day 3

Today was a rough one. Another sleepless night, which is really getting to me.

(as you can see)

The records I read today didn’t help- Anke Dorn’s coddled, teeth pulling testimony. Knowing she’s out there living her life and she was every bit as involved in Cindy’s death as the ones in prison. At the very least, she could have saved her. She disgusts me.

Then i read the testimony of the medical examiner who did the autopsy. I’ve read it before, but it has never hit me as hard as it did today. The level of violence perpetrated on my sister, for what was a completely unprovoked financial motive. I don’t have words for how I’m feeling.

Read some more of this fascinating book called The Confidence Game and going to use that somehow in the book. It was hard to concentrate on it though for all of the above reasons.

Just hoping I can get some sleep tonight. I miss Edmonds so much. That place provided such a healing balm for me while facing all of this. I’ll get back there again one day.

Goodnight out there.

day 2

Well, I guess I’ll wrap it up for today. Happy to report I slept a full 6 hours straight last night, which is way more than I have for weeks. Hope the trend continues as I felt completely different this morning. Praying I’ve turned a corner with this–insomnia is not for sissies!

Finished reading all of my written chapters, started a new one condensing all of the major trial evidence/witness testimony (yes that’s a lot for one chapter) and started digging in to my totes filled with records. I found Cathy Hughes’ handmade, color coded charts she used in prep. You have to remember, these trials occurred in 1990, so technology was way different. There were no big screens in the courtroom, just flip charts on an easel. I re-read her closing argument today too and once again astounded by her brilliance in the courtroom.

I ran across some testimony referencing the crime scene technician who took all of the photos at the crime scene. I remembered an email I got from her two years ago, detailing the impact this had on her life from the tender age of 24 when she was at that job. I was busy dealing with my flooded condo in AZ at the time I received it, so went back and revisited it. Let’s just say I ended my day today with tears.

Gonna go forage for some dinner now and hunker down to get completely distracted with the drama of The Bachelorette. Right now, even the commercials will be a welcomed relief. I feel like I have so much done, but at the same time, so much more to be done for this book to be fully coherent and include everything I need to.

Ran across some totally personal materials of Cindy’s today too–her journal, a breakup letter she wrote to her boyfriend, etc. It’s that bittersweet feeling of seeing her handwriting and remembering her “voice” and at the same time feeling the deep emptiness of her loss. No wonder I am ready to take my break today.

Thanks as always for following along. Also including a funny screenshot of a little exchange I had with my husband this morning. It’s hiding in the collage above. He hits the right notes of seriousness and levity with me, but is always there as my constant support.

Here is a small snippet from a chapter I worked on today:

She walked slowly like a model on a runway, down the aisle between the benches, and stopped short of the swinging half door that separated the gallery from the well and just stood there, waiting for a butler perhaps to open it for her. She slowly and dramatically unbuttoned her coat with her dark polished, long finger-nailed hands, slid it dramatically off her shoulders and held it out in her hand, waiting for someone to take it. It was like watching Alexis Carrington walk into a formal party with a glint in her eye and attitude, knowing she was up to something devious. 

day 1

I’m exhausted. I’ve been experiencing insomnia for several weeks now. Had a medical appointment last week and discovered my adrenals shut down again- likely from the near-certain Covid my husband and I had back in March. He’s also having energy problems. I just can’t sleep. So, hoping that turns around soon w a new regime.

Anyway, I’m proud that I accomplished as much as I did today. I’ve read and taken notes on about 2/3 of what I’ve already written. I decided to stop as it’s clear my brain is being strained and hopefully will be more refreshed tomorrow. It’s also entirely emotionally draining to review all these memories.

It rained all day today. I’m grateful for this fireplace and candles and a cozy place to stretch out and hot tea.

I don’t have any snippets to share, but snapped some pics.

More tomorrow…

Yeah, Reese’s pumpkins

Cozy and warm

Getting settled in to my cute and cozy writing space for the week. A flock of geese welcomed me!

Thanks to John and Lillian for helping me haul all my stuff up here. Firing up the laptops and getting ready to reorient myself to this book.

