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By November 26, 2008 Read More →

A Trip to Death Row

I had visited my father on Death Row before, but this trip was different. I was traveling to Union Correctional Institution with two homicide detectives with the intent to record a conversation with my father about two murders he described to me years earlier.

Actually the main purpose of this visit was to get him to tell me about another murder, one that he never confessed to me, but one that I know he committed. It was his first victim, but they still have not found the body. It was an old friend of my fathers that disappeared after meeting with my dad, but this is a story for another day. It is so hard to write about my father’s activities simply because of the number of victims and crimes. I mentioned this because I thought my father might talk about it if I asked him so that is why I went up there, to help solve another crime. The two murders I knew about were secondary.

The drive up to Death Row was a two hour trip, but the detectives were extraordinarily nice. They were compassionate and I felt they understood my situation. We talked a lot about sociopaths and how much damage they do to their families. They mentioned that the families of the sociopath (perpetrator) are often the forgotten ones, so to speak. Most of the attention in our society is about what damage is done to the victim’s family, but there are two sides as many of us know all too well.

On the way up I was very calm. I prayed a great deal about this day and spent some quiet time early in the morning before leaving the house. The thought of facing my father and trying to get him to talk about these murders was frightening and I knew it was something I could not do on my own. It is interesting that I can find the greatest peace when I recognize circumstances are well beyond my control and I am able to surrender the outcome to a higher power. That is what I did before I left the house.

As I have mentioned before I idolized my Dad growing up and still continued to communicate with him and occasionally (every few years) visit him on death row. I would also write him to tell him about my accomplishments looking for his approval, even after all he had done. This is the most baffling part of all. I can’t explain the mixed emotions, just share my experience. It was almost like I completely compartmentalized things. On the one hand he was still my father, but on the other he was a cold blooded killer.

For those of you that have children that are being influenced by another parent that is a sociopath I can tell you that I knew right from wrong and knew something was wrong deep down. I always knew this and the more my father did others wrong the deeper this divide became. I do think it was always there it just took time and I am grateful for those around me as a young adult that simply showed me the right way to live.

Anyway, when we arrived at Death Row they brought us right in and took me to a private room that is used for inmates to meet with their lawyers. They placed a wire on me and a recorder under the chair, and then sent for my father. He did not know I was coming and I wasn’t sure how he would react to me being in this “special” room, but again, I put my Faith in another father that I had come to rely upon and didn’t concern myself with worry or circumstances, I simply stayed focused and calm.

He was shocked to see me, but also excited. It reminded me of how he had conned so many people before going to prison. He would make them feel so excited about a deal that they failed to look at or recognize things that they should have been paying attention to. Meetings like this just didn’t happen unless you were a lawyer, but I told him that I had met a powerful organization that was out to get bad cops regardless of whether they thought the person committed the crime. He had always said that the police in his case fabricated some of the evidence to convict him and I told him this group agreed.

I told him I could help him, something which I had not done in the 15 years he had been on death row, but I needed some security so I could feel safe. I had always told him that I wouldn’t help him because of the publicity that it might bring, but that wasn’t true, I didn’t want him out. Like so many of his cons before I was in this room for the complete opposite reason that he was so excited about. I was here to see that he never had a chance to get out, period. There was little chance of this anyway but he was optimistic about his appeals.

We talked for a while and when I told him that I needed to have information that would make me feel safe if he got out before helping him, his whole demeanor changed. He sat back thought about it and smiled. He looked right at me with his cold eyes and said “I get it, blackmail”. Odd as it sounds he seemed extremely proud of me for doing this; it was like I was now playing his game. He was suddenly very engaged, this was fun for him.

I am not sure how to tell this story without making it too long. We spent about two hours together and he repeated everything I told the homicide detectives, basically word for word. He also talked about the woman he killed that placed him on death row, a conviction he was still denying to others and a case that was under appeal. I think the thing that stood out the most is the excitement in his voice and mannerisms when he talked about the murders. He was proud of it, except for getting caught of course, which he referred to as “stupid mistakes, sloppy”. (He would not confess to the murder that I was hoping to get him to talk about, apparently killing a friend was not something he thought I could handle).

I left Death Row knowing that I had done the right thing. I still had some mixed emotions though. Even after seeing my father excited to talk about murders that he committed I still felt sorry for him and I also knew what was coming his way.

