websleuth’s podcast

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Tricia Griffith invited me to be her guest on her podcast last night to talk about the parole hearing I just participated in.

It went in to so many directions, from the beginning to now. That two hours just flew by.

As I said to my husband, people like me are living with these traumas on the inside all the time. Sometimes it’s cathartic to take them to the outside (and get the support that’s there–there were over 100 people listening live last night and chatting along–it was very much appreciated).

Here is the Youtube link if you’d like to take a listen:

parole hearing 9/16/2020

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Back again. I want to get this finished, as it’s a Lillian weekend and I need to dump this out of my brain before she gets here. I just got home from the most wonderful day of helping my friend set up some wedding flowers at a rural winery, the most gorgeous country drive on a gorgeous day-sometimes life could not get any better.

So, back to the issue at hand. The parole hearing I participated in a couple of days ago on Cindy’s birthday.

Cindy and our mother, both smile down from Heaven

Due to the magic of technology, there were several streams going–the in person Parole Board (3 members in attendance), my victim advocate and two social work interns with her, also in person, his interpreter in the room, then on the Google Meets virtual meeting was me, my victim’s rights attorney, Cathy Hughes (our prosecutor from the original trials), the ADA from Pinal County, another attorney who I could not see on video (I think from the AG’s office) and a couple other squares with phone numbers calling in. One was the interpreter.

Oh and of course the Board was visible there in a square as well.

I was set up with my printed out statement (that my advocate had a copy of in the room in case we ran in to tech problems), a photo of Cindy and I, a clipboard with blank paper thanks to my husband who is always prepared, my phone set to voice memo (I recorded much of it) and the recipe for chicken cacciatore that I was going to make after it was over, sort of on accident as it came off the printer at the same time as the statement. But I sure was glad to have it, to soothe myself with as this went on–dreaming about my country drive to the poultry farm and my garden plot after to get my ingredients, then coming home to cook it for Cindy’s birthday.

Cathy Hughes was in a time crunch, so it was decided she would speak first. I was so looking forward to it as she is truly a brilliant orator. She began talking about her lengthy career as a prosecutor trying mostly murder cases, and later serving on a Board that oversaw all the murder cases in at least the county if not the State–meaning she was familiar with almost every single murder case in AZ for decades. “This case stands out in the top 5 for it’s brutality, greed and evil” (i think she said those words, paraphrasing as I was spellbound as usual by her). They kept making her stop every few lines, which was entirely frustrating, to interpret for him. By the way, he was not on the screen, but present via audio.

When it became clear that this was going to be lengthy and frustrating, the Board member running the meeting (female and I’m sorry I don’t recall her name right now–I just found it! Kathryn Blades–she is the Executive Director of the Board) asked Cathy to truncate her statement to the most salient points and stop speaking every few lines for the interpreter. So Cathy basically cut to the chase and gave her opinion that Rudi Apelt should never be paroled based on the severity of the crime. Again, I was super bummed out that she didn’t get to give her full statement–once again, the killer’s absurd “needs” trumping everything else. Of course after over 30 years incarcerated in the US, he speaks and understands English but still trying to find ways to take control and game the system.

Next up, they went to Rudi himself and asked him the opening question which was to tell the Board in his own words the crime he has committed.

I’m just going to go off my notes now which are semi-legible (I type so much I can hardly write anymore..ugh!). Taking notes gives me a focus and helps me cope with listening to this awful material. I’m basically just going to copy them here in case it seems less than fluid.

First he thanks the Board. Indicates he is sorry for what he has been involved in. If he could take it back, he would not have committed this crime.

(that astounded me as there has never in 32 years been an admission from either of them, much less an apology–but of course he’s trying for parole)

He cannot take back the pain of the family–if he could he’d be able to take the pain away.

“Answer the question,” the Board member repeats. “Describe the crime that was committed.”

Here there was a lot of German exchange between he and the interpreter which was also annoying, because obviously none of us understood it. The interpreter was not there for counsel or support but simply to translate his words.

He said he has not had a chance to see a paper. The Board wants to hear the crime in his own words.

“I stood by and listened to what the other two planned to go through with this murder”.

Regarding the insurance, he said he did not benefit therefore he was not part of the planning. (I noted that he knows this sentence is for the conspiracy charge, so he keeps focusing on the planning aspect–pretty good for someone who’s “mentally retarded” huh?)

Did not realize what the insurance meant–it didn’t describe the type of death (huh?).

“What role did you play in the killing of the victim?”

He was not aware what he was planning to do–would have called the police.

“To me it sounds like you are suggesting you did nothing wrong. Do you believe you did anything wrong?”

He couldn’t stop it. His only wrongdoing was not preventing it.

“Are you suggesting that you did not participate in the killing of Cindy?”

He was not there, he says.

“I was not there, if I had been there, I could have done something”

She confronts him on how two people were there, one stood on her while the other slashed her throat.

He says he would have stopped it if he was there. Still denying he was there.

She asks him about “hunting for women” throughout Phoenix.

He said he was only doing that for fun and sex.

His position is he was not involved. He only failed in preventing his brother from doing it.

She asks about his rape conviction and five years spent in prison in Germany.

“I find it unusual that you have been convicted of two offenses in two countries and don’t think you did anything to warrant that”

In both cases he blames the other people he was with (the rape was a gang rape where they left the woman for dead, returned to her apartment and burgarlized it).

He claims DNA testing said he was not involved in the rape (uh, this was the early 80’s — there was no DNA testing then). He also said something about the victim being a prostitute and he was only helping her out giving her money for services.

Only thing he cops to is that he didn’t prevent anyone else from the crime.

“Were you there with Cindy Monkman was murdered?” he’s asked again.

“I was not there”

“Why did you take out the $400,000 life insurance policy?” a male Board member asks.

He did not understand what it was — did not understand what the $400,000 actually meant.

