Not too long ago, I was talking to a group of people when we got on the subject of “losing someone we loved”. Of course, I had to bring up “losing a loved one to homicide”. One man said, “Sometimes, bad things just happen.” I could not help myself; I had to say, “Murder does not just happen. People deliberately take the life of someone. Murder is not an accident or an act of fate. It is an act of hate.”
I have to say though that the best explanation of murder I know of is the following from Carrie M. Freitag in her book, “Aftermath in the Wake of Murder”:
“Although the struggle with grief is part of every death, murder is darker than death, and so is the road to surviving and healing in the aftermath. Murder devours innocent lives with a cruelty that is absent of reason, absent of values, and absent of compassion. Murder breaks all the sacred rules, knows no fairness, and can never be undone, or compensated. It provokes fear and rage, and tempts us to battle it on its terms instead of ours. Murder drives even the most loving and compassionate people to the edge of that fine line that separates our respect for life from our violent potentials. The aftermath of murder takes us straight through hell where we stand eye-to-eye with the evil that hides behind human faces, and what we do in the face of that evil defines what lies behind our own face. The aftermath of murder is nothing less than a full-blown emotional struggle.”
This paragraph is so powerful that we are proud to have it engraved on the back of our “Parents Of Murdered Children Memorial Wall” in Oregon City, Oregon. We hope it will help educate all of us on what we go through and what others go through when a loved one is murdered. Most important, we never want to take away the grief that others suffer when a loved one dies. The horrid fact though about homicide is that murder cannot be resolved. Also, our grief is postponed because of going through the justice system and for those who never get their cases solved. There are families whose loved ones’ bodies are never found. And even if there is a trial, murderers can get off without any sentence or with one that is not even close to being just. None of us ever get to say “good-by”. We also do not get to be with them in their last days or hours on earth. Having done hospice work for many years, I know that this is important in going through the grief process. None of us ever get to say “good-by” or “I love you” when someone is murdered.
Being able to talk to other co-victims is most important for all co-victims of homicide. Otherwise we have no way to know what is normal or not. We have people telling us that we should be over this by now. But, these people are not even co-victims of homicide themselves. We hear some people say that this is part of “God’s plan”. Some of us not only lose a loved one, but now our faith. We are told by others that we must forgive the murderer. Most murderers are not even sorry. Most of them are just sorry that they were caught. If the people telling us to forgive believed in a loving God, why wouldn’t they say that we should put it in God’s hand? Why is it that we are being judged?
After the June monthly meeting, some members remained to talk further with one another. Though their cases were different, most of them struggled with the same problems. Several were waiting for hearings or trials. Others were waiting for information so they would know what they could expect. Most of them were reliving the murder of their loved ones over and over again. They all regretted what they could have or should have done. Though they could not have done anything to prevent the homicide, they still blamed themselves. Talking with one another and knowing that we had many of the same feelings helped. Again, they knew others understood and shared the same pain.
Being a co-victim of homicide is a long and unbelievably grief-stricken road. It is often hard to want to go on. Yet, by going on, we can be a witness to the horror of homicide. Murder cannot be tolerated. We can be the voice for our murdered loved ones. Please know that we are here for all of you.
All my love, Mary Elledge
We at POMC are proud to give you the name of a member who has volunteered her time to e-mail or talk on the phone with POMC members who need extra time. She is a great listener. Her name is Lori Walswick. Lori’s son, Erick, was murdered over two years ago. She is home a lot and wants to spend time helping other co-victims. Lori has had the experience of going through the justice system recently and has a great deal of knowledge to be able to help others who are reaching that point. She also was very close to her son and understands loss. Being able to tell your story is the best help you can get. Lori is also trustworthy and would keep your information confidential. I highly recommend that you give her a call or send her an e-mail. We are so lucky that she has offered to help. You can reach Lori at 360-241-6234 or e-mail: email@example.com.
The 2014 National Conference for Parents Of Murdered Children will be held on August 14-17 In Rochester, Minnesota at the Kahler Grand Hotel. The theme is “Rebuilding Shattered Lives, Renewing Hope for Tomorrow”. The cost of the conference is $240.00 and more information will be on the website soon (www.pomc.com). It is a wonderful opportunity to meet POMC members across the United States and Canada.
