Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Man Who Killed My Mother

Fair warning, dear reader: this isn't light reading. This post is about a murder. An actual murder. Not an exciting fictional murder from an episode of TV or a bad novel. It's personal and certainly not for the faint of heart nor anyone who can't tolerate untidy things. This is about the murder of my beautiful late mother Lorraine Orris who died-- either passively, or as I have come to feel certain-- actively, at the hand of my father David L. Orris, Sr., who has a neatly-hidden lifelong history of violence. As of today, it is no longer going to be hidden, neatly or otherwise. I have kept silent for decades. No more.  

My Beautiful Young Mom and Me
It's taken me over two years to get to the place emotionally where I have even been able to look at this horrific situation at all, let alone wrap my head around it with some clarity. Prior to 2016, I was blindly defending my father to his numerous detractors. To the police who appeared at his door the day my mother died. To relatives. And ultimately to myself. But as the fog of grief has begun to lift a little more than two years after my mom's passing, it has become impossible for me to ignore the facts.

I never wanted anything in all the world as much as I wanted a father, but looking at the reality of who my father is and the damage I have inherited from this man-- the impossible price of being this man's son-- I have come to the awful realization that I have nothing to lose. And there has been absolutely no justice for my murdered mother. This piece of writing about her death may end up being the only attempt at the truth that is ever publicly made. It is so much less than justice and so much less than what my late and truly-great mother Lorraine Anita Orris (Yescas) deserves, but it's all the legal recourse I have available to me.

Two weeks ago, Detective Michael Benedict of the Pinal County Sheriff's office in Arizona discontinued the investigation into the homicide of Lorraine Orris, my late mother. My father, David L Orris Sr was the prime suspect and I know this because I was one of many immediate relatives who had become certain my father had played a serious role in causing my mother's death and as one of those individuals, I had shared some of the information that led to the investigation of my father and the police bringing my father in for questioning. Before I was ready to even entertain the notion that my father had a hand in my mother's death, my mother's brother, former police detective and private detective Ken Yescas knew the day it happened. He sent Pinal County deputies to my father's door in Queen Creek the day after my mom had unexpectedly and suddenly passed away due to a sudden head injury. My Uncle Ken and I both believe my father caused my mother's death now, but I wasn't ready to even consider it the day my mom died. Ken knew immediately and I suspect my mom may have confided in her brother as she had confided in her sister about what was happening behind closed doors with my father, which I'll get to in a bit. But at the time, I thought the whole idea of my father killing my mom was an insane and disgusting suggestion. And I refused to even consider it.  I actually defended my father against this idea and considered it a personal attack.

I actually know about Ken's call to the police firsthand because I was there at my parents' home when the deputies showed up the day following my mother's passing in April 2014. Even grief-stricken, I remember thinking how incredibly odd it was that the deputies showed up but did literally nothing. They rang the doorbell, my father and I both basically yelled at them together saying we had just lost someone and how dare you and go away. Remarkably, they did. There was no questioning, nothing. They simply apologized for their presence and left. That was the whole exchange. I guess the local Pinal County police saw my father as being above questioning that particular day. And I'm ashamed I played a role in sending them away. But I did. I was 100 miles underwater and I couldn't see facts or reason or anything beyond overwhelming grief.
Summer 2013, One of the last times I'd ever get to really spend time with my beautiful mom

Many of my mom's closest friends and relatives have confided that they had long feared the worst for years, that my father was hurting my mother. Not one or two stray friends, but a good many of the people who had known my mother and father for a very long time expressed they had carried the fear of my father harming my mother for decades. I have harrowing letters from longtime friends from around the country who confided their long-held worst fears as they watched my mother constantly showing up with bruises and neck braces, always having undergone another 'accident'.

And finally, my mom's sister Yvonne stepped forward this year confiding that my mom had actually handwritten a letter shortly before she died. My mother had always protected her abuser throughout their entire marriage and certainly throughout my life. But here she was, in her own handwriting, just prior to her death, saying that my father had been exhibiting terrifying cycles of violence 'worse than in the beginning of their marriage' and that as a result, my oft-injured mother, was 'afraid for her life.' These violent episodes my mom described included my father physically abusing my mother, 'knocking her around,' as well as psychotic episodes involving running around the house making threats with a large knife while threatening violence to my mother and even threatening his own life too.

