My Momma sat in my family room, which was on the back side of our house, in the brown chair rocking back and forth, shaking, crying intermittently, and looking out the doors and windows to the right which led up to the back of her house and to the left, toward the road where the driveway started.
After I finally convinced her to come in and we had called 911, I began trying to help calm her down. I made her some coffee, which was always relaxing for her. I asked her if she was injured anywhere. She showed me her neck which had what appeared to be hand imprints around it and her wrists, which had bruises around them. I asked her how they got there and she told me my father had grabbed her and tried to choke her and hold her. I asked her what else had happened to make her run down to our house earlier. She again told me that my father had the pistol out that he kept by the recliner and was threatening to shoot her with it. I asked her why she didn’t call us or someone and she said she tried to but he grabbed the phone and ripped the cord out of the wall. She told me he was cussing and throwing things and tearing stuff up. Her stuff.
Finally, about a half an hour later, the doorbell rang. I told her I would get it and I could see that it was the police. I let them in the front door. They said they had been at my parent’s house and couldn’t get anyone to answer the door. They asked if my mother was still here and I said yes, she is in the family room and led them to her. They asked her if she was all right. She was still very shaken; however, she showed them the markings around her neck and the bruises around her wrists and told them that her husband tried to shoot her with a pistol. They asked her how she got away? She told them he was trying to go fast with his walker and get to her and he fell. She told them she kicked him back down and ran out their front door and then ran down to our house. They asked if they had her permission to go into their home since my father hadn’t answered the door? She told them they could go ahead in. She told them my father probably had not gotten up, since she wasn’t there to help him.
So the two officers left and Momma asked me what I thought would happen? I told her I didn’t know for sure, but in my opinion, it seemed like he should be taken in for questioning. She asked if I thought they would put him in jail? I told her I didn’t know. She said that she hoped they did because he really scared her and she was afraid he would try to come down to our house. I sat with her and we found a game show on television in hopes of getting her mind occupied. I asked her if she brought anything with her and she said she hadn’t because she said she had to get out really fast when she could. She didn’t even have on a jacket….and it was still quite chilly out. She seemed to be calming down a little and was watching television.
About 20 minutes later, I was in the kitchen seeing if I could tell what was going on and saw the two officers coming down the road and turning into our driveway. Mom was still occupied with the television so I decided to go out and meet them on the porch, hoping not to get her in panic mode again.
They walked up onto the porch and I asked what was going on. And this is what I was told….”Well, we were able to get into the house and found your father on the floor near his walker. He had a loaded 9 mm pistol in his back pocket, but he denied having tried to shoot your Mother, and said that he just carries that gun for self-protection. So, we helped him up and put him back in his recliner, unloaded the gun, gave it back to him, and sat the walker by him. We did plug the phone back in and picked up the things he had thrown on the floor.” I am certain, at this point, that my jaw had actually hit the floor of my porch?! I said, “You gave him back the gun??” They affirmed. I went on “You do realize that he has a boatload of ammo and probably 50 more guns of all shapes and sizes up there in that house…pistols, high-powered rifles with scopes, assorted shot guns, etc.??” Well, they said they didn’t really know this and told me “we just can’t go around taking people’s guns away!” I said “Not even if they try to shoot someone??” They told me “It just isn’t that simple….There are laws.” Then I asked “So, if you aren’t taking his guns away, are you arresting him?” To which they said “no”. I pressed on…”But he allegedly tried to shoot my Momma….she told you this earlier. And you found him with a loaded weapon in his pocket. And she showed you the marks around her neck and around her wrists.” They responded with “He is very weak. We don’t think he could hurt anyone.”
