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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Childhood Memories -- April 20, 2012

Today commemorates three years of writing this online journal. It was three years ago that I began this project with the opening introduction post "Memoirs of a Prisoner." Since then I have written weekly about various subjects including the criminal justice system, my case, and those I have become familiar with in prison and through the media. Mostly, I have written about my experiences in the maximum-security penitentiaries of Illinois, particularly Stateville. This week, however, I am going to take a step back in time before my arrest. My childhood and teen years have greatly been on my mind lately.

This morning, I ate a large breakfast and even made myself a cup of hot coffee to start my day. I did not intend on going out for lunch or anywhere until the late afternoon. This week, I received a number of emails and a few letters and I was determined to finish my replies to them. What motivated me was that several people were former class mates who wrote or posted comments. I have been incarcerated since I was 18 years old, and for all practical purposes, I feel that my life has been over since I was arrested on April 28, 1993. Thus, the years before take on an ever more important value. I am delighted to hear about, or hear from, former friends or just those I shared experiences with even from the distant past.

One of the letters I received was from a reader of my blog. She informed me there was a man who posted a comment on the Illinois Crime and Politics blog claiming to be a former friend of mine. She was skeptical and probably rightfully so because the Internet is full of fake information. However, this person did not post anonymously or use an alias. The woman writing me did a cursory search and found a photo which she enclosed in her letter. Although well over two decades had passed, I could still recognize him. This was indeed Rich, the boy I shared the same classroom with for 5 years at South Elementary School. We also went to the same junior high and high school but had little interaction there.

Although he did not email me, I was delighted to have his picture and contact information. I was definitely going to send him a message and earlier today I wrote a letter to be forwarded to him on the Internet. Maybe he will reply, maybe he will not, but regardless I was glad to recall the memories from childhood. This week I have been thinking about various times from grade school to my senior year. It is a great escape from the wretched life I have here.

I lived across the street from my elementary school and could actually see inside some classrooms from the living room. When I was sick or feigning to be ill, I could use my binoculars or telescope and zoom in on my classroom to see exactly what everyone was doing. Usually, I would find Rich picking his nose and then scratching his head trying to figure out some math problem. I am just kidding, and I tended to like Rich. We shared a lot of good times in class, recess, or on sports teams. Occasionally, we even spent time together after school and he lived only a few streets over from me.

My friend did not send me the actual comments, therefore, I do not have a copy of what Rich actually posted. Apparently, he commented that I was an outgoing and humorous child. This is interesting because I do not recall being so. However, Mike, my best friend throughout grade school, contacted me a few years ago and commented how witty and amusing he thought I was. He even offered to send me one of the cassette tapes we made together as children, not realizing I cannot receive these in prison. We were pretending to be radio talk show hosts, and he told me the "Mike and Paul" tapes were so hilarious he saved them all these years. I tend to recall the talk radio show was called the "Paul and Mike Show," but I will give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, even if I was the witty one, he was definitely the outgoing extroverted child.

Possibly, Mike and I pretended to be a talent at par or better than such duos on WLS talk radio or popular shock jocks. Mike was a good friend and we played on sports teams, at school, the playgrounds in the neighborhood, and at each others homes. I can remember so many things from our childhoods and it is strange how radically different my life has become. How did I ever get from that point in my life to being at Stateville? Neither one of us ever foresaw such an eventuality and if one of us would have went to prison, I would have assumed it would have been him. Mike could have a mischieveous "Dennis the Menace" like quality. When his parents moved to another town after grade school, I was left mainly to make new friends in junior high and once again in high school. Although I was a loner much of the time, I did make some friendships. They were mostly older and probably considered bullies, although many probably thought the same as myself. From Mike in grade school, I made friends with Tom, and then the likes of Brian, Bob, and others. These were not just rufians but men who sought to be in the mafia and killed people.

I am told Rich mentions in his comment that he heard my parents were abusive and became strict Jehovah Witnesses which prohibited me from maintaining my regular social ties. I believe this is how he infers I became involved with the wrong crowd. There may be some truth to this, but our weekly Bible studies didn't interfere with my activities. I continued to play sports and I only studied with the Jehovah Witnesses for a few years. My relationship with my father created a much more significant factor. When I became a teenager, I became bigger and stronger than him and became much more independent. For an authoritarian parent, this caused a major rift between us and created a hostile cold war-like stalemate. My sister moved away at a young age, and I also thought about living on my own. The friends I had outside of school were much older than me and had cars, money, and places to stay. I was willing to overlook their criminality. Indeed, it was when I had an argument with my father that I moved in with the Faracis, just after my 18th birthday.