Early days
These cycles of violence were not news to me-- I'd seen his violence my entire life, both physical and emotional violence. I'd been the recipient of most of his violence as a kid-- the most hittable member of the family and most-able-to-absorb my father's violence was me-- the boy, or so said that backwards way of thinking. But in my adulthood, I had foolishly allowed myself to believe things were very different. Things had changed. Improved. Maybe even healed. And now I was the one who needed to let go of the decades of abusive pain. I desperately wanted to believe that story and spent a lot of time and energy in therapy attempting to believe. And I believed my mother's stories about the ways in which things were now different.  How my father had seemed to mellow over time. And all her constant injuries-- I wanted to believe what she always told us-- that they were just accidents.

Still unsure though even many years after I'd left home, every time my mother would be injured, I continued to asked her not infrequently, "Should I call social services? Is he hurting  you? Do you need to come stay with me? Are you okay, mom?"

The answer was always that she was just fine. Just a little accident-prone. But if I'm honest, there were so many times my mother was in some kind of pain and I'd be on the phone with her as she was trying to keep herself standing and dealing with the pain while being a good little woman and getting dinner ready on time for the big man. If he came home, she'd hang up abruptly, seemingly not wanting to appear less than dutiful. But no matter what, she never confided what was actually going on. What she confided in that final letter to her sister saying she feared for her life because of my father's violence.

I only recently became aware of this letter because my mother had made my very kind, intelligent and well-meaning aunt promise my mother that she would keep it a secret from me because she knew I would take action. And as ever, my mother was protecting my father. But in light of my mother's passing and after some time, my aunt no longer felt she could keep the truth of this letter from me in good conscience and I appreciated her coming forward.

As the weight of grief has lessened this year and I was looking more clearly at the facts, I already reluctantly knew in my bones what had happened to my mother, but her letter from beyond the grave really was the final blood-curdling straw.

As Detective Benedict closed the case a couple weeks ago, saying there was no physical evidence he could legally use, and that my father had beaten their vocal stress test (a lie detector test of a sort), he said he leaned toward believing my father. And that was devastating but also unsurprising to me. I had actually told the detective back in March that that is how his investigation would end. My father would snow them and they would buy it-- a master manipulator.

My father is a masterful liar and I've watched him in action my entire life. I've watched my father look people straight in the eye and with total conviction, tell them gravity didn't exist, that up was down and the truth was just not so. And what I realized was that HE believed whatever it was he felt he needed to say. An incredibly religious man, he adds devout Christianity and what some of us refer to as "Christianese," to his bag of tricks. He points to the Bible frequently. Employs acronyms like "PTL" (the "Praise the Lord" acronym made popular by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in the '80s) whenever he can fit it in (and even when he can't). His most profound skill is that he has found a way not simply to sell any lie he felt compelled to tell, but to believe every lie he has ever needed to tell. It's a terrifying and remarkable skill and I've never seen anything like it anywhere else in my life. He really knows how to believe anything he's selling. Anything.

As a child, I'd be getting beaten at home within an inch of my life, hiding in closets when he'd come home to listen for what level of violence had come home that night. But to the world, he was a pillar of the community. A church leader. A leader in Christian business and the evangelical world at large. A "Godly" man. And it became painfully and impossibly clear that no matter what reign of violence was perpetrated by this man at home, he would never be held accountable. And he never had so much as a shadow cross his face when selling the community on what a loving, stand-up guy he was. That pattern remains true to this day.

As an adult, I spent years confronting him with the profound abuses and scars he left me with. And I even spent years, repeatedly, trying to reconcile with him, and to forgive him. But in the end, there was just no one home. No one behind his eyes. No one left in there to reconcile with. The first time I confronted him he denied anything I said had happened. The second time he said he had been abusive because of a previously undiagnosed allergy to chocolate (I kid you not). Dissatisfied (at best) with his total lack of sincerity or even vaguest appearance that he knew or cared that he had torn me in half and caused lifelong damage, I'd come to him again. He even eventually sort of apologized, but couching it with the idea that I needed to understand that as a kid, I had been an exceptionally bad kid and that I had it coming.

