My New Friend is in Jail

January 2015

(Post One)

I have a new friend.

Actually I met him for the first time in 2010, but he really only became my actual friend until a few months ago when I first wrote him a letter.

He is in jail.

He’s “awaiting trial.”  He’s been waiting a long time, too – 4 years and 7 months so far.  That is a longer-than-usual time to wait for your trial.  It’s especially a long time if you sit inside a cell 22 hours day.   My friend is being charged with “special circumstances,” so he can’t get bail, and the prosecutor is asking for the death penalty.

Let’s start by saying that I am NOT going to use my friend’s name in this blog; at least not at this point.

Obviously, anyone could Google what I’m going to tell you about the case.  You could find out my friend’s name and all about his alleged crime.  I’m not trying to hide anything, but I watch a lot of TV, and I figure if I don’t say his name, then nothing I write can be used against him in a court of law.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

I’m going to call him Pat.  My friend Pat, who is in jail.

When I first met Pat back in 2010, he was acting in a play at my theatre.  I’m calling it my theatre because I was one of the people who helped with the day-to-day running of the place.  I was a company member and a director.

Pat was just around for one show.  Even though he was the lead actor in a musical running at the theatre, it was Pat’s first time acting there.

The show was doing well and it was making money. That was all that mattered to me.

So, even though Pat was just a visitor, I liked him.  I didn’t think he was the greatest actor in the world, but he was doing a good job in the show and audiences responded well to him.

I started eyeing him for my summer musical.  He seemed like a nice guy.  He was good-looking and personable.  He was funny and polite.  He was even engaged to one of the actresses in the show,  and they were getting married the next week!  He seemed like he had his life pretty organized (at least organized enough for an actor in community theatre).

I chatted up Pat when I was house managing for his show one night.

This theatre was really small.  There were a lot of people in Pat’s show, and he ended up having to use the theatre’s office for his dressing room (he was the only man in the show).    I was selling tickets and snacks from the front of the office, while Pat was hanging out “back stage” in the back of the office.

A makeshift curtain hid him from the audience. He made me laugh, because every time someone would order a soda, Pat would hand it to me through the curtain.

A few days after the show ended, Pat was arrested.

He was at a restaurant having an impromptu bachelor party with some of his buddies.  The Sheriffs swarmed in and arrested him just as he’d finished paying the check (a fact that annoys him a bit).

The Crime

 January 2015

(Post Two)
 
I’ve read everything I can find on this case. I’m not asking Pat for any specifics. Yet.

 

My understanding is that the Sheriffs only wanted to question Pat about a missing man and his ATM card.  And then Pat supposedly confessed immediately…

…to murder.

The Story

Pat and his fiancee lived in an apartment complex two floors below a 26 year old Army combat soldier.

The Vet (as I’ll refer to him) had recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan and had started attending a local college.   Word around the complex was that The Vet had about 50,000 dollars savings in the bank and the police say that Pat wanted that money.

They also say Pat was in major debt… that Pat was about to be evicted from his apartment…  that Pat was getting married in the middle of a terrible financial situation…

Money was motive for murder.

The Vet and his parents were close.  He was their only child.  When their son didn’t come over as expected that morning and couldn’t be reached on the phone, the worried dad went to his son’s apartment to check on him.

Inside the bedroom, he found the partially clad body of a young woman.

She was a friend of his son’s.  She had been shot.

She had writing scrawled on her.  The words indicated she’d been killed because of some kind of romantic relationship that had gone terribly wrong.

With no sign of his missing son, The Vet’s dad called the police.

I want to point out that everything I know about this case so far is from what I’ve read and seen on TV.  None of my information is from Pat.  We were not yet in that point of our relationship.

I’m not sure what exactly was written on the body of the murdered girl.   My understanding is that a black marker was used to write on her body or her clothing. It supposedly said something like “now you can fucking have her…”

I will be very interested in finding out the specifics when Pat goes to trial
(likely this February).