On the Illinois Crime & Politics blog is an old article about my case and someone noted how it was ironic the Palatine Brown's Chicken murders had been solved yet I was still in prison. The author notes that I am serving natural life for supposedly lending my car to Faraci who was acquitted of murder. Underneath are a number of comments, some good and some bad. From what I am told, Rich is not the only one who weighed in but some friends of the victim, Dean Fawcett. They comment how the victim was a nice person but I was mean to him and others. If that is all that is said, it is largely true. However, I hope former friends of Fawcett and his family do realize now that I had nothing to do with his death.

The letter I received did not specify what the friends of Fawcett comments were about and thus I began to speculate why they did not like me. My thoughts led me to a party Fawcett threw. Dean was in his early 20's when I met him and he lived at home with his mother. She was gone quite frequently and Dean held regular parties. Once in a while my friend Brian would want to stop by and although I disliked parties, I went with him. At one such party, I found a girl who I had been dating making out with some other man. I was angry at the girl, roughed her up, and asked if she was a whore. Another man known as "The Beer King" apparently had a problem with what I did, and I KO'd the king of beers, who I gather was rather popular amongst Fawcett's circle of friends.

Among the email messages I received this week was one from a woman who claims to have went to high school with me. I write "claims" because unlike Rich, I do not remember her. Hence, I have previously attempted to make her prove her authenticity. I grilled her about Lincoln Way High School including the sports teams, the school grounds, teachers, and other students. I asked for just a simple photo so I could see if I remembered her, but she has evaded me. I went to high school with over 2,000 students but I tend to have a good memory, especially for the prettier girls. Because this email still did not contain a photo, I told her I have downgraded her in appearance to a hippopotamus. I have written well over a hundred women and I know if I do not receive a photo within a few letters, they are unattractive.

The woman who claims to have went to Lincoln Way High with me says she was a freshman when I was a junior. However, I knew a number of freshman girls and dated a few of them. To trick her, I mentioned some but purposefully listed the name of a girl who was an upper classmate. Surprisingly, she knew her and furthermore told me she became a nurse while I was in prison but just recently died. She knew not only this Amy but another, although only through Olivia, a shared friend. I was very skeptical initially and even called her a "Lincoln-Way impostor," but I tend to believe her now. She even corrected my mention of Chris and asked me if I meant "Chrissy" which is what most of her friends called her 20 years ago.

Chrissy was in two of my classes and was my favorite freshman girl to flirt with. On one of the very first days of school, I whispered in her ear she was the prettiest girl at Lincoln Way. I was not playing altogether either. There were over a thousand girls at that high school and Chrissy immediately caught my attention. She was not only exceptionally pretty, but always fashionably dressed, effeminate, and intelligent. In our history class was a nerd who sat behind her but I quickly had to remove him to have his seat. Sometimes if I got to class ahead of her, I would sit at her desk and grab her onto my lap. Fortunately, I got along well with the teacher and although other students disliked him because he was strict, set learning levels high, and could be mean spirited, we shared a lot of the same interests not only in history but politics as well.

I got along well with all of my teachers at Lincoln Way and some may think a little too well with a few. I did not, however, get along with the upper classmate's principal who sought to have me removed. He was intimidated by me and apparently thought I did not fit in at his school. The teachers at Lincoln Way were rather exceptional and a few I must add were rather attractive too. However, I will never tell what teacher I had extracurricular activities with. Apparently, these days it is thought of as criminal. Despite what Nancy Grace or others may say, I was definitely not a victim. I dated a number of girls as well as women when I attended Lincoln Way and those are good years to remember.

When I was 16, my friend Brian rented an apartment for use as a secondary residence. The apartment was a very spacious 3 bedroom unit with brand new kitchen appliances, Italian hardwood floors, and a lot of other nice woodwork. The building had a state of the art security system with an iron gate surrounding the premises, three sets of steel reinforced doors and even bars over the windows. A meth maker may envy such security but I was angry at Brian for getting an apartment next to a high crime area in Chicago. However, my friend had to choose this location because it was the old little Italy community which at one time was the neighborhood of mobsters, even going back to the days of prohibition and people like Al Capone. It did not matter to him the modern syndicate had moved away because of the public housing units and crime. Despite how far away the apartment was from my home and the terrible area, the location did have some perks.

I lived near a train station and could easily get downtown and walk the two miles to the apartment. Plus, the girls from the far southwest suburbs loved to be taken to the lake front, art museum, planetarium, or the Sky Deck in the Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower). The Sears Tower was always a crowded tourist attraction, however, I did not like to go.