I said “This is unbelievable! You aren’t going to arrest him, you didn’t take his guns, and he is right next door to us! Do you really feel we are safe here??” They did not really answer. So I asked that they look up the hill to my parents house that they just left. I asked them if they saw the window on the northeast end of the house. They said they did. I told them that was my father’s bedroom, where several guns and ammo were kept. I then asked them to look at the southeast end of my house at the window almost directly facing my father’s and they did. I told them that window belonged to my 16-year old son….that it is where he sleeps and spends time. And then told them the window next to us, on the porch where we were standing, was our kitchen window, in front of our sink, where we do dishes, get water, cook, etc. And of course, we were at the front door with the big oval window in it. So I asked them again…”So, do you believe we are safe here?”
What was said next…by them…was….”Well, do you have somewhere else YOU can go?” I said “Excuse me?! You are telling me that my father just reportedly tried to shoot my Mother, and you know he has at least one pistol, on his person, and you think WE should go somewhere else so we will be safe?” To which they replied “Well, yes ma’am.” I told them that this was just “unbelievable” to me and that surely there was something that could be done? One of them then asked me if I knew who my father’s doctor was and I said “yes, of course.” And so that officer said that if he were me, he would contact my father’s physician tomorrow morning and ask him to write a 72-hour emergency detention order and get the judges signature. He further explained this would allow them to pick my father up and have him evaluated and observed at a mental health unit. I told them I worked in a field where we dealt with mental health issues and questioned why they couldn’t just get the 72-hour detention order right now? To which they reminded me, “Well ma’am, it is Sunday.” I said “SO?” They made me feel like I was crazy for asking and said “Well, the Judge and Doctor will be back at work tomorrow.” I said “There has to be on-call professionals to handle these things 24/7 because emergencies don’t always happen Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm?!” I told them that I knew of many instances when people had been taken in for 72-hour emergency detention on evenings and weekends, and even on Sundays! They told me they were not going to bother the Judge with it, and that we could do it in the morning! I told them I was shocked by this being ignored and this volatile situation not being handled tonight. They again reiterated that if we didn’t feel safe, WE should go elsewhere.
I don’t know if I could have been any madder at that point, but I pushed it back and went into the house, locking the door behind me. Momma asked me if that was the police? I told her it was. She asked me if they took my father to jail. And I told her they did not. She said “What? So he is still up there?? Next door??” She then asked if they found the gun and I told her they did and they said it was in his pocket and it was loaded. She asked me if they took it and the other guns. I told her that they did not. I told her they unloaded that gun and gave it back to him. She started to panic again…She said “He is going to come after me! He is going to get me!!!” I told her to calm down and not to worry and that since Brad was away working in Louisville and wouldn’t be home for a while, that we would go to my daughter’s house and take it from there. She was in agreement. So I packed up a couple pairs of pajamas, my medicine and told my son to pack a backpack too, since I wasn’t sure if we would be back tonight and he had school tomorrow. He was pretty shook too, but had sat with his Meme and tried to help her feel calmer.
About 15 minutes later, we were on the road and headed to my daughter’s house. She lived about 10 miles north of us on the other side of our little town. She and my three grandson’s welcomed us and the little boys helped Momma get her mind off of what was going on. We ordered some pizza and I called the local pharmacy to see if we could get a few days worth of Momma’s medications since she was unable to get it to bring it with her after having to flee like she did. They were very accommodating and we were able to get three days-worth for her. I was hoping that would get us to the point of being able to get her medication from her house. When I returned to my daughters after picking up the medication, I found Momma being entertained by the grandsons and seeming much calmer.
Brad came over when he got back from Louisville and I filled him in on what all had happened. He was also in disbelief and shock?! It was later in the evening by now. He said he had to return to Louisville the next morning and needed to leave a 430 am. He said he would go on home and check on everything and take care of our dogs and would feel better if we just stayed here until we got to talk to my father’s physician, as instructed, in the morning. He said he felt we should be fine here since my father was currently not driving due to restrictions from his surgery. I agreed and my daughter and her family were fine with it. My son called a school friend and Brad dropped him off there so he could just go to school with his friend.
