Flood Relief Funds: What really happened

By Denise A. Mathis • Guest Column

One of the most publicized criminal cases in Haywood County history centered around me, Denise Mathis, and the whereabouts of flood relief funds. I will never forget that day in August, 2006, when I walked through the door of the Waynesville Police Department, was fingerprinted, was photographed for my “mug shot,” and was escorted into jail. I was charged with 14 counts of embezzlement, even though I had done nothing wrong. I was completely innocent.

There are so many things that I want to say concerning what happened to me, but first and foremost, I would publicly like to say, “Thank you” to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who has been and is my Comforter, Sustainer, Redeemer, Provider, and Deliverer. “Thank you” to my wonderful, loving family — my husband, Alan; my two sons, David and Daniel; and my daughter-in-law, Morgan; as well as all of my family members both in Georgia and here in Haywood County who have stood by me and supported me through thick and thin. “Thank you” to my faithful, enduring friends, as well as my church family at First Baptist Church in Maggie Valley, whose prayers, encouragement, love, and support have kept my family and me going even to this day. And finally, “thank you” to my dedicated attorney, Russell L. McLean III, “Rusty,” who not only fights my legal battles but also, with his special wife Lisa, believed in me, gave me a job, and befriended me. To all of you, I will truly be eternally grateful!

I know many of you still have questions about what really happened several years ago in regards to the distribution of flood relief funds through the Council on Aging (COA). I don’t blame you.

From February 2006 through November 2007 the general public was bombarded with printed newspaper articles, television news stories, Internet articles, blogs, chat rooms, etc., about me and the “criminal” case I became entangled in. At one time there were over 7,000 miscellaneous Internet-related articles and entries and over 260 local and regional newspaper articles specifically related to this horrible, unjust event in my life. Information was circulated literally throughout not only Haywood County, but throughout Western North Carolina, the entire state of North Carolina, and across every part of the world through the power of the World Wide Web, using words, names and terms such as “flood relief funds,” “Haywood County Council on Aging, Inc.,” “United Way of Haywood County,” “Unmet Needs Committee,” “Without the Approval of the Unmet Needs Committee,” “missing funds,” “misappropriated,” “embezzlement,” “authority,” and “grants.” These words, names, and terms were critical to understanding the overall case and what really happened.

Because there are pending lawsuits and other legal issues forthcoming, I am not at liberty at this time to share or disclose all of the details concerning my criminal case, or mention individual names, businesses, organizations and events in regards to their participation and accusations. But I do want to tell you what I can to help you better understand how all of this started, what really happened, and where it stands today.

In September of 2004 many counties in North Carolina were devastated by hurricanes Frances and Ivan. As you all well know, Haywood was one of those counties. Nothing like this had ever happened here; and, to say the least, the community had to get into “high gear” in order to provide badly needed assistance. Over the many days, weeks, months, and even years following the floods, wonderful individuals, faith-based organizations, businesses, service agencies, and government departments and entities stepped up to the huge challenge of helping our flood-impacted residents.

Soon after the flooding began, The United Way of Haywood County (UWHC) and its Board of Directors voted to establish a special fund of money to help our flood victims and named this fund the Local Flood Relief Fund. This special fund was established so that people and organizations that wanted to give on a local level would have a central place to which they could donate money and assist our flood-impacted residents. The United Way of Haywood County (UWHC) established this special fund by donating $10,000 from its own reserve account. The general public was informed about this Local Flood Relief Fund, established by UWHC, through public announcements. Jonathan Key, who was the president of the UWHC Board of Directors, as well as the publisher and owner of The Mountaineer newspaper, also published information about this UWHC Local Flood Relief Fund. As previously stated, many wonderful people, businesses, and organizations gave from their hearts, and approximately $150,000 was donated to this special, local fund.

The United Way of Haywood County (UWHC) decided to distribute, through local member service agencies, the money which was donated to its Local Flood Relief Fund, in order to help meet the needs of flood victims in the community. As such, the United Way of Haywood County (UWHC) developed a specific “grant” proposal application for these Local Flood Relief Funds and invited its member agencies to apply for this special funding through a one-time “grant” application. As a UWHC member agency, Haywood County Council on Aging (COA) completed and submitted this special “grant” application to the United Way of Haywood County (UWHC) so that it, too, could assist people who were impacted by the floods. Some members of the UWHC Board of Directors’ Executive Committee met with each of the member agencies that had applied for these funds, including the Haywood County Council on Aging (COA).

