I Need to Know

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Photo credit: Scott Liddell

I know it’s been a while since we’ve talked, Brother, about 4 months. Here’s why: I’m struggling. I don’t feel like I can talk to you about normal, everyday shit until I have some answers. I was there for your last court appearance. I heard what you said. But I don’t really buy it. I feel like there’s got to be more to it than that. So can we finally talk about it?

You said in court that the reason you all decided to rob and eventually kill her is that you wanted some money for pot. Is that the truth? I don’t believe it. If you wanted some cash for drugs and somehow thought that robbing someone you know would be something you could get away with without killing her, that doesn’t make sense at all. Because if you knocked her out, robbed her, then she woke up and would know it was you who did it. So were you planning to kill her from the beginning? If so, then WHY?

I understand that your partner was jealous of her and that serves as her motive, but what the hell was yours? Why would you do something so terrible and so stupid over drug money? And you weren’t even under the influence of drugs at the time! That does not compute. I’m not an idiot. I know there’s more to the story. And I need to know. Can you tell me now? Now that it’s been 2 years? I can’t wait for the trial for answers, and I doubt I would get any then either. And you didn’t even seem remorseful on the witness stand. You shed no tears. No apology. Does it not seem real to you? Do you not realize the depth of what you’ve done?

I’m so MAD at you. I’m so damn disappointed. I’m filled with so much anger toward you, toward everyone. I feel like I don’t know who you are. I can’t reconcile the Brother that I know and the Brother that was up there on the witness stand those months ago without further explanation. I can’t talk to you on the phone and pretend everything’s alright because it’s not alright. I’m not alright. My heart is broken. My mind is confused. I’m racked with guilt. I don’t know what to think about anything and I’m tired of not knowing. I need to know in order to get passed this and move on. I need to know in order to have a relationship with you.

Can you please explain?

You Killed Him

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You killed my brother.

You told him he was nothing and he believed you.

That’s what you do. You kill people. The very people you were given the responsibility to protect.

You terrorized your child who depended on you for love and survival and starved him of that love. You convinced him that he will hunger for love for the rest of his life because he is undeserving of it.

You beat him at the drop of a hat. You berated him. You humiliated him. You taught him to hate himself.

You instilled fear in him as you tortured and broke the dog he loved so dearly.

You made his mind sick with the chronic trauma you inflicted on him in his childhood years.

You were glad that he was locked up for murder as a child because you were free. Now you could play the role of the victim and the saint.

YOU KILLED HIM. YOU KILLED HIM. YOU killed him.

You haven’t killed me.

Letter To My Brother, A Murderer

8655428106_1f26bf2ccb_zToday is your 17th birthday. I can’t believe it. Looking back at old pictures of you as a little boy, your face is just the same. Only now, your eyes are sadder.

I’m sorry I haven’t written you back. I’ve been desperately searching for the right words, but I don’t think they exist. Please forgive me if I say something stupid.

I too wish that we could go back to the day of my wedding and the dance we shared. It is one of my favorite photos. It reminds me of how much fun we used to have when we were younger. Do you remember the songs and poems you used to write and recite for us? Or when you used to try and break dance? You were such a goof, always making us laugh. Your eyes sparkled, your smile beautiful.

I love you so much. I’ve always cared about you so much, worried about you, wanted to help you. Did you know? Did you know that I loved you all this time? It used to hurt me to see your social media posts about how absolutely no one cared about you. Because I did. And I thought I had made that clear. But it always felt like you just wanted to push me away. I felt like I would stick my neck out for you, or try to help you or love you and you didn’t care. Or it didn’t matter. And I wonder now if you even knew. Or if I went about it the wrong way.

I wish you had trusted me enough to let me in. I wish we knew each other better.

I won’t lie to you: I’m angry. I’m beyond angry with you for what you did, what has happened. I’m angry with our parents too, for both what they did and what they didn’t do. I’m mad at myself for not having had the answers to everything, for not knowing how to help or make things better, and for not being a better sister. I won’t be angry at you forever. But I am now.

