June 8 San Diego, California
Caroline was playing innocently in her own front yard when the car struck her down. She was playing with her new puppy, a golden haired mutt she had named Buddy. Her father, a hardworking handy man, had rescued the runt before their neighbor could drop the defenseless dog off in the country to fend for itself. Buddy was gently licking the little girl’s face as she hugged him. She was coaxing him to be still while she put the pink doll dress over his head. She wanted to pretend he was her baby. Just normal play for a five-year-old girl. She finally succeeded and giggled at how funny Buddy looked in the frilly doll dress.
Caroline’s nine-year-old brother was in the driveway of their modest home. The boy stooped over the back tire of his bicycle, attaching playing cards to the spokes with clothespins. He imagined the cards made the sound of a motorcycle like his uncle’s 650.
The children’s mother had been watching her daughter but needed to go back inside the house to check on her cake baking in the oven. Her mind was burdened with how to pay the bills. The afternoon was late and it was almost time for their dad to come home from work. Supper was almost ready, a meager meal of hamburger helper. But there would be cake. No matter how hard they struggled just to survive, they remained a closely-knit family.
And then the unthinkable happened. A late model car came out of nowhere, speeding and swerving wildly. Caroline’s brother watched helplessly as the driver ran up over the curb and into their yard. Buddy scampered away in the pink doll dress, terrified, and Caroline sat frozen on the lawn, staring wide-eyed as the car came toward her. The boy watched in horror as the car struck her small defenseless body, hurtling it further back into the yard. He heard the tires squeal as the car raced off—the driver not even bothering to stop after what he had done.
The boy, almost in shock, had enough presence of mind to notice the license plate. His parents had drilled both of their children in the importance of protective safety measures and now the numbers were burned into his memory forever. He frantically ran to his sister, wondering how he was going to help her.
The frightened boy bent down and cradled her bloodied body in his arms. Feeling angry and helpless, he vowed that the maniac would be caught.
The mother, hearing the screeching tires so close to her house had come outside, drying her hands on her apron, to see what was going on. She looked in the yard and found her son holding the lifeless body in his arms. She ran toward them, holding her head with her hands screaming, struggling to undo the terrible thing that had just happened.
The boy turned to her and cried, “Call 911!”
That was the beginning of the nightmare: for the mother, for the father, and for the nine-year-old boy.
June 18 Twelve Years Later
The nightmare had culminated in a tragic double-homicide at the Pacific Terrace Hotel where I was staying. Before the ordeal, I remember feeling so happy. The San Francisco Enterprise had just published two great articles for my Ask Jillian gardening column, and I had some time for a breather. I was also looking forward to attending our family reunion. My personal assistant, Cecilia Montoya, was coming with me to help take care of Teddy, my Yorkie companion. The three of us were flying into San Diego International Airport two days before the tragedy occurred.
|Buy on Amazon.com $2.99|