We all woke up around 7:30. I fixed Tennille and my other daughter, Tabatha, each a bowl of cereal. It was my parents' anniversary, and I wanted to spend the day with them. We didn't have a car at the time, so I called my father and asked if he would pick us up. He got there around 9:00.
When we arrived at my parents' home, my (now ex-) husband said that he was going down the street to Larry Mann's house, a friend of ours from when we lived next door to my parents. While at Larry's house, Terry was drinking beer and smoking pot.
About 4:00pm, Tennille needed her diaper changed, and I noticed that I had run out of diapers, so I called Terry and told him we had to go home, or he could ask Larry's daughter if I could get a couple of diapers. He got upset and said we would go home. While at Larry's house, he had Tabatha and I had Tennille. My sons were living with my parents and my brother Bob and his wife. I will explain why later.
The TV program "The Big Show", which starts at 4:00, was on when we left my parents' home, so I guess it was bout 4:15 when we left. It took about 15 minutes to drive home due to the roads being covered with wet snow. Normally, it is a 5 minute drive.
When we arrived home, Terry went into the kitchen and fixed some sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese. I was changing Tennille's diaper, when the phone rang. It was Larry Mann. After Terry hung up, he ate and fed the girls off of his dish. Just as he finished, the phone rang again, and it was Alice Arnold, who wanted to buy a picture from us.
Terry left about 5:05pm, and returned about 5:15 or 5:17. He gave me a $20 bill and said to go up to the store and get some food and him some cigarettes. I left about 5:20, the first time. I came back and called my Dad and asked him if he could take me to Kroger's. He said he couldn't leave my sister Sue alone, with my mom, as she needed two people with her at all times. She was bed-ridden from a stroke. So, I left again, and it was about 5:40.
When I had left the first time, I had to get my coat, which was hanging outside the girls' bedroom, and I heard them laughing. So, I know that Tennille was alive at 5:20 when I left the apartment the first time. Terry had put the girls in their bedroom when they got done eating. Right after he left to sell the picture, I got a phone call from a friend named Dennis Watson, who was a paramedic. After hanging up from the call, I laid down on the couch. It was about 5 minutes and there was a knock at the door. It was Terry. He had forgotten to take his keys.
Both times that I had left the apartment, the girls were in their bedroom. When I left the apartment I did not see or talk to anyone on the stairs. This was neither the first time I left, nor the second time.
I decided to go to the carry-out across the street, on the corner, as the cigarettes were cheaper there. So I got a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi and 2 packs of Kools. I gave the man the $20 bill. He said he didn't have enough money to give me back my change. So, he took the $20, and gave me, I think, a ten and 2 fives out of his pocket. I paid for the stuff with one of the fives.
When I left the store, a light-green station wagon asked for directions to the highway. It took a moment for me to get my bearings, as we had only lived there for 3 weeks. After I gave the man directions, I walked the 2 blocks to the supermarket, Joseph's. Once inside the store, which was my first time there, I had to ask the stock boy where the diapers were.
I had just stepped into the check-out line when my neighbor's sons came and told me that I had an emergency at home. I asked the check-out lady if I could leave my cart to the side here, and pick it up later. She said yes. I picked up the paper bag from the carry-out and went home. When the boys would not answer my question of what happened, I got scared and started running. When I left the supermarket, it was about 6:25pm.
I got home and a paramedic was there. He informed me that my baby was rushed to the hospital. I asked if I could call my Dad so he could take me to the hospital. He said yes, but that I couldn't leave until I talked to the police. I asked him why are the police coming, and if it had anything to do with the rash on her stomach- I was taking care of that. It started out as a patch of dry skin. She kept scratching it and it got infected. I used that pink lotion on it and she had an allergic reaction to it. The paramedic's name was Minnifield, and he did not answer me.
Then, I believe, one of the 3 sisters that lived in the other apartments, who were standing outside my door, said Tennille was not breathing. I felt my legs give out on me and sat down on the edge of the couch.
After I had answered the police's questions, my father arrived with my nephew, Harold O'Day Jr., who had lived with my parents. I went to the hospital and was shown into what is called the "bad news room", as people are informed of bad news in that room. So, I knew that I was going to receive bad news, but never in a million years did I expect to be told that my baby was dead.
There was a male doctor, a nun, and, I believe, a social worker, plus Terry in that room. I asked where my baby was, and the doctor said that they tried everything possible, but could not save her.
This time, my legs did give out and I fell to the floor screaming. My Dad and nephew walked into the hospital just as I screamed, and they heard me and knew something was wrong. When they came into the room, I went into my Dad's arms saying, "She's gone", crying. Then Terry was asked to step out into the hall for a minute. I found out later that he was arrested and charged with murder during the commission of a rape.
A nurse told me they were cleaning Tennille up and asked if I wanted to see her when they were done. I said yes. Then I said to the nun, "Now I know what my sisters felt." She asked what I meant by that and I explained that I had 2 sisters who had lost babies. That was the first time I said anything about there being other baby deaths in the family. I called my parents house to let everyone know what had happened. They all started crying. My uncle, Ed Gilbert, was called to be with my mom when she was told. She was especially fond of Tennille, as Tennille favored her in looks, and we knew she would take it hard.
