status report and was about to offer more “tales of yesteryear on the streets of Hartford,” when I stopped him and told him I didn’t want to hear anymore.   He understood my feelings.

My informant did say that he lost a cousin to murder at the West Indian Club in Hartford a couple of years ago as well. I told him he was welcome to check out my website.  Then a strange feeling came over me after hearing all of this information.

This man had no reason to lie to me. He appeared to know details about the perp and it certainly sounded believable to me. But then, I am a trusting person at heart, despite homicide. We exchanged business cards.

I couldn’t help but think as he drove away, if I had not chosen to do this mundane errand on this day, at this exact time, I never would have known this additional information about “the perp” after 34 years!  Life can be very strange indeed.  But there must have been a reason… only time will tell!

Violence Begets Violence While Peacefulness is Ever Powerful

Marcus Strider Dent and Krush Kent of the Baltimore Guardian Angels

Marcus Strider Dent and Krush Kent of the Baltimore Guardian Angels

In this ever-changing world, there are few constants. In earlier times, violence was an isolated incident that we could compartmentalize in our psyche and move on to other things.  However, in 2015 mass murder and other crimes are so pervasive, so in your face everyday, (no thanks to present day instantaneous social media and crime as entertainment on TV), that we can no longer ignore!   What are our choices?  We can become immersed to the point of numbness and become totally complacent, we can try to do our part by carving out a good humanitarian activity, or at the other extreme, become a super advocate for the many evils of the world.   Striking a balance in all things preserves sanity and is the stuff many of us struggle with daily!

Chaos has ruled in the past many months in so many communities for we as a society have allowed. Our moral fiber is in shreds, teaching our youth by example, providing structure, purpose and paying it forward is the exception rather than the rule.  If only we could celebrate the good rather than sensationalize the bad, this world would be a far better place!

In fact, there are many non-profit organizations that are designed to do the former. It is the mission of Shattered Lives Radio to bring to light, create awareness and celebrate such organizations that rise above the fray.

The Baltimore Guardian Angels have a proud history beginning over 25 years ago.  Click to listen to a previous Shattered Lives podcast describing the background and the nuts & bolts of the Guardian Angels.

The current podcast concerns the commonalities and contrasts of violence in the communities of Baltimore City, the April 4th police-citizen videotaped shooting incident in North Charleston and recent massacre at the Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday, June 17, 2015.  Although each may fade from memory with time by the general populace, each incident wounds those who are survivors all the more.  As a group, survivors of violence long for peace more than anyone, as it has irrevocably touched our lives and the numbers joining us are staggering. 

             

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Marcus Strider Dent speaks of the history of the Guardian Angels and his involvement and the following topics:

  • the importance of working with the community,
  • how a few bad individuals instigate and put a community in havoc,
  • the growing nature of his management of new chapters in other states,
  • the work of Emergency Management in Baltimore City contrasts with the forgiving nature of Charleston victims’ families and the community at large
  • the Guardian’s continuing efforts to stem the tide, including stepping up their Junior Guardian Angel Program
  • the effects of the media today

Krush Kent spoke with passion describing the initial act of police that set off the city-wide violence. She describes the falsehood of getting back to normal in a city bereft with daily homicides; her no excuses narrative of the typical drug dealer-gang bangers who use their painful childhoods as permission to murder others, and how turn life around to make meaningful contributions even in such an environment.

We discussed the pride in how the citizens of South Carolina, Charleston in particular, rose to meet this tragedy with unity, peace, hope and love.

There is no magic answer or formula to stop the violence, each and every situation is different. What worked in Charleston, may not work in Baltimore or other cities. However, as the host of Shattered Lives Radio, I am confident in the knowledge that there are great humanitarians everywhere who will carry through, along with personal resiliency and never giving up as a society.  That’s what truly matters and we have started the conversation in a productive way.

To donate to the Baltimore Guardian Angels:  Donation Page

Please share this positive message with your friends and colleagues!

Shattered Lives Radio

 

“Kodokushi” (Japanese for Lonely Death)  Are You Afraid of Dying Alone? 

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I consider myself a well rounded, engaged person of intelligence, possessing maturity, ethics, good moral character, “helping to a fault” and mostly positive in outlook, despite all that life has dished out to me personally.

