Loved to Death

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

Dana had taken that step--but after that she found little support. "Here was a middle-class woman working to make ends meet and raise her children," Newell says. "She exemplifies the sort of heroines who face this kind of abuse daily in America. She fought back against the predator, contended with an antiquated criminal-justice system that could not protect her, and still raised her children with values and morals, put dinner on the table and didn't miss her kids' baseball games.

"What these women put up with is absolute terrorism. It's miraculous they hold it together."

Dana Garner feels like she's barely holding it together. Out of the blue, she'll ask a new acquaintance, "Are you going to hurt me?" Strangers are never to be trusted. When an armed security guard got in the elevator with her at the hospital where she works, she almost lost control. She can't watch violent movies--even chase scenes in Star Wars send her running.

Shadows and reflections make her jump. She can't go into her backyard without becoming physically ill. Even looking out her kitchen window at the place "where he killed me" nauseates her.

When she tries to sleep, she's haunted by nightmares of Jim chasing her with a gun. But she can't go downstairs to make a cup of tea--that would mean going to the room where his blood still covered the carpet when she came home from the hospital.

She would like to move, but she's ruined financially. The only places she could afford are in high-crime areas, and she won't subject her children, all of whom are in therapy, to that.

Sometimes it is only the kids who keep her going. The kids, and the abused and battered women who seek her out. She tells them not to count on the police for protection. "It's an illusion," she says. "They won't be there when you need them."

Dana lives with this knowledge. She may die with it.
For weeks after the shooting, pain from her wounds burned like a poker. Her anger toward the police still burns. It lies just beneath the surface, like that thing that lies beneath her skin.

Even though Jim Garner has been in the grave nearly a year, he is still stalking her. Several surgeons have told Dana it is too risky to remove the bullet that still rests at the base of her skull. The best she can hope for is that scar tissue will envelop the bullet and hold it in place. But a blow to the back of the head, even one wrong movement, could propel the bullet up against the artery, causing a stroke that could kill her.

He may have murdered her after all.

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