ethics, Ex, music, true crime

Vince Gill was wrong… there is often a glimpse of the future in the past…

The featured photo was one Bill took when he was at war in Iraq. He was sitting in the latrine at the time. I’m suddenly reminded of it today.

Back in 1993, I was a student at Longwood College (now Longwood University). I never had any money in those days, but I often bought music, anyway. One album I remember purchasing back in the day was by the great Vince Gill. Even though in those days, I wasn’t all that hot on country music, I loved his song “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away”, so I bought the album from where it came– 1992’s I Still Believe in You. I ended up really liking that album and listened to it all the time. I recall that there was a song on it called “No Future in the Past”.

A nice duet between Vince Gill and Alison Krauss. They’re singing “No Future in the Past”.

The lyrics to “No Future in the Past” refer to a love relationship gone wrong. A man is lamenting how his woman left him, and he’s lying in the dark all alone, missing her, and unable to stop ruminating about the love he lost. The chorus goes:

I still remember
How my love once held her
How long do old memories last
Why can’t I forget it
Why can’t I admit it
There ain’t no future in the past

These lyrics suggest that he should just get on with his life, since she’s probably not coming back. Maybe that’s true sometimes, especially when it comes to love relationships. If the breakup is bad enough, the couple will split and never talk to each other again. But in the years since I was a college student, listening to Vince Gill’s plaintive tenor singing about losing love forever, I’ve learned that there’s often a glimpse of the future in the past. It may not be a return to a love relationship, but there are often pearls of information that, if we look hard enough, we can use to gain wisdom for the future.

This post is not about love lost, per se. It’s more about how we can learn from failed relationships of all kinds. One thing I’ve learned, after almost 50 years outside of the womb, is that people often show us who they are. If we pay attention, and take action when it’s warranted, sometimes we can avoid disaster.

Lately, I’ve been writing more about my husband’s ex wife, mainly because I suspect that, once again, she’s up to no good. After a few relatively calm years during which she mainly left Bill’s family alone, she’s boldly re-entered the scene. Last month, Ex and two of her daughters visited Bill’s 71 year old stepmother, who is potentially vulnerable due to losing her husband (Bill’s father) in late 2020. I’ve recently started watching Ex’s activities much more closely on social media, which is a new thing. I didn’t used to look her up at all. Maybe it was my intuition at work, but at some point last year, I decided to see what she was up to. Perhaps it was due to boredom caused by the pandemic lockdowns, or maybe it was just a sixth sense that something bad might be brewing.

At first, Ex’s activities were pretty laughable. But then, I noticed some rather obvious grifting schemes, first directed at celebrities, then crowdfunding, and finally “Ye olde surprise visit” to my SMIL. I can’t confirm it, but I have a feeling that Ex has successfully squeezed SMIL for money. It would make sense, since she deleted the link to the unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign after her visit. Also, she’s done it before, and people tend to do what works.

Bill is conflicted about what to do about this situation. He would really like to forget about his ex wife. For a number of good reasons, he isn’t very close to his stepmother. It’s not his business if she gives his ex wife money. BUT– he does care about his sister, and she is directly and negatively affected by Ex’s presence. Moreover, Ex has a habit of doing sketchy things to get by in life. She really shouldn’t be squeezing her bereaved former stepmother-in-law for cash. Bill doesn’t have a great relationship with his stepmother, but he cares about her as a fellow human being, and he knows that his ex wife is capable of criminal actions. So we’ve been talking a lot about this, discussing what should happen.

As luck would have it, this morning I was reminded of my writings about Erin McCay George, who is currently locked up in my home state of Virginia, serving a 603 year sentence for murdering her husband. I’ve written about Erin a few times, mainly because she went to Longwood, and she was there when I was. People knew Erin when we were at Longwood because she was the very controversial editor of our campus newspaper, The Rotunda. She “spiced up” the paper by publishing the salaries of the faculty members and devoting an entire issue to the topic of sex. She even made headlines by putting condoms in the paper. Some people thought she was awesome. Others thought she was a menace. Years later, after I read the book she wrote about being incarcerated– a book that is being used in a lot of criminal justice courses– I decided to have a look at some of the issues of The Rotunda that were published when she was the editor.

