A HOUSE DIVIDED

A DAUGHTER'S ACCUSATIONS RIPPED THIS FAMILY APART.FAMILY PLOTS WHAT HAPPENED TO THE WAHRLES ISN'T A PRETTY PICTURE.

Sharon finally capitulated, taking Suzanne to a nearby Holiday Inn. Ross followed in her car to make sure that Sharon registered.

Suzanne stayed at the motel that night with her mother, then spent some time at her grandparents' home; she returned to the Wahrles' shortly before the end of Christmas break and the start of classes at Green Mountain High.

After the harassment incident, Suzanne later testified, her parents took away the phones and grounded her. But she continued to communicate with the Rosses and other friends by plugging into a computer bulletin board and passing electronic notes. Her mother, she said in a note to the Rosses dated January 10, 1993, "has been trying to lay a guilt trip on me" and was begging Suzanne to drop the charges. She accused her father of "destroying evidence" by replacing damaged doors and getting rid of all traces of Steven's "animal experiments."

She also said that Steven had threatened to kill her.
By now, the Wahrles had started seeing a family therapist, Paul McClain, to work out their many problems. Suzanne was resistant from the start. "Argggghhh!," she said to the Rosses via modem. "Now my mom wants to work everything out and doesn't want to divorce my dad at all. They're both hacked off at me because I don't want that to happen.

"I have, as of tonight," she wrote, "shifted my goal from helping my family (get Steven help, have my parents get divorced, that sort of thing) to getting myself out of here."

Suzanne got her wish. On January 13 Enid Ross contacted a victims' advocate with the Lakewood Police Department and reported that Steven was continuing to harass his sister. The following day Suzanne was met at school by the victims' advocate, a social worker and Lakewood detective Laurel Vander Meulen. When Suzanne was asked if she'd been sexually assaulted, she answered in the negative.

The trio decided, however, that it would be best if Suzanne left her house for a brief "cooling off" period. Suzanne suggested that she stay with the Hogues. Her mother and the Hogues agreed.

Suzanne's stay with her Science Olympiad coach and his wife was originally to last a week or so. At the end of that time, though, Barbara Hogue offered to extend Suzanne's stay if that would help the Wahrles.

Sharon was in a quandary. Steven had received a deferred sentence on the harassment charge, which meant his record would be cleared if he managed to stay out of trouble for a year. But Suzanne had already warned her that if Steven assaulted her again, she intended to call the police. Knowing her children, Sharon was convinced that they'd soon get into a fight and that Steven would be arrested. So Sharon allowed Suzanne's visit to be extended from week to week through the winter and on into the spring.

In March Sharon began making plans to take Suzanne for spring break. But Barbara Hogue testified at Bob's trial, "We just didn't have a high assurance that Suzanne would be safe." So Suzanne instead jetted to the Bahamas with the Hogues, and they picked up the tab.

Suzanne was more than comfortable living with the Hogues. "It was," she wrote in a class assignment, "like going from hell to heaven.

"I was really shocked to see how a healthy family system worked," she continued. "No one beat anybody up or cussed anyone out. Then I began to realize how awful the things that happened to me were. I started remembering many things that I had tried to shove back in my memory banks and forget about...I have developed a strong relationship with the Hogues. They weren't able to have children of their own, but they treat me as though I'm the daughter that they never had. They've made me realize what a neat thing a family can be."

end of part 1

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