Monday, October 22, 2012

Colorado Crazy: Mom or Magnum?

Whenever you start a story with a disclaimer, you know your probably in for a controversial story.  So before I start, let me say that I would never put my children in harms way.  That being said, I need to go back to October 5th, 2012, when our world here in Colorado seemed only half crazy.

For me, the fifth was just a normal Friday.  The kids and I got up, and I took Ryan to school.  Back home, the little guy and I would have started his schooling.

Toryn attends a virtual academy through Colorado public school.  Anyway, after a normal day, I would have picked Ryan up from school and come home.  After readying the house for my normal visit with my friend, off I go to take Ryan to his weekly Magic The Gathering, tournament.

After spending a pleasant evening with my close friend, I retired for the night.

As I woke Saturday morning, I turned on the Saturday morning news.  As I wrote in my last blog, Saturday morning changed many lives here in the Denver metro area.  Jessica Ridgeway was abducted.

Chelsea Park A.K.A. Ridgeway Park or Jessica's Park

From October 5th through October 10th, I was incredibly proud to be a Coloradan.  There was tremendous community unity and involvement.  The vigil for Jessica brought together a community of strangers and joined us all with one goal; To find Jessica and bring her home.
Things changed on Wednesday, October 10th when the news reported a body had been found.  The wind was knocked out of the lungs of a community that stood so solid.  No amount of hope could take away the worst fear this community had been unwilling to entertain previously.

With the Westminster community, and the Denver metro area on pins and needles, we all held our breath while wondering why Arvada Police were taking so long to renew our hope, or silently rip our hearts out.

Then came the news that the body discovered would take time and D.N.A. to confirm the identity, as the body was not “intact.”

Now we were a community that was left with more questions than answers.  The open space that the body was found, is in the foothills of the Rockies.  Not only do you have your normal wildlife of raccoon and fox, but we have coyotes, black bear, and mountain lion.  So, with the police being tight lipped, we were left wondering if parts of the body were missing due to wild animals, or if the body was missing parts because the animal was the killer.

 On Friday, October 12th, 2012, Westminster Police along with the Arvada Police, the C.B.I, and the F.B.I., gave us the answers to our questions.  Jessica Ridgeway was abducted not only by a cold blooded killer, but a very sick individual who is now revealed to us as a monster.  Jessica’s body had been dismembered.
From October 12th, 2012 through where we are currently, the Denver metro area, as well as the city of Westminster, has suffered an earth shattering blow.  This is a community that is completely unaware of how to process this horrific tragedy.

To top it off, multiple abduction attempts have occurred throughout the Denver metro area, since Jessica’s abduction.  Now, as we watch the news, we feel that the devil has decided to take up permanent residency in Colorado.  To say that the residents of Colorado are emotionally defeated is an understatement.

Normal people have changed their daily living habits.  We aren’t walking alone, we’re walking in pairs.  Everyone seems to be staring at everyone else, trying to determine if “your” the killer.  Six foot four teenagers are nervous to walk home from school.

Now, I’d like to say I’m exempt from this hyper-vigilance.  I, however, am even more vigilant than before, due to my childhood.  I used to let Teddy hang out in his favorite spot out front, but now I stand at the door to watch over him.  Gone are the days of leaving the door unlocked during the day.  Like everyone else, I have become a prisoner in my own home.  I have become a prisoner in my mind!        

Teddy resting after a hard say of service training

I’m trying desperately to remain calm and sane.  It’s hard to do when everyone you see, is a possible murderer.

I have started the Jessica Ridgeway Memorial Gardens to help me channel some of my negative energy into positive energy.  The kids and I have continued our daily routines, including taking Teddy to his training classes, which are vital to his certification for a therapy service dog.  

Roman Column

Wednesday was no different.  We took Teddy one block over to his trainer, Patrice.  It was a typical training session and when it was over, we picked up everything we needed for the week.

On a normal Wednesday, we would have stayed around a bit to chat with everyone.  This day, however, we got our supplies, piled into the minivan, and headed one block, back home.
As I turned into the development, I notice a red truck backed into the driveway of my neighbor’s house.  That would not normally be an issue, except my neighbor committed suicide in January, and the house is vacant.

Roman story telling column
Immediately, Ryan and I asked each other who was this, and why were they in Roger’s driveway.  As he pulled out of Roger’s driveway and we pulled into ours, I noticed that our firewood and toy tote were in the back of his truck.

“He’s stealing our stuff!  Are you kidding me?”  

Our Firewood with Tom's dolly in the background
Now, this is where the disclaimer comes into play.

I back out of my driveway and take off in the direction of the red truck with my stuff.  Because it was still rush hour, we weren’t rushing... our speeds were rather slow.  The one thing the man in the red truck doesn’t realize, I spent six years in the private investigative business.  Yes, I was a private-I.

Picture of the style of the red truck I followed 
Ford F-150

I get caught at a red light behind the one guy on the road doing the speed limit.  I realize that my chances of catching up to the red truck, are fifty-fifty at best.  The light changes and off we go, screaming down the road at thirty m.p.h.  I see the red truck ahead in the distance.
The red truck turns south on Federal, and I get the break of a lifetime.  The SUV that had been in front of me gets into the straight lane, and there is no oncoming traffic to stop me from turning.  I turn and pull in behind the red truck.  As we sit at the red light, I quickly ramble through my options.  

I can get out of my van and pound on his window.  This is where I’ll tell him to take my stuff back home.  No, I can’t do that, the light isn’t long enough, and it is about to change.  I don’t have enough time to do this, and I’m not willing to lose him after all my effort.

I could pull up beside him and signal him to pull over.  No, that puts me in the middle turn lane and that would be dangerous too.  I begin to flash my headlights, and motion with my hand for him to pull over.  The light turns green and we both floor it.

The next light becomes a major decision.  We can continue to travel Federal, which is one light after another.  We would certainly look like Robert DiNero and Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents, hitting eighty only to slam our breaks on for the next red light.  Or, we can hop onto I-76.  It’s an interstate where speeds can increase, and other vehicles can become obstacles.  I’m guessing he is going to take that route.  Needless to say, he chooses the interstate, and he pulls up just in time for the light to turn green.  Leaving me only one option, which was to follow him.

Off we go, onto the highway.  This is, of course the one day I decide not bring my cell phone.  As I watch the truck dart in and out of traffic, I realize that Ryan has his cell phone.  

“Call 911” I yell.  

I’m now on the phone with the 911 operator.  As I provide the tag number, the operator confirms the address and vehicle match the information I have provided.  Meanwhile, the driver of the truck makes a dangerous decision to swerve off I-76 at the last second onto the exit for I-25 northbound.  I too, am able to take the exit, but without the unsafe and crazy swerve.  

There was absolute chaos going on in my mind.  How far am I willing to go to stay with this guy.  Forgetting that I was on the phone with the 911 operator, I begin reciting this guys route out loud as I am now completely stunned by his dangerous maneuvers.  

As I get onto the exit ramp for I-25, I announce that the truck has now driven through a dirt embankment to get back onto I-76.  At that moment, I heard the 911 operator.
“Ma’am, ma’am are you still with there?  I need you to stop following him and go back home.  Do you hear me ma’am?”

“He just took a dirt trail back onto I-76,” I exclaim.

“Ma’am, I need you to stop following him.”

Luckily for everyone, I wasn’t in one of my really crazy moods, as I would have pursued him until the very end.  

“I did,” I tell her.

Totally deflated, I watch the red truck zoom off and out of sight.  I returned home, but had that same caged animal feeling I often get get when I feel helpless, anxious, alone.  

I pace back and forth for the next fifteen minutes, before the police arrive.  A million emotions are pumping through my body and brain.  I feel like a bumper car, bouncing off of every object in my way.  My heart is racing like a horse at the Derby.  My breathing is erratic and shallow.  I am in the middle stage of a full blown anxiety attack.

Mom or Magnum?
The last twelve days have been emotionally taxing.  Seven solid days of searching and posting flyers for Jessica Ridgeway.  Followed by five days of vigils, memorials, and social paranoia.  To say that the community and myself have been on edge would be an understatement.

Jessica's Balloon release memorial
Jessica's temporary memorial

The Jessica Ridgeway Vigil

Now, I feel the intensity of the last few weeks rushing through my veins like water rushes through a hose.  I feel the panic and injustice smacking me in the face, the way a racket smacks a tennis ball.  I realize that  I have emotionally reached my limit.
The world’s craziness and anarchy have finally pushed me over the edge. 

After the police interview my neighbor (who witnessed the guy loading his truck up) and myself, he tells the twenty-five year old, the driver of the red truck, that he will be arrested.  I, however, can choose to drop the charges if my stuff is returned.  I tell the police officer that all I really want back is my husband’s work dolly that was taken.  Unfortunately, that is the one thing that I could not actually see in the truck bed.  Ultimately, I tell the officer that I will drop the charges if the man in the red truck returns my stuff, but more importantly, faces me.  

For some reason, I feel I must see this man face to face.  I guess seeing the face of the “enemy” gives me a feeling of what I’m up against.  I need to see the man that not only stole in front of his four year old son, but then risked his life by driving like an Indy 500 driver.

As he faces me, and makes excuses for his actions, I have an overwhelming feeling of relief.  This is no Charles Manson.  He’s no Ted Bundy!  Just a normal man who was too cowardly to confront the five foot one lady he had just stolen from.

All I see standing in front of me, is a thief and a coward.

I learned a few things about myself that day.  I learned that even though I may feel like I am handling stress, it is really building up.  Eventually I will blow.  We all do, at some point.

I learn that I was very lucky that the man in the red truck was not some crazed lunatic who was packing a pistol.  More importantly, I learn that no amount of personal property is worth risking the life of my kids, or myself.  

Deep in thought
I also learned that no one should ever mess with the crazy lady that lives in the yellow house with blue trim.  She has more courage and disgust (or stupidity) of those who take advantage of others, that she will chase the intruder.  She won’t run!  She’ll stand there and fight for what is right.
I have learned that any person, man or woman, can reach a point where they will just not tolerate anymore.  That point is different for everyone, but the face of Jessica Ridgeway reflected back to me in the mirror.  It was her face, and her justice, that drove me to make the choice to pursue the man in the red truck.  It was Jessica that gave me the courage to fight for what was right.     

Jessica Ridgeway
Possible property of the killer

Westminster, Arvada, & C.B.I.

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