Forever Seventeen

***TRIGGER WARNING***

The following deals with a True Crime murder

Bailey, Colorado – Park County

December 1, 2017

Seventeen-year-old Maggie Long, excited to be a part of the first concert at Platte Canyon High School, had forgotten something at home. After school, she drove the 20 minutes to her family’s ranch to retrieve it. When she pulled up the long driveway, she noticed a white van, an old beat-up Ford truck, and a brownish colored older model minivan blocking the garage door. Her family had been renting out their attic space to some people and probably thought the cars belonged to them. We will never know what was going on in her head that afternoon.

I didn’t know her personally but had heard much about her. She was on the debate team at Platte Canyon High School, where I had been a judge earlier in the year. She was good. A straight “A” student, a thespian for the local theater group, and everyone knew her. No one ever had a bad word to say about Maggie. She was an excellent role model for many of her fellow students and friends. Every year on her birthday, she would make hundreds of sandwiches, passing them out to the homeless on the streets of Denver. Many saw her studying at a table at her parent’s Chinese restaurant. You don’t run across many people like Maggie in your lifetime.

The following morning, I awoke to Facebook posts asking the public if they had seen Maggie. Pictures of her were attached to the post, and her sister said she was missing. There were numerous comments of concern and volunteers wanting to put a search party together. But the police said no, it wasn’t necessary, without giving anyone a reason.

When the students went back to school on Monday, there were grief counselors on hand for them. The parents were confused. Why grief counselors if Maggie was only missing? Did she have a fight with her parents? Did she quarrel with her boyfriend? The community still had no answers, and the police weren’t saying anything.

A week passed. The police came out with an official statement. A gag order was placed on all information on the case. Maggie’s burned body was found in her parent’s house. They had known all along and never said a word to the public. An entire week had gone by without a word about Maggie. The community, visibly upset and angry, wanting to know what happened to Maggie.

The details of that day are sketchy. Maggie went home to retrieve something she had forgotten for the concert. Upon entering her home, she interrupted a burglary taking place by three young white males. She fought with them. They ended up overtaking her, tying her to a bed. Speculation, she had been raped. During the burglary, the murderers stole jade figurines, a gun safe, several weapons including handguns and an AR-15 with over 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Loading up a white van, a brownish minivan, and an old Ford 150 pickup truck. They poured gasoline on Maggie and set her on fire. According to the coroner’s report, she had been burned alive.

When the renters called the police, the vehicles were still at the residence. The police or fire department had to have passed them as they approached the house. Unbeknownst to law enforcement, they allowed the killers to get away. Because their ranch set back onto acres of land and secluded from the road, there was only one way in and one way out. They drove out of the ranch gates and headed for Denver, in the dark. They are still on the run.

The community, shocked and horrified. Her friends, devastated. They wanted to know why the police withheld the information. They wanted to know why they hadn’t found the killers yet. Waiting over a week to disclose any information, law enforcement now wanted to know if anyone had seen anything. A tip line was set up. They questioned thousands of residents, going door to door, taking DNA samples from boys in the town fifteen and older. The police force called in the FBI and CBI. Roadblocks were set up by the ranch gates, stopping every resident going down the road passing out flyers featuring a generic sketch of one of the killers, along with pictures of what was taken from the house; they came up empty-handed.

Months passed, and they had no leads in the case. Maggie’s parents closed both restaurants they owned and left town. Rumors started to fly. One stated the family was targeted. They had been involved in illegal activities, trafficking Chinese people for some gang. All ridicules, all unfounded. Who could blame them for leaving town?

Maggie was to celebrate her eighteenth birthday that year on December 17th. Two weeks after her murder, her friends continued the tradition of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  They handed out sandwiches to the homeless, all in her memory. That June, she was an honorary graduate. Her sister accepted her high school diploma.

On the one-year anniversary of Maggie’s murder, the FBI and CBI set up another roadblock by the ranch gates. This time they had sketches of three males who may be involved. A website designated for tips as well as supplying information to the public. But again, the case still isn’t solved.

When another case similar to Maggie’s happened in Missouri, the police and FBI sent out a detective to interview the young woman, who had survived, trying to get a description of her perpetrators. They were, in fact caught, but the DNA sample wasn’t a match. Another potential lead lost.

My family and I have moved from the area, but it is still a hard pill to swallow for the community at large. An emptiness felt throughout the town when Maggie was killed, and a rage still exists about how the police department handled the case. The sheriff, who decided to start his retirement early, unbeknownst to the townspeople who paid his salary. Many believe if he had been around, the killers wouldn’t have gotten away.

The two-year anniversary of Maggie’s murder is approaching, and still, the police have no new leads. The entire community still mourns her loss. The three men in the sketch are still free and believe they have gotten away with murder.

The reason I am writing this story is the information needs to go beyond Colorado. These men could be anywhere. The more platforms that publish the story, the more eyes get to look for any similarities. One man is believed to have burn marks on one of his forearms.

Timeline:

On the day of Maggie’s murder, she was reported to have left school around 3:30-3:35 pm. She would have arrived at her home by 4:00  pm.

A local resident was driving down Deer Creek Valley Ranchos Road and recalls no unusual activity at the Long home. The 911 call came into police dispatch at 7:01 pm. The reporting party stated they heard yelling and items being thrown around. They also smelled smoke. The reporting party was the tenants who lived in the attic.

A local resident reported an older model, tan vehicle driving fast out of the Long Ranch, crossing over into oncoming traffic.

Fire department was called out at 7:12 pm.  Arriving at the residence, they discovered a one-story frame house with a fire in the garage.

By 8:00 pm the tenant was able to be removed from the residence. At 8:15, CBI was called out due to multiple fire ignitions. 8:45 pm completely extinguished fire when the coroner was called out to the scene. The family had gathered in the driveway, and no one was permitted to enter the premises.

Around 9:30 pm, Maggie’s sister posted a call for help to find her sister.

