[There is more to this story later. This update was written before I knew what all had happened. In September I found out more details.]
I discovered on July 1, 2011, through our state’s public access website, that Richard has been charged with two felonies by the state: Second degree recklessly endangering safety, and child abuse with high probability of great harm.
Research into these statutes reveals that the second one, under the statute for physical abuse of a child, is described as, “Whoever intentionally causes bodily harm to a child by conduct which creates a high probability of great bodily harm is guilty of a Class F felony.”
So he has done something terrible to at least one of the children–on purpose. Which of those beautiful, sweet girls did he hurt? How did he hurt her? Why?? How could he?? Was it reported by a teacher, by a doctor?
When I first made acquaintance with him over the Internet in 2005, he seemed to be very cool. For years I thought he was the most interesting, charismatic, and pious person I knew. I was drawn to him, and for a long time, he seemed to be drawn to me just as strongly.
But somewhere along the way, things changed–and I never could have imagined that one day I would be writing these things about him and Tracy. And now he’s done something horrible to at least one, maybe two of the children. I don’t know what, because the website gives the charges but no details.
It happened on September 21, 2010–almost three months after 7/1/10 (the end of our friendship), either a few weeks or two months before I saw Tracy hanging out of the van window as they drove past, and three months before they came to my church at Christmas.
Then in February 2011–the same month that I probably looked at the calendar, realized six months had passed since I told Tracy that Jeff and I wanted a six-month break, wondered if they would now try to contact us, and soon became very upset that they did not–the charges were filed with the District Attorney’s office.
While I posted my “Fighting the Darkness” blog post and wondered if he would see it (since I was still on his blogroll), he could have been sitting in jail:
The charges were filed 2/10/11; I don’t know when the crime was discovered and reported, when/if he was arrested or how long till he posted bail, since none of these details are on the website at this time.
We saw nothing of him between Christmas 2010 and the Sunday before Greekfest, which was in mid-June 2011, not even a glimpse of his minivan on the street; could he have been in jail then?
I can hardly expect someone who’s dealing with such things to put problems with me on his list of high priorities. But then, wouldn’t it be good to get all the friends around you that you can?
Still, it would be useless for him to court us if he justifies his actions and thinks the state should not prosecute whatever he did.
I can have no friendship with a child abuser, and only tolerated Tracy because of him. Child abusers and spousal abusers disgust me, which is why I only tolerated Tracy and would have preferred to have nothing to do with her.
But of course, they blamed me and treated me like I was the problem, like there was absolutely no reason not to be friends with Tracy, like only skanks would not want to be friends with the wife of their male friend.
Research into the state statutes on the charges filed, the different kinds of felonies, and state manuals for Child Protective Services, revealed that he could be in quite a bit of trouble. Felonies are the most serious kind of charge, with serious consequences.
“Intentional” means he would either have done it with the purpose of hurting the child, or while punishing the child, even if not necessarily meaning to hurt the child.
In either case, this would not be an accident, because anything accidental could either be given a lesser charge (negligence or recklessness), or not charged at all.
And bodily harm of some kind was done to the child, by behavior which caused the high probability of great bodily harm. You can’t use the defense of parental right to discipline when you’ve caused bodily harm to your child and put the child at risk of great bodily harm.
The types of felonies involved could lead to many years in prison. Research into how criminal charges are filed, revealed that first there would be an arrest, then a police report sent to the prosecutor.
So at some point, he must have been arrested, possibly thinking he was being oppressed, because he was against the police–wanted police departments to be disbanded and all such matters put in the hands of sheriffs and citizens with guns to protect their families–said he could protect Jeff’s and my family.
Also, he had made grumblings against CPS, as did Chris, the friend he made here in town who agreed with him politically.
And I have discovered that their political persuasion tends to be very anti-CPS, treating CPS as the oppressor–an agent of government control, kidnappers, rapists–rather than as the protector of children who can’t protect themselves.
[Note: This paragraph was written after I found the details of the case in September 2011. I discovered that Chris vanished from my Facebook probably late January or early February 2011. He had only just posted something that showed up on my wall around that time, so I knew it was very recent when I first discovered it.
