True Conviction — Investigation Discovery

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Investigation Discovery Network is premiering a new show this month called True Conviction. The host is a former Brooklyn prosecutor named Anna Sigga Nicolazzi who had a 100% conviction rate. Her emphasis is going around the country, finding prosecutors’ most challenging cases and detailing all involved in obtaining a successful conviction.

My sister, Cindy’s case, is one they are highlighting in this six part series. They are doing a full one hour show on it. I was contacted out of the blue last Fall by a producer, who had stumbled upon our case in some Newspaper site. Kind of impeccable timing as I’ve been diving back in to it for the last three years, working on my book about it. I had so much information that they needed at my fingertips–records, photos, etc.

Yet, rummaging through all my stuff, allowed me to find more photos and even an audiotape from Cindy that I had not seen in decades. It was a bittersweet, but mostly healing  journey for me, and I’m glad I did it. The producers, show runner, crew and Anna Sigga herself treated me with such delicate respect. They also flew my husband John, out to AZ to be with me the entire time (and boy did I need him, even just for logistical things but mainly the moral support).

I was filmed in my car with Go-pro’s all installed and on top of a mountain in an outdoor set they created just for my interview. There were hugs and tears throughout the small crowd.

I also got to reconnect with some of the Detectives involved. The timing of that was perfect as well, because they got to see the end of the story with me--finally having found love and a stable, healthy marriage after all this time. It was so heartwarming all the way around.

Cindy’s killers, while on Death Row, have received so much attention (and financial support) all of these years. The spotlight definitely turned on to them as “victims”, vs. my sister. It’s been a nauseating and frustrating process to have to be involved with, say the least. How refreshing to be involved in a show that is 100% focused on the prosecution, giving them zero platform. And, most importantly, our amazing, never to be forgotten, prosecutor, Cathy Hughes who is the HERO of this entire story. It really is about her, a story long overdue. I cannot ever, EVER say enough good things about Cathy Hughes, one of the best, most amazing humans I have ever known.

I recently got a confirmation on the date the show will be aired: Tues. February 13 at 10pm EST. Investigation Discovery channel. Again, the name is True Conviction.

Here is a blurb I found:

https://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwtv/article/Investigation-Discovery-Presents-Sneak-Peek-at-New-Series-TRUE-CONVICTION-11-20171229

“Deception in the Desert” premieres Tuesday, February 13 at 10/9c
An unidentified young woman is found murdered in the Arizona desert on Christmas Eve, 1988. Detectives soon learned her name, Cindy Monkman Apelt, who was reported missing by her husband the night prior. As investigators painstakingly piece together an account of Cindy’s final hours, they move closer and closer to revealing her killer. Prosecutor Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi revisits the shocking crime with the detectives and state attorney who solved the case and ultimately won justice for Cindy’s family

I plan on doing some kind of Live Facebook Q & A after the show sometime. Not immediately after, but maybe the next day. I know there will be many unanswered questions, so I will do that in that format if you want to participate. I’ll let you know more details closer to the time.

Thanks for the support guys.

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Greetings from beautiful Sedona!  It’s so incredible waking up here with long expanses of days ahead of me, cool breezes and quiet.  I never for one minute forget how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to be here like this.

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Today my big goals are:  go for a hike by Cathedral rock, make homemade sauce with the ingredients I brought up with me, finish installing the surround sound stereo I brought up, finish the laundry I’ve started and continue tweaking the story I’m entering in a writing contest.  It has to be submitted by next Saturday so I hope to have it finished today.  The problem is I write so fast and furious and pay no nevermind usually to punctuation and other writerly imperatives that I’m not sure how to polish it up.  I may need to find an editor–if anyone out there is game to take a look at my completed story, please write to me!

Thank you!

I’ve also been popping in at Websleuths occasionally lately to see what people are saying about the Arias case which, of no surprise to me, has been delayed again.  I think it will be lucky to start anytime this year.  And when I say start, I mean get it over with.  Although I surely know the ambivalence that goes with a trial like this finally being over (of course with the Death penalty that never really happens should she receive that sentence).  That’s when the real hard part starts:  when the trial ends.  That’s when the family will need the most support and get the least.  I’m very aware of that cliff for the Alexanders and where my role may be most important for them.

