September 30, 2006

The Yellow Brick Road

Outside the window a cricket sings out in its private celebration of life,
as the humid aroma of recent showers steaming off the hot concrete barely overcomes the stench of a hundred living souls compressed into an abyss of lost humanity.

Darkness, in its possessive manner, steals its way forth as I stand at the front of my cell.

Beyond the bars that separate me from the rest of the world, I can bask in the simple pleasure of watching day give way to night in my own selfish celebration that I have endured - and even survived -yet another day.
This is my evening ritual; my way of paying homage to the ability and inner strength of perseverance.

And even in this shadow of condemnation, I do find strength.

I accept that the definitive measure and molding of character is not simply the ability to survive adversity - but to overcome and even manipulate the essence of adversity into a productive entity of which I might find the strength to master.

I cannot see beyond this artificial hell in which I've been confined.

The horizon I see is nothing more than a scattered number of lights flooding the compound grounds and dancing with glittering fire upon the honed edges of razor wire that lie between the statuesque "iron curtain" perimeters.

The only sign of life in this world outside is a spotlight, as it lazily rakes its way across the grounds in an unpredictable, haphazard manner.

But even as they've confined and condemned my body, there remains a part of me that is rebelliously free; that no amount of steel and stone can confine and no man can condemn.

Within the inner self of the man I am, just as within every condemned prisoner, there's a path that leads its way off into a different horizon.

This path is landscaped and lined with the symbolic fruits of faith, hope, encouragement and perseverance; stolen moments of our humanity - and even sanity.

For each of us, we strive to maintain some recognizable, progressive forward motion, refusing to succumb to the environment, finding inner strength to keep pushing ahead one slow step at a time.

And all too often, it is a constant struggle, as this imaginative path takes its twists and turns through the highest of emotional peaks, to the lowest of emotional valleys.

For me, I call this imaginative escape from the reality of condemnation the "Yellow Brick Road", in personal reflection of the theologically symbolic nature and promise of the covenant of the rainbow; because even in the worst of storms, there's always the presence of a rainbow.

And somewhere over the rainbow is the promise of hope.

And this Yellow Brick Road is my odyssey through Oz - my exodus through hell.

And somewhere at the end of the Yellow Brick Road is my redemption.
And it is a strange road.

There's night and there's day.

With the night comes; the uncertainty and even fear of darkness; the long moments and hours of hopelessness and despair, the feeling that all has already been lost, and that to continue would be futile, the mocking echo of silence, which serves to remind me that I am alone in this concrete crypt.

Long nights of lying awake - unable to sleep as thoughts of what was and what might have been haunt me.

The demons of darkness creep stealthily in to rob me of my most prized possessions of hope, faith, and the strength of perseverance.

But then comes the new day and with it mixed confusion. Darkness, and all it holds, has again been defeated - but there is no joyous victory as the new day does little to restore the gradual erosion of those values that compel me forth.

The day brings with it the anticipation and anxiety of uncertainty; of hopelessness borne of living in an environment of forced conformity and dependence.
Life of the condemned is not life at all.

Rather, it is an existence somewhere between hell and who knows where. A constant state of forced limbo, like a puppet on a string. Having been condemned by society, we now are not allowed to live - or die. Only exist ... if being stored in a virtual warehouse devoid of emotion can be said to constitute an existence.

If life is but the struggle for mere existence and its value judged by longevity - then perhaps by cheating those disciples of death that now demand the forfeiture of my life is itself worthy of that unknown cricket's celebration of life.

I only wish I could find some justification and comfort in that argument. But, I do not; for me life is not merely a struggle for biological existence. Without the preservation of my humanity and individuality, such an existence would have no meaning, or worth. Here on death row, we do exist.

Yet through the condemnation imposed upon us, society has deprived us of the recognition of our existence -- denying our humanity.

It is not enough to condemn us.

In society's demented state of moral consciousness, we must first be stripped of our humanity before being deprived of our life. To recognize our humanity is to create a reflection of their own inherent imperfection, as well as face the truth that they are taking a human life. But to make us less than human pacifies society's guilt.

