When John came out to Arizona for a mental health program in the summer of 2012, he told me he would only move to Arizona permanently if he didn’t have to live in Phoenix during the summer.  I can’t blame him, the summers here are brutal.  I didn’t know how I would make good of that promise as there was no way I wanted him to return to the life he’d had in Illinois where he’d become so unstable.  Even for a day much less a summer.

One month after he’d arrived, I took him to Sedona for the 4th of July.  I’ll never forget the look on his face as we turned that corner and he saw the red rock view and he kept exclaiming “Kathy, I love Sedona…I love the red rocks…I love Sedona” over and over.  It was like a magic spell was washing over him.  We stopped for lunch at the swankiest resort in town–Enchantment. We had a drink and a snack and on the inside I was marveling not just at the view but the fact that I was sitting here in this environment, with my brother, simply dining, chatting and taking in the view.  Without his being consumed with symptoms.  It was at this place that I realized we were really out of the weeds with his illness.

Fast forward a few months to January 2013.  We find ourselves back in the same restaurant eating lunch. I took this photo of him that day.  Our Dad had told us some months before that he wanted to purchase another vacation type property for our family.  After much thought, we landed on Sedona for many reasons but the look on John’s face that July day was certainly in my mind. Sedona would be a perfect location.  He could get away for the summer but not be too far.  I have spent years working and training in Sedona so it was just perfect.

By this day in January, I’d been looking online for properties for a couple of months.  We went up there for other reasons but John and I decided to have lunch, then go roaming neighborhoods to see what we could see.  Just a little recon expedition.

We drove in to a condo neighborhood that I’d seen online with just one property up for sale. We stopped by that location, John got out and grabbed the flyer in the For Sale sign then looked ahead and said “hey there’s another For Sale sign up there”.

We drove up to that property, he got out and grabbed the flyer again and to our surprise it was a brand new property, never lived in!  So we got out and peeked in all the windows and liked what we saw.  On a whim I just called the number of the realtor on the paper and she picked right up.  She asked me where we were, I answered “right in the driveway” and she said “give me five minutes, I’ll come right over”.

She showed John and I that home that day and by the end of our tour, my brother was showing me where we could put the Christmas tree.  Every window had an amazing view, upstairs and downstairs.  Three bedrooms, three bathroom, perfect for us.

We convinced our Dad to take a look the next day and let’s just go ahead and say, my father bought that house two days after the day John saw that sign.  It’s our new house!

John has not seen it since the day we toured it.  He spent a month in the hospital with a drug reaction this winter so missed the trip I took up there to accept a furniture delivery.  When I was up there by myself, I realized the builder had left one item behind that they had “staged” the property with.  It was left in Alfonse’s bedroom.


Life isn’t about waiting

for the storm to pass…

It’s about learning to

Dance in the Rain

When I saw this proudly hanging on the wall facing his new bed, I felt like I was seeing that cane by the fireplace in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street”.

Tomorrow we head up together to accept a delivery of all of his furniture/furnishings from his apartment that’s been closed up in Illinois, finally.

For some reason, Alfonse had been accumulating new furniture, new dishes, new flatware, glassware, linens, etc over the last year.  Funny how everything has a “Sedona” vibe in earth tones and “Santa Fe” style.  It’s almost as if he predicted this home purchase.

And finally he will be reunited with all his personal belongings he’s been without for a year now.

And I’m sure I’ll take him back to the Enchantment Resort for a little celebration while we’re up there.

Enchantment, indeed.

I’ll be back in four days or so.  With more stories. 🙂




One day about mid-Jodi Arias trial, I was fast hoofing it up to the courthouse as usual when my phone rang displaying a Culver City, CA number.  I breathlessly answered it (hey, I’m not used to walking fast in heels) and on the line was a producer from the Ricki Lake Show.  Now by this time I’d been surrounded by various TV show producers and media for months covering this trial, I’d appeared on the Dr. Drew Show once, I spoke with people like Beth Karas daily, I’d been posting nightly on the trial online so of course I assumed this was in some way related.  “Hey Kathy, this is Mike Weaver a producer from the Ricki Lake Show” he said and I quickly replied “I’m late getting to the courthouse, can I call you back when court is done?”.  His response surprised me asking “what courthouse?  what do you mean?”.