“If you lied to all of those people during that period of time (he had already brought up the various car dealers, realtors etc that he admitted meeting and lying to), why should we believe you aren’t lying now?”

(this is my favorite of all this preposterous answers)

“I don’t have any reason to lie–I don’t see any reason to lie to you” (COUGH)

Ok, then they finished up with him, to return later for another statement and turned to me for my statement ( I went first).

Had Cindy and my mother front and center, open like this

I started by asking the Board if it was mandatory that I use the interpreter. She said that she understood the hassle that it was, but that she knew we wouldn’t want anything brought up on appeal, so since he requested it, we have to use it.

I then said “well I’ve been sitting here listening to him not have any restrictions on his speech and have ample time to say everything he wants to say, so I would like to request the same courtesy and not truncate my statement, which is three pages long”.

After some problem solving (they were nice and so was I), it was decided that I would read my statement fully first, then the interpreter be given the copy my advocate had right there (good planning) and he read it to Rudi in German. When she asked if I would be ok if they just got a copy of my statement and Rudi get the translation, I said “I want to read my words to you directly today in my own voice”.

It was a big moment for me and they accepted it.

I then read my statement fully and teared up a few times.

OH, but before that, I said “before I read, I would like to make a comment to him saying he was not present at the murder as I don’t know how much detail you are aware of of the crime. Rudi’s own expert proved in court that not only was he present, but he wielded the knife that slashed Cindy’s throat and stabbed her numerous times, while his brother stepped on her face. This was all proven in his trial. Not to mention the car he rented to drive out to the scene which left tire tracks there”.

Then I read my statement.

After me, went the ADA who said among other things, that he poses a deadly threat to society.

I see a note that said “no promise of rehabilitation or redemption–cannot support supervised release” but not sure who said that.

Then my victim attorney spoke and I’d like to get a copy of her statement, because she said something like “he does not possess human characteristics to warrant him being introduced back to society”. She also really stood up for our family — I’ll see if I can get a hold of what she said as I wasn’t taking notes then.

All of this of course in stops and starts for the interpreter.

Finally, it went back to Rudi again. He said he had “eight points” to finish with but I only got seven.

  1. Thanking the Board for giving him this opportunity.
  2. He wanted to go to school, but is prevented to (to learn English–he actually used some English words saying that, like “communication” that I understood).
  3. Something about the pandemic.
  4. Tried to donate blood but was not allowed to.
  5. Thanks them for the chance to present himself — treated the same way as a US citizen vs. German citizen–trying to become a good person.
  6. Has been a good person in prison–has no negative comments against him–would be a good person for parole.
  7. Wants to wish everyone a happy and healthy future and thank the American people and the Board.

At some point the moderator confronted him about his need for the interpreter and said something along the lines of “it seems that being incarcerated the majority of your life in America, with only English speaking people around you has made it almost certain that you understand and can speak English, but we have to do this interpreter for you because you requested it”. I think that was when she asked his approval for the way I wanted to read my statement, but nonetheless was satisfying to hear, as it was clear she knew, like we all did, how much he was gaming the system.

After all those years with Arellano championing for him, it’s refreshing to have an unbiased, intelligent professional perspective where it counts. It was clear that this Board does not buy the mental retardation distinction and seemed pretty disgusted that he even gets to go up for parole because of it. That sure was satisfying to hear as well.

The Board then had a discussion and took a vote. Some quotes from the discussion, which we were privy to:

“portrays himself as having diminished capacity, yet assertion is difficult to reconcile with his behavior purchasing cars and expensive homes”

“continues to claim he was simply a bystander”

“having trouble reconciling the fact he presents diminished capacity, but able to comport in such a conniving way”

The motion was made to deny and seconded and accepted with another “aye” in there somewhere.

Reasons for denial:

  1. Serious and violent offense
  2. Loss of human life
  3. Serious and devious offense
  4. Trauma to the victim
  5. History assaultive behavior and prior criminal record
  6. Lack of programming–no family or community support system

And then we adjourned.

It was exhausting honestly. The interpreter nonsense really bogged it down, but again, they get ALL the rights.

At the end the moderator said that in the future if the date falls on a difficult one like Cindy’s birthday again, just ask to reschedule and they will accommodate. I could tell she felt sincerely bad about that. They are a good bunch at the parole board and I don’t envy that job at all.

My husband stayed right there with me the whole time, fetching me water and kleenex. After going through all of this for so long without a partner, it feels amazing to have that kind of support. He’s such a good man and support system.

After it was over, I hopped in my car, called a friend (who has also been through this and a fairly recent parole hearing) and headed to the poultry farm where I got butter, eggs and chicken thighs. Stopped by my community garden plot and picked tomatoes and green peppers to use, came home and started cooking Cindy’s chicken cacciatore for her birthday. Also picked up a small cake at the grocery store.

I grew these!

Stepped out back for a glass of wine with my next door neighbor, who was perfect to be able to share with as she was one of the first prison WARDENS her entire career and such an interesting person. I told her I want to write her biography and her story should be made in to a movie or mini series. Don’t you agree?

So, this is done for another year. I may just retread this statement next year, but this year being her birthday, I felt like I needed to have some fresh words. Day by day, year by year, we keep moving on.

Thanks again to all who offered support near and far.

Oh,and this Tuesday I’ll be joining Tricia from Websleuths on her radio show to talk about this hearing, etc. I’ll post a quick link that day to remind anyone who might like to tune in.

Happy Fall y’all….I’ll finish with a little video from my country drive today, after helping my friend set up some gorgeous wedding flowers at a winery out in beautiful rural Pennsylvania. Life is good.

from death row to parole

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My beautiful sister Cindy, never far from my thoughts

 

First off, I want to thank everyone who followed along with the parole hearing/Cindy’s birthday yesterday and offered support–here, Facebook, privately. It sure meant a lot to not have to go through that by myself.