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I wrote something about the legal system and how far it’s gone in protecting/supporting our worst of the worst now and the heinous way it’s turned toward villifying true victims.  I remember when I was testifying and one of Cindy’s killers attorneys tried to insinuate some preposterous theory about her being involved in a drug cartel or some such nonsense.  Or maybe it’s the way they tried to describe her as a slut therefore deserving to be viciously slaughtered in the desert for money.  It was very very subtle in comparison to what we’ve seen with Travis Alexander’s reputation also slaughtered in the courtroom, but it was enough.  Enough for me to flash a look at that defense attorney like “oh you will not even go there with me” and he backed off.  I think just the question itself disgusted the jury.  But times were different then.  Now it’s become commonplace to attack the reputation of victims in court fabricated out of thin air by the mind of a sociopath.  Entire defenses are spun on these about face assaults to the innocent. “Experts” participate in these lies and are well paid.  And we, as a society, seem to think this is ok.

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Anyway, I’ll just copy and paste what I wrote on Websleuths this morning so I can be done with this line of thinking and get in to something that would actually match the memories that are true of my sister and Travis (as I understand him to have been)–like cooking,hiking, writing a funny story.

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Sometimes you also just have to tell the truth about things and put it out there, so here it is:

I think this illustrates what is so incredibly beyond frustrating and maddening about how our justice system has (d)evolved when it comes to murderers like Arias. The system promotes them continuing to abuse and debase their victims in public, falsifying completely fictional stories that villify their victims out of thin air while staining their memory to anyone who even hears it even if they don’t believe it. This has been accepted as a completely commonplace line of defense now with no one setting boundaries on it’s preposterousness.

“Expert” witnesses come out of the woodwork to support these fictional stories and testify to their “veracity” although their only source is the killer themself. Entire tales are spun creating the completely innocent victim as an unrecognizable character in their own life. Meetings are held to strategize how to spin the Truth in to something that turns the entire sordid event on it’s ear pointing to the vicious killer as “victim”. Intelligent, highly paid, educated professionals conspire in this dark dance.

And the legal system supports and condones it. All the way up to the day the vicious killer likely dies in prison of natural causes as these fights continue for decades selling fiction as fact, tarnishing someone’s innocent child/sibling/friend/parent who never had a chance to fully live their life; all in the name of winning.

Or in some cases, such as Alyce La Violette, in the name of money. Thank God the scales of Karma didn’t support her in that endeavor. But she has taken her tale of victimhood, erasing the man who’s breath was taken in his own home, on to herself now. In the name of murderer Jodi Arias.

It’s a level of insanity I feel sure our forefathers never anticipated. I don’t think they knew this level of sophisticated evil back in those simpler times either. Nature or nurture we have a new breed of venom that walks the Earth now. And we protect them like precious jewels.

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I just got to thinking about my week and realizing that if any of us, at the end of any week, really stepped back and reviewed; we’d find all kinds of opportunities for growth, shining moments of brilliance, humor and tugs at our deep awareness happening.

I’ll review some of my week as I sit this beautiful morning at my perch;  coffee to my left, jazz on my stereo and my cat Coco meowing her goodmornings all around me.

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My week, believe it or not, started on a real rough note.  Monday was not a good day.  I realized, through a series of events spanning about three weeks, that my personal trainer wasn’t working out for me.  The details don’t matter and I certainly don’t blame him for any lack of progress I felt (which I did).  In a nutshell, as I told him, I felt like I kept approaching him for support and being hit with way too many “no’s” vs. “ok, let’s problem solve this”.  It’s just not how you want to feel when you are hiring someone to motivate you.  And I’m pretty motivated!  I’ve distinctly changed my life to exercising hard 3-4 times per week, I’m almost 100% off sugar foods, eat far more consciously.  On many levels I feel great but this 30 pounds I put on in the last few years are slow to budge.  I never give up though and just yesterday was reading Christiane Northrup’s book about Menopause again, fortifying myself with a new plan!  I’m not giving up, just switching gears.