They don't kill any particular individual, but rather something less than an individual.

And so for years on end a death of the inner self is methodically inflicted upon us so very gradually that it's practically unperceivable. An erosion of all emotion, until having been subjected to the endless rigor of administrative conformity, the person within is lost in a penologically conditioned sacrificial surrender.

The strength to resist no longer remains and without realizing it - we have been subdued.

Conformance, and compliance - even the acceptance of death - become a form of adoptive security, protecting us from confronting atrocities we've suffered in the name of justice and "We The People."
But for each of us, there is a Yellow Brick Road; an escape from the reality of our condemnation; a place of solace and security.

The adversity we suffer remains and continues to plague us; continues to rob us of the humanity and individuality we so desperately cling to. But as long as we each keep sight of our own Yellow Brick Road, we will deprive our captors and executioners of the theft of our humanity and stand strong in our inner strength.

Not only to survive -- but to overcome.

To see the Soul - a Search of Self by Mike

To see the Soul - a Search of Self
Michael Lambrix

A simple plastic mirror hangs upon the doorframe of my death row cell, faded with the age of years gone by. I could easily replace it with a new one, but I don't want to. That inanimate object has become my friend. I can look within its reflection and see a person I'm still coming to know. I doubt anybody else would ever understand, but I do. And that's good enough for me.

You see, years ago when I first arrived and was placed within the confines of my solitary crypt, condemned to an existence of a seemingly endless state of judicial limbo, we had no mirrors.

For reasons beyond my personal comprehension, any type of reflective object was deemed to be a threat to the security of this institution. For years I did not see myself, with the exception of a few opportunities stolen along the passage of time.

But it was just as well, as even when confronted with the reflection of my own being, I couldn't recognize the person who looked back. It was a stranger I did not know, and could not understand. And it scared me.

My true friend, the mirror, is a patient being. Willingly, it has given me the time to look deep within myself, grasping in almost maniac desperation for the person that I knew existed beyond that shell of emotional void. So many battles in the past had tempered my ability to rationalize and overcome.

I came to this crypt with a death wish, as I saw death as an escape. It would allow me to end the continuous cycle of adversity that plagued my life. As a crutch enabling me to survive, I had come to accept that I was not at fault for the way my life had painfully twisted its way through one nightmare after another.

Responsibility for my personal actions was an alien concept. I had conceded that for reasons unknown to myself, my life was cursed. I came to accept that philosophy, no longer even attempting to defend against the plague of pain that continued to fall forth.

Yet, ever so slowly over the years I've gained a new and refreshing understanding of the man in the mirror. Oh, yes - I still fought what I did not want to see. I still created my own justifications for what I chose not to accept. But in its silent wisdom, that inanimate piece of plastic ever so patiently drew me back into its reflection of self.

At times I would spend hours doing nothing but staring at this stranger I knew so well, but didn't know at all. In the stillness of night I lay awake searching the very depths of my soul for understanding.

I expected a miracle.

I anticipated the day I would awaken and hold all the answers. It never came. But ever so slowly I came to know that once stranger. I came to understand the person who had blankly stared back at me as I looked within that plastic mirror. I came to accept reality, no longer imprisoned within my imaginary world of excuses. I could at long last identify the paths I've traveled, ascertaining the many places along the path in which I've chosen to challenge the natural flow and do things my way.

I've come to accept that the deceptive vehicle of illusive charm, which I've followed and traveled upon so blindly, is in reality, the foundation of my life's disasters.

In the ignorance of my youth, I had adopted the use of intoxicants as my crutch from reality. Rather than confront the problems of life, I turned in weakness for the closest available form of deception. Alcohol. Drugs. It didn't matter. I would use either, without hesitation and somewhere along that river of intoxicated stupor I continued to flow even further apart from the person within.

But I am not an old man. I have not spent a life of absolute intoxication. I am not the proverbial "wino" our society so quickly identifies as a model of alcoholism, or the "junkie" that haunts the depths of the inner city.

I was only a young man - a working man, a husband, a father, an alcoholic and a coward who could not and would not face that truth; a teen alcoholic who had matured only physically into an adult alcoholic.