I’m going to document how things went yesterday as the hearing was quite different and I learned some new things. I will say that I was shaking from the moment I woke up. That doesn’t really make sense as I’ve spoken to this Board in person and they were very welcoming and non-threatening. I didn’t fear that he would actually be granted parole, so not sure why I was so anxious. I’m sure many of you out there reading, who have gone through loss and tragedy, understand that often the process is not linear or predictable. One minute you’re fine, then the next struck down again. Hopefully those down moments become less severe and less frequent over time–that has been the case with me– yet they can often be completely blindsiding.

For those unfamiliar with our case, a little background. There is a pretty well detailed comprehensive story focusing on the insurance angle of Cindy’s murder here: When Underwriters Become Undertakers. It was written back in the 90’s when all that part happened–when we sued the insurance companies I mean. It’s good for people to know this can happen, aided and abetted by greedy insurance brokers.

Both of the killers were convicted of First Degree Murder and Conspiracy to commit murder. The sentences were Death and Life WITHOUT parole in that order. Our amazing prosecutor Cathy Hughes was adamant about securing both convictions/sentences, warning us that things can change over time so you want to have every safeguard that they will never be released. I remember thinking that was extreme at the time, but it sure turned out to be frighteningly correct.

Michael and Rudi Apelt were tried and sentenced in 1990/91. Twelve years later, the Supreme Court ruled that people with mental incapacities could not be subjected to the death penalty–called the Atkins ruling. Of course, our family agrees with this, especially considering my father is a Psychologist who worked at length with that population.

There is a lot of legal support for death row inmates. Some lawyers make it their entire career–attempting to free them on every and any technicality. It can be a nice financially rewarding career for them as most death row inmates remain on the row, not receiving their sentences but appealing, for decades. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent fighting to get our “worst of the worst” reduced sentences or released from prison. It’s a pretty comfortable and lucrative gig for many attorneys. I’ve said before, the worst of the worst of our society receive the best of the best legal assistance–at our expense. I know this intimately. It was estimated that among other lengthy and costly expenses keeping these killers on death row, this one hearing I’m about to tell you about cost around 10 million TAXPAYER dollars. Let that sink in. TEN MILLION dollars that you and I spent, not at our discretion, trying to free two German sociopaths who never paid a dime in to American tax coffers, from their sentences.

Michael Apelt, Rudi Apelt and their accomplice Anke Dorn as they looked at the time of the murder.

 

A group began launching an appeal for the Apelts shortly after the Atkins ruling. I really didn’t take it seriously at first. I mean if you read the article above and/or know the facts of the case, you know that these men were very sophisticated con men– uneducated– but successful in manipulation. Beyond my sister, who they conned away her very life, they fooled luxury car dealers, custom home builders/realtors, boat sellers, Rolex watch dealers, insurance salesmen and countless women that they were anything from wealthy financiers to computer experts to professional athletes to pilots. All of this was presented in court with all of those people testifying.

This was in one season in Phoenix alone. Their histories show dozens of arrests in Germany for fraudulent schemes, rape, prostitution, theft, burglary, arson. This was all before either of them turned 27. Their bravado in pulling off the scheme to murder Cindy for life insurance was well founded–they had been getting away with these kinds of crimes for years–in fact most of their lives. They stole and sold the rental car they used to drive to the Paris airport to even get to the US to begin their killing spree for money.

So, how that all could be computed in to “mental retardation” was unfathomable. And terrifying ultimately, as this seven year long process to go to trial wore on. It was being taken very seriously. Especially by the Judge who oversaw it and came out of retirement to complete it.

Silvia Arellano

 

Silvia Arellano was the Judge involved and the only finder of fact. There was no fair and impartial jury as in the original trials–just her. Over time, with her rulings alone, it became clear she was not just being fair to the murderers, she was holding bias toward them. So much so, that the AZ Attorney General’s office took it to the AZ Supreme Court to have her recused for bias. I don’t know if we will ever know where her bias toward these murderers originated, but my guess based on other hunches, was that she decided she was against the death penalty, so wanted to end her career by taking someone off death row. And she did just that. We did not prevail with the Supreme Court and she remained on this “mental retardation” case until the very end.

An example of her leanings toward them, was a ruling ordering our original prosecutor Cathy Hughes off the case, who came out of her own retirement to steer the ship for the State. You see, our original prosecutor who had also been fighting and prepping for this trial for SEVEN YEARS like those defending the brothers (yes, they were trying to deem them both “mentally retarded”), was moved to another division and just as the trial was beginning, literally weeks away. We ended up with a new prosecutor in the AG’s office who had to get up to speed on the last SEVEN YEARS in just over a month. Cathy was scared. This new lawyer also had a husband at home dying of cancer–she was distracted and frankly, it showed. On their side was a team of lawyers and their assistants and big money backing them–not to mention every anti-death penalty group around. On our side was a new prosecutor, my Dad and me and our advocates.

The inimitable Cathy Hughes, one of the best people I will ever know.

 

She decided that since Cathy Hughes had become friendly with our family and had vacationed at our beach house in the past, this was grounds for removal. Luckily, those higher up when her decision was appealed, did not agree with her and Cathy was allowed (pro-bono, mind you) back on the case. It was clear that Silvia Arellano was simply trying to sabotage any chance the State had for upholding these sentences. She paved the way every single way she could.

The clearest example of her bias, was her decision to disallow any and all information in the trial about the Apelts beyond their ages of 18. Meaning, she ruled that anything and everything related to their CRIMES or their adult behavior (the other criminal histories in Germany) was disallowed in making her decision for their sentencing for those crimes. She literally set the entire thing up where she could only consider anything related to their early lives that could be stretched or interpreted in to “mental retardation” to decide what their sentences would be. It was just one hit after another with her and to this day, she disgusts me after putting us through that. Putting my elderly father through all that who sat in court every day of that hearing, enduring her ass-kissing of these killers.

