The only good thing I have to say about the Broomfield Police Department is that it has a nice jail. In fact, it is by far the nicest jail I've ever spent four or five hours in while waiting to get bailed out -- and that's saying a lot. The joint is brand-new, and it looks more like an airport waiting lounge than a lock-up. The fingerprinting machine is digital, meaning no messy black ink, and the food is way better than airline fare. The night I was in there, May 29, dinner was a green salad and fresh-baked roll accompanying a main course of macaroni and ground beef in a zesty red sauce. One of the guards called it "Hamburger Surprise, because you'll be surprised it tastes good." He was right. The guards were decent. I was the only prisoner in the holding area, and they changed the channel on the TV so that I could watch the Lakers game. They even let me strike a few yoga poses when I told them that my back hurt, as it always does when I'm stressed.
And I was big-time stressed. That afternoon, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, when I should have been playing softball, or climbing, or barbecuing with friends, I had been arrested for felony stalking, handcuffed and led away yelling the names and numbers of my editor and Westword's lawyer over my shoulder. And nice as the Broomfield jail is, it's still jail, and when all the guards in the holding area had to go oversee dinner being served in the general-population cafeteria, they locked me in a concrete cell. I paced. I did push-ups. I said to myself, to the walls, to no one, "Well, isn't this a bitch? The guy who raped me when I was kid just got me arrested. I should have gone ahead and shot his ass."
I was pissed. And I was scared. I lay down on the thin, blue plastic mattress, closed my eyes and tried to calm down. I thought, "I probably shouldn't have sent him that letter, because he probably gave it to the cops."
The letter. I wrote it the night of Tuesday, May 11. I was exhausted, having just finished the most draining story I've ever written, sitting at my desk in the Westword building, waiting for the final copy of "Stalking the Bogeyman," the cover story of the May 13 issue, about how at this time last year, I was plotting the murder of the man who'd raped me in 1978, when he was a teenager and I was seven years old. Three days before, I'd met him for the first time as an adult, in an arranged confrontation on the 16th Street Mall. Although he knew I was a journalist, he wasn't aware the article was coming out, and I wrote him the letter as a heads-up. Plus, I had a few other things to say. The letter was delivered to him the next morning by courier, a few hours before that issue of Westword hit the streets.
This is what he read:
I want to thank you again for meeting me last Saturday.
I also want to let you know that you recently have dodged two bullets, one of them quite literally. This time last year, I was seriously planning to shoot you. I'd staked out your house and followed you. I had a gun and a silencer. I decided to call off my plans after my mom found the diary.
My motive for murder was twofold: revenge, and to prevent you from ever molesting another child again. Until I met you and talked to you, you weren't real to me. You were the Bogeyman. Once I talked to you, I lost all desire to pull the trigger, mainly because I'm no longer convinced you're still molesting. All the experts say that you were almost certainly lying when you told me I was your one and only victim. But then again, all the experts say that molesters will never admit their crimes to their victims, let alone to their parents and wife.
The second bullet was that until I met you, I intended to put your face on the cover of this week's Westword and print your name as that of the man who raped me when I was seven. I was going to out you, to try and kill you with my keyboard instead of a gun. I'm not doing that now.
There is a story running tomorrow, which will be today by the time you receive this letter, but your name is not printed. There are just enough details about you in the story to give your past a good hard shake. If there are any other dirty secrets lurking in there, they're going to come out, and you're going to get busted. If not, you can deny the story is about you and no one will know for sure.
My backpack was wired with a hidden microphone Saturday. Our entire conversation is on tape. I realize that's not playing fair, but then, you didn't exactly play fair with me in 1978. I didn't feel any sense of threat from you on Saturday, but then I have to entertain the possibility that you are a sociopath. But even sociopaths have a sense of self-preservation, so just know that the tape has been copied, and if I die in any way that is even the slightest bit suspicious, the tapes and affidavits will be forwarded to police and prosecutors in both Colorado and Alaska.
If you were telling me the truth when you said I was the only one, then I accept your apology and I offer you my forgiveness and I wish you the best of luck. If you were lying, then God help you, because you're going down.
By "you're going down," I meant that "your name's going to be in print, and you're going to go to prison" -- not "I'm going to kill you."
After the article came out, my mom, who still lives in Anchorage, Alaska, where the rape occurred, and from whom I inherited my taste for vendetta, mailed copies of the cover story to everyone in the man's neighborhood, along with a signed note identifying him as the unnamed molester in the story. She was a one-woman sexual-predator notification program.
