…for the repose of the soul…

Photo courtesy Eberhard Grossgasteiger through unsplash.com

Fair warning: this is going to be a very dark and sad post. You might want to go elsewhere, to a place where quiet is disturbed only by laughter and where there is no fear or bad endings instead of reading what follows.

I am blessed with living on a very nice street in a very nice neighborhood. What little crime occurs here tends to be transitory. Maybe the police will stop an intoxicated driver or there will be a bit of vandalism or a fight at one of the schools. It’s generally boring, and that’s how we like it.

I received a telephone call from D, my good friend and former brother-in-law, on Monday, June 4 at about 7:35PM. D lives one street over from me. He has worked in law enforcement and has a friend on our local police force. D seemed hesitant at first when I answered. “Um, Joe,” he said, “You didn’t, uh, just kill (your wife) did you?” I assured him that I had not. He told me that his policeman friend had called him a few moments before and told him that there had been a murder on my street involving a married couple. I went outside to find the house across and five up from mine surrounded by police cars. The short version of what was gradually revealed is that the husband (J) and wife (D) who lived there had been having marital problems and had separated in anticipation of a divorce, with the husband living elsewhere but occasionally visiting his wife. They sought the advice of a family lawyer like the ones found at Http://www.petersmay.com/, so hopefully, everything will be sorted. According to witnesses, J on the day in question had been at the house but was seen exiting with blood on his hands and confessed to his brother via telephone and to a neighbor in person to killing D. J then got in his car and left. The neighbor went over to the house and looked in the front window, saw D’s body, and called 911. J was quickly apprehended and arrested. He is currently in custody as the justice system moves forward.

J and D were what I would call “waving” neighbors. I had two conversations with J in twenty years, both occasioned by our shared backgrounds — we both misspent our formative years in the Cleveland area — but were not what anyone would call close. I saw and talked with D more, but not much more, and our conversations were short and hardly substantive. I do remember feeling bad for her a few years ago when J set up what was supposed to be a celebratory birthday display for D on their front yard. I am not lacking a sense of humor, and such has often been characterized, not inaccurately, by people who know me as extremely inappropriate. I felt so bad for D about what was in their yard, however, that I had to restrain myself from tearing it down. I can’t imagine that D’s birthday was happy that year. I am further unable, as more official information trickles out concerning what allegedly occurred last week, to remotely imagine what D’s last minutes were like.

The damage that was inflicted upon D during her last minutes on earth — as indicated by the charges against J, which I won’t get into here — and which resulted in her death radiates far beyond the house where she and J lived and raised a family. They have three adult children, two of whom are engaged to be married, with all living out of state. Losing both parents at once in very different ways will undoubtedly leave a mark. Worse, to my mind, is that D’s mother is still with us. Parents usually go ahead of their children and the passing while tragic is the normal order of things. The death of a child at any age before a parent is not something, I would think, from which one could ever recover. I can’t imagine what she is going through or will face.

A number of automobiles have driven down the street at regular intervals since D’s murder, negotiating the cul-de-sac where my house rests before making their way back up toward what they no doubt regard as the murder house. Neighbors have been taking care of the yard, but I can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to live there again. How dreadful is that place. I struggle daily — hourly — with my faith, but when I drive by that house the words of a prayer that I haven’t said in decades rise up unbidden inside me. I hope that they do some good, somewhere, somehow:


…may her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.



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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

27 thoughts on “…for the repose of the soul…

  1. Thank you, Harvey. It’s not inadequate at all. Of course whatever my neighbors and I might feel would pale in comparison to what the family is feeling. I can’t even open that door mentally.

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss, Joe. Wrongful death is never easy, especially when it hits close to home. I’ll keep you and D in my thoughts and prayers.

    A similar tragedy happened not far from me, about a mile or so down the road. A woman’s live-in boyfriend beat her toddler to death. The murder was so brutal the entire area mourned the loss, even though many of us had never met this child or his mother. As the details came out, the local residents became more and more enraged (apparently, the mother wasn’t as innocent as she claimed). Until one day, the house mysteriously burned to the ground — small town justice. At the same time, someone staked a cross into the soil across the street. Two years later, folks are still leaving teddy bears and toys for that little boy. Heartbreaking.

    • Thank you, Sue, and I’m sorry for your trauma and loss as well. I’m going to hazard a guess that in the cosmic balance what you described is much, much worse. As far as the house burning down is concerned…that’s what I would call divine spontaneous combustion. Thanks for sharing.

