That One Time a Murderer Lived Under my Roof and Fathered my Sister.

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I always thought Bob was a little creepy, even before I really knew him. Mom introduced me to her co-worker and friend when I was 18, and denied up and down that she was romantically attracted to him.

A few months later that changed – I’m not sure what happened, but suddenly they were an item. It wasn’t a slow build up either – it all seemed so very frantic and fast. I had been away from home for just a few months making my way through my first year of college away from home, when suddenly a strange man and his daughter were moving into my home. Suddenly there was no more room for me there.

The story Bob told everyone, was that his wife was a little crazy and a few years prior had run off, never to be seen again. Abandoning her daughter and husband like a shadow in the night. He was, as he said, very much in love with my mom and wanted a new family with her. Being that I was 19 at the time, you can do the math…mom wasn’t a yougin’ anymore and her birthing years were quickly coming to a close. Bob, however, wished to remain “married” to his missing wife for a total of 7 years, at which point he’d be able to declare her legally dead and cash in her life insurance. Therefor his solution was to have the baby then…get married a few years later! Being that she was the villain in his story, no harm, no foul…right?

Three months before my 2nd year of college wrapped up, about a week before my 20th birthday…my mother gave birth to Becca. The spitting image of Bob.

By that time, as you know if you’ve been paying attention thus far, I was no longer living at home. However, I did have many belongings still there…which seemed to be magically running off with their own feet. But the thing was, it wasn’t only my things missing. My sister Kelly’s things were missing, mom’s things were missing, Bob’s things were missing, and Bob’s daughter Jennifer’s things were missing….we all had stuff missing. Bob seemed to always know where these missing things were going though…my sister was stealing my stuff, or my friends were stealing hers, her friends were stealing Jennifer’s things and Jennifer was stealing mom’s things and so on and so forth etc, etc, lather rinse and repeat.

Right up to and during the time that Becca was born I had become pretty outspoken to mom with my disgust with her, Bob and the whole situation. I was pretty convinced he was a bad guy and was swindling her for some reason. I’m not sure why he chose my mother to swindle…we were on welfare at the time. I grew up poor, dear reader, so I’m not sure what his end goal was there if he was looking for someone to swindle money out of. But for some reason he was…only mom was the last person to see it.

After a while my friends knew, I knew, my sister Kelly knew….we all knew it was him doing the stealing.

One night sometime after 2 in the morning after a long shift at McDonald’s, I jumped in the backseat of my friend’s car for a ride home. He let me know my mother had called….and that Bob had stolen her car and the little money she had in the bank. He was gone. When Becca was 3 months old during the summer of 2004, we all saw the last we’d ever see of Bob. When I heard the news I was all at once not surprised, relieved he was gone, and furious that he had taken mom’s car, money, and heart.

After he left, mom began getting calls from detectives in Delaware. He had been under investigation ever since his wife went missing, for her murder…but they could never piece the puzzle together to pin it on him. Mom wasn’t any help to the detectives, but their calls solidified it in her mind that it was probably true that he had killed his wife. She also accepted the fact that he was the one who had stolen all of our missing belongings. Turns out he had 2 storage units in town, and with a police warrant she was granted entry into the units to retrieve ONLY the items she knew by heart that were gone. Once she got into the units however, she discovered so much more was missing than she realized, including a baby blanket my grandmother had made for me. He was never stealing items to make a profit from them, he was stealing items and pitting the lot of us against each other.

My mom attempted for years to have him arrested. He ended up in Alabama after leaving our old Kentucky home in mom’s car. He lived his days out there, never giving any of us a second thought as far as we know. Mom did get him on the phone once, and he acted as if they were old friends and that Becca didn’t exist to him. The police never arrested him for stealing the car, the money, or unpaid child support.

He died this May.

His storage units went up for auction to one lucky bidder who gained access to a master collection of random things, some of it I’m sure belong to me.

What no one ever realized, however, was that his dead wife was in the storage unit…all these years. The coroner and forensics have determined that the bones that were wrapped up in plastic grocery bags are those of his dead wife Doris. Of course, police can’t determine without a shadow of a doubt at this time that he was in fact the one that murdered his wife….but everyone knows it’s true.

It’s all so surreal, the home I spent my high school years in became the scene of a police search for more bones. The man whose DNA flows through my sister Becca was a murderer and surely a sociopath. He lived in that house with my mom and my sisters and at any time…he could have killed them too. In fact, I’m almost certain that if Becca had been a boy my mother would be dead right now. If mom had money , she’d be dead right now. Thankfully she’s alive and we’re all unscathed in this whole ordeal.