This sounds obviously biased, but I promise you-- I was the annoyingly 'good' child. I mean to a bizarre extent. Even as a teenager, I was the incredibly and doggedly religious (to please my father I now realize) teenager (to the point of a whole lot of peer ridicule-- and rightly so). I was the kid who started a Bible study at his public high school, was on the honor roll, a leader at three church youth groups, an all-state musician, student council (etc ad nauseam). I was THAT annoying goodie-goodie kid who everyone could see had been locked in this weird evangelical bubble and who LIVED the life of that bubble. And you can verify that with any of my school classmates or anyone who knew me as a kid. My father liked to say that I was an 'out of control rebellious kid who needed to be taught a lesson.'  Ladies and gents, I promise you, I was the poster boy for the good-boy club and I was *not* rebellious. I was obedient to an extraordinary and bizarre extent. That's the truth. Not that any behavior would have justified his abuse, but as it happened, I was seriously a freaking angel.

My father is a man locked in his own room with whatever version of reality he needs to spin to make himself correct. If he needs his golden-boy son to be bad to grant him a little leeway with beating the shit out of and terrorizing the kid, that's what will happen. But in terms of a real human being-- something soulful... no one's home. There's a sharp intellect, and certainly an enormous fragile ego. But nothing actually human other than a calculating attempt to somehow 'win.'

This was a man who would throw me across the room by my hair. Kick me in the stomach. A man who began shrieking at me about finances and budgeting for five to six hours at a time from the time I was five years old. Bizarre, broken, beyond abusive behavior by any measure. Behavior that I have unpacked and demystified through years and years of therapy and meditation practice. And probably will continue to for the rest of my life to some degree. But whatever happened to my father to make him this violent shell... it has already happened. Permanently. I have come to the impossible realization of who and what my father is. A narcissist and sociopath. And because of this, my mother paid the ultimate price.

The days just following my mother's death in Arizona were made of a thick, underwater, impossible weight. I was drowning in a flood of grief and literally had a difficult time physically standing much of the time during those few days following my mother's completely sudden and untimely passing.

Her death was due to a sudden violent head injury that had gone untreated for too many hours. As I raced through the night April 26-27 from Los Angeles to just outside Phoenix, I called and pleaded and railed at anyone I could get on the phone at the hospital where my mother was finally being treated, having laid in bed un-rousable and untreated all day. Doctors told me that if she had gotten to the hospital even marginally sooner, they could have saved my mom. But because she had laid there unconscious for so many hours, her brain filling with blood like a balloon, with absolutely no help for hours and hours, her head injury became inoperable long before anyone even tried to take her to the hospital.
Mom pregnant with me-- one of the first photos of my mom and I together

Why did she lay there all day with no help following a serious blow to the head? Did my father not know she had this serious head injury? Putting aside my own certainty that he caused the head injury, in point of fact, he had been acutely aware of the head injury by his own admission and says he saw it happen. So why on earth was she not rushed to the hospital? The same reason, it turns out, he often let her be found seriously hurt or unconscious and just didn't bother-- "It was just getting too expensive."

On April 26, 2014, the day before my mom died, for the first time in some 45 year of marriage, the extraordinarily unusual (as in, it had never ever happened during the entire course of their decades of marriage, which my father acknowledged in writing in an email this very year) occurrence of my mom not getting out of bed with my father in the morning happened for the first time ever. In fact, she wouldn't wake up at all. My father who never had a morning he didn't shout at my mother, "Rainy, get me my coffee!" Or "Hey, Rainy, would ya get me the paper?" It was never a question. She was his hop-to-it-girl-- no matter how sick or bent over or run down she became. He wouldn't stand for anything else. And when his head-injured wife flatly would not wake up-- for the first time in 45 years of marriage-- did my father become concerned? Nah. Did he try harder to wake her? No one knows for sure, but his story is that he tried, she didn't wake up and that was that. So, when she wouldn't awaken, did he call an ambulance? No. Rush her to the hospital? Oh, goodness, no.

See, the thing is, my mother had sustained a series of "mysterious" injuries for years and years because she was "clumsy," she told us over and over. And as she sustained more and more injuries, she DID become clumsier and weaker. But no one is this weak. NO ONE is this clumsy. Dozens of injuries. And many, many of the injuries were untreated-- a broken hand they let heal mangled and that stayed mangled for over a year is an example that springs to mind because when I saw it, I literally gasped at the sight of my poor mother's mangled claw. In the end, she died with that hand still mangled. She was injured all the time.

So my father was over it, he'd told us time and again. He'd actually written me a remarkably hateful email threatening to divorce my mom because of these incredible medical bills when I railed at him for failing to take her to the ER when he'd found her unconscious. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Given my mom's handwritten letter from beyond the grave, my father's history of violence which I well know firsthand, the fact that his son, his brother-in-law and at least two of his sisters-in-law and a number of friends and other relatives also believe he pushed my mother into the wall and gave her that fatal injury (not that she 'fell' as he claims), it becomes hard to see anything other than my father's violence in all of this.

So it's a huge reach to even consider giving him the benefit of the doubt, but let's still go ahead and pretend we can all somehow magically believe my father didn't push my mother-- that he did not CAUSE the head injury (on the back of her head, by the way, which is often a sign of someone being pushed, I've come to learn-- people don't naturally fall backwards). An impossible reach, but let's buy into it for argument's sake anyway. Even if we believe he didn't CAUSE the head injury, he's still murderously neglectful. And why? Well, he said he felt she had just had "too many" injuries when I asked. Quite self-righteously actually. Like I was a real jerk for thinking when your head-injured wife won't wake up you take her to the ER and I'm also an incredible asshole for insisting he should take her every single time whatever the cost. And what he flatly said was that my mother didn't merit a trip to the hospital because she'd just been injured too often. And I mean, he really got behind that statement. In writing. Even after it took my mother's life. Essentially. 'Well, if she has to die she has to die. Hospital's fucking expensive.'

You see, more than several times before the event that killed my mother, my father had found my mother unconscious and in stupors lying on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night with injuries of all varieties (or he claims he found her with the injuries and not that he perpetrated them), and did he then rush his unconscious or helpless and injured wife to the hospital in THOSE instances prior to her death? No, no, "Because this had happened before."

So he'd put his un-rousable injured wife back in bed to see if she would die or wake up. The several times we actually know of that he did this, by the grace of God, my mother woke up. But on April 27, 2014... well, that time she didn't.

The day my mother died, my father found his head-injured wife just wouldn't wake up. Knowing the severity of her head injury did he spring into action? No, no. Make sure he could get her to come to and that she was okay? Why bother her? It's just a head injury. Let her lay there. So what if she won't wake up? You know what? She needs rest, right?

So instead of calling 9-1-1, rushing her to the ER or even just watching over her, he decided it was time to run some errands. They were in the middle of moving and he needed to go spend a number of hours doing errands. Well, she had a head injury and everyone obviously knows how serious head injuries are, so he, at the very, very least called a friend to come watch over her while he ran these 'emergency' errands requiring him to leave her otherwise alone and unconscious all day for some mystifying reason while she has major head trauma, right?

No. He just left his head-injured wife laying there, unconscious, and totally alone. In a coma.

Yes, about nine hours later, that afternoon, when he was good and ready to check for real-- by golly, he found she still wasn't waking up, and only then did my father "rush" my mother to the hospital. HOURS UPON HOURS after letting her lay there unconscious and totally alone and unattended, with a serious head injury. Leaving her to die. And to hear him tell the tale, he wants a star of valor for bothering to do so at all. He "took her to get the very best care available." Only after it was way too late.

Here are the facts, simplified and boiled down. My father has a lifelong history of violence. My mother kept "mysteriously" sustaining "falling" and other physical injuries, one after another, for years and years. He previously often refused to take her to the hospital even when she is in a coma-- at least three times that my father admitted to IN WRITING. And finally, there is a letter from beyond the grave from my mother in her own handwriting saying that he'd been hitting her and she feared for her life (and to continue to hide this information as she always had). So with all of that, included below is the obvious puzzle all put together for you, Detective Benedict.

My father hit my mother. She kept getting injured for years and years. They tried to hide it frequently by NOT taking her to the doctor when he'd hurt her. This last time that he hurt her and gave her another head injury, he did what he'd always done-- nothing. He let her lay there to see if she would die as he admits in writing he had done at least three times before. Only on April 27, 2014, she actually died.

I recently found something my mother had written out about how she had wanted to be buried. But I had never seen it at the time of her death.  Her passing was so out of nowhere. And when my father insisted my mother had wanted to be cremated, and how she talked about it all the time, of course, we believed him without question. We weren't thinking about murder evidence or what he'd done to her. That was stupid given what he'd done prior, but we weren't. Like I said before, the heaviness  of the grief just wouldn't let my mind go there. And we just hadn't planned for mom's death. At all. We just weren't prepared. We weren't remotely thinking he could have killed her and wanted to cremate her to get rid of evidence despite the fact that she COMMITTED TO WRITING that she wanted to be buried and how she wanted to be buried. No, my father went on and on about she had always wanted to be cremated, talked about it all the time. It was actually weird, but again, the weight of the grief just made everything else so slow-motion and underwater. 