Numerous workshops will be offered along with a special panel to address situations and problems that result in dealing with the criminal justice system. A memorial is also planned for Friday evening. We hope many of our members will attend. It will be a great learning experience.
(The Portland POMC Chapter is proud to share the letter Melissa Davis sent to us that she read at the sentencing of the man, Jeff Johnson, who murdered her son. We are honored to share it. We send our love and sympathy to Tim and Melissa Davis and Ryan’s brothers, Austin and Calvin for their loss.)
Honorable Judge, I would first like to start out by thanking you for this opportunity to speak.
On January 26th, 2012, at approximately 3:18 our lives were forever changed. I received the worst phone call of my life while I was at work. When I answered, all I could hear was screaming and sirens. I immediately started shaking. My call was disconnected. I called my husband back and he was hysterical when he answered. He was screaming and crying, “Ryan, Austin—shot in head! Dead! Thriftway! “Get here! Get here!”
I was so lost and confused! I was shaking uncontrollably! I drove to Thriftway! Police, police tape and people were everywhere. I couldn’t understand what had happened. When I got out of my car, I began looking for Tim. The first deputy I saw was a friend of mine and I said to him I know who did this. It was Jeff and Megan Johnson!! (They are not related to Ryan Johnson.)
I saw Tim and I ran to him—all of this time thinking Ryan and Austin were both dead. We were hugging and crying. Nothing made since! Our world was flipped upside down and spinning so fast. Then someone hugged me from behind. It was Austin! That was the first I knew that Austin was alive. I grabbed him and he told me that Jeff ran up behind Ryan and shot him several times. He told me Jeff was looking into his eyes and smiled at him when he was executing Ryan.
Tim and I were saying that we needed to get Calvin. Suddenly, I heard the worst blood curdling scream. I felt it through my veins! I will never forget it. It was Calvin screaming, “NOOOO, NOOOO! We never had a chance to protect him.” By this time, it was too late! All of our lives were “Forever Changed!!!”
The last two years have been so very tough to deal with. Every aspect of our lives has been changed. The normal we always knew was destroyed. I put all my focus on how to save my family. For two years, I forgot how to take care of myself. Sleeping, eating, working, and day to day things that were so easy to do before became so complicated. I would look in the mirror and see how old I suddenly looked. The couch or our bed became “our new best friends”. Depression made me unable to think or feel like I could not even function. Work was so overwhelming! I was unable to relate to normal people anymore! There were so many times that I forced myself to go on. I lived in constant worry! My sons would say that they were going to the store, and I would lose my mind. I would be in fear that every time they left they were going to die!
I have racked my brain so many times! Jeff Johnson did not have to do this! He never came to us as grandparents and say let’s sit down and come up with a plan to help Megan and Ryan work through these issues. He never did that! Instead, he executed Ryan!
Jeff said we were dangerous people! He was afraid we were going to do drive by shootings on his house! We terrorized his family! I can’t think of one time that we did any of these things. Not one single threat! His family have said on media sites that Ryan was a sociopath, a master manipulator, and narcissistic. He also said that Ryan was the nightmare in his own son’s dreams. How awful, sick and cruel can a family be? They are evil!
Jeff murdered Ryan because he wanted to free his daughter of years of child custody. All Ryan wanted to do was to play with his little boy. He wanted to hug him and hold the child he helped create. Instead, they made everything so hard for Ryan. Ryan did everything that Megan’s family wanted him to do.
Ryan loved his little boy more than anything. He wanted to be in his life. What Jeff didn’t think about was that Ryan’s blood also runs through Rylan’s veins. Rylan will feel his daddy. He will look like his daddy. He will do the same quirky things his daddy did. But, Jeff took all of this away from Rylan. Someday Megan and her family will have to explain why her farther murdered his father. Rylan will seek us out someday. We will be here waiting—with our arms open wide. My husband will tell Rylan all about his daddy and how fun he was. He will also tell him how much his daddy loved him.
During trial, Jeff was called a loving doting father. If that was true, where were his kids? Why weren’t they here defending him, supporting him, or supporting his decision? Where was Megan, his daughter? In reality, Jeff is a mean, cruel, evil man. A COWARD!
Jeff thought he solved the problem. But in reality, he opened up a can of hell for his entire family. He is a murderer and will always be a murderer. He lost the title Jeff Johnson when he decided to execute Ryan. His family has to forever live with that!