It turned out he had no idea I was attending the Jodi Arias trial and really no real deep knowledge of the case, remarkably.  He was simply researching cases for a show called “Murder for Money” and found an article related to our case and cold called me to appear.  What odd timing.  I’d not been approached for any media interviews or anything for years.  And here I am sitting right in the middle of this trial and somewhere, out there, someone is researching Cindy at the same time.  You may have figured out by now, that these kinds of “coincidences” catch my attention.

Mike and I talked later that night and he asked me to appear on the show.  I agreed that I would.  It would be taping in a few weeks and he’d send me all the necessary information.  I will write a longer post on that whole truly amazing experience but for now want to share about the preparation.

One of the things they asked me to do was to find pictures of Cindy, Cindy and me, any photos of her killer (ugh) that they could use to make a “video package” to use on the show.  Now many people before and after asked me if it was hard for me to do that show.  Without a doubt the very hardest part was going through the photos to find ones to send.  Of course I have hundreds of family photos tucked away in Cindy’s cedar chest.  Then there’s the blue plastic file box that holds all of the trial related stuff, newspaper clippings and the like.  I am even in possession of a large stack of papers with a copy of my own testimony from the trial.  I’ve never read it again but a friend obtained it when she did a story on our case and gave it all to me later.  Things you have no use for but will not get rid of.

In our case, as in comparison to the Alexanders, as far as victims go, we were treated very well.  I don’t know how Travis’ siblings steeled themselves day after day to sit in that courtroom deflecting the abject abuse levied at their family and their brother by his killer delivered through her, her defense team and her champions.

Yet I’ve wondered if they had or are having the same experience as me.  That in many ways it was much easier to focus on the crime, the justice system than the big hole that’s left once it’s all over.  The loss, the grieving is the hardest part.  The drama of a trial is a piece of cake compared to that inevitable horror, delivered with it’s own life sentence.

I wondered how it was for them sifting through photos of Travis to prepare for their impact statements.  I never pried in to their personal experience but I sat there with them in a knowing solidarity.  It was interesting that, as far as timing goes, we were both seeking meaningful photographs of our murdered sibling right around the same time.

As I dug through that chest, tears streaming down my face, I ran across this one which I just had to pull out.  This is me on the left and Cindy on the right in case you hadn’t figured it out.

Let me introduce you to my alter ego, Penelope Cheese.

Cindy was famous for orchestrating these pranks on my Grandma every time she came to visit for Christmas.  One year we boobytrapped her entire room and closet with balloons.  It was always something, always cooked up by Cindy with John and I as her faithful posse.

One year when Cindy and I were probably 12 and 13, she decided she’d invite a new friend for lunch to introduce Buddha to.  Cindy then went about creating Penelope through me.  She dressed me up in a dark wig, I think a nightgown that could have actually been my Grandma’s, heavy makeup, costume jewelry, an underbite and a Southern accent.  She told me my name was Penelope and gave me directions on how to act.  She actually had me exit the house through the back door in a flimsy nightgown in the snow and ring the front doorbell to come visit for lunch.  Her plan was flawless.  Of course I always played along like the little dress up doll she often made of me.

I dutifully donned my prescribed attitude, rang the doorbell and Cindy introduced me to Grandma who seemed surprised and a bit confused but gracious all the same.  The four of us- Buddha, John, Cindy and Penelope – all sat down in the kitchen for lunch.  I held that underbite to the point of pain as I remained in character as Cindy’s racy, bawdy, sophisticated “new girl in town” friend.  My Grandma sincerely seemed appalled at some of the things that came out of my mouth.  Let’s just say Penelope was always well versed on the topic of boys.

She asked me many questions and when it got to “what is your last name Penelope” I hid my panic as we’d forgotten this detail, looked down at my grilled cheese sandwich on my plate and smooth as sugar delivered “Cheese” in my southern drawl.

