true crime

Remembering the case of Marc Evonitz…

The featured photo is a screenshot of Richard Marc Edward Evonitz, a rapist, murderer, and coward who is no longer around to hurt people.

In early summer 2002, I was newly graduated from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. Bill and I were engaged to be married. He was working at the Pentagon. I was looking for a job.

We had just moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Why Fredericksburg? Because it’s a cute town, and because it reasonably offered me the chance to access work in Richmond, Northern Virginia, or Fredericksburg, itself. Also, Bill found a two bedroom apartment owned by the same (slumlord) apartment company that owned the building where he had been living in a studio apartment in Alexandria, Virginia. I think the rent in Fredericksburg was only marginally higher, and the complex offered more amenities.

So there we were in the summer of 2002. We were broke, but excited about our upcoming wedding. We had a new dog, a blue-eyed beagle/husky mix named CuCullain (C.C.). I was hopeful about the future, even if living in that apartment made me miserable. I’m definitely not cut out for communal living.

As I wrote cover letters and printed resumes, which I would then circulate, I watched a lot of TV– especially the news. During that summer, there was a true crime case that really intrigued me. It involved a man named Richard Marc Edward Evonitz.

Richard Marc Edward Evonitz is now long dead. He died by his own hand on June 27, 2002, at 38 years old. Looking back on it, Evonitz was probably smart to kill himself. He was not destined to enjoy the rest of his life. He had finally been caught, and if he hadn’t committed suicide surrounded by cops, he might have wound up on death row.

A true crime documentary about Richard Marc Evonitz’s crimes.

I remember hearing about this case when it happened, thinking it was so surreal that Evonitz and I had basically been in the same places within weeks of each other. I don’t think I would have been the type of victim he was hunting for, since all of his victims were teenaged girls. Still, I remember being really freaked out by this story. I’ve never forgotten this case after all of these years, mainly because I lived in the same places Evonitz did within weeks of his final criminal act.

Richard Marc Edward Evonitz was born and raised near Columbia, South Carolina, which was where I had lived from August 1999 until May 2002. He was born at Providence Hospital, a Catholic owned hospital in a part of Columbia near where I had done an internship. I used to drive past that hospital when I went to my social work field placement during my last semester at the university.

Known as Marc to avoid confusion with an uncle named Richard, Evonitz grew up as the oldest sibling in his family. He had two younger sisters, Kristen and Jennifer. He graduated from Irmo High School in 1980. I know where Irmo High School is. It’s not far from the university, either.

After he finished high school, Evonitz worked for Jiffy Lube for a time, then went on to join the United States Navy. He spent eight honorable years serving in the Navy, then left military service. He married twice, first to a woman named Bonnie Lou Gower, from whom he was divorced in 1996. Then in 1999, he married Hope Marie Crowley, and they were still wed at the time of his death in 2002.

There I was, back in the summer of 2002, living in Fredericksburg, Virginia, having just moved from Columbia, South Carolina, hearing about Marc Evonitz’s last crime on the news. Evonitz was of special interest in the Fredericksburg area. It turned out that he had kidnapped and murdered at least three teenaged girls who lived in Spotsylvania County, very close to the Fredericksburg area, during the 1990s. He is also suspected of a 1994 rape and abduction and a 1995 rape in Massaponax, Virginia, which is also very close to Fredericksburg.

But as of June 2002, when Evonitz died by suicide, no one knew that he was guilty of those crimes that had taken place in Virginia. At that point in time, it wasn’t known who had abducted, raped, and murdered 16 year old Sofia Silva on September 9, 1996. The May 1, 1997 rapes, abductions, and murders of 15 year old Kristin and 12 year old Kati Lisk were also unsolved. Authorities had been searching for clues for years, but they kept coming up empty handed. It took the actions of a brave and clever 15 year old girl– Evonitz’s last victim– to finally solve those crimes.

On June 24, 2002, Evonitz abducted 15 year old Kara Robinson. She had been in her friend’s front yard, minding her own business, just as the girls Evonitz abducted and murdered in Virginia had been. Evonitz approached Kara, friendly at first, offering her magazines. Then he brandished a handgun and forced her into a Rubbermaid container in the trunk of his car. He bound her hands and feet and gagged her, warning her not to scream. The whole time, Kara was paying close attention to everything. She was hyperaware of everything she was seeing, hearing, and feeling as they traveled to the apartment where Evonitz lived.

Evonitz took Kara inside his apartment, raped her, and tied her to his bed. She noticed the names on his mail, the red hair in his wife’s hairbrush, and the magnets on the refrigerator. She even thought to talk to Evonitz, and later described him as “cordial”. Prior to going to bed, Evonitz made Kara smoke marijuana with him, and gave her a Valium. While Evonitz slept, Kara managed to free herself, using her teeth. She fled the apartment in bare feet, still wearing fuzzy blue handcuffs, and went to the police, where she was able to identify Evonitz. Kara says that the police were initially kind of skeptical, but they finally called her mother. The deputies took Kara back to the scene of the crime before they took her to the hospital.

Upon discovering that his captive had escaped, Evonitz took off, eventually ending up in Sarasota, Florida, where his dash for freedom was ended by the police. As the cops surrounded him, demanding that he surrender, Evonitz cowardly opted to end his life. He put his handgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Police searched Evonitz’s apartment, and soon found “trophies” that Evonitz had collected– evidence that Kara had not been his first and only victim. Richland County police officers discovered clues that would finally shed light on crimes Evonitz had perpetrated in Spotsylvania, Virginia in the 1990s… crimes that, in June 2002, had not been solved.

After Evonitz died, the police analyzed what was left of his life. In the course of their investigation, police found that Richard Marc Edward Evonitz’s hair matched hair that was found on the bodies of Sofia Silva and Kristin and Kati Lisk. They also found blue acrylic fibers from the “fuzzy handcuffs” that Evonitz owned, that matched fibers found on the three victims from Virginia. And then, five years after Kristin Lisk’s death, investigators found her fingerprints and a palm print in the trunk of Evonitz’s car. Finally, the families of those young victims could rest assured that the man who killed their daughters would never have the chance to hurt anyone else.

I remember seeing a news report about this case soon after Evonitz killed himself. Kara Robinson was interviewed at the time, and I remember hearing her say something along the lines of “Picking me was the dumbest thing Marc Evonitz ever did.” She sounded so tough and defiant. I was astonished by her bravery and ability to keep her wits about her. She was just fifteen years old at the time. I remember what I was like at that age… and I am just flabbergasted by how amazingly brave and strong she was… and apparently still is. YouTube tells me that Kara now thrives in a law enforcement career.

Here’s a somewhat recent interview of Kara Robinson Chamberlain. She is interviewed by Elizabeth Smart, who was also famously kidnapped in June of 2002, and also managed to survive her ordeal.

Actually now that I think about it, 2002 was a terrible year for abductions. I remember there was a lot of news about girls being abducted and murdered all across the country. Elizabeth Smart probably had the highest profile case, as she was abducted in June 2002, at just 14 years old. That summer, there were so many tragic and horrifying cases of girls being victimized.

That was also around the time of the Beltway Sniper case, which also had strong ties to Fredericksburg, as a couple of people were murdered there. I remember how Bill would never let me walk behind him during that scary time in October 2002, as the snipers had been randomly shooting people at gas stations up and down the I-95 corridor, seemingly without any rhyme or reason. We actually lived a couple of miles from a mall and a gas station where people were shot on different occasions. It was terrifying, and went on for a couple of weeks before the killers were finally captured.

Looking back on our brief time in Fredericksburg– a town that is about 90 miles from where I had grown up, and had always regarded as a really cute place– now makes me think of criminal behavior. That area is also near where Erin McCay George committed murder when she shot her husband for insurance money in 2001. I went to college with Erin, and was there when she embezzled money from our alma mater.

We also lived in Fredericksburg at around the time Erika and Benjamin Sifrit committed their crimes in Ocean City, Maryland. The Sifrits had ties to Fredericksburg, because Erika had gone to college at Mary Washington College (now known was the University of Mary Washington). They committed two very bloody murders just fifteen days after Bill and I moved to Fredericksburg, and their story was all over the news in Fredericksburg at that time.

Kara Robinson Chamberlain went on to become a police officer in Columbia, South Carolina. Below is a video of Kara speaking in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a community that is no doubt so grateful to her for helping to solve the cases of Sofia Silvia and Kristin and Kati Lisk. She truly is a heroine in every sense of the word.

What an amazing, brave, young lady she was, and still is.

I still think it’s so weird, how close I’ve been to some pretty horrifying true crime cases. After my car was broken into at our crappy apartment complex in Fredericksburg, and we had a brush with a creepy guy who was going door to door, casing the area, I started paying a lot more attention to the crime statistics in Fredericksburg. I discovered that the apartment complex where we lived was a hotbed of criminal activity ranging from drug busts to rapes.

I feel pretty fortunate that I managed to escape living there having only had my window busted in my car, as some lowlife thieves tried and failed to steal my aftermarket CD player. We moved not long after that happened. I see that now, the Fredericksburg Police Department has an office next to the complex where we used to live. It’s probably a good place for them to be, given the historically high crime rate in that neighborhood. Looking on Google Maps, I can see that where there used to a big field where I walked C.C., there’s now a landscaped road leading to the police station. The boulevard running past the complex is now a four lane highway. It had been a two lane road when we were there.

I’ve often thought that in another life, I might have been a true crime writer… and now I’m so grateful to live in Germany, which has its crime issues, but none as dramatic as those in Fredericksburg. I’ll never again think of it as a quaint, picturesque town.

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healthcare, law

One brave Texas physician has already defied the new abortion ban…

The featured photo was taken at a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, where Bill and I lived before we moved back to Germany, and where our absentee ballot votes go when it’s election time.

