Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Passion Pulls the Trigger

by Susan Murphy-Milano

On July 4, 1995, Pam Munson welcomed her second child into the world. Her 2 year-old son, Zak, was with Grandma Linda Fitze waiting for his mommy and daddy to bring his new baby sister home from the hospital. However, instead of celebrating the birth of the new baby, Pam was greeted by a horrifying crime scene 2 days later. Her mother's body lay lifeless in a pool of blood near the dining room table. She was shot once in the shoulder, and again in the head, at close range with a 38-caliber revolver. Pam's little boy, Zak, was hiding in the closet after discovering Grandma with half her head blown off.

Within a few months of the murder, Pam Munson contacted me by phone looking for support and answers to questions that haunted her from the day she found her mother's body. "Does it ever stop? You know the pictures in my head and the nightmares." We spoke for an hour, but I doubt I was much comfort other than we were members of the same "Private Murder Club."

As with so many of these cases we watch or read about, during the trial of the Linda Fitze murder, the defense called the crime one of passion. But, Pam remembers how her father threatened her mother throughout their marriage, and especially six months prior to her murder--while they were separated. "It was not a crime of passion, it was premeditated, cold-blooded, murder. He killed her because he did not want my mother to get any of his money," recalled Pam.

In 1997, Russell Marvin Munson stood trial for his wife's murder. The defense played the "crime of passion" card. A key part of the prosecuting attorney's case for life without parole was the detailed journal the Texas mother kept that chronicled the abuse during her marriage to Munson; but it was not admissable in court. The judge allowed the graphic crime scene photos-- a victory for the prosecution in which to build their case.

The eight day trial led to the jury's decision to find the 59-year old guilty of murder. Munson was sentenced to 20 years in prison. At the time, the trial brought some closure, but the scope of any murder is difficult for anyone to comprehend. Especially when "your own father pulls the trigger and shows no remorse."

In 1999, Munson filed with the appellate court asking for a new trial citing four issues to consider that were either not allowed, or improperly carried out, by the trial judge. The most revolting issue cited in the filing--and common among abusers, is to shift the blame. In this document Munson accused the decendent of "prior sexual abuse."

A few
weeks ago, on my facebook page, Pam re-connected with me. "You probably don't remember me, but I contacted you in 1995, a few months after my mom was killed. The following week we spoke on the phone. "It doesn't go away, even after all these years, the depression, anger, and the feeling that we are incomplete as if we are the owners of our fathers actions. It is felt every day of my life."

topic of children forced to continue with a "normal" productive life after living with years of abuse, resulting in murder, is not a subject covered by the media. We often forget about the kids left behind. On June 10, 2009 at 3:00PM Central time, on The Susan Murphy Milano show, Pam Munson and I will discuss the topic of children whose fathers have killed their mothers. It is an important subject: as the lives of the children witnessing violence and terror in their homes, if they survive, live the remainder of their days on earth often in darkness and without hope.


Sara Huizenga Lubbers said...

Pure, preventable hell directly inflicted by a Parent...that is true evil...

Yet...amidst it all...your joined voices, tomorrow on Susan's BTR show (4pm EST) will no doubt make such an impact difference....

Thank You for your courageous fight for justice, Susan!

Chris Crandle said...

Susan, I'm looking forward to your show this afternoon on Mourning Mommy. I'm so thankful to be connected with you and so many others who are fighting for justice here on earth. As we've discussed, I share that passion, and am so thankful that there are others out there who do. Only wish I had found you almost 3 years ago.

As you know, my friend, Renee Pagel was murdered 8.5.06. She was stabbed to death in her bed, while recovering from donating a kidney to the father of one of her students, just days before her divorce was to be final. Her husband, Michael Pagel, is the ONLY suspect, and he has whisked her 3 precious children up to a hunting compound in Northern Michigan (Mid Forest Lodge) in Prudenville, near Houghton Lake. He will not allow any of Renee's friends to see the children, and fights tenaciously against her family seeing them....thank God they have been granted liberal grandparenting rights. Renee's sister's fear is that her relationship with the children will end with the death of her father, who is now 80. My prayer is that he will be behind bars very these children will be able to begin mourning their mommy. Loved. Hugged. Begin healing. Remembering her.

Not only do these children no longer have a mother, but they are continuing to be used as pawns in their father's game of controlling others. And one day, they'll have to face the fact that he knowingly, willingly, deliberately chose to put them into this situation. That is pure evil.

I cannot adequately express my gratitude for you, and others like you (Sara Huizenga Lubbers) and all of those other incredible women whose pictures appear on this site....for working so hard for those who no longer have a voice.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice." Those are my marching is so nice now to have joined this wonderful army...who is so ardently marching to ensure justice for those being crushed. God Bless. I love you.

Cheryl said...

Good Morning Susan,

There were so many links in your article I finally had to click one (I never do this and was never even sure why some of the words/names were underlined), I got directed to your website and find it facinating.

Thank you for sharing it with us. I wish I could watch your program (was unaware of that as well) but unfortunately I'm at work.


Delilah said...

This is a subject that hasn't been addressed. What happens to all of the children who witness violence/murder against their mothers? I'm sure there are common threads that weave through each of their lives.

As we continue to see more and more headlines, somehow the children of these murdered or missing mothers are quickly forgotten. News articles and comments always say something to the effect that they will need a lot of counseling, however, that's the last we hear from or about them.

This show will explain in detail the stories of two women with similar circumstances and how they coped and survived.

Jaemi Levine said...

Susan great writing as usual your writing leaves us questioning the justice system, but never your talent! Your graphic description of a terrorized family brings us a better understanding of the need for victims continued support. Thank you for all you do to help so many.

Anonymous said...

Very Good Post.

Many people who read about these murder's just don't realize how many people are touched by these acts of violence. They touch every one who knows of it.

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justice4mymom said...

Delilah, you are correct about needing a lot of counseling. It does help, but honestly, you just learn to live with it. The pain never goes away. It feels like a deep hole in your heart that can't be filled. I'm blessed to have a supportive husband and three healthy children. My oldest son, who was at home at the time of the murder, doesn't remember seeing the crime, but he still remembers hearing it. My father was pure evil. Any father who takes away their children's mother is a monster. Selfish isn't a strong enough word to describe him! Many times these monsters are chameleons at hiding their true self! Only the immediate family knows the truth!

Chris, I love that you quoted Proverbs 31:8-9. Too many people stay silent. In my case, people who knew my father was going to murder my mother stayed silent. And they attend church! I won't name one of these people, but he actually told the Friendswood detectives, "I can't testify, I don't know where my bread and butter is coming from!" I’d like to say thank you to Tina Frederick, my mother’s friend and neighbor, who did have the guts to stand up to him and testify.

Today, almost 14 years later, I still do not know of a specific support group for children whose parent murdered the other parent. As Susan poignantly said, "we're members of the same private murder club."