My youngest brother called my cell phone and asked what had happened. I told him and he was livid, but said he wasn’t surprised. He said that our father had been acting irrationally when he had stopped in to check on Momma earlier, but said he was told to leave by our father. I told him we were fine and told him we were going to our father’s doctor in the morning, as instructed by police…would he want to go with us? He said he would meet us there. I told him we planned to be there at 8 am when they opened. Brad called when he made it back to our house and said everything was quiet, but did notice that my middle brother’s truck was in my father’s driveway….This was worrisome as this one had been in all sorts of trouble with the law, primarily for drug-related issues, and I was still fearful of him, as was Momma. She had told me many times that he scared her, but that my father reportedly would not make him leave their property or go elsewhere. We had seen this for ourselves when we voiced concerns about it. He had lived with my parents, off and on, between incarcerations over the past several years.
My daughter and her husband and the grandsons tried to make the evening as pleasant and carefree as possible. We watched a Disney Movie and had a “Campout” in the living room. Momma slept on the couch and I slept on the air mattress with the grandsons. Momma got her medications for the evening and I think she was truly mentally and physically exhausted. She seemed to sleep pretty well. I, on the other hand, barely slept at all…Replaying all of the events through my mind, over and over, and beating myself up for NOT realizing what had been going on before it came to this?! I just couldn’t figure out how I could have missed the severity of what was happening?
Monday morning, 8 am, bright and early, my Momma and I were at my father’s physician’s office. My youngest brother met us there. The doctor saw us right away and Momma, my brother and I told him what had transpired the day before and the few weeks previous. He already knew about the behavior in the rehab center because he was my father’s physician and did NOT release him from care, as he did not feel he was ready to go home, but he said my father INSISTED on leaving. He said he would definitely sign the 72-hour emergency detention order and make the recommendation to the Judge. He said he didn’t see any reason it wouldn’t be signed and approved, but that he would call me and let me know. So we left his office feeling somewhat positive. Momma and I got some breakfast in town and drove out to her friend’s house who had helped with her medication and had been checking on her before this happened. Momma wanted to tell her what had happened. Her friend was very supportive and told Momma she could stay with her anytime she wanted, as she is retired. She also couldn’t believe how this situation had been handled…She told Momma to call her anytime and told me to stay in touch about what was going on.
We then went back to my daughter’s house. Shortly before noon I received a call from my father’s physician (who also happens to be our family physician) and he said he had signed the order and it had been delivered to the Judge. I asked him if he felt my father could possibly have a brain tumor or something cancer-related that could have caused this behavior the past month or so, since he had cancer elsewhere previously. He said anything was possible. He said he would ask that the hospital run his admission through the ER so that he would get a thorough medical work-up and that if nothing medical showed up, then they could move him on to the mental health ward. He was planning for my father to go to the hospital that he was affiliated with in a city to the east of us. He called me back an hour or so later to let me know that the Judge had signed the order, but that unfortunately, they were taking him to the hospital in the city west of us because that is the catchment area for mental health services for the county we lived in. He said he would make the very same request, but that he didn’t have any rights at that hospital so he wasn’t sure if they would follow his request for the medical work-up or not. I thanked him for following through with this and told him I had wondered how he was going to get around the catchment area issue, which I was aware of because of my job. He said the police should be out to transport him shortly.
Momma and I hung out with my daughter and waited a few hours to go home to make sure that my father would have already been picked up. We drove by their home and there didn’t appear to be anyone there and all looked quiet. Momma didn’t really say anything. At least not right then.
So, we went home and it was about time to start some dinner. She kept looking out the kitchen window up towards her house. I asked her if she saw something. She said no, but then asked if we could go up there later since my father was gone from there and get some of her stuff….her purse, her medicine, some clothes, and shoes and a coat. I told her I didn’t know how we would get in. She pulled a key out of the front pocket of her jeans. I asked her if that was to the door and she said “No, it is to the file cabinet where her medicine was.” I told her I didn’t know how we would get in the house and she said we could get in through the garage door using the code. So I told her I didn’t see why not, but that I would rather wait until Brad got home so he could go with us. She agreed that was a good idea.