Brought some of my homegrown flowers to keep me company
My hosts gifted me two bottles of wine
Cozy fireplace for these cold nights
All the totes tucked away pretty well- for now
Trying to decide if I start reading or pop open one of those 🍷
Lillian sent her giraffe Gabi to keep me company

here i go again

Well, after participating in Websleuths podcast a couple weeks back with Tricia Griffith, I got to thinking. As any of you following me here know, I’ve written 100% of this book in the Seattle area. I live my life by drawing firm boundaries around this material, one of which is that I don’t do any writing in my home (or bring any materials in here).

my beloved Edmonds

I got to thinking, that even though cross country travel isn’t in the cards right now (and how I miss Edmonds), maybe I could recreate something like that in my own back yard. I went to searching on Airbnb with some criteria that’s important to me and found a cozy space, with an expansive view and my own deck, next to the Susquehanna river and a fireplace about 12 miles from our home.

So I reserved it for just over a week, starting this weekend. I’m packing up everything I think I might need and running in to so many memories from my Edmonds trips. The nice thing about being so close, is I can bring all the totes containing all of the court records, that I hauled to Washington that first time. Obviously I wouldn’t fly with all of that (it’s like ten large plastic totes worth), so my generous husband has offered to go to check in with me on Sunday, and haul all of them up to the unit (yes it’s an upstairs loft), then return a week later and take them all back. It will be good having all that material at my fingertips again, to make sure I’ve got everything I need in the book.

For those who don’t know, this book is a true crime story wrapped in a memoir (or the other way around, not quite sure). I tell my own story, but most of the crime/trial/hearings/investigation etc. are told through exact materials from police reports/trial transcripts/interviews/my sister’s journal, etc. So getting those elements right is critical to the storytelling.

Anyway, as always, I will be posting daily as I’m writing. I can’t believe it’s all contained in this tiny thumb drive. I have over 30 complete chapters in there. I likely have 2-3 left to write. I will start, as always, by reading what I have start to finish, while taking notes.

Bringing all my comfort things along–candles, photos, “spa day” type stuff to keep me grounded.

I appreciate all of you who come along with me on this and offer your support, near and far, even if that is just reading here.

Wish me luck getting this finished, once and for all.

See you next week! xoxo

motherly love

I’m at the Sedona Film Festival right now, having a fantastic time, immersed in up to 8 hours of film each day and gatherings where I get to meet lots of creative film makers, animators, writers, camera people etc. etc. Their creativity is flowing in to me apparently as these words spilled over when I woke up this morning:

Those words shot out of her mean streak like a poison dart and split straight through the new fibers knitting themselves in my twelve year old heart.

Nothing she ever said or did topped the damage from that one dose of cruelty that laid down its stain that day. I knew something about her after that that I couldn’t unknow.

It created its own imprint; the exact opposite of the one my mother had laid down in me that shielded me, allowing me to survive that and all the days that came later. I didn’t realize for a long time, but I would come to know that nothing was more potent living inside me than my mother’s love. She had just five years, but she managed to inject herself so deep that she remained alive, impenetrable, exerting her motherly protection. It was the antidote for everything.

Maybe that’s why Marj kept trying so hard to break it down; something inside her knew she could never win against something as strong as that.

The saddest part is she was the only one making it a contest. I will never understand why she chose to wage war on a dead woman. She just could never, not in all those thirty years, drop the sword she had created out of her own hand. It eventually turned back on her, releasing me to live exactly how my mother intended; free.

And that dart, that sword, they taught me something too that I had no idea I would need much later. People can leave a mark by their bad deeds too. It can show you exactly how and who you don’t want to be.

rising

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I worked all day on writing and organizing chapters. I finished one entirely that was kind of a breath of fresh air, as it was more about the rising out of the mire, than the quicksand of Cindy’s murder, the investigation and trial.

I treated myself in the evening to a dinner at a restaurant not too far away called Mkt. One of the ladies at the flower class had recommended t, and boy was she right. I had just a wonderful time there.

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snapped a couple of pics of myself before I went out to document my attempt at using the curling iron on my new haircut–I look so relaxed, and was–my skin is also really improving with the fasting lifestyle–can you believe I turn 60 in two weeks?

I’ve done quite a bit of solo travel and one thing I’ve learned that works really well for me is to eat at the bar. Whether it’s a sushi bar or in this case “chef’s table” which was a five seater bar overlooking the cooking and prep area. It makes you feel part of things sitting there.

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I had a gorgeous glass of Sangiovese and these incredible grilled green beans with lemon, then their ahi crudo and my third course was a burratta salad. I topped it off with a lime coconut sorbet with shortbread cookies for dessert. I did indulge and had the stomach ache later to prove it, but it was worth it. I just can’t eat as much as I used to now that I started Intermittent Fasting…dammit.

