Honor Thy Mother

Can Ciaran Redmond ever rob enough banks to avenge his mother's death?

Elsie's murder received some media attention in Orange County, and it soon came out that the Irish woman had harbored a fascination with John Wayne, especially the Duke's classic portrayal of a brawling Irish prizefighter who returns to Ireland to claim the family farm in The Quiet Man, her favorite film. That caught the attention of Michael Ross.

"There was no way this family was going to be able to afford a burial plot in Memorial Park in Newport Beach," says Ross, manager of the cemetery where Wayne is buried. "The paper said she'd been a lifelong fan, and our cemetery is where John Wayne is interred, so we had a little roundtable discussion with our management group."

Moved by the Redmonds' story, Ross donated a plot and headstone for Elsie in the exclusive manicured park outside Los Angeles. It wouldn't be the last plot he would end up donating to the Redmond family.

Following his mother's death, Neal, who was unable to work because of his disabilities, had gone to live with a sister in Fountain Valley. As the weeks passed, though, he became increasingly distraught over Elsie's murder and, especially when his Social Security benefits were cut off, began thinking of himself as a drain on the family.

Early on the morning of January 23, 1994, exactly five months after Elsie's death, Neal penned a suicide note and left it outside his room. His sister found it as she was preparing to go to bed. She burst into Neal's room and tried to restrain her brother. But according to police reports, Neal overpowered her and pushed a utility knife into his neck. The sharp blade caught his jugular vein; he bled to death minutes later.

An overcome Sean Redmond, then 34, spoke with The Orange County Register two days after his brother's suicide. "It hasn't stopped since July," he said. "Most of our family is wondering what's next. Our nerves, our emotions, are just teetering on the edge of insanity." Neal was buried next to his mother in another donated plot at Memorial Park.

Even though it's been five and a half years since Elsie Redmond's unexplained murder, Smith says the Costa Mesa police have not given up hopes of solving it. "We don't see many murders," he says. "Maybe a half-dozen a year in a city of 100,000," and none in 1998, a clean year.

In the city's history, there are 24 unsolved murders, and each year a six-member team of investigators goes over each of them, chewing over old evidence, scouring the aging file for any missed clues, hoping to expose the unasked question that could pick up a trail that has disappeared into vapor. The work is slow, but occasionally it pays off. Last year the team solved four "dead" cases, one of them eighteen years old.

"So Elsie's is relatively fresh," says an optimistic Smith. "It's an unsolved homicide, but not a forgotten homicide."

For Ciaran Redmond, of course, it never was. In fact, in the time since Elsie Redmond's murder, the specter of his mother's death has expanded and hardened in his mind like a black tumor, crowding it more and more until, finally, there was room for little else. "It's hard to get out of my mind that the last thing my mom had seen was a murderer," he says. "And that that murderer is going unpunished.

"But," he adds, "the family needs to know. I need to know."

Mr. Ciaran Redmond presents as a 29-year-old male with a goatee style beard and a neat and generally clean appearance. His speech is generally appropriate, coherent and directed towards the questions asked. There is no overt evidence of psychosis or disorganization. There is no evidence of loosening of associations, hallucinations or delusional ideation. He does not appear clinically depressed.

While there is no evidence of psychotic thought processes, Mr. Redmond presents with significant characterologic features of an obsessive compulsive type. He appears to have fixated on several issues including his mother's death and has been unable to move on. He, apparently, ruminates over these unresolved issues and has felt himself responsible for their solution...

There is also some significant family loyalty and duty which led Mr. Redmond to feel that "the ends justify the means...there was a bigger purpose to it."

--Psychiatric evaluation of Ciaran Redmond, July 1998, Federal Detention Center, Englewood, Colorado

Ciaran: "I was determined not to be hindered by the lines. By the lines that everybody has to not cross over. I knew that for any answer to come out of my mother's murder, somebody was going to have to do something drastic. Once I put my mind to something like that, it's like a program. You just slip it into your computer and the program runs through."

In August 1997, Ciaran Redmond was picked up again to answer for another string of misdemeanor offenses--trespassing at his ex-wife's house, harassment, assault. The crimes were nothing new; in fact, for those who knew and cared about him, they were depressingly old. Yet this time the crimes compounded each other, and he found himself in jail for some real time. By April he'd been locked up for eight months.

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