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the Goliard

March, 2003

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A Co-Workerís Story 

The following is an interview we did with a young woman who once worked as an engineer at a mining company until the incident she will describe below occurred. She's now an expatriate living on an undisclosed island in the Caribbean. She agreed to talk to the Goliard in hopes that someone might read of her experience and take their own precautions.
  

CW - One winterís night in the early 90ís I came home from a party, did my tooth brushing and went to bed. Just as I was beginning to nod off I saw a man creep up out of the basement towards my bedroom. I recognized him immediately, he had been a coworker before my promotion to another section of the mine. He came at me with a cattle prod and handcuffs, while I started screaming (most appropriately I thought) bloody murder. After a brief struggle and inflicting as much damage as I could on someone 100 pounds bigger than me, I broke free and ran out of the house into the street. (It is very cold in Montana, in February when only wearing a satin nightgown). As I was running out the door I looked back as he fired the gun directly at me. Later inspection found the bullet hit the wall about 6 inches from where my head was. None of my close neighbors seemed to hear a thing, but I got lucky that a couple from the house across the street had just gotten out of their pick up and were standing on the sidewalk. He pointed the gun at the three of us, fired two shots in our direction, and got in his jeep and drove away. Since I worked with him I knew what part of town he lived in and they picked him up at his house a few hours later. They found the down vest he was wearing under his bed but never did find the gun. I donít think they looked very hard. Do you know that if the police make you ride in the ambulance but you aren't seriously injured the insurance wont pay for the ride. Probably should have asked my renters insurance to pay for the bullet repair - it made a hole in the wall and cut through an electrical wire. Thatís how I found it, my outside light didn't work. The police didn't look for it at all. Since I knew his name they assumed it was domestic and figured they would have a hard time getting me to press charges. I found another gun too, it was still in my bedroom when I went back in the next morning, along with the shreds of his black gloves and the home made "muzzle". Turns out he copied the key to my apartment after taking my keys out of my desk at work. I had been working swing shifts and he was straight days in the same department so he knew my schedule. I found out later he'd been at my house so often that he had a regular parking spot out front. I suspected something, especially the day my OJ and milk tasted like chemicals, but just thought I was being paranoid. Seems what set him off that particular day was that he had driven through my neighborhood and while I was taking a walk I saw him. His lawyer couldn't shake me on the witness stand at the arraignment, and the police didn't have much going on and were excited to testify, so he saved me and himself the trial by pleading guilty to felonious assault and a few other charges. Then I was doing an internet search on technical literature and, when sorting the results, his name suddenly flew by. Freaked me out. Apparently he had contacted an old professor and published several papers on mineral processing from the pokey. He was released on good behavior a few years ago after serving 8 years. After release, he apparently moved back to Idaho where he came from and according to the net he still has an address and phone number there.  

TG Ė Good Gracious! Was he an ex-boyfriend or just a random lunatic? Were you the only female working there or something? 

CW Ė Lunatic. He asked that the police do a psychological evaluation when he was arrested, and had his own done as well, and came out sane in both. There were other females around, not many mining engineers but scheduling, programming, clerical, and hourly girls, but he seemed to think I was hired to be his personal friend. He didn't have many friends, there was one guy he would hit the bars with, but he was the reason I had a hard time meeting anyone else there in my first few months. People were afraid that if they told me about parties and happy hours that I would tell him or bring him along. He had been there about 10 years and had a masters before I started, but had limited social skills and made me and everyone else uneasy at times. When this incident occurred I had just moved to another part of the mine, just across the property, and had all new processes to learn (from smelting and concentrate leaching to sx/ew). I might even have had the same title that he had at one time but now was getting new exposure and opportunities. It was a good move for me and I probably could have done very well at that job if all this hadn't happened. After it did, I was notorious for that one thing so I eventually had to quit.  

TG- Are you worried now that heís out? 

CW - I was very concerned when they first let him out. Especially since I have two little kids, its hard to feel prepared for any kind of assault when moving around with very small children. The more time that goes by the less I worry. I would think that if he were going to do something he would have tried by now. Unless there's some kind of trigger out there and he starts blaming me for his problems all of a sudden. Not a lot I can do about it, and worrying just upsets my stomach. I'll be ready for him if I ever see him again I can tell you that. He's been out for a few years, so I donít know how tight the leash is anymore. Montana had a very good department for asking those questions, I donít know the rules in Idaho or how closely they're watching him. And if he's been a good boy he might be able to leave the state for vacation or work but I'm not sure he could leave the country. Plus there is no restraining order or anything, and asking for one would only draw attention and force me to relive the whole thing. Iím sure heís gone back to being a farm boy in the woods. A huntin and fishin. 

TG Ė Good thing he wasnít a good shot back then. 