In November of 2004, the United Way of Haywood County (UWHC) Board of Directors voted and approved to give the Haywood County Council on Aging (COA), a total of $65,000 from its Local Flood Relief Fund. The COA opened a separate bank account called the Haywood County Council on Aging Flood Relief Account and the COA deposited the $65,000 into this account. All of the “grant” funds from the “UWHC Local Flood Relief Fund Grant” were to be used according to the COA’s “grant” proposal application which COA submitted to the UWHC. I assure you that every penny of these “grant” funds was spent exactly as defined in the “UWHC Local Flood Relief Fund Grant” application submitted by the COA.

Soon after the flooding, I, as executive director of the Council on Aging, attended a conference in Raleigh. While there, I asked the director of the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services to accompany me to meet with representatives at the North Carolina governor’s office, so I could talk with them about assisting our flood-impacted residents. At that meeting at the governor’s office, I spoke with several representatives about the many flood-related needs of our Haywood County citizens and was told that Gov. Easley was already working on a state level initiative to raise money to help counties that were affected by the floods. The governor’s office stated that Haywood County would be one of the counties that would receive the governor’s funding.

During the next several weeks and months, the North Carolina Governor’s Office requested large companies and organizations to donate money in order to help the North Carolina citizens affected by the flood. Millions of dollars were donated to the North Carolina Governor’s Office fund, named the “North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund”.

In October 2004, the North Carolina Governor’s office sent a memo to the Haywood County government office, informing the county that it would be receiving a portion of the funds from the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund. These funds were to assist the flood-impacted residents with their unmet emergency needs due to the disaster. In order to receive these funds, Haywood County government officials would have to follow and abide by specific written requirements and instructions they received from the governor’s office. One requirement stipulated by the governor’s office regarding this North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund was to establish an “Unmet Needs Committee.” The Unmet Needs Committee’s sole purpose and authority was specifically to identify needs and to develop a Distribution Plan, stating how Haywood County’s government would use and distribute the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund allocation in meeting the governor’s spending criteria, distribution criteria, and the local needs of the county.

The government of Haywood County received fund allocations from the governor’s office North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund on two occasions. The first fund allocation that Haywood County government received was in November of 2004 and was in the amount of $388,582.87. The second fund allocation that Haywood County government received was in March of 2005 in the amount of $240,689.04. All of the funds from the governor’s North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund were directly deposited into and dispersed out of a Haywood County government bank account. None of the North Carolina Disaster Relief Funds from the governor’s office ever went into a Council on Aging (COA) bank account at any time.

Meanwhile, independently, in an effort to assist county flood victims, the Haywood County Council on Aging (COA) also submitted two flood relief “grant” applications to the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. The COA applied for these funds to assist flood-impacted residents and was awarded both of these. All of the grant funds from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina were spent exactly as defined in the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina grant applications submitted by the COA.

Over the coming months, more flood relief money was received and deposited into the Council on Aging’s (COA) Flood Relief bank account and was used for flood relief. The Council on Aging volunteered to assist with the distribution of flood relief funds when the United Way of Haywood County expressed that they did not have the manpower to do it themselves and, furthermore, wanted to channel their efforts on their annual fundraising campaign. From approximately October of 2004, through February of 2006, the Mountain Area Resource Center (MARC), a community-wide resource center which was sponsored by the Council on Aging (COA), served as the centralized location for the flood relief efforts and assistance offered in Haywood County.

On the morning of the Mountain Area Resource Center’s (MARC) Open House, the North Carolina State Division of Aging and Adult Services Department from Raleigh called and talked with me about flood relief assistance. They specifically requested that the Council on Aging (COA) work at the FEMA site to assist FEMA and to represent the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services Department by assisting the adults and seniors in Haywood County throughout this disaster. The COA took this request seriously. I could not even begin to list all of the many activities, duties, and responsibilities that the COA carried out during the disaster and flood relief time period.