This blog seeks to examine this fear on a personal level and give other examples,to provoke thought and maybe a resolution, if there is one.

I know I am not invincible. I have limits. While I have “been through the mill” in comparison to others, I have a couple of fears, whether they be rational or not is for the reader to decide.  Occasionally, I have wondered about my ultimate fate before the end of life as a single, unattached person.  Would others care? Would others help?   I will put my situation “out there” for the sole purpose of illuminating this fear and hopefully helping others.

My Situation:

  • An “always single person” with no one to assist on a daily basis. Self-sufficiency in all things is my world.
  • A person with a “severe medical disability” on paper, but in reality, usually not a problem due to my ability to compensate.  However, I have made the decision that I can no longer tolerate the very harsh northeast winters as I age. Life in my home state has become progressively more difficult. I MUST pass go and go directly to a sustainable warm climate as soon as life allows.
  • My elderly widowed mother will pass on someday in the future and the rest of the clan will not follow me to my alternate home.
  • I have put forth much effort over several years to build my personal network elsewhere.
  • I have lived minimally and invested in a future home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
  • I am continuing to seek short term renters to help my plan become a closer in time reality.
  • I have invested in long term care insurance just in case of an eventuality I did not plan on.
  • I know I cannot count on friends /surrogate family for the long term as they have their own lives/families. Since communes of the 1960’s are long gone (but should be revived) what’s a girl to do?  I suppose continue building my network and hope that I have a few good compassionate friends to sustain me even though I go out alone.
  • This fear may be part of the aftermath of homicide or the “inner child” of a disabled person peeking out. I do not know for sure.  I have always just wanted someone to make me a priority. That’s it in one sentence!   It can be a heavy burden.

Death in Japan

My research revealed a couple of New York Times articles that report on this fear of dying alone.  They are like me in some ways and dissimilar in others. Being overlooked and not discovered for weeks is a phenomenon that happens more often then you would think!

In April 2012, Japanese writer/translator Kumiko Makihara discussed her fears against the backdrop of her culture and others who have “passed to the great beyond, “alone.

  • She included a 45 year old mother with a developmentally disabled four year old son.  The mother was discovered about two months later after a cerebral vascular accident/CVA, or stroke, while her son died of starvation.
  • Mie Yamaguchi was a bilingual TV news person and appeared in commercials in Japanese TV commercial. She died a tragic death at 51 of heart failure alone in her apartment.
  • Many elderly people have passed alone, undiscovered until much later.

Kumiko attributes these instances in her culture to “….a breakdown of once strong family and neighborhood ties.” (This is also often true of our American culture). In addition, Japanese society chooses to keep personal difficulties private when social services are available.   A popular futuristic novel called “Death at Seventy Law Passed” tells the story of an exhausted housewife caring for an ungrateful bedridden mother in law. Of course, the husband and son could care less. In this book, the government is ready to pass a law forcing those 70 to be euthanized! Kumiko ends her article by lamenting about her son pestering her one morning and then taking pause when the 13 year old said, “I didn’t want you to be dead or anything.

A Homeless Man Changes His Ways So he Didn’t Have to Die Alone

December 2013 – Can you imagine seeking refuge in a spot behind two dumpsters and then discover the corpse of another homeless man?  This scared the life out of Rickey Hanagen and scared him into action for he saw the handwriting on the wall. He would also die alone if he kept on the same path.

Ricky experienced the downward spiral of his life after his mother died of cancer in 2007, one day before his birthday. Next, he was laid off from his job a year later and turned to drugs for comfort.  He later realized that he depended on his mother as a safety net.  Rickey had asthma, so he decided to try smokeless, and ultimately more addictive drugs transforming him into a heroin addict. He lived on the streets of Manhattan. His situation was desperate. His fear of dying alone had engulfed him. He sought help in February 2012 from an inpatient Residential Treatment Center. He achieved sobriety, but had no marketable job skills.

With the help of a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, he got a job as a maintenance technician and blossomed into mentoring others who were homeless or mentally ill.  Due to a special community service grant, Rickey was able to get a security guard license and fireguard and safety certificate as well.   At the end of the article, he shares that he now has a fiancé.