On the way home, these two bugs were mating on my windshield, literally the entire drive home, including on the freeway. They were serious about it.

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Been writing off and on all day. I also planned my next trip to come back in three weeks. Long story, but she got a cancellation, I needed to spend some money on the airline before the year was out and I’m riding a wave of momentum right now. Plus I need to get some more documents that are packed up in our garage at the moment.

Today was one of those days that I had my jammies on at 3pm. I was sitting on my perch–the fold out sofa in the studio–and there was a knock on the door.

My sweet husband sent me a gorgeous dozen roses to enjoy for my last days here. He’s so sweet and thoughtful.

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Well, here is a snippet of a chapter on Michael Apelt’s sentencing that I worked on some today. Still pretty raw, but it’s on paper.

Topped off with my two views–to my front and to my left. I’m sure you can see why I have such a hard time staying away from this paradise.

I sat with my family and Janine in our regular spots–the second row on the right side behind the prosecution.  There were more press in the gallery that day than on other days. The Death Penalty tends to draw that.

I had a perfect view of Michael as they brought him in, clad in the jail’s orange jumpsuit, socks with plastic sandals and shackles–both wrist and ankle—with chains.  It was the first time I had seen him like that, ever.  In the trial, he was always restrained beneath his casual slacks.

I watched him, knowing this was likely the last time I would ever lay eyes on Michael Apelt.  I witnessed him awkwardly sit down.  I watched his always-present interpreter hand him the headphones he wore daily in court.  I saw him pick them up with his manacled hands, clanging, and restrained together at the wrist.

What happened next, is one of those moments you will never quite catch the essence of, in either telling it, much less writing it.  It was a miracle of sorts that occurred in my heart that day.

It was as if the environment around Michael Apelt both paused and went black and white, like a scene you’d see in a movie. He became like some sort of spotlighted hologram, and he was the only thing moving in the room, but in slow motion. The air around me shifted to a stillness the courtroom had never held before. It was as if I could hear his every move, amplified in my mind.

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abundance

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It’s Monday and I’m up early and getting to it! I just have four more writing days while here in Edmonds, so I’m going to make the best of them. I had a little fun last week and over the weekend, so time to buckle down. I read through almost all of my chapters yesterday, editing and making notes and I like how things are coming along. I just have a very few chapters left to write, and I’ll complete one of those today.

Not gonna lie, I’m already dreaming about my next trip here. I just love it so much.

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So to follow up with where I left off last time–the fantastic flower class I got in off the waiting list!

I always do my research, or at least as much as I can, before venturing solo in to a new neighborhood to see what I might not want to miss.  The London Plane is in the Pioneer Square area of Seattle which is kind of between the train station and the happenin area of Pike Market. There are new places popping up around there, so I decided to go early to check out a local happy hour, have dinner and plenty of time to find parking.

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Well, had no idea the traffic going IN to the city on a Thursday afternoon would be so brutal. It took me over an hour to get there and another 20 min or so of roaming looking for parking, so the happy hour I’d planned at a place I’d scoped called Good Bar was out. I squeaked in just in time for the class.

It was amazing. First there was a bar of really nice snacks, which was nice because I had been fasting all day (I’m doing Intermittent Fasting now). They had three selections of wine and delicious cheeseboard type of nibbles.

There were buckets and buckets of flowers, branches, berries, fruits etc. all around the tables that were preset with artisan vases and clippers (that we got to keep!) at each spot.  I switched out the vase at my spot for a white and blue striped pottery vase.

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The women hosting the event were both the owner of The London Plane and a local floral artist. I gleaned so much from just listening to them and watching. The LP is a unique concept which houses a flower shop/wine bar/coffee shop/pastry shop/cafe/boutique with handmade items for sale. It’s like everything I love under one really open and charming roof. I loved it and would totally hang out there if I lived in the area.

We got some intros to the flowers and their backgrounds, while the Jeni the floral artist created an arrangement as a demo.

They then basically set us free to choose what we wanted of probably 50 different varieties of the above options and we all spread out and went to town. I dumped my entire arrangement about half way through and started over…arrgh. I’m still very much in a learning curve. By the end, I was really happy with what I made. They also gave us boxes filled with tissue to easily cart them home (great idea). I learned very much about the direction of my new business and where I want to take it (and myself) in the coming year.

