The Silence Can be Deafening- No Apologies for Being an Advocate 

Don Gore

Don Gore, my father

After 36 years of surviving the most life-changing event in one’s life, you gain perspective, but you also lose friends along the way.

My father’s murder occurred in Hartford Connecticut on April 17, 1981, and it made the law books for a particular legal maneuver. It was a case whose trial was prolonged for 6 1/2 years, caught in the morass of determinate and indeterminate sentencing laws. It was a case that coincided with the infancy of victim rights. My father’s case began as a missing person and ended as a homicide.

It was a case characterized by unthinkable events such as our family learning the news via a newspaper article and taking it upon ourselves to call the police, as no notification had come our way. There were promises were made such as, “This career criminal will never get out.” In fact, a very skilled attorney/victim advocate was puzzled as to why the perpetrator ever became eligible for parole in 2013.

My father’s murder case changed the State of Connecticut policy regarding the anonymity of victims during a parole hearing although the parole board failed to even acknowledge such a milestone.

That’s when I decided not to be silent. Don Gore needed a voice and I became that person in every way imaginable.

It is not a role I consciously chose, it evolved as my intellectual curiosity and need for justice grew.

Times have changed, with an entirely new generation appearing since 1981.  The landscape in victim services has expanded to include a plethora of agencies, governmental to non-profit. In addition, in 2017, violence, public perception, tolerance of what once was unacceptable, and the ever-changing social mores, has also escalated with the immediacy of social media.

In situations such as violent crime, I believe complacency breeds indifference. If you are not part of the solution, you could be part of the problem. It’s not that you have to go the whole hog, just make a meaningful contribution in your own way.

But then, there are the constants that don’t seem to change the work against positive change and hope for the future. These elements are equal to the silence that pervades if you chose not to be a voice for change, or, at the very least, acknowledge what others are doing and give moral support. The silences can be deafening causing me to work with increased fervor.  Some examples:

  • The murderer having no cognizance of who he killed or who was related to him in addition to showing no remorse;
  • The vulnerabilities that still surface, even after 36 years;
  • The tendency of the public to stay in denial mode, shaking their collective heads unless homicide or other crimes have touched them personally;
  • The lack of connection or involvement in many homicides and missing person families;
  • The refusal to see beyond the obvious that homicide and missing persons isn’t uplifting and that there is nothing positive that can come forth by educating and creating awareness. How wrong these people are, they will never get it! When you look beyond the surface, as advocates, we have been the force for so much positive change. As a byproduct, you gain surrogate families who can be very nurturing. Out of tragedy, inspiring events occur.
  • The lack of resources and assistance for so many families, even in this enlightened era forcing us to be ever more creative to get the job done.

The Future

Although I do not look forward to the five-year mark looming in the background for another appearance at a parole hearing in 2018, I embrace the right and duty to continually try to be the voice of my father, Donald W. Gore, whose life was snuffed out so abruptly and unfairly.

I hope he will be observing with pride from his place in heaven.  Dad, you are missed by many!

DRG- 4-16-2017


DonnaGore-2

 

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity.Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

A Vicious Crime Blossoms into Victim Advocacy: The Story of Actress Theresa Saldana 

Theresa Saldana

Theresa Saldana

I had the luxury of a little extra time over the weekend and happened upon the “notable deaths” of the year. I perused person after person according to  the calendar date for 2016. Some people were unfamiliar. It made me sad, but in a strange kind of way, I was intrigued when I came to Theresa Saldana. We are very similar in age, and yet she was taken so quickly after surviving a horrible crime!

Theresa was best known to audiences as a New York Actress performing opposite Joe Pesci in the Movie “Raging Bull” and her long-standing TV role as the wife on “The Commish.”

Had Theresa not experienced a shoulder injury, she might have been a Broadway dancer. Rather, she began acting classes at 12. A talent scout sought her out   while performing in an Off Broadway musical called The New York City Street Show in 1977.Following that, she was cast in the 1978 film Nunzio. In 1980, she starred in the movie Defiance about a suspended young seaman (Jan-Michael Vincent) who takes up temporary housing in a neighborhood overrun by a gang while waiting for his next orders to ship out. She played a nice girl in this “revenge thriller movie” as contrasted to the sister-in-law of boxer Jack LaMotta (Robert De Niro).

09saldana-obit-master768

Theresa Saldana and Joe Pesci in a scene from “Raging Bull,” from 1980. Credit United Artists, via Photofest (NY Times)

Reportedly, these two movies served to form an obsession in the warped mind of stalker and would be murderer, Arthur Jackson. He stalked Ms. Saldana for 18 months unbeknownst to her. He was described as  a drifter from Scotland who, it is rumored saved up his welfare money to come to the U.S. Jackson supposedly entered the United States illegally and tracked her down with the help of a private detective! (How did a drifter afford to hire a PI? I guess sob stories work wonders for criminals!)

