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I wake up in our beautiful Sedona home at 6am to a stunning view of the mountains.  Literally as still, there are no window coverings.  I pray the next time I’m here I can actually get a good night’s sleep without the sun blasting in my eyes.  I’m a night owl, so this restful retreat isn’t offering me much rest, yet.  I’m over this phase, seriously.

I also wake up to my brother screaming downstairs “everybody’s going to Hell”.  He’s belligerent with me today saying “they are saying they love you but you’re still evil Kathy”.  I live in his Hell too.  I’m over this too, seriously.  I’ve been living in it 24/7 for over a week now, this level of psychosis.

We were invited to dinner last night. John declined. He knew he was too sick to go.  I went though and returned to him locked in his room, unresponsive.  I found the key to unlock it and found him near catatonic on his balcony just repeating “I need to go to bed” but unable to move. i gave him his meds and he was able to get up and walk three steps and fall fully clothed on top of his bed.  I’m over the constant worry and not having much of my own life, seriously.  Even away from him, his illness invades my thoughts.

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I also returned, in the middle of this to a comment here focusing on how I’ve let my father off the hook too easily from the childhood abuse, how I need to confront him on what a horrible parent he was and the various ways he’s wronged me that I’m “misdirecting” my anger about.  Yes in the middle of this crisis, this person thinks I should be thinking about that.  I’m over this kind of lack of sensitivity, seriously.  I’m good with my Dad, promise.

Yesterday afternoon I was confronted on Facebook by someone I’ve “known” (on Facebook) for three years, on the food issue, AGAIN.  She’s a Vegan, an animal activist and has frequently chimed  in on my eating habits.  I’m a foodie so often post pictures of food.  Yesterday she felt the need to go after it again, confronting me on pics I had posted of the hamburgers my brother cooked for us, escalating to these words:

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“One day you will realize throwing up photos of butchered animals is not representing a conscious person of bodywork”

The offending photo was of two gorgeous plates with fully cooked hamburgers on them, seriously.

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I befriended this person because she’s the mother of a homicide victim.  She posts graphic photos of tortured animals on her page and sometimes sends them out in her “activism”.  She uses Facebook to promote those agendas.  I basically promote the comings and goings of my life like most people do.  I’ve told this person in the past if she kept harassing me with these agendas , I’d have to unfriend her.  This was after an episode where I had been sick and she felt the need to chastise me for my eating habits and if only I lived like her I’d not have gotten sick.

If I lived like her, I’d not have a home or successful career and be broke.  Just sayin.  Who’s judging who about their career, seriously?

I unfriended her and she went out swinging alternately pointing out my failure at adequately feeding my brother and contributing to the demise of morality while reminding me what a good friend she’s been and offering to come visit me and give me a session.   Oh and she had to throw in how “self centered” I am because I eat meat, with a parenthetical ” don’t take that personally”.  Did I mention I’ve never met this person?  I refrained from calling her a lunatic like I wanted and blocked her.

What I’m seeing here is a weird predatory behavior going on.  Like “I see you’re overwhelmed with something else so now is the time to make my move”.

Pardon my vulgarity, but what the fuck is that about?

Listen world, I’ve got all I can handle on my plate right now.  My brother is outside yelling at his voices and its just 7:27 am.  These are long days.

What am I to learn here?

One thing is how to swiftly block and remove this kind of thing.  Next is to learn to just ignore it.

Or maybe I have that backward.  How many of us err on the side of being too nice?

This all happened in just one day.  Is this part and parcel of what comes with blogging about your life?

What I do know , is I’m over it, seriously.

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I am overwhelmed with the support I got for that post yesterday!  So many comments, wise and supportive.

Yes I got angry.  I have worked hard to get comfortable with all my emotions.  Anger can be a positive thing when it helps you set a boundary.

Thank you!

What’s kind of interesting/funny is after I wrote all that, I still got another private message from someone still trying to school me on how I should change my brother’s diet in order to cure his Schizophrenia.  It even started with “I know you’re overwhelmed but…”.  Why then dump more things to have to manage when you know someone is overwhelmed what they are already managing?