Although Becca will never know her father, she will know and come to understand one day what kind of man he was. My hope is to always let her know that she’s not like him in any way, and what he was and did will never matter to her and her life.

And I hope that poor Doris may now rest in peace.

If you want to read Jennifer’s story, click here, which is a more interesting version of my outsider view of the whole ordeal.

Harlan

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The year was 1984, and there on a cold wintry morning I took my first breath of Harlan county USA air, thick with coal dust as it was.  You see, I come from that place they portray on the TV show Justified. It’s really real.

Harlan_Kentucky_Aerial_view

Picture from Wikipedia

I had an odd childhood, not unlike many kids of my generation I suppose. I really “came” from two places. I have two “homes”. One was mom’s house where I did most of my living. The other was dad’s – Harlan.

The funny thing about Harlan is, as much as I loathed the place growing up, it holds my go-to memories of childhood. Why is that? From the time I was 3 until I left for college at 18, I mostly lived with mom. Harlan to me was every other weekend and half the summer. There’s just something about Harlan that is hard to shake.

The town of Harlan is a small place, population 2,000, nestled in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. It is very much cut off from the world. It’s at least an hour, if not a little more, away from the nearest interstate.

I honestly don’t know what it is about the place that holds me so deeply. I think back to my memories of growing up in Harlan probably 5 times for every 1 time I think about growing up at my mom’s – which in all fairness is where I did most of my growing up. Maybe it’s not the town itself that holds me so, but the powerful memories of my grandparents. I think about those two daily, and dream about them almost as often. I know everyone loves their grandparents, but those two were definitely special to me in ways that no one else ever will be. I can still hear my Granny say “Hey girl” as she did every time I called or walked through her door…and it kills me inside to know I’ll never hear her say that again.

Granny, Pap, and me -- sometime in the 80's.

Granny, Pap, and me — sometime in the 80’s.

I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent about my grandparents, this post began as a look at that odd, quirky, drug-laden, poor little community that almost holds an odd mystery to it for both people there and on the outside.

Maybe I’d be more willing to make a trek back to my homeland, if Timothy Olyphant were actually the US Marshall there…a girl can dream!

And no…. I never heard of anyone firing off rocket launchers…but I wouldn’t be surprised!

The Ghetto-Adjacent

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My husband and I live in the ghetto-adjacent, as he likes to call it. Now I know in the grand scheme of the world, our little neighborhood isn’t the ghetto in terms of inner city ghetto. But for small town Kentucky… it’s a bit rough. Well, the street we are adjacent to, that is. Our street is a bit hit or miss.

This is what the ghetto-adjacent looks like through a mound of snow!

The walls in our apartment are paper thin. The neighbor is cussing out is dog? I can hear it. Burps. Hear it. Yelling at the game. Check. Due to these thin walls…and the nature of our neighborhood, my husband and I have had our fair share of interesting neighbors in the uh… 7 or 8 years we’ve live here? I can’t even remember. We don’t get to know our neighbors, mostly because we are terrified of them. So we just came up with descriptions and nicknames for them all.

1. Pukey and Allergy Boy: We named them this because we could hear the woman puking all the time, and one time we heard her say that the guy was allergic to chicken. They were fairly inoffensive as neighbors, but they were our first here.

2. Victory Man and Victory Minion who lived in Victory Manor (aka the apartment next door): Two men sharing the apartment next door. We named them this because they seemed to find everything victorious! The game. VICTORY. Using the toilet. VICTORY! We’d hear them slamming the toilet seat down, and yelling what surely was a victory call.

3. The Polygamist: No explanation needed.

4. The crack dealer in #1: Same

5. The Cable-Stealing Mullet-Man and Baby-Stealing Stripper: Just like it sounds.

6. The guy who’s wife threw his head through the wall, who in turn threw his brother’s head through the wall. They all got arrested. The pregnant wife was arrested for something heroin related. They loved Nickelback. And the crappy Limp Bizkit version of “Behind Blue Eyes.”

7. Corey: We only know his name because he came by bumming pop and cigarettes all the time. He cried a lot. I think his girlfriend or whatever she was got knocked up by another dude. He found this out on Thanksgiving. It was a loud Thanksgiving. He threw an ashtray full of ashes at our door… I don’t know why.

8. The crazy lady who had 4 kids in a 2 bedroom apartment and her abusive baby-daddy. She’s pregnant again. Thankfully, they just moved out. They were loud. I once  had my mom on the phone and held my phone up in the air asking if she could hear them…she could.