This was the day Penelope Cheese was born.  Cindy and I convinced ourselves that we really pulled it off.   That Grandma really did believe it.  That we really had pulled off the ultimate practical joke.  So we never corrected it and went on year after year resurrecting Penelope visits and Buddha’s skills as improvisation rivaled my own.  She was always pleased to see Penelope on each visit even if she didn’t really like her that much as a friend for Cindy with her bad influence and all.  Penelope appeared at nearly every Christmas, once in Mississippi at Thanksgiving to a new crowd and this time in the photo above when I think Cindy and I were already in college.  At least late teens.


In a very rare moment, I convinced her to dress up along with me.  She typically was the director of these scenes so to get her to be a player was a real coup.  I think we named her “Petunia” as we came down on Christmas Eve to entertain the family that year.  You can see that she wasn’t exactly shy in her new role.  Cindy in so many ways took the fun out of our family when she was killed.  I’ve tried hard to find ways to bring it back to life yet still you can’t duplicate someone’s unique presence.  I did bring Penelope to Maine one year but I think it was her last appearance.  She’s just not the same without Cindy breathing life in to her.

Memories are tricky business.  They remind you of something so precious and at the same time remind you of something so precious.

It’s a brave path and takes some time and some grace to dive back in to them.  And like that kid on the end of the diving board, just gripping yourself and letting go in to it is the only way.  And sometimes it’s cold and sometimes it’s a big splash and sometimes it stings going in.

And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can sink down, rise back up to the surface and start swimming again.




I look at this photo of Cindy, Buddha and I on the porch steps of our family’s Maine summer cottage, just moments before we were taking off to head back home in the summer of 1988 and remember how carefree we all were then. I remember how Cindy and I went out one day shopping and bought those hats together.  I remember showing them off to my Dad who said “Kathy, that hat is you” and how Cindy kind of wistfully replied “I want a ‘you hat too’ “.

I remember that year she just wasn’t usual confident chipper self.  She was just weeks shy of turning 30.  She decided when we got home that she needed to work on some things so she joined a self esteem group.  She had been enrolled in that group just a week or two when she met Michael Apelt and everything started spiraling downward, unbeknownst to any of us.  None of us navigated our childhood unscathed.  I’d been in counseling for a few years at that point having suffered a severe anxiety disorder in my twenties so I whole heartedly supported her reaching out for help.

One of the assignments given in that group was they were to ask someone, a loved one, to write a list for them of all the things they loved about them.  Cindy asked me of course.  I wrote this crazy list of deep and superficial things extending in to all the margins in a green marker type pen.  Her therapist, who had to testify at the trial of Cindy’s killers, told me that she’d had them all read their lists out loud in the group. That Cindy was crying so hard she could barely get through it but the therapist kept encouraging her to read it and she did.

Can you possibly know how precious her sharing that with me was?  And is now?  That she was given that assignment and chose me to participate leaving me behind knowing she knew all of the ways I loved her before she died?  In writing no less.

I look at that picture of those steps and it also conjures up a more recent memory having to do with John. In the Fall of 2011 I made my annual trek to Maine to the family cottage.  My Dad had of course flown John in from Illinois where he was still living to join us.  Having John on vacations, until recently, was a mixed bag for all of us.  Sometimes he would function, much of the time he was completely consumed with symptoms and disruptive.  I remember saying to my father before coming that year that I’d like for John to only be there for half of my trip that “I’d like a vacation not consumed with mental illness” for my own sanity.  Now, with all that’s happened, I can’t imagine feeling that way as so much has changed in a short time, but it was the truth in 2011.

That year John was particularly symptomatic.  That means he heard voices constantly, was totally paranoid, couldn’t engage in converation much and mostly sat and talked to his voices and chain smoked.   Where his “smoking section” is is at the base of the steps in that photo.  That vacation he had escalated so dramatically, yelling at us and filled with what’s called “religiosity” talking the Devil, Hell, etc., that my father and I took him to the Psychiatric Emergency room for a shot of Haldol.  We talked about hospitalizing him.  On our vacation.  This is the reality of what we lived with for many years with John.  What he lived with with himself.

