Eternally Yours

The woman is hunched over in her wheelchair, a pillow supporting her torso, head lolling, body clenched in on itself, feet tensely touching. Someone smooths her hair, gently tilts up her head. She grimaces, though whether from grief or pain--because of an involuntary reflex--it's impossible to tell. Now the people in the room are asking things of the woman: They want her to hold up her head, move her index finger, raise her right foot. Most of the directions come from a disembodied voice behind the video camera. The grimacing continues. A man is leaning close to her, holding up his hand, extending his forefinger, asking her to move hers in response. The camera focuses on her right hand, curled uselessly on the pillow. Her fingers are swollen, discolored. Her little finger twitches. Then her forefinger moves--blind, trembling, agonizingly slow. Everyone in the room is focused on that finger. They murmur encouragement. You can see the sympathetic twitching of their own flexible and responsive fingers.

"Come on, Gloria, you can do it."
The finger moves effortfully forward, like something detached from the body, like an earthworm pushing through soil. Finally, it's pointing straight down.

"Good, Gloria. Good."
Later, the man shows her a toothbrush, asks her to open her mouth. The camera moves in. Close up, her face is reddened and chapped. She clenches her mouth shut, then slowly, slowly opens it. A little, then--at his urging--a little more. She grimaces while the man runs the brush over her teeth and cleans out her mouth, but she never takes her eyes from his. When he's finished, he carefully leans back her head. Her face becomes smooth. The corner of her lip rises in a small, lopsided smile.

For Gloria Lamar, the world as she knew it ended at 10:40 p.m. on April 12, 1994, near Hygiene, at the intersection of Colorado Highway 66 and 75th Street.

As Lamar drove along the highway, a Jeep Cherokee, driven by eighteen-year-old Donald Bauman and traveling over 60 miles an hour, came straight through a stop sign on 75th Street and, without braking, flew directly at her Nissan Sentra, sending it spinning in a long arc across the road and into a ditch. The Jeep toppled onto its roof, then righted itself. Lamar apparently half crawled, half ran from her car, crossed the road toward the Jeep and collapsed face down on the ground, moaning.

Caprissa Frawley, an employee of BankOne, came on the scene right after the accident and found Bauman sitting on the ground, crying. "I was trying to calm him down," she says, "saying silly things, like 'It's okay,' and he started saying, 'It's not okay. I've ruined her life.'"

She thought he'd been drinking.
Frawley went over to check on the woman. "She's just a little person, looked barely over a hundred pounds, hair laid over her face," she remembers. "She almost looked like she was resting. I was surprised at how peaceful it seemed."

Evan Jourden, then a high-school senior, saw the collision. In an affidavit, he confirmed that the Jeep had made no attempt to brake. When he approached the car, Bauman was sitting on the ground, "screaming obscenities and throwing his arms in the air." Bauman asked Jourden if the woman was dead, and screamed several times, "What have I done?"

Bauman confessed to being drunk. "At this point," Jourden said in his affidavit, "he began to cry and said that he had been smoking pot and that he 'did a few lines' just before he left."

After what seemed to Frawley an extraordinarily long wait, Longmont police and paramedics arrived. She attempted to report what she had seen, but "nobody wanted to talk to me," she says. Jourden, too, was told by a sheriff's deputy that his testimony wasn't needed.

In his report, one officer noted that Bauman was flushed and uncoordinated and suffering full-body tremors but did not seem to have alcohol on his breath. The officer added, however, that a strong wind was blowing and he hadn't been standing particularly close to Bauman.

Both Lamar and Bauman were transported to Longmont United Hospital. While Lamar was rushed into intensive care, police questioned Bauman. He denied any use of drugs or alcohol but admitted he had been driving over 60 miles per hour and had a "habit of speeding." An officer read him his rights; he was later taken to Boulder County Jail. There Bauman's performance on coordination tests aroused the suspicion of at least one officer that he was under the influence of marijuana. But a urine test was not administered until 6 a.m. By then, Bauman had drunk orange juice, eaten breakfast and made several trips to the bathroom. The test was negative.

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman