Living with Crazy: March 20, 2001, one day that will live in infamy

As we all know, memory is a funny thing. I don’t necessarily trust mine, certainly not related to events that happened almost exactly 10 years ago.

My husband has offered his version of some of the events of March 20, 2001 in “Caught,” an entry on his blog, A Life With Mental Illness. He talks about how he was confronted by his boss on that Tuesday morning and asked to leave his job. He had to face coming home and telling me “something bad has happened.”

While I have offered my account of John’s homecoming and our initial reactions to his life-changing news, here is yet another point of view–from the Humboldt State University Police Department officer who investigated my husband’s case.
Yes, in my twistedly sentimental way, I held onto these police reports. The detective’s account offers another point of view but also clarifies and illuminates some of the gaps in my own memory. I paraphrase and quote from the reports, written by Officer Tom Dewey, who now serves as chief of the Humboldt State University police.
Late February, 2001
Members of the Humboldt State University police department, like all staff at Humboldt State, received a memo saying that my husband, John, would be resigning from his job as executive director of university advancement to take another job.
March 20, 2001
10:46 a.m.: Officer Dewey, on a field training assignment with another officer, was dispatched to do a “civil standby” at the university’s “The Alumni House.” This is a former house on campus that was converted into spaces for offices, including my husband’s. Dewey had been told that John was placed on administrative leave, was moving out of his office, and that his now former co-workers needed the police to help them make sure he wasn’t removing any vital documents or other university property.
After opening desk drawers for his co-workers, pointing to his computer and showing them some personal computer disks, my husband was able to leave with several boxes, which he put into the back of our Toyota Corolla.
12:10 p.m.
Humboldt State University Police Chief Thomas Foster tells Dewey that my husband’s boss has information that my husband 1) falsified claims for meal, gift and travel expenses, and 2) forged university officials’ signatures. Foster assigned Dewey to initiate the criminal investigation.
Foster also told Dewey that he had just received a call from my husband, in which John “made reference to some of his actions” and promised that he “wanted to fully cooperate with the police and provide details about those actions.”
Dewey next conducted a computer criminal background search on my husband, which showed that he had no criminal history.
1:35 p.m.
Dewey called our house and spoke to John, tape recording the call.
Dewey first expressed concerns about my husband’s welfare.
“That’s so nice,” my husband responded to Dewey’s words. He explained he was going to go see a priest at a local Catholic church. My husband was raised Catholic and said he prayed, though he wasn’t a regular church-going member of the Church. “You know, to be honest, I’m really–sorry I hurt people,” my husband said. “That’s how I am. Stupid. And wrong. And I feel bad.”
Dewey said he told my husband that we all make mistakes–some are little and some are big-and that the true test of a person’s character was not that he made a mistake but how he dealt with it.
My husband continued to express regret, including for hurting his co-workers. “And you know, I need to just say, this is what happened … [and] make it as right as we can.”

My husband said he would help Dewey untangle his misdeeds, gave Dewey permission to search his office, and said he didn’t keep anything work-related at home.
The two arranged for my husband to come into the police department at 1 p.m. the next day.
“I promised Sterns that I would not arrest him when he came into the station Wednesday,” Dewey wrote.
My husband has since told me that my anger over his plan to go see police and my demand that he seek legal representation drove up his level of suicidal thinking–and psychosis. He was anguished by guilt. His instinct and desire was just to go in and talk to Dewey, tell all, help the police with their investigation, and unburden himself.
Over the next 40 hours, my husband would start to “lose it.” His mind, his sanity, however you want to define it.

2 thoughts on “Living with Crazy: March 20, 2001, one day that will live in infamy

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