Maybe I would have been less reactive to these opinions if I wasn’t smack dab in the weeds with John.

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These are some of the unique challenges with mental illness.  It’s awkward, nebulous, we’re all stumbling through trying to figure it out.  But really, if someone’s in any kind of emergency status with any health problem, is probably not the best time to give advice for how they got there, unless of course you’re a professional working with that person helping mitigate the crisis.

I don’t know what motivates people to do such things.  But I do know if there’s not a “schooling” that bounces back, they will continue it.  Maybe they will stop and think next time.

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All I know is using that anger to set a boundary feels appropriate and it’s a far better choice for me than stuffing it and feeling like crap.

I also know that all of you cheering me on felt just 28 shades of worth it to me.

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I never knew when I started writing this blog that it would develop in to a small community of such wonderful people gathering in support of each other.

It’s a very heartening thing to experience, let me tell you!

Well Alfonse just informed me he’s ready to hit the road to Sedona. I need to shower and get myself packed so better wrap this up.

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Just wanted to say a heartfelt GRACIAS to each and every one of you out there.  As each comment came in, it was like opening a little present.  And you all warm my heart and make me feel less alone on this sometimes lonely planet.

Oh and feel free to take a petit fors on the way out.

I love you all…..and…………….

ThankYouCakes

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I’m sure anyone dealing with any kind of crisis is met, at times, with certain degrees of ignorance by, perhaps otherwise, well meaning people.  But being well meaning does not make ignorant comments more palatable.

In grief, some of those ignorant comments are

“she’s in a better place now”

or

“it’s time for you to move on now isn’t it?”

Things like that speak more to the person’s discomfort who’s delivering the line than the person receiving it.  No, they are not in a “better place” as the “best place” for them to be is right next to me is how most people will feel, especially right at the beginning.  And the timing people move on is dictated by their own process and no one else’s.

I get it, people don’t know what to say so they will resort to platitudes but you know the people who’ve walked a grief path by the way they respond in the moment.

Supportive words are more about meeting people right where they are, not trying to pull them out of it.  Words like “I know you are in a world of hurting right now but I’m not leaving your side”.

Another phrase that I’ve learned to loathe and do my best to avoid is “if there’s anything you need, just let me know”.  Why that bugs me is that the phraser has just laid another burden on the griever.  Well two burdens.  One is to identify something they might actually need when they are just trying to remember if they brushed their teeth that day.  And two, it’s making them have to ask for it.

I think it’s not that hard to just intuit what anyone might need in that kind of crisis and just do it.  The people that are the best at supporting someone in a crisis are the ones who just move in to action.  They show up with food.  They show up with some kind of comfort anything.  They reach in to your life vs. pull away and make you reach in to theirs.  Most of the time there’s rarely a wrong thing to offer.  The offering is the ice cream.  What you’re holding in your outstretched arms is the cherry.

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I ran in to one of those ignorant comments this morning about John.

I’ve shared about John on a public forum I’ve participated on for years that focuses on crime.  Before I started this blog, I posted on there quite a bit about our struggles but now just little snippets as people on there are concerned about him. About us.  I was attending a trial and posting regularly on it and during one month of that John was in the hospital.  I literally spent my days working in the morning, attending the trial in the afternoon and visiting John in the hospital in the evenings for a solid month.  It was a grueling time but I did it.  I know many of you readers from that time and appreciate so much your support.  But occasionally many of you know, have run in to a nastigram on that forum.

What I opened my ipad to this morning was this.  This was posted in response to my sharing about the fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans meal I brought home for John when he first came to stay with me.  When his voices were at a level 10 and I was doing my best to keep him out of the hospital.

Yet this stranger on this public forum, felt the need to share these words with me, I suppose in some desire to help:

Give him the juice too! All the crappy foods can’t help? wow Give him better foods. You work in the healing arts … right?

Then I guess the pedestal she had placed herself on wasn’t quite feeling high enough so she felt the need to bolster that comment with this one:

No white foods. No deep fried junk. There is a lot you can do without feeding him the junk . foods. That stuff is not giving anybody a favor. Sorry, but true.