That evening, the concert went on without Maggie. Her friends, fellow students, and teachers were asking about her all night. It was unusual for her not to be there, especially since she was one of the organizers. When I see the timeline of events, it saddens me. To know, while she was suffering, others were enjoying themselves, listening and dancing to music. Was Maggie there in spirit? From 7 pm, the start of the concert, until it ended at 9 pm, Maggie’s spirit was among her friends; whispering her last goodbyes, knowing she would forever be seventeen.

There’s currently a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible.

See photos here

New Author Name

Be sure to check out my new author page on Coffeehouse Writer’s where I’ll be writing articles every 2 weeks and will have them published there as well as here.

I will also be writing under the name of LC Ahl for Coffeehouse. My next article will be published on Monday, October 14th and another one on October 28th…don’t worry, I will keep you informed!!

My next article is a true crime piece on the murder of Maggie Long in Bailey Colorado. I am writing it because her murderers are still out there and they need to be brought to justice. My hope is it will get into the hands of more people scattered throughout the US and possibly the world (through you, my followers). Maggie deserves justice!

Thank you to all who follow my blog! Be sure to follow and like my stuff on Coffeehouse Writers!! Coffeehousewriters.com check out all the other amazing authors work too!!

Never Say Goodbye

There were so many little things Trent remembered when he and Katherine were a living, breathing couple. Today, was the twang in Tim McGraw’s voice singing one of their favorite songs on his truck radio. Moments like these brought tears to his eyes.

He grabbed his Aviators off the sun visor and placed them on his face. No need for anyone to see his emotions. Turning onto the tree-lined street, he noticed the beauty of the leaves turning color.  Most days he drove to work and back in a trance-like state, never noticing the beauty which surrounded him.

He pulled his truck into the circular driveway, and parked by the front doors. Kate didn’t like him parking there. She used to say, “What if someone drops in to see us? They’ll have a hard time backing out.” But these last few years, not too many people dropped by anymore. The first six months there seemed to be hordes of people showing up to see how he was doing, but they stopped coming around.

Kate was the social butterfly, not him.

As he entered the house, the security alarm sounded like a countdown to a nuclear blast.  He inserted the code and threw his keys in a bowl on the half table in the foyer.

“Honey, I’m home,” he shouted.

The silence was deafening.

He walked into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door and retrieved a beer. Twisting the cap off, he placed it between his forefinger and thumb. He pretended he was making a goal. Aiming for the trash can lid, he flicked it, and watched as the cap bi-passed the lid and fell to the floor.

“Tomorrow’s another day for a win,” he said to himself.

He shed his jacket and shoes as he headed towards the staircase, leaving them in a small pile by the kitchen entry. Kate wouldn’t like that either. In fact, she had trained him to put his stuff away where it belonged. It didn’t surprise him how easy it was to fall into his old habits without her around.

He took the steps two at a time. As he rounded the corner of the hallway leading to his bedroom, he stopped at the bookcase where all the family pictures were still displayed. He picked one up. It was one of his favorites, and he couldn’t part with it.

Their wedding day had been, at the time, the highlight of his life. In the photograph, they both were beaming, and he remembers the day as if it were yesterday. He wishes it was yesterday.

“God, I miss you so much, it hurts.” He said to the photo.

Placing the photo back on the shelf, he walked into his bedroom. It didn’t feel like his bedroom anymore. But he made the trip up the stairs at least twice a day. The couch had become his bed even though there was a perfectly good king size bed he could sleep on. Too many memories.

Almost two years since she left. Funny how fast the cancer took her. One day she was complaining about a small pain in her side, and the next, or so it seemed, she was dead. They had gone to the best doctors. By the time she had noticed any symptoms, the monster had been eating her from the inside out. They never stood a chance. They made the best of the time they had left together, and for that, he would be forever grateful. She made him promise to never say goodbye. She told him she would never leave him, and she would always be around to watch over him. It wasn’t long after that she slipped into a coma and then she was gone.

Prior to her diagnosis, they used to tease each other. If she died before him, she would come back and haunt him. He would do the same to her. No matter how hard he looked for signs, she never appeared.

Perusing through his closet, he came across his old fishing vest.

“I’ve got an idea. I should go up to our cabin. It’s been what? Two years? With the changing of the seasons and the fall colors, maybe it’s what I need to get out of my funk.” Trent talked to himself as if he were having a conversation with Kate, in hopes of hearing her voice answer back.

He threw sweats, underwear, and socks into the suitcase, which now lay open on the bed. Toothbrush, shaving kit, shampoo, soap; that should do it.  Closing the case, he carried it downstairs to the kitchen.  He grabbed a cooler from the garage, and began filling it with food supplies, enough to last the weekend.  He had no idea what condition the place was in since he hadn’t been up there since Kate’s death.

Fall, his favorite time of year, his and Kate’s.  The vivid colors of the aspen tree leaves, painted across the landscape, caused a delay in their journey every time. Kate, the amateur photographer, would want him to pull over every few miles.

Even though Trent remembered every place they had ever stopped, he drove straight through. Mile Marker 22 was unrecognizable with all the overgrown weeds and eroded dirt road. He put his truck in 4-wheel drive and drove a few miles until he came to a clearing. He stopped and stared at the log cabin with the wrap-around porch and swing for two overlooking the lake.

“Well, Kate if you’re here, you sure haven’t done much to the place.” He joked. He looked over to the passenger side of the truck. He remembered the first time they had come up there, right after they bought the place.

She was wearing white Capri jeans and a denim vest, buttoned-down so he could admire her cleavage. Her camera strap was around her neck. Her long brown hair was hanging straight, and she had on red lipstick. Her teeth were so white, they gleamed whenever she smiled. 

“I can’t believe this is our place,” she was so excited. She grabbed the door handle and jumped out. 

“Come on,” she said, “I can’t wait to see the inside.” She ran ahead of the truck, stopping every now and then to snap a picture. She ran up the three steps to the front door and disappeared inside.