The fog of grief was impossibly thick and deep. And it's only been during 2016 that I began to come out of it and see clearly what many of my relatives had already been saying-- my father killed my mother.

It's not something a son comes to grips with about his father easily, no matter how terrible the relationship. It took time to see the obvious. But it is obvious. Horribly and painfully obvious.

Even if it's all circumstantial and I'm incorrect that he pushed her, and I feel certain he did cause the head injury, by his own admission, my father let my mother lay there with a head injury and not only didn't take her to the hospital-- he went and ran errands for hours upon hours. Even if it were a horrific mistake, which I know it was not, he isn't remotely apologetic for this lethal neglect. He's baffled. He's actually baffled that I'm upset.

And I'm writing this all out now, but I actually wrote him a letter back in April too which I am now preparing to share publicly soon. And that detailed letter outlines even more of the heart of the matter. Because this man killed his wife, either on purpose or by horrific neglect. With absolutely no sign of remorse.

Detective Benedict actually reported back to me that my father had actually said, "Gosh, I don't know where this is all coming from," when he was brought in for questioning. 'This' being the investigation inquiry launched by myself, my uncle, my aunt, friends and other relatives-- and of course, the Pinal County Sheriff and DA who also had enough reason to investigate. But my father went on, "We had Christmas together last year. And now suddenly, this." As though 'this' were a strange concoction I'd come up with this year for sport. As though I hadn't come to him directly and repeatedly telling him what I'd realized. And what was his response? Forget confessing or apologizing, he just did what he does: he looks you straight in the eye and says it's raining unicorns and how dare you even insinuate reality?

Losing my mother has been the hardest thing I've ever gone through. It's why I couldn't see straight. It's why I couldn't even let my mind close in around the facts-- including the fact that he let her lay there and die. Knowingly. And even after that I actually defended him. Because for a moment there, even after everything he's put me through, that he could have done what he did was too awful to even consider. My mind wouldn't even go there.

But he did. Objectively. He let her lay there and die-- and that's actually the best I can hope for. He let her lay there. Knowingly. And risked her dying. As he had done again and again previously. As he had done after which I had even gone to him pleading with him not to do again. And it is what did indeed end up happening the day my mother passed. I feared the worst the first few times he let her lay there unconscious. And then the worst happened.

Where this comes from is a lifetime of watching a sociopath who happens to be my father just get away with everything. Over and over. Where this comes from is the realization that except for my father's abject neglect of my mother, if not active physical abuse, my mother would be alive right now and probably for some decades to come. That's a fact. My mother would be alive right now if it weren't for my father. Strangers on the street would not neglect a woman lying unconscious with a head injury.

And this isn't a story he gets to un-tell with his bizarre spin, insidious "PTL"s and his Stepford smiles and his hollow religious jargon, hiding behind the Bible and his church community and everyone around him blithely lauding him and propping up because they share a belief system or because he gives them money and gifts and resources.

He has gotten away with everything. With taking a blow torch to my heart and my life. And I was prepared to actually let even that go. But not this. Not robbing me of my mother. And robbing my sister of her mother. And so many people who loved her, who would not have treated her like a slave and a burden. And then murdered her.

This story of murder does not end up with the son sitting silently and idly by. It just cannot end that way. The thing I've had to finally learn is the lesson all children have to learn about their parents. I've just had to learn it all the way to the very bottom of the truth. And that truth is that my father is merely a man. In my case, he's an incredibly broken, violent, selfish man. And this petty little man who took my beautiful mother's life, this woman who loved bigger and harder than anyone I've ever known, he should not be allowed to wander off into the sunset believing his own treacherous spin about his monstrous behavior. 

As I look at all of this more and more clearly, I see that this man is not even really a man when it comes down to it. No. This is a small solipsistic selfish raging child who has wrought so much violence and havoc on my life and the lives of so many people I love, and who destroyed the greatest thing that ever happened to him-- either actively, passively, or likely both. No, this shell of creature, he's no man. And he's certainly no father of mine.