In May 2019, I wrote a blog post called “Foreshadowing trouble”. “Foreshadowing”, as we former and current English majors know, is a literary device in which a writer gives advance warning, or even just a hint, as to what will happen later in a story. Foreshadowing is also a more general term, especially when we look in the past. Sometimes, when we look back on events, we realize that there were warning signs that predicted disaster. In Erin McCay George’s case, it was her habit of allegedly embezzling money from The Rotunda’s coffers. According to people that knew about the incident– folks I knew when I was at Longwood– Erin was caught with her hand in the figurative cookie jar. She skipped town while an investigation was going on regarding the missing funds, journeying to England, where she met her future husband… the man she later killed for insurance money.

It occurs to me that if Erin had been properly dealt with in the 1990s, when she was allegedly embezzling money, maybe she would have gone to prison for that, instead of murder. Maybe she would not have had the opportunity to kill, or to have children who grew up without their parents. As I mentioned in a later post titled “Juicy threads!”, I suspect there might have even been a method to Erin’s madness as the college newspaper chief. Maybe the “spicy articles” were intended to distract people from what she was doing with the newspaper funds. On the other hand, her position as chief didn’t exactly give her a low profile. It’s possible she was just very narcissistic, entitled, and emboldened, and she knew she could get away with her crime. Indeed, it appears that she did get away with stealing from our alma mater. But, if she had been prosecuted in the 1990s, isn’t it possible that she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to commit murder? Obviously, she thought she could get away with that, too.

So… in looking at Erin’s case, and realizing that her very serious crime might have been avoided, I might apply the same wisdom to dealing with Bill’s ex wife. She has shown us who she is on multiple occasions. She has a trusty bag of tricks from which she habitually pulls her best laid plans. She manipulates people for money. Many people from her past have been burned by her, to include a certain university where she was once employed. She was quietly fired… and you might guess for what reason– hint hint… it had to do with her mishandling funds.

I remember years ago, I accidentally came across a news article about her. It was all about her big plans for the future. The story pissed me off, because it implied that she had shown up in Arizona in 2000 with just $3000 to her name, and no support for her, or her three kids (then 12, 9, and 7). There was no mention of the fact that Bill, who was an Army major at the time, was paying her $2550 a month in child support– more than a general officer would have been expected to pay. One of those kids he was supporting wasn’t even his child, and had a father who should have been supporting him. And yet, there Ex was, implying that she’d been left high and dry by the father of her kids. It certainly wasn’t true, and it pissed me off that she was bragging about how, in 2000, she’d pulled herself up by her bootstraps, while my husband (then just my online acquaintance) was barely getting by on $600 a month.

The article also doesn’t mention that she had a boyfriend who had been living in the house in Arkansas Bill bought for her, and for which he was still paying the mortgage. That house later went into foreclosure. Ex had tried to rent it out, but wasn’t cut out to be a landlady. The tenants trashed it and, according to her, actually stole a toilet. I can laugh about that now. Seems almost apropos. Ex was still dating her Dungeons and Dragons partner when she moved to Arizona. He moved out there with her, and they were married in 2002, two months after Bill told her that he was going to propose to me. They have since had two more children. So much for the bullshit about how she was “alone” and unsupported in Arizona. But I guess the truth wasn’t convenient for purposes related to this story. I’ve often wondered if she did this interview so we could see how she became “somebody”… although I’m not so sure the United Way got back much from their investment in her.

I really didn’t mean to find this article when it was new. At the time, I was actually looking for information about traffic stops in the town where Ex was living. Former stepson had, back then, several charges pending about his use of marijuana, and I wanted to know if he might have been caught in a sting. The day I was looking, the paper happened to run this article. I was so incensed by it that, for years, I made a point of not Googling her. I have now come to realize that sometimes it’s a good thing to keep your enemies close.

I think that if Ex would leave Bill’s family alone, I could go back to not paying attention to her. After all, Bill’s daughters are grown, and one of them speaks to Bill. There were a few years during which I cared a lot less about what Ex was doing. But now that Bill’s father has died, Ex has a new potential victim in Bill’s stepmother. While it may not be Bill’s business what Ex and SMIL do, he doesn’t want to see his sister or her wife caught in the crossfire. And again, she did run this crowdfund last month, linking it to her public social media accounts, but then quietly deleted her posts about it after her visit to Tennessee.

