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Chapter 14: Call Paul
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the way back to the parsonage from Patricia's house, Jim suddenly slammed the
heel of his hand down on the steering wheel. "What'd you forget now?"
Debra asked with a quizzical smile.
wasn't close to smiling. "I've forgotten all about Tessa and the Stetsons.
That's what! I got so involved with Patricia and Dave and getting Dave a good
lawyer that I've completely ignored the victim and the family. Dave certainly
didn't do it but somebody did, and that little girl may be hurting bad. I'm going
to call right now," and he opened their cell phone which was jacked into
the cigarette lighter.
rather late, don't you think?" The Eagle Summit's dash clock showed ten minutes
it won't get any earlier," said Jim in a funk of self-denunciation. "Do
you know their number?" Debra had an uncanny ability to remember phone numbers
of persons she called on even an infrequent basis. She rattled off seven digits
and Jim keyed them into the phone and pressed SEND.
remembered reading something years ago about the phone company suggesting that
you should never hang up until the called number had rung at least ten times.
Roy Stetson answered in the midst of the tenth ring with a terse "Hello."
Pastor Jim here. I know it's very late but I wanted to call and see how things
are going with Tessa."
on the line. Jim wondered if he had been accidentally disconnected but the silence
wasn't total. He thought he could detect the sounds of movement and even low voices
in the background.
Hogan, this is Mrs. Stetson," said Carla in a voice stripped of all inflection.
we're so worried about Tessa and so sorry to hear about what happened. Is there
anything Debra and I can do?"
there is something you can do. Leave us alone, that's what! Not that you haven't
been doing a pretty good job of that already," continued Carla with tears
and anger mingled in her voice. "This thing happened at four this afternoon
and you're just now getting around to calling?"
I am so sorry I haven't been available for your family in this terrible time for
you. Things have been so hectic since we found out what happened less than an
Oh, I know how hectic!" Carla screeched in uncontrolled anger. "We saw
your car parked at the Court house just a little while ago when we were driving
home from the hospital. Before that, you were probably down at the prison, kissing
up to the kinky-headed freak who did this awful thing!"
I know you're upset--"
'Upset' doesn't begin to express how I feel right now. My baby was raped in her
own bed by this-- this kink-head, this weirdo of an adult, and then he left her
to bleed to death. If Roy hadn't found her in time, we'd be talking about the
electric chair for your kinko. And she was all torn up down there, inside too.
The ambulance had to rush her to Harrisburg Hospital and give her blood on the
way. And then it took sixty-five stitches to put her back together again. Can
you imagine that! Sixty-five stitches. Probably never be normal down there!
where is my pastor who's supposed to lead my family through the valley of the
shadow of death while all this is going on? Playing kissy-face with the creep
who did it to her in the first place, that's where!"
may Debra and I come over? We'd like to pray with you, pray for Tessa, too, that
God will heal her of her injuries. I know it's very late but I feel we can be
more helpful face to face rather than over the phone."
if you want to but you'll spend the night on the stoop," Carla responded
in something close to a snarl. "I hope to never see your face again, or your
goody-goody wife, as long as I live. And that goes double for that snooty church
of yours and everybody in it. And that goes triple for your God, a God who would
stand by and let a sex maniac tie my baby's wrists and ankles to the bed posts
with bare copper wire, and then let this full-grown adult tear her poor, little
body all up like he did."
can understand your not wanting us to come over tonight. But I would like to pray
with you over the phone. Let's ask God together to heal Tessa's body and mind,
and to soothe your minds during this terrible time. Do you mind if I do that?"
accepted Carla's silence as permission and started to pray. A dial tone interrupted
him before the end of the first sentence.
in the Eagle, Jim folded his arms on the steering wheel and bowed his head to
weep quietly. Debra prayed in her spirit as Jim's tears flowed for Tessa, and
for Dave, and for Patricia, and for Roy and Carla. So many hurting people, physically
as well as spiritually and psychologically.
he lifted his head and Debra handed him several clean tissues. "I know two
things for certain in this whole mess. First, Dave is innocent and second, this
is all the direct and carefully focused work of Satan and his demons," the
sorrowful pastor said. "Things have just been going along too smoothly. The
church is growing with new people accepting Jesus as their Savior every Sunday.
The people seem to have accepted their new parsonage family. Jessi and her Ivory
Club seem to be doing great in school. Satan can't stand such progress in God's
work. He has to figure out how to throw a monkey wrench in the works. Carla is
very bitter towards everyone connected with what happened to Tessa, and my guess
is others will be feeling the same way, more or less. She's especially angry at
me for having spent time with Patricia-- and she thinks Dave, too-- before I called
you tell her you didn't know a thing about any of this until Patricia called you?"