I had become a person trapped and imprisoned by the compelling need to drown all time within a bottle, or whatever else might be readily available - any escape from the harsh truth of reality.

Now I look at the person within, and find someone I can identify with. No longer am I a stranger trapped within myself. Only, the search of self came too late. In at last escaping from the imprisonment of alcoholism, I have only awoken to find myself now condemned to death as a direct result.

I cannot retrace that path of the past. I cannot re-create what has already been. Yet I feel as if a burden has been lifted. Still I can sense the inner freedom as I explore who I am; the one within.

And over these years, I've kept journals about my solitary environment. Perhaps one day I will gather these thoughts and reflections together and allow others to look within as I have done myself. For now I'm satisfied with simply confiding my thoughts upon that paper, creating my own security blanket, another trustful friend who will hold my deepest secrets and always gladly spare a listening ear.

And within those many pages I will form a trail to follow, a path in which I will be able to see the metamorphosis of self as it slowly evolves, as I come to know even more of "me." And as I see more of the true self emerge from the dark recesses of the past, I am inspired and motivated to push even harder towards a future.

I am compelled to tell others of the experience, as I realize that I had been cheated out of my own life by a bottle, but even more so by the deceptive justifications I had so readily created to rationalize why I had fallen into the well of alcoholism.

In coming to know myself, I have realized what had first instilled within me the weakness that led to my addiction, and by identifying that weakness, I have found the strength to overcome the circumstances now present in my life.

For the first time, even though imprisoned and condemned to death, I am in control of my life. I know what I want to achieve and can make plans to do so. I can look beyond the moment of today and into the eternity of tomorrow. For me that in itself is a victory.

Nothing I say or do can change the past. But I now know that I can use yesterday's battles as a source of strength in building a future, because I am willing to accept my addiction to alcohol, and how it can so easily become my master, enslaving me to an existence of irresponsibility and failures.

For this realization, I owe a great debt to that mirror that still hangs silently as if in its wisdom, it knew all along that time itself would slowly bring about the unity of my body and soul.
The piece of plastic could only reflect back what could be seen. It could only show me the physical being, but it was the stranger I saw that forced me to look deeper.

Time, itself, brought about the gradual evolution of the stranger and the soul, each discovering the other along the path of a desperate search. I can now only wonder what would have become had I continued to live as I once did. Could any alternative path be worse than my present state of condemnation?

Yes, I believe it could, as I can deal with what I face today. I may not still understand how it all came to be, but I continue to pray an opportunity will eventually present itself, allowing me to exhibit all the facts, all of what I now am willing to accept and confront.

I have no doubt that if such an opportunity was to present itself, even this condemnation would be lifted. For now, though, I accept it. And I equally accept the truth that my prison of today is not at all as restricting or enslaving as the prison of alcoholism I had been previously confined to.

In this small, solitary cage I am free not only to discover self but to explore who I am, and to allow myself hopes and dreams of what tomorrow might bring.

The prison of alcoholism had never allowed that. It not only mastered my body, it entrapped my soul. In my present condemnation I have found the true essence of life and in my solitary confinement I have found freedom.

All found in the reflection of a plastic mirror.

Death Row Inmate Beaten to Death by Guards

SEE related post Valdes v. Crosby, Opinion May 31, 2006

Death Row News ~July 28, 1999~

Associated Press

STARKE - Ten days before inmate death row Frank Valdes died in a solitary confinement cell on X wing at Florida State Prison, another prisoner described systematic beatings of five other inmates in a letter to a newspaper.

"The sounds of prisoners screaming in pain and of bodies being beaten keeps the inmates on the entire wing up all night," inmate Mike Lambrix wrote in a letter to The Miami Herald dated July 6. "I can hear the officers forcibly taking inmates from their cells. The wretched sound of fists and boots striking flesh are unmistakable as is the sound of some kind of weapon (a stick or a broom handle?) being used.

They scream. They whimper. Then there is silence." The Herald, which received the letter July 15, two days before Valdes died, asked Florida Institutional Legal Services, a Gainesville-based prisoner advocate group, to check out Lambrix's allegations.