Tutor Girl

The murdered woman was a 23 year old; The Vet’s fellow student and his tutor.   Even though she had a boyfriend (A Marine combat engineer stationed in Japan),
the police immediately suspected that the relationship between The Vet and Tutor Girl was actually romantic. A logical conclusion.  It appeared she’d been sexually assaulted and The Vet was nowhere to be found.

The dad protested profusely that his son would never have hurt Tutor Girl, but evidence showed otherwise. The previous evening, she was at dinner with her brother when she received texts from The Vet.  He was depressed.  He really wanted a “girl to talk to.”  Tutor Girl was never one to abandon a friend in need, so she agreed to drop by his apartment later that night.  Her brother got a text around midnight letting him know she’d arrived safely to The Vet’s apartment.

Now she had been found dead in the apartment of that man who had “lured” her to his home… and he was missing.

The police tracked the missing man’s activity through credit card and bank activity.  The Vet’s ATM card led them to a 17 year old kid who had been taking out money.  The 17 year old immediately told the police that he’d been given the card and asked to take out the money by… Pat.

Now, obviously, the police wanted to how Pat came into possession of a missing man’s ATM card – especially when that man was wanted in questioning to a murdered girl found in his apartment. This is when they tracked Pat down at that restaurant.  It turns out that Pat didn’t realize that the police only wanted to question him about the ATM card.  He thought they knew much much more.

You see, The Vet wasn’t on the lam.

He was dead.

The Confession

According to the police, Pat confessed to murdering them both.

The police say that Pat told them he’d asked The Vet to help him move some furniture at a local theatre building (not my theatre – a much larger one that was not operating at the time, on a Joint Forces training base) on a Friday afternoon in May.
In the attic of the building, Pat allegedly shot The Vet once (he thought he’d gotten an electric shock) and then shot him a second time in the head. Pat left the body, but took The Vet’s wallet and cell phone. He had a show to do that night. He was the lead in the musical at our theatre, and the show was sold out.
When Tutor Girl was receiving texts from her friend’s cell phone,  The Vet was already dead. According to the confession, Tutor Girl was greeted by Pat when she arrived at The Vet’s apartment. She knew Pat casually.  They were Facebook friends.

He invited her in and shot her in the head.

Wow, right?  Hold on… it gets worse.

Pat decapitated The Vet’s body.  He also cut off the man’s left arm and right hand.

He left the torso and legs at the theatre and hid the head, arm, and hand in a nearby park.

After that… he had another performance.

 

No one at our theatre had any idea that the man singing on stage had just murdered two people… according to police.

When I use “allegedly” and “supposedly” to discuss Pat’s crime and confession, I  do this because his trial hasn’t happened. He is innocent until proven guilty.

I’m pretty sure Pat is guilty. He’s also my friend.

Why Did I Write an Accused Murder?

February 2015

 
(Post Three)

So. Why did I write Pat in the first place?

And why did I wait 4 years to do it?

My family members have asked these questions.  My friends have asked these questions.  The guards at the jail where I visit Pat have asked these questions.

Why I Wrote An Alleged Double Murderer

The first reason:  This!  What I am doing right now: writing.

I won’t deny it: this guy is FASCINATING!

I wanted to know more.  I wanted to understand.  It’s obvious that there is one hell of a story here, and I wanted to write about Pat. What I’d write was still beyond me, but I wanted to write.

I decided the best way to get this going was to write him a letter.

I didn’t know how to send a letter to someone in jail, but I figured there was some type of protocol.

It took a little searching, but I found out Pat’s birthday (he’s about to turn 31), his full name, his arrest date and his booking number.  The booking number is most important.  You need to put it on the mail you send, and you need to give it to the guards when you visit.
During this Internet searching, I discovered Pat’s trial still hadn’t happened!  I occasionally wondered why I never heard any news or gossip about him. I had no idea he’d been sitting in jail… waiting… all this time.