Because the overwhelming flood-related needs of our Haywood County residents continued to increase, the flood relief workload of the Council on Aging (COA) continued to increase as well. Other agencies were also working hard in this endeavor. But, the COA’s staff carried the load of many additional duties and responsibilities of disaster relief on a regular daily basis. It was truly heartbreaking to hear the stories of the many, many people who came to the COA/MARC for assistance. Decisions had to be made so that we could continue to assist these overwhelming needs. For example, fundraising and development time and efforts for the COA’s regular services and programs had to be put on the sideline so we could adequately continue to assist flood-impacted residents on a regular daily basis. Their needs were urgent — needs such as shelter, bills, medicine, clothing, supplies, building materials, furniture, and on and on. Even eyeglasses and dentures washed away down the river in the flood waters. I will never forget going to the shelter the first night of the floods. I went to see how many people were there so I could get enough food for their dinner that evening. One little, elderly lady sat in a chair holding a brown paper bag with her medicine. That was all she had left. Everything else was gone.

Due to the overwhelming added flood relief expenses that the Council on Aging (COA) incurred and the loss of much-needed funding and income as referenced above, the COA requested financial assistance. On more than one occasion, financial assistance was requested from the United Way of Haywood County (UWHC), Haywood County government, the North Carolina Governor’s office, the North Carolina Emergency Management Division, Congressman Charles Taylor’s office, Sen. Dole’s office, the North Carolina State Division of Aging and Adult Services Department, and Church World Services, as well as local companies and individuals. COA received approximately $40,000 in financial assistance from individuals and the Church World Services, with the hope of more to come.

Due to the continuing increase of flood expenses at the Council on Aging (COA), as well as the loss of normal COA fundraising activities and income, the COA began to experience financial difficulties. The COA transferred funds to its General Operating Account in order to pay for flood-related expenses incurred by the COA. Without reimbursement for flood-related expenses, services for flood relief could not have continued. The COA flood expenses included overtime and mileage incurred by staff assisting flood victims on nights and weekends and assisting FEMA seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; training and supervision of flood relief individuals hired by the Employment Security Commission (ESC); photocopies for flood-related community assistance handouts, meeting materials, and client information; mileage for delivering supplies, building materials, and furniture to flood-impacted residents; office supplies; professional copying expenses for duplicate forms and documents; flood relief meeting items, supplies, and expenses; MARC facility space rental and utilities while utilized by ESC and others; repair expenses for flood damage at the COA/MARC facility; and COA staff time to approve flood-related vendor invoices (even those related to Haywood County government’s allocation of funds from the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund from the Governor’s office).

On or about Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006, without any prior notice, the Council on Aging (COA) received a Certified Letter on United Way of Haywood County (UWHC) stationery. The letter stated that the committee voted to have all remaining funds from the Unmet Needs Committee, as well as all flood-related documents, transferred to the United Way of Haywood County (UWHC). The letter was signed by seven individuals I will not name at this time. I could not believe it! After almost 16 months of serving as the centralized center for flood relief assistance in Haywood County, no one bothered to call, no one asked for a meeting, no one sent an e-mail or a fax to explain what this certified letter was all about. The certified letter further stated that an individual, whom I shall not name at this time, would arrange to pick up a cashier’s check made payable to the United Way of Haywood County, as well as all related documentation, at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10, 2006. The letter closed by stating, “Again, thank you for the role your organization played in meeting the needs of our neighbors.” After all the time and resources the COA had put into the flood relief effort, I considered this a great slap in the face. I cannot describe now extremely hurt I personally was. At the time, I did not understand what was happening or why; things are a little bit clearer now.

Indeed, on Feb. 10, 2006, three individuals, who shall remain nameless at this time, abruptly opened the door to my office, walked in, and immediately demanded the Unmet Needs Committee flood funds and all related documentation. I refused their demands and stated that, if they had a concern about something, they should have called me or met with me regarding that concern. I told them that I did not know why they sent the certified letter and that I did not appreciate their actions or the way that they were speaking to me. They continued to demand the money and documents, but I did not give them anything. The conversation began to get heated, and a Council on Aging employee who overheard the confrontation called my husband and told him to come to the building. My husband, Alan, came to the building; and the three individuals left. I was completely torn up by what had just happened. I called the Council on Aging (COA) board president, and she came a few minutes after they left. Alan was still there and I proceeded to tell her the details regarding the visit and conversation with the three individuals.

