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Loved to Death

Jim Garner wanted to murder his wife, Dana. Even from the grave, he may get his way.

Dana mentioned the man she'd met. "I had a great time," she said, as she looked up and into a mirror hanging in the dining room. Her throat went dry. She could see Jim in the mirror, standing by the stairs. He had something small and dark in his hand.

"Oh, my God," she screamed to her friend. "Jim's here. Call 911."
Jim came flying at her. "You filthy bitch! You slut! You were seeing other men all the time!"

Dana kept screaming as she dialed 911. Jim ran out the door.
With the police on their way, Dana realized Jim had been standing near a closet where she'd hidden a $1,000 money order and nearly $600 in cash that she'd gotten by selling some of her furniture. It was all she had to pay the rent, make her car payment and buy groceries. The closet door was now open.

And the money was gone. When the police arrived, Dana begged them to find her husband before he could spend it. She begged so loudly that her neighbors heard it. "There are four warrants out for his arrest," she said. "Please go get him."

"Just calm down, young lady," an officer told her. He said it was up to him how to pursue the matter, and she would first have to fill out a report. Dana demanded to see his sergeant. The sergeant arrived and told her to fill out the report. "Victim is fearful for her children and herself," the officer noted by her written account. Frightened and angry, Dana forgot to write anything about the missing money.

Forty-five minutes after the police first arrived, the sergeant finally sent officers to check the bar Dana had suggested. Jim had been there, all right, and had even had time to down four drinks. But he was gone.

The police now had no idea where Jim was. They escorted Dana and her children to her lawyer's house, where the family spent the night. But Dana knew she couldn't stay there. And a safehouse didn't seem the answer, either: She wasn't going to walk away from the life she'd struggled to make for herself and her children.

Two days later, Dana got her first call from a Denver police detective, a woman. Dana told her about the stun gun, the passport and the stolen money. It was obvious the detective didn't believe her story about the money, since she noted Dana hadn't mentioned it on her report.

"Did he say he was going to kill you?" the detective asked.
"Not this time," Dana had to concede. "He ran away. But he has before."
The detective said they would file a trespassing charge.

Dana couldn't believe it. Trespassing? When he had broken into her house and taken her money? When there was a restraining order?

"Sorry," the detective replied. "He didn't say he was going to kill you. And you didn't actually see him take the money."

Dana was irate. There were four warrants out for his arrest, for Christ's sake. What else did the cops need? The detective, who later wrote that she had been "unable to calm the victim," hung up on Dana.

Using her caller-identification system, Dana called the detective back. All she got was an answering machine. "Victims don't need to be treated this way," she said. "You'll be hearing from my lawyer."

The next day, a fifth warrant was issued for Jim's arrest. But Dana knew she was on her own.

A week later, Ben woke up feeling sick. Dana left him at home--she figured he'd be okay, because Jim had never threatened to harm his sons--while she drove Ashley and Jon to school. On the way, she talked about how she wanted them to grow up.

"I want you all to go to college," she said. "Stick together--no one is to be excluded. Try to live righteous lives. And I want you to know that you are the most loved children in the world."

As she dropped Jon off, he turned to her. "I wish Daddy would leave us alone," he said. Dana nodded and drove off so he wouldn't see her cry.

Dana then stopped by the hospital, to say goodbye to a co-worker who was leaving. The O.J. trial was the talk of the party; she tried to make light of it. "I think Jim is going to O.J. me," she said. But no one who knew her situation saw much humor in that.

Then she went home to Ben--and found Jim waiting for her.

Dana always refers to May 25, 1996, as the day she was murdered. But she did not die.

After Jim shot her, she lay still in the grass--for how many minutes, she didn't know. Her mouth tasted funny. She moved her hand and placed a finger to her lips. No blood. She touched her nose and then her ears. No blood. She placed her hand on the back of her neck. It came back warm and red.

I'm sorry, Dana, she told herself. You did everything you could. The police should have stopped Jim.

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