Ok, now that you’ve had a moment to digest that, I will say that I really hate it when someone uses a “sorry” like that in a passive aggressive way.  I just had conversation about this recently.  If you’re going to apologize, then apologize.  If not, then you’re not “sorry”.  Someone shared something with me the other day about a person stating “I’m sorry you got so triggered by my words”.  Now that is the farthest thing from an apology.  It’s a digging in to the words that were hurtful and passive aggressively blaming the person for reacting to them.  That kind of stuff just really bugs me.  It’s just so condescending and inauthentic.

Now back to this other judgmental “helper”.  I don’t even think she levied these words about me publicly to be helpful.  I think she just did it to be better than me.  To my knowledge this poster has never, not on any occasion, offered support to me about the situation with my brother or anything.  But I do know she’s benefited by the sharing I offered from the Jodi Arias trial in to that forum after posting my trial notes from nearly every day of attending that trial.  Yet somehow she felt close enough to me to so rudely offer her condescension.

How do you think John would have felt, after hallucinating for days and being in a full blown psychotic crisis and not eating, if I had said “now you’re going to come stay with me and you’re going on a juice fast because you need it”.  Vs. what he got: a blanket and a plate of his favorite comfort foods.  Which do you think might make you better?

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This is how I responded to that ignorance:

Thank you for your “concern” but I know my brother and what I can control, what he will eat and not.eat when he’s in a crisis. The night before i gave him that comfort food dinner he had diet coke and cigarettes for dinner. i was happy to just see him eat food. Am I supposed to take away his cigarettes too? Yes I work in the healing field and I’m choosing my battles.

I welcome you to keep your judgment to yourself. You don’t know either of us or our situation. Thankfully I don’t judge my brother like you are judging me.

Oh and one more thing…a “sorry” delivered like that isn’t really an apology is it? It’s more a passive aggressive slap.

Maybe I should have ignored and just let it go.  But Ricki Lake didn’t call me a Bad Ass for nothing.  If I’m gonna stand at the front lines on anything, I’m gonna stand there for myself. Definitely I’m standing there for John.  Maybe one day I will transcend the need to fight back but I’m in a fighting mode right now and I’m not gonna tolerate that kind of bullshit.

And I consider my public response right back to her, as well as this post right here, a Public Service Announcement.

Don’t do that to someone in a crisis.  Don’t say ignorant things to people dealing with grief.  It really is best to say nothing.  Keep your judgments about how they are doing it all wrong to yourself and that high horse you are bouncing on.

I’ll just leave it on this quote:

“Those who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those of us who are doing it”

And if anyone wonders why I moderate comments on this blog, this is why.  It’s very few and far between but the Internet breeds cowards and fools.  Thankfully the vast majority of you reading are so far the opposite of that, it’s not a huge issue.

But to the tiny minority of nasty minded people out there, I say this, I’m a triple Scorpio and I know how to use this tail.

To quote another friend quoting another friend,” I’m nice until I’m not”.

Now to my little friend, I’ll offer you these little gifts next time you’re in a full blown crisis.

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Happy Chewing!

To quote Stephen Colbert, “you’re welcome!”.

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I’m dedicating this post to this comment by my dear Peepers McPeep:

Katie, such a lovely poem.
You’ve given John a great gift.
That of Hope..
His is a new beginning, learning to walk again with confidence.
You, as his guide, lighting the way.
Give yourself permission to rest along his journey,
There are days when he will carry you.
You will find what you seek,
Cradled tightly as you listen to the heartbeat of your love.
That will be your Destiny.

She left that yesterday responding to my post about Faith.

I can’t tell you how close John was to being hospitalized again over the last 24 hours.  It was as bad as it gets.  Both of the programs he participates in were responding in crisis mode.  I moved him here indefinitely.  His case manager met with me twice today very concerned about Alfonse and problem solving how to keep him out of the hospital.  He said to me “you know you are the reason John is alive”.

