Kidnaping, Murder & Redemption
Like many people, by this time in my life I have a long and complicated story. However, the factors that shaped my life the most are those related to this part of my story – the story of Dawn.
From an early age I was obsessed with finding meaning and purpose in my life. Guess I was really looking for God, but I didn’t realize it until I went to a Billy Graham movie with my church group. After the presentation, I prayed and asked God to show himself to me. He did and I was sold.
Immediately I returned to my church and got involved. I played guitar for the youth group, worked with church leaders to develop a newsletter, and volunteered to serve on the committee planning the church’s building upgrade. That was the end of my brief journey into the Christian faith. The adults on that committee were so concerned with whether or not to add air conditioning that they actually got into screaming matches during the meetings. They fought so bitterly that this babe in Christ decided, "If that’s what it’s like to be a Christian, I don’t want to be one!"
About the same time I headed off to college and a whole new world of freedom. I used the extensive library there to research the various religions of the world, then dabbled in practicing several of them. Whenever I encountered a book about Jesus I pushed it out of my mind. "You already tried that." One by one I rejected the faiths of the world until I settled on a New Age faith, liberally sprinkled with wiccan philosophy.
Meanwhile, things at home were deteriorating rapidly. My Dad was ready to leave, and he took his anger and frustration out on me. The conflict led up to an ultimatum: if I wanted to stay, I could drive my car to work and college, but otherwise I was grounded. My response: "I don’t need you!" – and I left.
Unfortunately, I had nowhere to go and not enough money to care for myself. I spent a few nights in the homes of friends, then I met Bob. Ironically, I knew his brother, George, from church, so I thought he would be safe. Within a week I was moving in to his apartment and settling into a new life. I knew that Bob was 13 years older than me. I knew he had been unhappily married before and he had 3 girls from that marriage. What I didn’t know–he was an alcoholic. That problem didn’t surface for many months as he didn’t drink around me for a long time. He had a good job, a nice car, and he was willing to take care of me. That’s all that mattered then.
College was left behind with my old life, and I soon found that Bob was a searcher like me. For a time we read everything we could about the occult, discussed it and came to the conclusion that we both firmly believed in the supernatural. Everything seemed perfect.
A few months later we were traveling to Florida for a "honeymoon" (we had exchanged vows in our home, with no official decree or license). On the way I met his parents, and Bob’s three daughters who lived with them. That July also brought sun poisoning and morning sickness. Yes, I was 19, pregnant, and just a child myself. Bob wanted to bring two of his three children to Pennsylvania to create a cozy family unit, and I agreed. The girls were sweet, and helped some around the house, but they also added to the growing tension between Bob and me. When our daughter, Dawn, was born he started drinking again.
Over the next two years things got worse and worse. Money was tight, tensions were high, and Bob started hitting me. At first it was occasional, then it escalated to the point that it was unbearable. On one occasion he held a loaded gun to my head and I was so weary I urged him to pull the trigger. When I could no longer endure it, I took Dawn and left. Over and over Bob tried to get me back, and he seemed so sincere I fell for it over and over. Finally, he convinced me that we could get a new start in North Carolina, near his parents’ home. New surroundings and more help sounded good, so I agreed.
That’s what led to the day we packed up everything we owned, headed to a local motel to rest up, and planned an early morning start. Bob needed a few things at a drug store up the road , and he asked me to go with him to pick them up. Seemed harmless to me, so I went. Dawn stayed with her 2 sisters. On the way back to the motel we got in another fight. Bob pulled to the side of the interstate and told me to get out. When I refused, he opened the door and shoved me out. He took off, leaving me at the side of the busy highway. As I watched the car pull away, I realized I had no purse, no glasses and no money – they were all still with Bob.
Fuming to myself, I started walking, fully expecting him to return for me when he thought I had been punished enough. He never did. By the time I got to an exit and a phone I learned that Bob had checked out of the motel. That October day I lost my 2 year old daughter, my home and everything I owned. Without my mother’s help, that would have been the end of my story.
But it wasn’t. She helped me get a lawyer and a custody order, then she drove with me to North Carolina where the local police found Dawn in the home of Bob’s parents. Overjoyed we returned to Pennsylvania. My marriage was over, and the past left behind – or so I thought. By the day before my birthday, three months later, Dawn and I were living peacefully with my mother. I had a good job and she had a wonderful babysitter. That morning we left the apartment as usual, but I was stunned to see Bob on the sidewalk, coming toward us.
In a flash he knocked me down and grabbed Dawn. She screamed and cried as he pushed her into his car and into the waiting arms of her sister. By the time I caught up, the doors were locked. I screamed for help, but Bob just hit me with his car and drove off. The last thing I saw was my daughter reaching for me with tears in her eyes. I wouldn’t see her again for 12 years!
Over the coming months I tried every avenue possible to recover her – nothing worked. Bob would call late at night from some bar and taunt me about losing her. "Do you know where your daughter is?" he would laugh. Finally, I could take no more. I decided to kill him, not with a knife or gun, but with dark magic. I formed a clay doll with a picture of him for a face and some scraps from my former life. I was set to begin when I had to use the bathroom.
As I walked in, I glanced at my face in the mirror and was appalled – this was what I had become as hate consumed me, and I was terrified. Right there, that night, Jesus came back into my life. It wasn’t a big splashy apparition or an audible message from God, rather it was a calm and quiet peace that I couldn’t understand under the circumstances, but that I had longed for. I knew that Jesus had never let me go over all the long years I had been rejecting him.
I can’t say my life immediately got better, but over time my faith grew. I was able to endure the losses of my past without losing my mind, and I was able to move on. In time God gave me a new husband and two beautiful new children. He also gave me Dawn back, though it wasn’t the reunion I had dreamed of. She was 15 at the time, newly freed from her abusive Dad, and a stranger to me. She resented my new life and blamed me for not saving her from her Dad. Our relationship was stormy until her Dad died, years later. Then we became friends – not Mom and daughter friends, but at least friends of a sort. When she married, she set the date for a time I could attend. When her first child was born, she asked if I could spend a week there helping her adjust. When she divorced, she lived with us for a time.
It wasn’t until 2002, when Jim and I moved to Florida, that I was able to spend more time with her and her family. Sadly, she never felt she could confide in me, and she hid her escalating addiction to alcohol until it was too late. During her last months she visited me more, and tried to create good memories for us. Now she is gone from my life, but not my heart.
2 Corinthians 1:4 – He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. (The Message Bible) God certainly used the terrible times in my life as an opportunity for me to help others in similar situations. Over and over I have been able to tell my story and stress how God worked the miracle of my life to where I am today. May you be blessed by hearing about his faithfulness!