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my victim impact statement

the sentencing hearing of my sister’s husband is less than two weeks away. convicted of second degree murder, his exact sentence will be given February 20th 2009, just under a year after my sister’s murder. before sentencing, family members of the victim are allowed to submit what are called Victim Impact Statements to the Judge, which he is allowed to consider when determining an appropriate sentence.

almost everyone in my family wrote one. we submitted eleven Victim Impact Statements to the District Attorney’s Office. this, i am told, is quite a lot. i read all of the victim impact statements my family members submitted this weekend, and i am revisited by an aching sorrow for the pain felt by so many.

my six year old cousin insisted on writing her own statement. she dictated it to her mother and instructed her to send it just as she had spoken it. i am in awe of this child. here is her statement – written exactly as she instructed:

Angela’s husband should be in jail for 10,000 months because we are sorry that Angela died. He could have hurt the baby. What he did was wrong. What he did was bad; he should be in jail for a super long time! Angela was my cousin and you should respect that. I miss her a lot and you should respect that because you [judge] love others too. -Sophia

my own impact statement was much harder to write, which i was surprised at. much of what i have been writing about has stemmed from what happened to my sister, so i thought the words would come easily for me. they did not. i’m not satisfied with the statement as a whole at all, but the mere fact that i was able to get it written felt like an accomplishment.

here is my Victim Impact Statement. The State of NY vs. Arthur Morgan Jr.

Dear Judge Nichols,

My name is Amanda DeLyser, Angela Marie Morgan was my older sister.

The last time I spoke with my sister was just over one year ago. She was living with our grandmother in Chatham at the time while her husband was in Columbia County Jail, serving several months for violating an order of protection against him on Angela’s behalf. During these several months, Angela and I spoke often. It was the closest that she and I had been since we were much younger. She was happier and healthier than we had seen her in quite some time. She was enthusiastic and warm, she was active in church and she had hopes for her future.

The very last time we spoke was February 6th 2008. The day before her husband Arthur Morgan Jr. was to be released. My sister and I argued that day. I yelled at her for the decisions she was making. She was planning on renting a trailer in Claverack for them to live in together. She told me that they were a family, that there were problems but they were going to work on them together. She was attempting to assure me that we would still hear from her after she left. I mocked her- insulted her for thinking that Artie would ever change. I was angry with her. That would be the last conversation that she and I ever had. I will be haunted by that conversation for the rest of my life.

It was just two months later that we found out that Angela was dead. The week prior to that day we had been worried that something might have happened to her. Arthur’s mother- Janet Morgan left a voicemail for my parents telling them that Angela had left Artie and hadn’t taken any of her things, and claimed that Angela said that the next time she left “no one was ever going to find her”. This was not like my sister. If she had finally decided to leave Arthur we would have heard from her. She would have come home. Angela had a family court date that week. She had been talking about that court date for months. When she did not make it to the hearing we knew something was very wrong. My parents filed a missing persons report that afternoon, and they found Angela the next day. In a blanket, left underneath that trailer in Claverack like garbage.

All Angela ever wanted to be was a wife and a mother- to have a family of her own. She thought she had found that with Art. My sister loved that man. She would do anything to make him happy, to keep their family together. Arthur Morgan promised to love my sister. He promised to honor her, cherish her and keep her safe yet he did none of these things. He used her, controlled her and abused her repeatedly. He was a pathetic excuse for a husband, a father and a man in general. He never provided for his family by holding down a full time job. He isoltated Angela from her family, her friends. I now know that this is not the first time he had beaten a woman he claimed to love. Before Angela he had a girlfriend who had to use a Domestic Violence Shelter in order to get away from him.

Angela’s murder was a devastating loss for my entire family. Arthur Morgan didn’t just take my only sister from me. He took my parent’s first born daughter and my two year old nephew’s mother. He took a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin and a friend to many. One of the hardest things for me, is knowing the pain and fear that Angela must have suffered at the time of her murder, the horror and betrayal she must have felt when she realized that someone she loved more than anything was actually killing her. The helplessness she must have felt knowing she was going to die. Angela did not deserve to be so cruelly taken. She was a good person with a big heart who was impressionable and taken advantage of. She wasn’t a crack addict, as Arthur claims. She didn’t use crack cocaine before she met him and she didn’t use it those several months last year while he was in jail. She was a gentle person who loved music and children and her friends.