I felt a great deal of pain about how he was going to feel when he found out that I betrayed him. I was his favorite kid and now I was about to become his worst enemy. But, this is what separates me from him. I thank God that I have these emotions and that I can feel compassion for others, even when some people don’t think they deserve it.

They did bring charges and my father sent me some threatening letters. He turned on me as I expected but it was ok. In fact, I think it helped to see him direct his evil behavior at me and my family. This brought some closure and removed all doubt about what he was capable of.

A little over a year ago he plead guilty and was given two more life sentences. There was some TV coverage and a few articles in the newspaper but nothing major.

Now this experience allows me to help others. It is a gift that I am grateful for. I would not change anything in my past. I think everything we experience in life has great value if we are willing to learn from it and use it to help others.

Although I have enjoyed writing these stories I prefer to move on to something that might be more helpful to those of you that might have questions that you think my experience can help you with. If so, please comment and I’ll be more than happy to share my experience in future posts.


Posted in: Cases, Travis Vining

108 Comments on "A Trip to Death Row"

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  1. witsend says:

    Tilly,

    I am sorry that you have to go through this alone. I hope you are safe.

  2. skylar says:

    Morning Tilly,
    I saw the cartoon differently, I saw that the pig hugged the cactus anyway. So that is just in our natures to want to hug anyone who needs it, even if it hurts us a little.

    Stay tough Tilly, you NEED to be a cactus right now. You need your weapons and self-protection. You need you own inner-P. Use that inner-P until your XP is safely behind bars. LF will continue to be your hugging pig.

  3. ErinBrockovich says:

    Tilly:
    The post on another thread was spot on……
    The jist:
    Sometimes we are so certain and (would swear to it ), that we ‘read’ or ‘hear’ something…..and we do not!
    Someone gave the example of their therapist giving them a book to read and they thought they were going to ‘show’ the therapist up with proving their point. They went back to the therapist all cocky and ready to attack and show the therapist how wrong they were…..’here see it’s right on this page’…..
    When the person was asked by therapist to read it outloud…..the person ended up being WRONG, it said exactly what the therapist originally stated…….that person would have bet their life they were right….and willng to go to lengths to prove it!

    Being aware of the path you are on and the stress we all endure, I am going to step away from this exchange.
    This is non productive to all members of LF.

    Remain strong and be kind to yourself.
    XXOO

  4. OxDrover says:

    Dear ERIN!

    THAT WAS ME!!!!! And I swear I “hallucinated” those words on the page because “I KNEW I WAS RIGHT!” ROTFLMAO (now) about it!

    That episode showed me a lot about myself and how important sometimes it is to be RIGHT above all things, even for a Non-P. Now I can laugh about that episode, but at the time it was very embarassing. This actually was in a group therapy session and I had to stand up there and realize I had been pretty pig headed in front of quite a few people. fortunately, I’ve had enough “practice” being wrong that I have gotten to the point it doesn’t bother me much any more. LOL

    For a long time, though, it was difficult for me to not be shamed by being “wrong” but I am getting to a point now, that it is OK to be wrong, it is okay to make a mistake, it just isn’t OK to be mean or defensive about it—it is amazing how it “cleanses” the soul to just admit to others and ESPECIALLY to ourselves that we have been “pig headed” (or whatever the case may be!@) or made wrong choices, or held ideas that were incorrect, inaccurate, etc.

    THAT’s HOW WE LEARN! Being wrong isn’t a crime, making a mistake isn’t a crime, or even doing things or saying things you regret later isn’t a crime, the crime is when we can’t admit it, even to ourselves in light of evidence….I think that is one of the things that tipped me off to my X-BF who was the P, he could NEVER BE WRONG! If you showed him he was wrong (about ANYTHING) he was FURIOUS and ANGRY!

    I think part of the worry I had about the memory loss and word finding difficulty with the PTSD was that I had so much “practice” at being WRONG because I couldn’t remember, or couldn’t find the word.