A picture of Cindy and I to clear the palette

 

You may wonder why the prospect of these men being released from death was so impactful. We really weren’t attached to, nor anticipating their execution. You can’t live like that as there is like a 1% likelihood that will ever happen. But since their other sentence option was life WITH parole (there was no life WITHOUT parole sentence in 1990-but there is now), and they were both sentenced while in their 20’s, then there was a real option they could go from death row to the streets in about five years if they were granted parole. It was horrifying.

There were so many assaults and intrusions to our family during and around that hearing–it made the original trials look like preschool.

Rudi Apelt

 

In the end, Arellano ruled that Rudi Apelt was indeed “mentally retarded” and would be released from death row. She ruled against Michael. I guess she fulfilled her life dream of releasing a person from death row and that was enough. Then we faced the next hurdle.

Rudi’s defense team didn’t find that win quite enough, and since they had the entire deck stacked on their side, they decided to take it the distance.

Remember, he has now two sentences that were running consecutively–life WITH parole in 25 years, that rolled over in to that same sentence again. In essence, secured in prison for 50 years. But no, that wouldn’t do, so they argued for Arrellano to convert those sentences to CONCURRENT–meaning he would be serving both at the same time. This also meant that he would be not only removed from death row and in to the General population, but he would be up for release in five short years from the time this decision was made. Right back to the streets to continue his life of conning, murdering and raping women (did I mention he had served five years in Germany for a violent gang rape? Yeah, that was disallowed for consideration in her “mental retardation” decision too).

I had had it with her. I knew she would rule in his favor like she had done all along. I knew it was going concurrent and that we would just have to hope the Parole Board would never let him out. I had no more fight in me against this heinous Judge.

The night before that re-sentencing hearing, I was at the American Idol concert (yes I did get to see Adam Lambert perform :D) at got a text from my victim’s rights attorney–the one I had to get during the mental retardation trial after my rights got terribly trampled on by their side sending someone to my home unannounced, but that’s another story (she changed the law so they can never do that again to another victim). Anyway, she asked if I was planning to attend. I said no. She wrote back “I think you need to be there”.

So, once again, I stayed up until 2am writing another impact statement which you can read here. I drove through the desert alone to Florence where the original trials were held, sat with my attorney alone on our side watching his filling up with lookie-loos interested in how to get their killers off death row. I saw Rudi in person for the first time in 18 years. By the way, neither of them attended the mental retardation trial. I guess their attorneys thought they might not look the part well enough and bias the Judge to who they really are vs. who they wanted to pretend they are.

As they looked when we met them in 1988.

 

His attorney started the process by turning around and addressing me personally, offering a weak “apology” for all they had put my family through, that it wasn’t personal, blah blah. I held my head straight, did not indicate accepting of it as I knew he was trying to soften me. He likely thought I wasn’t attending this final re-sentencing and I was the only person really there to make an impact for our side (aka Justice). I’m a Scorpio–those tactics actually backfire on me. It just gave me more strength to say what I had to.

mugshots from around the time of the mental retardation trial

I gave my impact statement about 8 feet away from Arellano and confronted her bias in it–telling her that I did not expect my words to fall on her deaf ears as her bias was fully out there. But hoping that my words would help someone down the road who reviews her decision on appeal, make a more fair and considered decision.

The most poignant moment of that for me was when I got to the part where I described how my Dad and I usually sat alone on the side of the State, while the side of the killers was packed with onlookers hoping for hints to argue leniency for their murderer clients. Then I looked up to that exact scene–my attorney sitting alone behind the prosecutor and rows of suits behind the murderer–the man who slit Cindy’s throat. I raised my hand and moved it left to right, Carol Merrill-style, and improvised “exactly what I’m seeing right here”. I hope I made at least one person question the presence of their own ass in that seat–on the side of evil.

 

 

Shortly after I spoke, Arrellano broke, then returned and delivered her decision.

Miraculously, she ruled that his sentences would remain consecutive. Our backup sentence stayed in place. It was the one and only win we enjoyed in this entire battle.

The Assistant AG took me in a side room after it was over and we all were shaking our heads in disbelief. No one expected this outcome.

This was an entirely new attorney on the case by that time (lots of turnover in the AG’s office at the time), but he was clearly on the same page we were, and had been appraised of the bias against us. He said to me “that was all you” about my statement.

That was at one time gratifying to know my words had potentially made an impact, but at the same time my own life sentence. I knew then and there, that I would have to keep speaking up. That there was no real “letting go” of this whole process without dire consequences.

Which leads me up to yesterday’s parole hearing.

I’ll write that in a separate post as this one has gone on too long as it is and is a lot to digest.

So stay tuned. I’ll have it completed today, I promise.

Thanks for being out there, caring and reading.

a parole hearing and a birthday

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It’s Cindy’s 62nd birthday today and I’ll be partly spending it making a statement to the parole board on her behalf, to keep one of her killers safely incarcerated.

I learned years ago that ignoring these duties can have dire consequences–this killer almost went from death row to a literal chance of parole in five years a few years ago. I was told my statement then. helped keep him incarcerated with the Judge ruling his other sentence to run consecutively vs. concurrent as his champions wanted.

I’ve learned over these thirty plus years that in order to live a happy life, I had to figure out how to compartmentalize all of this. I literally travel to another state across the country to even open the chapters of the book I’m almost finished with. I leave all of the records for it unopened in the garage. I rarely think about the killers unless intrusions like this force me to.