You never think that violence like this can exist in someone that you know. Someone you’ve spent Holidays with, someone you’ve called family. This has taught me a lesson I’m not sure I could ever have been prepared to learn. I am scared of the things I now know so many are capable of. I am scared to trust that those I love will not hurt me. I am saddened and angry about the loss of my innocent faith in people. Mostly I am angry. I am angry that I will never get to speak to my sister again, that I will never get to see her again. I am angry that the last image I will have of her is the beaten, blackened face Art left her with. I look at her son and often cry for what she always wanted and is now missing.

I honestly believe that if Arthur Morgan Jr is ever free to live in society again that there will be another woman, another victim, another family shattered. So I ask you to sentence him to the maximum penalty permitted by law. If Arthur asks you for mercy or leniency in his sentence I beg you to remember the lack of mercy he showed to Angela. I ask you to think about the lack of respect for human life that he showed when he beat his wife repeatedly in the face, dragged and left her dead body underneath their trailer and moved out- fully intending to continue on with his life as though nothing had happened. I ask you to look at all of the domestic violence related incidents that police were called to their residences for. I ask you to remember the face of this man as he sat here during trail. Apathy, no emotion or respect for anyone besides himself. Arthur has no remorse for the pain he has caused. To this day he denies ever having hit my sister at all, which is so undeniably false that it’s almost laughable. But nothing about what happened to my sister is laughable. I ask you to give Arthur Morgan Jr a sentence as close to the one that he gave to my sister as possible. He decided she deserved to die for what he believed were crimes committed against him. I only wish you could be as harsh with your sentence, as it makes me sick to my stomach to think that I will be helping to pay to give Arthur a better life than he ever bothered to give himself or my sister.

Thank you, Amanda DeLyser

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The Honorable Jonathan D. Nichols
Columbia County Court Hudson, NY

Dear Judge Nichols:

My name is Susan DeLyser Woodruff. I am the aunt of Angela DeLyser Morgan and I wish to address the court regarding the sentencing of Arthur Morgan, Jr. on February 20, 2009. I will not be able to appear in court, but give permission for my statement to be read aloud if you so desire.

You will no doubt hear from many of Angela’s family and friends about what a loving and kind young woman she was, about her devotion to her family, particularly her son, about her fierce loyalty to those she cared for, and about what a terrible hole now exists in their hearts because of her death. I share those feelings, but I have a particular burden for my brother, my sister-in-law and my niece that I want to share because we have a unique bond that goes beyond family ties. You see, I too have buried a child. I know what they have endured these last 10 months and what they will continue to face in the months and years to come.

I know that David and Lorrie and Amanda have spent many sleepless nights being tormented by questions. Did Angela know what was happening to her? Did she suffer? Did she cry out for our help as she fought for her life? Was it my fault? Could I have done something to prevent it? One minute there is an agonizing need to have answers to those questions; the next minute the painful acknowledgement that the answers are too horrible to think about.

I know that not an hour of a day goes by that they don’t think about Angela. I know that everything reminds them of her. Yet there are times when they are consumed with the fear that one day they’ll wake up and won’t be able to picture her face or remember the sound of her voice. I also know that there will come a day when they get ready to lie down for the night and realize that that they hadn’t thought of her at all that day. And that will bring a fresh wave of guilt and grief and pain.

I know that people are uncomfortable around those of us who have been through a tragedy. There will be many people in Chatham and throughout Columbia County who will turn around on the street or in the aisle at the grocery store to avoid having to speak with Angela’s family. There will be some who blame her family for allowing this terrible thing to happen to her. There will be others who expect them to be “over it” by now.

Ultimately, I know that my loved ones will come through this tragedy as better, stronger, more compassionate people. But the journey is very long and hard. My heart breaks for them because I have been there. Even after 13 years, there are moments of intense heartache and sorrow. I wish I could bear those moments for Lorrie, Dave and Mandy because I’m used to it now. They have such a long way to go. You are always in my prayers, dear ones!

I have purposely chosen not to address the subject of this hearing. One more thing I know is that one day he will stand in the court of the everlasting Judge and give an answer for his life. I pray that he comes to repentance before that day.

In the meantime, I am confident that Your Honor will make the best possible decision for my family’s sake. Thank you for hearing me.

Sincerely,

Susan D. Woodruff
(Paternal Aunt)

25 to life is not enough

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT People v. Arthur Morgan Jr.

