In the Beginning: My 1987 Victim Impact Statement

Donna R. Gore

It had already been what most people would consider a long-suffering life by the time I had reached my 26th year, just out of graduate school and embark upon my first professional, paid job. There had been years of physical therapy, surgeries of two major types, hospital admissions so frequent, they became a “way of life”, speech therapy and discrimination in higher education saying, “I had too many disabilities to succeed.”

In reality, I did not consider it long-suffering, it was just routine when I was going through it as a child, something I had to do to maintain. I was resilient and had strong parents, grandmothers, and neighbors to get me through!

Then homicide happened. To say it was life altering was an understatement of mass proportion. But, fast forward to 6.5 years later after “baptism by fire” regarding the criminal justice system, the lack of resources for victims in 1981, the promise that the head detective should never have made, disillusionment, so many questions, few answers and so many mistakes made with the case to be revealed later on.

However, within that mix, there was also a rebirth of sorts of this disability and LGBT advocate. In a strange sort of way I had found a true calling, another way to assist others. My intellectual curiosity was peaked forever. I became a standout member of Survivors of Homicide, Inc. in Connecticut. We were honing our voices on behalf of others at a time when crime victim advocacy was in its infancy. There was lots of planning, planning, planning, coupled with support meetings, creating awareness and numerous media appearances, and events, including volunteer court escorting with new families, and a fundraising golf tournament, just to scratch the surface of our many years of intense dedication.

In the process of obtaining justice we had to wait, not so patiently, for 6 1/2 years for our voice to be heard as this former drug dealer and multiple murderer was busy with the judicial process regarding other charges.

Don Gore

My father, Donald Gore

At times, the wait was intolerable, but there was no getting around it. There were other surprises to come, for instance, the use of joinder (essentially stringing two cases together that have like elements and defendants in order to make an ultimately stronger case when one is lacking sufficient evidence to convict  with one jury.) During that time, I cut my teeth on the hard truths and tried to assist others as my means of coping.

The trial lasted three weeks. Summoning our courage, trying to keep our emotions in check, my mother and I separately delivered our first victim impact statement.

Looking back on it now, I could have said a lot more. I could have said it differently and maybe better. I could have painted a more holistic picture. That would come years later with time, experience, and thousands of additional words as a writer, and now published author.

I offer the original here as a brief testimonial from the heart. Stay tuned for the second victim impact statement in a forthcoming blog!

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT

Re Victim Donald W. Gore 

Written by Eldest Daughter- Donna R. Gore

I’d like to thank you for this opportunity; one that I doubted would ever come to be until a few months ago. 

It is difficult to explain the impact of my father’s death in a few short minutes. No words could do justice to his life or his memory. My father made mistakes in his life as every human being on this earth. However, he was not on trial and the good he did far outweighed the bad. His strong belief in the work ethic, responsibility to family, and providing for those less fortunate, some former employees who needed a job, a meal money, clothes…he was there to provide. 

He was also there when I was in need of 50 surgical procedures throughout my childhood-a time in which both of my parents made many sacrifices so that I might have a better healthier quality of life.

We have been deprived of a father, a parent and all that the role implies. But, just as importantly, my father has been deprived too. He has been deprived of the opportunity of seeing the achievements his family and friends have and will make; deprived of observing success as he measured it – financial security, a comfortable lifestyle, education, career, the possibility of marriage for his children and grandchildren. All that and more has been taken away or curtailed and often replaced with much struggle and pain especially for my mother and grandmother due to his needless death. The most sincere statement I can make is to say I miss him and always will. 

It is clear to me that Perry Lee Herring is the ultimate failure in society. This multiple offender has proven time and time again that he has total disregard for human life; that he cannot be rehabilitated. Why else would he randomly fire four bullets into an unsuspecting unarmed person? Was it all for a few dollars? It doesn’t make sense and it never will.

I would ask that when you pass sentence, you consider my father’s death as a very real loss for a number of people and that you consider the multitude of crimes this person has committed. I would ask if his life must be spared, that he be incarcerated for the rest of his life in a maximum security prison with no possibility of earning “good time.” Although no action you could take will return my father to us, imposing such a sentence will give us some peace of mind of which we have deprived for six and a half years. 

