trauma unboxed


Last Friday I spent the morning at Cathy Hughes’ house combing through piles, folders and boxes of voluminous material on Cindy’s homicide case.  Yes, I took this task on, after all these years, just four days before the anniversary of her death (which is tomorrow).

I have to say I felt confident in doing it.  I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t overwhelmed (at the time).  I was just very very clear that I did not want to see any photographs–you know, photos of that nature.  In all of these years I’ve only caught one glimpse of one crime scene or maybe autopsy photo, online, accidentally while googling something in a German publication.  That was close to a decade ago and I just don’t want to remember anything about that moment.  Cathy was careful about removing items and I did note she had an entire photo album–you know the old school kind with the plastic pages that stick and unstick to place photos under them–filled with, well, all that horror.





















She had a tall 4 drawer file cabinet filled with absolutely everything about the case–police reports, interviews, exhibits–everything.  In 1988-90 there were really no sophisticated computer systems to manage all of this so it was all done by hand, paper upon paper.  I think if I was to stack up the various manilla files that just had my name on them, the stack would be well over 6 inches tall.  I had forgotten so much, so many names, so many witnesses (there were over 100).


In one of her closets off her office were two tall shelves.  They were completely filled with file boxes, also completely filled with the case–testimony, more photos, more exhibits.  Cindy’s journal and paperwork (copies as I have the original).  I remember reading excerpts from the witness stand.  Newspaper articles, one of which I’d forgotten being on the front page of the Sunday paper that week as I testified.  The picture of Michael was bigger.  I’d forgotten really what he looked like.


Photos of Cindy–Cindy with me, Cindy with Michael, Cindy at home sitting on the couch in a fitted pink cotton dress that I actually think was mine that she’d borrowed.  It might have been the last day of her life.

Autopsy report that I’ve never read but I will now.   My own testimony transcripts.


Topographical maps of the area–one with a drawing rendered of her body which I’d never seen.  A large outline next to it which I assumed indicated a pool of blood. 😦


I reached in to one box and saw a stack of photos that seemed sort of familiar.  I thumbed through one and saw a glimpse of something I never want to see even for a second.  My heart goes out to the Travis Alexander siblings being exposed to all of that.  The trauma is more overwhelming that you can imagine and you can’t inoculate yourself from it.

Cathy removed the box from the room to go through it and yelled back to me from the dining room “no there’s nothing in here you need to see”.

She walked in holding a blue-grey piece of paper with an essay on it dated from June of 1989.  I’d written it as part of a writing group I was in.  It’s about the moment my father found out Cindy’s body had been found and how he told us.  Just a description of that moment.  I called it “How do I tell them?”.


Cathy said “You gave this to me thinking it might help me” with tears in her eyes.  I wrote this between the time Cindy was murdered and we went to trial. I was writing as a way of healing all the way back then.  I’m still writing to heal.

Her tears opened my own and I reached out and hugged her thinking of all we’ve shared, endured together.  How this all touched us so deeply.  I forgot to mention that when we went to see my brother perform at his first concert two weekends ago, Cathy was wearing the earrings of Cindy’s that I gifted her all those years ago.  I think she wore them every day of the trials–at least opening and closing statements days.  I know she wore them that night intentionally to bring Cindy to the concert. And I didn’t say a word.  Some things are just too sacred to even bring attention to.


her handmade calendar of money events over the time of the crime–I have several of these calendars now


We were seeking a particular testimony that was/is important to me. That of the pathologist Vincent Di Maio who, called by the defense, actually flipped to be a prosecution witness right on the stand.  It was a total Perry Mason moment so I want to get all of the testimony accurate.  Suddenly she remembered the other closet.

The second closet that housed another tall shelf.  She crawled on a ladder and started handing me big black binders.  They hold the entire two trials.  Every last word from opening to closing.  I have it all.

It was more of an exercise in deciding what to edit out.  It’s a lot to go through and to travel with.  I think I have what I need and probably more.  I didn’t and don’t feel afraid to face it. I already lived it.  Some I’ve not experienced, like that autopsy report, eerily similar to Travis Alexander’s which I have read.  Their lives and deaths so similar.



We piled everything across the back seat of my Murano and headed to lunch.  We found a Thai place near her home which I have to say was fantastic and both ordered lychee martinis.  If there was ever an occasion for a martini lunch, this was it.

I forgot to bring any  kind of notebook which was ok as I wanted to do an informal interview with her during lunch.  It was really just a conversation which I documented later after I left.  I knew there was a serendipitous way that she landed on our case and I wanted to remember those details.  I also was curious if she, not a mystical person like me generally, felt she was just sort of meant to be there.  Because I sincerely know with all my heart that she was.  I wanted to get her perspective though.

She told me a story that I’m not sure I ever heard involving the rental car used in the murder and a hunch she had that turned out, following it, proved a pivotal element in the prosecution of these murderers.

As we talked, I lifted that wide martini glass to sip the soft pink floral scented remedy and my hand was shaking so hard I covered it up by holding the bowl of the glass with two hands.

This is affecting me my body reminded me.  You’re not as unaffected as you think.

I hoped Cathy didn’t notice.

After leaving there I rushed to the car dealer quickly for an appt to check out a weird noise in my car. I definitely want my car in tiptop shape for all my upcoming journeys–to Sedona twice over the holidays and of course to Edmonds on Jan. 15.

It turned out that there are two problems which need a little more time so they offered me a rental car for the weekend (for free).  The back of my vehicle is filled with Christmas presents and the back seat, Cindy’s murder.  If that’s not a visual metaphor of, well, everything I don’t know what is.