On April 9th, 2008 at around 5pm, two Sheriff’s Dept. Officers knocked on our door. We were hoping that they had information regarding our daughter Angela’s disappearance, which we had reported the previous day. Instead our lives were devastated and will never be the same again. They came to inform us that a body had been found under our daughter’s home. Three hours later, we were at the morgue, trying to identify our first born’s brutally beaten body, which is any parent’s worst nightmare.

Our nightmare began in the spring of 2004. It was while we were planning Angela’s wedding that we first began to witness Arthur’s abusiveness and the control he exerted over our daughter. Angela was, at this time, in the second trimester of a high risk pregnancy. We were getting calls almost daily from Angela, upset and crying, because Arthur was demanding that everything be his way or there would be no wedding or that we would not be invited to their wedding. This behavior continued throughout their relationship and only got worse. We began receiving calls from concerned friends, and neighbors of Angela’s, documenting the verbal, physical and sexual abuse she was receiving. On June 26, 2004 Angela gave birth to a daughter, Alicia Marie, who was born 13 weeks prematurely. Sadly, she never left the hospital and died 10 months later. Looking back on it now, we believe our grand-daughter’s premature birth and death are a result of Arthur’s abuse. Arthur and Angela were married in July of 2004 and received a wedding gift of $3500 from Angela’s grandfather. We did not see or hear from them for 3 weeks, and they did not visit their daughter once during that time. When the money was gone, they resurfaced, calling for gas money or a ride to the hospital. This was NOT our daughter. She loved that little girl. If the decision had been hers, she would have lived at the hospital, if need be, to be with her daughter.

We had, at best, only sporadic contact with our daughter throughout her relationship with Arthur. The only people on Angela’s side of the family who had regular contact were her grandparents, and their visits were usually a request to borrow money. This, also, was NOT our daughter. All through their relationship, Arthur never showed the ability or desire to hold down a full time job and support a family. Instead he used Angela’s family as his own personal cash cow.

In Nov. of 2006, Angela gave birth to her son Brendan. This is when we began to see a dramatic worsening in their relationship. We would get phone calls in the middle of the night from Angela, hysterical and crying because they were fighting, but refusing our offers of assistance. We tried repeatedly to get her to pack up her son and come home, but she would refuse. Arthur had his hooks in too deep. She would beg us not to come and not to call the police. That would only make things worse. Usually we would get a call the next day, Angela saying everything is OK, until the one night we did call the police. Then we got a call telling us never to call again and to lose their phone number This, also, was NOT our daughter.

In March, we received a call from a concerned caseworker asking if we had seen our daughter recently. We had not actually seen her since Christmas day. It was highly suggested that we contact our daughter and visit with her. We tracked Angela down that afternoon at her mother-in-law’s house and went to see her. When she came to the door, we were absolutely shocked. Her face was so swollen and covered with bruises that we could barely recognize her. Although she insisted that her injuries were caused by a fall on the ice, we realized how bad her situation had become. We pleaded with her to leave Arthur and come home but to no avail. We told her we didn’t want to get a phone call someday, telling us that she was dead, and that she had a choice to make. Again, Arthur’s hooks were in too deep. Later in March, we learned that Brendan had been removed from the home by Child Protective Services and an Order of Protection had been issued against Arthur, which he repeatedly violated until he was incarcerated. Angela was determined to get her son back, and did everything that was required of her to do so. She never missed a class, a meeting, or a visitation. Arthur, on the other hand, rarely made one. We tried and tried to convince Angela that the best way to get her son back was to leave Arthur and we thought we were making progress. Then Angela received a 5 page letter Arthur had written in jail. In this letter, he apologized for all his misdeeds and the problems he had caused with our family. He promised that everything would be better, that he would get a job and they would get a home together and everything would be great. Our daughter believed him. His hooks were in too deep. Three months later, he was released. Two months after that, our daughter was dead, rolled in a blanket and stuffed under a trailer like garbage.

Arthur, you’re a worthless piece of human garbage, who only cares about himself. You didn’t care about your wife, you murdered her. You don’t care about your son, you murdered his mother. You didn’t care about your daughter, you beat and anally raped her mother while she was pregnant. All you care about is you, and getting money for your crack. Angela was not a drug addict. She never used crack before she met you and she didn’t use it while you were in jail. She had a more dangerous addiction. She was addicted to you and that was a fatal addiction.

