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LWOP 6 – Doing LWOP Outside the (NOT) AZ State Prison-Guest Blog by BWR

February 1, 2015

(Or, Aftermath)

Hi everyone, Good Luck to your Super Bowl Team! Associate Professor for Real Life for Felons, BlueWhiteRed here. I wanted to begin with this classic line, because it’s actually true, “I haven’t written lately because there has been nothing noteworthy to report.”

Last post regarding Visiting Susan at the (Not) AZ State Prison really did a number on me. I remember typing the ending and becoming angrier than I felt at the time. The word “selfish” kept rolling over and over in my mind then, and when I typed it. More so today. I’ve talked to Susan on the phone twice since I posted that chapter and she was THRILLED and wanted me to send her a copy. I got off the phone and told my wife that Susan really is the most one dimensional person I’ve ever known. And then Mrs. BWR and I talked for awhile about my waning support of Susan. So I’ve been back here, trying to figure out any other interesting tidbits about LWOP that a female inmate could possibly expect. And while I have been researching AZ specific policies, my wife made a very off the cuff remark that again, I was researching what’s in it for Jodi and yet I never speak much of the other side of the gate. And she’s right and it really has made me think. So apologies if you wanted to read about babies being born to women handcuffed to the gurney, or fights over shower time. I thank Kelly in advance for just letting me talk about the other group who has to do Life Without ANY Possibility for Parole, the victims. I do mean the actual victim(s) and, by extension, the loved ones, friends, etc. Of course, I do not consider myself a victim of Susan’s crime, even peripherally, just a shocked acquaintenance. I do not presume to know how a victim or inmate’s family feels. Just to be clear.

I didn’t know Susan’s victim or his family at all. I didn’t live in his town but the area is somewhat small. Also, at the time of the crime and subsequently, I have not lived in that state. Some of my family did and still does. But once I had read police reports, testimony, etc, I have known exactly where this occurred, and where all the families lived, etc. I can picture it, if you know what I mean.

I told you in the beginning I wouldn’t discuss identifying details about Susan and her case. Last post, I disclosed I believe she is guilty, and have thought so for years, once I got over the complete shock, dismay, denial (those 12 steps of Grief?). I don’t and really can’t discuss or ask her questions because the phones are recorded/observed and there wasn’t time in my 1 hour visit to ask probing questions. In her case, justice has been served. She just won’t ever accept that. That’s on her.

Where to start? I have continually made the comment that AZ is a lot more conservative than Susan’s state, so even though I find Susan’s LWOP very strict, I take a little comfort that Jodi will be more uncomfortable regardless of her fate, LWOP/DP. But Susan’s victim’s family, has not been given the same courtesies of the AZ Victim’s Rights Bills. Let’s call the victim Kenny Mitchell. The Mitchells have suffered greatly in the last 20 years or so. So has Susan’s family; I know this personally. But, in all fairness, when I write about a Victim, I mean Kenny Mitchell. Some podcast I listened to made another off the cuff remark that I really grabbed onto. She said, “When I speak of this crime, I always use the victim’s name (not the defendant). “ Most of the people in my in-person life do not know the name Travis Alexander. Even my VA Psych knew the name Jodi Arias. He said something like, “Isn’t she that girl who killed her ex-boyfriend?” He knew the most basic of information but didn’t even know Travis’ name. It made me think. Aileen Wuornos: Name any of her victims without looking. (I can’t). OK, how about Aaron Hernandez? (I fumble his victim’s name, but I basically get it right. I’m not proud that I have fumbled.) One more for my Canadian readers: Luke Magnotta? Who is his victim? I didn’t even come close on that one. And I followed the case. Shame on me, really.

Kenny Mitchell had 2 parents who loved him, 2 young siblings who adored him, a wife who saw the good from the “bad” about him. He was a personable guy who I would describe as the guy who always owes me a beer, always has a joke or a funny story, does a little pot, and TRIES. He had a couple of very young kids from different mothers, was mostly financially irresponsible for them and yet, I keep coming back to the word TRIED. He went to a local trade school a year before his death, became licensed in his field, and found he was in demand. It wasn’t fun or exciting work, but it (still) is a trade in high demand and I bet Kenny enjoyed not having to explain his minor scrapes with the law to the HR department. He was never convicted (or charged) with a felony, just fyi.

He was murdered.

He came from parents who, like mine, “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.” In doing research, I have found that my opinions have been completely reversed. My family and upbringing is so much like Kenny and the Mitchells, yet we had a more Susan’s family-like life. I don’t know how to explain that. It just makes sense to me. When Kenny was killed, the police had ZERO direction other than he was, as I described above, the guy who probably owed you a beer, money, a joint or an explanation why he was sleeping with your wife. Since I have a wife, I can tell you this. If I found out Kenny was sleeping with my wife, I would punch him out, accept my punishment for assault, deal with my wife’s need to be with Kenny and move on. I still probably would like him a LITTLE. He just was that kind of guy.