Jim shook his head like a wounded bear, saying nothing.
I'm going to run you home and then I'm going up to Harrisburg Hospital."
you think you're overcompensating? I know you have guilt feelings about not having
called the Stetsons sooner or gone to the hospital. But you can't change anything
by racing up there at this hour."
right when you say I can't change anything. But God can. I'm going to get
as close to that little torn body as I can get and then I'm going to pray like
I've never prayed before. Since Satan caused this mess, it's going to take the
power of the Holy Spirit to clean it up."
started to remind her husband that God could hear prayers originating from the
parsonage as well as the hospital, but she changed her mind and asked instead,
"What about Paul? Want me to call him?"
you? That would be a big load off my mind and you know him as well as I do anyway."
entered the hospital at a trot and flashed his clergyman's ID to the receptionist.
Then he went straight up to pediatrics and showed his ID again, this time at the
nurse's station. A large black woman with an LPN badge was apparently in charge.
like to pray for Tessa Stetson," he said breathlessly. "Can you tell
me where she is and how she's doing?"
right next door. She's on our critical list but her vital signs are within normal
limits. She's heavily sedated but I'd like you to be very quiet for the sake of
the other children. Isn't this an unusual time for a pastoral call?" Then
she answered her own question by softly singing "He never sleeps, He never
slumbers. . ."
door, Tessa was the sole occupant of a semi-private room. A blue night light bathed
the bed in a near-eerie glow. Tessa looked so tiny in the full-sized bed with
its sides up. At first Jim thought she was in traction but then he realized that
her legs were elevated with bolsters and somewhat spread. Probably because of
all the repair work which had been done. He also saw she was restrained at the
waist and the wrists. In IV bottle was dripping into her left wrist and there
was another tube from her lower abdomen which terminated in a catheter bag hanging
on the side of her bed.
know we're not supposed to ask You why but I have to ask You anyway. Why? Why?
Why? Why did this sweet little girl who loved nothing more in all the world than
to play horsey with her Unca Dave have to be subjected to this hideous abuse?
a murky thought entered his mind. Could Dave be guilty after all? Had his attraction
for this cute little girl really been sexual instead of fatherly? Could he have
raped her in a demonic surge of lust?
then the Holy Spirit broke through with a renewed conviction that Dave was completely
innocent. No matter what the evidence said, and even if a jury found him guilty
as charged, Dave was innocent. The condition of poor little Tessa was the direct
work of Satan and his demons, even if the complete truth in the matter was never
known in this life.
Rev. Hogan?" asked the nurse from the doorway.
looked up and nodded.
got a call from the mother to check on the little girl. She got very upset when
I told her a preacher was visiting. Said that if your name was Hogan, you was
to get away from her baby and stay away."
sighed and turned from the bed to leave the room, deeply grieved at what this
tragedy was doing to Carla. He walked down the hall to a waiting room and dropped
on his knees at a plastic-upholstered chair.
a solid hour, Jim stayed on his knees in the darkened waiting room. Praying for
Tessa. Father, heal her mind as well as her body. Praying for Carla and
Roy. Help them to yield to You in this time of trouble instead of being hard
and rebellious. Praying for Dave and for Patricia. Oh God, encourage them
both right now! Praying for Debra and her call to Paul Donaldson. God,
I know he's busy but we need him here and now. Please make a way.
Jim rose, wiped his face with his handkerchief, and wiped up the sizable wet spot
his tears had made on the cushion. Wearily he went down to his car and drove home.
Donaldson was sitting in his home office reading a brief when the phone rang.
Without glancing at his watch, he picked up the receiver. Lawyers in his kind
of work were accustomed to their home phones ringing at all hours of the day and
part way into the night.
called Paul," he drawled in an unvarnished North Carolina accent.
you old hillbilly how're you doing? This is Debbie Hogan calling."
so well as I was before the phone rang," chuckled the lawyer. "Yourself?"
and the family are fine, but a man in our church has been arrested and is being
charged with sexually assaulting a minor. We need your help. Got any time?"
chance he's guilty?"
whatsoever. His wife directs our day care program and he serves part time as her
care program? Y'all still at Ashtabula?"
we took a church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Started there March eighteenth."
the kids feel about moving to Pennsylvania?" pronouncing it "keeds".
fine. I hate to press but do you think you can squeeze another case into your
I'm not doing too much with criminal cases these days. Mostly First Amendment
stuff, you know. This boy a born-again Christian is he?"