 

 

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I am really interested in developing my skills as an artist and have decided to break out my easel (well get a new one as mine was lost in the flood) and get to painting again.

Oh! Almost forgot. Pat, my host here, had told me that day that she was planning on taking out her dying fig tree the next morning, asking me to park my car elsewhere to make space for that project. Well….I got a wild hair. I asked the London Plane owner if they might like the dozens of green figs/ branches/ leaves that would be coming off and discarded and she said yes! She offered Pat a $50 gift certificate for her fig remnants which was perfect as I really wanted Pat to get down there to check out the place–it’s totally her, as well.

So the next morning, I pruned that tree to an inch of its life and stuffed my car with figs and branches and toted them back down to the shop. It was a great caper, got me outside and a little bit of gardening as I miss my own garden so much!

 

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After the class, I walked with my arrangement back to my car, kind of hungry still so thought about where I might grab a bite back in Edmonds. The neighborhood felt very different at night, so not a place I’d venture out on my own. As I sat in my car, checking my phone for directions, I glanced up and right across the street, just steps from my car was something that looked familiar. It was the exact type of font as the Good Bar lounge I had been researching earlier and lo and behold there it was! Literally in front of my face!

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Well, that was a no brainer. Popped right back out of the car and walked across the narrow street and right in to this very cool spot in an old bank. The vault is still there even!

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I ordered myself a cocktail and perused the menu. I had read one review where the man said he rarely would go to a swanky bar like that, but the sloppy joe was so beyond, he kept going back just for that. So, that’s what I got.

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I was looking around with this goofy smile on my face, which caught the attention of the owner across the room and she mouthed “do you need anything?”. I motioned her over because I wanted to share with her good fortune in finding her place.

Well, we ended up talking and talking as she joined me multiple times as I enjoyed my cocktail, a “not cocktail” later as I was driving, my sloppy joe and then she comp’d me this delicious “Swiss Miss” ice cream that tasted just like hot chocolate, but frozen. Complete with mini marshmallows! Thank you Nancy!

 

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I’ve found that when I travel alone, I often feel less alone because I’m more approachable and meet more people. Always sit at the bar is my motto.

I’ll end this with a snippet that I edited yesterday. Coming in to the home stretch. Once I get home, I’ll spend time getting back with the agents who expressed interest and likely reach out to new ones. True crime is at a high now, so I think my options are much better than even when I started this four years ago.

Back to writing!

It was all very robotic and infused with denial. I just kept reinforcing the story in my head—that Cindy had gotten a call from Mark, that he was in the parking lot of her apartment, threatening to come to the door, so she ran out to head him off at the pass. He was the “angry man” Michael was referring to. The only person she would run off like that to. Then the two of them went somewhere and were holed up in a hotel or something. This was the only story I could allow myself and I was holding on to it for dear life.

Meanwhile, the Mesa police were making the off-policy decision to forego their policy of waiting twenty-four hours to declare Cindy an official missing person. Maybe it was the fact it was Christmas Eve, maybe it was the life insurance I mentioned, or Michael’s strange drunken story that didn’t make sense. But the police declared Cindy officially missing by 6:00 that morning, just three hours after they had been contacted. And they sent a report to the media. The people of Phoenix were waking up on Christmas Eve morning to my sister’s face on their screens, declared “missing”.

With my permission, my friend Debbie had a key to my house and let the police in. They retrieved the note I left and Cindy’s airplane ticket.

Then they went looking for Mark Maurer.

 

 

 

good fortune

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As of this moment, I have 31 pretty well cleaned up and ready for editing chapters completed. I’m most of the way there, with a whole week left on my sabbatical to finish it. I’m going to bring this home on this trip!

It hit me this morning that I have only 27 days left in this decade. I asked myself what I want to accomplish before making that milestone and it’s a no-brainer. I’m going to finish this book. The challenge is on and I’m up for it.

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speaking of my birthday–I’m turning 60–and have decided to let my hair grow in, naturally silver

In other news, I got some super exciting news yesterday. Before I arrived, while planning this trip, I got to thinking about other diversions. I looked in to flower arranging classes as that’s my newest hobby and vocation. Also a write-off for my new business.

