Missing for an Hour or for Years, My Personal Nightmare 

 

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When people try to wrap their heads around the very real circumstance of a man or woman gone missing, it seems so surreal!  But it is very real.  Whether missing for an hour or years, professionals in the non-profit arena take all reports seriously.

When I think back 35 years ago my Dad was also missing, but this aspect was never emphasized in the scheme of things. Although I don’t recall exactly, I estimate that for our family, the time he was unaccounted for was approximately from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. the next day.   Although the police tried to construct a timeline, if they had delved deeper, I believe they would have discovered his identity sooner. What difference do a few hours make? A lot!

We knew his habits and what occurred prior to leaving home in the early evening hours. He owned an auto body business and also sold used cars. After dinner, he typically left to collect monies owed for cars purchased.  Previously, I had inherited the family car to commute to college. The car needed oil, so my Dad intended to get oil for the car that evening.  At the time, I had just earned my Master’s Degree in speech-language pathology and was to report to one of my jobs in Western Massachusetts for my new employer.  I never made it to work the following day.

Don Gore

My Dad went missing and never came home, nor did he call my mother if he expected to be very late or change his plans, as he had done in the past. Hours of worry and concern ensued for my mother. She contacted all the friends, contacts, and family she could think of who may know of his whereabouts. She called the hospitals, nothing.

BUT WAIT…. Intervening events would play a part in this awful scenario. Prior to his going missing, he was at a stoplight and apparently someone had the nerve to mug him for the contents of his wallet, including his driver’s license. Dad had not had a chance to replace his license.  However, his van had dealer plates and he was a well known business owner in the Greater Hartford area.  Ultimately, he was found in his van. Why hadn’t the Hartford Police followed up on this right away? Did the dealer plates go missing too? I’ll never know.

However, what occurred was a series of unconscionable “missteps” by the police. Somehow, before we even had a clue that my father was murdered, the local newspaper (under whose authority?) wrote a newspaper article about a missing person.

Among the many scenes of our homicide that are indelibly etched in my brain is this one –

We were in the living room that morning (Aril 17, 1981). My mother was very worried,  having spent a sleepless night.  I was dressed for work looking out the big picture window.  Mom sat in the rocker and was leafing through the newspaper. In the silence of the early morning, I heard my mother suddenly cry out words to the effect of “They’ve found him. It’s him.”

To our absolute horror, the newspaper heading stated “Unidentified Missing Man Found in Green Van.”  In our hearts, we knew it was my Dad. And then, the two of us summoned our strength to call the Hartford Police together. My mother recalled the detective putting his had over the receiver and in a muffled voice saying, “They’ve just identified him.” This was a chilling moment that no family deserves!  My mother called a close family member, a cousin, in order to provide support and drive us to the police station and the medical examiner’s office. I still did not believe it was true. The moment of truth for me was when someone at the police station walked past us carrying a plastic bag with my Dad’s coat which I recognized. That was a defining moment for me.

Imagine, if you can, learning that your loved one is murdered from a newspaper article with no warning whatsoever!

I could write volumes about the injustices we experienced as I recall the events today knowing what I know in 2017. Law enforcement tried, but they made many mistakes in the investigation, as well as in the judicial aspects for years to come, as the perpetrator never should have been eligible for parole!   Does it do any good to point fingers?  Would it have changed the outcome of the crime? No. I am grateful for their efforts in solving the case. However, I am not comfortable giving everyone involved a “pass” just because of the era in which it occurred, with the lack of resources for crime victims and lack of care versus overzealousness in convicting the murderer.

Perhaps the “saving grace” of our ordeal may be that we paved the way for future victims of crime to have a much better experience over time. That I can live with and it gives me solace.

As for the relatively short period of time in which my father was missing, although it was not prolonged, the events that occurred were horrendous, leaving scars for a lifetime. But, scars do heal. As a result, I have a tremendous amount of respect for all families of missing persons, whose ordeal typically goes on and on.

I will end with a most important message: If you experience a loved one or a good friend gone missing, time is of the essence!  In addition, if you desire expertise in assisting your local law enforcement, to begin the process, a missing persons report must be filed with police and then registered with the CUE Center for Missing Persons. http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/file-a-report/.

CUE donations are appreciated, with all funds committed to the work of locating missing persons and supporting their families.

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

 

Makin’ the Connections between Homicide and the General Public with Grief Diaries Anthology Book Series! 

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I recently had the opportunity to appear in a “big box” bookstore- Barnes & Noble Booksellers at Shoppes at Buckland Mall in Manchester, CT, my home state! It was a thrill to see it all come together after the long range planning!   Kudos to the manager who placed my table strategically across from the Customer Services desk, next to the aisle for the children’s play area, a straight shot to the Café, and on the aisle to and from mall traffic!  And right next to the 50% off Harry Potter display. (‘Every other author’s nemesis!) LOL Perfect!

I was so pleased to finally meet some online friends live and in person for the very first time!  Three of them were former radio guests, who were paying it forward in their own way, showing interest and purchasing books for this very informational and ever growing Grief Diaries series!