It had started snowing fairly heavy outside and the COA board president knew that I had planned on leaving that evening to go to Camp Lejeune. I had previously arranged to take the next week off from work so I could spend some long-awaited time with my son. The COA board president told Alan and me to go ahead, and get on the road before it got too bad to travel. I took the laptop computer with me, as I did every day, so I could work at night and on the weekends. Then, Alan and I left the Council on Aging (COA) and began our trip to Jacksonville. When I left that night, I had no idea that Feb. 10, 2006, would be my last day at the Council on Aging (COA). I was so upset by what had just happened that, as Alan and I traveled that evening, I just sat there stunned and hurt.

You might ask, “Why did you leave town that night? Did you have something you wanted to hide? Were you running away from something?” Quite the opposite. You see, my son, David was a Marine and was returning home that weekend to Camp Lejeune from his tour of duty in Iraq. David was coming home, but some of his buddies were not. I could not wait to see him, to hug him tight, to welcome him home, and to tell him that I was very proud of him and that I loved him with all of my heart. It was during this trip to Camp Lejeune that my life changed forever.

On Saturday, Feb. 11, 2006, while we were still traveling to Jacksonville, my husband received a phone call from the Council on Aging’s (COA) board president. She stated that the COA Board of Directors had accepted my resignation. I was shocked! I never resigned! I did not understand what was happening. I loved the COA, and I had given my heart and dedication to that organization, to its employees, and to the many people that I had the great privilege to serve. I again couldn’t believe what had just happened. I just sat in the car and cried all the way to Camp Lejeune.

I am still not exactly sure what transpired between that Friday evening, Feb. 10, 2006, when I left work, and early Monday morning, Feb. 13, 2006, when The Mountaineer published its Monday morning edition. My husband spoke to his mother on the phone while we were still in our hotel room in Jacksonville early that Monday morning and she read to him the front page headlines, as well as other articles throughout the paper. (I suspect that people were working overtime that weekend to make sure the story hit the paper on Monday morning.) That morning was the first time I heard that I had resigned and the first time I heard the accusations of wrongdoing. There I was — eight hours away and waiting for my son to arrive home from Iraq — completely devastated by the news I had just heard. It was like a nightmare and I could not believe it. Again, at the time I did not understand what was happening or why, but things are a little bit clearer now.

Who was doing this to me and why? I could not believe that someone would deliberately do something like this to another person. It’s one thing to accuse someone privately; but accusing someone publicly goes beyond reproach. It was deliberate. I had not done what I was being accused of. I was innocent! I asked my husband, Alan, to call one of the COA board members who was on the executive committee and ask what was going on. When he phoned, the board member stated that she, too, had just read The Mountaineer and that was the first she had heard about the events which had supposedly taken place. She said that she was going to a COA board meeting later that morning and hoped to learn, herself, what was going on.

David’s flight had been delayed due to sand storms, so I stayed in our hotel room in Jacksonville. I cried and cried until there were no more tears to cry. I wanted to go home and find out what was going on and tell them I was innocent, but I had to see my son. I had to see David and hug him and welcome him home.

The newspaper articles continued about “missing money” and “embezzlement.” I still couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I hadn’t done what the newspaper and its “sources” accused me of. I felt as though I had been sentenced and pronounced guilty before I even arrived home later that week from Camp Lejeune. It is sad and disturbing to think that people would wait until I was out of town and then publicly make these false statements and accusations without giving me the opportunity to defend myself. But, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

On Feb. 17, 2006, the same seven individuals mentioned previously wrote a letter to the United Way of Haywood County (UWHC) Board of Directors. The letter stated that the Unmet Needs Committee of Haywood County requested that the UWHC Board of Directors turn over to the proper legal authorities the investigation of “missing funds” from the Council on Aging (COA). Later that same day, during a special called UWHC Board Meeting, the United Way of Haywood County (UWHC) Board of Directors voted to turn the investigation over to the District Attorney.

Our phone rang off the wall when my husband and I arrived back home from Camp Lejeune later that week. Many people called and just hung up, others called truly concerned for my family and me and left messages of love and support. I want to say “thank you” to each one of you again for letting me know you cared through your cards and calls. But I am sad to say that not one Council on Aging (COA) Board member has ever called me to ask about the accusations or ask if they could meet with me, or even ask how I was doing. I am so hurt. I feel as if I have been hung out and left to dry.

