Jail Visit (Part One)

imageNovember 21, 2014: My first visit to the Orange County Jail.  I was totally freaked-out nervous for a bunch of reasons.

  1. Holy crap!  This guy is accused of murdering two people.
  2. It’s jail.  I feel judged even just visiting the place.
  3. Overwhelming worry that I’d mess something up and they wouldn’t let me visit.  Silly as it sounds, I don’t like to let people down.  I would’ve felt terrible if Daniel didn’t get a visit just because I couldn’t follow directions.
  4. Self-inflicted high anxiety.  I stress out because that’s what I do.  You know, maybe there would suddenly be some glitch in the Matrix and Daniel and I would switch bodies and I’d watch him walk away to freedom while I was put back in his cage.
  5. AND… holy crap…. this guy is accused of murdering two people!

Before the big day, Daniel provided me with a basic run-down of the visiting procedure:

  • Visits are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8 am – 5 pm.   You need to arrive fifteen minutes before the hour.  This is not nearly enough time for my comfort level. I like to be there a least thirty minutes early.
  • You need the booking number of the inmate you’re visiting.  I had that already because it’s same number I use when I send him snail mail.
  • Bring a picture ID (which you must have on your person at all times)
  • Quarters! You really only need one quarter.  It’s so you can put your stuff in a locker while you’re visiting.  I always need at least two quarters, since there’s never been a time when I didn’t forget that my phone is in my pocket, or that I accidentally put my driver’s license back in my purse, so I have to open my locker and use  another quarter to lock it again.

Knowing the whens and hows still didn’t help me know what to expect.

This wasn’t actually the first time I’d ever visited someone in jail.  I’ve had friends or family members who had done time for petty theft or drug use.  There have even been a couple of drunk-and-disorderlies thrown in there.

You visit those people at “Honor Farms” like on Orange is the New Black.  You sit at cafeteria-style tables and you can hug your loved one (once upon arrival and once leaving

The Protective Custody unit at the Orange County Jail is a completely different world.

Daniel is in the Intake / Release Center. This is where inmates are housed while awaiting trial.  Most people are not there for five years.

There’s something you can’t quite put your finger on: a feeling that you lose some of your “regular person on the street” status in the eyes of the O.C. deputy sheriffs. As soon as you walk in the door, you become someone to be watched, scrutinized, and recorded.

You go through the glass doors and join a check-in line.  They do not appreciate it when you excitedly approach the next window before they call you up (I was just trying to keep things moving along… jeeze!).

You talk through a speaker.  You can only see the deputy if you push your face against the glass (they don’t like that, either).

I give Daniel’s name and booking number to the female deputy and she seems immediately distrustful.

Daniel’s circumstances do make him a high visibility inmate, so that’s not total paranoia on my part.

“Your ID.”

I open the little door on the secure passageway between us.  When my door opens, her corresponding door seals shut, and vice versa.

“If you’re his friend, then where have you been for the past five years?”

“Ummm… We’re reconnecting… you know… from our old theatre days.”

“Do his parents know you’re coming today?”

“Yes they do.  He told them in advance.”

“Hmmm… ok.”  She puts my ID back in the compartment.

I try to open my side too soon.  It’s still sealed because her door isn’t completely closed.

I still make that mistake, even though I’ve visited a bunch of times by now.

Maybe, inside that room, there is access to some giant “release all prisoners” button, and they want to make sure that no “El Chappo types” send in their henchmen to try a breakout.

“Wait over there until the two o’clock visit is called.”

I sit on one of the teal molded-plastic chairs in the waiting area.  The place isn’t very crowded.  I’ve come to discover that Saturdays and Sundays are busier.

I try to not be obvious with my people watching.

I’m sure people are watching me.  Purple hair (at the time).  Black clothes.  Tattoos.  Giant nervous smile plastered on my face.  I try to keep my legs from bouncing too much.

Next up on DWIMF – The first time I was face to face (well… face to glass to face) with Daniel since before his arrest.

It would be great if anyone would like to share their own jail visit stories.   I’d love to read your comments.

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!

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!