The charges were filed on February 10, so I don’t know if Chris knew about them yet. I’m pretty sure Richard wasn’t talking about them on Facebook, since Todd was on Richard’s Facebook but had no idea about these things until I told him about them in September, but Richard may have mentioned them to Chris.
On December 8, 2010, when charges had not yet been filed but the choking incident had been reported a couple of months prior, I posted a link on Facebook to Domestic Violence Handbook: For Wisconsin Child Protective Services Workers.
Facebook at that time was full of people changing their profile pictures in remembrance of child abuse, but I was posting links and this note about things Tracy did, instead.
I don’t have the message in front of me and have to go on memory, but Chris posted in response to the link something nasty and accusatory about CPS. Something about them wanting to take your kids away if you don’t follow the rules.
I deleted it because I wanted my post to help people avoid child and domestic abuse, not become some political argument about CPS.]
The prosecutor decides from the report whether or not to press charges, and for what, and must do so within a few days.
Since the charges weren’t filed until nearly five months after the incident, what was the incident, and did it take a long time before the authorities became aware of it? How did they learn of it? How did they know it happened on 9-21?
This suggests that the arrest would have taken place around early February, as I wrote above. The trial is set for November 2011.
When I learned about the charges against Richard, the shock and dismay affected me physically.
On March 1, 2011, I had mailed a letter, i.e. filed a report, with the local Department of Social Services agency about them, expecting only that–if my report was even taken seriously–it would lead to the DSS providing them with various services and helps.
My old college friend Mike, a pastor and former shelter worker, spoke with me on Facebook on July 4th or 5th, 2010, about the friendship breakup. The breakup had just happened on the 1st.
I told him the abuses that Tracy had committed against Richard, their children and me, and that Richard was tempted to hit her back if she ever hit his face.
Mike told me I needed to report them for the sake of the children, but I wrote, “I don’t want to be vindictive.” He wrote, “Don’t let friendship stand in the way of doing what’s right for those children!”
I did consider it. I had also considered it back in January of that year, while we were still friends.
But I was afraid to call CPS because Tracy could punish me for it, either by trying to kill me like I was told she once wanted to do while living in my house, or by reporting me to CPS on some trumped-up charge.
Or because Richard could assault me as he had wanted to assault that apartment manager.
When I discussed it with Jeff, probably shortly after talking with Mike, we agreed that it was too risky to report Richard and Tracy.
Though I was afraid, over the following months I kept coming across things again and again–forum posts, newspaper articles–that said if you suspect child abuse, you must be an “angel” to that child and report it.
Then in late February 2011, I saw The Boondock Saints for the second time (the first time being the night before 8/1/10, when Richard and Tracy came to my church), and the scene which says that evil happens because good men do nothing:
Monsignor: “And I am reminded, on this holy day, of the sad story of Kitty Genovese.
As you all may remember, a long time ago, almost thirty years ago, this poor soul cried out for help time and time again, but no person answered her calls. Though many saw, no one so much as called the police.
They all just watched as Kitty was being stabbed to death in broad daylight. They watched as her assailant walked away.
Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”
Connor to his brother as they leave church: “I do believe the monsignor’s finally got the point.”
I was so worried about Richard and Tracy’s girls, growing up in that squalor, in that abusive environment, with that crazy mother–though I had no idea yet that Richard was just as bad as she was. So finally I said Uncle to my conscience, and began compiling a letter.
First, before mailing the letter, I checked the state’s public access court records website to see if either Richard or Tracy had been charged with domestic violence in the past few years, or any sort of violence–especially since Richard made some comment back in spring 2010 about being arrested numerous times for reasons he didn’t explain.
I wondered if Tracy’s rages had ever been reported by neighbors, especially since I knew she was going into them in early 2009, when they lived in an apartment building and could probably have been heard easily.
But I found no such listing for either of them–though if I had checked the very next day, I would have seen that Richard was charged nearly a month earlier with intentionally and physically abusing one of his children!