I am sure you want me to discuss Susan and Kenny intersecting and motive but it’s not germane. This is about Kenny, not the crime. I hope you understand because I have declared that, from now on, I will type Travis Alexander more than Jodi Arias. I am probably done with this LWOP series because it now bothers me more than I imagined giving Susan any publicity at all.

It took the police years to connect the murder dots from Kenny to Susan. She just didn’t appear on their radar. There’s a saying, “If more than 1 person knows, then it ain’t a secret.” True dat. (My kids are cringing somewhere after I type things like that.) A lot happens in a year, post-crime. The Mitchells had hope. They had faith, both in God and in The System. They actually wondered about those connecting dots before anyone else did. Their faith kept them from dying a little each day, I daresay. Mr and Mrs Mitchell held onto each other, instead of a just as common response – push away in grief. They agonized telling Kenny’s younger siblings, who couldn’t understand how this could have been deliberately done. Still don’t, I wonder.

And Mrs. Mitchell got ANGRY. She joined a group (I can’t bear to type the Jodi T-Shirt word, although it would be correct) and forced changes in communications between the police, the State Attorneys and the Victim’s family. But she had to sit and wait out the investigative process, the phone that never seemed to ring, and, agonizingly, the arrest itself. That, from warrant to arrest was about 4 months, and the Mitchells were sworn to secrecy. Only Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell and the law enforcement agencies knew a warrant had been sworn out on Susan. I don’t think Susan’s attorney knew. I can’t imagine waiting 4 months for ANY kind of action, should a loved one of mine be killed.

My dad didn’t know the Mitchells personally but he described to me once that they were “Salt of the Earth” kinds of people. Just ordinary. middle class people who paid off their house in 20 years and worked hard and went to church on Sunday. Mr. Mitchell wasn’t one of those group kind of guys and, from reading his words and seeing his picture numerous times, probably wore out his teeth grinding them.

At trial, Mrs. Mitchell was ordered out of the courtroom because she was on the witness list. She had to sit at the hallway door and thankfully, members of her group sat with her. But sometimes she sat alone. Mr. Mitchell, the 2 kids, and Kenny’s wife were not witnesses, so could attend trial each day. It was a several month long trial. Thankfully, for the Mitchell’s grief, it was not televised and there was no Twitter (!) at the time. I say thankfully, because I am trying to think of their loss, not mine that I can’t go back and watch it on YouTube. I was overseas when the trial occurred, so read updates in the local newspaper online (which was in its infancy, too.) I will admit I was reading for Susan’s sake because, as I’ve said, she just was not someone I could remotely see being on trial for her life. This didn’t involve drugs/alcohol and it wasn’t a mistake. She did it. She murdered someone. So now, looking back, I wish I had been reading those articles with the Mitchells more in mind. I surely can read them now, but it’s not the same. For, during a trial, people tend to take sides. It’s ok to admit it, that’s human. Had I been living there, I would have attended and I would have sat on Susan’s side, even when the truth began creeping uncomfortably into my rational, “can’t deny THAT” side. I still hold shades of this being a terribly bad dream but when morning comes, it’s still there, in my face.

Or, more importantly, in theirs. Mrs. Mitchell has since passed away and I think about Travis’ grandmother. While Mrs. Mitchell died of a diagnosed disease, how much of her resistance was worn out post-murder? I can’t think about his Grandmother much; I don’t know her at all but when I see her picture with Travis, I am destroyed. I can just tell that Travis’ murder and the defendant’s completely unconscionable flowers/letter murdered her, too.

Because I can, I look at Kenny’s wife, his kids and siblings’ FB pages. His wife’s life is best described as a leaf in the wind. She has just ‘gone on’ but not with much direction. His siblings are young adults and, from FB anyway, seemingly adjusted and following the “normal” path of life. But they’ve been stained by Susan’s actions forever. In simplistic terms, it’s like when you hate the song, “Call Me, Maybe” (Son #1) and then hear it everywhere, all the time. These kids grew up wincing every time someone mentioned their brother, the case, or even just turning the TV on and Law & Order is on. It’s really agonizing to look at Kenny’s kids on FB. On Father’s Day, his youngest daughter posted a picture lying on top of his gravesite. I haven’t gone back to his kids’ pages since. It feels voyeuristic.

I feel like I’m leaving out chunks of other things I could write but for once, I want to ignore the usual subject and remember Kenny Mitchell. And Travis. And their families. And just say that my heart today, will be full of prayers for them. Whether LWOP or DP, the one thing on my True Crime Wish List is, the inmate should have to look at a picture of their victim(s) for the rest of their life. Because somehow, the victim isn’t as newsworthy as the inmate. How tragic.

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