After seeing Tennille and not believing my baby was dead, my Dad drove me back to the apartment to pick up Tabatha, as she had stayed with one of the sisters. They asked me what had happened and I said, "I lost her." It was then that I said anything to them about other babies dying and NOT BEFORE. Starting to cry again, I asked my sister Nancy, who went into the apartment building with me, to go into my apartment and get Tabatha's coat. She also grabbed the bag from the carry-out from off the TV. I could not make myself go into my apartment. You see, for some reason, I'm afraid of spirits, and I had this thought that Tennille's spirit would be in the apartment. I hated myself, and I still do, for being afraid to see my baby's spirit.
After arriving at my parent's house, I broke down in my mom's arms. Later, I was rushed to the emergency room, as I was going into shock. I was given a presciption, and left. I can't remember if I got a shot or not. Between then and the time of the funeral, I walked around like a zombie.
Then, on the day of the services, I lost it. I tried to pick Tennille up out of the casket, saying, "It's time to go home." My brother Bob pushed 2 pills down my throat and threw me over his shoulder- as I was fighting the ones trying to get me away from Tennille's casket- and carried me out of the funeral home.
The night Tennille died, I was questioned at the hospital by 2 detectives and again later the same night at the police station. The morning after, I was questioned again, and during that questioning, Children's Services took my other 3 kids out of my parents' home. It was at the second questioning that I was informed that my baby was murdered. I started crying and they got me a drink. It was then that detective Ross took my brother, Bob Skelly, into another room and told him that every time Terry opened his mouth, he backed himself further into a corner. My brother, Bob, said the detective proceeded to demonstrate to him how Tennille was strangled while being entered from behind.
My brother asked Detective Ross why I was being questioned again and Mr. Ross said that it was procedure, as my statements were not matching Terry's. But his own statements don't match each other, so how could they expect mine to match his? On March 29th, it was on the news that a warrant was issued for my arrest. I called Mr. Paul Geller, a lawyer I met at the courthouse on the day of Terry's arraignment, and he said for me to meet him the next morning, and I would turn myself in, as this would be better for me. So, at 8:30 on March 30, 1983, I turned myself in.
I asked Mr. Geller to be my lawyer instead of Terry's, and he said that he could, because Terry's family had hired another lawyer, Alan Konop, to represent Terry. I have been locked up ever since. Now, the paramedic who had stayed at the apartment, Mr. Minnifield, testified that he went into the bedroom with the crib. I did not have a crib. He also testified that he entered the first bedroom on the left. He described the apartment across the hall- NOT MINE!
Ethel Jones, an inmate at the county jail, testified that I confessed to her that I did it. Yes, it looked as if I did because she knew a lot of information, but her lawyer was the associate of Terry's lawyer. He had Alan Konop, and her lawyer was Don Cameron. I did speak to her but I NEVER confessed that I killed my own baby.
Her testimony cleared Terry and he plea-bargained to a 3rd degree misdemeanor, failure to report a dead body. I was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter and felonious sexual penetration. I got 7-25 years running with a life sentence.
I was in prison only 12 days when my father died. Then, 11 years later, I lost my mother also. I am not allowed to know if my sons are alive or dead, as I lost all parental rights. Terry has custody of Tabatha, but I have not been allowed to have any contact with her either. It has been 14 years. But the pain of losing my baby is just as fresh as it was in 1983. I still cry about what happened, especially on March 21st, the day she died, and on August 12th, the day of her birth. I get so depressed on those days. I ask myself all the time if the pain will lessen or go away, but I believe that I will never stop mourning the loss of my baby, or the loss of my other 3 children.
My oldest, Benton, is 20 now. I think all the time of how his childhood was, if he and my other son, Robert, grew up together or if different families adopted them. Robert is 18 now. I think of how tall they are, if they have girlfriends, and how they did in school.
I have such a great emptiness inside me that I fear will never be filled until I lay eyes on my children again. I think of Tabatha all the time, as she is with Terry. I worry about her because he is such an abusive man. Terry used to beat the kids all the time. That is why my sons were not in my home. They are not his. He took a belt to them one morning and put such welts up and down their backs and on their legs, I was scared. So to protect them, I placed Benton with my parents and Robert with my brother Bob and his wife Jackie.
While we were living next door to my parents, my sister Nancy saw Terry throw Tennille on the couch so hard that she hit the back of the couch and bounced off- and without hitting the cushions- landed on the floor. Tennille was about a year old at the time. I was informed about this after my incarceration. I was also told that Terry once told my nephew, Marty, that "before some bum off the street ruined his daughters, he would break them in himself."
I also found out that Terry molested 2 of my nieces, Beth and Suelynn, when they lived below us with their mom, Alice. Statements from Beth and Suelynn have been written and given to a private investigator. My brother and sister are also writing statements of what they saw, and were told by Detective Ross.
I realize this all sounds so far-fetched, but as God is my witness, I did not hurt and kill my baby. I would never hurt another human being. How could I do that to my baby when, before all this happened, Tabatha fell and skinned her knee, and I went crazy. I called my sister and yelled, "Tabatha almost cut her leg off! Hurry up and get over here!" When she arrived, she slapped me into reality, saying, "She only skinned her knee!" Every time one of my kids got hurt, I became a crazed mother, thinking it was worse than it really was.
I love all four of my kids
very much, and ther is no way
on this earth that I could ever hurt one of them.
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