As a fan of true crime, I’ve heard and read so many stories about clues that foreshadowed trouble. People tend to want to mind their own business, and that’s not a bad policy most of the time. But when you are involved with someone who habitually does things that are sketchy, it pays to take heed and be proactively protective. So many criminals get away with their bad actions repeatedly until they do something really bad. And then there are real victims. Again, look at Erin McCay George. If she had been properly handled when she was accused of embezzling funds, James George might still be alive today. But too many people would rather turn a blind eye and just get on with life, rather than take the responsibility of prosecuting people when they’ve done something wrong.

So… I don’t agree with Vince Gill that there “ain’t no future in the past.” Sometimes, if you look at the past, you can clearly see what’s in the future. It’s just that we usually aren’t aware of what might happen until it’s too late. We don’t see the signs clearly until we gaze in the past and retrace the steps. When I look in the past regarding Ex and her past actions, I see a familiar pattern… I’ve often felt that the universe gives you chances to learn how to overcome certain issues. You run into those issues repeatedly until you manage to solve them. Well, here she is again… presenting the same problem. Maybe this time, we can do something about it.

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true crime

Foreshadowing trouble…

This morning, I was looking at my Statcounter hits, and I noticed that I got one from Blackboard, educational software that is frequently used at colleges and universities in the United States. The person who hit my old blog was evidently at Drexel University. He or she read a post I wrote about a book I read, written by a college classmate who is now in prison. As I was revisiting that post this morning, I felt a little flabbergasted by how much technology has changed since my undergraduate days. When I was in college in the 1990s, we didn’t have Blackboard. In fact, we barely had the Internet back then. By the time I was in graduate school from 1999-2002, Blackboard was commonly used around the country.

Several years ago, on my old blog, I wrote a post called Prison. It was inspired by a thread I had read on RfM. Someone had posted that a family member was about to go to prison and they wanted information about what it would be like. I remembered that a few years prior, I had read a number of books about the prison experience. One of the books I read and reviewed was entitled A Woman Doing Life: Notes from a Prison for Women (2010). Although I didn’t realize it the first time I read that book, back in 2010, I actually knew the author, Erin McCay George. We went to college together in Farmville, Virginia. As I read Erin’s book the first time, I kept marveling at how much we had in common, right down to having attended Longwood University (then known as Longwood College) at the same time.

When I revisited Erin’s book in 2013, it suddenly dawned on me who she was. Longwood was a very small, close-knit school in the 1990s. It’s grown a bit since I was a student, but it’s still a very friendly campus. I have many friends from my college days, which as of this year are 25 years in the past. I even still speak to former professors, and they actually remember me! Bill marvels about that, since he went to much larger American University, where he was just one of thousands of students.

Because the campus was so close-knit, it was easy to get to know “of” people. I wasn’t buddies with Erin George, but I definitely knew who she was. She was friendly with people I knew better, and in fact, had been a very controversial editor of our school newspaper. One of my friends worked with the Student Government Association and knew Erin because she was accused of embezzling money that was intended for the newspaper. Erin evidently left the country while the case was being investigated and never graduated from Longwood.

So, the next post I composed after “Prison” was called “I actually DO know Erin McCay George.” That post is now six years old, but it’s attracted a lot of attention that continues today. I got comments from several people who also know Erin, including one from one of her children, who was sent to England to live after her mother was sent to prison for 603 years for murdering her husband over insurance money. I’ve also gotten comments from college students whose professors are using Erin’s book in their criminal justice classes, as well as people who knew her at Longwood, or knew her husband’s family in England.

As I was rereading that post this morning, it occurred to me how pieces of a story can come together. It’s really fascinating. For much of my life, I didn’t have access to the Internet. Now that it’s as ubiquitous as indoor plumbing, I can communicate with people from all over the world and get more of a story than I would have otherwise had. But I also have the benefit of hindsight, and this morning, I’m remember the controversy that made Erin a campus name back in 1992.