CW - The shot was plenty damn close, if he'd fired sooner it would have been right on. I know it makes a good story though. At work I spent the next 3 months not able to do my job because every time I had to work with new people I had to tell the tale again. And the best thing I had done previously was work with the truck drivers and heap fillers and find out what was really happening out in the main mine. Finally I went into sales just to get away from it. Its not that I minded as much as there were 8,000 people working there and it seemed like I had told the story to 200 with 7,800 to go. One day I ran into an acquaintance at the bar who said to me as we were relaxing over a pitcher and gossiping "and aren't you glad it wasn't you he went after!Ē That was the best. I think he had to buy the next round of beer out of guilt for that gaff. It does allow me to joke now about how handy the new dental implant I just got will be. And Iím glad our fingerprints are on file. 

TG Ė What do you mean about the fingerprints and implant? Are you really worried about him coming back and trying something else? 

CW Ė I just know one of the most important pieces of evidence in the VanDamme trial was her fingerprints in his trailer so I'm glad that my prints are on record somewhere. And after having to hear about all these autopsies in the forensic mysteries Iíve been reading it occurred to me that even if the teeth are lost the implant or the hole would still be there and serves as a good identifier. Just the kind of morbid things you think about when you read too many bad mysteries and have had an experience with a complete degenerate I guess. And I happen to know now that in most states one cannot purchase or carry a gun without a permit. And one cannot get a permit until their fingerprints are screened by the local state police and the FBI, so I'm covered there too.  

TG Ė Donít you think he could get a gun in some state out west and bring it down here? 

CW - Convicted felons are banned from purchasing or owning firearms anywhere, its a federal law. Automatic go back to jail if they bother to prosecute. Usually if a felon tries to buy a gun and is caught they just take it away. The fingerprints are to identify me as well. There are plenty of ways to procure weapons, and plenty of throw-aways out there.  

TG Ė You said he had a ďmuzzleĒ when he came over that night. What do you think he had in mind? 

CW - I try not to think to much about what he was planning, but I suppose it would have been terribly ghastly and I donít think I would have been around to tell the story when he was done. He couldn't have thought I would just keep quiet about it or be won over by his charm or who knows what was going on in his mind. The muzzle was something with straps and a mouth guard that I assumed was fashioned to keep me quiet. Just looking at it made me ill (in fact thinking about it is turning my stomach now) and I had a friend with me when I found it so I had her take it away from me and add it to the pile with the cattle prod and shredded gloves. I donít think it was useful as evidence because the police didn't pick it up.  

TG - How could a cattle prod and muzzle not be useful as evidence?

CW - I don't know actually. I guess they had enough as it was.

TG Ė What do you think triggered such an outrageous reaction on that particular day? 

CW Ė Iím not sure. Like I said I saw him drive by but now that I think about it it might have been because he had no access to me anymore. I remember a neighbor said "I thought he lived there with you and then thought he moved out because I didn't see him anymore" Several neighbors that I only knew on a waving basis mentioned seeing him with some frequency, I think the police may have shown his picture around. It occurs to me now that when I first got to the mine he had gotten used to seeing me almost daily. All the mining engineers share an area, so if I'm on day shift he sees me all day, M-F. If afternoons, I'm working 4-midnight, he's working 8-5, so there's a brief overlap and then he knows I wont be home for hours so he can go to my place and do what ever it was he did. If I'm on midnights he sees me before I go home in the morning. After a string of midnights, I usually had a 4 day weekend, and it was no secret if I was going out of town so he got to go sit in my house then. But once I got promoted and moved to another division of the mine I was working 8-5, M-F. Almost no overlap in duties and no path crossing between us. My new building was on the other side of the property, so even though he knows people over there he canít just wander through unless he has to deliver samples to the lab, which isn't often. No meetings were ever held there. I actually stopped dreading working days because I knew I probably wouldn't see him anymore. (Yes, he made me uncomfortable beforehand) Now all of a sudden my house was no longer accessible to him and apparently he couldnít take it. 

TG Ė Was the company worried about being held responsible legally? 

CW - I think the company was scared, they put me up in a hotel for a few weeks and I probably could have gotten something because they wouldn't allow me to have a lock on my desk or any kind of locker - I asked for the lock the day after what in hindsight was probably the day he took the keys. I thought someone had been messing around in my desk. Of course I should've gotten my locks changed, but I thought someone was just snooping. I suspect he knows quite a bit about me, and again try not to think to much about it. I just hope he's forgotten about it now. He spent a lot of time in my house and had access to all my mail, my address book,...  

TG Ė Did you look at him at the arraignment? 