Solid as a rock. Just loves kids, and they love him, too."
old's the victim?"
hesitated, hating to answer this question. "Going on three."
grunted. "Penetration part of the charge?"
believe so. His wife just talked to him a minute or two after he was taken to
the prison so we don't know all the allegations yet. We won't be able to see him
until the morning."
was silence on the line for a while and Debra knew from experience what was going
on. Paul was weighing the pros and cons of taking a case like this, and was taking
his time doing it. "How far are you folks from Philly?"
over an hour and a half."
to be honest with you, Debbie. Judges and juries have been mighty hard on defendants
in cases like this lately, especially when the DA's pumped up with physical evidence
of some kind. No chance of demonic involvement on the part of the suspect, is
hesitated for just a millisecond. "I'm sure there's no chance of that."
there was, Jim would be the best guy to spot it. How about harassment by some
special-interest group because of his religion?"
doubtful, too. The child's mother is a member of the church and the father comes
quite a bit, too."
you what, Debbie, your friend has two things going for him. One, case I've been
working on here in DC just got a change of venue with a continuance of forty-five
days. And two, boy I went to law school with is working out of Valley Forge and
got himself tangled up with the Philly school board in a separation case. Been
bugging me to come up and work with him some on it. Will I be getting some of
your great cooking?"
be staying at the parsonage any time you're in town, so you'll be getting as much
as you can hold." Debra said emphatically.
do it," Paul said with finality. "Forty-five days ought to give us a
good start. On days when your trial is in recess, I'll just zip down the turnpike
and bang some heads in Philly. Tell me where and when."
morning at nine o'clock, Cumberland County Court House in Carlisle." Debra
gave him directions to the court house.
brilliant October sun was brighter than the Hogans' spirits when they stopped
to pick up Patricia for the trip to the prison in Carlisle. The events of the
preceding evening seemed unreal and far away. Jim remembered from a pastoral counseling
seminar that the human organism is equipped with an emotional circuit breaker.
When physical or mental trauma becomes too great, that circuit breaker provides
a sense of numb calmness until the mind and body have had a chance to regroup.
Jim felt that the circuit breaker had been tripped for all three of them.
the thirty-minute drive to Carlisle, each took a turn at praying for Dave and
for the legal aspects of what this day would hold. They pulled into a parking
space at eight-forty-five and a spotless 1972 Matador station wagon pulled up
right beside them.
Paul, johnny on the spot!" said Jim. Everyone got out of the cars and there
was a round of hand-shaking and introductions.
was impressed with Dave's lawyer, even though Paul was not impressive on the surface.
He was at least six-six but thin as a post. A thatch of unruly red hair was now
blowing in the wind and his suit was rumpled from travel. But his eyes were clear,
his gaze level, and his grip firm. She had a strange sense of inner peace, feeling
deep in her heart that Dave would be in good hands with this drawling man from
get to work," said Paul as he yanked a battered briefcase off the back seat
of the Matador. "First thing we need to do is get our boy out on bail."
met the case's first road block in the person of a burly desk sergeant. "No
bail for Court," he said briefly. "Says here on the arrest warrant that
bail may not be discussed until the arraignment."
representing Mr. Court," said Paul. "May I see the warrant?"
read it silently and then shared the comment about bail. "Due to the seriousness
of this charge and apparent physical and circumstantial evidence, bail shall not
be considered until the arraignment."
will that be?" asked Patricia dolefully.
to check with the DA's office. Probably tomorrow or the next day."
until then!" exclaimed Patricia tearfully. "Can I see him now?"
hours are two till four," replied the sergeant briefly.
like to see Mr. Court right now," said Paul, "and his pastor, Jim Hogan,
will be going in with me."
can. He can't." They were up against a strong-willed person with the authority
to say no but not to say yes.
turned to Patricia. "How far are you from home?"
than half an hour," Jim answered for her.
moved a little farther from the sergeant's station. "I don't think we'll
be able to do anything about the visiting hours thing. Why don't y'all just go
back home for now. I want to check out the charges a little more and then I'll
go in and talk to Dave. And I want to talk to the DA, too. Then, if I have time,
I'll meet you all for lunch. Any place good between here and the church?"
suggested the Holiday Inn, just north of Carlisle on Route 11.
I'm not there by noon, go ahead and order without me. Oh, by the way. do you have
a fax at the church?" Jim nodded and Paul jotted the number in his pocket
county sheriff's office, the court house, and the prison were all within easy
walking distance of each other. Typical small town convenience. First, Paul went
to the sheriff's office and read the arrest and preliminary investigation reports.