Two representatives visited X wing inmates on July 19, the Monday after Valdes' Saturday death. One was legal intern Michelle Thresher, who said that after the visit: "We knew that what Gov. Jeb Bush had said - that the Valdes beating was an isolated incident - was not true.

We knew that Valdes' death was part of a pattern of beatings." She said four of the inmates Lambrix had named in his letter had been taken from their cells and beaten. The four had been moved to X wing from Hamilton Correctional Institution in Jasper for an alleged assault on a guard there.

Valdes was at FSP for killing a guard in 1987. Since his death, 11 guards have been suspended with pay in what has been characterized as a widening investigation into brutality against inmates at the prison. Last week, FBI and federal prosecutors joined agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the probe. C.J. Drake, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said Tuesday he was not aware of the allegations made by Lambrix.

"I'm skeptical of the claims made by him or any other inmate," Drake said. "He's on death row and he may be predisposed to complain." Lambrix was recently transferred to the North Florida Reception Center in Lake Butler, but Drake said he didn't immediately know the reason for the move.

On July 4 and again on July 10, X wing inmate Willie Mathews had been beaten so severely his jaw had been broken, the legal services representatives said. He was put back in his solitary confinement cell on X wing and refused medical treatment for nine days, they said. He was taken to Shands Hospital on July 19.

Mathews said that he heard the guards hitting Valdes the night Valdes died: "They kept beating him, beating him. A lot of bumping going on. Then it got real quiet, real still. I knew he was messed up pretty bad because they beat him about 10 minutes. He's going to speak his piece whether he's getting whupped or not. But he wasn't saying anything. I knew then they had messed him up." Two of the guards Mathews named for taking part in his July 10 beating are among those suspended as part of the Valdes probe.

They are Sgt. Charles Brown and Capt. Timothy Thornton. In his letter, Lambrix, who is sentenced to die for a 1984 double murder, wrote: "Whatever happens, know this: There are five men ... in an X wing vault with no means of communicating with the outside world. They have been beaten half to death and denied medical attention and food. Can human beings ignore that?"

The Road To My Brothers Place

This page is dedicated to my Brother Michael R. Lambrix
A voice not heard On Florida Death Row.

My Brother has been on Death Row in the State of Florida for twenty-three years, fighting for his life, and for a chance to be heard. Faith, hope and prayers are what we have; in a legal system where faith,
Hope, and prayers are just not enough.

For even with all the faith, the hope and the prayers in this system without appeals, it is a death sentence itself.

This page is here to allow everyone the opportunity to know more about the death penalty in Florida, and the facts concerning the death penalty within our states.

"Not once" within my brother’s trial has he been given the chance to tell his side of the story. For the past twenty-three years we have exhausted all the appeals and yet my brothers voice has not been heard.

~Mary Lambrix~

About Me.....

Many moons ago in a life now far, far away I was born at San Francisco General Hospital in California on March 29th, 1960. I was the fourth of seven children brought into the world by my mother; by the time she was only 24. By right and reason I should not have been born as after the first three (my oldest sister Debra and my two older brothers Donald, Jr. and Jeff) my mother contracted polio and was bedridden and not to have any more children.

In those early years my father and grandfather owned a steel fabrication plant in San Rafael and we lived a comfortable middle class life in Marin County. I was too young to remember the first home I lived in, in Mill Valley and as the family grew and evolved we would move often.

My first memories were of a house on Oak Spring Drive in San Anselmo and those memories were and still are unpleasant. Although faded and broken by years that have passed at times I can still remember the violent arguments that led to my parents’ divorce. Or rather remember hiding from them. Then mom was gone and I remained alone with the father I feared, especially when he was drunk – and it seemed he was always drunk.

About the time I began school I met my stepmother. She barely spoke English and was hired originally as a housekeeper. I was to young to recognize the seemingly sincere Mary Poppins persona she first projected that all too quickly evolved into the incarnation of evil within her that manifested itself immediately after she and my father married. By that time we were living in a large house high on a hill in Woodacre, over looking the Lagunitas Valley below

Not long after they wed we moved to a subdivision in San Rafael, on Court Street close to where the canal opened into San Francisco bay. Soon the family began to grow even larger as my stepmother Consuelo became pregnant with her first. We moved again to a house outside of Novato but still within walking distance to Olive Elementary School.