Abortion is probably the last thing I want to write about today. That’s why I reposted four book reviews. Trust me… this is a topic I’m getting really tired of revisiting over and over again. I feel like this issue should have been settled about fifty years ago. But it’s hot news right now, and too many people seem to think it’s right to deny women this basic right to determine what happens to their own bodies. So here I am, writing about this again…

Actually, today’s post may be a bit more upbeat than outraged. One of the first news items I read this morning was in the Washington Post. It was about San Antonio based OB-GYN Dr. Alan Braid, who wrote an op-ed about how, on September 6, 2021, he violated Texas’s new abortion ban law. A woman received an abortion from him. Although she was still in her first trimester, she was further along in the pregnancy than six weeks. According to the article:

“I understand that by providing an abortion beyond the new legal limit, I am taking a personal risk, but it’s something I believe in strongly,” Alan Braid, a San Antonio OB/GYN, said in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. . . . I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

As I read that part of the article, all I could think of was– wow… what a BRAVE man. This is a man who cares about women and women’s health. He’s put himself at great risk. I would say that not only is his career at risk, but his very life could be at risk. He practices medicine in a state where just about anyone is allowed to carry a gun, and there are many religious nuts running amok.

I had to read Dr. Braid’s op-ed for myself, so I clicked the link in the article I read about it. In his opinion piece, Dr. Braid explains that he started practicing medicine on July 1, 1972. I was eleven days old on the day Dr. Braid began taking care of women’s health. I will be 50 on my next birthday. This is a man who has been in his field for a LONG time, and has seen and done a lot.

Dr. Braid graduated from the University of Texas medical school, and during his time as a med student, he was taught that abortions are an “integral part” of women’s health care. However, when he began practicing, abortions were effectively outlawed. It was only legal for a pregnant woman to get one if a psychiatrist certified that she was suicidal. I find that limitation curious, given that some women have medical issues that would also call for terminating a pregnancy for the sake of her health.

In those days, if a woman wanted an abortion, Dr. Braid would advise her to travel to a state where abortion was legal– California, New York, or Colorado. Some would go over the border to Mexico, which incidentally just recently decriminalized abortion. That’s interesting, isn’t it? It used to be, people from Mexico would come to the United States for medical care; but now, thanks to the extremely high prices of medical care and ridiculous laws such as Texas’s S.B. 8, Mexico may soon see more American women coming into the country for medical care.

As of September 1, 2021, Dr. Braid found himself in a similar situation that he faced in 1972. A 42 year old woman came to see him. She was pregnant, though she already had four children, three of whom were under age 12. Dr. Braid told her she should go to Oklahoma, a nine hour trip one way. He even told her he could help with the funding. The woman said, “Who’s going to take care of my kids? What about my job? I can’t miss work.”

Dr. Braid wrote:

Though we never ask why someone has come to our clinic, they often tell us. They’re finishing school or they already have three children, they’re in an abusive relationship, or it’s just not time. A majority are mothers. Most are between 18 and 30. Many are struggling financially — more than half qualify for some form of financial aid from us.

Several times a month, a woman confides that she is having the abortion because she has been raped. Sometimes, she reports it to the police; more often, she doesn’t.

Texas’s new law makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

And I have noticed that Texas is also doing nothing to help pregnant women, either. I have not read or heard of any child or family friendly policies being put into place to help pregnant women get the care they need. I have not heard for a push for better sex education or making contraception widely available, easily affordable, and accessible to everyone. I have heard a lot of slut shaming, though.

Yesterday, I read another article about this new law. The focus was on Johnathan Mitchell, the main architect of this legislation that violates women’s self-determination and privacy. Mr. Mitchell is a graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, a very conservative Christian school. I knew about it before I heard about Mitchell, since I once worked with a guy who attended there. It was back in the 1990s. I remember my co-worker was very smart, even though he was selling ice cream at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was also VERY Christian. Anyway, I digress… except to say that I know Wheaton College is a prestigious, selective school, but it’s also a school for Christians.

Mr. Mitchell wrote, in a brief for the Supreme Court:

“Women can ‘control their reproductive lives’ without access to abortion; they can do so by refraining from sexual intercourse… One can imagine a scenario in which a woman has chosen to engage in unprotected (or insufficiently protected) sexual intercourse on the assumption that an abortion will be available to her later. But when this court announces the overruling of Roe, that individual can simply change their behavior in response to the court’s decision if she no longer wants to take the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.”

Based on this comment, I’m assuming that Mitchell doesn’t believe that women can get pregnant as a result of rape and incest. I’m guessing he’s akin to Missouri Republican Todd Akin, who famously said “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Did either of these two men ever take a biology class? Have either or them ever studied sex education? Sure, women sometimes get pregnant because they, or their partners, or both parties were “careless”. But not all sexual intercourse is consensual and, in spite of what these men seem to believe, sometimes women DO end up pregnant afterwards.