I thought about that comment later and thought, no, I am a big part of the reason he’s done as well as he has over the last year, truly a miracle in comparison to the last 20  years. But what’s kept him alive is far and above me.  He’s been in so many dangerous situations, taking his hands off the wheel of his car when voices told him “it’s time to go to heaven” on a major highway, etc.  I don’t want to revisit these.  But something, someone far beyond me has kept John alive all these years, that’s for sure.

As I left John at the program, I gave him a big hug and told him I loved him and the nurse he was visiting with said “You have a good sister” as I walked out and he said “yes I do” in that flat distracted way he gets when he’s bombarded by voices and paranoia.  I am so aware when I go there just how rare it is that mentally ill patients have support.  I often feel like a unicorn when I’m in there as so often patients are sitting there alone.  Just like John was for so many years before he moved out to Arizona.  It just breaks my heart thinking of it then, seeing it now.

I came home, with thankfully almost a full day off, and crashed hard.  I barely got off the couch all day, laying there dozing on a heating pad.  I have to say I was in some pretty extreme pain all day so I just rested and did my best to rest and breathe and wait it out.  Gallstones make their presence known on their way out, I’ll just say that.  They don’t let go that easily.  They like to make a grand exit.

I had no idea what I’d get around 2:30 when the shuttle dropped John off.  He was really pretty bad when I left him at the program this morning.  I didn’t know if I’d have another night of acute psychosis and how I’d deal with that not feeling great myself.

On first look, he was already more connected when he walked in the door.  I think the hardest thing about mental illness is the way it hijacks someone’s personality.  It’s like John disappears behind a wall of that.  And that is so far from his sweet charming little personality, it’s just depressing.  It’s almost like a death in itself.

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So he came in and went straight out to smoke.  I asked him to do some sweeping for me so he didn’t track in the palm debris when he came in and out smoking and he did so readily.  He’s usually very cooperative and doesn’t complain when I ask him to do things.  He doesn’t often initiate but that’s ok.  He cooperates.

He saw the heating pad by the couch and asked if I was in pain.  I told him that my back and stomach were killing me all day and I’d been working on it.  He said “Oh I’m sorry you’re not feeling well” then stood up from the couch.

He walked over to his suitcase , opened it, pulled out a bag and in it was a medication vial.  He handed it to me and said “I have these ibuprofen tablets from the hospital and I think it will help you.  Why don’t you take one?”.  I sat there, stunned that he was initiating this help to me.   I just said “ok that’s a great idea, I hadn’t even thought of that”.  He instructed me not to take another one for 8 hours and no more than 3 over a 24 hour period.  Like a good little nurse.

How sweet was that?  And you know what?  It worked!

I leaned down to hug him as I left to work for a bit and he hugged me back so tight saying “I love you my dear Sister”.  I thanked him for helping me with his ibuprofen and told him it was really helping, because it was.

I made it in to treat my client and back home again pain free after a day of misery.

As I walked in the door, I saw John on the phone and stepped right in to these words “Why don’t you call me next week?  I’m staying at my sister’s for awhile.  She’s not feeling well so I’m staying here to take care of her”.

Ok, if that just didn’t bust up my paradigm right there.  I love being proven wrong in cases like this.  He thinks he’s staying here to take care of me.

And so I’m going to let him.

We had a lovely dinner together undistracted by the voices that consumed him just this morning.  And now he’s resting quietly over on the couch stretched out watching The Next Food Network Star.  The key word of that sentence is quietly.

Alfonse and I will get through this life together, extending a hand, hopscotching ourselves over each threshold we encounter.  Together.  Hand in hand.

Protected.

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(took this photo the first step we took in to our Sedona home last February)

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I don’t know exactly why this photo appeals to me right now but it somehow describes how I’m feeling.  Or maybe how I wish I was feeling.

Took John in to his Day Treatment Program this morning and met with his case manager who said to me “the stress of this is showing on you,  you’re not your normal smiling self, I’m concerned about you”.

I don’t know him well enough to tell him I’m on the 4th day of a gallbladder cleanse and should be in bed.  A little TMI there but interesting he should not only observe that but feel strongly enough to share it with me.  Of course I’m feeling about 12 shades of exhausted.