Trent parked the truck and grabbed his suitcase. He’d go back for the cooler. Putting the key into the lock, he turned the knob. His stomach had butterflies flitting around, and his heart was racing. He knew once the door opened, it would flood him with more memories, but perhaps this was what he needed to get on with his life.

As soon as the door opened, he sensed something wasn’t right. He sniffed the stall air of the closed-up cabin, and a trace of lavender hit his nostrils.

“Hello? Is someone here?” he yelled out.

“Kate? Is that you?” he whispered.

Putting his suitcase down, he walked through the cabin. He ran his fingers along the furniture Kate had purchased from the little antique shop in town. He picked up the little potpourri bowl on the side table and took a long whiff.  Another memory came flooding back to him.

She had come back from a shopping spree with a bag of lavender potpourri and an antique pink crystal candy bowl. She poured the open bag into the dish and put it up for him to smell.

“This will make the cabin more welcoming; don’t you think?” she asked. “Even says so on the back of the bag. And when you come up here with your buddies, you’ll be reminded of me.” She kissed him on the cheek, and as she started to walk away, he grabbed her, pulling her close to him. He gave her a long, deep kiss on the lips.

“I don’t need potpourri to remember you.”

Putting his suitcase in the small bedroom, he went out to get the cooler. He needed a drink. Opening up kitchen cabinets, he knew he had a bottle of scotch hidden somewhere in one of them. Finding it, he poured himself a half glass, threw a few ice-cubes in to chill the warm liquid, and walked out to the swing on the porch. The cabin sat on a lake surrounded by forest on three sides. Not a soul in sight for miles and the quiet, except for a few birds, was deafening. The sun was sitting above the tree line, and it illuminated the colors of the aspens. If Kate were here, she would have taken a picture.

As Trent looked over the lake, he thought he saw something moving in the forest. The shadows were playing tricks with his eyes, or so he thought. And then he saw her, a woman, standing just at the edge of the tree line. She was wearing a yellow sundress, and her long brown hair was flowing in the breeze. He raised his hand in a wave-like gesture, but she disappeared into the forest.

“Kate?” he whispered.

* * * * *

When he didn’t show up for work that Monday morning, Trent’s boss assumed he was ill. But when he didn’t show up the following day, he called the police to do a welfare check. Finding nothing amiss, they shrugged it off. A few weeks later, a couple of hunters came across the body of a man in a camo colored fishing vest, sitting under a tree as if he were waiting for someone. After contacting the sheriff, the coroner determined the poor soul had died from exposure.

* ****

After Trent’s funeral, his brother went up to the cabin. What could have possessed him to go into the forest without proper attire? When he opened the cabin door, he could smell hints of lavender. The cooler was where Trent had left it. A half-empty bottle of scotch was sitting on the counter, next to an empty glass. Pouring himself a drink, he walked out to the porch, looking across the lake.  The sun was sitting above the tree line.  And that’s when he saw it, a dark-haired woman in a yellow sundress and behind her, a man in a camo colored fishing vest.

Lifestyle changes

delay don't denyobesity code

 

After doing four months on Noom at 1200 calories per day plus working out with zero results; and the most recent, very expensive, nutritionist I hired back in October, who gave me a 1500 calorie per day “diet” eating 5-6 times per day, I have decided to not follow any of them.

I gained 12 lbs with the nutritionist who insisted I had been starving my body (said I was probably doing IF incorrectly) and I had to gain weight before losing it (bullshit) or that I was somehow “cheating” and NOOM was supposed to help me take them off (it didn’t), it just helped me maintain that weight gain, I have decided to try the only thing I felt, in my gut, (pardon the pun) that would help me lose these unwanted 50 lbs, Intermittent Fasting or IF.

I just finished reading “Delay, don’t Deny” by Gin Stephens and it’s the only thing that makes sense to me.  I also just ordered Dr. Fung’s book, “The Obesity Code” to gather more information.  I know I’m highly insulin resistant.  I know my hormones are playing a huge part in my inability to lose weight, and I believe with the correct IF schedule, I won’t be “starving” my body like the nutritionist kept telling me I was doing.  I don’t plan on weighing myself every day like NOOM wants you to, talk about depressing.  And even though their eating plan is psychology based, weighing yourself every day can be depressing, it makes or breaks your day.

Oh I forgot, saw a commercial on a GOLO plan so ordered their supplements, made their foods (some are delish) and they also push the hormone reason for not being able to lose weight, so you take their capsules with every meal and still nothing! Thankfully their plan is 100% guaranteed, so I will be requesting a refund! I followed their plan to a tee and saw no results for the last 2 months…

I’m so tired of this…really.  I’m tired of people saying “well, you know it’s all about calories in/calories out (CI/CO)”  Horseshit!  Pardon my outburst. Not everyone is the same, and that is purely old school, especially if you are insulin resistant.  There are so many factors as to why some of us can’t lose weight, no matter what we do. I haven’t been sitting around eating bon-bons all day.  I’ve been working out, riding my bike for miles at a time, walking, limiting my food intake to 1200 cal per day.  And still nothing.  How can that be normal?

After reading Gin Stephen’s book, it truly reiterated what I’ve been thinking all along.  All those calorie restricted diets, the low carb/high fat, the macro counting, all of them have screwed up my metabolism.  It isn’t my thyroid (I’ve been checked every 6 months and my meds are right on).  I can only blame myself for my metabolism being screwed up because I was so desperate to lose weight, to get down to my pre-cancer weight, that I would try anything out there that promised quick results.  I thought Keto was the cure all, and it turns out, for me, it wasn’t.  But I always had high hopes whenever I started a new eating plan.

Well, tomorrow, I start my IF plan.  And with the help of Gin and Dr. Fung, I will do it correctly.  I will fast all day long and open my window at 4:00 pm for snacks and dinner and close it at 8:00 pm to start.  If it needs tweaking, then I will tweak it.  I will only drink water/sparkling water (no flavor), black coffee (most likely will do it with ice), or unflavored herbal tea, I will try starting with 20 hours of fasting, and then 3-4 hours of eating.  If it’s too extreme, then I will cut it back.  I have to find what will work for me. I won’t be weighing myself every day, I will take a current picture of myself, and will measure every month on the 4th of the month along with another snapshot.