We got dinner ready and Brad came home and had picked our son up from baseball practice. We ate together and Momma asked Brad if he would go with us up to the house to get her stuff and he said we would after dinner. So we got finished eating, cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher. My youngest brother had called before dinner and we told him that our father had been taken in for the 72-hour emergency detention and we were going to go up to the house and get some of Mom’s stuff. He said that would be good, as he knew she was worried about her purse and her medicine.
We drove up to my parent’s house and pulled into the driveway, Brad punched the code in and the garage door opened. We went into the kitchen door from the garage which was always left unlocked. We walked in and Momma and I went back to her bedroom to gather some clothes and Brad said he would get into the file cabinet and get Momma’s medication and hopefully find her purse too. As she and I were gathering up some clothes, a coat, some shoes and pajamas, my cell phone rang. I answered it and it was my youngest brother asking where we were? I told him we were in our parent’s house with Momma so she could get some of her stuff. He said “Well, you need to get her and yourselves out of there right now!” I asked “Why?” And he said he had just gotten a call from the mental health center and they told him that had put our father in a cab and he was on his way home!!!” I said okay and hung up.
Momma said “What’s wrong?” I said “We have to go…They have put dad in a cab and he is on his way home.” My Momma went to pieces at this point….she dropped to her knees, saying “Oh, he is going to kill me now….He is going to kill me this time!” I told her we would keep her safe, we just needed to get going. So we gathered up what we had and headed to the other room where Brad was looking for Momma’s purse in the closet behind the file cabinet. Momma was hysterical by now, saying “we have to get out of here…he will kill us.” Brad asked what was going on and he found Momma’s purse under a bunch of other stuff at about that time. And said “Okay, I have everything we came for…Let’s go.” At just that very moment, we heard the kitchen door open….And we all just froze….looking at one another. My youngest brother then hollered out “Are you guys still here?” So we answered and headed toward the kitchen. We met him at the end of the hall coming toward us. As we looked to the right toward their front door, Brad said “Look at this!” What we saw was the front door handle and lock-set lying in pieces on the floor, right in front of the door! The door was all dented in. It appeared that “someone” had taken a sledgehammer or something heavy of that nature to that hardware and knocked it all off of the inside of the door. This wasn’t lost on us. This was the door Momma had left through when she left and ran to our house. My brother and Brad both said “Someone was going to make sure no one would ever get out that door from the inside again!” It was a freakishly scary sight to witness and to imagine it occurring was even scarier. We hurried on out, closed the garage door, got in the car and drove back to our house.
Momma was a hysterical mess. She was shaking and crying and continuing to say “He is going to get me now. He is going to kill me.” We reassured her that we would keep her safe. So we got back in the house and sat down at the dining room table as she wanted to look through her purse to make sure everything was there. Unfortunately, what she found was the opposite. Her wallet had been emptied except for her AARP card and some receipts. There was no cash, no ID, no credit card, and no Medicare or other insurance card. She did have some change in her change purse. Her cell phone was gone. Her checkbook was gone. All that was really left in her purse was her emptied wallet, some Kleenex, and some gum and mints. She looked up at us and pitifully said “I don’t have anything. No money. No checks. No ID. No Medicare Card. No phone. I have nothing.” She was truly devastated by this. And all of a sudden, we realized her previous obsession with her purse and always having it with her or knowing where it was, was probably due to it being hidden as it was tonight or possibly being emptied of everything that was “hers”.00)
I suggested that maybe she would like to go take a soak in the tub and put on one of her own night gowns that we had gotten while we were at the house. And she agreed. She liked a good hot bath. I helped her draw a bath and got her clean underwear, gown, house-coat and house-slippers for her and told her to just relax and take her time. I got her some good body wash and a clean wash cloth and towel and some lotion for afterward. I told her to holler if she needed anything. While she was in there, Brad said he was calling the police department to see what the Hell had happened?? I told him I was going to call the State Police to see if they could offer any assistance. My youngest brother was at our house, as was my son.