Is that unspeakable fear still there for Rickey? No doubt, but at least he has someone to care and a stable job while assisting others.

Conclusion

Kumiko, Rickey and I may have the same fear for vastly different reasons.

I will not be influenced by Japanese culture nor take up dumpster living. (Please God!)  However, I still have my situation and have no one to care for me in the traditional sense.  There is that nagging fear in the back of my head. I don’t see a Princess on a white horse, for in part, I am not open to it. And so, it is what it is. One day at a time, everybody!  I do not want sympathy, not at all!  Just someone(s) to make me a priority in the future (should God be listening!)

References:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/10/opinion/afraid-of-dying-alone.html?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/16/nyregion/fear-of-dying-alone-drove-a-panhandler-to-seek-drug-rehabilitation.html

 

Miracles Sent by the Grace of God and With Faith in the Almighty

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“I lived with hate…but picked up love and never looked back” James Calvin Tillman

“I apologize on behalf of the State of Connecticut. I thank you for your grace and dignity in dealing with this injustice and I wish you well in the next chapters of your life,” M. Jodi Rell, Former Governor, State of Connecticut  (February 8, 2007) 

Governor Rell cited James Tillman as a vital example concerning the need for the State of Connecticut to do more to reduce (the former) backlog of DNA testing at the state forensic laboratory. It was through that testing that Mr. Tillman was exonerated in 2006, after serving 18 years of a 45-year sentence for rape and beating that he didn’t commit.

James Tillman and Donna Gore

James Tillman and Donna Gore

Who among us is perfect? Who does not have some baggage, at times, well hidden, but still there? Should we arrive at the pearly gates ready to meet our Maker, what will be the earthly circumstances that rise above all else to confirm our admission, as we cross over to eternal peace and beauty? 

Mortal men, especially men of color, growing up in urban communities seldom contemplate the power and experience of “giving it over to God” often in favor of “street survival.”

However, few could ever imagine that a mere mortal would be sentenced to a 45 year prison term, for a violent crime not committed by the accused. Yet this same man would stand up in principle and decline a plea bargain in exchange for the offer of a much lighter sentence if only he would plead guilty. Why?  For the stain and reputation as a rapist is indelible. 

The true saga of James Tillman of Connecticut includes a vigilant village of supporters -community leaders, the Connecticut Innocence Project,  other non-profits, legislators, friends and family who never lost faith for 18 years. As fate would have it, James would join forces with a talented and committed author and former Presidential speech writer,  Jeff Kimball, who was experiencing incredible personal losses as well. It was in this storytelling potential, this fusion of thoughts, hearts, faith and forgiveness that James was set free from the bonds of hatred, hopelessness , lack of inspiration and freedom from the iron clad prison bars that felt like a lifetime! 

As a prelude to reading James’ book, “The Power of Conviction”, a spellbound audience at the Mark Twain  House and Museum Nook Farm Author Talk in Hartford on Monday evening, June 8, 2015. We learned the facts and the core values of this transformed man… with a power to inspire positive change in others though his experience.  

Some fascinating facts you will learn about James’ journey via his book and media resources include:  

Mother of James Tillman and Donna Gore

Mother of James Tillman and Donna Gore

  • James was the first person in Connecticut to be exonerated by DNA evidence;
  • Earn of his brother’s passing while he was incarcerated and contemplating suicide;
  • Learn about how he changes hatred to love;
  • As with other high profile cases, learn about the fact that the “eyewitness” identified the wrong person as the perpetrator and “sealed his fate.”
  • Learn about receiving a bad defense with bad forensic evidence;
  • James release from prison occurred on 6-06-2006;
  • James recently  graduated from Goodwin College on 6-06-2015 AND gave the commencement address;
  • How much compensation is 18 years worth?
  • Learn of a mother’s point of view …waiting 18 years for justice; 
  • Broadcast on Connecticut Network : James’ Tillman’s Story (58 min) 

References: http://articles.courant.com/2007-02-08/news/0702080881_1_rell-governor-s-offer-public-def

Shattered Lives Radio talks with James Tillman and author of Power of Conviction, Jeff Kimball. Listen to the podcast to learn even more details about the impact of wrongful conviction and exoneration.

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