In his diary, Jackson’s delusional writing said he intended to win Ms. Saldana by “sending her that he regretted using a knife on her because “a gun would have given me a better chance of reunion with you in heaven.”

With shades of the Kitty Genovese murder looming, I was horrified to learn that just one person, a passing delivery man heard he screams after she was stabbed 10 times outside her West Hollywood apartment on March 15, 1982.  It was described as such in the Inquisitor – (Had it not been for)”deliveryman Jeff Fenn, she may well have died from her injuries. As it was, her situation was precarious; Jackson had stabbed Theresa Saldana so ferociously that the blade bent. By the time Fenn wrestled the knife away from Jackson and Theresa Saldana had gotten to the hospital, thanks to some paramedics who quickly arrived on scene, a great deal of the blood had drained from her body and her heart had stopped.”

1330581110790378562

She spent the next three and a half months hospitalized,  recovering from her near fatal wounds.

In her victim impact statement of 1984, she related to the judge: “I will never forget the searing, ghastly pain, the grotesque and devastating experience of this person nearly butchering me to death, or the bone-chilling sight of my own blood splattered everywhere.

The perpetrator served 15 years in prion in the U.S. and then was extradited to Great Britain for trial involving a 1966 robbery and homicide.  (Just unbelievable that he was not captured for these crimes sooner!) According to the New York Times article, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he died in 2004.

After her recovery, Theresa  founded the Victims for Victims organization that fought for anti-stalking laws then played herself in the 1984 TV movie “Victims for Victims: The Teresa Saldana Story.”

How disconcerting it must have been to play yourself in this movie… Perhaps it was part of her healing process. I so respect her for trying to use her craft to educate others.  The movie was not widely reviewed – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088349/

She continued her acting career appearing in several dramatic and comedies into the 1990s. Theresa retired from acting 12 years ago but was a tireless victims’ advocate up until her death on June 6, 2016 at age 61. She was well aware of the importance of advocacy for victims of crime.

Sources reported that she was influential in the passage of two pieces of legislation -two pieces of legislation — 1990’s anti-stalking law and 1994’s Driver’s Privacy Protection Act- part of the Title XXX Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act – a federal statute governing the privacy and disclosure of personal information gathered by state Departments of Motor Vehicles.

 Sad, Angry, Interesting PostScript:

The cause of Theresa Saldana’s death was revealed as pneumonia. I am speculating that all of her chest wounds left irreparable damage and that she may have been very prone to infections after her attack. Yet another impact of a crazed killer – compromising a person’s immune system such that they can’t fight infection… but she fought in other important ways.

Finally, one source I read reported that this violent scenario inspired a copy cat  killer and was used as a “blueprint “ to  stalk and murder  My Sister Sam  sitcom star Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989.

 

 

References – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_Saldana

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/09/arts/television/theresa-saldana-actress-and-attack-survivor-dies-at-61.html?_r=0

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/06/08/481234857/actress-victims-advocate-theresa-saldana-dead-at-61

http://variety.com/2016/film/news/theresa-saldana-dead-dies-raging-bull-the-commish-1201790703/

http://www.inquisitr.com/3179645/theresa-saldana-best-known-for-the-commish-victims-advocacy-dies-at-61/

Crying to Cope with Loss

Crying to Cope with Loss

There are myths surrounding the behavior of crying. In American culture, typically crying is viewed as a sign of weakness when in public.  If you are a crime victim, you likely have “cried a river” over time as a means of emotional release and acknowledging your grief. Often the loss is so profound, pervasive, permanent and overwhelming, our bodies’ signal us that we must “let it out,” let the tears flow no matter what the circumstances.  In fact, there are several benefits of crying to share.

We are permitted to cry at weddings. We cry at funerals. We cry at graduations.

However, the most egregious examples of prohibiting crying come to mind when in the courtroom. Institutional decorum is forced upon victims by the criminal justice system when they are at their most vulnerable, using every ounce of strength just to maintain. This is a burdensome challenge and so unnatural. Is it somehow disrespectful to the judge and the court’s time to cry? Why?  Is the judge to be viewed as God Almighty? It’s as if we must be little more than a cardboard figure, a spectator, in the most important game of our lives!

A prominent example is offered here by my friend and colleague Attorney-Advocate Michelle S. Cruz.