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I came home Monday after ending up bawling in my car after bootcamp/a demoralizing interaction and realized this wasn’t working.  I don’t know what really was going on entirely because I just saw one client that day and ended up flattened on my couch the ENTIRE rest of the day.  Sometimes those days just happen.  I just felt utterly immobilized and flattened body/mind/spirit.  I know enough now about my own process of change that these kinds of days signal a big shift is coming.  But I felt horrible–my entire body was aching, stomach ache, headache the whole nine yards.  I just said to myself if the only thing you accomplish today is doing one load of laundry then that’s your success story.

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Well I guess I also accomplished removing myself from that situation that was no longer working for me.  That’s not easy and to his credit he graciously let me out of my six month contract.

I was worried about this bummer zone I was in because John’s audition was the next day and I needed to be UP for it!

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After probably 12 hours of fitful sleep I woke up feeling slightly better and went in for my much needed hair appointment.  She took one look at me and said “look at your face!  You’ve lost a lot of weight!”.  I was kind of shocked because, at least my former trainer’s scale, wasn’t really demonstrating much of that.  She hadn’t seen me in 6 weeks, just when I’d started the training.  She naturally asked how it was going.

“Well yeah, I fired him yesterday”.

She replied “ok, let me tell you my story”.

She went on to share about how I had inspired her six weeks ago to go out and find someone for herself.  She described the thorough assessment she got, the support she’s getting, the customized program she’s on with many many different elements and I realized “oh, this is what I’ve been looking for!”. And she said I was her motivation!  Me!

I think I paid it forward to myself!

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I came straight home and looked up her situation and it’s going to be perfect for me.  As Alfonse and I are going on our 2+ week vacation in just about 3 weeks I decided to join when I get back but let me tell you, I’m still working out regularly and getting more sore and more results on my own this week!  Go figure!  I think that whole other situation was some kind of springboard.  And I also think it’s not easy to walk away from a situation that you know isn’t enough or isn’t working or where you are not shining and I did it.  So that was a success.

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I’m also back on Dr. Michael Moseley’s Intermittent Fasting program and have followed it religiously the last 2 weeks and I feel really confident about it.  It’s well researched and there’s an interesting BBC documentary on it should you want to check it out.

Another issue came up during my hair appointment that still has me shaking my head in astonishment.  We were both sharing about the impact on stress and weight and she detailed her life situation which is very similar to mine:  a sister who is disabled, lives near her and needs quite of bit of support, aging parents and then she drops this bomb  “then of course there’s the situation in Colorado”.

I must have looked confused because she followed that with “surely I’ve told you about that”.  I wracked my brain and couldn’t really remember anything distinct.

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As my color was processing, she slowly and deliberately told me the story of her nephew who had been missing for 21 months, foul play expected and how his skull was just found 3 weeks ago in a rural area.  How the detectives have brought in forensic anthropologists to dig in to the area the remains are being found scattered and clearly it’s being investigated as a homicide.

Wow.  How we all end up finding each other is just some sort of Act of God.  I found her via a Groupon.

I’m still kind of digesting all of that because, of course, I can understand a lot of what she and her family are going through.  A missing person–an investigation–police, media–homicide.

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Miracles show up when you least expect them.

I felt so much better when I left there–connected again, more alive and with a cute new hairstyle.

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The next day was Alfonse’ audition and we all know how that went. 😉

Another super interesting highlight of my week involved picking up new chairs.

I’ve been doing all of this Annie Sloan furniture painting lately and “met” this woman online through a Facebook swap page (like an online garage sale).  She had these gorgeous handpainted bar stools that I wanted!  But they were already sold dammit!  I couldn’t stop thinking about them so I wrote her again asking if she thought the person who purchased them from her would resell them to me for a profit–hey can’t hurt to ask right?

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this is not a pic of the stools but similar motif–just couldn’t find a pic of them

Julie’s business is called Fleur de la de dah (her Facebook page- please go like it 🙂 )

Well that girl then made it her mission to find me two more similar bar stools and she did!  I’m sitting on one of them right now!  They are perfect!  How nice a “stranger” can be sometimes. I still need to paint them though and will share pics when I do. 😉

Well we’ve developed a nice online friendship over these weeks and it just becomes more and more clear how much we have in common–she grew up in Sedona where obviously I spend a lot of time now, we’re both in the health care field, we’re both super crafty and in to the exact same craft obsessively, there’s more but it’s become sort of uncanny!

