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
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. “