Your Honor, you are charged with sentencing the person who beat our daughter to death. We have already been sentenced. Sentenced to life without our first born child. There is not a penalty you could impose that is harsh enough. 25 years to life is not enough. Life without parole is not enough. The death penalty is not enough. On every holiday, every birthday, every anniversary for the rest of our lives there will be a void, a black hole where our daughter should be. We will never again see her beautiful smile or hear her laugh. There is a precious little two year old boy who will never know his mother, and should never know his father. Arthur’s family will be able to see their son, talk to him, visit with him, send him cards and gifts on the holidays. On January 9th , they will be able to look at him and say ‘Happy Birthday’. All we will have are memories and a cemetery plot. On January 9th, we’ll be able to lay flowers on a grave, and say ‘Happy Birthday’ to a headstone. It infuriates us that hard-working taxpayers (of which Arthur was never one) will be paying to house, clothe and feed a remorseless murderer who doesn’t deserve to live. No sentence you can impose will bring our daughter back, but imposing the maximum sentence of 25 years to life might ensure that no other family will have to endure our nightmare, and we respectfully ask you to do that.

Sincerely,
Dave and Lorrie DeLyser

is it really 2009 already?

how i wish time could stand still. for a week. for a day. for two hours. for everything to just stop and be still and to have time. time that will not feel as though it were wasted spent just being alone inside your head. time to digest and mentally move forward. time to catch up, re-fuel.

i can not even begin to take measure of all that has happened over the past year. the mere thought of it is daunting. with christmas and the new year coming at such a time for my family -right on the heels of the trial– it feels as though there simply is no time. there has been so much that has happened this year. the effects of which i feel deserve an amount of consideration and reflection i am just unable to give it at the moment. i feel as though i have spent much of this year aware, involved and in tune and i do look forward to exploring the hidden meanings, mysteries and lessons that only come with that kind of really honest, thoughtful reflection.

this year has felt as though it has raced by. much of it has begun to blend in my memory, so i am thankful i picked up my mother’s habit of keeping a hanging calendar to mark important dates, as it lately has been something i find very useful. i will have to refer to it when sorting out the many events that occured in my life and in the lives of those around me this year. its unfortunate i can’t seem to do it in time for the new year. to be able to start 2009 with that feeling like you have a direction to go in. goals to meet.

so i will start the new year behind in that sense, and i am ok with that. because i know that i have already learned many things this year that have touched me in ways that i keep with me. i know that i have grown. and if i know anything, i know that life is right now. its what you make it. it’s not so much the idea that life is short, but it’s close. sometimes life is short, but you know – sometimes it’s long. what i have learned is that it’s the time that you have with the people who you are with in your life right now that is short. some of them you will lose without expecting it, some of them will move away, or simply drift apart from you. if you think about it, not many of the people you speak to on a regular basis right now will you still be talking to in say, 20 or 30 years. but these are the memories you will have. you’re making them -you’re living them- right now.

so let’s make them. live them. enjoy them.

right now.

“it’s been a long december and there’s reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last. i can’t remember all the times i’ve tried to tell myself to hold on – to these moments as they pass. ” counting crows

this year, it just isn’t christmas.

it doesn’t feel like christmas without my sister, yet somehow it feels like we are pretending it isn’t christmas because she isn’t here. and that deeply, deeply saddens me. i feel empty and speechless in a way that i’m not even sure i can explain. this is the first christmas i have ever spent without my sister. the first one ever without a christmas dinner.

i have always loved christmas. as a child chrismtas was magical. santa and stockings and christmas carols. all day baking and glasses of egg nog and always surrounded by the warm glow of holiday lights. as i got older, i came to fall in love with christmastime. the smells and sounds of a season of cheer and goodwill. warm laughs and shared spirit and good times spent with loved ones.

the magic of christmas spread to be the wonder of christmastime. fresh wintertime. it was softer, more still. and somehow, always sad. it always felt like a sweet sadness that lingered underneath. like it was there to make the happy times feel that much more touching, and the sad ones that slightly less heartbreaking, as though your pain were shared.

but this year there is no sad holiday feeling underneath. it simple does not feel like christmas. during the happy or the sad times. there were some treasured moments spent with loved ones, and for that i am grateful. but i am missing that warm fuzzy holiday feeling.

thanksgiving

this year i remember what thanksgiving means.

the intention of the name is pretty obvious, but to so many people thanksgiving means a time to stuff yourself with turkey, more than a time to reflect on the things that you have to be thankful for.

to me, thanksgiving has always been mostly about family. holidays with my family always feel special in the way that the days have this way of feeling warm and cozy, like a soft low hum runs through the house warmed by the oven and the flurry of constant cooking. thanksgiving was always dad’s bloody marys at nine am; time spent with grandma and grandpa d rehashing the old time stories with details we’d always seem to never have heard before; the smell of turkey; a frenzy of photos; apple pie and the first eggnog of the season.