For many, many months, I rarely got out of the house or talked to anyone except my family, my wonderful Pastor, Ricky Mason, and my attorney, Rusty McLean. I really believe that my mind, body, and emotions were in total shock. My wonderful husband, Alan, and my youngest son Daniel, a student at Tuscola who I am very proud of and love with all of my heart, were so very good to me. My oldest son, David, continued to call and e-mail whenever possible, while he served two more tours of duty. He worried about me and I worried about him. I don’t know what I would do without my family. In times like these, you are reminded of how very blessed you are to have your family and true friends around you. I deeply appreciate each one of you.

Within weeks, I heard that the Council on Aging (COA) would be closing its doors. I felt as though the COA was being literally divided up and picked apart by organizations and businesses within our community. I wanted to go to the meetings and stand up for this wonderful agency once again which had helped and served thousands upon thousands of people, not just throughout the floods, but faithfully for over 20 years in our county. Wonderful services, programs, grants, projects, departments, the COA/MARC building and land, the MARC Magazine — years of hard, dedicated work and many wonderful people — now all gone to Mountain Projects, Haywood County Department of Social Services, The Mountaineer newspaper and the Haywood County government.

I will always feel honored to have been a part of such a fine organization. Every time I drive past the building now, I think about the many, many wonderful things that the Council on Aging (COA) did in our community and the special people I had the great privilege of working with, meeting, and serving. There are many, many wonderful services and projects that will continue to serve our residents for years to come just because of the tireless work and dedicated commitment of the Council on Aging.

On Aug. 7, 2006, after approximately five and a half months of investigation, I was indicted with 14 counts of embezzlement. Let me make it clear that I never took one penny! I never embezzled any money! And there were never any missing funds! Early in the case, an independent forensic CPA audit was completed which proved money was never embezzled neither were there any missing funds. But, that information was never disseminated throughout local newspapers. Every flood relief “grant” that the COA applied for was spent exactly as the grant application described and was never misappropriated. I was being indicted for something that I never did and would never even think of doing. I was innocent!

Months later, when I finally did start getting out of the house, I felt like I was wearing a big, neon billboard that flashed, “Here I am, The Criminal.” I was stared at, pointed at, cursed at, and once someone even spit on me. I felt like a piece of dirt, even though I knew I was innocent of any crime. I went through the hardest, darkest time that I had ever gone through in my entire life. Many times, I would lay in bed at night, crying and asking God to let me die in my sleep. I did not want to feel this overwhelming pain anymore. What happened to me was so unfair. It was not right. Aren’t you innocent until proven guilty? I was and still am completely torn apart on the inside. It is like an open wound that will never heal.

On Nov. 8, 2007, after 21 months of investigation, 14 indictments of embezzlement, a forensic CPA audit that showed no evidence of any crime committed, two plea offers from the District Attorney’s office (which I refused because I would not plead guilty to crimes for which I was completely innocent), and just days before my trial was to begin, my case was dismissed!

One would think that I would be happy now, since all of this is over. And, in once sense, I AM happy — very, very happy! If it were not for God and for the persistence and dedication of my attorney, I could be serving more than 40 years in prison. But, in another sense, my happiness is greatly stifled because my case is not really over yet. I was never exonerated! The District Attorney’s office has never stated that I was not guilty!

The dismissal document from the District Attorney’s office read, “The undersigned prosecutor enters a dismissal to the above charges and assigns the following reasons: There is insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution for the following reasons: The evidence is insufficient to prove the elements of the offenses including the essential element of fraudulent intent.” Evidence was insufficient? What evidence? There never was any evidence because the offenses never happened! I never should have been indicted! Again, I am completely innocent!

I wish the hands of time could be turned back and that I would be spared the pain and many hardships that my family and I have had to endure and still have to endure. But, no one can go back and erase the accusations, the humiliation, the public’s retaliation, the official statements to the press, the overwhelming publicity, the indictments, the arrest, the criminal record, the emotional pain, the loss of income, a ruined reputation, and a criminal case that never should have happened. This has affected every aspect of my life — for the rest of my life!