I have added a picture of Gin Stephens and Dr. Fung’s books for your reference.  I’m not saying if you are trying to lose weight and have had no success that these are the cure all’s.  But it’s worth a try.  After all, what do you have to lose? And if you want to join me, grab a copy of these books (no, I don’t make any money by promoting them), and get on Gin’s facebook page (just search for Delay don’t Deny on Facebook) answer the 3 questions, and let’s make ourselves accountable.  Who’s in?

Saga of the Golf Course

I’m not trying to be difficult.  I’m trying to understand.  How does a realtor who works in this community and who’s husband is one of the people in charge of getting current homeowners to purchase shares to “save” the community golf course not know what was going down?

We went to the meeting on Sunday evening and apparently they have known about this for “quite some time” (their words, not mine).  The course has been in disarray for awhile and yet no one ever said a word about it.  If you look at all the real estate listings for our community, they all boost about the fact we have a “world class golf course.”

Unfortunately, they need to stop advertising this on the website because the golf course has lost many members due to its deplorable condition.  That goes for the tennis courts which are also in disrepair and have been for sale for the past 2 years with no bites.

The pool has several broken umbrellas and not enough shade for those of us who do belong to the pool.  I haven’t used the weight room yet due to my illness but I can say the restaurant is pretty darn good.  We have enjoyed a few meals there and I can’t complain about that.  The help is friendly and accommodating.

I received lots of backlash from people in the community because I voiced my distaste on how they continue to use scare tactics (your home value will go down 10-30% if you don’t purchase a share), the place will go into further disrepair if we don’t save the golf course,  a developer will build what ever they want, crime will go up, won’t have any control of who lives here, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Since we are not even here 2 months, this angers me, and if the neighbors don’t like it, too f’n bad.  I am looking into an ethics complaint to the Board of Realtors due to the fact our sellers realtor works for the real estate company here in the community. Everyone kept saying, “we’ve only known about this for 2 weeks.”  Well, I call bullshit on that.  At the meeting it was brought up 3 times about how they have known about this for quite some time and that about 30 people were initially brought into the clique to discuss options.

THIS IS WHY I’M UNHAPPY ABOUT THIS SITUATION.  I have invested alot of money into our new home and I don’t appreciate not being told up front so I could make a more solid decision about where I would live.  We thought we had done our due diligence, we just didn’t realize we were being lied to.  Two weeks ago we stopped by the golf course to see about purchasing a membership. Not one person said a word about the course closing. Imagine how hot I’d be right now if we had purchased a membership?

We have discussed and decided to opt out of the purchasing of a share or two.  At this point, I don’t trust the information being given to me.  If they can lie about it to our faces, what are they possibly not telling us.  If they can choose not to disclose this to people purchasing in this neighborhood because it wasn’t yet public knowledge, what else aren’t they sharing with us?

I have made my decision public and my neighbors can hate me if they want. I only wish for the best outcome and for those who can afford it, good for them.  Save our community, and if the HOA tries to take it over and we get to vote on it, our vote will be no.  I don’t want to own a golf course.  I don’t want to be financially responsible for it.  That is not why we purchased in this community.

So for now, they can do what they want.  I am backing out.  My neighbor’s house is for sale and it was sold but just yesterday a new for sale sign went up in the yard, guess they were really obligated to tell the buyers what was going on, I just wish we had been given the same opportunity.

Is this a case of coercion/extortion or just out and out lies?

South bridge golf course

SOUTHBRIDGE

This is the name of our new community where we just purchased our forever home.  Six months of planning and investigating the community you would think would’ve been enough.  As it turns out, no matter how much you research or how many questions you ask, if it’s a lie, it’s a lie.

In the mail on Friday, we received a flyer.  A four page, colored, glossy flyer.  Headlines read, “PRESERVATION & RESTORATION EFFORT … Must act now to keep the Golf Course / Green Space available for our neighborhood”

WTF???

As I continued to read this very colorful flyer, it continued with information about 3 informal meetings to be held at the Golf Course club house.  Our deadline to commit:  September 1, 2019.

Turning the page, there is an Equity Share Commitment Form, which basically states we agree to purchase shares, to be paid in full for $5,000 per share, meaning the privately owned golf club will now become the communities responsibility to maintain.

The next page (3), explains the current leasing management is turning the golf course back over to the owners and the current owners, who don’t live in the Savannah area, will be closing the course and will begin looking for a development organization to buy the property to build additional residential units that may include homes, condos or even apartments.

This action will most likely:

Devalue everyone’s home located in the neighborhood by 10 – 30%

Cause the green space to become unkempt and grow wild

Create construction traffic for years along Southbridge Blvd.

Add approximately 1,000 cars and 2,000 people to the neighborhood

Create lower cost housing within the neighborhood

and finally, HOA would have no control over the new residents or their house keeping.

HOWEVER:

A group of Southbridge residents known as the Southbridge Savannah Golf Group has negotiated an affordable opportunity for the community to have this golf course/green space revitalized and create a positive outcome.

The fourth page then consists of how this can be done:

An LLC “will be created” (meaning one is not created yet so how do we know what this will entail) to allow anyone to purchase Equity Shares to fund raise 2.5 million dollars.  This is a one time only offer.  This 2.5 million dollars will purchase the land and set up a new management team.  They say shareholders will have benefits but they don’t say what type of benefits.  Payment will need to be received by September 15, 2019.  A total of 600 shares are available.

And guess who is heading all of this?  A man by the name of Abbott.  His wife was the realtor representing the sellers of the house we purchased in the middle of June.  And it seems another realtor is in charge of the sale and is in line to receive her commission on 2.5 million dollars.  This realtor is despised by many of the homeowners in this community for various reasons.  Seems everyone has a horror story about her and her real estate dealings.