I am so happy this trial will finally be behind us. The anxiety of not knowing, of not understanding, terrified that it could go bad, and the exhaustion were unbearable. The lies that were told were almost laughable. Ryan out smarted you! He is not gone. He is here with all of us. Ryan won, Jeff! Ryan won!!
This is another door we can close so we can more to the next phase of our lives. We are going to live! Ryan loved life and he also wanted to live. Ryan is inside all of us. He will help guide us through the rest of our lives. He is the light that will always be shining brightly.
When we finally received the guilty verdict, it was the biggest relief. I really believe Jeff is not sorry for what he has done. He has shown no remorse. I don’t have to sit here and scream, yell or cuss at him, or tell my wishes for him. He is going to the one place he deserves. The one place where all evil lies and that is HELL! When you wake up, when you go to sleep, you will be in that special place you earned all by yourself. You are selfish and a coward. You will always be the monster that took a young father’s life.
I will never forgive you, but I will also not allow you to take my life. I will live and Ryan will be living through me.
Ryan wanted to be a fireman. Well, he is now! He also wanted to be with his son. Well, he is now! Ryan loved his family and he will forever be with all of us. Ryan will “forever live”! We will do the things Ryan loved to do and we will honor him for the rest of our lives. We will always remember Ryan! His smile, his laugh, his love, and his silliness can never be taken from us. Jeff couldn’t take that away from us. Yes, Ryan will live on!
Thank you, Roger, Chris, Johanna, Gary and everyone else that worked so hard on this case. We truly love you all. We are all bonded together for the rest of our lives. And a special thanks to the jury for seeing the truth. God bless you all! Thank you!
(The Greater Portland Chapter is grateful to Brooke Johnson for helping us to help build our new wall. Her dedication, compassion, and hard work are examples of her understanding and love for her cousin.)
THIS LETTER WAS SENT TO US BY GAYLE RIDDERBUSH, AUNT OF BROOKE JOHNSON
My niece, Brooke Ann Johnson, a junior at Tillamook High School, ( THS) did her senior project on the POMC Wall in Oregon City. For a Senior Project, the student must pick up some sort of community service project that has to affect the community. For her project, she had to donate 30 hours of service, reach her goals, has to give a 15 minute speech in front of peers and adults. She had to have 3 visuals to present during her speech.
Brook put out her donation cans, collected pop cans, and sold the pins that Janet Martin had started a little over two years ago when the project was just beginning. (Janet Martin is a POMC mother who donated thousands of dollars, along with her husband Richard, as a Masons Project in memory of their daughter for the Memorial Wall.)
When Brook presented her project, she had two posters and her donation cans and a graphic slide show. Her goal was to reach $1000.00 by the end of the school of 2014. At the time of her presentation, she had reached the goal of $800.00.
All of this, she did while being a full time high school student, THS Dance Team and THS Soft Ball Team and dance classes. The project started in January of this year. The reason Brook chose the POMC Wall as a project was that her cousin, Dion Michelle Wilks, was murdered in 2003 when Brook was six years old. She loved her cousin and wants to be like her in many ways.
Here is the $1100.00 for her efforts. We are very proud of Brooke Ann Johnson.
Sincerely, Gayle Ridderbush, mother of Dion Michelle Wilks
Pat Kipper will be continuing her column on “Unsolved Crimes” soon. She is now caring for
a friend who is ill. We wish them both the best and know that Pat is delivering the best care
possible. You are a special friend, Pat, and we are lucky to have you helping us as well.
The murder of a loved one is the most horrific thing a person can experience. The only thing that can make it worse is a substandard initial investigation or not seeing justice in your case. Timely collection of evidence followed by an arrest and conviction would provide a degree of comfort, but what happens to co-victims when a thorough investigation is not done, and there is no arrest? Many of the victims' friends and acquaintances will gradually let go of their grief over time, but the closest of friends and family will remain in a state of sorrow, haunted by the injustice of investigators that may not have conformed to rules or standard operating procedures during their initial investigation. Not only is there no relief, but the agony of the event changes their lives forever, and becomes part of their very being. Co-victims' everyday battle becomes their effort to get a thorough investigation.