Brad and I met back up in the dining room about 10 minutes later, both madder than hornets! He said that they told him they were “sorry”, but that they had picked him up and delivered him with the 72-hour emergency detention order and once they did that it was out of their hands. They said they had no control over what the mental health center did or didn’t do. He asked if anything could be done and they said that if he bothered Momma or us or tried anything to call them and they would come back out. I had an equally helpful conversation with the State Police who basically said the same thing…that there wasn’t really anything they could do at this point, but if he bothered us or anything to call them. I said “So if he tries to or actually shoots one of us, then you will send someone?” He said “Well, yes.” I told him that we felt like sitting ducks and explained the proximity of our houses and properties. And do you know what sage advice he had for me? He told me we “should probably keep the lights out in the side of the house facing his, keep our doors and windows locked, and stay away from in front of the doors and windows.” (No, I am not even kidding….I couldn’t make this kind of thing up if I tried?!). I said “Well, thank you so much…You have been ever so helpful?!” And hung up the phone. I literally wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, but I knew we had to stay calm for Momma sake. She was already panicked enough.
Momma came back into the living room in her house-coat and house-slippers and asked if we could make some coffee. I told her “sure” and suggested she go sit in the recliner and watch some TV. By this time it was around 9 pm and Brad said he needed to get to bed because he had to get up at 4. He said to wake him up if we needed him.
My younger brother had gone downstairs into the family room down there and came upstairs a few minutes later and said our other brother had called and wanted to talk to us. He said he didn’t know exactly what to say to him, but thought he was on his way here. My son was in the living room too. The doorbell rang and my youngest brother answered the door. Our new rescue boxer, Milo, who we had only had a few weeks was in the dining room and for the first time, we heard him bark. At my other brother who just came in. And he continued to growl. My youngest brother sat down on our love seat and my son pulled a footstool up right beside me and sat down. Momma was in the recliner.
My other brother came in and went directly to Momma and hugged her. She kind of froze and didn’t hug back. He then came toward me to hug me to which I said “Uh no, I don’t think so. Why don’t you have a seat?” So he sat down on the love seat by my other brother. He started in asked how we all were doing and some other small talk. I said “Listen, we are all extremely tired and on-edge, so what is it that you needed to talk to us about?”
I think he was taken aback by my abruptness, but we have been estranged for quite sometime and that was the first time he had been in my house for a long time. So he said “Well, I wanted to let you know that dad has to have another surgery.” I said “What kind of surgery?’ He said “Exploratory surgery.” I said “For what?” He said “Well there is still some bleeding.” I said “When did this come about?” He said “Well he got a postcard in the mail.” I said “He got a postcard in the mail telling him to come in for Exploratory Surgery?” He acted like that made him mad and he said “Well yes…He did.” I said I finfd that really odd. I then said, “Well, is he going to have it? Because he told us after he got out of the hospital and rehab last time, that he was NEVER going back to the hospital and that he wasn’t having anything else done. EVER.