I hit some kind of wall that year.  I borrowed one of John’s cigarettes (well, I wasn’t intending to give it back) and went and sat on the front steps facing the ocean and decided to have a cigarette with Cindy.  I sat there, by myself, smoking that cigarette and literally talked to her out loud.  This was a huge breakthrough for me because even thinking of her at the cottage was excruciating even all those years later.  The last place we were all together.  It’s somehow easier to think of making new memories instead of resurrecting the old ones.  At least it was then.

We smoked and we talked and I simply asked for her help dealing with John.  That I was lost and I needed her to help me.  I couldn’t do it alone and I saw no light at the end of the tunnel.  I saw a future of care taking both him and our Dad as they both aged and had more needs.  And I just never had anyone at my back.  At least that’s how I felt being single and managing my own life alone for so long.  I was born a middle child.  I wasn’t supposed to be on the front lines.

I have to say I felt somewhat better after that smoke break.

Shortly thereafter I went looking for my Dad and walked out the back steps of the cottage, those steps we are sitting on in the photo, past John who was sitting on the landing smoking, talking to himself as usual.  What happened when I walked past him again is where the stars started to align and where I got my first sign.

I noticed John sitting there turning something over and over in his hands.  I sat down in the chair next to him and asked him “what’s that?”.  What he was holding was a small decopauge plaque.  One that Cindy had made in the 70’s, this being our “summer craft” that year.  He showed it to me and what it said on the front that she had burned in to the wood with my Dad’s wood burning tool.  Emblazoned in this plaque were the words “Take the Valid Choice” with a tiny flower burned next to the words.  It had a sand dollar and shells glued to the front.  Her initials and date was burned on the back.  John kept repeating that phrase over and over “‘take the valid choice’, Kathy, isn’t that funny? Remember how she always used to say that?”.

Now this phrase had become a bit of a joke in our family.  Our Dad, a Psychologist, would always turn decisions back on you when you asked for advice and ask questions back like “which do you think is the valid choice?”.  It drove us nuts as we wanted him to just make a decision and tell us which way to go and he just never did that.  So, probably Cindy, at one point blew out with exasperation something like “can you please just make the valid choice for me?”.  It was hilarious so turned in to a family joke.

I asked John where he got that plaque and he replied “from that shelf above the kitchen door”.  Now that shelf is high.  It’s not something that would normally catch your eye.  It’s something you’d have to be looking up to see.  Moments after my smoke break with Cindy, John was drawn to look up to that shelf, reach up and take that plaque off and go outside with it and show it to me as I passed by.

I knew then and there that Cindy was in the equation.  That she was with us.  That she was going to help me. Help us.

Less than a year from that moment  by John’s 50th birthday, he had disappeared, literally disappeared for weeks on end, not once but twice.  Missing Person reports, police tracking him down and the whole nine yards.  This was new behavior.  Things were just getting worse.

After the second time I broke down on the phone with my father, bawling, telling him I just couldn’t handle it.  I didn’t know how to manage him, how to deal with this and have my own life at the same time.

And what my father replied truly shocked me.  He told me I was entitled to my own life and that he thought I needed to let my brother go.  That he could see the pain this was causing me and that John had to wind his way through this life and if this was the way it was happening for him, I had permission to detach.  To let him go. 

I just broke down that night.  Tears in to my sleep.

And woke up the next morning and called my Dad and said “thank you for the permission Dad but it’s me we’re talking about here.  I can’t do that”.

And then the world opened up for Alfonse.  I got the instructions of what to do and followed them.  He was escorted back in to life by a team of angels who guided me and my decisions/actions every step of the way, who gave him his life back.  I listened.  I took the “valid choice” which really was the only choice and have been guided by them, by Cindy, by our mother, ever since.  More of that story to come later.

Just say that John is beating all the odds and is recovering from Schizophrenia in some kind of “waking up from a coma” sort of way.

And anyone witnessing it is fortunate to know that miracles truly are available on this planet.  And when I say anyone, I mean, especially me.




One of the many unique similarities my sister shared with Travis Alexander is that she was raised by a Grandmother.  When our mother got sick, my father being in his early 30′s with three children under the age of six, needed help.  He called upon his mother who literally dropped her entire life and moved in with us.  He moved us all from our idyllic life in Florida where we were all born back to Illinois where our mother was from.  We haven’t discussed these things in detail, it’s hard for my dad , but it’s always been my belief that she wanted to come home to die.  Maybe I don’t ask because it’s hard for me to know these things.

My mother spent most of the last months of her life in a hospital in a city 150 miles away from her children.  I remember her coming home for brief periods then going back to Chicago to the hospital.  Children weren’t allowed in the hospital back in the 60’s so my last memories of my mother are standing on the lawn outside holding drawn pictures up for her as she looked out a window high above.

We lived in a huge rented house in the small town of LeRoy where my mother grew up.  My sophisticated Grandmother who’d lived in New York City her whole life was transplanted to a tiny farm town much like a spinoff of Green Acres.    It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

After our mother passed, our beloved Grandmother stayed on and lived with us for five years.  My father was her only child so we all were her life.   Obviously she was with us in the most formative and traumatic years of our lives.  I remember feeling so awkward in second grade that I came home one day and asked her if I could call her “Mom”.  How devastating that question must have been for her.  In those days there just weren’t “single parents”.

When our father remarried about seven years after we lost our mother, our Grandmother moved back to her home in New York.  I remember this being a crushing loss for all of us.  Yet we always stayed close.  We went to visit her every summer and stayed with her for weeks.  As we became adults, Cindy and I traveled all over the place with our “Buddha” as we’d nicknamed her along the way.  She would winter here in Arizona staying with one or the other of us after we’d moved out here.  Then she would head over to Santa Monica for the rest of the Winter and Spring.  Cindy and I visited her every March for her birthday in California in this little quirky hotel she stayed in on the beach.  She would get the adjoining room for us and we all had a blast exploring things like tapings of daytime shows (Cindy ended up as a contestant on The Price is Right one year!), looking for the stars homes and wonderful dinners out all over LA.  We loved our Buddha like an older sister in many ways.  We pampered her and she pampered us.  She had a childlike spirit all the way throughout her life which you can see so clearly in the photo above during one of Cindy’s famous “let’s dress up for no reason” parties.  That photo was taken at Christmas 1987.  The last one we were all together.

The following year Buddha, now living on her own in a condo in Connecticut, had fallen and broken her hip.  She was 87 at that time and other than the hip injury was going strong.

When I flew home, during the hours Cindy had been designated a “missing person” , it had already been decided that for the first time in our lives, our Grandma Buddha would not be with us for Christmas.  She just couldn’t travel.   I arrived home to the four of us- my brother, Dad and stepmother- hoping that word had come in from Cindy during my flight time, to nothing.

I don’t remember much from those hours.  I do know we sat in the same room you see in the photo above – an addition my father had put on the back of the house that housed a huge jacuzzi, plants, a gas fireplace and of course our big Christmas tree.  We sat there, mostly silent, just waiting for anything.  And hoping.  Praying. Desperate.  It was Christmas Eve day 1988.

I do remember at about 2pm or so my father saying “we’d better call Grandma as she’s going to wonder if we don’t call her on Christmas Eve”.  It would have been a couple hours later in the East.  So he and I decided to call her and just act normal, say nothing, not worry her there alone, needlessly.  I don’t know where I mustered up the strength to talk to her like that.  I was 29 years old, panicking, desperate and I had to talk to my Grandma like nothing was wrong.

I remember her being so happy as always to hear from us.  She was completely lucid and clear as always and cheerful.  As Cindy had been ambivalent about coming home for Christmas that year (her murderer we now know was trying to stop those plans as he had his own forming) , Buddha asked me “did Cindy decide to come?”.   I answered “No Grandma she decided she couldn’t make it this year so you see you’re not the only one not here”.

And her response to that is something I’ll never forget. Something she never forgot through the rest of her life.

“Well she called me this morning”she said.

My mind began racing in a million directions yet I had to remain calm and not seem as affected by those words as I was.

“She did?  What did she say Grandma?” I managed to whisper out trying to hide my shock.

As of that morning, Cindy had been missing for over twelve hours and her face was plastered all over the morning news back in Phoenix.

My dear Grandma repliedall I could make out was ‘Hi Buddha!’ and then the phone went dead.  I asked the girl here to call her back for me and I got that German man and I couldn’t understand a word he said”.