John claims his voices are down but he appears very close to how he was yesterday to me.  At least he wasn’t yelling at me this morning like he was yesterday telling me I’m going to Hell, our whole family is in Hell, his father is Lucifer, I’m an atheist and should believe and asking me “do you care about me at all Kathy?”.  You just can’t negotiate with Paranoid Schizophrenia or personalize it.  It’s a task of staying open and loving and armored at the same time.

One thing I’ve noticed is each time I reach out to hold his hand or hug him he grasps me back tightly.  Poor guy is hanging on for dear life.  We both are.

I heard him say to his case manager this morning “I’m ready to go. I’m tired of being alive”.  I’m sure he is.

I’m hoping that new medication kicks in today as we all know he’s very close to being hospitalized again.

With my father out of the country, me leaving for a week’s trip in 10 days to also be out of the country, this is just not what any of us wants to consider at all.

Vinu, John’s case manager kept reinforcing to me I need to take care of myself.  Schizophrenia, especially when acute like this, is just a black hole sucking everyone in to it.

He expressed to me his own disappointment in John’s relapse and I could swear he teared up himself as I did.  It is disappointing.  Just when you think you’re out of the woods, BAM, there it is again.

This is my life for the duration.

I’m clutching on to what I’m to learn, how I’m to grow from all of this.  And wondering why our family has just been hammered with one tragedy after another.  I don’t know. I don’t understand it.

And today, I’m not appreciating it one bit.

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I’m taking John to the Clinic this afternoon to be started on a new medication.  Invega Sustenna.

It’s a shot he will get once a month to take over the handful of pills he’s been taking for months.  Pills that clearly haven’t been working.

He’s not been doing well and decompensating for the last couple of weeks.  When we went to the Psychiatrist last week, he decided on this new game plan.  So we’ve been hanging on during this week waiting for this medication relief.  They would have given it a week ago except he had to get “pre authorizied”.  Bureaucracy.

It’s hard to not get discouraged.  John was doing well, was stable, for 9 months on very little medication after he moved out here.  Nine full months.  He had a major breakdown in January/February this year which I believed and still believe was a reaction to an antibiotic he went on.  He was hospitalized for a month.  A very nice nurse at the hospital contacted me privately to share she believed I was absolutely correct in thinking it was the antibiotic that had negated the effects of his anti psychotic medication as she has the same issues with her autistic son.

But John has just not fully stabilized yet from that incident and we’re in June now.  He went back to his day program where he continues, thank God as they also keep an eye on him.  I just have a hard time imagining how he managed his life with such little support for years back in Illinois.  He lost most of his mental health services and was basically just alone in his apartment, minimally functioning, for too long than I want to think about.

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I hover over him like a helicopter.  But yesterday I wasn’t feeling well myself.  I’m trying to save my gallbladder with a 3 day fast.  I’ve done it before so I know this works but those three days are not pleasant.  And yesterday, sitting at home drinking apple juice resting with a heating pad on my abdomen, I got calls all day from the program and John’s case manager about how poorly he was doing.  John stopped by my house, clearly acutely psychotic, hearing voices and distracted.  For once, I wasn’t feeling well enough to pop up and take over.  We talked awhile and he went home promising me he would eat dinner then come back and spend the night.  Of course he didn’t do that but at least he called me early in the evening.  His frequency of communication drops off the map when he’s like this.  I’m left to manage trusting he is ok without me running over there to check on him constantly.

“He’s either fine or he’s dead” my friend JJ told me this past weekend when I was in Sedona and unable to reach him.  She was passing along wise words someone once told her about her son when she was worried.

True words about how much control you actually have over another person’s life or well being.

Balancing my own life with this level of responsibility is something I will deal with the rest of my life.  I err on the side of hypervigilance now but that just can’t last.  I was never more aware of that than yesterday when I even said to him “sometimes I’m the one who’s not well John”.  Which I immediately regretted as it’s not his fault.  But it’s my reality.

I realize how much of my life is holding vigil over others’ well being and how so infrequently I’ve felt this myself.  I’ve never been good at creating that kind of support.  I think those of us who grow up without mothers learn very early on to just fend for ourselves and being cared for is something we desperately crave yet never feel entitled to somehow.