I found one that looked absolutely fun at this cafe/bakery/wine bar/flower shop called The London Plane in downtown Seattle. To my disappointment, the class was long sold out, so I let it go and looked around elsewhere, not really finding anything else interesting.

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The London Plane

Well, once we got here and my husband was visiting, we took the train in to the city as we always love to do. While we were walking from the train station to the Big Wheel (so fun!), I looked across the street from a cool glass shop we browsed and lo and behold! The London Plane!

I had to see it, so popped in and looked around–so cute! We weren’t stopping so I just took a peek, then asked about the flower class. The gal reiterated what I knew–that the class was long filled with a waiting list. I turned to leave, then had a wild hair and said “oh what the heck, put me on the list anyway”. I was number 14 I think. Then I forgot about it.

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so lovely

Well, yesterday, I emerged from the shower and had a missed call from Seattle. No message, but just a missed call. Curious, I googled the number and saw a….flower business (!!!). Just then a message came in, and it said ONE slot had opened up and she knew it was last minute but….

I cut it off and called back immediately and said YES YES YES PUT ME IN! (I hope I wasn’t screaming, but I may have been).

So….pinching myself! I’m going in just about an hour–to leave ample time to find parking (aka hit Happy Hour at a nearby place I’ve already scoped). Be assured I will be posting photos of everything! I’m so psyched!

Here is a snippet of one of my favorite chapters in the whole book, that I worked on and cleaned up over the last couple of hours:

Di Maio took the stand that morning with all his bravado and hubris, surely to convince the jury that the defendant, who hired him, was not guilty. That he couldn’t possibly have committed this crime, as only one assailant was involved. That’s why they brought him.  For his expertise, having reviewed the crime scene via photos, autopsy and all of the records, to testify that in his expert opinion, just one assailant had killed Cindy. And obviously, since that person is already convicted of the crime, done deal. Case closed.

DiMaio is a big shot and he knows it.

Cathy came to court that day dressed in her usual attire—a smart business suit and Cindy’s earrings. Today she also had an accessory—a book bag where she sequestered her secret weapon: Dimaio’s textbook.

Oh hello Ms. Hughes, of course I remember you my simple country bumpkin big fan, I imagined him thinking.

Cathy Hughes began with some niceties, reinforcing to the jury the Dr’s level of expertise.

Q:  Nationwide you would say about 20 percent of the cases that the medical examiner has to deal with are stab wounds?

A:  I can’t, I spent 18 of the 20 years in Dallas. In Texas. So all I can say is Texas.

It was clear DiMaio was already on the defensive. The small town fawning prosecutor had commanded the well and he was not liking it, not one bit.

Q:  And from your experience in seeing bodies that have suffered stab wounds you can form certain conclusions as to what occurred to the person; is that correct?

A:  Sometimes, yes.

Q:  You haven’t formed any conclusions at all as to the number of people that were at the scene at the time, isn’t that true?

A:  That’s absolutely correct.

Q:  And if this was one of your cases one of the things you would ask the investigating officers is, well, how many people were out there at the scene, isn’t that true?

A: Perhaps, yes. It would depend on the case, it always depends on the case.

Q: And if you are going to verify your conclusions as to what happened, you have to rely on what ultimately happened in any particular case; isn’t that true?

A: Well, you try to get as much information that you feel is relevant about the case, right? But you are not a police officer. That is what I am saying, the medical examiner’s area of jurisdiction in our state is the body. The police have jurisdiction over the whole scene.

So I mean I’m not going to go into tire prints of things like that. What I am doing here is addressing a number of specific questions that were posed to me. And not going all over the place. I’m just addressing some three specific questions that were asked of me.

Q: Then you acknowledge, you will acknowledge to this jury that to make a determination or to decide what actually happened out there, they have to take into account not only our findings with respect to the autopsy and the photographs of Cynthia Monkman Apelt, but all of the other evidence that’s available in this case including statements of witnesses and other physical evidence that might be found at the scene?

Cathy Hughes, in her inimitable style, was putting this expert in his place, and allowing the jury to give proper weight to his testimony in the grand scheme of the trial and he didn’t quite know it, yet. In essence she was alpha-dogging her way step by step toward making this witness her own.

It’s not my favorite segment of that chapter, but I don’t want to give anything away prematurely. I mean I do want you to buy the book! 😉

More tomorrow…

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the view of my cozy Studio as I returned the other night, after seeing Downton Abbey for the second time.