My Grandma never had a confused moment in her life.  She knew Cindy and my voices as distinctly as she knew her own.  No one on the face of the Earth referred to her as “Buddha” other than the three of us.  Ever.

Since I was the last one to talk to Grandma that day, I went straight to my Dad with this news.  Of course none of it made sense.  This was before the days of cell phones.  We knew Cindy didn’t have her purse.  It was doubtful she’d had this temporary rehab facility’s number memorized.  Why would she call Grandma if she’d been kidnapped and could make contact with someone? But it was a glimmer of something through all of the silence.  I remember feeling hopeful and full of doubt at the same time.

My father said “well if she’s made some kind of contact, we need to call the police back”.

We found out that day that by the time Buddha had received that phone call, Cindy had been dead for at least fifteen hours.

My Grandma went to her grave thinking her beloved first born granddaughter had made contact with her on that Christmas Eve as she was up there all alone and would need comfort.

I believed it too.  I believe it still.




This was the last photo taken of my family together.  It was the last time we were together.  It was the last time anyone in my family saw Cindy besides me.  It was the last time she was at our family cottage in Wells Beach Maine. It was the last time we were 5.

This photo was used as our Christmas photo 1988.  Her body was found on Christmas Eve that  year.  People were still receiving this photo, along with a newsy family Christmas letter, after they’d been informed that Cindy was gone.

I don’t remember if my Dad included anything about Cindy having married Michael Apelt, her  murderer, in that Christmas letter.  I don’t ever want to remember that.

This is one of those photos I’m sure every murder victim’s family treasures and is devastated by at the same time.

And yet, we last on.




I couldn’t go one more post in this blog without introducing you to my dear sweet brother John.  He of course is the third “innocent” in our family.

When I was trying to think of a name for the blog, I kept going back to the picture I have posted of Cindy and I as toddlers.  She took this photo on I believe my 25th birthday and had it blown up to 8 X 10 and gave it to me framed, signed on the back. She used to laugh at this photo all the time and called it “The Innocents”.  Our vibe together was primarily laughing and energetic so this photo tells a very different sentiment.  I believe it was taken right around the time our mother was getting diagnosed with cancer.  I think you see that all over us in this photo although Cindy and I never discussed that. We just thought it was a funny photo.

I turned to a wordsmith friend of mine to help me figure out a name for the blog and shared about this photo with him and he replied “How about Two Innocents which also sounds like a cheer “To Innocence!”” I immediately got chills and a  lump in my throat and that was that.

Of course though, we can’t move forward without including our dear brother who was an infant at the time of this photo.  He was just 3 when we lost our mother.

John was always unique.  He was slow to walk and talk and used to speak we said in “Lebanese” as he had his own made up language before he actually used words.  He describes himself as with “learning disabilities” and had some time in remedial classes growing up.  We loved him all the same but to tell the absolute truth, I was so deeply and inpenetrably bonded with my sister that I spent much of my childhood thinking he was someone we had to accomodate.  It’s hard to admit that now but it’s the truth.  Cindy was much more patient and loving toward John than I ever was.  She was a surrogate mother to both of us  from ages 3 and 5 and I’m sure I just didn’t want to share her.

Even though John had some awkwardness socially and learning wise, he grew up to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing having followed Cindy to the University where she got her Master’s degree.  I lived in Arizona at the time finishing my Bachelor’s in Nursing.

John also followed Cindy to Minneapolis after college when she got a great job there heading up a Wellness program at a large corporation and he worked various jobs, always close to Cindy. They worked out together, dined together. She always provided a place of “home” for my brother.  I can say I never offered that to him through his life until just the last year.

John was always vulnerable though.  A sensitive and really fragile person.  But with the sweetest, purest heart and soul you could ever meet.  He has had to navigate a world of awkwardness and bullying and not quite fitting in his whole life.  But he has managed to maintain a fighting spirit, a distinct optimism, an appreciation for every small thing in his life, a long term memory I’ve never seen in anyone else and just a sweetness you rarely see in an adult.  I’ve often referred to him like “Forest Gump” in that innocence kind of way.  He was truly the most innocent of us all.