I keep remembering the many events that have transpired over the last three years. I was investigated from February 2006 until November of 2007; indicted with 14 counts of embezzlement; arrested and fingerprinted. A photo mug shot was taken. I was escorted to jail. Our home was used as collateral for my bail, so I could get out of jail. Over 260 newspaper articles were published about me and thousands of articles circulated, and still circulate, throughout the Internet. I had to get permission from the District Attorney’s office to go and see my son before he deployed again. I was facing 40 years of prison for something that I did not do. My husband and I lost our health insurance. My own bank closed my bank accounts for no reason at all and demanded that I take my name off the bank accounts and safety deposit box in my mother’s name, for whom I am the Power of Attorney. We lost all of our money, savings, and retirement that we had saved just to keep our home out of foreclosure and so I could stay out of jail. In January of 2007, my husband had a heart attack — no insurance, no money. My husband had two additional surgeries, one in 2007 and another in 2008 — still, no insurance, no money. I had to have teeth cut out because I could not afford to pay for two root canals and crowns. On many occasions, my husband and I gather coins together so we can buy groceries at the General Dollar Store and the Dollar Tree. We still owe thousands of dollars in legal fees and thousands more in medical bills. I have tried over and over to find a job, only to find out that the employer required a criminal background check and the 14 indictments are still on my record. Still, I could literally go on and on. If it were not for our wonderful family and friends’ love and financial support, we would lose everything that we have.

Last month, something happened that proved with out a doubt that my “reputation” has been truly ruined by this, and it will be impossible for me to work here in my own community. I was told that if I did not take my name off of a project application, the project would not be supported. He stated that I have a “black cloud over my head,” and he was not going to ruin his reputation because of mine. I can’t even describe how this has affected me! And just two weeks ago, I was turned down once again because of my “reputation.” I was devastated! Both of these incidents involved wonderful projects that would greatly benefit our Haywood County residents. It makes me just want to give up, and quit trying to do anything. It would be so very, very, easy. But, I can’t. What happened to me is not right. While everyone else continues to go on with their life, their dreams, goals, and passions, my life cannot go on any further until this is truly over.

When I walk in a store or down the street in Waynesville, I still feel as though everyone is staring at me. I can’t help but believe that many people still think that I am guilty. Behind each “Hello,” “How are you doing?” and smile, I still feel very insecure, hurt, and empty inside. That big neon, flashing billboard is still hanging around my neck and I wonder ... Do people who have hurt me really even care about what they have done? How can you take someone’s life and destroy it for no reason at all and then just walk away as if the whole thing never happened?

I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to come out. It’s time. It’s long past time!! I don’t want anyone ever to wonder ... Did she do it? ... What happened to the “missing money?” Since this case was deliberately made so public, I believe the public has a right to know these answers, as well as everything that transpired in the background leading up to this horrible event. It is amazing and very sad what some individuals will intentionally do or participate in to ensure the demise of someone else.

There are answers to the questions of who, why, what and how, but due to pending legal issues this is not the time, place or venue to share those details. I would not do that to someone else, leaving them to learn about it from the newspaper, neither is it my desire to publicly and deliberately destroy someone’s name and reputation, as was done to me. The truth will come out at the right time and in the right way.

My heart longs once again to be involved in helping and serving people. That has always been my passion. But, I know now, I most likely will never have that opportunity again. As the C.E.O. and Executive Director of the Council on Aging (COA), I worked with not only local individuals, businesses, organizations, Foundations, and government entities in Haywood County, but also throughout our region, the State of North Carolina and the southeastern part of the United States. Everyone that I have ever worked with knows, has read, or has been told about this horrible event. It will follow me for the rest of my life. What happened to me was not just “UNFAIR,” it was “UNJUST!”

An individual’s name and reputation is very important. A reputation, good or bad, will follow a person for the rest of his or her life and beyond for generations to come. It’s almost impossible ever to regain a good reputation after it has been publicly ruined. But, when I am dead and gone, I want my grandchildren and their children to know that I was not a criminal. I want them to know that I loved to help and serve people and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of the people in my community. I want them to know the truth. And, the only way for this to happen is to insist that the truth be told!

As I close, I again say “thank you” to my faithful Heavenly Father; to my wonderful family and friends who have loved and supported me; and to my dedicated attorney and his wife. I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate each one of you. Even now, I still cry; still get depressed; still go to counseling; still do not like to get out in public; still wonder how my husband and I are going to pay our bills-not just today, but in the future; still feel angry; still feel hurt; still ask “why?” And, still wonder ... what will I do the rest of my life? When I really get discouraged and I feel like giving up, David and Daniel lovingly remind me that I have a lot to be thankful for. Yes, even through all of this, “I am truly, truly blessed indeed!”

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