In summary, during a very high-profile Massachusetts case in January 2015, a fallen Patriot’s football icon is put on trial for the killing of friend Odin Lloyd. (Although you would never have known about the victim, as the perpetual bad and dangerous “star,” Aaron Hernandez was always, center stage.)  Odin’s mother, Ursula Ward was scheduled to identify photographs of her son’s dead body while on the stand.  The wicked and heartless judge, Susan Garsh, cautioned her “not to cry, to control her emotions.” Had there not been emotion from this grieving mother, the jury surely would have gotten an incorrect impression. As Michelle states, there was no doubt as to whether the murder was committed, but the fact that Hernandez was the perpetrator.   Where was the basic human and victim right of respect and consideration afforded this mother? I believe it went out the window with the rest of the jurisprudence drivel!  I can so relate to this poor woman and what she had to endure.

 

Now on to the benefits of crying – truly!

The least known benefit would probably be a physiologic need- A study performed by Dr. William H. Frey II at the St Paul-Ramsey Medical Centre found that stress-related tears help your body rid itself of nasty chemicals that raise cortisol (the stress hormone). Emotional tears also contain more mood-regulating manganese than the other types. Stress tightens muscles and heightens tension, so when you cry you release some of that. Crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system and restores the body to a state of balance.”    So, it is good to “clean house” so to speak;

You can help ease the pain by freeing yourself of emotional baggage to start anew;

Other claims via my interpretation are: that crying helps you come to terms and perhaps move on from a loss. The act of crying may bring physical relief.  Crying demonstrates vulnerability and may foster a sense of intimacy with others.  It is said that expressing emotions facilitate your inner creativity too!

Another medically related crying is known as PBA – Pseudo-Bulbar Affect – or Emotional Incontinence – in which you exhibit involuntary bouts of uncontrollable crying or laughter.   This is a neurologic problem caused by brain damage such as a CVA- stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, ALS or dementia.  Approximately 2 million people are affected.

Finally, the Japanese are innovators. According to Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at UCLA, they are such strong believers in the health benefits of crying that they’ve taken that wisdom to the next level. Some cities in Japan now have “crying clubs” called rui-katsu (meaning “tear-seeking”) in which people come together to indulge in what I’d call,  “group crying fests”

“The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh.” ― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

 

 

References: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/9-surprising-benefits-crying-why-its-okay-have-good-cry.html

https://www.pbafacts.com/pba-facts-science

http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/is-crying-good-for-you

 Home is Where the Heart is – A Family Tragedy on Christmas Day, 2011 

Stamford CT Christmas fire

This case was reported extensively from  some of the best news organizations in Connecticut and New York. I will attempt to offer some of the highlights, and lowlights, with selected excerpts and details of this tragic human tale along with my contributions.   You are invited to read the full accounts in the reference section.

Lomar Johnson lived in Southbury, CT with his wife Pauline. In 2011, he worked playing Santa at Saks Fifth Avenue’s Flagship store in New York City on Christmas Eve. They planned to travel to Stamford, CT to visit his daughter and their three granddaughters at their home which was under renovation. This ramshackle home was  a 116 year old Victorian style house purchased by daughter, Madonna Badger in December 2010 for $1.725 million.

Lomar, age 71 considered playing Santa a dream job. He was known for his long white beard. “That’s all he ever wanted to be,” a family member said. “He stopped shaving the day he retired.”

This was the final time Lomar would play Santa. He, along with his wife and granddaughters were killed in a massive fire on Christmas day. They said it was accidental, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t lots of blame and guilt to go around.

 

A Contractor on Thin Ice in More Ways than One

Madonna Badger initially met contractor Michael Borcina at an AA meeting and asked for his opinion when she contemplated purchasing the old Victorian. It became much more than an opinion.  Madonna Badger was an advertising executive in New York and hired Borcina for the renovation project.

Michael Borcina asked longtime friend and carpenter, Mike Foley of New York  to apply for a Connecticut home improvement license for the project as Borcina had liens and judgments against him. Foley got the license on Dec. 7, 2010 and helped Borcina with the project. However, Foley grew weary of the commute and did approximately 30 hours of work. “The project was supposed to be small,” Foley told police.

Without Foley’s knowledge, Borcina renewed the license in Foley’s name in December and listed his own address as Foley’s, according to investigators.

Statements to Stamford police from two carpenters who worked for Borcina at the 116-year old Victorian house from August to November 2011 said that Borcina was lax about safety, and when they expressed their concerns Borcina threatened to fire them.

Additionally, Don Raskopf, a carpentry foreman, and Andrew Grunow, a master carpenter, told investigators they believed that Borcina allowed the family to move in too soon and that they were living there under hazardous conditions. New oil-finished flooring and pine paneling in the kitchen and in the new mud room contributed to what the men called a fire fuel load.