I met my first best friend there as his family has a small ranch nearby. Over the hill behind us, a short walk away was the valley George Lucas now owns and parts of “Star Wars” was filmed. There were good times, but there were bad times. My best friend Russell was killed in a freak accident and my oldest sister – often my only protector – ran away. By the time I was ten she was barely a teen but I understand now why she had to leave, why living on the streets off the generosity of so-called “hippies” and hanging with bikers was better than staying at “home.”

With a half brother and two half sisters the family grew to a total of ten children. From outside looking in I suppose we appeared to be an average family – at least it was the only family I knew so I thought it was average. On weekends, especially during the summers we would all pack up and drive out to my uncle’s coastal ranch (“Diamond T”) on nearby Ft Reyes, now part of the Ft. Reyes national Seashore. On long weekends and holidays we would go camping at Clear Lake, or Lake Mendocino and as evening set we’d all gather around a campfire singing songs as dad played the guitar.

But then came the early seventies and the family business was abruptly forced into bankruptcy. We moved from Novato to the sleepy hollow community of San Anselmo. My two older brothers and I joined the Boy Scouts and served as alter boys at the Catholic Church. My oldest sister, then barely 16 was committed to the Napa State Hospital, and pregnant with her first child.

By the time I began middle school we moved again to a small farm with an old Victorian house outside of Sebastopol in Sonoma County. By then I discovered the means to escape reality first with alcohol, then drugs. My grandparents suffered a car accident and both died a few weeks later and my dad all but gave up even trying as he found his own escape in heavy drinking. There were no more holidays with the grandparents, outings to the ranch, or camping trips. As my stepmother took control life at “home” went from bad to worse.

It wasn’t long before we again moved – this time in a caravan of travel trailers like a band of gypsies. But it was the best time of my life, as for the entire summer of 1974 we camped out at Yosemite National Park. Now barely 14, I couldn’t imagine how it could get any better. Any pretense of parental supervision was now gone and I was free to explore the park all day, every day as if it was my private playground. As a bonus, I quickly discovered a seemingly infinite supply of free beer; as campers upstream would place their beer in the icy Merced River only to be washed downstream by the rushing current… entire six packs were there for the taking and in surprising abundance. What I couldn’t drink was easily sold or traded for pot (marijuana) and the best summer of life became a long party. It was the best of times.

As the summer drew to an end we packed the trailers up and began a twp week exodus across America, finally reaching Florida. For several months we lived in the two trailers and a large tent at a campground outside of Tampa. At that time I began going to a local Baptist Church for the very best of reasons – a girl I met in school belonged to the youth group and I really wanted her to belong to me. As I got more involved “Brother Jeff,” the charismatic youth director “saved” my soul and I found a new high in Jesus. After years of attending the Catholic Church this seemed so alive and fulfilling.

A few months later Dad bought a small house in the farming area southwest of Plant City known as Turkey Creek. My stepmother claimed her domain and made it clear that only her children would be allowed to live in the house. But we didn’t complain. My oldest brother Donald, Jr. joined the Army and became “career military” until that career abruptly ended when he was hit with an aerial grenade during the first Gulf War.

That left my older brother and I, and arch nemesis, Jeff to share the one small travel trailer while my even younger sisters Mary and Janet shared the other. With the family reduced to living on welfare, we were all forced to skip school and work on local farms or orange groves and the income was used to feed us. If any of us dared to protest, of God forbid not work at all, the physical repercussions were immediate. But once that day’s job was complete, that pretense of parental supervision again quickly disappeared and we did as we pleased.

Not long after moving to Turkey Creek my older brother, Jeff and I and even my younger sister Mary began hanging with a “neighborhood” crowd. We never aspired to be a “gang” and never roamed the area preying upon anyone. Our thing was simply to meet almost nightly in a group, pool our money, and party. Looking back, I know realize that all of us were from similar backgrounds and in our own way became family.

