Loved to Death

Page 14 of 15

Like most dangerous stalkers, Jim Garner gave plenty of warning, Newell says. "He repeatedly violated restraining orders, meaning he felt omnipotent and above the law," he notes. "He followed her to work. He was constantly checking with friends, associates and family members to track her lifestyle. He threatened her verbally on numerous occasions.

"Hell, for years he read books on how to murder people. He lived vicariously through the killers he met in those books until he decided to act himself."

The police lack the manpower, especially when it comes to followup, to deal with stalkers adequately. "You need someone who can see the pattern over time," Newell explains. "This is not just a trespass or a burglary or a phone harassment. It's a pattern of escalating criminal activity. Right now, with the antiquated justice system, there's not much in the way of consequences for the stalker, which is giving these predators tacit approval to escalate what they are doing."

According to Newell, there's only one "cure" for stalkers: isolation. "Get them away from the local bar and their good buddies who tell them that they're right," he says. "Give them time to see that their behavior is wrong. Most of these guys, I believe, are changeable. They don't start off wanting to hurt or kill the ones they love--it just escalates."

And if authorities don't help the victims, victims have to help themselves. The Crisis Action Network, with Dana Garner as its executive director, plans to show how they can. "We want to provide, at little or no cost, training for victims of predator abuse," says Newell. "That includes case management and development--including how to communicate with police, district attorneys and judges, optimum use of the justice system, self-awareness, personal protection/self-defense and emotional recovery."

But the network will step in only after a victim requests a temporary restraining order. "They have to take that first step," says Newell. "Until they make that commitment to themselves, we're unable to help."

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.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Steve Jackson

Latest Stories