Aside from that, sometimes pregnancy makes women very sick. Sometimes it even threatens their lives. I don’t understand why, in the age of healthcare privacy laws such as HIPAA, a woman should have to justify her need or desire for an abortion to anyone. But I haven’t heard or seen any provisions in the new Texas law that allows for that scenario, either. Instead, the law encourages neighbors to spy on each other and file lawsuits in healthcare situations that absolutely none of their business. What makes this law even more sickening is the fact that the people might theoretically sue haven’t suffered a personal loss due to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. But, by suing, they may stand to gain a financial incentive, which seems very unethical to me.

I will admit, however, that Mr. Mitchell is certainly correct that a woman can “refrain” (I hate that word) from having sexual intercourse. And, quite frankly, it would serve the men of Texas right if women went on a sex strike and denied them that pleasure. In fact, I hope Mitchell isn’t having sex and never does again. If I were his wife, I would certainly keep my legs closed around him. He should be deeply ashamed of himself.

In another article I read about this issue, author Chavi Eve Karkowsky writes:

“Every week, I see examples of morally necessary pregnancy terminations that, under the Texas law, could put doctors in legal jeopardy. In one case, a 14-year-old with brain damage had been raped by a caregiver. In another, my diagnostic ultrasound 15 weeks into a patient’s pregnancy showed that her fetus had developed an empty space where a brain should be and would not survive more than a few hours past birth. In another case, a patient, whose heart had become weak during her previous pregnancy and had never fully recovered, sought an abortion so she could live to care for her toddler.”

Can you even imagine? Can you fathom being a woman in any of those situations? Or a doctor? It’s sickening.

I totally get that many people find abortion distasteful and morally wrong. I find it distasteful, too. It’s probably not a choice I would make for myself, but I can’t say I would never make it. Because there are situations when it really is the right thing to do. I am lucky enough to be in a situation in which I could go elsewhere for an abortion if I needed one. I am also at a point in my life at which I won’t be affected by potential pregnancies.

However, this new law does open up a Pandora’s Box that could affect other people besides women of childbearing age. Who’s to say that, based on this precedent, lawmakers don’t try to screw with people’s healthcare privacy in other areas? What if a law was designed to deny vasectomies to men? What if we incentivized private citizens into reporting on the men who want vasectomies by offering a $10,000 bounty? That’s just one example off the top of my head. The same theory could easily extend into other controversial areas… say, gender reassignment therapy, or marijuana use, or euthanasia… I’m sure I could think of more if I tried.

Anyway, my hat is off to Dr. Alan Braid. I think he’s a hero. This may be one of the most lifesaving actions he’s ever taken in his entire medical career. I know he’s a good man. I knew it when I read this comment from him:

I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”

What a dedicated, brave, inspirational, kind, and excellent doctor Dr. Alan Braid is. He deserves all of the respect and all of the support that is coming to him.

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book reviews, true crime

Repost: A review of Son: A Psychopath and His Victims…

Here’s a reposted book review from May 6, 2016. It appears here as/is.

It’s been a long time since my last fresh book review.  That’s because I’ve spent weeks reading a very long true crime book by the late Jack Olsen.  Originally published in 1984, Son: A Psychopath and His Victims has been made available once again to true crime fans.  At over 500 pages, this book was not a quick read.  I’m happy to be finished with it, although I must admit Olsen spins a compelling tale. 

In this case, Olsen is writing about Fred Harlan Coe, otherwise known as Kevin Coe as well as “the South Hill rapist”, back in the late 1970s and early 80s.  Coe was a clean cut guy who lived in Spokane, Washington and had an unusually enmeshed relationship with his parents, especially his mother.  From 1978 until 1981, Coe victimized women who lived in Spokane.  He was a classic stranger who jumped out of the bushes and caught women unaware, stuffing his hand down their throats, threatening them with knives, and sexually assaulting them.  Fred Harlan Coe had women terrified and police baffled until he was finally captured.  In 1982, he legally changed his name to Kevin Coe.

Kevin Coe’s story is very convoluted.  He had been married to a woman named Jenifer who was alcoholic.  After divorcing Jenifer, who had her own stories about life with Coe, he became involved with his girlfriend, Gini.  Gini was completely unaware of her boyfriend’s proclivities toward rape, though she must have been aware of his poor showing as a working man.  An unsuccessful disc jockey in Las Vegas, Coe moved back to Spokane, where he became an unsuccessful realtor who sometimes used his position to try to gain access to his victims.

Coe had a special fondness for slight women with long, brown hair and pretty eyes.  Most of his victims met that physical standard, though they ranged in age from their early teens to their early fifties.  Coe would often strike while he was jogging.  Surprisingly enough, he wore the same type of clothes most of the time, which gave police some clues as to who he was.  He also often failed to “get it up” when he committed rape. 

Somehow, he would convince friends, family, and lovers to lie for him.  While Olsen’s description of Coe makes me think of him as not very likable, he had a charisma that influenced otherwise good people to do bad things.  Moreover, because Coe is a sociopath, he believed he was smarter than the police.  That erroneous belief eventually led to his downfall.  