Even with all that, and I do admit this isn’t a sunshiney post today, with all this, I still hold faith.  I still hold faith that John will get better.  That he will stabilize.  That he will stabilize for much longer than 9 months. That we have a life ahead of us not defined by voices, paranoia and religiosity.

I also still hold some kind of deep secret hope that I will get that kind of support I crave. That an intimate, loving, supportive, passionate, soul mate type relationship hasn’t escaped me.  That I’m still in line for that life.

Unlike Sarah in Love Actually, I hold this flame alive within me.  I don’t know how this will all happen or when or what will be needed to make it so but I’m still fanning that little burning ember inside me.

One thing I will take kicking and screaming through this life with me is my faith and hope in a life larger than the one that sometimes appears in front of my eyes at the moment.  One more bright and alive than my tired eyes can see.

I deserve it.  We deserve it.  In fact, if anyone on this planet deserves it, it’s us.

And I do believe it’s coming, somehow, some way.

FAITH

I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,

faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

— David Whyte

http://www.gratefulness.org/poetry/Faith.htm

For today, I put my hope and faith in Invega Sustenna that it will give John some relief today.  I’ll bring him home with me this afternoon.

And we will both rest.

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I’m not seriously following the Trayvon Martin trial.  It’s heart breaking and I do have opinions and interest.  I just rarely jump from one intense  case in to the next.  Plus this one is so divisive, I just value my relationships and don’t want to break up with anyone over it.

I did have HLN on in the background this morning as I was doing some chores and a name blasted in to my brain.  Blasted from the past I mean.

Dr. Vincent Di Maio is going to be the main forensic expert for George Zimmerman in this case evidently.  Vincent Di Maio got one of my sister’s killers, Rudi Apelt, convicted.    His testimony is probably the one and only reason there was a two hour deliberation in that death penalty trial, with a resounding GUILTY verdict in Rudi’s trial.

Now I’ve watched quite a few trials in my years following cases now.  Never, in any trial, have I witnessed such a Perry Mason moment as what occurred in Rudi Apelt’s trial.  His trial, our second for Cindy’s murder, was in 1990, before the internet was really hopping.  Before Court TV, before OJ, before cases having the kind of international attention they do now.

But the tale I’m about to tell you, had there been say a Websleuths forum, HLN coverage or a Wild About Trial feed/twitter following it,  would have caused coffee cups to be dropped, bowls of ice cream spilled, martinis toppled, bags of M&M’s imploded, Vegemite sandwiches choked on, laptops sliding off laps as people uncontrollably stood up in shock and cats and dogs scared in living rooms traversing the globe.  It was that kind of shocking, unexpected moment in a courtroom that flipped the whole game with one witness:  Dr. Vincent Di Maio.

The twist here is his testimony is what convicted Rudi Apelt,  yet he was called to the stand by none other than the defense team of Rudi Apelt.

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Let’s go back to the beginning.

I will devote an entire blog post down the road to the stellar Catherine Hughes, our prosecutor in both of our trials, because she deserves it.  But for now, I’ll tell this story that will definitely put her on your radar as someone to know and admire.

By the time Rudi Apelt went to trial for felony murder and conspiracy to commit the murder of my sister Cindy, his brother Michael had already been convicted and sentenced to death.

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Now, Cathy had always told us this one was going to be harder.  He hadn’t married my sister, the financial motive wasn’t as clear, his foot print wasn’t found on her face which was the one major piece of forensic evidence against his brother.  She warned us all along this one wasn’t going to be so easy.

Much like Juan Martinez, Cathy Hughes sat up at that prosecution table alone.  She had no second chair.  Like Martinez, she had her lead investigator most days sitting up there with her.  Esteban Flores in Arias, Mark “Jigsaw” Jones in both our cases.  Both out of the Mesa PD.

When Cathy found out the defense would be calling the preeminent Di Maio, she was concerned.  He’s a big deal.  I mean, look, he’s the main witness for George Zimmerman now, all these years later.  Our case was big locally, and oddly internationally because the killers are German, but not on the national stage.