I’m a little perturbed about this whole thing especially when those who are involved and are in line to profit from these dealings are telling the rest of the community they just found out about it 2 weeks ago.  This I know to be an out and out lie.  On July 11th, my husband and I were in the clubhouse having dinner and we happened to be having a conversation with two gentlemen, one was the auditor for the city of Savannah and the other was a financier who lived in the neighborhood.  They both told us the golf course was going to be closing and the land for sale.  Now mind you, we specifically asked about the finances of the golf course prior to purchasing and closing on our house on June 17th.  We were told everything was solid.  Nothing to worry about. 

Upon hearing this news, we thought for sure they were joking or just misinformed because surely they would have disclosed this information in recent real estate dealings.  This was not the case.  Now it makes me wonder why so many of the real estate women who own houses in this community have sold their homes or have them for sale this year.  And to think we almost purchased a home on the golf course owned by the despised realtor.  We didn’t like her from those dealings nor have we been fond of any of the realtors who work for Southbridge reality. 

Rather than hire an attorney, I will be contacting the Board of Realtors to do the investigation as this was not disclosed to us during our dealings with purchasing this house.  My realtor didn’t even know about it.  It was a close held secret only being discussed among a handful of people, several who hold a real estate license and those who will profit from this sale.

I don’t like how this came down.  I feel they were sneaky.  I feel they were liars.  I feel like I, along with others in the community are now being coerced into owning a golf course we didn’t want to own.  I feel as if I’m being threatened.  My property value will go down if I don’t participate.  My HOA fees may go up to $1,700 per year and who knows, since golf courses never run on a profit, how much higher will my yearly HOA fees go up? And we will have no recourse but to pay them if we want to continue living here.  It will be a money pit, never ending expenses.

Some of the amenities in the community which drew us to it were the pool, (which is also in disarray), the tennis courts, (which when I posted my protest on Nextdoor, one of my neighbors privately contacted me and told me the tennis courts had been for sale for the last 2 years) exercise room, restaurant, and golf course.  Our HOA fees weren’t that high so again, we made our decision on what was presented to us.  However, if I had wanted to pay $1,700 per year for HOA fees, I would have purchased in the Landing, or some of the more prestigious neighborhoods in Savannah.

Tonight we will go to the meeting where I will take notes and report back as to what they are going to try and cram down our throats.  I honestly do not have another move in me so moving again is just out of the question, but I truly want to get to the bottom of this and feel a full investigation is needed, especially to those of us who just purchased homes in this community and were never given a heads up so we could make a more informed decision when spending our life savings on a house.

The Board of Realtors will be getting a phone call from me in the morning because I will be representing the people in the community who are just as angry about this as I am.

Life is a series of lessons

pyramid with life circles (2013_07_03 19_07_39 UTC)The older we get, the more we learn.  Life is a series of lessons, sometimes easy, sometimes hard.

When I was younger, I was a hard knock lesson learner.  I knew better than anyone older than me, and my experiences were going to be different.  (insert laugh)

As I’ve gotten older and hopefully a little wiser, I am learning to let go.  I’m learning to listen to my intuition more and trust my gut. I guess you could say I got tired of beating my head against the proverbial brick wall.

This makes it harder for my circle to comprehend but I trust, as they mature, they will follow suit.

I have learned change can be hard.  However, if we keep an open mind, we soon realize change is inevitable and most of the time, it ends up being what we needed.  For anyone who has read the book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” by the late author Spencer Johnson, a fable about how to cope positively with change, you’ll know what I mean.   WMMC is a fable about four characters who live in a maze and they all love cheese. When the cheese disappears, Scurry and Sniff (two little people) enthusiastically head out into the maze to find new cheese. On the other hand Hem and Haw (mice) feel betrayed and complain. They waste their time and energy hoping the old cheese will return. Haw realizes the old cheese won’t return so he sets out into the maze in search for new cheese. He writes what he learns on the walls hoping that Hem will follow him. Eventually he discovers new cheese and sees that Scurry and Sniff were already there. Cheese is a metaphor for what you want to have in life. It could be a good job, loving relationship, money or health. The very core message of the book is this: things constantly change so we must adapt. The quicker we adapt to a change the more satisfied we’ll be with life.

It was a required read when I was working on a project for the State of California and I quickly learned prior to the end of that contracted project, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, how much this book helped me get through everything I had to do to save my life.  If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do.  It still helps me today.

It has helped me get through all my family issues I’ve had to deal with these last few years.  It has kept me sane and even though the move to CO depressed me, I pushed through it because my “cheese” was my husband whom I love with all my heart.  I was there because that is where he thought he wanted to be until his “cheese” moved! Luckily, we were gnawing on the same piece and when it moved, we both found it in GA!!

My step son’s cheese moved this past weekend and he finds himself now living with his sister.  My only hope is he doesn’t keep gnawing on that cheese when it grows old and moldy.  I hope he keeps his options open and moves through the maze of life following different brands of cheeses. Time will tell.

Life is not only a series of lessons but it’s also a series of changes.  The sooner we learn from our mistakes (life lessons) and the sooner we embrace change, the happier we will ultimately be.  Don’t lie on your death bed filled with regrets, leave this world knowing you did the very best with what God gave you.

How People See You

3 Dimensions

A funny thing happened the other day when my brother and his wife were visiting us.  We were talking about our kids at first.  And then my brother said something to me which took me aback.  He said, “It’s a good thing you met your husband when you did, because you’d be homeless right now.” He laughed after he said it, so I thought maybe he was joking.  But after thinking about it, I decided he really did believe this about me.  I had to set him straight about his thinking.  You see, I may have had hard times but I have always risen above them and have come out successful in the end.

He didn’t know when I sold all my belongs except for my clothing, it was because I was planning on leaving the country.  I had just gotten my TESOL certificate and was heading either to China or Costa Rica to teach English as a second language.  However, my mom ended up with breast cancer and I decided to move in with her to take care of her and drive her to her many doctor appointments.  Lucky she didn’t need chemo but because she was HER-2 positive, she needed infusions of Herceptin.  My plan was as soon as she was better, I was leaving.  I was still in college earning my BA degree, and I ended up graduating with high honors.  I’m not sure how that equates to being homeless or almost homeless.  I’ve always paid my rent or mortgage on time as well as my bills. I was never overly rich but I was comfortable.