What was most touching to me were the connections that were formed. Each of the three had a connection to the other in some way and maybe other resources to assist in cold cases  or other Grief Diaries books in progress, in addition to brain storming about future podcasts for Shattered Lives Radio!

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Tips for other authors from my experience

When an author gets to this juncture, they must be in tune with their clientele. Who comes to a bookstore?  Parents and their kids, students, academics, school teachers, law enforcement, therapists, computer geeks, persons with disabilities, and more. I was indeed fortunate in that people in all of these categories crossed my path! I hopefully made some valuable connections and seized the opportunity with every person to educate, educate, educate about homicide, missing persons and the overall value of the Grief Diaries Series.

One other tip I’d like to pass on: Make it real; Make it relevant; Make it local when explaining about this topic of homicide in which most people cringe at the very mention of the word…or say it’s “too sad to process.” We need only to open the oldest newspaper in the country yesterday, The (Hartford) Courant to find examples.

I illustrated my point again and again with patrons regarding the initial missing person and subsequent needless death by homicide of Sterling, CT teen, Todd “T.J” Allen, 18 years old.  This time around, both the victim and the perpetrator were equally responsible. It didn’t have to happen!  It shouldn’t have happened!

Regardless of the legal age, these were kids masquerading as “men”and in over their heads!  Prayers go to the parents of both families as they are both victims of homicide.

Exactly why Grief Diaries: Surviving Loss by Homicide is so needed!  Get it here!  And please write a review as to its value!

Grief Diaries: Loss by Homicide

Order today from Barnes & Noble, Amazon or directly from the Grief Diaries website!

If you would like an autographed copy contact me at ladyjusticedonna@gmail.com

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.co

 

 

 

 

 

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).

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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.”

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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/

  Holiday  Guilt…or Not

 

 

Discussing the holidays can be the proverbial landmine topic, as there are so many permutations of celebrating and every family is different in terms of traditions, how they relate, how things change over the years and our ability to navigate it all and feel as though it is a special time of year for each of us!

My family has many redeeming qualities individually and fallibilities, as all families do.

However, speaking in general, when all biological members gather combined with those who have married into the family portrait, it can go either way…having a good or less than satisfying result.

Depending upon the  generation, parents view their brood in various ways. Parents who grew up in wartime  want to  maintain eternal bliss so they ignore and deny bad behavior of their children, focus on the past, or make excuses. After all, did they not grow up in an extended family with all under one roof in which everyone pulled together and made it work? Certainly!  Even with millennials returning to the nest out of financial necessity, there’s no guarantee that family bliss will prevail.

Those families who “are tight” and maintain close relationships and communication 365 days a year have the best chance of riding out the rough seas and appreciating the good times.

Those who get together out of a sense of obligation may not  fare as well. They may cling to their past images of family members, not acknowledging or making room for the growth of individual members, do not celebrate achievements for they are caught up in their own realities that may not include you.

If we impose other realities of life such as tragedies and loss of every variety- homicide, missing persons, addiction, divorce, other mental health issues, financial loss,  poor physical health, loss of jobs- a Holly, Jolly Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa is even less likely!

In my experience,  of observing and writing about others in this “tapestry of life” for six plus decades, I have noticed that those who have the least in terms of material goods tend to enjoy , appreciate and have the most generous hearts of all!  There is no room for selfishness, narcissism or controlling behavior.  It’s all in the attitude. When survival is a daily consideration and juggling this or that helps you get by… somehow helping others takes the focus off of your troubles.

37630efbce8ad98c05225092d4b30fdcSmall children are the “great bonders” of family during the holidays! The joy and sparkle of anticipation is evident where we all vicariously become a child for a few hours through their eyes. Family tensions, hurts, disappointments dissolve as we watch them open their gifts.

Communication styles definitely have an impact too. Some may seethe in silence about an old hurt and not forgive; others in the family may have no filter and say whatever, whenever or mercilessly tease others because of their own insecurities. Some may confine themselves to “safe topics” only ( i.e. don’t bring up the member who was the victim of a crime or  so and so’s “brush with the law” Whew!)

There are those who try to maintain a totally religious focus in the face of endless commercialism.  For example, how is Baby Jesus supposed to compete with X-Box and Harry Potter?

What about gifts? Just because you are biologically related does not obligate you to give gifts to everyone.  Whether they are homemade, offering a service or store bought, the sentiment should be the same if it is sincere. Don’t get sucked into, “He’s the only  relation”

– (You fill in the blank). If that person makes no attempt to keep in touch, save your time and effort. You are not obligated just because others chose to make additions to the family.

Some families set a dollar limit or do a secret Santa grab bag to keep costs down or only buy for a certain generation.

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If you change your family tradition, hold firm and do not give in to weakness or some sense of misplaced guilt you got from a Norman Rockwell.   Rather, my message is that you must live with the bad and good , but also BE TRUE TO THYSELF. If you cannot abide by any of the scenarios described above, I recommend that you start a new tradition that gives you joy. It can include selected family members or not. Perhaps you can give to your favorite charity instead of buying gifts OR plan an event for your favorite non-profit. Whatever gives you joy during the holiday season – as long as it is GUILT FREE!   Happy Holidays!