When I wrote my last statement to the parole board, I was informed they were a new board and likely knew nothing about the case. As Rudi had recently been deemed “mentally retarded” by the Judge who released him from death row, I wanted to make sure they knew exactly who he was vs some pitiful portrayal someone might make of him. I focused my entire statement on the viciousness of his crimes– his entire violent and criminal life–as I’m in possession of his whole criminal record back to teenage years in Germany. I hardly mentioned Cindy at all as I didn’t find that as important as the info on him, for the Board to make their decision.

Well that statement has been read to them twice now, and seeing today is Cindy’s birthday, I decided to tell them about her and about me. I also have met them all in person by now and feel safe and comfortable being vulnerable about myself. They are good people and they will never release him.

The hearing will be conducted virtually. My attorney tells me he won’t be present on the screen, but an interpreter will be there. I might be asked to slow my statement way down to accommodate that. We’ll see. I’ll be displaying the Christmas photo above at the end of my statement.

In an hour at 11:30am EST, I’ll be reading this. Any good thoughts my way will be appreciated.

After it’s over, I’ll be taking a nice country drive to pick up chicken and some vegetables from my garden and return home to make chicken cacciatore in her honor like I do most years.

Life goes on…

Parole Hearing Rudi Apelt 9/16/2020

Good morning,

Today is my sister Cindy’s birthday. She would have turned 62 today. That means it’s been 32 of her birthdays uncelebrated. 31 birthdays of my own I’ve celebrated without her.

I’ve addressed you before, focusing on Rudi Apelt and his background and numerous violent crimes. I was concerned that he might lead with his “mental retardation” defense and garner sympathy for that latest con, so wanted to make sure he was well defined to the Board. I think you know who you are dealing with now.

Today, honoring Cindy’s birthday, I want to tell you about her and my relationship with her and the impact of the loss of her in my life.

We lost our mother when we were 5 and 7 years old. We were just fourteen months apart and often mistaken for twins, although we didn’t resemble each other physically. She was tall and brunette to my averaged height blondness. But our connection was what people picked up on.

We survived our mother’s death, then later in life a difficult stepmother, by clinging to each other. We created our own secret language and gestures. We could pass the phone between us during a boring phone call and the person wouldn’t distinguish our voices. We were that bonded.

We both met the monsters who would murder her on the same night, but I will focus on Rudi for this hearing. We frequented a disco in Mesa in the 80’s called Bobby McGees. Maybe some of you remember it. It was famous for its amazing Happy Hours which we often called dinner—you could order one drink and get a buffet of roast beef sandwiches, fresh veggies and other delicious, free snacks. Cindy and I would sometimes sneak a bottle of cheap champagne in a large purse, order one drink for the glass, then spend the night filling it from under the table. Yeah, we were naughty like that sometimes.

Sometimes she would arrive at my house with the 3 for $10 special from Osco of that Cook’s champagne, we would get started while listening to music, popping a bottle and teasing our 80’s hair high for the night, then decide we were having too good a time just at home together and bag the whole outing. We were that complete together.

When I arrived to Bobby McGee’s, late, the early September evening she encountered the men who would kill her just a few short months later, Rudi was there to meet another mutual friend. Yet he spent his time dancing with other women and shooting kisses and winks to me from the dance floor. I was grossed out by his crassness so moved to another group to get away from him. He was very comfortable with this behavior—I would later refer to him as a “lounge lizard”. Decades later this typical cad-like nightclub behavior was used to attempt to argue his “mental retardation”.

The following month, he and his brother convinced Cindy and the rest of us, that he had used the substantial sum she had removed generously from her savings to buy tickets to fly he and his accomplice back to Germany. In reality he used her money to hole up in a cheap motel in Mesa plotting her murder.

Cindy was whisked away to marry his brother in a clandestine wedding in Vegas over a weekend as a ploy to help keep him in the country, or so she thought. She expressed her fear and ambivalence about what she was doing in a letter she wrote herself on the stationary of the hotel, yet she kept moving forward, trusting him and his brother Rudi who she occasionally thought she was speaking to on the phone from Germany.

There were certain scars from our childhood that Cindy had just begun working on—she had joined a self-esteem group that Fall and yet even that support was not enough to stand up against the manipulation of these men who targeted her to kill her for money.

Against her new husband’s wishes, she confessed to me tearfully that she had married him, begging me not to tell anyone else. I was furious. I couldn’t believe she had gotten on a plane and gone anywhere without telling me—that bothered me as much as the wedding. “I can get out of this, right?” she said on that phone call. I thought she had plenty of time to untangle herself from this, but I was wrong.

None of us, especially her, entertained the danger she was in. I thought he was using her for an entry to the US, would disappear once he got that green card, then we would be there to pick up the pieces. We were all so naïve then. I miss the innocence I had before all this happened.

Just over a month later she was gone. Just like that. We found out on Christmas Eve day that her body had been discovered in the desert—later determined that Rudi Apelt had stabbed her numerous times then slashed her throat, as his brother stepped on her face holding her head steady for him.

You can imagine the impact this had on me, at twenty-nine, losing the most important person to me over my entire life, at Christmas, in this way. It’s as terrible as you can imagine.

The gaping hole I was staring at for the rest of my life, always having had my big sister to shield me from everything, was truly unbearable, but I managed to keep moving forward somehow.

We made our way through a year of investigations, then trials, then sentencing. With the death penalty, people think this is the best satisfaction for families of victims. Most people have no idea that it just opens a whole new can of worms that became harder to navigate than anything that preceeded them in the legal system.

I learned over the years that it’s nearly impossible to “move on” from this tragedy when the death penalty is involved. There are years of appeals and hearings that if families don’t participate in, serious consequences can emerge. Rudi was let off death row by a Judge who demonstrated serious bias against the death penalty, and was the only finder of fact. One example was her ruling that nothing beyond the age of 18 could be considered in her solo decision for the sentence for these crimes Rudi was convicted of—first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. That meant that she found a way to remove considering the actual crime he was being sentenced for, to determine the sentence for it.