I wonder if you can have any idea of the ripple effects of the decisions you’ve made. I wonder if you’ll ever fully know. How you affected her family and friends and friends of her family, how you’ve impacted our family and friends. How it’s affected me, my relationship with my husband, my work, how I relate to people in general.

But mostly I wonder why. WHY? Maybe you don’t even know the answer yourself. Maybe why doesn’t even matter. But the question haunts me.

What do you think lead you up to this point? I could certainly make some guesses, but I want to hear what you think. What were the things that lead you here?

No matter what, I am your sister. And I will love you. I hope you know that your life is not over. The life you knew is over, yes. But your life still has purpose, even if most or all of it is lived in prison. So don’t give up.

Happy birthday, baby brother. You’re not alone.

I hope to hear from you.

Degrees of Responsibility

Whose ultimate responsibility is it when a child commits murder? Is it solely their own? The parents’? The teachers’? The community?

My brother, a minor, was charged with first degree murder. And these are only some of the questions that keep me awake at night.

Prior to this charge, I would look into his broken, tortured eyes and remember his younger self. Images of his sweet, happy face would haunt my mind. I could see him, aged somewhere between 5 and 8, gleefully trying his hardest to break dance in the middle of the living room. I remember the poems he wrote, beautiful. The songs he would write. The laughter. His smile. His face so innocent. So earnest. I, a child myself, was his primary caregiver until about 8. Life was difficult, but he hadn’t been completely broken yet.

Fast forward to his early teen years and the difference in his countenance was extreme. He’d continued to go through years of abuse and neglect even after I’d left. Our father was physically, verbally, and psychologically abusive to us all. Our mother was seemingly indifferent and asleep. It took me a couple of excruciating years to get my younger siblings removed from that place, placing them in my mother’s care. Then, in a devastating blow, my mother gave up on him and told him to go back and live with our father because she didn’t care anymore.

My brother lived with our father from then on, knowing that neither of his parents wanted him around. He felt so alone. His older brothers went off and developed drug addictions and criminal records and struggled with mental illness. As for me, his older sister, I struggled to cope with years of trauma and withdrew from everyone, in a sense, abandoning him as well.

At school, he was constantly in trouble or suspended or expelled. Teachers hated him. He lived to be accepted by his peers, a “rough” crowd. The more trouble he got in, the cooler he seemed to be with this crowd. He saw their acceptance as his only opportunity for a sense of belonging. Teachers and counselors should see these behaviors as cries for help. Yet, no one bothered. He failed classes. He got into drugs. He became addicted. He began stealing things for cash because his parents didn’t provide for him and the cash also helped his addiction.

There was a period of time where there were a slew of suicide attempts. Still, he received no help from anyone. More and more unimaginable trauma continued to stack up.

I begged our parents to get out of their own asses and do something. For the love of God. I researched programs. I called child protective services. I pleaded with them without success. I pleaded with my brother. He would just look at me with those sad, broken eyes. He would say something like “Why even try? What’s the point? I’m just worthless. And I don’t give a shit.” He’d say this with tears in his eyes, red-faced, but with a small, fake (defeated) smile.

So I don’t know if he committed the crime or not. I have no idea. There is no conviction at this time. I find myself going round-and-round in my mind trying to make sense of it all. The sweet, tender-hearted boy I know would not be capable. But he wasn’t that boy anymore. He was broken. Drug addicted. Beat down. Out of his mind and hopeless. Lost.

I know that none of that is an acceptable reason to take someone else’s life. And I am so completely horrified that this person is gone. That this family has suffered such a terrible loss. And that my brother could have had something to do with it. I am simply in such shock that I cannot even process the implications of this.

I’m just wondering aloud about the responsibility. This child, my brother, was raised under such horrendous circumstances. For the most part, without love and without guidance. Only beaten and broken, physically and psychologically. Is the blame solely his? What about the father who beat him? What about the mother who neglected his needs? What about the teacher that felt he wasn’t worth teaching? The brothers that left him in the dust and set terrible examples? The community that saw signs of abuse but didn’t report it? What about me? I knew he was on a destructive path, but I didn’t do everything in my power to intervene. Are we all responsible?

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