  3. That prayer is about all we can do in a case like that. It’s especially terrible for the family. It’s no doubt put a shadow on the grown children’s marriages. —- Suzanne

  4. Absolutely, Suzanne. And it will go beyond that. How will they explain what happened to their children?

    • They won’t ever forget from generation to generation. They’ll have to find a way to live with it. My mother told me in detail all about the suicide of her first husband some twenty years after it happened. I still have the newspaper clipping. There are things I’ve been told about other people I’ll never burden my children with. It stops with me as far as my family goes. I can’t control what other’s involved told but I doubt my children will hear it from those others.

  5. I’m very sorry for your loss and for the family. Some years back, the father of one of my elementary students killed the boy’s mother. The whole class was traumatized. The children lost their innocence over night. They grew shockingly hard and cynical and it lasted for years. My prayers for these children and grandchildren.

  6. Joe, I’m sorry for your loss and the sorrow that is casting a shadow on your neighborhood. This should be good weekend for families, with Father’s Day. Unfortunately, too many fathers are absent.

    We can never understand the “why” of such horrible events that tear families apart.

    In spite of the sadness you are experiencing, I hope your family brightens your weekend with wishes for a Happy Father’s Day. And let me add my wishes, as well.

  7. Such a tragic event. Several years ago, a woman who worked in the same hospital as me was murdered by her husband. I didn’t know her well, but she always was friendly and greeted me with a smile. No one knew what she faced each day at home until it was too late. Thoughts and prayers for you, your neighbors, and the woman’s family.

    • Thank you, Joan. Your story is similar to mine in the sense that D during the past few years appeared troubled but I attributed it to other factors. On the rare occasions when I ran into her I would ask her how things were generally but she never shared anything, not that I really expected her to. No one really expected this, however.

  8. Joe, I sometimes pray, but the most fervent prayer I ever pray, almost on a daily basis, is, “Thank you.” I give thanks to God when I look at how bright the sun is on a peaceful morning, how pleasant the bird’s song is, how lucky I am that no one is sick or ailing in my household (including me,) how wonderful it is that even though I worry about this and that, no one is raises voices in my house-except on very rare occasions. My wife and I, and our two children, actually kinda like each others. I also give thanks for the fact that although we live in a politically fractured country, on a day to day basis, 99% of us are going about our daily business, with no outward malice toward others. We can go where we want, do what we want, (within the law,) and so.
    Sometimes all you’ve got it, “Thank you,” even though we’d all like more.

    • Edward, “Thank you” says it all. Thanks for sharing that wisdom, which is profound and is all too often unacknowledged, if not forgotten entirely.

  9. Dear Joe,

    This is why we write–trying to make sense of the incomprehensible, trying to find order in meaningless chaos. On the page, we grasp for explanations that are sadly out of reach in real life.

    The house across the street from ours was the scene of the suicide of a boy on his 16th birthday. He tried to take his little sister with him when he shot himself in the head. The little sister came to live with us soon after.

    Forty years later, she’s a senior manager with a major corporation. She’s excelled and is considered the go-to person who always gets the problem solved, no matter what it is.

    Her early experience will never go away but she was able to move forward with life and be productive.

    Open wounds eventually become scars and we keep plodding on.

  10. Dear Debbie, thanks for sharing. That little girl was so lucky to have you. I’m sure she realizes how different her life may have been without your material and spiritual generosity. That’s very special.

  11. I’m so sorry to hear this for all involved–the family members who remain behind to deal with it, friends and neighbors. I especially wish for those adult children the ability to cope not only for themselves but for any grandchildren or future grandchildren, as there can’t be any easy way to assimilate or cope with such a situation. My heart goes out to them.

    • Thank you, BK. We forget that rash and impulsive acts — whether ones like this or so-called “victimless” crimes — have effects that radiate far beyond the epicenter of the immediate people involved.

  12. Don’t forget the person that found the body. That is an image that will live with them forever. They may need support from the neighborhood.

  13. Thanks RG. Very true. Ironically, that person and her husband were J and D’s closest friends on the street. They will no doubt be called as witnesses should the charges proceed to trial, thus making their involvement even more traumatic.

  14. Weeping for a stranger requires the
    strength of ten thousand chariots, none
    of which can return her to us that we might
    make a friend of her.

    So sorry, Joe.

  15. Sad, sad story. Joe. The reality of violence is hard to comprehend for those who haven’t seen it or felt it up close. It affects and infects far beyond the victim’s yard or family tree. And the results last forever. My heart goes out to you, your neighbors, and most importantly to the children, grown as they may be.

    • Thank you, John. Your point is well taken re: the reality of violence. We all watch too much video. The reality is much more ugly and dangerous (not to mention permanent) than what occurs on the screen. And the ramifications are endless.

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