It was a terrifying process to go through and we most certainly believed that his sentences would be commuted to concurrent ones—meaning he could have gone from death row to the threatening possibility of release from prison in a few short years. I cannot begin to tell you the terrifying impact this had on me, after feeling comfortable that he would remain safely incarcerated for the rest of our lives. I was not intending on giving an impact statement at that sentencing due to her bias, but I decided at the last minute to do it at the urging of my attorney. I am always facing these dilemnas that if I don’t participate in something, can I live with myself if decisions are made that don’t consider Cindy at all? She wasn’t even allowed to be a part of that decision. It still blows my mind.

Imagine how life was for me, being in my early thirties and trying to find a husband after all that happened. I didn’t realize at the time, as I was working and coping with my life fairly successfully, how much trauma I suffered in terms of trusting men. It was a horrible life to live, much of it hidden inside trying to appear normal. I lost all of my childbearing years trying to sort all of this out, but finally, miraculously found my wonderful husband and his little daughter in midlife at 55. There is so much fallout from this kind of tragedy, even if I did end up with a happy life in the end. I can completely understand where many, if not most, survivors don’t get so lucky.

Intrusions continue to this day that I have to deal with from the aftermath of this man’s crimes and the trauma it inflicted on me. I write on a blog about various topics, including this one, and just last month a woman contacted me soliciting my support as she had received a letter from Rudi’s brother from death row after reaching out to another inmate. Imagine that—a stranger so isolated and disconnected that the only person she can imagine reaching out to for emotional support around the killer of my sister is me. I once had a representative for Rudi show up on my doorstep in Tempe soliciting my support in person for the mental retardation hearing. I invited her in to my home, disoriented as to who she was and why she was there, the very day I had pulled out my Christmas decorations, confronting that holiday as I’ve done every December since 1988. Then to find a woman in my living room, sitting on my furniture, trying to convince me that Rudi Apelt who had slit my sister’s throat over a decade prior, was deserving of my sympathy and assistance.

These are some of the things I’ve had to navigate, while mourning my sister continuously at the same time. I am a strong, resilient person and have made a happy life for myself in spite of these invasions and traumas, but no one should have to endure this. I am as innocent as my sister was when Rudi and his brother took her in to that desert spot and murdered her. This is a lifelong process, muddied by those who would champion that kind of evil.

In closing I want to show you this photo that Cindy insisted we take together for Christmas cards the year before she was killed. It was such a carefree time, of course expecting we would continue growing through our lives together, getting married, having children, caring for our aging Dad together. We had already been through so much in life and knew we could handle everything side by side. I lost all of that to the hands of this stranger.

Please let the door be locked on him in the prison and the key thrown away.

With all that being said, I’ll see you next parole hearing and I will do my best to throw the key away for another year in my own psyche, so I can live my wonderful life until I have to open this door, revisit this nightmare, then lock it back up again doing my best to forget that this evil called Rudi Apelt ever invaded our lives.

“She will always be young, she will always be beautiful. And I personally feel much safer knowin’ that she’s up there on my side. 

-Steel Magnolias

60

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As most people do, I’ve been reflecting on many things heading up to this milestone birthday today. I’ve made it to 60! I can hardly believe it!

Diving in to my past and my family over my month of writing has led me here, thinking a lot about my mother and sister who never came close to the age I’ve just turned.

Cindy barely made it to 30 and my mother, 36.

They never got to experience aging in any form. They never got one gray hair that I have a full head of now. They never got wrinkles. They never experienced a hot flash with menopause. They never got a middle age spread (and beyond like I have). They never slowed down energy wise or started to feel less flexible in their bodies.

They also never got to travel all the places they wanted to go. Cindy never got to be a mother as she so desperately wanted. My mother never got to see me grow up. They never got to fully know their dreams, much less realize them. They never got to experience the deepening in love and wisdom that comes with age. They never got to retire from a job. They never got to build a home.

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So many things I’ve already experienced that I take for granted.
I’m sure both of them would take every gray hair and every extra pound to have one more moment on this Earth and with me.

So, I dedicate this birthday and this entire year to them. Maybe the rest of my life actually.

To take them with me, to let them experience all this life has with all of its issues with growing old in it and living a life to its fullest in to a ripe old age. Crossing over in the time frame you’re supposed to.

I’m taking them with me through all of it, everywhere I travel, every brush stroke of paint I put on a canvas this year, growing old as Lillian grows up, every flower I place in a vase, every new friend I make, every kiss and hug from my loving husband, every dream I fulfill or new one that gets drummed up in me. I invite them along.

My husband just said “we literally have all day” today to move through this day at our own pace and do what we want, when we want. No pushing, just allowing. That is 60 to me (but we do have a dinner reservation of course  )

Time is a luxury that I intend to embrace to the fullest, while not being alone in all my spaces, here and going forward.

We’re doing this together ladies from here on out and it’s gonna be one hell of an adventure.

Now wish me luck as I compete for a coveted spot in a training I am registering for–opening at 9am today of all days..surely there will be a spot for me!

Thanks for all the birthday wishes everyone! So far, 60 is giving it all!

meIF1

 

 

more arias insanity

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Just finished watching the latest Jodi Arias nonsense. While I’m in the midst of poring over records for our case. I don’t think people realize the extent that the worst of the worst in our society keep getting the best of the best legal assistance, at our expense. I mean that literally, you and I who pay taxes are paying for these fees to champion her — as well as the rest of the monsters like her.

The Apelt brothers got to plead “mentally retarded” flying in the face of the extensive plotting and planning and conning they did their entire adult lives. That cost taxpayers–you and me–at least TEN MILLION DOLLARS and it worked for one of them who was released from death row due to this ridiculousness. How insulting to those who are actually mentally retarded and their loved ones who can barely find services for them–or have to pay out of pocket.