Granted during Obama’s reign, I had to improvise how I earned my money.  I had gotten laid off of my construction job and I started my own business as a Professional Organizer, which I ran for seven years, which paid my bills as well as my rent.  I helped  a Medical Marijuana grower, and I was a packer for a moving company.  So, homeless was never in my mindset.  And I never saw myself as being destitute, I had to tighten my belt but in my mind that was survival skills many people don’t possess.  I am able to live without certain luxuries.  I bartered my hair services, I stopped getting my nails done, and I certainly had enough clothes to wear.  As far as food goes, I was doing Medifast, so my food was delivered and I only had to purchase chicken breast and salad stuff.

How I would like others to see me:  A strong, independent woman who has survived being a single mother of two, a woman who fought and survived a breast cancer diagnosis, a woman who, for fourteen years, didn’t have a man to rely on and made it anyway.  A woman who is a jack of all trades and a master of none.  A person who is loyal as a friend, who is honest, sincere, fierce in her beliefs, and will help anyone in need.  If you cross me, I will forget you.  If you lie to me, I will forget you. If you choose to talk about me behind my back or make up stories, I will forget you.

As I sit here writing this, I am glad I went through the struggles life brought me.  I can say it now that it’s passed me.  And even though I am not an overly religious person, I do know there was someone or something looking out for me.  Perseverance comes to mind.  I’m happy I met my husband when I did.  It meant I was ready to share my life again with someone.  And we are perfect for each other.  I deserve him as he deserves me.  He often tells me he’s not sorry he ruined my plans!  And neither am I.

The saying, “What you think of me is none of my business” still rings true for me today.  I don’t need anyone’s approval to do anything.  I am my own seasoned person.  I love my life.  It may not be perfect, but it’s perfect for me.  The closer the distance between these three dimensions, the more at peace I am.  Don’t always surmise you know a person, unless you really do know that person.

Was it Murder or Suicide?

This is a story about my uncle, Leon Rightnour, my mother’s younger brother. He was 45 years old when they found his body hanging from an Australian pine tree, in a wooded, desolate area of SR 836 and the Florida Turnpike on Tuesday, June 3, 1986 at apprx. 3:45 pm. He had been missing since April 24, 1986. His then wife, Peggy, 27, didn’t bother to formally report him missing until May 15, 1986, because she claims he had a habit of disappearing. And that wasn’t his only habit. According to her, he would regularly freebase cocaine and go out drinking with his friends.

Permanently on probation for murdering his first wife, Leon, worked for a painting company, C&M Painting, doing odd jobs. And even though he was an ex felon, the companies owners trusted him with a company van. The same company van that had been abandoned on the Florida Turnpike and was towed on May 2, 1986, almost a month before his body was found. I wasn’t able to find, in the police report, the exact location of where the van was towed and where it was relative to where my uncle’s body was found.

There were two newspaper articles written prior to the cause of death. One mentions how the police identified the body, hanging from a tree, with his hands tied behind his back and a few days later, another article stating the same and the cause of death was still undetermined. Since the case is over 33 years old, I’m sure the investigators as well as the coroner are well into their retirement. And with my uncle being a known murderer, felon, drunk, and drug user, I’m sure they didn’t want to spin their wheels to find out if the cause of death was a homicide or a suicide. So ultimately, his death was ruled a suicide, even though there is no proof as to where the brand new rope came from. Receipts found in the van indicate painting supplies but nothing mentions the purchase of the rope.

He didn’t have the happiest of lives and was a troubled soul, to say the least. Born to Regina and Tom in 1945, he was the youngest of 4 children, 3 boys and one girl. When Leon was 2 years old, him, along with his other siblings were removed from the home and placed into orphanages in the state of PA. My grandmother had married my grandfather when she was 15, he was in his 20’s. Both my grandparents were alcoholics and it just made sense that 2 of the boys became alcoholics and drug addicts like their parents. They were poor and grew up in the Appalachian Mountains. My mother was the only girl and she learned at a young age to shoot and eat squirrels for dinner. Her side of the family was known as the “hillbillies” or “crazy Natives”.

Two of the kids escaped the life of no return. Charlie became a lifer in the Army and my mother met and married my father when she was 16, escaping to NY and entering into an Italian, stable family. By that time, she had been taken out of the orphanage and was living in NM with her aunt and uncle. Having to drop out of school in order to start making money, she met my dad when she was a soda jerk. He was in the Air Force and took a liking to the girl who made his milkshakes. Though my mother’s family did not approve of her marrying an Italian, back then, prejudice went beyond Hispanics and Blacks, she wanted out so badly, she threatened to run away and marry him anyway. They finally relented.

I don’t know the entire story of my uncle’s life. I don’t know if he ever got adopted out or if he had to endure the life of a foster child. Being taken away from his parents at the age of 2 was pretty traumatic for him. He suffered from abandonment issues. He was in his early 20’s when his first wife left him taking their 2 daughters. She couldn’t handle his drinking. One day she called him up asking for a favor. She had just moved into a new apartment and needed him to haul some furniture. She promised him a home cooked meal. After working all afternoon trying to please her, they sat down to dinner.

She allegedly laughed in his face about what a push over he was (I guess they were both drinking at this time). She allegedly continued to berate him and because of his drunken state, the fact she had abandoned him and was now using him, he completely blacked out. During his blackout, he picked up a steak knife next to his plate, and repeatedly stabbed her to death. The next thing he remembers is “waking up” standing outside his friends house, covered in blood. The police were called, and he was arrested. The two girls were put into foster care and were adopted out to different families. He was convicted of murder (no idea if it was manslaughter or 1st degree) and sentenced to 17 years in federal penitentiary.

