Loss & Love
This is a story of friendship, love, betrayal, condemnation, absence, reunion, redemption, acceptance, loss and love again.
Love changes with experience, situations, maturity and knowledge. You can love someone through the desire for them, the joy of who they are, the comfort and sense of security they provide and the contentment that comes with their presence.
Then there is the LOVE that only comes from the appreciation of who they are, because of what they have experienced to get to the point in life where all of their being is opened to you and you accept them into your heart and mind.
To love someone in both these ways is special and I think extraordinary.
The first time I ever saw Vanessa, she rode up on the back of a motorcycle with a guy she had just married. She married him to get out of her adopted mother's house and it was a way to legally do that due to the fact that she was on probation. She laughed and thought it was funny and clever.
We met later through mutual acquaintances, then off and on for a few years before we ever really had a meaningful conversation. She was funny, intelligent, knowledgeable, and kind, but always there was this sense of pain, sadness, and self-loathing. I couldn't understand it so we started to talk. She revealed some disturbing events that must have been traumatic. I knew that some of what she had revealed had different versions depending on who she would relate it to. So what to believe?
I actually witnessed her antagonise and put herself into situations that I would hear later resulted in violence. Somehow, she thought this acceptable because in her own words, "I deserved it". It didn't make any sense to me but I didn't understand what traumas can develop from years of physical and mental abuse and neglect. She hated herself and her life, so surrounded herself with people and things to reassure, or confirm, those feelings of little or no worth.
We were just casual friends at that point but she desperately needed help from someone so I took her to where I stayed. She acted pleased with that and happy when I introduced her to a friend of mine who I thought she might have shared interests with. She did and they later married and had their first child and first known blood relation.
Just before her pregnancy, she had dropped her I.D. at the scene of a crime and so the investigators backtracked to her last known address. This was the place of abuse I had taken her from. When those people were caught with stolen property, who do they blame? Me.
It was Vanessa that initially brought attention to all these people, including myself and it was she they turned to in order to lay blame on the only one that said nothing and blamed no one. The one then that the police accused of masterminding it all, simply because I refused to blame and others were willing.
That trial was charged with negative emotion because it involved churches. The prosecutor, sheriff and a particular investigator had it in their minds to convict no matter what, so they coerced her into making false statements about me. When the trial started, she got up to testify and said right there in front of the jury, judge and everyone, that she had been coerced. The judge was furious as he dismissed the jury, instructed the court reporter to stop recording, and proceeded to threaten me. He said "you think you are getting away with this Mr. Allen? Well, this court will see you again".
A decade later, they carried out that threat when they charged me with a capital murder and changed the venue for the trial back to that same courthouse, same prosecutor, same investigator, same defendant and same witness. I was forbidden to mention that to the jury.
That decade between the two trials truly started to shape our friendship. I had my beautiful daughter, and shortly thereafter Vanessa had her first son. The first direct blood relative as she was adopted and did not know of her origins. We became closer but still only friends. She revealed later that I was in fact her best and only true friend. I didn't realize how lonely she was in her life and marriage and that it was me she wanted to see each day. But life happens and I was taken away.
While I am gone, she apparently started injecting cocaine. She never told me because she knew I would be angry. She would come to see me and I of course noticed a dramatic change in appearance, but believed her when she said she and a girlfriend were exercising. The drug use was worsening and so was the longing for her best friend.
My marriage was never taken seriously by my wife so I filed for divorce. Vanessa left her husband and was apparently committed for mental health and drug abuse issues. I didn't know that at the time. It turns out that as much as she shared with me, she also kept a lot of secrets. Why I was gone was because I was in prison for possession of a firearm. Why I had been kept as long was because the law enforcement involved from the 1994 trial in which Vanessa recanted were still holding a grudge.
Vanessa finally came to me and told me she wanted more and needed her friend back because she was dying from loneliness and drug use. One beautiful thing led to the next and I escaped to help her and be with her. The next year was almost total bliss. She had gotten some "tainted" money and so we traveled and explored new places, things, and each other. It was wonderful, and needed for healing. Vanessa told me it was the second time I saved her.
Unfortunately her demons came to visit and even her love for me couldn't stop them. I told her that I could not and would not stay if she insisted on using a certain drug in a certain way. She did anyway thinking somehow I would accept that and welcome her back. It tore my heart in two when I sent her back but I wouldn't help her kill herself.
We pretty much fell apart after that but still couldn't stand to be apart for long periods of time. The love and need were there but not the trust. We saw each other and got together a few more times until that fateful night in July of 1999.
I saved her again that night when I insisted we not stay. So we left and she went to where two people stated they saw her during the hours, she later testified to, that she was with me. Two other people stated that they saw me at another location during those hours. Vanessa denied her own alibi and testified that I had killed someone.
She was angry, scared, protective of herself and her child, and was again coerced by some of the same people that coerced her in 1994. Except this time she saved herself and sacrificed me. The result was a death sentence for me.
The long suffering agony of loss, and the indignity of knowing that you are innocent and on death row has no comparison. This doesn't mean though that others outside can't suffer too. She did.
20 + years after being charged, and 17 years after being sentenced to death, the girl whom I saved three times comes back to try to save me. My best friend, companion, lover and betrayer
She knew suffering. Since being adopted as a baby she was abused in too many ways to describe here. She told me that except for her children being born, and my being in her life, that life had been one of almost constant misery. Getting so high that it dulled the pain of mental anguish was her only escape. That need, that addiction overrode all sense but her love for her boys didn't diminish. Her love and longing for me didn't go away. It was she that slowly faded. She longed for death..
Vanessa told me that what she had done to me could never be forgiven. She thought I must hate her. What most surprised her was that I didn't. As much as I hated what happened, I knew way back during the trial that she had been scared and then used by the police and prosecutors.
She too was a victim in this.
The horrors she had endured since the trial are equal and in some ways worse than her life before me. She told me how this thing she had done had blackmailed her soul. Putting me here destroyed her. So with no real thought as to a future with me, her intent was to try to right this grievous wrong, attempt to somehow redeem herself in my eyes and show her boys that there was still good inside of her. She cried every day for the first week we talked. Her shame and sense of constantly disappointing others was overwhelming and palpable.
When I got her to laugh again and remember the many ways in which I always showed her that she was worthy and beautiful to me, the transformation was astounding. Her voice changed and she stopped crying so much. It was then that the floodgates opened and as much raw emotion and information suppressed over these 20 years came rushing out that we kept having to pace ourselves lest it overwhelm us.
She had sent a message to my attorneys in Sept of last year asking for help. She only wanted to "make things right". They, unbeknownst to their own client, declined to come speak with her. In Dec I felt there was no other option but to speak directly with her and know for myself her intent. We both had been contacting everyone we could think to assist her but no one "could''.
For a week she had tried to contact my attorneys again, this time to speak and offer an affidavit, and neither responded at all. One week ago today, after a desperate five month call for help to save the friend she had wrongfully accused and sent to death row, she succumbed to her addiction.
Vanessa died on Feb 7th 2021 trying to seek justice from a system that failed us all. She was brave. She was courageous. In the end, she was as beautiful as anyone could be. What she was attempting to do was extraordinary. How she and I were able to heal was unbelievable.
This intent and desperate and amazing thing she tried to do with life should not go unnoticed. It should not be for nothing. It meant everything to me.