It was all over a newspaper article that appeared on the front page of The Rotunda in the fall of ’92. Erin had penned an expose over the disparities in faculty salaries, and went as far as to publish them in the newspaper. Thinking about that situation now, it seems crazy that people would have gotten into such a tizzy over the salary information, especially since Erin George is currently doing 603 years for murder in a big death penalty state. But I do remember people were very upset about it and Erin came under fire for printing the information for everyone to see. Actually, looking at the numbers, I’m a bit horrified by how low the salaries were. I know it was 1992, but jeez, most of the profs weren’t making a lot of money!

This caused quite a stir!
And so did this.

Then, I remembered there was a controversy about condoms in the newspaper. I’m not sure if I’m remembering this accurately, and as of right now, I’m looking to see if I can find the actual issue, but I seem to remember that Erin was responsible for condoms being distributed within the newspaper. I could be wrong, though. I’ll keep looking to see if I can find the proof. ETA: I’m right. In the screenshot, you can read Julie Wiley’s comments about the infamous SEX issue of the paper. I don’t think I got an issue of that paper myself, even though they were freely distributed around campus. They went fast because college students are always keen to get things for free… condoms were probably especially valuable.

What I did find while searching the archives is a supportive letter to the editor written by a math professor from back in the day. Behold:

She could have been a legit editor, had she only managed to stay out of the criminal element.

In searching the archives, I’m not finding the unsigned sheet Dr. Webber mentions. I suspect that some people in the know decided to put them in the paper after they had already been printed. The above letter would have been printed in the fall of 1993, but Erin was married by March 1994. My SGA friend told me that Erin abruptly left the country while she was being investigated for allegedly embezzling funds intended for the newspaper. Erin was also mentioned in The Virginian, Longwood’s yearbook, for making comments about how the yearbook was funded:

Incidentally, I also knew Julie Wiley when I was at Longwood.

I went looking for the infamous SEX issue, but I can’t find it posted anywhere. However, I did find the article about the SGA and its funding of the yearbook. Interestingly enough, the piece appears to be more of an editorial than a news article, yet it appears on the front page.

News or opinion? It’s funny to look at this article, since I remember a number of the people named within it. Most of them are not sitting in prison.

And the article got a lot of responses from the community…

I knew these folks, too… They had a good point.
MB Stradley is one of my friends. We got back in touch when she found an article I wrote about yet another murderer we encountered when we were students. Of course, when she wrote this letter, it was before Erin George was a convicted killer.

Anyway… it’s been interesting to take this walk down memory lane. It doesn’t seem like I graduated from college 25 years ago, but it’s pretty funny to read some of the back issues of The Rotunda during the Erin McCay years. It’s amazing what you can find when you look in the past. While I’m sure none of us ever thought the controversial newspaper reporter would one day wind up in prison and write a book that gets used in college courses, I think some of what was written in our college paper sort of foreshadows the fact that Ms. George was destined to find trouble. Farmville, Virginia is a pleasant, quiet, college town, but it’s had its share of craziness. On the other hand, rock star Jason Mraz was once a Longwood student, too.

See? It’s actually a great place to go to school. I loved my time there.

Edited to add: I found this clipping from 1992 about the infamous Sex issue of the Rotunda…

“College Newspaper Comes With Condoms” United Press International (09/25/92) 

Farmville, Va.–Longwood College’s student newspaper this week was published with a condom taped inside each copy. Erin McCay, editor-in-chief of the Rotunda, said, “The purpose of this issue was to raise awareness.” She added that she was “appalled by the Victorian attitude toward sex, and the grim repercussions that that attitude can have.” The newspaper was headlined, “SEX!! SEX!! SEX!! IN THE NINETIES.” The condoms were stuck on page eight in a box headed, “Just Use It.” Dean of students Tim Pierson said the issue was “inappropriate.” Advertising revenue paid for the condoms, according to McCay, who was summoned to a meeting Friday with Phyllis Mable, vice president for student affairs. The special edition entailed stories and commentary about date rape, AIDS on college campuses, and attitudes about sex as well as unrelated articles. A total of 1,200 copies of the Rotunda were distributed around campus on Monday night and were gone by early Tuesday.

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