Right now, he’s in a sort of holding location where most of his fellow inmates will be in and out in a couple of months.  They will either finish their trials and be moved to a prison to serve out their stay, or they are only in jail for a couple of months for some relatively innocuous crime (drug possession or something like that).

Yes, this means I can actually go to Pat’s trial!

This brings us to my second reason for starting this relationship.

I love crime shows!

I don’t mean CSI type dramas.  I’m an ID Addict.

Investigation Discovery is a cable channel that shows non-stop true crime shows like Dateline.

I’m a huge fan of Dateline.  I also love Homicide Hunter, Murder Next Door, A Crime to Remember, True Crime with Aphrodite Jones, Most Evil, 20/20 (when it’s a crime episode and not some boring “my neighbor from Hell” story), Murder Book, On the Case with Paula Zahn… etc. etc.   If a show has the words “Evil,” “Murder” or  “Homicide” in the title, it’s on my TiVo list.

The contents of my bookshelf include The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, Welcome to Hell: Writings and Letters from Death Row, Helter Skelter, Last Meals (yup, just lists of final meals of inmates before being executed) and many worn out paperbacks about Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, David Berkowitz (Son of Sam), Zodiac, BTK, Jeffrey Dahmer… well, you get the picture.

So, I have this (possibly unhealthy) obsession with crimes and killers, and BAM: here is a possible killer who I’ve actually met!!

I’m super fascinated with what makes a person confess to a crime they didn’t commit. I’m in no way saying that this is the case with Pat, but let’s keep an open mind here, people.  If any of you are familiar with the case of The West Memphis Three, then you know sometimes people really do confess to doing some pretty horrific stuff, even when they didn’t do it.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, I wrote a letter to Pat.

Keep in mind that we had only met briefly before his arrest; I wasn’t exactly writing to an old friend.   I was nervous about it, too.  I had no idea if he would remember me or write me back, and if he didn’t write me back… how in the world would I ever be able to write about him?

Also, what do you say to someone who is in jail and being accused of some seriously heinous stuff (double murder and dismemberment of one of the victims)?

Well, I talked about how crappy the dressing rooms had been at our theatre.  I also mentioned that he’d been a huge topic of conversation around the place after he was arrested.  I asked some questions about the truthfulness of Orange is the New Black (LOVE that show and wouldn’t care if it was all lies… but it’s not).

It wasn’t a long letter. Only 3 paragraphs.

He replied to me right away!

My First Mail From Jail

February 2015

(Post Four)

When I got a letter back (dated August 31, 2014), I was giddy with excitement.  Just seeing the red “Inmate Correspondence” stamp on the front of the envelope got me all a-twitter.

The second thing I noticed was the incredibly neat printing on the address.  In pencil.

Inside was a three page letter on two sheets of yellow legal-sized paper (the first page with both sides filled) written completely in pencil in that super-neat printing.

Pat’s First Letter From Jail To Me

He began by apologizing to me.

I didn’t expect that.  I didn’t think he owed me an apology, but I think he has a lot of general guilt about any trouble he caused to anyone when he was arrested.

The truth is: that poor little theatre was on its last legs financially and I’m pretty sure that the publicity from his story did not hurt us at all (“if it bleeds it leads”).

Nonetheless, I thought it was a nice gesture on his part, assuming it was genuine and not just “the right thing to say.”

He thanked me for writing to him and, logically, asked me why I did.

He talked about how much he had loved acting in plays and how it was easier pretending to be someone else rather than being himself.  This was right after Robin Williams had killed himself, and Pat mentioned that he’d always been a big fan.

He talked about depression and suicide attempts (both considered and actualized: Pat tried to kill himself soon after his arrest and ended up in a coma).

He wrote about his fiancé.   Now, she was his ex-fiancé.

She had been his only friend and his life had revolved around her.  He was devastated when, after he’d been in jail for three months, she cut off all communication with him.

Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly surprised that she’d “dumped” him, considering the situation.

It wasn’t just that he was being charged with murdering two people. She actually ended up getting arrested herself as an accessory after the fact. She’s out on bail and is also “awaiting trial.”

Did I mention that she was on Dr. Phil?

Pat talked about life and freedom and lack of freedom, and making a difference, and doing what you can to make things better no matter your circumstances. He’d just helped his “celly” pass the GED.

He talked about God.  He asked me to not characterize him by the crimes that put him there, but by the man he is today.  He hopes I can see that he is not an evil man.

He went on to tell me that he’d been using a lot of drugs at that time in his life  (when he was doing the play at my theatre and getting arrested for double murder).  He abashedly admitted it was a very “foggy” time for him, and that he wasn’t sure if he remembered me, but a picture would help refresh his memory…

I immediately went looking for pictures of me where I look cute.

Duh..!

My Next Letter to Jail: Lots of Questions

February 2015

(Post Five)

It was time to write Pat another letter!

I picked out 3 different pictures of myself to send because my hair color changes a lot.  I couldn’t remember what color it was when I met him and I wanted him to recognize me.

I told Pat how I thought it was cool to get mail from an inmate!

I talked about his theories on freedom and incarceration.

Your life is what you make it and if you philosophically break it down, everyone is confined and limited in some aspect.”

Ok technically he’s right about that…


“I can’t drive-thru Jack in the Box to get a double bacon cheeseburger; yet at the same time, you can’t fly to the moon to get some cheese.”

I think he’s pushing it a little on that one, but I get his point.

I still told him that I wouldn’t trade my freedoms for his.
I CAN drive to Albertsons to get cheese.

I mentioned his crazy neat printing.  I asked if it was always that nice.  He said his penmanship had been pretty good, but he’s improved it over the past 4 years.

He’d asked me why I wrote to him in the first place…

I told him it was because I found him interesting (not a lie…  I wasn’t quite ready to tell him that I considered him a writing topic.)

I told him that I’d talked about him to some of my friends and that we are all impressed with his general attitude about his life, trying to help others and making the most of his situation behind bars.

I rambled on about Orange is the New Black again.

My second letter was a bit longer than my first.  I felt more comfortable this time. Since he’d written me back so quickly, I knew for sure that he wanted to correspond with me.  I mean yeah, I probably could have figured that considering his situation,  he’d be grateful for anything to pass time (he is), but I wasn’t sure.

In Pat’s first letter to me, he’d said “If there’s anything you may want to know about me… Don’t be shy.”  

Ummm yeah, I want to know stuff about you!

Did you kill those two people??

Did you cut off that man’s head???

I didn’t ask those questions…

Not yet, anyway.  After all, I didn’t expect him to send me a written confession.

Actually, I wonder if the police do have a written confession from him.  Everything I’ve read said he confessed to both murders when he was first brought in to be questioned about the Vet’s ATM card.

The police claimed he had been Mirandized (told legal rights; ie: the “you have the right to remain silent” speech) before he confessed.  I just don’t know if they have actual proof of his confession or not.

If it’s not on paper and it wasn’t recorded, it seems kind of challenging to prove.

First Questions For Pat 

 

The rest of my letter had a lot of questions (I didn’t number them in the letter though):

 

  1. So what drug were you using? I’m assuming your financial problems were probably related to your addiction as well?  How was it in prison when you had to go cold turkey?
  2.  Do you like your lawyer? I’m not going to ask you anything about the actual case. I know you can’t talk about that. I’m just curious if you are happy with the lawyer that you been given.
  3. What else do you do with your time?
  4. You mentioned trying to get reading supplies.  Is the selection available pretty dismal?
  5. Have you ever felt like you weren’t safe in there?
  6. You mentioned inmates and their quest to find God.  Are you religious?
  7. Do you get a lot of visitors?

Oh yeah, that’s right… I was putting out feelers to see if I could visit him.

I have, by the way.

Five times so far!

Getting to Know Him

March 2015

(Post Six)
Pat replied to my letter later that week.   Yes, I know being in jail does afford
him a fair amount of spare time, but I still appreciated the quick
response.   I could tell he was eager to
continue this relationship.Like when
you give a guy your number and he texts you right away.  It’s a nice feeling.

His letter was written in pencil in his very neat printing on six pages, double-sided,
on yellow legal pad paper.
I bet he’s not allowed to have pens! Pens can be taken
apart.  There are probably a lot of
things that you can make with pen parts.I should ask about that.

 

Pat’s Letter

Pat thanked me for writing to him again and said he’d try
to answer all my questions as honestly as possible.   He also asked for honesty in return.
But he didn’t say what he wanted me to be honest about.  Just that
“a foundation cannot be built on lies and/or distrust.
”It makes me feel a little guilty about the
blog.   Does writing it make me
dishonest?

Pat told me he was happy to get my pictures and remembered
me “quite vividly.”  He said I “came across as a very easy-going genuinely nice person” (I think I
am a nice person.  Being remembered as
“hot” would be good, too).
“Freedom” was brought up again.  He’s tried to adapt to life behind bars;  he wants to use his time to help others any
way he can.
One point he has made hits me where I live. He feels like his years being incarcerated
have allowed him to strip away the false faces he used to wear.  In jail, he can be himself.
He wrote this letter to me at the end of September.  When he quoted Bill Cosby “I don’t know the key to success, but the
key to failure is trying to please everyone,
” he had no idea that, ironically, Cosby would be all over the news in a couple months.  It’s still a pretty good quote, though.
Then Pat answered all the questions I’d asked! 

Pat’s Answers

 

  • The Drugs: Pat used Crystal, Heroin, Ecstasy and he mixed a lot of pills (so some serious perspective and reality altering kinds of drugs).
  • He defended himself against the accusation that he had massive financial problems and said he was only a month or 2 behind on rent. The media completely over-exaggerated his debt
  • Overcoming addiction is still an on-going battle (in other words – getting drugs behind bars isn’t too difficult).
  • He told me that I was the only person to ask him if he likes his lawyer. He seemed impressed by that. Pat has a Public Defender lawyer who he really likes his lawyer and he talked about fighting for the greater good…
Which now makes more
sense in the light of some major developments happening around Pat’s case in
the past month!  His lawyer is making
major waves about the DA’s Office infringing on the rights of inmates.Now, Pat is getting a new judge after 5
years.  Meaning this trial isn’t starting
any time soon.

 

  • Pat’s free time is spent meditating, reading, studying theology, yoga, working out, taking counseling correspondence classes (he wants to be a rehabilitation councilor for other inmates), Bible classes, watching sports on TV… He showers and visit his fellow inmates during his 1-2 hours outside of his cell.
  • He wrote that inmates share whatever books and magazines they get sent in.
  • Visits are always a surprise. They only get visits on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They can only have one visit per day.
  • Pat’s visitors have included:
    • His parents – regularly
    • A few of his theatre friends
    • The parents of an old girlfriend
    • A Dateline Producer!!!!!
    • Writers from New York (hmm – I’m not worried)
    • The Vet’s father (The “Vet” is one of Pat’s alleged victims. So having the guy’s dad visit Pat in jail is pretty astonishing).
    • and now ME
  • He has NEVER been scared inside the jail. He’s a big guy (6’2” and 200 lbs) and he’s in jail for a big crime. He isn’t affiliated with any gangs and he tries to promote “an atmosphere of peace and unity.” It seems like Pat gets along well with the inmates and the guards. He’s personable. He has been depressed, but never afraid.
  • Answer about the quest for God was quite extensive, so I’ll summarize. He is interested in all religions and has studied with many religious and spiritual leaders. He quotes Gandhi “All religion is true. I just want to love God.” Pat believes there is one true God that created us all. He believes that Jesus died for our sins. Pat is a LOT more religious than I am.
Pat ended his letter by inviting me to write to him again
and to feel free to inquire more.He
thanked me for just treating him like a human being.  He lost a lot of friends when he was
arrested.  He knows and understands that
many people think he is an evil man.

I don’t.
Pat may be 100% guilty of this crime.  That doesn’t mean that this crime is 100% who he is.
He’s funny.  He’s
silly.  He’s geeky.  Hell, he might not even be a murderer (more
on that later).
A present was also enclosed for me.
My first drawing from Pat.
Awwww… right?

Who wants to write about an accused murderer? I do!

(Post 7)
Pat asked me again why I wrote that first letter.  I felt it was fair to let him know I want to write about him.  I don’t understand why it mattered to me, except that he’d asked me to be honest.
So here’s what I said (and it was all true):

I don’t have one simple answer for that.  I definitely have a strong curiosity about you.  I have since you were arrested.

I’ve always had an interest in crime and criminal acts.  I don’t mean for that to sound ghoulish or morbid.  I just want to figure out what makes a person tick.  The people who do the things most outside of society’s norm are the ones who fascinate me the most.

You have to admit that upon first hearing about the crimes for which you’ve been accused, most people will immediately assume you are a monster.

However, that is such a simplified response.  The man I met four years ago did not appear to be a monster, and these well written and thoughtful letters you’ve sent me have only made me even more aware of your humanity.

When you were arrested, I was immediately creatively drawn to your story. I felt that there was so much to explore about you and your life.  I wanted to write about you or write something inspired by you.  I really wanted to understand you…

Who is this man accused of such heinous acts and how is he the same creative, funny and seemingly kind person who is writing to me about helping a fellow inmate get his GED?

Who was he before and how in the world did he get here?

How do you feel about me or anyone wanting to tell your story?

I was super nervous Pat would just stop writing me all together.  He is facing double-murder charges after all.  Maybe he’s not interested in making friends with someone who wants to “tell all.”I just felt like I had to be upfront.  At least “up-fronty.”

When it comes to this blog, I’m taking a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach.  Pat hasn’t asked me if I’ve written anything yet, and I haven’t volunteered the information.It’s not like he has Internet access anyway.

So far, I haven’t posted anything I wouldn’t want him to read.  I’m not painting him in a bad light. I’m just being honest.OK, the description of the crime doesn’t make him look good, but I’m just saying he’s accused. Anything I wrote could be found with a basic Internet search.

I did say in the first post that I think he’s guilty.

I do.

Guilty of what precisely, though… I don’t know.

During our last visit, Pat even hinted that he is not completely responsible for this crime.
Then who is?
 
Then why confess?
I did not ask those questions.Yet.

My Friend’s Name is Daniel

Game changer time.
It’s time to name names.Daniel Patrick Wozniak, for example.

Go ahead, Google it, I’ll wait.
That’s right folks. Bye bye pseudonym!  This blog is about to change.
As I told you in my last post, I’ve been having an “existential crisis” because Pat didn’t know I was writing a blog about our relationship.
And the only way to stop stressing was to just tell him about it.
This made me nervous, but I couldn’t say exactly why. It wasn’t like I was afraid he’d be angry at me.  My concern was that he’d feel I had violated his trust.
It’s probably weird to most people, but Daniel has become a good friend in the past eight months and keeping this from him bothered me.
I hadn’t used his real name, but it wouldn’t take a cyber genius to connect the dots from the description of the crime.
On Friday May 22, I visited him at the Orange County Jail in Santa Ana and I told him.His reaction floored me.

Instead of being upset or even concerned, he seemed amused.
I reassured him that I wasn’t using his name though, so no worries there…
He asked me, “Why not?”
This seemed like a foolish question on his part.
“Umm…I don’t want to write anything that will get you in trouble.”
He laughed.
Yes, OK, that statement is rather ridiculous considering where I’m visiting him.
Basically, he said that there’s already a ton of stuff written about him and most of it’s bad, so go ahead and use his real name.
I’m guessing he thinks what I write will be all good stuff.