Friday, December 19, 2008

Dawn of the Dead

As I sit down to continue spinning my yarn about what happened in the aftermath of the La-Z-Boy discovery of 1981, it occurs to me that you, gentle reader, might be interested in hearing first of what happened to Dawn. I can assure you, it is much more interesting than my discovery of horse hatred and the Son of God.

I'm sure you thought it quite "fortunate" that Dawn and her siblings were sleeping in the Winnebago on the night of her father's demise, and you were right to do so. Apparently the detectives in Richland Center thought it was, too; it just took them two years to find the murder weapon.

In 1982, Dawn's mother was arrested and put on trial for stabbing her husband in his sleep. Dawn and her siblings moved in with their grandmother, who also lived in town, for the eight months it took to try and convict her. Of course there was shock, but the townspeople also fell victim to an epidemic of worldly-wise head nodding. Of course she did it; look at the way she spent his money. (or) Well, if she didn't do it herself, she sure as hell knew who did. My father belonged to the latter camp (and was also a head nodder). He had known Don; he worked at the service station in town. He was a 6'4", 200 pound former Marine with flaming red hair. Dawn's mom, on the other hand, was 4'10" tall, one inch short (well, tall) of being a dwarf. Even if she did it when the man was sound asleep, my father contended, he would have been able to defend himself.

In addition to the speculation generated by the trial, there were also new, gruesome details for the public to ponder. The murderer had written obscenities all over the white bedroom walls in Don's blood. My middle school art teacher had helped the family clean up the mess (a fact I only discovered in college). The murder weapon had been found in the family's above-ground septic tank.

Dawn, Tiff and I remained very close through all of this, and our protectiveness of Dawn, and by extension, her family, became almost rabid. Dawn said (and I think truly believed) her mother didn't do it, and that was enough for us. We were ardent supporters of Carol (besides, what 12 year old wants to believe that a mom could off a dad?). Tiff and I were questioned by detectives about a photo they had found in Dawn's house, a polaroid of Carol taken in a bowling alley, to which someone had applied a match and bubbled out her face. Although we could honestly answer that we had never seen it, it seems pretty logical that one of her children did it. How could they not resent her for valuing BINGO! over them?

At any rate, Carol was convicted on circumstantial evidence and was sentenced to 20 years to life. Dawn and her siblings were sent to live with their mother's sister and her three children in Hume, Missouri, and just like that, she was gone. Well, she had left town -- she was hardly gone. In a display of loyalty that I don't think I could recreate today, even as an adult, Tiff and Dawn and I did not fall out of touch with each other. We called weekly and Dawn came back every six months or so to see her mom. With a southern accent. With stories of her cousin, at first how cute he was, then how he had seduced her, then how he had abused her. She lived through some white trash shit that put our former collective experiences to shame. By her junior year in high school, the situation had become so dysfunctional, that Dawn returned permanently to live with her grandmother. Before she graduated, she saw to it that her siblings were brought back too.
We remained close through high school, but then Tiff moved away, got pregnant, had a stillborn, got divorced and fell off the face of the planet for three years. I went to college, lost Jesus, and hated going back to my hometown. In my sophomore year of college, Dawn and her siblings were on The Oprah Winfrey Show, back when she was still doing sensationalistic "trash." I watched in disbelief as they talked to their mom via satellite. It was surreal. We spoke occassionally, but for the most part, it ended at our high school graduations.

Dawn is now the mother of five children, happily married to a hard-working family man. At least that's what I heard.


Rerun said...

You've got some great material here. I always wondered why I went one way and other people I went to high school went another way. At the time, we had so much in common. Most of my friends at my recent high school reunion where either cops, prison guards or had moved away like me. I'm sure the ones that didn't show up had spent time on Jerry Springer Show.

This story, like the first one, kept me interested until the very end. Thanks for sharing it because I was wondering what happened to Dawn and Tif.

Beverly Hamilton Wenham said...

GREAT! What a story! It just keeps rolling forward getting bigger and better and you don't know how it's going to end. You are the hero of your own stories. Your the hero of many of mine too.

Eva said...

OK, now that beats every single movie/documentary real or fictional that I've ever watched (or book that I've ever read), ever... I'm honestly speechless and your biggest fan.