Yet, I still think Arias is the most virulent and dangerous murderer I’ve ever seen. Andstill, seasoned attorneys champion her pleas–like a deeply toxic virus infecting everything that gets anywhere near it.

Her lawyers are arguing for a new trial for Arias, pointing out behavior the prosecutor did OUTSIDE of the courtroom as reason for this. Also, some of his questioning tactics of witnesses.

She wants a new trial for this, yet Travis was raked over the coals by her in the trial–called a rapist and pedophile by her attorneys throughout the several month trial–with the absolute only supporting evidence for these claims coming from the murderer herself.

The State, nor the victims, get no appeals for this heinous conduct, or ways the defense witnesses behaved totally inappropriately. I saw some of that with my own eyes.
But the murderers burden the system for decades, dredging up detail after detail demanding sympathetic and costly responses.

It makes me ill and I will keep writing about it. She didn’t even get the death penalty (which escalates this nonsense exponentially–to the tune of MILLIONS OF OUR DOLLARS) and still this circus she continues to ringmaster from prison.

Yeah, it pisses me off.

I love you forever

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I fell in love with you at first sight. You offered me up that nursery in the third bedroom with the hot pink built-in, bolstering my belief you would shelter me raising a baby there as a single Mom. I committed to you that very day- the first day I went looking.

You watched my heartache two years later as I realized that was not my destiny, and nurtured me back to a new life. You allowed me to change my mind on that, and so many other important things.

You helped me create a warm, lively space–even with your postage stamp kitchen– where I made so many friends and hosted all of those elaborate dinner parties, defying your limitations, as we served out 6-7 courses and countless buffet spreads. Remember that Sex and the City party and the Galentine’s dinner? Unforgettable.

 

 

 

You let me take you through so many iterations of color- from all of those amazing K-mart Martha Stewart paints my Dad and I slathered on before moving in, to the Tuscan theme with that one red wall and the Ralph Lauren suede other ones. Then that crazy gilded Venetian plaster tangerine ceiling with the faux leather craft paper walls, to my Neopolitan chocolate, vanilla, strawberry bedroom. We finally landed on shabby chic simple white for the last years, but of course used 5 shades of white to jazz it up.

I learned I could mend many broken hearts with you, by tackling hard projects like tiling that entire corner tub and shower myself, including that mosaic step! Even when my foot got pinched regularly on one of the impractical artsy raised tiles, I felt pride that I designed and accomplished that on my own.

Remember that night you started blowing out smoke from behind the kitchen wall and it snaked through the outlet scaring the crap out of me? Because I blew some circuit or outlet, using the microwave and toaster oven making a stupid fish dinner at midnight? And all the handsome firefighters who showed up with me with my hair crazy from the bathtub wearing my pajamas?
You nurtured me through bouts of pneumonia, awful breakups where I lost and found myself again held together by your walls, and recovery after getting run over by that car.

We had our cats there and devastation of losing them. My precious Buddy went to Heaven in your living room and Mia died in my arms in the carport. They nurtured me through everything.
We saw the planes hit the World Trade Center there together and you absorbed my wailing from what was then the upstairs office with that Dell desktop I viewed that tragedy on in real time. You also heard my sobs of relief when Scott Peterson was convicted that day, after months of obsession and involvement.

You stayed with me that night until 2am after the American Idol concert, when I changed my mind and decided to write my own victim impact statement to read the next day. Little did we know, it would change the course of so many things. It kept me safe, just like you did.

I slept alone there so many nights forgetting to lock my doors- that one time the door stood open- OPEN- all night and you kept me safe. Thank you. Also, remember the ghost that visited that one time who left the door ajar and signed on to aol as a “guest”? And the haunted colonic machine those people gave me that I couldn’t get rid of? And the time Rob made those midnight beet cocktails in the kitchen that exploded out of the blender all over, creating a crime scene on your white cabinets and walls and floor? I wonder when they tore out those cabinets, if they saw that beet juice spatter dripping down the walls–it was EVERYWHERE. I wonder what they thought it was. We did our best to clean you up but still….

I traversed nearly my entire business and professional life, being held to restore, safe-nested in your walls. I wonder if you felt as relieved as I did when I found the perfect person to let it go to, and completed that part of my life. I needed you for every bit of that.

I’m sorry I left you alone, unprotected, and you had to endure all the devastation of that flood by yourself. I guess it was the only way I could release you- to lose you as I knew you, completely. I hope you let me go during your complete fascia-lift and feel the readiness I see in you for for your next life. You and I, we completely transformed together–two blank slates at the same time. I hope you feel it too.

Even though those pink shelves from the nursery are long white now, you are getting the baby we dreamed about now with your new family.

I found my own family and I got a little girl. In fact, they found me the New Year’s Eve I got stranded and couldn’t make it back to Sedona because of the snowstorm. I heard my now husband (can you believe after all that failure you witnessed, I finally found him 15 years later?) tell me he loved me for the first time as we stayed up all night talking on the phone, nestled in the womb of your living room. I hope you were happy for me then, and now.

It was hard to let you go. I had to fight to do it- with myself. In fact, I’ve been so busy fighting to let you go, I haven’t grieved you until this moment (tears). I made a good decision and I went to war for your (our) value.

We both deserve it.

I will never forget you 5254. We lived together far longer than any other place in my 59 years. I grew up with you. Please keep an eye on my Dad and brother.

I love you forever.

 

Now some reflective images, in no particular order.

 

blizzard bouncing

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It’s the wee hours of Saturday morning, and I think I’m seeped in jet lag, so wide awake at 3am. I went to bed at 8, so shouldn’t be surprised.

Kind of processing all that we’ve moved through in the last three days and a little shock and awe going on here.

