Forgive, Never Forget

For Heather Cameron, the road back was a long, hard journey.

Duncan fled to Colorado Springs, where he rented a car and headed west. A state trooper pulled him over on Interstate 40, just outside of Barstow, California, after noticing that the car's New Mexico plates were coming loose. While the trooper ran Duncan's identification -- which turned out to be fake -- Duncan took out a handgun and shot himself in the head. The trooper discovered a passport and $12,000 in cash in the car.

Later tests revealed that blood on Duncan's Rolex watchband matched Debbie's, and blood on a cable at the parking garage matched Duncan's, confirming what his suicide had suggested: that Duncan Cameron had stabbed, shot and killed his wife. In the carnage, he'd also killed Nathan Clarke, a 23-year-old student and part-time waiter who'd pulled into the garage and tried to help Debbie. Duncan couldn't have predicted that, but he'd clearly planned to kill his wife: He'd bought night-vision goggles so that he could stalk her in the dark.

The deaths shook the city. Duncan had been a standout at West High School, the affable son of a Denver judge, who'd gone on to get a law degree from the University of Colorado and then pursue a successful career as a public defender and a prosecutor. Debbie was beautiful and fiercely intelligent, a Bear Creek graduate who was fast becoming a national expert on real-estate tax credits. When the two met at a cocktail party, Duncan had another date -- but he took her home and then came back to the party to be with Debbie. Though Duncan was thirteen years older and Debbie had been married once before, the two seemed a good match: Duncan was mellowing out of his pretty-girls-and-fast-cars phase, thinking about settling down, and Debbie wanted a child. They married in 1983, and Heather, their only child, was born on January 23, 1984.

Heather Cameron in her fifth-grade class photo.
Heather Cameron in her fifth-grade class photo.

But there were cracks in the seams of the marriage.

"They didn't communicate at the same level," Tom Alfrey, whose wife was a childhood friend of Debbie's, told a reporter shortly after her death. "They didn't have the same interests. He was too rigid, and Debbie talked about moving out quite early in the relationship. It became clear to us that neither was very happy."

The problems weren't so obvious to others.

"The mystery of this was incomprehensible to me," says Becky Peters-Combs, the mother of Devon Combs, Heather's best friend at Graland from kindergarten on. "We really cared for both of her parents, and whatever that dynamic was, it didn't work. But that was what was so sad. If he had been horrible and hateful and awful, or abusive towards Heather, then it would have made more sense, but there was never anything like that."

"I think everyone had this picture of my family as better than it was," Heather says. "I'm sure there were some happy times, but when I look back on my childhood, it's hard for me to remember them. It's hard for me not to be resentful."

A month before her parents separated, Duncan's father, Duncan J. Cameron, had passed away. "I think my dad's whole life was driven around being successful, like his father," Heather says. "Then his dad died, and then my mom left my dad; it was like his whole life, everything had gone perfect for him, and suddenly everything was falling apart."

Hundreds of friends and relatives gathered for Debbie Cameron's memorial service at Blessed Sacrament Church in Park Hill on April 29. The back of the program included the quotation "The success of her life was this: that it enabled others to see a glimpse of heaven."

"It was a sad, sad day," remembers Monsignor James W. Rasby, who led the service in the jammed church.

Heather read from the Book of Proverbs.

"I remember trying to do my hair and get ready for the funeral, and I was like, all right, Heather, if you cry, I am going to be so pissed at you," she says. "Don't you dare cry. And I was gritting my teeth, and then I had to get up and speak, and there were like 700 people there. I was shaking because I was trying so hard not to cry."

Although Heather didn't cry, many others in the crowd wept openly -- especially when Father Rasby disclosed that the girl had intercepted a call from Nathan Clarke's mother to her grandmother and had thanked the woman for her son's efforts to save Debbie's life. (Heather also helped set up a memorial fund for Clarke.)

At the end of the ceremony, Heather walked down the aisle with Father Rasby and then outside, followed by the pallbearers carrying her mother's casket.

"She clung to me, this little girl with no mom or dad," Rasby says. "I tried to give her the best direction I could, the best advice."

But what direction do you give in that situation? What do you tell a little girl whose father murdered her mother, then killed himself, leaving her all alone? There are no real answers, just more questions. And as the fifty-car procession snaked its way to Mount Olivet Cemetery to place Debbie Cameron in a crypt, the main question on everyone's mind was what would happen to Heather.

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