I always thought the smart defense to go with for Rudi would be that his brother planned the entire thing, asked him to meet him in the desert and he showed up to find his brother had murdered his wife.  So he helped him cover it up.  That’s a far less charge than First Degree Murder.

But that’s not the defense they went with, thankfully.  They went with the “only one person committed this crime and since he’s already been convicted you can’t even be sure our client was ever even there so he’s not guilty”.  Rudi had these two big burly, bullish type, attorneys representing him.  Oddly, I can’t even remember their names now.  But I just always thought the dichotomy of those huge men with their huge egos on one side, and quiet powerhouse Cathy Hughes all alone on the other was just, well in the way it turned out, just rich.

Cathy kept me in the loop for many things during the year plus before the trial, and during the trial.  She didn’t tell me everything I’m sure, but she kept me closely connected in the circle of info.  Kind of amazing now that I think back, as I was just 29 years old.  Very close in age to most of the Alexander siblings during their trial.

Cathy phoned me up one day to tell me something.  She’s kind of stunned about it herself but shares it with me anyway.  She tells me not to get my hopes up, but something big has happened and she has to tell someone.  That someone was me.

At some point, she started getting a bit nervous about Di Maio, so she decided she wanted to know more about what she was up against.  She took a weekend day and drove down to the Tucson Medical School for one purpose alone:  to purchase his textbook.  You see, this expert, literally had written the Handbook on Forensic Pathology.

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On her own, with her own funds and on her own time, our prosecutor went the extra miles to find the key she needed toward conviction in our case.

She returned home that weekend and dove into his textbook, studying his own words, his own philosophies, his own teachings regarding crime scenes and murder victims.  And then she turned the page right into what I will call “Securing a Conviction Using the Other Side’s Expert Witness and Making Him Your Own,” by Catherine Hughes with Vincent Di Maio.

What she landed on, in his own words, was the study of right handed vs. left handed stab wounds.  As she delved into this witnesses learned instruction, what she found was that it was obvious that Cindy’s most fatal wound (sigh), the cut to her throat, the one that Jodi Arias repeated 20 years later, was committed by a right-handed assailant.

And what Cathy knew, having prosecuted both cases is although these two brothers shared genes, murderous greed, and sociopathic tendencies, they did not share dominant hands.

She knew that Michael was left handed and Rudi was right handed.

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She also knew, without a doubt, reading Di Maio’s own textbook, that he would have to agree that it was Rudi who had committed the most fatal injury to Cindy.

And she had to keep it entirely a secret.  It wasn’t new discovery in a legal sense, but it was discovery that either side could have ferreted out.  But, may the best woman win.  Cathy Hughes found a secret treasure buried by their very own witness, just waiting to be dug up.

It wasn’t new evidence, it was simply a new interpretation of the evidence.

She told me the whole story and because she’s such a humble person, she kept saying “there’s no way I’m going to get away with this.  They have got to figure this out.  It’s just too obvious”.  So she never allowed herself to fully embrace that she was going to bury this cocky defense team using their own shovel.

I, on the other hand, never doubted it for a second.  I just knew she would pull it off.  She was my hero.

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Cathy wins by being smart.  Not arrogant, not aggressive but she’s just too damn smart for most opponents.

So when she heard Di Maio would be available for a pre trial interview she used her wits in strategizing that too, so as to not tip her hand.  She invited him to meet her at her office in podunk Florence AZ where our trials were held.  It’s a tiny town.  A prison town.

She carefully chose her clothes, her demeanor, her attitude with one goal in mind:  to disarm this esteemed expert forensic pathologist.  She dressed, as she described to me “like a country bumpkin” with no makeup, a simple “house dress”, and opened her beautiful blue eyes wide fawning over him, asking for his autograph.  Playing the role of someone who would get his attention as a small town adoring fan, not a tough as nails Prosecutor who was going to, the next day, kick his ass all over the desert and back to Texas.

Di Maio takes the stand that morning, with all his bravado and hubris, surely going to convince this jury that the defendant is not guilty. That he couldn’t possibly have committed this crime, as only one assailant was involved. That’s why they brought him.  For his expertise, having reviewed the crime scene, to testify that in his expert opinion, just one assailant was involved. And obviously, since that person is already convicted of the crime, done deal.