Then I checked with a college friend who has been doing social work for years in Madison with troubled adolescents, to see if the things I witnessed, qualified as child abuse in Wisconsin.
She said my concerns are indeed valid, and that Richard and Tracy both sound very abusive. Her own family was like Richard and Tracy’s, and they still suffer from the after-effects to this day.
She urged me to please report them, to help the children and to help Richard.
I filed the report with DSS, not with the police department, because I wanted them to get services, not to be charged with a crime. I didn’t expect the children to even be removed from the home.
I expected they would work out a long-term plan, in accordance with DSS procedures, with anger management counseling, parenting courses, and various other services that would help them to stop the abuse and become a healthy, happy family.
I figured that if they knew what was in the report, they would know who made it. But I saw a news documentary in which one couple said they’d been reported for abusing their children, and a year later, they were very grateful for that report, because they were now much better parents and spouses.
I hoped that this would be the same thing with Richard and Tracy, that in time they would forgive me because they knew I did the right thing, that they would realize it led to their family becoming healthy and happy, and that they would reach out to Jeff and me in friendship, forgiveness and repentance.
Though when I showed the letter to Jeff, he said it meant the permanent end of the friendship. But I accepted this because it was the right thing to do. My friends praised my courage.
Also, when I made the report, it was Tracy whom I saw as the principal abuser, with Richard primarily the victim and the one who was trying desperately to keep her from harming the children as well.
On July 1, 2011, the first anniversary of the end of our friendship, I was grieving, and also wondered if the report to DSS had led to criminal charges, so I looked them up again.
When I discovered these charges had been made against Richard, and that they had been made before my report was even sent to DSS, I was devastated.
I had so looked up to him, so idolized him, and used his story as a reason to raise awareness (on the Abuse page of this website) and on Facebook for the problem of domestic violence by women against men.
I saw him as the protector of his children against someone who could very easily harm them all physically and mentally if left unchecked.
In the summer of 2010, I had even written down all the knowledge I had of her abuses, so that if one day I was called as a character witness for him in divorce court or on domestic violence charges, I could present it to the court.
Could he really be capable of harming them himself? Then I began to piece together the things I already knew, things he had said to me, things I had already written right here in this account (which I started writing in probably fall 2010).
I realized it was all right there in front of me that yes, he is capable of hurting his children! I just didn’t want to see it! And if Tracy were to hit him in the face, he could fight back and kill her! It’s all right there! The bastard!
I was now very glad to have put in my report the things he did, too, that I knew about: putting the children in the closet at least once, defending smacking a kid upside the head.
He would occasionally deadpan to the oldest girl how he was going to treat her if she did something bad like have sex when she became a teenager, the horrible things he would do to her, then she would cry, and then everyone would laugh nervously as Tracy scolded him for scaring the girl and we realized he was joking. At least, I think he was joking.
He once told me that when he said things like that to the second-oldest daughter, she just laughed at him. But if the oldest daughter didn’t get the joke, then it’s not funny, and could actually scar her for life.
Another time, as he drove his children (three at the time) and me to his church (since my priest was on vacation and there were no services), I told him my frustrations with dealing with my son.
This was 2008; my son was four at the time, had begun smacking me around and taunting me so I was actually scared of him. The only thing that got him to stop (and kept me safe) was to lock him in his room for a few minutes until he calmed down.
It was the middle of the day, he still wore Pull-ups because he just wasn’t interested in using the toilet yet, and it was only for maybe 10 minutes, but I still read books that made this sound abusive.
“What else am I supposed to do?” I cried. “This is the only thing that works!”
I wasn’t beating him, wasn’t putting him in the closet (unlike Richard), wasn’t putting him in the dark, wasn’t leaving him in his room all day long, wasn’t making him wet himself; I was just separating us both for a short time-out so he wouldn’t hurt me and we would both calm down….
Richard began telling me about something he either did or threatened to do to his oldest girl, something horrible. I don’t remember the details, just that he deadpanned it and freaked me out a bit.
Something about it made me think he was just kidding around, so I said, “It’s a good thing I know you’re just joking!”
