Writing The Wheels of Justice brought back all kinds of memories and emotions. Some of those emotions were old and some were new. Things I thought I knew, I didn’t. Things I didn’t think I knew, I did. The passage of time, while seemingly unfortunate, brought with it maturity and another 25 years of life experience to a healing process I thought had already taken place.
I cried tears I didn’t even know were still possible to cry.
I laughed remembering certain things growing up with Sheryl.
I gave her a high-five when I discovered a secret she was keeping.
While I thought I had let go of all of my anger, I guess I hadn’t because moments of rage still occasionally took over. But most of all there was a sadness. A deep sadness from the recognition of the weight I had carried all these years that I didn’t even realize until the conviction when it suddenly lifted. And then, for the first time in my adult life, I felt an internal happiness I had never before experienced.
Brian, my ghostwriter, and I started with weekly hour-long interviews or he might say weekly hour-long sessions listening to me talk after he asked a single question. It wasn’t hard for me to talk. I had lived the story all these years. What was hard for me, though, after all these years was to get the dates right and all the events in the right order. Because this happened over such a long period of time and it was important to me that Brian understood the dates and the sequence of events. So, I put together a timeline.
At first, it was pretty bare-bones and high level but as time went on and I dug into my files and did research to fill in the details of the story for the book, I filled out the outline with the relevant details. The outline became an invaluable tool for the book and continues to be a document that I’ll always cherish as a summary of such a significant part of my life and the lives of my family.
I had boxes of documents and my notes from the day Sheryl was found dead until the present day. I also had the entire file of Sheryl’s divorce through the custody battle and the civil wrongful death suit brought by my parents. Because my family was pursuing the civil death suit against Greg, we were working hand in hand with the State’s Attorney as he was hoping we might be able to come up with something that would help the criminal case.
I literally went through each piece of paper in each of the files one by one. Many of the documents I was very familiar with. Some I had totally forgotten, like the conversation we had with a psychic. Since I didn’t even remember the conversation, I think it is fair to say it must not have been impactful to me back then. But now when I read my notes from the conversation, it was eerie how truly predictive she had been.
As I went through the files we had obtained from the State’s Attorney’s office perhaps the most remarkable discovery for me was the number of different experts who had been consulted who all had the same exact opinion- she had been murdered. In fact, the only opinion in the entire file that suggested otherwise was Grant Johnson, the original medical examiner.
As I read report after report I couldn’t help but wonder why Greg had not been charged. That’s when the anger would sweep in – I carried around an unbelievable weight and denied myself internal happiness because of the guilt I carried for not keeping her from being killed.
My redemption for myself was to catch her killer, Greg, and put him in jail for what he did to her, which I knew without a doubt. In fact, I now know I wasn’t the only one who thought that. In fact, the opinion had been rendered many times by many different experts. I was mad too because at times I doubted myself – had Sheryl just got fed up and committed suicide? I knew that wasn’t the case, but gosh darn it, if Greg wasn’t being arrested maybe there was serious doubt. There wasn’t then or ever.
The other significant revelation I had after reading all the custody matters in painstaking detail is the effort we put into the fight for my parents to have custody of Sheryl’s boys and the fact we succeeded. I’m really not so certain, but for the grace of god, that we should have won. I shudder to think what kind of life Sheryl’s boys would have had if they had been raised by Greg. Would they all have college educations, successful jobs, wives, and children? No way. My parents weren’t perfect, no parents are, but they raised 7 successful children that are all gainfully employed, kind, loving souls who appreciate the value of family. That has to be some kind of divine intervention.
The high five moment came when I was looking through a file of notes collected from Sheryl’s house. She obviously had a lot going on and was trying to keep it all organized. She wrote herself note after note of things to do. I could tell by her list of “to dos” that one of the notes was written after the first time Greg tried to kill her and after the hearing on custody in which she was granted sole parental responsibility and he was given supervised visitation. To me, this was the turning point for her in her divorce case. Her main concern was custody of the boys and now there was no question she would be awarded custody of them.
The note that really caught my attention said, “confess I had been sleeping with “X”. She listed a name, I have not, to protect his identity. I literally squealed in delight and gave her an imaginary high five. Greg had accused her of having an affair, along with so many other things. I honestly never thought that there was any way she had an affair. Geez, when would she have had time? She was married to an abusive maniac, she worked and she was raising three small boys. I wasn’t embarrassed. I wasn’t ashamed. I found peace in hoping that perhaps she had experienced a sexual relationship that wasn’t against her will or just flat out a rape as she described in her journal so many times.
I knew of the gentleman. In fact, I had called him not long after her murder, hoping he could tell me something that would be helpful or comforting; but he didn’t By the time we got to trial and DNA evidence was collected from so many people, this man buckled under pressure and admitted one sexual encounter to the State’s Attorney. I had always imagined that perhaps he was consoling her and one thing led to another. I felt a strange peace within me knowing that someone else was truly being nice to her, consoling her and perhaps providing her with slivers of happiness.
I’ll always be grateful to this person for the comfort and happiness I believe he provided my sister. Perhaps someday, now that it’s all over, he would talk to me. I still long to fill in pieces I don’t know. And with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I long to have a connection with someone who had the last closest connection to my sister.
Unfortunately, between the time I finished writing this blog to publishing it, I learned of this person’s death. He was only 63. I cried – tears of sadness for myself that I didn’t get to talk to him and tears of happiness for Sheryl that she was being reunited with her friend. A friend who had obviously comforted her in great times of need. All I can say is that it must have been more important for this person to comfort Sheryl than me at this time. I’m ok with that.