The Call – December 12, 1987
I came home in the late afternoon one day and put the news on before going to work. We had a sunken living room and I was standing in the middle of the room when I saw the report. I had been watching the news very closely lately (with good reason). I was looking for news about a recent murder…but I wasn’t ready for this. It was one of the local news stations. I immediately recognized the artist sketch of the suspected murderer. It was my father.
They had just identified the body of a missing woman and they described the suspect. They had found her body three days earlier, in the same field where two bodies were found just days before. My father was responsible for them too…and I knew it.
As I watched the TV they described the suspect. His “hanging jowels, blond hair, age” and then, the kicker…he “used an inhaler and was driving a Cadillac.” That was my Dad alright. He had been very busy. He was paroled in April of 1987 and this was only December. One missing and three dead. Only this one was different. This was an innocent woman. They were all innocent, but this one…wasn’t involved with my father in any way. That is, until she put an ad in the paper to sell Diamonds.
I watched the story and felt faint. I didn’t know what to do. I paced as my mind started racing. What the hell had he done? Could I have stopped this? What do I do now? I felt like I was on a runaway train that I could not stop.
I drank. That was the only solution I could come up with. I had several beers and called work. They wanted to know why I had to miss work. I told them it was serious, very serious, but I couldn’t tell them why. They didn’t understand, but I didn’t care. I never went back to work there again.
It seemed obvious to me that it was John Bruce Vining (on the news). I thought everyone would be looking for him and that anyone who had seen that report would pick him out immediately. Maybe it was so obvious to me because of what I knew.
Suddenly, it all became clear to me. Unfortunately, it was crystal clear. He had visited me days earlier and said that he was back to being “Dr Jekyll” again. He said he had been “Mr. Hyde” the day before and he was feeling good about it. He was headed to Miami to cash something in. He put his foot on the bumper of the car, raised his head back and laughed. He was feeling very good about himself and he couldn’t hide it. He loved that he could be “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. That was his edge. Nobody would suspect a nice “old fart” like him of anything. That’s what he said about the little stuff he did, but this is where he really believed it. He was excited. He also left me the black Cadillac.
The car smelled awful. It had an indescribable sick odor that had been covered up with Brut cologne. He said Ethel (the dog) had a terrible accident and that he had to rip out the carpet and cover up the smell with cologne. That smell stuck with me, but it would be awhile before I put two and two together. I drove that car for several days. Years later I realized that the smell was that off a dead body. I think I knew deep down at the time but I couldn’t handle it so I dismissed the thought, quickly. These things were happening so fast and I apparently wasn’t ready to deal with it. That’s the only way I can explain it today.
Well, after drinking for a while I finally got enough nerve to call him. I paced and paced until I was finally able to pick up the phone. It felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. I thought by telling him what I saw on the news, he would run. I wanted him to run. I asked him to go. I wanted him gone. He asked if I would meet him at a bar in Apopka. I did. It was a hole in the wall. He was wearing jeans, a white T-Shirt and his brown leather jacket.
We talked and had a beer. He told me to calm down and not to worry. He was very bothered that I was so unnerved confronting him with this. I could sense the disgust in him over my inability to be calm about this. It was as if I was letting him down. He asked me specifically what I saw that would make someone believe it was him. I don’t think I ever asked him if he did it, it was just understood. He was concerned, but calm. He was very calculating in his thinking. He simply told me not worry, said “I was overreacting” and we walked outside and switched cars back.
I’ll never forget the drive home that night. What was I doing in this world and why was this all happening I kept asking myself. It seemed to me that I was supposed to be able to go to my father for help in life, but he was the bad guy. My father was the boogeyman I had always feared as a little kid. I didn’t know anybody in the world that I thought could help me.
I got home and sat in the kitchen by myself, my mind racing out of control. I thought and thought and thought. I cried and felt sick. Drinking wasn’t enough to drown this out, and I knew it. I called Crimeline Tips and gave them my fathers name in connection with her murder. I was scared, panicked and didn’t know what else to do. After the call I cried not knowing if I did the right thing because he was my father. Trying to understand that my father was the bad guy was very difficult to wrap my mind around. In fact, even after this experience I would continue to have problems with this. It doesn’t make sense, but that was my experience. For now though, I believed it was only a matter of time before they picked him up. I was wrong.
He would remain free for another seven months before finally being arrested in Savannah, Georgia for another crime (kidnapping & attempted murder). That runaway train wasn’t going anywhere for a while. And I was along for the ride.
It’s impossible to explain how I felt that night and what I felt when in his presence after calling Crimeline. I tried not to think about what he would do to me if he knew. Part of me still wanted to believe that he was my father and the unthinkable was not possible. Deep down I knew the truth. It was about survival. Now I was conning him. Trying to remain cool so he would believe that I was OK with what he was doing. Like it was no big deal.
I repressed many of these memories for years but did move on after my father was arrested. It was about four years ago that I finally came to understand all of this, or at least started to understand it. I am still learning about it.
The first step was accepting that my father was a sociopath, a man without a conscience. Being able to label it and find other people with similar experiences has truly been a blessing. I hope these experiences will help others to better understand these characteristics and help society to begin to look more closely at this disorder.