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She posted these two other cane back chairs she’d refinished and no one was taking them. Although it seemed kind of dumb for me to buy someone else’s chairs when I have all these I’ve been accumulating myself to paint and refurbish, I couldn’t resist so I arranged to buy them.  Monday, my bummer day, was the day I was supposed to pick them up but had to reschedule.  For Wednesday.

As I was driving there I got a text from her saying she was in the Murano in the front of the building we’d agreed to meet at.  I was driving so wondered when did I tell her I drive a Murano? thinking somehow she was talking about my car.  No, she has the same car as me!  lol

I met Julie and instantly felt like I’ve known her forever.  Real, fun, just an immediate connection.  Doors just keep opening when I keep looking.

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I love her chairs and didn’t even know this was what I was missing in my living room until I brought them in. Aren’t they gorgeous in my space?  I also love having something handpainted by her too.  Love is all around me.

Now I’m going to share the one moment of my week that still has me laughing before I sign out of this weekly roundup.

After picking up the chairs I rushed back to my office for a new client. Now this man is what anyone would describe as a true character.  He’s just a colorful unpretentious person who’s never really been for the kind of therapy I practice but his girlfriend is my client and she basically pushed demanded encouraged him to come.

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I don’t how to describe this man other than a big burly man’s man who’s done all kinds of athletics and crazy adventures his whole life and now is paying the price in midlife.  My job involves assessing past traumas and surgeries and scars before we get started.  He kept “forgetting ” all of these major traumas to his body so as we went along they kept being remembered.  This is not an unusual phenomenon by the way.

I started working on his back and as scars are very interesting to a Myofascial therapist I naturally inquired about a pretty big scar on his side.

He slowly replied “oh yeah, that’s when that cow was chasing me….”.

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Now I had held it together very well during my intake as this guy is very naturally funny and quirky but when he said that I pulled back, curled and started laughing uncontrollably.  “you got chased by a cow???”.  It was just something I never expected to hear and made a direct hit for my funny bone.

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He knew it was funny too and was tickled that he’d finally gotten to me and then shared he ran in to a barbed wire fence.

I just can’t stop laughing when I think of that moment all week.  “Oh yeah, that’s when that cow was chasing me…”.

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OMG, it’s still as funny now remembering it.  He’s coming back next week.  I can’t wait for more.

 

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I’m headed out this afternoon for my annual weekend business spa/wine/facials retreat with my darling colleague Mya at a fancy resort outside Phoenix.  Summer is the time to get GREAT deals on staycations in Phoenix and this one is amazing in that it includes the spa entrance fee with the room so we’ll be able to take yoga and fitness classes as well as work out in the gorgeous gym overlooking these huge rock formations–as well as just relax and catch up.  I can’t wait–two nights this year!  We have four bottles of wine between us.  That should get us through the weekend.  😉

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Last year I literally poked a rattlesnake there so…..ya know, it could get colorful.

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pre and post poking

Have a great weekend everyone!

Life is good!

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shelby lynne

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I typically sit each morning with my coffee and water and laptop listening to 968 on the Sirius channel which is called “Impressions”.  That station has turned me on to such good music that I’d likely not hear anywhere else.

For example the singer Shelby Lynne who I heard yesterday.  I can’t find the song I heard anywhere to post but in my searching ran across a session she did with Daryl Hall at his stellar and amazing Live At Daryl’s House show.  It’s worth checking out on the Palladia channel if you get it.

I found this heart wrenching song and in the process went a googlin about Ms. Lynne and realized why I feel such a connection to her vibe even though I’m definitely not a country music fan generally.

I also ran in to these quotes from her on a page where someone has basically just edited some things she’s said in interviews I guess.

“I like strength. I depend on my own.”

“I insist on the truth. I surround myself with people who tell the truth.”

“You know, I’m trying to sometimes sit down and write some stories about my childhood and maybe one when I’m an old lady put them out like a book.”

“I can find some way to make poetry out of my life’s experiences.”

These were the ones that really touched me to the core.

As I read on about Shelby, I discovered that she’s suffered her own family tragedy.  Her father killed her mother, then killed himself.

When she was seventeen.

I’m saying a quiet nod to Shelby Lynne today for pulling me in with her voice and making me stay with her soul.

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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.

cathy

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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.

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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.