    I’ve read books and articles recently about how the PTSD damages the parts of the brain that control speech, and it MAKES SENSE NOW. The memory problems aren’t so bad now, but they still are unnerving at times. I asked my best friend about her parrot, “Elvis” yesterday—and she hasn’t had him in 5 years! I KNEW that, yet I had forgotten it. Sometimes the memory chips are just not functioning, other times they are pretty good—but I no longer am terrorized about it, or ashamed. I am being, as you suggested, KIND TO MYSELF ABOUT IT, rather than being upset with myself or ashamed that I’m not perfect.

    BTW Erin, thanks for all the good posts you put up! I appreciate your wisdom and good sense! (((hugs))))

  5. Wini says:

    Oxy, just remember what righteousness really means. Good for you and good for all involved. That is the TRUTH of righteousness. Any time it breaks that rule “good for you and good for everyone” it isn’t righteous.

    If anything I learned from anti-social personalities in my life, is this lesson of what righteousness truly is. Our EXs are the fools of living unrighteous lives … good for them only and bad for all that happened to be in their space at the moment.

  6. ErinBrockovich says:

    Oxy:
    I know it was you……I wasn’t going to point that out!
    That comment made a huge impact on me.
    Because of ‘how’ it was written , I didn’t want to to comment on it and spark a fire.
    I think we can all apply it in our lives….you were fortunate to have the embarrasing ‘gift’ to have it ‘in your face’!
    Group therapy no less!!!!! THAT IS HILARIOUS!!!!
    You had to of tasted that fresh baked humble pie BIG TIME!
    Great way to learn!
    I tend to be one that is able to learn from others mistakes…..Of course, there are a lot of times I MUST learn from making them myself….(sigh)
    Your pie on your face had raised my awareness. THANKS!
    But your post reminded me of times I thought I was right and was not…..and how I dealt with it.
    Then the times I was gaslighted and so sick that the S would make statements of things he said I said, that I KNEW I DID NOT!
    (I went to the extent of recording every conversation I had to prove he was wrong to myself and I wasn’t crazy). He had one child doing this along with my parents too……WOW, quite a campaign for making one doubt themself!
    This lesson for me was ……..I DO KNOW MYSELF! I knew my character and things I would NEVER agree to or SAY!
    But I had to prove it back to myself as I allowed these persons to place doubt in my mind…..total mind fuck….
    It happened every day, I was told I had agreed to something or said something…..it was very odd to me…..
    I also could have just as easily doubted myself to the extent I gave in…….I can’t imagine how destructive that would have been to me and my self esteem.
    I would have handed myself over to these people on a silver platter…..”here, continue to mind fuck me and do as you please until I end up doubting every inch of my sould and end up killing myself”…..
    YIKES!
    THANK GOD FOR DIGI RECORDERS!!!!
    Funny, I have put it away and no longer have this issue, since he is out of our world….I thought it was wierd no one else but the 3 under his spell made these claims to me…..
    If it acts like a duck and quaks like a duck…..HMMMMMM…NEVER QUESTION IT!!! It needs to be shot and served up for dinner!

    When I finally booted the ex, and realized for the first time in my life…..I WAS ALONE…..(even though the reality was I had always been alone) I just percieved I had support to lean on….
    But I was scared to death….OMG….the kids are all in my care and it’s up to me….the business is all up to me, my health is all up to me, my future is all up to me…..
    I got reactive and protective….along with all the other negativity in my life…..I had a real hard time admitting what my roll was in my own life for the past 28 years…..
    For growth and our lives to change and open up to positive ‘features’ in our world…..we have to be honest with ourselves, which leads us to being honest with everyone around us!
    Honesty is brutel when you are exploring it in yourself!!!

    As time grew on, I found it much easier to admit my part, my roll and my wrongs…..Now…..it is a mind clearing process….I welcome the opportunity to appologize or see my wrongs. Sometimes I can even see it on my own with out others pointing it out to me….
    I’m a thinker….I reflect on everything!
    I am human!
    I was at a point, as I would describe it to anyone….
    I was on a cliff faciing the grand canyon….and I had to be careful WHO I invited to look at the view with me…..one sneeze, one bump and I was over the cliff dead…….there was no room, I felt for any more anything……

    Yes, I am still buried in post divorce crap, still worry about my health and what would happen if the C returned or I had another strokes etc.., as I have no heath insurance.
    But…..I will make it…..we have to think we can to be able to do anything……
    Believe and it will come.