As utterly devastating Cindy’s murder was on all of our family, especially me, I think it hurt John the worst.  He was teetering on the edge of mental illness for some time unbeknownst to all of us.  I remember Cindy once telling me she’d gone to the manager at the gym where they worked out to complain that other men were making fun of him in the locker room.  Now of course I know that was his paranoia peeking through.  Cindy went to her grave never knowing John would “break” in to paranoid schizophrenia.  Her death took him right over that edge.  It was the worst casualty in our family I’m certain.

John got his nickname “Alfonse” one evening while we were visiting our Grandma on summer break.  Cindy and I, teenagers, had prepared some kind of Italian meal for all of us and she decided, in one of her “let’s make everything in to a game” moments, that we would turn my Grandma’s tiny condo in to a fine dining restaurant.  We tagged John our waiter for the evening, put a little towel over his arm and decided his name was “Alfonse” and that he would serve us all evening.  We all had a blast with it, as we always did, and the nickname Alfonse was born.  In case you’ve ever wondered, my nickname “katiecoolady’ was what my sister called me for years.  But she spelled it, for some reason “KT Coolady”.  When I went online, I resurrected that name as poignant as it was.  I wanted to be that again.

John didn’t come to the trials for Cindy’s murder except for one day.  It was just this past week that I learned that on that ONE day, he was exposed to one crime scene photo of my sister.  My father didn’t attend that day knowing that crime scene photos would be shown by the medical examiner.  I chose to work that day as we were warned this was not a good day to attend.  Inexplicably, our stepmother, decided to stay in there with John and moved themselves to the back row because she wanted to hear what happened in court that day.  She generally was more detached in things like this so could handle them.  I was both livid and devastated to hear that John had seen a glimpse of that photo from the back row.  It’s an image you can’t bleach from your brain.  I once ran in to a similar photo online in some German publication as someone had told me I was on the cover of it claiming “Sister wants them to live!”.  In looking at that online I saw a very very fast glimpse of that photo and I started screaming uncontrollably.  It just breaks my heart knowing my Alfonse EVER saw a photo like that.

Especially knowing what came later.  His poor mind just broke.  He fell in to deep psychosis off and on for years.  Full blown paranoid schizophrenia rose it’s ugly head in to a mind that was already filled with cracks, held together with fragile mortar by the love and support he got from our oldest sister.  When she was taken, it all just dissolved. He spent years and years in and out of psychiatric hospitals and programs and it has just been heartbreaking, frustrating, devastating on our family.

There is a silver lining to this story and an update as Alfonse is living two minutes away from me now and doing very very well and is the biggest light of MY life these days.  I will write and fill in the blanks of how we got from Point Nowhere to this amazing miracle life we are living in right now.  But, for now, this is getting long and I’m crying too hard and it’s just not the moment for it.  There is fallout from a murder.  As positive as I am and as much as I do my best to find meaning and purpose in life, the murder of my sister broke my dear brother in half, plain and simple. And I’m not gonna white wash it.  And that went on for years and years.

But love and faith and miracles have brought him back. And brought us back together.

I’ve thought recently that  when I’m on my death bed and reflecting on the most important things I ever did in this life, throwing my brother a life raft this last year and pulling him on to my boat will be so far up there, nothing else will ever compare.

high time



By the day the mistrial in the Jodi Arias sentencing phase was declared, I had been making the trek to downtown Phoenix nearly every day for months to sit in the courtroom in solidarity with the Alexander family.   Weeks of agony produced new bonds forged, new friendships blossoming, a breath of purpose in to my life, opportunities for growth and letting go.

When I’d been invited with the great honor and gift to sit with the family during this trial I immediately knew two things:  1. my greatest asset I could offer this family was my confidence in justice having walked this road myself twice and 2. I would make the most of that seat in every possible way I could imagine.  As the end of this arduous process is near, I feel confident in the accomplishment of both goals.  More on that down the road.