Mike Borcina reportedly ignored very important warnings about installing pine paneling on the kitchen staircase that led to the second floor landing.

A Mother with Second Thoughts

Embers were carried from the home’s fireplace to a mudroom or an adjacent trash enclosure at the rear of the house after 3 a.m.

Madonna Badger told police that she had second thoughts about the fact that Borcina left fireplace ashes in the mudroom. She stated that she questioned if this was a good place to leave the ashes for safety reasons and considered placing the box in the backyard. She recalled saying to herself that she saw Mike use his hands to smooth out the ashes in the bag and again considered that sufficient to satisfy her concerns that there were no live embers.

The fire started after that and spread quickly through the main building. Firefighters were called at 4:52 a.m. and arrived within minutes.

The Accidental Perpetrator

Unbeknownst to Borcina, construction workers talked about their boss. They were convinced that he was chasing Madonna Badger. Despite maintaining a $3,900 apartment in Battery Park City he chose often to stay in her garage, and lied about his whereabouts to Madonna.  A list of some of his idiosyncrasies include his fickleness, constantly being cold, poor memory, deafness in one ear, ferocious speaking voice, and lingering side effects from surgery several years ago to remove a brain tumor.

Madonna had also hired Borcina to handle renovations of her Manhattan office, and there were complications from that job, too. Workers heard heated financial conversations between Borcina and Madonna, leaving her in tears.

The Grieving  Father Matt Badger

He lives to talk about the foundation, the LilySarahGrace Fund, that he started in the days that followed the fire, days when he stalked his apartment like a lunatic, threatening to end his life, and others’ including the town officials, Borcina, Madonna. Abby, his girlfriend. His friends did not leave him alone, fearing for his safety.

Decision NOT to Prosecute

Connecticut State’s Attorney David I. Cohen spent six months investigating the case and said, “When such a horrific event occurs, it is only natural that those related to the victims and the public wants to hold someone responsible for what is otherwise an inexplicable accident.

Cohen did not question the official narrative, that the fire began in the mudroom, but he noted that we will never know whether the battery-powered detectors temporarily installed over the summer were still active, as Borcina claims.

The day after the fire, Stamford officials decided to tear down the burned-out structure, citing a safety risk to anyone who might enter it. “Where so much is unknown or in dispute,” Cohen wrote, “where the facts are inconclusive and where the safety of the public will not be enhanced, I have decided to exercise the discretion given to me by our State Constitution and by my oath of office and decline, at this time, to prosecute.”

Madonna Badger and Michael Borcina- Interview on “The Today Show”

MATT LAUER: “I know friends of yours, or some people in your life, have asked you how you could still have a relationship with him, how you could be near him, quite frankly.”

BADGER: Mm-hmm. Right.

LAUER: How do you answer that question?

BADGER: The answer for me is that we were in the fire together. We were in the fire. And we spent the last night on earth with my three children and my mom and dad, and it was beautiful.

Madonna blames the city of Stamford. She has filed a lawsuit against its officials, alleging their actions in tearing down her house without notifying her destroyed any possibility of a second opinion. She spent a week in an acute-care unit after coming close to attempting suicide.

Matthew, Madonna and Michael

Matthew has sympathy for his ex-wife. He has sympathy even for Borcina. He encountered him in lower Manhattan and noticed Borcina appeared to be struggling. He asked Matt if he could hug him. Yes, Matt has sympathy. No, Borcina could not hug him.

Matt has filed suit against Borcina for a pattern of incompetence and negligent building practices. Were it not for Borcina, the suit contends, his children would still be alive. He’s named the City of Stamford as co-defendant, for the premature teardown and inadequate building inspection. He has not sued Madonna. He believes she is suffering enough.

Matt Badger tells the reporter for New York Magazine, “He knows his children “melted—They fucking melted.” He wants to know why.

January 13, 2015

Michael Borcina, contractor, has agreed to settle part of a wrongful death lawsuit by paying the children’s father $5 million.

All of this tragedy and Santa still comes to Saks Fifth Avenue.

 


 

Donate to the Lily, Sarah Grace Fund:

Link: http://lilysarahgrace.org/about

References:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/26/nyregion/house-fire-kills-5-in-stamford.html?_r=0

http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-ap-stamford-fire-settlement-20150113-story.html

http://articles.courant.com/2012-07-22/community/hc-stamford-christmas-fire0722-2012

http://articles.courant.com/2011-12-28/news/hc-stamford-fire-five-died-20111225_1_christmas-morning-fire-third-floor-fire-officials

http://nymag.com/news/features/stamford-christmas-day-fire-2012-12/


 

Donna R. Gore

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity. Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com