    You make a very curious (to me) point about the PTSD…..and memory loss and word loss…
    This occured right after my strokes…..I have always attributed these things to the strokes….
    I have been able to ‘retrain’ my mind on some things, like relearning left and right…..THANK GOD WE HAVE A 50/50 chance at getting that wrong!…..but others issues, like finding the right words….
    I still have issues with! I was always articulate and had a decent vocabulary…..but now I just say or write as I can think of anything that may get the point across!
    I find myself saying…..ummmm, ummmm whats that word….I can see it, but it doesnt’ land on my tongue.
    Oh well….I’m alive….
    But I never really attributed this to PTSD……I guess we will never know the root. So now I have 2 excuses!!!! I’ll use it!
    🙂

    Have a great weekend oxy…..
    thanks for the feedback!
    XXOO
    EB

  7. OxDrover says:

    Dear Erin,

    Right after the aircraft crash that killed my husband and burned my youngest son as well, there were months I could not READ…I could read th ewords out loud one at a time, but could not comprehend a sentence because by the time I got to the end of it, i ahd forgotten the first of it.

    If you gave me a phone number, i couldn’t remember it long enough to write it down. I had to have the numbers spoken to me 1 at a time, and write each one down before I got the next. I could’t dial a phone by looking at the number as I couldn’t remember which number I had dialed or the next in the series. It was just like the effects of strokes in some cases. My son who was in the plane with my husband and the other two also had the same symptoms from PTSD.

    I can read and comprehend now, but tend to repeat things I have told someone multiple times, I seem to remember things I read better now than what I say or what is said to me.

    Before the aircraft crash, I actually had almost a photographic memory for ANY and ALL conversations I had ever had (like a parlor trick almost) and could repeat back a string of 100 numbers given to me ORALLY, backwards, forwards or skip every other one, or every third one etc. but even 2 years after the crash, I could only go 5 or 6 numbers forward and none backwards, yet, my IQ test professionally given was still at the same level. I still dont’ understand that one!

    I think my therapist was suprised at my IQ test not coming up low average because my vocabulary has definitely decreased and sometimes even simple words (like “tree”) I can see the object but not find the word. My spelling is the PITS and sometimes even though I know how to spell a word, I will type it spelled wrong. I used to type over 100 words a minute on a computer with 99.9% accuracy and now I invert letters, misspell words, can’t think of words—though actually I think my written vocabularly is better in many ways than my spoken one now. Strange changes.

    After the airplane crash and my husband’s death a little over 5 years ago, my egg donor and the trojan horse and my P son all gaslighted me to no end! I was beginning to question my own sanity, and memory—“DID I remember it wrong?” “DID I not remember it at all?” “Are they LYING?”

    I recorded some telephone calls (legal in my state) but didn’t even think about recording conversations in a house. DUH! LOL I guess I should have!

    BTW, dont’ worry about reminding me of one of my faux passes (is that how you spell it plural?) I have retained the ability to laugh AT MYSELF—if I hadn’t I couldn’t function! My sons are quick to point out my “forgetter” but I remember a few of theirs too, so it is TIT FOR TAT around here!

  8. Shawnee says:

    I am not interested in being “right”. I gave that up when I was five.
    Walk a mile in my shoes. You have NO IDEA where I am coming from. Rosa INHERENTLY DOES. Don’t know why. Don’t care why.
    We validate EACH OTHER. Just like Oxy and EB validate EACH OTHER. We offer UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE. We BOTH KNOW that we are NOT having a “DIG” or LASHING OUT”. I think it is wonderful that EB and Oxy and WHOEVER VALIDATE each other. Not sure why I am not allowed to do the same here when i need it.
    All I care about is staying alive. And Rosa “GETS IT” . Don’t know why. Don’t care why. Don’t care if I am WRONG or RIGHT.
    Rosa doesn’t want to know the gory details and the ins and outs of it. I help her as much as she helps me.
    We validate and support and love each other. She is going through an equal stressful time whilst I go through mine. I don’t care if you believe her or don’t believe me or whatever.
    The whole “right or wrong thing” is great for whatever EB and Oxy are teaching each other. It has NOTHING to do with me. Rosa and I have the capability to be graceful and happy and rise above the most crappy scenarios with our bent humour. It helped me. Thats all.

  9. It is time for this thread to end.