When I think back at how young all the players are in this story, it’s rather sad. I looked at some of the facts in this case. My uncle was 45 when he died, his wife was 27. She said they had been married for 7 years, that means she was 20 when she married my uncle, who was just fresh out of prison for murdering his first wife, and yes, she knew about it. They lived with her mother. She constantly nagged him over his drinking and cocaine use (like she didn’t know this prior to marrying him). Their relationship was extremely volatile, constant fighting, each one disappearing for days on end. Thank God they had no children. They were poor and uneducated.

And even though I know all this about my uncle and his life, I do know he wasn’t suicidal. Several of his friends told the cops this during the investigation. But, Peggy, well, little Peggy mentioned she thought he was depressed and therefore, suicidal. I disagree with her on several aspects:

1. My uncle was in prison for 17 years. Why would he commit suicide after regaining his freedom?

2. Several witnesses heard his late wife’s father threaten him. He was purported to tell my uncle, if he ever got out of prison, he would put a hit on him, have him killed.

3. Some of his friends said he didn’t owe a lot of people a lot of money, but how would they know? They were drunks just like my uncle. They would sit in a dark bar, drink alcohol, and shoot the shit, telling their tall tales to each other. Not a very reliable source if you ask me.

4. During the time of my uncles demise, there was a cult like group in Florida, the Yahweh’s, who were killing white people randomly as their initiation into the cult between April, 1986 and October, 1986. Their leader, sent people out into the Miami metro area and selected people randomly to kill. Many of these murders where made to look like suicide and/or they have never been solved.

Miami’s Yahweh Ben Yahweh cult, the most notorious sect of the Black Hebrew Israelites, was implicated in a reign of terror in the 1980s, and has now all but disappeared. But at its height, it controlled an $8 million empire of properties, including a Miami headquarters known as the ”Temple of Love” and temples in 22 states. It left a track record of horrific violence, including the murders of 14 people.Its doomsday leader, Oklahoma native Hulon Mitchell Jr. (known as Yahweh Ben Yahweh, Hebrew for ”God, son of God”), is in prison with six other sect members for conspiracy in connection with the murders. Mitchell ordered the slayings of black cult defectors to keep others in line, and the random murders of whites as part of an initiation to a secret ”Brotherhood” within the temple. The killers, as proof of their deeds, often brought back severed heads and ears to Mitchell.” (Update: He was released in September, 2011.)

Rough Waters, ‘Stream of Knowledge’ Probed by OfficialsSouthern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, Fall 1997.

5. My uncle was murdered not far from where he lived with his wife and mother in law. His wife, Peggy, had a brother. One of my suspicions is his wife and mother in law had him killed and I believe her brother did it. Why did she not report him missing until almost a month of not hearing from him? Why didn’t the company who owned the van he was driving not report the van stolen or missing? Her excuse of him habitually taking off for days at a time is not a viable excuse. Days does not amount to months. True, there were no cell phones back then, at least affordable ones, however, for someone who has a cocaine habit and disappearing from work, leaves him with no money for his habit.

6. The property found on him, his wallet which contained $11.00 and a $1.00 in his pocket doesn’t account for the almost $2,000 in cash he had on him once he cashed two checks from 2 painting jobs. Did he purchase more cocaine with them? Or did his wife/brother in law take the money prior to hanging him?

7. If he indeed hung himself, how was he able to climb the Australian Pine which was over 123 ft high and whose branches wouldn’t even hold up a swing? below is a picture of Australian Pine trees which surround the Miami area’s wetlands.

8. Some of his friends reported he was talking about getting away and getting help with his addiction. FACT: He had called my mother, his sister, and asked her how the painting business was in California. She told him it was booming. She told him to send out his resume (I was working in Customer Service for a new residential builder) and maybe I could help him get a job. My mother also had a friend of hers whose husband did painting jobs on the side and she told him maybe he could help him as well. If this was how he was going to break his addiction, why would he commit suicide?

9. Autopsy report stated the injury to the neck caused by the knot was cause of death. This is what the coroner wrote in his report: “The victim suffered a fracture to the third cervical vertebra on the left posterior side of the neck, which was consistent with the victim falling or jumping from the tree branch. The vertebra is located on the left front neck area, which is also consistent with the knot on the rope, which was tied to the right rear of the victims’s neck directly across from the force of the rope, which pulled upward when the victim jumped from the tree…the rope was tied in a hangman’s noose consisting of a five-loop hangman and four overhand knots behind the neck slightly to the right side. The noose measured 8.5 inches around the victim’s neck, which, according to Dr. Grey, was consistent with the victim’s decomposition….the white cloth used to tie the victim’s hands was looped two times around the right wrist and then placed in a slip knot on the left wrist. The coroner advised that the victim’s probably cause of death was due to hanging and the manner of death would be classified as a suicide. The rope and white cloth were transported to the MDPD property room.

10. Of the three receipts found in his van, none had items on there which included the rope that was used in the hanging. One salesperson told detectives my uncle had purchased 3′ of chain, and their store did not sell rope. Also, when they spoke with the owner of the painting company, she told detectives there would be no need for rope in their business. So where did the brand spanking new rope come from?

11. One of my uncles best friends told detectives because the victim had spent so many years in prison he had a poor attitude and outlook on life but did not perceive him to be suicidal. He did report he snorted too much cocaine and was having marital problems (everyone of my uncles friends reported the marital problems, which makes me wonder if she committed murder and has gotten away with it, her and her brother.) The last time his friend saw him, they had dinner at my uncles house a few weeks prior to him disappearing, and they had gone out drinking to the El Toro Bar (my uncles hangout). My uncles friend also stated the victim was seriously considering getting treatments or assistance in getting off his cocaine dependency and told him that he was going to go away in order to do so.

12. Another friend interviewed by detectives also stated the victim was depressed over his marital problems, which was his main problem, and stated the victim was constantly being nagged by his wife and causing him severe depression. His friend did state the victim had a cocaine problem and was usually drunk. He stated the victim was not suicidal because although he loved his wife and she would leave him on occasion, he did not believe the victim would kill himself over her leaving him.