My Old Kentucky Home

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I’m from a real winner of a town that goes by the name of Harlan. I guess you could say I’m “from” a couple of places in Kentucky. My parents split when I was 3, and so I moved away from my birthplace to live with mom. But, dad stayed there, where he was from, and so I went back there every other weekend and part of the summer as ordered by the good ole court system.

Harlan, Kentucky.

It can go by other names…Bloody Harlan… or Hell on Earth as I like to refer to it.

I’m only writing about it today, because I can’t get that place out of my head. More specifically, my grandparent’s house. I grew up in that house. It was the first place that was home to me, when I was born. As a kid, when I “went to dad’s house”, it was really their house I was going to, because he lived there. I think it haunts me. I think it haunts everyone that has ever spent a significant time there.

Granny, Pap, and me -- sometime in the 80's.

I dream about it. A lot. It’s not always a house either. Sometimes I’ll be dreaming I’m working, but it’s there. Or I’ll dream it’s my house. Sometimes my grandparents are there too, and sometimes they aren’t. My granny and pap are gone, I lost them both in 2009. Now some new family owns their home, and I wonder, does the place haunt them too?

If you have doubts that there are ghosts in this world, visit that house. Your doubts will fly away.

My uncle killed himself in that house. I didn’t know him, it happened before I was born.

Another uncle was killed Christmas of 1984 – I wasn’t even a year old yet so I don’t remember him, but I’m pretty sure I have felt his spirit.

They are there, they are still there in that house. It wasn’t always scary thinking that, but for some reason I always had to run past my pap’s bedroom if the door was open, because I was scared of it.

I had a weird childhood. I grew up there at my dad’s parent’s house, I grew up at my mom’s parent’s house, I grew up in a trailer mom rented from the college she attended, I grew up in a house on a hill, I grew up in a different house on a different hill….but when I think back to my childhood memories, more often than not, I think of that house.

I think it’s part of my soul, my psyche, and I can’t even explain why.

I’ll never be able to go back into that house, and that hurts. I’m terrified of the house. I love the house. I can’t explain it. It’s just a house. My grandfather’s grandfather built it – I wish it was my house. I hate that town though. It’s a bad seed. It bears rotten fruit.

Someday I will think of the right words to turn that house into a ghost story. It wouldn’t all be fiction.

Proofread!

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I’ve been playing this game WeTopia on Facebook, because my friend Ellen DeGeneres told me to. It is like your standard Facebook game, but supposedly the rewards you reap can go to help funding for real world projects, such as U.S. Literacy projects or helping to feed homeless children. I’m all about helping the world out, and it’s good for passing a few minutes time here and there. Plus Ellen told me to do it, and well, who can say “no” to those eyes?

While playing the game, you choose which program you want to send “joy” to – which will provide actual funding for that group. Since I think the literacy rate in our country could be better than it is, I chose to go for helping out the U.S. Literacy Program. I wanted to read a little more about the project, when I came across this:

Now, I actually come from the Appalachian region of Kentucky. I was born smack dab in the middle of the mountains in a place called Harlan. In Harlan you have a mammy and a pappy and you waller in the holler and drink moonshine that the bootlegger brewed up. (Translation: You have a mom and dad and you wallow in the hollow.) When my parents divorced, I moved with mom about an hour away. Still in the mountains, and still full of “hollers”. My education was just fine, but I knew and interacted with kids in the surrounding areas and I could tell that the school I was attending was obviously better. I was in a program called Upward Bound (which trust me is a story for another day) where even the teacher couldn’t teach algebra correctly. My friends and I had to point it out to him – but none of the other kids had even taken algebra, and we were in between our sophomore and junior year of high school!

Anyway, I digress…big time. The point is, it’s kind of ironic that this is a group to support Appalachian literacy, and the sentence here doesn’t even make sense – “Children in low-income areas, such as the Appalachia region of Kentucky, often being school nearly two years behind their peers.” – Say what? What I think they are trying to get at is children in low-income areas are nearly two years behind their peers. And I have seen first hand the truth in that. But please, can’t we proofread sentences before publishing them to a game that is supposed to be helping LITERACY?! Even I proofread this blog about 4 times before I hit publish – and I know I make mistakes, I’m only human after all. But I’m just one girl who grew up in Appalachia, where apparently we can’t read or write.

Ok, rant over! I hope every one has a great New Year! Here’s to 2012! Hopefully Ellen will finally agree to be my friend.