What really makes this story even more compelling, though, is the fact that Coe’s mother, Ruth, was arrested three months after her son was convicted of multiple rapes.  Ruth suffered from bipolar disorder and would occasionally get so angry that she’d make threats.  She was so crazed by the idea that her son was headed to prison that she tried to hire a hitman to murder the judge and prosecutor.  Instead of finding a “legit” hitman, she tried to hire a police officer.  Ruth Coe was sentenced to twenty years in prison, all suspended, ten years parole, and one year in the jail of her choice. 

Coe’s case was eventually retried because many of his victims had been hypnotized before they identified him.  He was freed on bail for a year preceding the new trial.  In 1985, Coe was convicted again and sentenced to life plus 55 years in prison.   

As recently as 2008, Coe was still a suspect in dozens of unsolved rapes in the Spokane area.  He has been diagnosed with personality disorder not otherwise specified with narcissistic and antisocial traits and was committed indefinitely to the Special Commitment Center at McNeil Island in Washington state. 

I think Jack Olsen did a very thorough job covering this case, although the book took a very long time to read.  I have read several of Olsen’s books and most of them have been a bit of a struggle for me, though he was a very well regarded true crime author.  I don’t think he has quite the gift for storytelling as, say, Ann Rule or Kathryn Casey. Or maybe he’s not as consistent to me as Rule and Casey have been. I notice that I liked Olsen’s writing better in the book, Give the Boy a Gun.  

Nevertheless, Son: A Psychopath and His Victims is definitely a bizarre story.  Some readers will be thrilled by this book and, according to Amazon.com, many people obviously were.  Count me among those who felt this book was far too long.  I felt like I’d never finish it, even though Coe’s story was one worth writing.

I think I’d give it 3.5 stars on a five star scale.  I read this on Kindle.  It includes photos at the end of the book.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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ethics, healthcare, law, politicians, politics

Greg Abbott says he’s gonna “eliminate all rapists”…

Sigh… those of you who regularly read my blog may be curious to know why I’ve been reposting so many book reviews over the past couple of days. Well, it’s mainly because I suspect there are people who would like to read something besides more kvetching about politicians. Or… maybe I am just tired of writing about power hungry white men who are bound and determined to oppress women. And I am TIRED of writing about abortion, but right now, it’s just too fertile a field.

Greg Abbott, the current governor of Texas, has been in the news a lot lately, mainly because he’s championed an oppressive and creepy anti-abortion law. But yesterday, he was in the news for something else he said that is very controversial. A reporter asked Mr. Abbott, “Why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term?”

And Abbott, whom I assume has never been pregnant himself, responded. “It doesn’t require that at all,” Abbott said of the law, “because, obviously, it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.”

Greg Abbott then said, “Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”

Well… I’m glad to hear that. However, I have some problems with Mr. Abbott’s comments. First of all, his comment suggests that rapists are “out on the street” and need to be picked up by the police. The fact is, a lot of people are raped by folks who live in their own homes or neighborhoods, not strangers hiding in the bushes.

Secondly, Mr. Abbott doesn’t seem to realize that a lot of people don’t know they’re pregnant until after that six week mark. The number of weeks in a pregnancy are determined from the date of a woman’s last menstrual period. So, in many cases, a person won’t realize pregnancy has occurred until at least four weeks have passed. And those four weeks can be easily missed, if a person isn’t watching carefully. This is especially true for women who don’t have regular menstrual periods.

Until the last few years, my periods were like clockwork, and I could easily predict them. Lately, however, my periods have become more erratic. I am not in menopause yet, so there is a small chance I could get pregnant myself. But it would be difficult to determine when the pregnancy started, since my periods are now less predictable than they once were. And I have known many women whose periods have never been predictable.

Now… I’m sure a lot of people are thinking that a rape victim should just go get a “morning after” pill. But that assumes the victim is physically and emotionally able to seek help. It also assumes that the pharmacist doesn’t have any personal convictions against chemical abortions and is willing to dispense the medication.

While I agree that rape victims should be willing to report that they were raped, the reality is that the process of collecting evidence against rapists is, in and of itself, traumatic and humiliating. And some victims simply can’t bring themselves to submit to a forensic exam that takes hours and involves being photographed, poked, prodded, and examined in the most private parts of their bodies.

So… I have concluded that Mr. Abbott’s assertions that a person has plenty of time to get an abortion after rape, or that his new law is reasonable is, quite frankly, utter bullshit. It really disgusts me that this man has so very little regard for women, or their rights to control what happens to their own bodies, particularly after a sexual assault. I am so very tired of hearing men try to speak for women on this issue, too. Just yesterday, I read the following quote from a male pro-life advocate in Texas:

John Pisciotta, the director of the antiabortion group Pro-Life Waco, says he thinks rape victims could benefit from an abortion ban. When you perform an abortion on a rape victim, he said, “you’re just redoubling the woman’s trauma.” He has met women who are happy they kept children conceived in rape, he said.

“The mom is not crushed,” he said. “That’s not a rapist’s child. That’s her child.”