Helplessness is a gut-wrenching emotion which plagues co-victims who are not allowed to assist with the investigation and are longing for justice. We don't want to let our loved one down; we are compelled to fight for justice no matter how long it takes. As the process drags on, frustration grows. Many times, due to confidentiality, important conversations between co-victims and law enforcement are avoided, and this lack of communication can cause co-victims to feel neglected and disrespected, which often manifests itself in frustration, anger, and a loss of confidence in the investigators. Regular contact and truthfulness are two of the most important things survivors need from law enforcement. We need investigators to focus on routine communication of as much information as possible with sensitivity and without being misleading. Survivors’ perception that information is not being shared with them can result in them feeling they have been secondarily victimized. As the years pass, co-victims start wondering if their unsolved homicide could be reviewed by a fresh set of eyes, and they often look into getting their case to a cold case unit, only to find out that some jurisdictions don't even have a cold case unit. If there is a cold case unit in their jurisdiction, cases are evaluated and chosen according to a set of criteria. Co-victims whose cases seem to be continuously passed over for review become dismayed and even angry toward law enforcement. Anger can mobilize psychological resources for corrective action, but uncontrolled anger can negatively affect personal or social well-being.
Co-victims who put forth the effort to examine and understand the cold case process and various factors which must be dealt with during cold case investigations are able to put the process into perspective. They must understand that cold cases are among the most difficult and frustrating cases for both co-victims and law enforcement, and not every case is chosen to be investigated. It helps to review the following criteria checklist used by the National Sheriff’s Association, Justice Solutions and POMC:
Complete an application for cold case review. This application includes detailed information regarding agency reports, victimology, suspects/persons of interest, timeline, coroner, lab reports, investigation documents, weapon descriptions and media releases.
Co-victims should also be aware that closing rates can be more successful if investigators work only one or two cases at a time. At this point, if we find out that our case doesn’t qualify for review by a cold case unit, our only hope is that a thorough re-investigation will be done by homicide investigators.
If you have comments or questions about this article, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call Pat Kuiper at 702-809-8654 to get your loved ones' name listed in our newsletter. Feel free to contact Pat if you would like to share your story.
Lucy Eilertson (1998)
Diana Moffitt (1987)
Donald James Brown (2007)
Kimberly Larson Reames (1983)
William (Bill) Mark Stratton (2005)
JULLIE W. AND ALOWA N.
THE GREATER PORTLAND CHAPTER IS NOW FUNDING FOR THE NEW WALL FOR OUR MEMORIAL GARDEN. WE APPRECIATE ANY AMOUNT OF HELP ANYONE CAN DO. AFTER THE NEXT NAMES ARE ADDED, WE WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE NEW WALL IS COMPLETED TO ADD NEW NAMES. THE NEW WALL SHOULD GIVE US MANY YEARS TO ADD ADDITIONAL NAMES. THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SUPPORT. WE APPRECIATE ANY HELP WE RECEIVE. DONATIONS CAN BE SENT TO THE FOLLOWING ADDRESS: POMC, 14427 S. FORSYTHE RD. OREGON CITY, OR 97045.
The Greater Portland Chapter is so proud of our member, Amanda Harris, for launching her official site for siblings. Amanda is offering the Website: www.unitingsiblings.com so that sibling co-victims of homicide have a place to go where they will be understood and supported. This site will include video, chat, and telephone conference via a secure and private interface. Amanda is paying for the expenses and will be delighted to be another support for sibling co-victims. Amanda can also be reached at: Amanda@unitingsiblings.com or 623-866-3189.
Amanda Harris is now ready to start her web site for siblings. The Portland Chapter is excited about the support and understanding this new group will be for the many often overlooked survivors.
We are continuing to accept donations for our Memorial Garden and are very close to reaching our goal. Thank you to all that have already donated and to those that have not, please consider making your donation today. Please send your tax deductible donations to:
Parents Of Murdered Children
14427 S. Forsythe Rd.
Oregon City, OR 97045
If you have questions, please contact Mary Elledge at (503) 656-8039.
Please find, enclosed, $10.00 for my annual subscription (three issues) for the Survivors Newsletter.
(Please consider adding an extra subscription fee to help defray the cost for someone who cannot afford it.)