A medical report was not available so he called Harrisburg Hospital. Pediatrics
would release no information so he asked for the administrator. When Paul met
resistance in an organization, he rarely struggled up through layers of bureaucracy.
Instead he vaulted to the top and then worked down. In a few moments, an intern
was on the line who had been working the ER last night when Tessa was brought
in. Paul didn't shock easily but his face was white when he hung up the phone.
he walked over to the court house and asked for the DA. He was out but a receptionist
informed him that an assistant would be taking the Court case. When Paul asked
for his name, he learned it was Priscilla Lane. However, Ms. Lane was in court
so he'd have to check back later.
Cumberland County Prison was dreary and depressing as most prisons are. Even though
Paul had been in and out of many of them, he never really got used to the clanging
and reverberating. And of course there was the pine-oil antiseptic odor tinged
with urine which seemed to prevail, no matter which prison he was visiting. The
desk sergeant remained true to form when he realized Dave had not called for him
we have no record that you're representing the suspect, and since you're not a
court-appointed attorney, I'm going to need something in writing."
me something to write on." Paul scrawled a brief note to Dave on the back
of a county requisition form which introduced himself as a lawyer Jim Hogan had
called last night at the request of his wife, Patricia. At the bottom, he printed:
"I hereby authorize Paul Donaldson to represent me in matters pertaining
to my recent arrest."
me to his cell and let him read this. If he signs it, I'm his attorney."
The sergeant nodded and the clanging began which would lead to Dave Court.
correction officer passed Paul's note through the bars, along with the stub of
a pencil. After reading the note, Dave signed it readily. Then the lawyer was
escorted to a single cell at the end of the block where they could have some privacy.
Dave and Paul entered and the door clanged shut behind them. Paul introduced himself
and the men shook hands. Dave sat on the cot and Paul sat on a folding wooden
chair facing him. Paul was favorably impressed with his new client. Articulate,
intelligent, a strong stereotype of the all-American boy, and very, very convincing
in proclaiming his innocence.
Donaldson, as God is my witness, I did not hurt that child. I love her as a daughter.
If we-- if Patty and I have a little girl, I want her to be exactly like Tessa
Stetson. Patty feels the same way." Dave leaned forward, elbows on his knees,
and his intense blue eyes bored into Paul's serious brown ones. The lawyer was
the first to look away, and he heard a very faint but very distinct warning bell
chime just once, far back in the recesses of his memory. Have to think about that
more later. "You have to believe me. I am totally innocent of this charge.
do believe you, Dave. If I didn't I wouldn't take your case. I'm far too busy
to work with a client who can't convince me of innocence. By the way, call me
Paul. Mr. Donaldson is my father."
nodded with a smile. "How soon will I be out on bail?"
winced. "I hate to have to say this but it's better that you know the facts
up front. I wouldn't count on bail at all."
exploded off his cot. "What! Do you mean I have to stay here? For a false
arrest?" Dave's fists were clenched at his sides and his face was red with
understand exactly how you feel and I came here this morning prepared to arrange
bail. Trouble is, when the judge issued the warrant for your arrest yesterday
evening, he put in a stipulation that no bail could be granted until after the
stinks! Drug dealers are arrested and out within the hour, and they're guilty
as sin. How could the judge do that when he hasn't even heard the facts."
facts as he understands them at this point are exactly why he said no bail. The
medical report is pretty rough and some potentially damaging physical evidence
was discovered during the preliminary investigation. Apparently the DA claimed
you could be a clear and present danger to the community and the judge wasn't
willing to take any chances. I told Debbie on the phone last night, in child molestation
cases like this where there is pretty strong physical evidence, judges and juries
are really coming down hard on defendants."
but what about me being innocent until proven guilty?"
of innocence is a Constitutional guarantee. But in the criminal justice system
overall, that concept tends to be limited to what happens while you're in the
courtroom. Like in your case, you haven't been proven guilty yet, but the DA is
convinced you are and the judge is playing it safe, in case you are. In the meantime,
you'll be treated in here just like you are guilty."
me about it. Just what is an arraignment, anyway, and when's it going to be?"
scheduled for tomorrow morning at ten, over in the court house. At that time,
the judge will explain the charges against you, tell you about your rights under
the constitution, and ask for your plea. Your choices are guilty, not guilty,
or not guilty by reason of insanity."
choices," grunted Dave. "Of course I'm going to plead not guilty. Can
we ask about bail then?"
going to press for that, of course. But between you, me, and the proverbial gate
post, that's going to be a lost cause, like I told you before."
appear at a preliminary hearing, again over in the court house, probably in another
day or two. At that time, the prosecution will show that a crime was committed
and that there is reasonable and probably cause to keep you in jail, or on bail,
as the one who did it."
the prosecutor going to be. The DA?"
of his assistants, a woman by the name of Priscilla Lane."
the fact she's a woman help or hurt."
stroked his jaw. "Probably doesn't make a difference. The word around the
court house is that she's very sharp, so don't be misled by the fact she's a woman.