On the days I was allowed to go to school I would often join a crowd of others who regularly “skipped” school. On good days we would hang out and party in the woods behind Plant City High School or go swimming at nearby Mudd Lake. On bad days we would walk to the mall in Plant City and hang out. Although caught more than a few times, it didn’t really matter, as I knew nobody at home would care. When the school would impose suspensions it only meant that I didn’t have to pretend to go to school in the first place, which was even better.

I never failed a grade. Somehow I attended just enough classes to absorb what was necessary to pass the tests and I made a point of always taking the important tests. Never – not even once – did a single teacher attempt to talk to me about my chronic truancy or anything. I was a lost child and they accepted that.

As the months passed my stepmother demanded more of us and we became, for all practical purposes, virtual slave labor. My protests increased and the physical beatings became more severe. A few months before my 16th birthday the fair came to Plant City for the annual Strawberry Festival and I found a job working at a game concession… and I found a new e. By my 16th Birthday I was out on the road on my own, working carnivals around Chicago.

Say what you want about “carnies’” but this band of misfits were family and they made a point of looking out for each other. Most nights I would sleep in the carnival tents and spend my money on food and partying. Although it would seem to have been the last place a teenage kid should be on his own, even though I didn’t appreciate it, those on the lot knew I was a kid and seldom did I go anywhere without a watchful eye keeping me out of trouble. We worked long, hard hours and when the lights on the Midway went off we’d gather in groups – often pooling our money to rent a motel room – and party to excess. In all the years I worked on the road, not even once did I get in any kind of legal trouble. Contrary to popular myth, habitual criminals were not welcome as the show would not tolerate anyone bringing heat down on the show.

From early spring into the summer we would work local carnivals in Chicago area, then with summer came the county and state fairs, which meant even longer hours, even days straight during “Midnight Madness.” From Michigan and Illinois State Fairs, we would work our way south through Arkansas and Oklahoma, then into Texas, and across to Louisiana and finally back to Florida for “winter quarters.”

Returning to Florida in late 1977 I met a girl I knew in high school when I briefly joined the high school ROTC program. Almost immediately Kathy Marie and I became inseparable. A few months later when it was time to head back up to Chicago for the new season she tagged along. By late summer she was pregnant and we made plans to return home and settle down.

On October 27th, 1978 – both of us barely 18 – we were married at the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow, Florida. The next day I was on a bus and on my way to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma to report for active duty in the Army. Without a high school education and any job skills other than working carnivals, the military meant I had the opportunity to take care of my new family. But what may very well have become a “career” as it was for my brother, abruptly ended with an accident while on duty and a discharge for failure to perform my required duties.

After my discharge we lost our health coverage and when our daughter was born in March 1979 at Tampa General Hospital we almost lost her when the doctor failed to do a c-section in time and our little “Niki” (Jennifer Nicole) came to life still in the womb and drowned in her own fluids. For a month she remained in a coma at the neo-natal unit of Tampa General kept alive by respirators, and tubes, and wires, but then she finally came home. The prolonged deprivation of oxygen and physical trauma of her birth caused permanent brain damage and epilepsy. But she was our little girl and she was home and that’s all that mattered.

Both of us still too young and irresponsible to be parents ourselves, and still “partying” beyond excess, bad judgment was a way of life. Within months we returned to the road, living in our car and countless motel rooms. Working carnivals and fairs was he only life we knew. As the season drew to an end Kathy Marie announced she was pregnant again and we made plans to “settle down.”

Returning to Florida just after Christmas in early 1980 I quickly blew the money we had saved to get own place on a motorcycle – then wrecked it racing another bike on the highway. That was the last straw… Kathy Marie’s family descended upon her, insisting she leave the loser. Her mother gladly hired a divorce lawyer and formal divorce proceedings were initiated; however, before any hearing could be held, we reconciled, rented a mobile home, and I actually got a real job.

Accomplishing all that I didn’t see any need to stop partying, too. Soon I was supplementing my income by any means necessary as my use of alcohol and drugs substantially increased. No longer surrounded by the protective “family” of carnies, I began hanging out with a more destructive crowd.