CITY, STATE, ZIP____________________________________________________________________
MAIL TO: POMC, INC. ENCLOSED IS MY: CHECK _________________
100 E. EIGHTH STREET, B-41 MONEY ORDER__________
CINCINATTI, OH 54202
Download form here
PRINTED NAME OF LOVED ONE _________________________________________________________ (This spelling will be used)
MEMBER/FRIEND’S NAME AND ADDRESS _________________________________________________
MEMBER OR FRIEND’S PHONE NUMBER __________________________________________________
(Required to verify order)
SIGNATURE FOR PERMISSION TO ________________________________________________________
ENGRAVE NAME AND SPELLING APPROVAL
Please submit one form for each loved one. Please make efforts to confer with other family members/friends to ensure multiple requests are not received for the same loved one. When completed, please mail to:
POMC, 14427 S. Forsythe Rd., Oregon City, OR 97045. The names will then be submitted for engraving on the Memorial Wall at the Mountain View Cemetery and Park. If you have questions, please call 503-656-8039.
Download form here
Please Complete and Return to Memorial Garden,
POMC 14427 S. Forsythe Rd Oregon City, OR 97045
100% of Contributions are Tax Deductible
Name:____________________________________________ phone: __________________________
Gift in Memory of: __________________________________________________________
Anonymous gift (will not be recognized at the Memorial Garden or in published materials)
Method of Payment:
Credit Card #_________________________________________Exp Date:___________
Name on Card _________________________________________________________________
Pledged Payment (to be completed by December 31, 2014)
Please add notes on payment timing _________________________________________
Thank you for helping to create the Oregon-Washington Public Memorial Garden. Your generosity will never be forgotten.
Download form here
Turning pictures and home movies into a unique video you will treasure for a lifetime.
Tina Tanner 541-510-3075
Tana Tanner 541-935-2023
PO Box 343, Elmira, OR 97437
(Tana Tanner is a member of POMC. Prices are very reasonable for POMC members.)
We would like to get to know your loved one and gain and understanding of their lives, achievements, accomplishments, goals, and personalities. We’d like to celebrate the LIFE of our loved ones rather than remain in the pain of their death. If you would like to share a unique story about your loved one, please submit a short (1 page) letter telling us about them. Some possible ideas to include are:
Their favorite food, movie, book, and why
Their most successful accomplishment
A funny childhood story/experience
Their most exciting vacation
A unique talent
Their most prized possession
Their favorite school subject or teacher
Their educational/professional goals
A personal goal they planned to fulfill
An obstacle they overcame
A school play they may have performed in
Their favorite season/holiday
Please include your contact information as well as their full name and birth date. Thank you.
Please also include a picture of your loved one, if possible. Please keep in mind that we cannot guarantee that your photograph will be returned to you.
Please mail submissions to:
Portland Area Chapter
Parents Of Murdered Children
And Other Survivors Of Homicide Victims
14427 S. Forsythe Road
Oregon City, OR 97045
Tacoma Violent Crime Victim Services Welcomes Homicide Survivors
Peer Support Group Meeting
If someone you love has been the victim of a homicide, we invite you to attend our monthly support group meeting. You will find acceptance, compassion and support.
Place: United Way Building
3rd FLOOR CONFERENCE ROOM
Date: 3rd Wednesday of Each Month!
Time: 7:30PM – 10:00PM
The United Way Building is located in Tacoma, at 1501 Pacific Avenue. This is the same building that the VCVS office is located in. It is next to Union Station on the north side. As you pass Union Station you will see the United Way Building. Parking is on the south side of the building. Please park your vehicle in an open space and enter the building’s front entrance and take the elevator to the third floor. The conference room is Suite 312. Please call Lew Cox for more information (253) 383-5254.
POMC'S Court Watch Program is designed to help families maneuver through the court system. Two of the most important aspects of Court Watch are the prevention of any re-victimization to family members, and the minimizing of the emotional pain of going through hearings and trials.
If you would like support from POMC during hearings and trials or want to offer assistance, call Pat Elmore at 503-312-5681 or Allen Tremain at 503-522- 0577.
Each month a number of newsletters are returned due to delivery problems. In addition to the initial postage, return postage is charged by the Postal Service. To minimize this expense, please write to the return address of the newsletter or contact Erin at Hondaerin2@aol.com if your address changes or you no longer wish to receive this publication.