The judge is a man, though, and that's a definite plus. Judge Amos Schwartz. What
do I get tried?"
date will be set after you go before the Grand Jury?"
was clearly exasperated. "And what, may I ask, do they do?"
Grand Jury is a group of citizens from your community, probably fifteen or so,
who look at all felony cases up front and make sure tax money isn't being wasted
by taking someone to trial without cause."
leaned forward on his elbows, head bowed. "How's Patty doing? he asked, looking
up at Paul.
her briefly this morning. She was really upset when they told her she wouldn't
be able to see you until two this afternoon. Other than that, she seems to be
holding up fairly well." Paul mentioned the lunch plans with Patricia and
the Hogans and the fact that all three would be down to see Dave during the two-to-four
Patty say anything about her doctor's appointment last night?" Paul looked
blank. "Never mind, I'll wait and talk to her at two.
you've been referring to some pretty heavy information about me which you know
so far. Would I be out of line in asking just what that is?"
at all. You have every right to know the kind of thing you're up against. The
state is going to try to prove that you took Tessa home from school yesterday,
went inside with her, and, while her father was asleep on the living room couch,
took her into the back bedroom and raped her with the shaved-down handle of a
wooden baseball bat."
had been pacing the length of his cell but when he heard about the baseball bat,
he sat down hard on the cot. His eyes were glazed with stress and pain.
think it's my bat?"
name's burned on the tip of the barrel end with a hot tool of some kind."
know, I lost that bat at our softball tournament down in York. That was back on
Memorial Day weekend. I use an aluminum bat at the plate. But for years, I've
been carrying on old Hillerich & Bradsby-- an old Louisville Slugger to ball
games, kind of like a souvenir."
one the police found was modified. The handle end was turned on a lathe and then
sanded down so it came to a fairly sharp tip."
felt bile rise in his throat. "Paul, I don't own a lathe and if I did, I
wouldn't know how to use it. The last time I saw that bat, it was standing against
a back stop down at the York Sports Complex. And it was normal size and weight."
ball cap was found in her bed, too."
can probably explain that. She wanted to wear it home from school yesterday. She
does that every once in a while, especially if I have a new cap. Brings it back
to school the next day and gives it to Patty. What I can't understand is where
Roy, her dad, where Roy Stetson was while all this was going on. What's his story?"
says he slept through the whole thing and didn't wake up until his wife started
screaming for him to call 911. Did you see Mr. Stetson when you dropped Tessa
I didn't exactly see him but his car was parked out front and I did ask Tessa
to check and make sure her daddy was home before I drove away. She yelled out
the door that he was there and so I took off."
you tell me where you went and what you did after you dropped Tessa off?"
headed down towards Shippensburg because I had a class last night at the University.
There was some reading I needed to do for the class so I stopped at that rest
area along I-81 and read till it got dark. Then I drove on down to Shippensburg."
you talk to anyone at that rest area, or did anyone see you while you were there?"
didn't talk to a soul. Used the rest room once but it was empty at the time."
were you driving?"
Mazda Miata. Red."
Miata," mused Paul as he stroked his jaw. "That particular car might
catch someone's attention but finding such a person would be pretty tough, especially
if they're from out of state."
you're really saying is that I don't have anything even close to an alibi. Right?"
nodded and then rose to stand beside the cot and rest his hand on Dave's shoulder.
"Dave, I'd like to pray with you before we talk about the extent of Tessa's
injuries. I'm afraid this next part is going to be pretty rough on you."
The lawyer used conversational inflection and phrases to ask God to sustain Dave
during this bad time and to heal little Tessa. Then he said amen.
how-- how bad is she?" Dave choked out through a throat constricted with
of this comes from the police report, some from the 911 operator, and the rest
from the hospital. When Mrs. Stetson got home, Tessa had lost consciousness from
loss of blood. She used warm compresses to control the bleeding until the ambulance
got there. Fortunately Carla knew Tessa's blood type so the EMTs were able to
start whole blood while they were still in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
The intern I talked to thinks that may have saved her life. Both the vagina and
the rectum have been seriously damaged. She was in the operating room three hours.
They repaired the vagina and rectum. But they had to install a temporary urethra
and they performed a temporary colostomy, also.
rushed to the commode and vomited violently until nothing was left but dry heaves.
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