ange gma me this is a picture from last thanksgiving, in so many ways a perfect kind of holiday. i take measure now of what i had to be thankful for then, the things that i overlooked and took for granted now stand out as if highlighted with spotlights in my memory.

this was a common photo taken on thanksgivings. this year, i cannot help but feel hollow by their absence. somehow, the warm fuzzy holiday feeling simply simmers underneath, as though its waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. i wonder if all future holidays will feel the same.

when i was young and holidays still felt like novelties i would make long lists of the things i was thankful for. somehow writing them down made me feel accomplished, as though simply recognizing them was the goal. now that we’re older i think we see that the goal is so much bigger than that. to be thankful for the things that you have is so much bigger of a task for an empathetic heart. sometimes i feel overwhelmed by all the things i have to be thankful for. the people mostly, because really – thats what is most important to your life- isnt it? how you show the amount of appreication you have for the people in your life that have moved you, shaped you, loved you, inspired you, and have made you in so many ways the person you are.

so this year i am thankful.

i am thankful for my parents, and the unconditional love and support that they show me on a daily basis. who have been my heroes, my advisers, my friends.
my grandmothers, who have shown me a strength of spirit. each role models to women in their own right.
my aunts, uncles and cousins who have taught me about being a family. the connections with whole groups of people you may only see a few times a year, if that – but with whom you share a special bond, and special memories. whose love and sense of comfort never changes.
my nephew, and the chance i have to be in his life and to be the connection he has to my sister. i am thankful for his health, his happiness and his youth – that he is too young to understand the gravity of his life story.
for my new “foster sister”. a woman who has shown me what it is to be selfless and to care for those that need it. who has given a good home and so much love to my nephew. who has given so much comfort to my parents.
for my best girl friends. the ones i giggle and share secrets with. the ones that know me, that can call me on my bullshit. the ones that care for me fiercely, as i do them.
for my job that- for now- is keeping me afloat and able to live by myself in the area i have come to love. that surrounds me with clever, creative, fantastic people on a daily basis. who’s easy going atmosphere and ice cream fridays i adore.
barack obama, who has given me hope that the values of my generation will have a voice in the government of the future, and that our policies will be handled with thoughtfulness, intelligence and character in a compassionate manor.
sub-bombin records. a collection of artists, a couple of which i have come to know, most of which i have been able to see live several times, all of whom have inspired me to find my voice, to explore new creative outlets, and connect with those who are driven, impassioned and most importantly- in love with music, as i am.
the pub, that has in many ways become a second home, if only for the collection of people i have befriended there. i am thankful for their cheap drinks and smoking allowances. for their pool table and dart board and jukebox filled with tunes that remind me of home growing up. i am thankful for the constant promise of company and conversation, shared joys and pains and many laughs not soon forgotten.

and i am so very very thankful for all of my friends. there are so many that exist in the collection of people i keep in my heart. some of them are those that are closest to me, or have been closest to me in the past, that all know- as i do- that we each already have our own corners in the hearts of each other. some of them are people i’ve known throughout the years, from time to time, in the different chapters of my life. some of them are people i’ve not known long, some i’ve just met, some i know only from certain places, all of whom are special to me in some way. they have touched me, or i’ve connected with, related to or confided in them in some way that just stays with me.

i am thankful for that. and so very thankful for you.

slow winter mornings

cold monday mornings in the winter months are funny kind of days. everything moves a little slower, as if the chill were heavy, holding things in their place just a touch longer than normal.

the teller at the pull up window at the bank chats casually with the woman at the next terminal, not worried about the double lane line that has formed behind her. the lady working the line at the pharmacy takes several minutes to ring up a man with a small water hose, staring at the buttons on the register as if she’d never seen them before.

for me the winter season is always a time of reflection. days like this make me wonder if i might just be surrounded by strangers just like me- walking slow amid blistering winds all caught up in their heads. quiet thoughts kept in their minds somewhere behind their eyes, thoughtful musings of things previously ignored or just lost during the busy productive days of the summer months just past.

so as it goes, i guess. soon it will be that time when quiet self reflection turns into a vapid frenzy of resolutions. resolutions made to steady uneasy minds that these cold months will not deplete them of the energy and forward movement of late, or deprive them of what they would be at their best were it not for these short days and long nights of indulgence holding them back.