Thank you for your Consideration

Sincerely,

Donna R. Gore

6-30-1987

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/

“The Passers” of Social Media

Sharing on social media

Those of us who ride the wave of “minor celebrity” on social media have ups and downs in terms of who is paying attention to what, or whom, at any given time. If I took all the data on Twitter or Facebook to heart, I’d never get out of bed. I try  every day to be true to my missions, to be true to myself and ignore the fickle finger of others whims.

Similar to the fluctuations of the stock market, I can have great data in one category and plunge in another simultaneously.  Regardless of what all the numbers say, and those audience members who want to think of me as a one trick pony, (never venturing out of the homicide and missing persons box to spread my wings), I know in my heart and soul I do great things for others every day. They may be small things or big things, but good things just the same!

ImaginePublicity logoThat said, just as in a Broadway play, there are many people behind the scenes assisting in my success. One example is ImaginePublicity  my social media management agency. ImaginePublicity is behind the scenes and professional, performing the role of managing and training me on all aspects of social media, helping to make it all happen and never seeking the spotlight. The services are invaluable to me.

However, one overlooked element is the group of ever-present people I call “passers.” They are a very dedicated group who shares other’s information throughout social media networks. Perhaps that is their special talent. This role appears to be a combination observer, cheerleader, traffic director, traffic creator as opposed to a direct influencer. These people are unsung heroes who I’m sure are good neighbors too.

Let’s be clear, I didn’t know any of my passers previously. I never solicited their assistance. I never knew their value. They just added me to their list. I am so grateful!  Below are three people, good examples whom I would like to thank for this role in my on-line life.  It is high time they are given credit for their diligence and loyalty.

Paiger Swift –

She was the first person I really noticed who gravitated to my topics and selflessly passed on my posts.  She lives in Fort Lauderdale, is a “cool sistah” and is enamored with all things Peanuts cartoons. But, more importantly, she is a staunch advocate and huge fan/supporter for the mission and activities of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute (CCIRI) in Atlanta. Sheryl McCollum and Holly Hughes are important mentors for Pager. Sheryl ‘Mac” McCollum made the following comment regarding Paiger’s important role, “She lives her heart! She supports the good fight and never fails to repost stories”!

Check out Cold Case Investigative Research Institute, an innovative organization which I have been fortunate to feature several times on Shattered Lives Radio!

Glenn Adams -aka “Wolfscratch” 

“Wolfscratch” was a Captain in the Atlanta Fire Department, worked as a hazardous materials smoke diver with expertise in fire technology and has worked with Monica Caison and the Cue Center for Missing Persons since 2008.

Currently, he spends his time researching missing persons’ investigations with a goal of identifying common denominators of the cases that are solved as opposed to those that grow cold.  As Glenn said, “The most important common denominator identified for those cases that are solved. Awareness is the key.” Analogous to a security camera across the landscape of America, citizens are the most valuable investigative resource for Law Enforcement when utilized.  Wolfscratch also researches cases where serial predators/killers are indicated. “I truly believe that there is a spiritual connection involved when these predators are apprehended.”

DeDe Keene –

From Southeast Texas and committed to spreading the word about missing persons on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and elsewhere, her job appears to be a full-time job by the volume of material that is re-posted daily on behalf of others. She is affiliated with A.M.A.L.P. Ministry. They are a Christian Ministry dedicated to assisting all FAMILIES of Missing Loved ones, and All LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES in the U.S.

Sharing on social media

Conclusion –

The moral of this story is, if you have any degree of celebrity, respect it, never take it for granted, don’t let your ego get carried away for that fame is fleeting and could come crashing down around you in a New York minute. In that equation, people like Paiger, Glenn and DeDe figure prominently.  Look them up. But, don’t expect them to have a lot of time to answer as they are too busy helping others! Yeah, my kind of people!  THANK YOU!

  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!