Out on the south prison yard, I lifted weights with Mertz and between sets we spoke about our death sentence hearings. Although the judge refused to give me the death penalty because I was not at the crime scene, Mertz was sent to death row and was only recently let off when Governor Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty. Unlike my case, the prosecutor and defense focused more on sentencing and not guilt or innocence. I do not think I have heard of a case with the volumes of evidence entered during the sentencing phase such as his. However, like all sentencing hearings, the prosecutor is allowed to introduce virtually any kind of testimony, regardless of its value or credibility.

Mertz told me how a woman was allowed to testify she believed he killed her goldfish. I thought this was greatly amusing and asked if he strapped the woman down first and then ate the goldfish tauntingly like in the movie "A Fish Called Wanda." He said no. They were just floating at the top of the bowl when she came home. Did they perform an autopsy to learn the cause of death? Of course they did not, and he did not answer. I said that story is even better than the vindictive girl I dated in high school who accused me of stabbing her dog without the slightest evidence I did so. Mertz told me a number of former girls he dated or just "hooked up" with testified against him and I believed him when he said the majority of what they said was false or an exaggeration.

I was told how the prosecutor was permitted to introduce his political opinions and evidence he was probably guilty of another murder. Another woman in the area was stabbed to death and there were some similarities in the two crimes. The prosecutor was trying to make the jury believe he was a serial killer. He also wanted them to think Mertz was a sympathizer of Timothy McVeigh. A couple of people testified about him stopping in Terre Haute, Indiana when McVeigh was executed. Mertz does have similar political views but he does not necessarily believe the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was right. I talked to him a little about the Waco Massacre which happened on April 19th and how the government has become far too oppressive, and intrusive, violating citizens' Constitutional rights of freedom and liberty. The prosecutors in my case were forbidden to enter any evidence of my political values but unfortunately they were also not allowed to bring in my suspicion in the Palatine Massacre. I told Mertz had they done so, after the case was solved I would have had grounds for a new trial.

I asked him if his attorneys introduced any mitigation or did a good job examining the state's witnesses. He told me his trial attorneys did a poor job and that was his major argument on appeal. The defense, as is customary, mentioned he came from a bad home and his father was abusive. This was not a subject most prisoners like to discuss so I volunteered my father was pretty mean. Mertz said his father was a big man and had a mustache like Paul Sr. in the cable TV show "Orange County Choppers". He would beat him excessively for insignificant childish misbehaviors. I get along well with my father now and am saddened I will not be able to spend any time with him except in a prison visiting room. Mertz, aware of the circumstances of my case, said something optimistic like I may still be able to be with him before he passes away.

I told Mertz a story how when I was in the 5th grade I joined a book club. I hated reading novels as a child but I joined to be near a girl named Kris who I liked throughout grade school. Although Kris would always move away from me when I sat by her, I got a chance to read a good book. It was called "The Count of Monte Christo." It was made into a movie and just last week it appeared on television. An innocent man in Spain was framed for murder. He spent over a decade languishing in a dungeon until escaping. When freed he was able to find a treasure of Spartan gold and he returned to his old place of residence. No one recognized him because so much time had passed and because he was now rich. A pirate who knew his past, beseeches him to go far away and not risk his liberty and riches. However, the Count did not care and just wanted justice. Mertz tells me, and he is not the only one, that once free I will not think the same way. I do not think they understand how terribly wronged I have been. I have suffered two decades and everything has been taken from me. All I have left other than childhood memories is justice.

9 comments:

  1. Many people have been praying for justice for you Paul! I sincerely hope your Clemency Petition is granted by Governor Quinn. I signed your petition and got a few others to sign too. I see you have over a thousand signatures. Maybe Gov. Quinn will take a serious look at your plight and the injustice of this matter. When all looks hopeless, look up! Heavenly powers are all around us--have faith!

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    1. I have no faith in heavenly powers. However, thank you very much for signing my petition and encouraging others to do so as well. I hope Governor Quinn will grant my request for executive clemency and public support could be very important. The governor cannot see prayers, but he can see those who sign my petition and write him letters.

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  2. You roughed up a girl? :-(

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    1. He didn't rough up s girl. He's trying to make us mad by exaggerating!

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  3. Why did the principal want you removed?

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    1. The principal did not like me for a variety of reasons including personal. Have you ever seen the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"?

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    2. LOL I get it. Maybe you can star in a remake of the film!

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  4. Let justice be done though the heavens fall. I pray for you every day Paul.

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