In July 1980 our son Daniel Brian was born at Tampa General Hospital. With my irresponsibility reaching new heights, Kathy Marie began paying expenses by forging her mother’s signature on her family’s trust account. On our second anniversary, she was arrested on 24 counts of forgery, and I was arrested on outstanding traffic tickets. Her family took temporary custody of our kids. After a month I was released but she remained in jail until February, three months later. Her family refused to let me have custody until Kathy Marie was out.

Again my “partying” escalated and I began getting into trouble. With nothing to hold me back, I lived in bars and lounges selling drugs and consuming the profits. Having proven my inability to be a mature and responsible husband and father, nobody was surprised when I stated cohabitating with another woman.

When Kathy Marie was released from jail in February 1981 she quickly renewed the divorce proceedings and by April the divorce was final. Now accompanied by “Kitty” I returned to Chicago to work the new carnival season. Kitty was not a carnie, nor would she ever be. In June we returned to Florida, as she was not pregnant. Shortly after we returned I ran across Kathy Marie. With our divorce (which I never challenged) final less than two months, she had already remarried a family friend. But by that night she left Walter – and I left Kitty – and we reconciled.

In August of 1981 while extremely impaired an argument evolved into an act of inexcusable road rage resulting in an accident when the other vehicle hit a telephone pole. Intoxicated and in possession of illegal drugs I fled the scene only to be arrested a few days later for aggravated battery. For months I remained incarcerated until the charges were finally dropped. During that time Kathy Marie’s probation on her forgery charges was violated and she was ordered into a state “halfway” house in the Ybor City area of Tampa.

In late November 1981, Kathy Marie was walking to a nearby store from that halfway house when she was abducted, then taken to a nearby lot where she was raped repeatedly by two men, then beaten and left for dead. Again her created a wall around her that I could not penetrate.

The next month, I left Florida for Utah where I intended to meet my mother for the first time since I was a child. I knew I had to get out of Florida and away from the destructive lifestyle I was living. Once in Salt Lake City I stayed with my mother and found work. But I didn’t escape my need to party and it wasn’t long before I was hanging with a new crowd but doing the same thing. A few months later came an arrest for drunk driving – even though I wasn’t driving at the time! (It was Utah – everybody knows those Mormons are nuts!)

In early March 1982 I received a telephone call from my former girlfriend Kitty telling me our son Cary Michael, Jr. (born prematurely in Michigan in late December) was in the hospital with pneumonia in Plant City, Florida and might not make it. That next day I left Utah driving nonstop to Florida in less than 48 hours.

Not long after arriving back in Florida I was arrested in Plant City on an outstanding warrant for violation of probation. After a few months in the Hillsborough County Jail my probation was formally revoked and I was sentenced to state prison for two years on the original felony conviction – a single “bad check” charge, my only prior felony conviction. (It should be noted that when many members of the Congress committed the same crime – deliberately writing a check on their accounts without sufficient funds -- no action was taken against them.)

With almost nice months of time already served in the county jail, that two year prison sentence was actually less than a year. After about six months in state prison I was transferred to a state work release center, where I would work a regular “free-world” job then report back and stay at the work release center. Once again my drinking got the best of me. Within a few days of arriving at the work release I was caught smoking a joint and “busted.” A disciplinary action was filed and I was placed on administrative probation. A few weeks later I skipped work and went out drinking with my younger brother Chuck – and again got caught. This time it was another disciplinary action and assigned extra duty in the kitchen, and instructed I had to find a new job working days, not nights.

A few days before Christmas 1982 the company I found work with held a Christmas party, which included a smorgasbord of hard liquor. By the time I was due back at the work release center I was wasted. I knew if I went back in would be my third violation and I would be returned to state prison as well as lose all my accrued “gain time” which would mean almost a year in prison. That seemed like a lot and I didn’t want to face it, so I simply did not return, which in Florida is technically considered an “escape” from state prison. A fact I conveniently failed to appreciate when I made my intoxicated decision not to return.

That decision led me to relocate to LaBelle, Florida and set the stage for the case that led me to death row. And here I remain.