The same night I sent him my letter, she also called the guy, bombarded him with fury, and, when he asked her what he could do to make up for what he had done, she told him, "Cease to exist."
So between my article, my "you're going down" letter, my mom's note to his neighbors and her suggestion that he should stop living, I can understand why this man and his wife got a bit freaked out the morning of May 29 when they looked out their window and saw my friend Nelson parked on their street in his black jeep, watching their house.
I had asked Nelson to keep an eye on this guy for a couple of days to make sure he wasn't casing the Westword building or driving by my apartment complex or going to the airport. I was concerned that he might come after me, or, worse, fly to Alaska and try to hurt my mom. It seemed prudent at the time. In retrospect, it seems paranoid.
The man and his wife left their house late that Saturday morning, and Nelson followed them. He called me to say that he'd been spotted, and that the man, who was in the passenger seat, looked terrified and had jumped into the back of their SUV to hide. This didn't sound to me like the behavior of a man who was a threat, and I told Nelson that I'd made a mistake and he should stop following them. He did, but by then, they'd already called the cops. (Prosecutors have claimed Nelson also peered in their windows and followed the man's wife when she was by herself earlier that morning, but Nelson denies that, and I believe him.)
Nelson was arrested around noon that Saturday, and when I went to bail him out, I was arrested, too. On Memorial Day, the Denver Post interviewed me, and even before its story appeared the next day, the headline got picked up by the Drudge Report -- and from there it went supernova. For the next week, I was the one being stalked. My phone was blowing up with messages from the media, both local and national, and reporters were camped out across the street from my apartment building, looking to do an ambush interview. How karmic.
The moment "Stalking the Bogeyman" hit the streets, my e-mail inbox became a reservoir of pain. After my arrest, it was flooded. I have received more than 2,000 messages and counting, most of them from people across the country, around the world, who were also molested as children, or whose children have been molested. I've also received one marriage proposal and two offers from women volunteering to have my baby, sight unseen. (In the original piece, I'd written that my biggest psychological fallout from being raped as a kid is that I'm afraid to have kids of my own.)
I can't deny that being arrested was the best thing that could have happened in terms of exposure for the story I wrote, which in turn means increased awareness of the pervasive evil of child molestation in our culture. It is a huge and filthy secret that feeds upon shame and silence. I believe that repeat child molesters, and by that I mean almost all child molesters, absolutely deserve to die. But because I'm not sure whether the man who raped me when he was a teenager is still molesting children or not, I'm glad I didn't kill him.
And I'm glad I'm not going to prison.
The prosecutors in Broomfield let Nelson and me sweat out the charges against us until damn near the last minute. We didn't find out we were in the clear and would not be charged until late Wednesday, the night before our first scheduled court appearance on July 1 -- and just hours before the district attorney for the 17th Judicial District sent a press release to media outlets around the country announcing that no charges would be filed.
"David's fears were reasonable and real," my attorney, Norm Mueller, had written the prosecutor assigned to the case of my complainant, "Mr. C." "Westword essentially was on alert, with the front desk ready to call 911 if Mr. C. was seen. David's parents had received multiple warnings that Mr. C. might be dangerous. Since David's mother had taken certain actions on her own initiative that David believed might enrage Mr. C., he understandably became very concerned not only about his own safety, but that of his parents. We have confirmed through independent witnesses David's sincere fear and the precautions he took, such as not sleeping at home."
Now another round of media coverage has begun, and my computer's reservoir of pain is refilling.
It happened to me, too, they all say. It happened to me, too. When I was twelve. When I was seven. When I was five. It was my coach, my babysitter, my father, my priest. Two of the e-mails are particularly haunting. One is from a fourteen-year-old girl who was raped two years ago on a family cruise, when she was twelve. A steward on the cruise liner did it: He got her alone, she says, by telling her that he knew a special place where she could watch the dolphins play. And then a man from Louisiana writes me about how four years ago he tracked down his Pee Wee football coach, who did it to him twenty years ago, when he was ten. The former coach is old now, and fat, and he found him working as a clerk at a grocery store in their mutual home town. He walked up, asked the coach if he remembered him, and when the coach said no, he beat the old, fat man within an inch of his life, screaming his name into the molester's bloody face.
I've received more than 2,000 of these e-mails, many of them from people disclosing their secret for the first time, reaching out to me as some sort of touchstone. If I wanted to start a cult, now would be a good time. But I don't want to be a celebrity victim, and I don't know how to help these people. I'm a journalist who wrote the toughest story of my life, a story that explains my life. And now I'm getting on with that life and moving to a new story.
But, yes, it happened to me, too.
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