A Letter to My Father’s Murderer

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In November, 1994, I was married and about to celebrate my first Christmas with my husband and our new baby. Instead, that year became a flurry of media interviews, police questioning, and a funeral. Every Christmas season, and my life  since, has been influenced by what happened on that date: Monday, 28 November, 1994.
My daddy, John Magoch, was a driver for Wells Fargo. The day was the Monday after Black Friday; the biggest pick up day of the year. He drove to Arrowhead Mall, parked outside of Dillard’s, and that was the last anyone saw him alive.  When his messenger, David Mauss, returned, the van and my father was gone.
What followed over the years was a drama that I would have enjoyed writing, had it not been way too real. It is material with enough twists and turns that it sounds like the plot of any late night crime drama.

The 1994 Wells Fargo Heist  made headlines for months. Today, most people have only a vague recollection and my father’s name is now part of every first year law student’s text book on Criminal Justice cases brought before the United States Supreme Court. Three months after the heist and murder, the arrests were made. These three names that would forever be remembered as creatures (I dare not call them men) who changed my life: Timothy Ring, James Greenham, and William Ferguson.
Timothy Ring was the main shooter. In 2002, he filed a case that went before the United Supreme Court.  Janet Napolitano, who was the Arizona Attorney General, at the time, represented this case herself. In truth, I felt a bit used, since she was just about to start her run for governor. Especially when she did not have time to speak with me, herself, about the case that was about to be presented.

A Letter to My Fathers MurdererWritten in 2000 to Timothy Ring  Letter to my Father’s Murderer

 

 

In a 7-2 decision, the USSC decided in favor of  Ring and  Ring v. AZ changed the court system in nine states. Originally, judges, not jurors, decided the final sentencing in Capital Murder cases. Ring v. AZ upheaveled every death penalty case in those nine states and required a jury re-sentencing.  Many of these were high profile cases. Some involved the deaths of children. The guilt I felt over knowing these had a chance of a reduced sentence (thankfully many remained the same) was astounding. Even knowing I had nothing to do with the outcome. The feeling was still there. When I saw the juror sentencing issues with the Jodi Arias trial,two summers ago, all I could do was put my face in my hands and shake my head, knowing Ring v. AZ was the cause of this extra drama.

When Tim Ring’s re-sentencing came up, I was asked my preference. The decision was a choice of going through what resembled a retrial or there was a plea agreement option. The plea agreement would take him off of death row, but would keep him in prison for the rest of his natural life. (Personally, I preferred the original sentencing of death + 99 years, but that’s, obviously, emotionally charged.) By the time I had the chance to speak my piece, I was tired. I was once told by a woman,whose sister’s murderers still sit on death row, that there is a point where you wish they would just disappear into the system and never be heard from again. Because, every time the death penalty debate comes up, these same voices are heard over and over. The victim’s family gets to relive their loved one’s death every–single–time.

I prayed and pondered about the decision. After all of the emotional turmoil and anguish caused by this, what was the best course of action?  My response back was, “As long as you can guarantee he can never be released to hurt anyone else ever again.” The court couldn’t make that exact promise, but they pacified me enough that there would not be a re-sentencing by jury.

No matter which side of the death penalty debate you are on, the most important thing to remember is those who were murdered weren’t just a story. They had real lives and real love. They were not just an ideology.

Sadly, I am one of the fortunate ones. Only because I know what happened. It’s not exactly closure, but there isn’t the constant wonder of who, why, and wondering if “those people” might do it, again. This is the case with another security guard, Jeffrey Bellemare ‘s family and thousands of others with open cases. It is a hell I do not wish on anyone. No matter what happens in life, there is always that small reminder of what could have been. If only….

While the world focuses so much on the lives of those who commit the murders (I admit the psychology behind it is fascinating) the victims are so often forgotten. What I want to see are the stories behind the people whose lives were stolen. These real and beautiful lives that were taken too soon from their families and friends. They aren’t just “the victim”. They were your family, friends, and fellow human beings. While the justice system gives chance after chance to those behind its walls through hearings and parole, those lives lost never got that second chance.

The Day the Music Died

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“Because Ritchie Valens WAS the real deal. He was only starting, but in the time he spent in the business he made big impact. I don’t know if anybody could have made a bigger one.”                                    -Waylon Jennings

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“Death is very often referred to as a good career move.” – Buddy Holly

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 “Their airplane registered on the radar of the 789th Air Force Radar Station located near Omaha for a few sweeps. Long enough for the Search Radio Operator to contact me and notify me of the appearance of a new target. As movements and Identification Operator my job was to identify every radar return as Friend or Foe. I had enough time to realize the blip was moving away from our site, so it was a Probably Friendly, and before we could set up a track on the board, the blip faded from sight. Some time later, before the crash site was found, we were asked if we had seen it. The last location was given and in effect, we were the last to see Rock and Roll, before they and their music died.” – Willis S. Cole, Jr.

E is for England

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Recently, I renewed a long distance love obsession. Ever since I was 13 years old, I have had a fondness for England. I used to think I wanted to visited Manchester, because I liked the Monkees and Davy Jones was a former resident. I taught myself to sing by listening to music from the British invasion. It was years later when I had to untrain myself to NOT sing with a British accent.

I have a habit of picking up accent, anyhow, so it shouldn’t have surprised me to find I had been carrying around a little bit of the British accent in my regular dialogue all these years. This has made for many moments of family laughter (I wasn’t part of the actual laughter, just the source of the joke) when I pronounce words so differently from an American. It was only a few months ago, when my younger boys posted their Lego creation videos to Youtube that distant friends began to email me and ask why my children had slight British accents. “Have you met their mother?” I asked.

The accent has only become worse in the last month, as I discovered The Bay. It’s my favorite radio station. I stream it all day when I am online. By evening, I not only have my times mixed up, but cannot shake the Lancaster accent. The best part? It not only feels so much more natural, but people can actually hear me. You have no idea how many times I am sure I am screaming far too loud and people ten feet away think they MAY have heard a breeze blow through, but they aren’t sure. It’s a strange thing to suddenly be heard.

But, I got a little sidetracked. It’s not all about the accent. It’s about the beauty and the history. What a laugh it was (this time I get to laugh) when I realized Lancaster is not far from Manchester. It looks like my heart has always been set in that area.

Which is why I have announced that despite my currently being a struggling, starving writer, I will live in England when I turn 50. Only 10 1/2 years to go. I have said it. It will be done.