13. My uncles boss had left him in charge of the company after he left the area sometime in April to restore a home in NY which his parents left him. He stated the victim was extremely depressed usually because he was always fighting with his wife. He also stated the victim received a $600 or $700 check as a partial payment for a job he was working on in Kendall and that he told the victim to take out his portion and give the rest to his nephew who lived in Miami. The nephew never heard from the victim. According the victims wife, he also had a check for $1,100 which he cashed and did not give the money to the nephew. The money was never found.

14. The crime scene: Located 220 feet from the west of the southbound lane of the Florida Turnpike. the Australian pine tree was 125 feet high. A 1 inch thick manila hemp three strand rope was tied at a branch which extended to the east and measured approximately 14 feet up from the ground. The rope was noted to be tied in three loops around the branch and then had two square knots below the branch with the rope extending downward.The rope hangs downward from the tree, had been tied around the victims neck approximately 8 feet down from the branch from which it was tied. A torn white knit pullover shirt was observed on the ground apprx. 3 feet southwest of the Australian pine tree. The pullover is observed to be torn at the midsection.

Now, seriously, for a man who is always drunk and high, how was he able to accomplish this? How was he able to get his drunk ass up the trunk of a tree, in the dark (my uncle was over 6′ tall) in order to jump to his death in a suicide? I find it shameful that no one in his family ever asked for the police report on his death. His reputation with his family was the same as it was with his friends. He was a murderer, a felon, a drunk and a drug addict. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to kill him and get away with it. And, even though I never really knew my uncle, I was still very curious about what happened to him. Why wasn’t anyone else curious as to what happened to him?

15. The body was in a state of decomposition so advanced, the victims body was hanging from the pine tree with the neck hanging by a small piece of skin. The victim’s hands were tied behind his back at the wrists. The body was in advanced decomposition with the skeletal structure of the head visible. The chest and upper torso was leathered. The right leg was dangling with the foot bones missing. The left leg was missing at the hip. The body was viewed as naked. The pants were on the ground with the victims wallet and ID in the rear pocket. The left leg bones were inside the left pants leg. The victim’s shoes were on the ground under the pants. The right foot was in the right shoe and left foot was in the left shoe.

Nowhere in this report is the finding of my uncles teeth. He had false teeth, most likely from all the “cocaine or meth use”. Nothing in any of the reports I have received mentions his teeth. Where did his teeth go? He was identified by finger prints, not sure how they were able to get fingerprints from a badly decomposed body, but the report states they were able to identify his body via fingerprints obtained by the FBI.

16. Another friend of my uncles, Mr. Charles Surridge, the son of my uncles employer, contacted the lead detective of the case when he read about the body being found. On June 4th he called the detective stating he had been “good friends” with the victim. I have two newspaper clippings on the finding of my uncles body but neither one of them has a date as to when it appeared in the paper. This young kid stated he was shocked to read about the death in the newspaper and wished to know more about the circumstances. Because the case was still under investigation, the detective asked the kid to provide any information he may have. Charlie told the detective last time he saw the victim was later part of April but could not recall the exact date. He claims he and his mother (my uncles employer) were concerned because the victim had disappeared and taken the company van. He said he didn’t know much about his personal life except he had a drinking and drug problem. He said he was the type of person that owed everybody a little bit of money but no one a great deal of money. He couldn’t think of any one who would want to harm him but that if the victim did indeed kill himself, it was because of his wife. He said the victims wife was constantly messing with his head which caused the victim to be depressed. (The depression wasn’t caused from his alcohol addiction? Duh, of course it was!) When he was asked to describe the victim as to what type of person he was he stated, “he was the type of person that always had a beer in his hand and his favorite drinking place was the El Toro.”

Another one of my uncle’s friends, Bart, who was contact by Peggy during the time my uncle was no where to be found, advised Peggy that he had heard conversation on the street that the victim was deep into drugs and got bumped off, and indicated that the victim was probably dead somewhere in the everglades. Bart never disclosed his source and from the police report, the detective never pursued talking to Bart themselves. Again, I feel they felt he wasn’t worth the effort or the money. He was dead. Another dirtbag off the streets.

It is also believed my uncles drug connect was Mr. Moore, his boss, who conveniently moved out of state and up to New York in April, supposedly prior to my uncle’s “suicide.” The detective never questioned Mr. Moore except over the telephone.

I have so many unanswered questions but numerous emails back to Miami Dade police were never answered once they sent me the report. I never received the crime scene pictures and whether they still have them, who knows. I’m sure the only way for me to get them would be for me to actually go there and ask for them. They were reluctant to send me the police report to begin with because it was an old case and they didn’t know who I was…

My biggest problem with this case is this: If my uncle was always drunk or high on cocaine, how the hell was he able to climb up an Australian Pine tree that stood 123 ft high, to a 14 ft branch, knot all the knots found in the rope, do a hangman’s noose, all in the dark, and then climb the tree again, wrap the rope around the tree branch, put the noose around his neck, tie his hands behind his back, and jump to his death? No note was left behind, his teeth were missing, I just can not accept the fact this was a suicide.

My investigation will not end here. I will continue to ask people I know who may be able to give me some answers. I probably will go into the Miami Dade Police Department and request the crime scene photos. I also want to speak to his wife, Peggy. I feel she left out key pieces of information and wasn’t the victim she made herself out to be.

Side note: My uncles birthday was August 24th. My email to the MDPD was dated August 23rd. I did not know my uncles birthday was the 24th of August when I petitioned the police for his file. Was this a coincidence or was my uncles spirit egging me on to do this investigation? Something else I will never know for sure. Suicide is a horrible death, not just for the victim but the one’s they leave behind.

If you or someone you know needs help please reach out and call the suicide hotline at: 1-800-273-8255

And if you know someone who may be fighting an addiction to alcohol or drugs, please visit http://www.nowaddictiontreatment.com. You or your loved one does not need insurance to get help.