CW Ė Your damn right I looked at him. He couldn't raise his eyes off the table though. But I was terrified that they would let him out. His lawyer kept saying things like "I move to drop all charges" and "request minimum bail because..." I did go to the bail hearing after he was transferred to the county jail. That was just prosecutor and defense and a bunch of next next next. Ducked in the back when they brought all the orange suits in. Donít think he saw me, but once again he was barely lifting his eyes. If he had been released on bail he would have had to go back to work. I know he called our boss from the jail to ask for an emergency medical leave and it was denied, so after a few days of "no show" at work he was fired. I actually am glad that he had a good lawyer. He asked some sharp questions and really tried to ask the type of things that might get answers that would help him and to turn my answers around - "and after you invited him to your house..." "no, he asked to see my house..." (12 months before the incident). It was really hard the way he turned conversations into invitations and I had to sit there biting my tongue. But because the lawyer pulled all his tricks at the arraignment and I did so well I'm sure he convinced him to plead, plus I didn't have to worry about an "incompetent lawyer appeal". I do wish the prosecutor or victims services had given me some kind of warning beforehand about how brutal the questioning would be.  

TG Ė Was it in the papers? 

CW - Tiny little article on page 5, blurb in the police blotter. Called the paper to complain because they printed my complete address when even the phone book didn't list it. They were idiots - "well it was in the police report" - "I didn't think to tell the police not to include my address, was on my way to the hospital and wasn't even thinking that it would be in the paper I didn't even have shoes on and I would think you would be decent enough to think to leave it out you morons.Ē 

TG Ė Have you been trying to track his whereabouts at all since he got out? 

CW - I have friends that have gone looking for him to see what he's up to. He hasn't published anything (at least as far as I can find, and I think I'm fairly good at author searches) since 97. It would be better if he were doing more publishing, but he was doing that with the local college and I think they eventually found out where he was and didn't want him associated with the campus, probably a huge liability bringing someone with his history around co-eds. But knowing what he's doing now doesn't tell what he'll do next week anyway. He was released on parole, so I'm assuming there is someone keeping track of him. His original sentence was 5 -15 years following a mandatory 3 year for the gun charge, he was let out at his first parole hearing. I know he had to ask permission to leave Montana. They sent me letters when he had hearings and when his release was approved.  

TG Ė Was he drunk or anything the night he assaulted you? 

CW - I didn't detect any sign of alcohol. He told someone, maybe the police or the court shrink, that he had to do something because I had seen him near my house that morning and he didn't want me telling people about it at work on Monday. He lived 30 minutes away out on the other side of town from the mine and there was no reason to be out where I lived on a Saturday morning. He also really sunk himself because when he left my house he picked up my wallet and keys and then dropped them in the police cruiser when they arrested him. That would be hard to explain away since there were like 3 paramedics who knew I never could have been in that car.  

TG - Did you ever return to that house to sleep? Were you hurt badly? If not why did you go in the ambulance? 

CW - Nope, never slept there again. In fact, donít think I slept anywhere for weeks afterwards. Moved to a new house right near the pit. I got an ambulance ride because they wanted to make sure I went, I donít think they even asked, and the hospital detailed injuries and took photos, gave me a tetanus shot, had a counselor because they still thought I might drop the charges -they were stuck thinking "ex/boyfriend". Afterwards neighbors told me they'd seen him around a lot, some of them thought he lived there. I think when I was working 4-midnight he went to my place straight from work.  

TG Ė What became of the muzzle and the cow prod? Why wasnít he guilty of attempted murder instead of felonious assault? 

CW - No idea what became of the stuff he dropped, I do know they found the box the cattle prod came in in his house. I donít remember what he was originally charged with, and donít think the police really did much. I think there were originally 5 charges and his lawyer had things brought down to felonious assault and attempted kidnapping.  

TG Ė What did the couple who you ran into do? Did you think about a civil suit. How old would he be now? 

CW - The couple was pretty much in shock - we just stood there as he walked by and ducked when the shots whistled over our heads, the guy jumped in his truck to follow but came back quickly. Never wanted to see him again, and didn't want the hassle of a suit. He was 37 then - so 50? What is still kind of funny is that we used to joke that he would go postal one day, and no one was really surprised that he finally went off. I certainly did like it better when it was something to joke about but itís over now. 

TG Ė Thatís quite a story. 

CW - Letís hope this is the last chapter of it. Sometimes when I tell it myself, I turn it in to an urban legend.

TG - Well thanks for talking to us. Any last thoughts about letting us publish it. He sounds like the kind of guy that would be seeing quite a bit of Internet time these days, probably watching the web cams. 

CW - Go ahead. He always was a snoop. I'm sure he'd try to hack in to someone's email if he thought he could get away with it, he fancied himself talented at the computer. He had it in his head that everybody at the mine was sleeping around only he couldn't figure out how to get in on it so he always spied on people at work. One thing that I do know for sure is that whenever I've told this story and I've gotten someone to stop leaving her keys in her unattended desk or coat pocket then it is all worth it. For a lot of girls, the ending is or could be much different.

 

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