Excuse me? Even if it’s true that some women are “happy” they kept children conceived as a result of rape, he can’t say that about all women. Not all women want to be pregnant, raped or not. It’s not safe for all women to be pregnant, because some women’s bodies can’t handle pregnancy. And no person should have the right to force another to give birth, especially if the pregnancy is the result of coercion or violence. Despite what a lot of men seem to believe, pregnancy can and does happen under violent circumstances.

Greg Abbott insists that abortions are always wrong. And, like so many other politicians before him, he doesn’t seem to believe that true rape related pregnancies can happen. I mean, there have been so many braindead comments made by politicians, most of whom are white males like Greg Abbott, that indicate that a lot of men don’t believe that people can get pregnant due to rape. Sadly, some Republican women also don’t seem to get that rape can lead to an unintended pregnancy. Below are some infamous quotes by clueless conservatives on the subject of rape.

It really upsets me that people who make these kinds of insensitive, ignorant, and downright offensive remarks about rape are making laws. These people don’t have the intelligence, wisdom, or humanity to create laws that are helpful to victims. Greg Abbott is clearly an ignorant person, at best, regarding the abortion issue. And, based on his cruel comments over the past few days, he clearly does not care about women who have already been born and need to be able to attend to these very private matters without his, or any other person’s interference.

I realize that abortion is a contentious issue. Some people will never have empathy for people who have already been born. Some people will always place the value of a fetus over that of someone who has a concept of life and death and is fully conscious and sentient. Sadly, even people I really love and respect have these views, which, if I’m honest, make me think less of them somehow. The other day, I shared this with my friends on Facebook.

Most of my friends thought this was pretty cool. A couple of people also shared it.

I woke up this morning to two comments by a friend of mine. He’s very pro-life and religious, although he’s not a conservative voter.

He took issue with the above photo and wrote, “Belittling, perhaps “rightly, the characters of some of the people that advocate for the unborn does not change the fact that the unborn need to be advocated for because they are alive and they have a right to be born and that’s never taken into the equation when the absolute right of a woman to her body is posited.”

My response was, “No, I disagree. I will always advocate for people who have already been born over developing fetuses. There are situations in which abortions are medically necessary. None of those situations are anyone else’s business. As long as those situations exist, I will never agree that the unborn’s rights should ever supersede the rights of pregnant people.” I actually had to calm down a bit before I posted that. I do value this person as a good friend, but I absolutely disagree with his stance on abortion.

Then he posted this, which REALLY pissed me off, “And let’s not forget that the father should have a strong say about whether or not his baby is going to die.”

Uh… NOPE! NO.

My response was, “no… it’s not the father’s health or life on the line. While I empathize with men who want to be fathers, I will never agree that men have the right to force women to be pregnant.” Then I added, “And let’s NOT forget that sometimes children wind up pregnant…. Girls who have been raped. As long as twelve year olds anywhere in the world are getting pregnant by their fathers, brothers, or uncles (or anyone else), I will ALWAYS be pro choice.”

That’s right. Sometimes CHILDREN end up pregnant. This friend of mine has three daughters. I know he loves them very much and has done all he can to protect them. Fortunately, they are all grown women now. But what if, when those girls were growing up, they were victimized? What if one of his girls got pregnant due to a rape? Would he be advocating for the father’s rights then? Would he want one of his daughters, barely in puberty, to be FORCED to have a baby? Because there are places where children get pregnant and they are obliged to give birth. I won’t say it’s the norm, but it does happen even in these modern times. Two cases involving ten year olds are in the Wikipedia article I linked… and they both happened since 2015. Neither of those girls should have been forced to give birth, especially since they were both pregnant due to rape.

Now, if a person wants to argue that abortion is wrong on religious or moral grounds, and they want to grant “personhood” to a developing fetus, then in that case, I guess it’s always wrong, just as murder is wrong. If a person sees abortion as “murder”, then it shouldn’t matter how the person got pregnant or if the pregnancy is going to jeopardize the person’s health. A fetus conceived in violence or one that threatens the life or health of the mother is just as innocent as a fetus conceived intentionally. From that perspective, a developing fetus is a separate “person” who is just temporarily taking up residence in another person.

However, my guess is that most people can see situations in which abortion is permissible, and is clearly the kinder choice. Murder is never permissible, because murder involves malice and intent. Most abortions, while usually intentional, aren’t done maliciously.

My view is that no one should ever have to justify to another person why they want to have an abortion because, quite frankly, it’s no one else’s business. Moreover, the fact is, a fetus is NOT a separate person as long as it relies on its mother. And the longer people spend arguing about abortion, and whether or not the mother has a right to get one, the longer the fetus has to develop, and the crueler and more dangerous the procedure will ultimately be. Because, make no mistake about it. Abortions will still happen. But they will be more dangerous, and people will permanently injure or even kill themselves in the process of having them done clandestinely. That being said, though, abortion done correctly by people who know what they are doing is still much less dangerous than carrying a pregnancy to term.

I am glad Greg Abbott is committed to finding and prosecuting rapists. I’m not sure what secret he knows that will accomplish this great feat, but I look forward to seeing how he manages to fulfill this promise to his constituents. I expect to see the rape statistics go way down in Texas, now.

