So unsettling on its face, I couldn't tune it out. And once I heard the details (such as they were), I just could not add, yet another "swirling of thoughts" to the already too-numerous ones floating around in my head. My only choice? Spew forth, and hopefully the drip will lead to a trickle, and then maybe a deluge - clearing my head of all the shit I've been seeing, hearing and feeling that just doesn't make sense.
It's been three weeks since this happened and I've heard nothing else about it in the local media. I'm thinking it's because, as the officer so nonchalantly said in the video, "I can tell you that on the surface, it looks like a murder-suicide."
First, I went off on a disgusted, "Damn! More collateral damage from the Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning Changeling's war." And then, for reasons on which I can't quite put my finger, I got two very disturbing thoughts in succession which I said aloud:
1) "I sure hope there's going to be more investigation, because something in that milk ain't clean."
2) "I bet this is a Black family."
My eldest asked me, "What makes you think that, Mom? The news didn't say that." All I could say was, "Just seems so open-and-shut."
And it did. And it bothered me all night long.
The next day, I got a call from this lively, Panamanian woman I'd met, at what passed for a dialogue on race relations (that's another "interesting" story I'll probably get around to telling) a month or so ago at a local community college. Our conversation turned to the deaths and I repeated my hope that there'd be further investigation. A divorced Army wife and long-time San Antonio resident, she looked at me and asked, "Was she Black?
Unnerved (because I'd been thinking the same thing), I said, "I'm not sure, but I'm going to try and find out."
Then she said, "You know they don't care nothin' about Black people killing each other down here." (I thought to myself, "Or anywhere else for that matter.")
We talked for awhile about how the Changeling's war was producing collateral damage both abroad and at-home, with families torn asunder by stress due to falling-outs about money, or infidelity - and of course, the plethora of difficulties should they not come home in one piece either mentally or physically.
I told her I was going to see if there was anything more online and that I'd try to find out if the family was, in fact, Black. I told her I'd let her know, and hung up.
Then, I found this even more distressing and confusing, Holy Saturday story which accompanies the photo above - Threat preceded apparent double-murder suicide:
Richard Griffin sensed danger.
In the midst of a divorce, the U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen talked early Friday to his estranged wife, who was living in far West Bexar County with their two school-age sons.
In that conversation, Sheena Griffin threatened to kill herself and their children.
Richard Griffin, who filed for divorce March 1 and was scheduled to soon deploy to Afghanistan, quickly called local authorities and asked them to check on his family. He was worried, he told them.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found the two-story home in the 12000 block of Gable Oaks engulfed in heavy smoke.
Inside, in the children’s upstairs bedroom, firefighters made a grisly discovery: The two boys, ages 8 and 9, were dead from gunshot wounds and lying together on a twin bed, their 36-year-old mother on the floor, also dead.
“On the surface, it looks like a double-murder suicide,” Bexar County Deputy Chief Dale Bennett said, adding that a handgun was found at the scene.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Trevino said authorities were called to the home shortly before 7 a.m. It wasn’t their first time to that residence, he said, as deputies had gone to the home several times in the past because of marital disputes.
Authorities said the fire started downstairs and caused $75,000 in damages. They believe gasoline was used to start the fire. As investigators combed through the home and collected evidence, an Army chaplain escorted the distraught Richard Griffin to San Antonio. (more at the link)
According to my source, the Griffin family was indeed, Black.
I don't know the man, I don't know his wife and I certainly don't know their marital situation. But, taking the stories together (all three of them), everything about this screams, "ASK MORE DAMN QUESTIONS!"
- First of all: "in the midst of divorce," "U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen" and "...about to deploy to Afghanistan" are all issues with which most military families contend at one time or another, but particularly now. That he'd just filed for divorce on March 1st while on pre-deployment duty and living in Killeen, coupled with that Coldwell Banker sign already on the lawn - seems strange.
- The husband spoke to his wife sometime before 7 a.m. . They had a conversation - that only he heard and knew about - during which she threatened to take, not only her life, but the kids' as well. Strange.