And that is exactly what he did after they spent an hour or so just determining how much of an expert he is!  His academic background, the hundreds of cases he’s worked on, all his books and publications.  He’s a big shot and he knows it.

One assailant, here are the facts for this, he’s already been convicted, done.  Case closed.

Oh hello Ms. Hughes, of course I remember you my small town country bumpkin big fan.

Then Cathy Hughes reaches into her bag below her desk and pulls out his textbook fluttering with yellow  Post It notes piercing out from all  its pages.

No one sees it coming.  She starts slowly, asking him about his book in general.  His belief in his own words, his belief in his own science, his belief in his own opinions.

Then she opens right to the Chapter on right vs. left handed wounds.  Blindsiding the entire courtroom and sucker punching the witness with one turn of a page.   My stepmother later described the defense team as both immediately turning grey.  They clearly had no idea this was even on the table much less getting ready to be served, cold.

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Initially Di Maio was defensive, obviously caught off guard.  No one had prepared him to even consider this as an issue.  OBJECTION!  Oh yes I’m sure they wanted to object to make her stop.  To mitigate the bleeding of their case all over the courtrooom.  Too late.

She methodically led Di Maio down a garden path using his own words and graphic images as breadcrumbs escalating and amplifying her cadence straight to these words (paraphrased to the best of my recollection).

“So, Dr. Di Maio, now that we know you are the pre eminent expert in forensic pathology and now that we’re all acquainted with your textbook theories on right and left handed stab wounds, would it be your expert opinion that this fatal wound was committed by a right handed assailant?”

“Yes it would be”

“Then Dr. Di Maio, if I could tell you I can prove, which I can, that the defendant’s brother, Michael Apelt is left handed and the defendant is right handed, would it be your opinion that the right handed defendant committed this crime?”

OBJECTION!  Overruled.  (Cathy Hughes of course had video ready to be fired up of Michael Apelt writing with his left hand  in court that had aired on local news–a videotape she’d borrowed from me)

“So Dr. Di Maio, knowing you are one of the world’s most well known experts in Forensic Pathology and seeing you’ve already told the jury that only one assailant committed this crime, would it be your expert opinion that it was the right handed defendant Rudi Apelt (as she does one of those round house arm swings with a pointed finger directed straight at Rudi) who committed this murder?”.

“Yes it is”

BOOM.

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The jury later told us they took half an hour to come to their Guilty verdict but they wanted to make it appear they’d taken deliberations seriously so they took two hours.  They apologized to us for it “taking so long”.

Rudi was sentenced to death right along with his brother.  He was let off death row 18 years later on a mental retardation claim but that’s another blog post.

I  just found that Di Maio’s testimony was used as part of an “ineffective assistance of counsel” appeal:

3. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

The theory of Rudi’s defense was that Michael killed Cindy before Rudi arrived at the murder scene. To bolster this theory, the defense called Dr. Vincent DiMaio, a forensic pathologist, to testify that Cindy’s wounds (both bruises and knife wounds) were consistent with a single assailant. Dr. DiMaio also testified, on direct examination, that the assailant was probably right-handed. The prosecution further explored this on cross-examination and then called two witnesses — a documents analyst and Anke Dorn — who testified that Michael is left-handed and Rudi is right-handed. Instead of helping the defendant’s case, Dr. DiMaio’s testimony could have damaged it. Defendant claims that the presentation of damaging evidence, as well as counsel’s failure to file a timely notice of appeal from his conspiracy conviction and sentence, constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.

http://www.leagle.com/decision-result/?xmldoc/1993545176Ariz369_1478.xml/docbase/CSLWAR2-1986-2006

Cathy Hughes was offered many promotions from that one moment.  I’m sure from her successful prosecution in both our cases but that one shining moment is something none of us involved will ever forget.

I love her dearly and thank God we were so fortunate to get her as our prosecutor.  For that moment and the many others we’ve shared in friendship all of these years.

Dedicated to Cathy Hughes, one of the best people I will ever know.

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