Yeah, right… I just don’t see it happening. It’s more controlling lip service from a man who obviously doesn’t understand women, or women’s health. And he just wants to keep oppressing them. It’s just sick.

I say, if people want the abortion rates to keep decreasing, then let’s make contraception easier to get and more affordable. Let’s create programs for pregnant people that take care of their healthcare expenses. Let’s make raising children less expensive, more parent friendly, and easier, with expanded options for child care that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and is always safe and available. Let’s promote sex education that recognizes that people are going to have sex and they need to know how to prevent unintended pregnancies. And let’s make laws that make men responsible during pregnancy, forcing them to contribute to the costs of pregnancy care. I’ll bet if we start doing that, a lot of men will change their opinions on abortion.

And you know, when Ireland and Mexico, two VERY Catholic nations, change their laws on abortion to be less draconian, you know that lawmakers who insist on compelling people to give birth are taking our country back to the Dark Ages. The abortion issue isn’t about saving lives. It’s about controlling women. So, if men want to dictate to women that they must give birth, let ’em pay their admission price.

Edited to add… 9/15/2021… an excellent video.

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book reviews, LDS, true crime

Repost: Elizabeth Smart’s My Story…

I wrote this post for my original blog on October 12, 2013. It includes the Epinions.com review of her book, My Story, which I posted on the same day. It appears here as/is.

I really hesitated before reading My Story, the book Elizabeth Smart wrote about her experiences being kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.  I have written a review, posted below.  This post is going to have less to do with the book and more to do with some things I realized while reading Smart’s book.

First off, Elizabeth Smart endured hell for nine months.  There’s no sugar coating it.  Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee put that girl through sheer hell.  When I think about what it must have been like for Elizabeth Smart to endure daily rapes, constant threats on hers and her family’s lives, the outdoor elements while wearing filthy rags, and, in fact, the very loss of her identity since Mitchell forced her to change her name, I am truly amazed that she has been able to recover as well as she apparently has.  I have some new respect for her.  She is certainly a strong and courageous woman.

Secondly, it occurred to me as I read her book that she was kidnapped at age 14, which is the age Helen Mar Kimball was when she “married” Joseph Smith.

I don’t know if that has to do with Brian David Mitchell’s decision to kidnap Elizabeth Smart when she was fourteen.  Certainly, at fourteen, Smart was still very much a child.  She was especially naive and sheltered and was, no doubt, easier to control than she might have been had she been older and more worldly.  Smart reveals that Mitchell planned to kidnap more girls and make them his wives.  Elizabeth Smart calls him a pedophile, but I think it’s more likely that he just wanted gullible, obedient, easily controlled girls who had not been defiled by anyone else. 

Certainly, it was easier for Barzee if Mitchell had younger girls around who didn’t compete for her place as the alpha bitch.  In any case, though, it did occur to me that Mitchell, who had proclaimed himself a “prophet”, was doing something very similar to what Joseph Smith did.  Yes, Joseph Smith did it many years ago.  Does it make it less wrong that he was fucking fourteen year old girls and “marrying” the wives of other men?  Why should anyone admire Joseph Smith on that basis alone?

Finally, once again, I couldn’t help but feel horrible for Elizabeth as she described feeling like a beautiful vase that was shattered.  I had read an account of a speech she had given some time ago about feeling like a “chewed up piece of gum”, in part because of an object lesson she had taken part in at church.  She was taught that no one would want her after a man had put his hands all over her.  As a fourteen year old girl, she certainly had no choice but to let Brian David Mitchell defile her.  Of course he overpowered her, though she is careful to point out that she did try to fight him off.  I’m sure that line was added for those who might fault her for not fighting harder to protect her virginity.  Anyone who would fault her for that, by the way, is an enormous asshole. 

In any case, Elizabeth Smart felt like a shattered vase or chewed up piece of gum after Mitchell forced her to “marry” him and then raped her.  She felt like she no longer had any value.  That rape took away her self-worth because she was taught that sex before marriage is filthy.  Certainly being raped can be described as filthy, but a person doesn’t lose their intrinsic value as a person because they have been raped or because they have had intercourse before marriage.  Plenty of good people have been raped.  Plenty of good people have had premarital sex.  What happened to Elizabeth Smart was not her fault.  It grieves me to think that even for a moment, she felt worthless because she was victimized.  I think many religious organizations need to do a better job instilling self worth in girls.  That goes for any restrictive faith that places a high premium on chastity and modesty.

One other thing I noticed in Smart’s book was her description of the food Mitchell would steal.  I have never been LDS, but I have read a lot of accounts of the type of foods many Mormons eat.  They seem to be big on casseroles, Spam, and Jello.  For instance, Utah is the world’s leader in green Jello consumption.  Here’s just one thread on RfM about odd cuisine.  Mitchell apparently was very fond of mayonnaise and would mix it with carrots and raisins.  Just the thought of that makes me want to retch.  And Elizabeth washed it down with warm water from a plastic canteen shared by her captors… when she wasn’t forced to drink cheap wine or beer or liquor… Or smoking cigarettes…  Yeah.  I can see why she’d want to forget that time in her life. 

To add insult to injury, when she was finally found, the cop handcuffed her before he took her to the police station.  Why he cuffed her, I don’t know.  It must have been procedure.  Maybe he thought she’d have some kind of Stockholm Syndrome and might bonk him on the head.  Poor Elizabeth.  That was just one more thing she never should have experienced.

Anyway, I think the book is worth reading if you want to read Elizabeth Smart’s perspective of the horrible experiences that made her famous.  It’s definitely gotten me to thinking.   

Below is my reposted review.

I really debated purchasing Elizabeth Smart’s 2013 book, My Story.  I have read other books written by crime victims and, generally speaking, have found that victimhood does not necessary make one a good writer.  But Smart had help writing this book from ghost writer, Chris Stewart, and having seen her in the media in the eleven years since she was abducted from her home in June 2002, I figured I might as well. 

I managed to read Smart’s account of her abduction and nine months in captivity at the hands of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee in one sitting.  The book is written in the first person, as if Elizabeth Smart is standing at a lectern relating her story.  She begins with the story of the first time she laid eyes on Brian David Mitchell.  It was a chilly day in November 2001 and Mitchell was on a Salt Lake City street begging.  Elizabeth Smart was out shopping with her mother and a couple of her siblings.  Smart’s mother, Lois, felt sorry for Mitchell.  She gave him five dollars and her husband’s cell phone number so that they might offer him work.  Elizabeth Smart explains that she made eye contact with Mitchell and gave him a slight smile.  She, too, felt sorry for him.  At that moment, Mitchell determined that Elizabeth Smart would be his “second wife”.

Many people already know what happened next.  On the night of June 5th, 2002, Mitchell broke into Smart’s home and awakened the sleeping fourteen year old by pressing a knife to her neck.  Smart, who had been sleeping next to her younger sister, Mary Katherine, silently got out of bed and, wearing nothing but her red satin pajamas and a pair of running shoes, left her home with Mitchell.  She was gone for nine months.

Smart explains that after being forced to “wed” and then repeatedly raped by Mitchell, she felt like a priceless vase that had suddenly been smashed to bits.  What do you do with a shattered vase?  You sweep up the pieces and throw it away.  Smart writes that Mitchell had defiled and demoralized her to the point at which she felt like her life was meaningless and no one would ever want her.  Smart writes that Barzee treated her like a slave and seemed to have no empathy whatsoever for Smart’s plight.  In fact, Smart writes more than once that Barzee had “given up” her six children so she could be with Mitchell.  I’m not sure that giving up access to one’s children automatically makes someone *bad*…  After all, in divorce situations, men are asked to do it all the time.  However, I definitely see how Elizabeth Smart made that determination about Wanda Barzee, under the circumstances.

Aside from the cruel treatment and neglect she received at the hands of her captors, Smart writes of the very uncomfortable living conditions she was forced to endure.  Mitchell and Barzee were derelicts who lived outside; consequently, Elizabeth Smart, who had grown up privileged and comfortable, found herself going days without eating, going thirsty, and wearing filthy clothes that were cast offs from other homeless people.  Mitchell also forced Smart to drink alcohol, smoke, and view pornography, activities that were strictly against Smart’s Mormon beliefs.

My thoughts

I had read Bringing Elizabeth Home, a book written by Ed and Lois Smart in 2004.  I wasn’t very impressed with that book because it was very sanitized and offered little information that wasn’t already in the news.  Moreover, it also included a lot of religious “preaching” related to the Smarts’ belief in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I was a little afraid that Elizabeth Smart’s book would contain more of the same, although I had read that the book was going to focus much more on what went on during her actual captivity.

My Story is, in fact, about what happened to Elizabeth Smart during those nine months she was away.  I have to admit, after reading this book, I have new respect for Elizabeth Smart.  Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee put her through hell.  Smart makes it clear that given a choice, she would certainly favor Barzee over Mitchell, whom she describes as a narcissistic pedophile who was unspeakably cruel to her. 

I finished this book in a couple of hours.  It’s printed in large type and written in a conversational style that includes a lot of sentence fragments which I think was supposed to be engaging.  Personally, I find one word sentences annoying.  I also noticed at least one instance in which Smart’s captor was referred to as David Brian Mitchell.  That’s not a big deal, but I did catch it.  There are no photos, not that I really expected Smart to have pictures from that time period.  This book is not nearly as graphic as it could be, which is certainly understandable.  For many readers, I’m sure the lack of graphic details will be a relief.   

Overall

I don’t think the writing in My Story is the stuff of Pulitzer Prizes, but it’s not bad.  The book was a quick read and doesn’t include a whole lot more information than what has been printed in the media already, though it does give Smart’s perspective more so than any news article could.  I admire Elizabeth Smart’s fortitude during that ordeal.  I think My Story is worth reading if you’re interested in what really happened to Elizabeth Smart.  The writing could be better, though.

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