Managing a busy work schedule and attending a trial for months was both hard and amazingly easy.  It was almost as if some kind of divine choreography stepped in and even though there were many uncertainties, I seemed to find myself miraculously in the right place at the right time throughout the entire trial.  I was able to sit with the family when the GUILTY verdict was delivered against all my expectations of room for me in the courtroom.  I was close to the courthouse during closing arguments and hosted friends of theirs in a nearby hotel room to watch them together on the live stream.  It just seemed as if I was positioned exactly where I needed to be at all times even when it didn’t appear that way in every moment.

The devastating day of the mistrial proved no exception.  Although it didn’t appear that way at all.

During a verdict watch of any kind, obviously there is no ability to predict timing on anything.  The day the mistrial was declared I was scheduled to work for a few hours right in the middle of the day.  As some of us were involved in a project to bring lunch to the family as they waited, I wanted to be there personally to participate in it.  As timing would have it, I had exactly 45 min total to be at the courthouse that morning.  Yet I managed to arrive, though unplanned, at the exact moment the food delivery arrived. This allowed me in that small window of time to help deliver the sandwiches and more importantly make contact and hug every member of Travis’ family.

I rushed back to work with the extraordinary task of focusing on my clients and pushing to the back of my mind worry and wondering if a verdict was coming in.

At the end of my work day, still no verdict.  I had about 3 hours until I needed to be ready for a dinner date that evening so thought it wasn’t enough time to run back to the courthouse to probably just wait for nothing.  It’s been a continual juggling act like this, guessing/picking priorities.  Yet somehow everything has always seemed to work out.

I decided instead on a whim to go visit my brother.  We sat just talking about our day when suddenly a text message came in saying there was a “jury question”. That the family was assembling.  I texted with my friend right up to the moment she went in the courtroom and had to turn off her phone.  I felt extremely frustrated and sad I couldn’t be there for the family as this seemed to be something important going down.  There was no time to get there now.

So I sat with my brother in his living room as we watched this unfold.  VERDICT!  What?  No one said “Verdict”!  They said question!  I leapt to my feet, shaking,  as we heard the words together “no unanimous decision”.  I dissolved in gasps and tears in my brother’s living room as he stormed outside also crying to have a cigarette.  As he returned he put his hand over his eyes and said ” I feel exactly the same as I did when they let Rudi off death row”.  We hugged and cried together and talked about that horrible moment in our own lives.

That moment just 5 years ago when one of our sister’s killers, the one who slit her throat, was released from Death Row after 18 years on a bogus but costly mental retardation claim.  The injustice and abuse our family suffered during that appeal was enough to garner an “apology” directed at me in open court by his attorney but truly the most suffering in the legal system we ever endured.  Our criminal trial was nothing compared to those years of heinous treatment and unfairness.

And my brother and I have really never discussed it.  Not atypical for families to disappear in to denial to just survive these kinds of things.

I sat him down and explained to him that although it was horrible this happened, it actually ended up being the best for us in the long run.  The result of that decision caused our sister’s killers even more suffering as they had been in cells adjacent to each other on Death row all those years we’re told.  I would imagine with 23 hours per day in solitary confinement , having your brother to talk to, even through the vents, is a luxury.  Having him removed from Death Row also meant he was moved to another location in Arizona all together. They will never speak to each other or see each other again.  Unless one is allowed to invite the other to his execution.  We lost our sister, I reminded John, and now they lost each other.  Karma.

Secondly, the one removed from Death Row will achieve something we’ve wanted all along. For him to be forgotten. Death Row inmates do receive a sort of “celebrity” status and millions of tax payer dollars are spent on them attempting to further a political cause championing one heinous murderer at a time.  Rudi, now in general population of some kind,  has lost his brother and the death row champions who spent years fighting for him.  Poetic justice I say.

Sometimes there is a higher timing going on for things.  Sometimes there is an unseen plan that is unfolding.

On this day, although I felt I needed and wanted to be with the Alexanders when that horrible news came in, I was exactly where I needed to be.  Comforting and bonding with my brother.  And allowing the present to reach in to our past to provide some of our own healing and understanding.

And reminding myself, and now you, that sometimes punishment shows up in an unexpected but more “just” manner than we’ve attached ourself to.

And somehow, I think Travis Alexander would *get* exactly what I’m talking about here.

Lady Justice has not forsaken this family.  She’s just taking her own high time.