- "Sensing danger," he hangs up and calls local cops to do a welfare check at his home and they high-tail it over there - arriving some time around 7 a.m. (according to the video). Not so strange that they immediately went. Welfare check requests are common when a spouse is deployed. And if nothing else, Texas IS a place that takes their "patriots" seriously. But, when the cops arrived, the house was engulfed - in SMOKE. They couldn't get in and had to wait for the firefighters (according to the video) who found the bodies - kids on a twin bed and the mother on the floor. How long had this "fire" been burning?? They got there around 7 a.m. - when kids are getting up and out for school by 8 a.m., How come nobody saw the "fire" before then? According to another television station's report in which the wife has already been blamed for starting the fire: "The blaze was contained to the downstairs area of the home. Officials said the fire appeared to have been purposely set in numerous places on the first floor. More than $75,000 in damage were done to the home." $75,000 in damage - downstairs! Real estate values here are way more realistic than most places in the country. And if that figure is even close - that's a whole lot of damage for this house - in such a short period of time (remember he spoke to her before 7 a.m. and the cops immediately responded somewhere around 7 a.m.). Strange
- According to the video, the next door neighbor heard "screaming/really loud yelling" coming from the house that woke her up just minutes before the cops arrived. But she wasn't aware the house NEXT DOOR was on fire?? They all died from single, gunshot wounds and none had suffered any burns as a result of the fire according to my source. Who was doing the yelling? And if she heard it "just minutes" before the cops arrived, how come she heard - not one gunshot? As close as the homes are to one another - not a single person reported that they'd heard any gunshots. Strange.
It bothers me that the "double murder-suicide" ruling was just accepted by the media with no apparent, substantive questions asked. It bothers me that there seems to be no one following up on this story. The funerals have been held (hope an autopsy was done) and it's like it never happened. It bothers me that we've heard nothing about any continuing investigation. And yes, it bothers me - that they were Black - and no one seems to care.
They took this man's word for everything. Who speaks for the wife? In patriarchal institutions, like the military and the police particularly, there's an inherent value in the words of men over women's. Not just in Texas, but all over!
Two cases immediately jumped into my head (yeah it's crowded up there) after mulling this over - mainly because I was living in Texas and then Florida during both. The first, was that of Darlie Routier in Rowlett, TX back in 1996. She sits on death row, accused and convicted of stabbing her 5 and 6 year-old sons to death. Her husband and baby were asleep upstairs and she and the two older boys had fallen asleep watching TV downstairs. In early 2008, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed a 2007 ruling denying DNA testing of hair and blood evidence collected in 1996 which her attorneys believe, will prove her story that an intruder stabbed her, and killed her sons (there were three fingerprints found not belonging to anyone in the family or any of the scene investigators).
This case is especially interesting because it involves new Dallas D.A., Craig Watkins (about whom I've written, here and here), a young man I respect immensely for his dogged determination in freeing (as of 2008) 17 men who were wrongly accused - based on - DNA evidence. He inherited Routier's case and, based on the afore-linked piece about the reversal, he seems to believe that they've got the right person even though Darlie supporters disagree (I hope he wasn't just regurgitating the "company line" because he was new on the scene). The show American Justice covered the case and it is available on You Tube in five parts, entitled, "Mother on Death Row."
The other, was the 1997 murder of Sheila Bellush in Sarasota, FL at the hands of hit-man, Joey Del Toro - paid for by her millionaire husband, Allen Blackthorne of San Antonio. After having stalked her since their 1987 divorce - and through her new marriage to Jamie Bellush into which quadruplets were born - he had her killed. Her body was found by one of the daughters she shared with Blackthorne - with her two year-old quadruplets toddling around in her blood. Sound like a "Murder By The Book" story? It was. Author, Ann Rule chronicled the horrific story in her book, "Every Breath You Take" in 2001. It took THREE YEARS before he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
As for the Griffins - yes, there was a history of marital discord. The cops admit they'd been there before - on many occasions. That, in itself is disturbing. Domestic violence cases, the majority of which are reported by women, are rarely taken very seriously by the police. I met a woman in January, who'd been arrested for domestic violence (another around-to-it draft). She was so distraught at finding out her husband had long been cheating that she was uncontrollable when the cops arrived and they took her in. She had no family here and was worried out of her mind about what would happen to her two kids because she was in jail.
Women have a hard row to hoe when dealing with the rampant sexism and misogyny in patriarchal institutions. And women of color have it even worse.