We basically leapfrogged the country from one freak massive snowstorm in to another– from PA to AZ–driving in conditions the Department of Transportation in both states begged people to stay off the highways for.

Somehow we made it through unscathed.

What normally takes under three hours, our trip from our home in Lewisburg to Philly took over five, creeping along unplowed 4 lane highways-turned 2 lane, passing semis slid off the road or through the middle barrier, being sprayed on by snowplows.

We made it to our hotel in time to rest for an hour, forego our dinner plans but make it to our sixth row seats I purchased the minute they went on sale, to see the cast of our favorite show Schitt’s Creek Live. Yes, we got to see Eugene Levy, his amazing son Dan Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Annie Murphy and the rest of the cast of the funniest show on TV. At the end, our faces hurt from smiling and hands from clapping.

Fans of Best in Show will remember Jerry and Cookie Fleck and their song “God Loves a Terrier” – a highlight was seeing them bring it back to life by heart, as a birthday gift for an audience member.

We exited the fantastic show on to the rainy, slushy, North Philly streets–cold and hungry–competing with hundreds of other people for the 3 Lyft vehicles in the area. Finally we decided to break from the crowd and find refuge and French fries in the sketchiest McDonald’s I’ve ever been in. After half an hour we were able to catch a Lyft driver who passed right by us in the rain, causing my husband to sprint down the slushy sidewalk to flag him down.

We fell in to bed, exhausted, with about four hours left to sleep before waking for our early flight to Phoenix, headed for the Sedona Film Festival to enjoy our Platinum passes that my Dad gifted us for Christmas.

Yet, another glitch on that end. Another freak snowstorm slowly passing through the normally dry desert. Snow was dropping fast and relentlessly, the highway closed, travel warnings all over the place. After struggling for 2 hours at the airport rental facility, breaking up with Thrifty and finding an AWD vehicle at Enterprise, we were finally on the road. Exhausted from poor sleep and poor nutrition, we succumbed to the clear need to curtail our plans of driving straight to Sedona and got a room.

After a run to my condo that is almost ready for listing (this weekend!!), and handling a few things there, we found a nearby hotel and I fell in to bed at 3:30pm.

With some sleep-breaks, pretty sure I got about 12 hours of sleep on that concrete slab of a bed and woke up ready to conquer Friday. We started our day with a delicious, healthy breakfast at our favorite place, headed back to the condo where I sifted through 8 bags and boxes of stuff I’d not seen in almost a year, (just the beginning of that huge project that still looms for next visit), filled the dumpster and packed the rental car, checking the weather app every few minutes. The hazardous drive warnings continued and snow was still falling. Over 12 inches in Sedona and photos on the internet of snow packed highways.

Finally, we just decided to trust our guts and give it a go. My boy-scout of a husband ran to Ace and picked up 2 shovels, knowing we would have to dig ourselves in to the driveway to get to the garage– and possibly dig ourselves out along the highway. We had water, coats and our own body fat, and took off for Sedona at 1pm, thinking we would hopefully make it before nightfall.

What a surprise to find the roads–all of them–completely clear. All the way, hardly any cars or trucks–just us and the open highway and beautiful snowy vistas all the way. Miraculously, we made it to Sedona in under two hours.

Arriving in Sedona, we found the most beautiful winter wonderland. Our car handled the foot of snow we had to power through to get to the house (my husband had a blast driving through the snow), and we were home. Oh, after stopping and picking up our festival passes and tickets.

After a gorgeous meal out, we were back home, and again I put myself to bed like a toddler at 8pm, which brings me to now–awake like a newborn at 3am.

The Christmas tree and decorations are all still up here from December, which goes right along with our winter wonderland.

I guess I’m just sitting here in some kind of disbelief of all we experienced in just three days, leapfrogging across the country from one blizzard in to another.

What are the odds of that?

the winter of my content

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I’ve been thinking a lot about winter lately–maybe because I’m living smack dab in the middle of it, ya think? 😉

After three decades of living with basically two seasons– hot as hell and beautiful–I have returned to my Midwestern roots of fall leaves, spring blooms and snowfall. As each season floats by, I keep thinking oh this one is my favorite, until the next transition.

That got me realizing something: transitions are my favorite.

 

 

Winter has brought so many beautiful things, that I’ll just let you see them in pictures.

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In my interior world, it has brought lots of time for reflection, feeling that harsh transition from a 104 degree hot tub to -40 windchill on my naked body running back to the house. They say that kind of sharp contrast makes your systems hardier–strengthens your immune and other systems. Like other transitions–not only do they create suspense and mystery, then newness and delight–they make you stronger.

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I’m still in a quiet healing mode, working on strengthening the core of myself that my personality and I managed to do a fine job of running down to near dust: my adrenal glands. At first, I resisted all of this rest. Somewhere along these months, I surrendered to it, and am finding myself in pure joy anticipating slow days of watching snow fall, reading, watching movies under a blanket, completing a craft project, playing with my new sous vide gadget and cooking fantastic healthy meals. I wake up in excitement for these simple days, where the biggest thing I might accomplish is a run to the poultry farm for eggs, chicken sausage and the best butter I have ever tasted.

 

I wake up and open the curtains to something new each morning–frost on the swail, a new snowfall, an ice rink outside our back door. And I daydream about the 300 plus bulbs I planted in the Fall, wondering how they are doing, when they will pop up, what’s going on with them under the frozen ground.

 

I think about what’s going on with me on the inside during this quiet, seemingly frozen but dynamic time. What deep changes are being made on days when my too-busy personality questions myself and my productivity. Then usually my beautiful husband reminds me you are doing everything you need to be doing in taking care of yourself right now, and I calm back down. We all need people to remind us of reality sometimes.

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Please enjoy these reflections of winter. I’m loving every single minute, yet like the dormant tulips and narcissus and hyacinths, I live in anticipation as well for my world’s next phase of showing itself off.