But now–I’m not so sure it was a joke. I just wish I could remember what he said.
On June 10, 2010, he posted on Facebook for suggestions on how to get the kids to clean without “beating them into bloody submission” which only gets them flinching when he raises a hand and gets them working far less than they already were.
At the time, I thought he was just joking with hyperbole. Now, I’m not so sure. Jeff wrote when I e-mailed him about this post, “So: he’s finally learning…? Yelling at them just makes things worse, and should only be a last resort.”
Richard once plotted to kill the woman who evicted them. He was once a Mafia thug.
I knew all along that Richard was just as capable of abuse as Tracy, but I didn’t want to face it!
He had said things to me that I found very disturbing, defending and promoting behaviors toward a spouse and toward children which shocked me. He threatened my husband, said that he was very easily provoked to physical violence.
It was all there! (And it’s also all here in this account.)
These charges had absolutely nothing to do with my report, being filed almost a month before I mailed my report (a very detailed letter).
The children had probably been removed for a time, but by the time we saw Richard around town again in June, they had obviously been returned.
But his address, according to the website, changed in April 2011–Was he allowed to live with the children, or did he have to move out? Why were the children returned to someone who had obviously harmed one of them?
I tried to be sure that DSS wouldn’t let him be around the children without certain safeguards being in place, without him at least showing that he could control himself now.
That man is very large, 6’5, 400 pounds according to online court records, even larger than his large wife, and his children very small. (Those little ones especially needed protection from two large, angry people.)
For months, I had been posting this account online, then making it private, over and over, as I continuously added things. What started as two short paragraphs on my abuse page, turned into thousands of words.
Sometimes I was too scared to post it, and sometimes I wanted the world to know what happened. In June 2011 it was online again, but I blocked this account from the public starting on 7/1/11, after discovering the charges, at least until I knew what happened and whether I’d be subpoenaed.
The charges against him could lead to many years in state prison. I could end up subpoenaed, either because of our friendship or because of the report I made to the DSS. Could we end up taking in the children?
This discovery has done several things for me, especially since I had nothing to do with the charges made against Richard:
- Shown me that I was not imagining it, that their abuse was real.
- Shown me that their good opinion is not worth courting.
- Shown me that neither of them are good people, that they’re both child abusers who should not be in our lives.
- Shown me that DSS–which confirmed the receipt of my letter–must have taken it very seriously, not tossed it aside as I had feared, because they and the state would already have a file open on Richard, would already be extremely interested in what goes on in that family, would be working on a case against him.
- Helped me to start moving on.
If Richard is in jail for many years, it won’t matter one bit if our friendship is repaired or not, because our friendship will be at an end anyway. How can we be friends with a jailed convict, with a convicted child abuser?
How can I spend hours chattering and playing with him on the Net if he’s in jail? How can we chat on the phone, or visit each other if he’s in jail? How can I want to be friends with someone who has hurt one of his children on purpose?
And since both Jeff and I can’t stand Tracy, we will not wish to have a thing to do with her if Richard is in jail.
If DSS’s investigation into my report, along with the investigation they were surely already doing because of the charges against Richard, leads them to agree that Tracy is very abusive, that Tracy should not be left to raise them alone–the children could be placed elsewhere.
Richard may still be able to be a psychologist when he gets out of prison, but a priest? No one will ordain a convicted child abuser! I will have nothing to fear on that account. I will also not have to fear him finding this blog.
I can hope that while in prison, he will have lots of time to think over his life and make changes. Who knows, maybe Jeff and/or I will receive a remorseful letter one day….
[Update 5/3/14:] Every day after this discovery, for some time, I kept printouts of Richard’s case next to me on my computer desk, and looked at them. I needed to believe it was real; I needed my heart to understand that he’s no good. Every day I wondered what he had done, and if the newspaper would ever report on it.
Table of Contents
2. We share a house
3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me
4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children
5. My frustrations mount
6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends
7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build
8. The Incident
9. The fallout; a second chance?
11. Struggle to regain normalcy
12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other
13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary
14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges
Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing