You've Witnessed a Crime in Progress. Now What?
Out for a drive
My day of leisure~so I thought.
The day was mine all mine. A warm & breezy July afternoon was perfect for a drive to the Mall and that's exactly what I chose to do. I wanted time to myself, some healthy walking and a couple hours of window shopping with possible purchase of one item I just couldn't resist.
The mall was precisely how I love it to be. Just enough people mulling around to take my time and maybe flash a friendly smile here or there to set the mood. No rushing, no massive noise and dozens of sales reps ready and able to accommodate requests at my beck and call. Life is good. I deserve this break.
I headed straight for the row of women's boutiques. A visit to each one to check out what late and great fashions had replaced the ones I detested on my last visit, six months prior.
This time would be different. This time I would find something I really liked. My alter ego piped in to remind me if I wasn't so damned fussy and hard to please.........Well that's too bad. I want what I want. I earn my own money and I'll spend it my own way. That's all there is to that. I have to wonder if most other women have a more agreeable relationship with their alter ego. Mine and I just don't see eye to eye too often but I can put her in her place in an instant.
Being a wise shopper as well as self-trained to be frugal, years ago I learned the trick to know when the shopping is over. If you've ever gambled even once~I mean in an actual casino~ there is a golden rule of thumb to adhere to. If you haven't heard it mentioned, you've thought it I'm sure. If you're lucky enough to win and be UP from your original investment, STOP there! Cash in the tokens, treasure your profit and head for the exit.
Do I really need to tell you that one more stroll around the circle of one-armed bandits and sure enough, the House takes all your money, amigo mio?
This same theory applies to shopping. Seriously, pay attention. When you find what you want, and I did, your wallet is lighter than when you began, take yourself and your item purchased, straight to the door to the parking lot. Do not look from side to side at any more stores, ignore all displays, keep going forward and don't look back. I know what you're thinking. This is tough to do, really tough, but you'll respect yourself in the morning.
Short way home~ Long story
The sun was beginning to set. Taking the short way home would get me there before dark where I could settle in and call it a day. In my neck of the woods, the short way was through the woods on unlit narrow roads. Barely a mile down the first of these back roads, just ahead of me, a beat up dark sedan barrelled from a driveway, turning on two wheels and stirring up dusty gravel that sprayed my windshield. Slowing a bit, for some reason I looked to my right. In the distance I could see smoke and flames coming from the house at the far end of that driveway. Something wrong with this picture. A car speeding away from the onset of a house fire? I dialed 911.
The dispatcher responded immediately and I gave my location with a brief description of the scene I'd just witnessed. With no desire to play chase nor deep-seeded need to be a heroine, the rest of this saga was left to the cops. That thought had barely left my mind when tail lights were visible a fair distance ahead of me. It seemed to me that car was moving slowly. Great, just great. If the driver was in fact up to no good and saw me, was he now waiting for me? No way to turn around quickly or safely and barely space to get past that car, panic hit me hard. I slowed to a crawl and tried to calm myself. Fat chance, I was scared as hell.
My imagination was now in overdrive. I saw myself being pulled from my car, dragged and beaten, left for the deer to discover much later.
I love sirens
1-2-3 cop cars. A beautiful sight
I'm amazed I was able to hear the sirens over my heart pounding in my head, but that annoying, sound I've always hated so much sounded like a love song at that moment. Three black and whites with men in blue surrounded that sedan in seconds. I sat in my car watching this action drama unfold before my eyes. Guns drawn and voices yelling orders, unbelievable~~all I wanted was to watch "Blue Bloods" on T.V. There I was in the midst of my own episode. CRAZY! What a stunning, overwhelming experience.
Once two very scrufty-looking dudes were cuffed and stuffed, a police officer came over to my car, asked me if I was the 911 caller and if I was, "OK." I realized then that my hands were trembling and my throat felt dry and locked up. Eventually I was able to provide him with my name and phone number. They'd be getting in touch with me.
It was three days later when the Police Chief called me and asked me to come to the station to fill out some paperwork and make a statement. The Chief gave me the entire story of the fleeing thugs. They had in fact burglarized that farm house and then set it ablaze to destroy any DNA or other evidence. The car was loaded with what was estimated to be $7000.00 worth of electrical equipment, tools, TV, jewelry, cash, cell phones and a chest of sterling silver. Charges: Felony theft and arson. Bad boys, Bad boys.
I gave my deposition and completed the paper work, leaving the station with an appointment to meet with the Prosecutor the following week. I was warned of the possibility of being hounded by the media and assured I had absolutely no obligation to speak to anyone but the police and the prosecutor. I made the decision that moment I would pack a bag and stay with friends twelve miles away until this fiasco settled down. I am not a fan of the media, the least trusted group next to politicians.
My visit with the prosecutor was short and sweet, basically a repeat of what I had provided to the police. Next: My Testimony in Court. The date was 3 months away and that was fine with me.
My Testimony on the witness stand
In preparation for my day in court, I spent some time going over all the paperwork. I committed to memory the most basic but vital facts. In the event I felt the least bit nervous or intimidated by the defense attorney, I wanted to remain calm, cool and confident.
Until you are actually in a courtroom as a main player, feeling under a microscope, you cannot know how you'll react.
No one on the jury panel looked familiar to me. This seemed a good thing. The Judge was a dignified-looking Hispanic man with a hint of a beautiful accent. His expression was stern and somber. I made it a point not to look around but instead focused my gaze straight ahead so as not to allow too much distraction.
In my opinion, the prosecutor handled his presentation and questioning of those on the witness stand, like an absolute pro. For what appeared upfront to be an open and shut case, all facts and statements were presented with focus and clarity.
I had disdain for the defense attorney, based upon what we can always expect them to do in their efforts to save their clients. Although I'm well aware that every defendant is entitled by law to the best defense possible and a fair trial before a jury of his peers, I'm adverse to the games played. Being an eye witness, the "bull' presented by defense was glaringly evident to me. I was not amused. I tried to read the faces on the jury panel. That they too could see through the charade was all we could hope.
From start to closing arguments, this case consumed a full eight hours . Considering it may have been worse, this seemed to please everyone involved, save perhaps the sad-looking thugs in their defendant chairs. The jury was dismissed and released to deliberation and court was adjourned until verdict announcement.
By eleven a.m. the next morning the jury sent word they had reached their verdict and were ready for court to resume. Both defendants were found guilty of felony burglary and arson. There was dead silence in the courtroom. The Judge then spoke and we heard the sentence, which was allowed by law in relation to the crimes. Our wanna-be thugs would spend the next 20 years behind bars being eligible for parole after 15. This was a first felony conviction for both. Only the future would know if it would be their last.
Elated this was behind me, I was eager to get back home and resume my normal peaceful existence. Although the experience was not unbearable, it was an annoying and obtrusive inconvenience. I find it difficult to believe that there are those individuals who actually might seek out 15 minutes of fame. I was grateful this case had not included any harm or worse to human beings. I'm not cut out for such high drama nor gory details. This experience was for me, enough to last a lifetime.