He said “WELL….Under one condition.” I said “What is that?” He said “Well, he said he would IF Mom comes home.” And my Momma, who I wasn’t even sure was paying attention, because she hadn’t said anything, all of a sudden piped in and said “I am NOT going.” So I said “Well, there you have it. She isn’t going.” My youngest brother said “She said no.” My middle brother then said “Now come on guys, we need to help them work this out! They have been married 53 years!” I said “I don’t care if they have been married 153 years, dad tried to shoot her, and in my mind that makes their marriage null and void!” Momma is starting to get upset and has started rocking. She said “I don’t have to go back, do I?” I told her “NO, you do not. It is your decision.” So my brother then starts quoting the Bible to me and telling me that marriage is “sacred”. Momma was starting to panic “You aren’t going to make me go back are you??” I told her “Absolutely not. No one can make you go back if you do not want to.” My middle brother started in again and I told him I thought it was time for him to leave. So he said “Fine.” And got up and stormed toward the door. My son was on his heels before I knew what was happening. He closed the door and locked it behind my middle brother. He said “Mom, you need to call the police!” I told him that we had called both the local and State Police and had been told that unless his grandfather did something else, there was nothing they could do. He said “Well, I am going to call them!” I told him to go ahead….that maybe they would listen to him. So he headed to the back of the house with his cell phone and came back about 5 minutes later and said they told him they would send an officer out.
I woke Brad up since I figured he might be needed with the police returning. Momma was starting to calm back down as we reassured her she did NOT have to go back to their house with my father. About 10 minutes later, the doorbell rang and my son answered the door. It was one of the officers from the day before. He asked if my son had called and he said “yes” and let the officer in. The officer asked him what was going on? He said “Well, my Uncle, you know the one that has been in all kinds of legal trouble, just came down here and tried to get my Meme to go back up there to my grandpa who tried to shoot her yesterday. He made her get upset and that isn’t right. Something needs to be done. He shouldn’t be able to threaten and scare her like that.” (Proud Mom moment…This is my very quiet, soft-spoken son, who is typically shy.) Anyway, Brad and I chimed in and agreed that this was totally unacceptable and uncalled for. Brad said “What are we supposed to do about this? You do realize the record of the brother who was just here? And now not only do we have Sherri’s father who tried to shoot her Mother and lives next door to worry about, we now also have him staying there, as well, and coming down here harassing her mother, trying to get her to go back into that volatile situation?”
Momma says from the living room “I don’t want to go back up there.” He told her she didn’t have to.
The officer then asked if we would like for him to go next door and serve both of them a “no contact” order? We asked what that meant? He said “Well I can serve it and tell them they are not to come down here or talk to you or your Mother anymore.” I said “Well yes….I don’t understand why that wasn’t already done.” He said they thought he was having a 72-hour emergency detention, but understood that this didn’t happen. He said “Well, here’s what I suggest you do. First thing in the morning, take your Momma and all of you and go to the Courthouse and request protective orders and if I were you, I would ask for the Brady Law to be implemented. I asked what that meant? He said “If they agreed to enact the Brady law, all of the firearms could be removed from my father’s residence and he would not be allowed to purchase any more. However, I will tell you not to get your hopes up because it is rarely ordered here, but it is worth a try.” So we agreed that we would do this. He told us he would serve the “no contact orders” now, but encouraged us to do the Protective Orders first thing the next morning. And said to call if anything else came up tonight. And he left.
Brad decided to take off work the next day and we all went to the Courthouse at 8 am and asked to complete paperwork for Protective Orders. Momma, my youngest brother, Brad and I all filled them out. One of the clerks took our completed paperwork and told us to follow her upstairs to where the Judge’s office was. We waited in the waiting area while she took them in to be reviewed. She was back shortly and said the orders were signed and approved and that the police would be notified to go take the weapons out. This felt like a small victory.
We decided we would rather not be around when this was done, so we went to visit some of our other family. We were called by one of Momma’s neighbor friends who said there were reportedly 6 or 7 law enforcement vehicles at her home and wanted to make sure she was okay. We told them she was okay and was with us. We later got a call letting us know that local law enforcement had taken 42 weapons out of my father’s house. We were not sure this was all of them as we did not know the exact number of firearms he had. We felt a little bit more safe about returning to our home so we did, but we remained leery and vigilant. I had barely slept in three days.
We learned the next day that my father had reportedly called the police to tell them that they had missed one of the weapons. They returned to get number 43. We felt sure that he probably had more and, in our opinion, that was just his way of making sure we knew that they didn’t get them all.
So….the nightmare continued.