My darling service manager Justin (who I know pretty well now–aside from working in the car biz he’s a musician so we’ve talked about having different identities) rode over with me to gather my charger and whatever else I needed from my Murano.

Wow you have a lot of books in there he noted.

That is a murder trial on that back seat I replied.


His eyes got wide and he said nothing but everything.

I just explained that I’m writing a book on my sister’s murder and literally just left from picking all of that up.

Wow, you have to let me know when it’s finished, I definitely want to read it.

We never know where our connections are being made do we?

It felt strange leaving it all behind so quickly and getting in this pristine Nissan Versa.  I felt oddly nervous and relieved at the same time.

I drove almost immediately to meet Mya and some ladies at a holiday Happy Hour that was really nice.  How interesting that Mya later told me two of them, down at the opposite end of the long table that I barely spoke to at all, said to her at the end of the night “that was Kathy Monkman?  OMG I read her blog!”.  How these ladies, so peripherally connected to me even know about my blog is astounding to me.  Connections find their way in this world.

I came home from that really warm evening of ladytalk, music, wine and fun to a long conversation with John, my love.


isn’t he cute?  I know

Something was said, in our conversation, the content unimportant, that ended up throwing me in to a full blown freeze response.

Out of nowhere I couldn’t move or speak.  My entire body shut down.  I don’t even remember what I did eek out but it was probably something along the lines of “I can’t talk to you right now” and I hung up the phone.  I can only imagine the shock and confusion on his end as we have had not one, not even a glimmer of a conflict since we’ve met and fallen in love.  It’s been the smoothest relationship I’ve ever had in my entire life.

He called me back trying to inquire and got more of the same.  I was laying on my bed with my arms straight down, immobilized.  I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move. I was scared and ashamed and simultaneously feeling like I was destroying this precious relationship as he was experiencing me in this way , but I couldn’t stop it.  I hung up again.

I just closed my eyes and did what I know to do which is ride it out–feel it and see if it can start moving.  I was relieved I didn’t have to talk to him because, truly, I was unable to speak.

I fell asleep and woke up about 45 minutes later to several loving messages from this dear loving man.  Telling me he knew I would contact him when I was able, that I was healing, that he loves me.


this loving spirit

True love lifted my hand as it felt like it was embedded in concrete and pulled that phone off the bedside table like it was a 1000 pound anvil.  I pressed one button, the recall button, and called him back, still unable to speak but able to say I’m sorry  I think.  I was just gone somewhere else unable to find my way back.  I remembered this feeling from long ago.

That man stayed on the phone with me almost all night.  This is what you get with true love and true love with a healer (did I mention he’s a Psychologist and energy healer?).  He has also written his own memoir about his own uncannily similar history of loss and abuse so he wasn’t surprised I got triggered like that.  In fact he had checking in with me all day that day to see how I was faring with it all.  I kept telling him I was fine but he wasn’t surprised this eventually surfaced.  So kind.

He just kept slowly and quietly repeating words to me like “I’m here…I’m not going anywhere…can you hear the sound of my voice…can you feel the warmth I’m sending you?  You are healing now….”.


my Christmas present 2014

I really kept replying “no, no no” for a long time until he discovered the key.  He got me laughing.  The laughter broke the spell and after that my body started slowly to thaw and melt.

We didn’t get off the phone until 4am my time 6 am his.  He said “I wasn’t going to hang up until I knew you were back and grounded”.

That night was hands down the most intimate event that has ever happened to me or for me with a love mate.  It bonded us in a way I can’t describe.  He wasn’t scared away.  He’s still here. (tears)

John later said “I’m so glad your car needed work done. I’m glad all of that stuff was away from you all weekend. You needed distance from it”.  I think he’s right.

I pick it back up today.   As he’s an energy worker, he sent some long distance cleansing to my vehicle and we talked about a plan so I’m not driving all that way with all that negative energy affecting me.  I do believe in that kind of thing and so does he.

I get my car back today and a full day of work before taking off tomorrow to Sedona for Christmas.  We will decorate the tree tomorrow night–the night Cindy was killed 26 years ago.  I will place on the tree, as I did last year, the memorial program we had printed.


the program is in the center of this picture

I will also now include one of the songs we played at the memorial.

Love is the Answer, indeed.

Thank you for reading, sharing and being with me on this journey.

I love you all out there.


4 thoughts on “trauma unboxed

  1. What can I say? You say so much with so few words. I “feel” your story throughout my body and mind. And now I am “feeling” your sister and your new friend/love. Real people, not just a part of a tale. The time to write the book has come just when it was supposed to, when you are surrounded with the soft cloud of love that will wrap you in peaceful moments when you least expect them to arise. Bless you, Kathy Monkman. Bless your sister, your family, your heart.

    And I will add one small detail that I have not realized until just now. I do believe your sharing is giving me strength beyond the traumas I have encountered in my own life. Embracing those moments and feeling them dissipate into the person I have become and like………. they make me what I am. You, my beautiful friend, always remind me of that.


    1. And you, my friend, exemplify the entire reason I”m writing this book and doing all it’s going to take to get me there. This sentiment makes everything worth it to me and I dearly appreciate you for sharing it. Much love.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. KCL, I had to go off and do some personal journaling as reading your journey triggers so much for me. I lost my oldest a dearest friend 4 years ago. Your thoughts reminded me that I need to step back and think of ways to do some self care as the grief at times can still be overwhelming. My thoughts and prayers and healing light sent to you. I am so glad your new love is such a caring understanding man…peace to you and your family at this time. ❤


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