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.

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