Posts Tagged ‘death’

i lost another sister today. Tanya Shattuck-Williams died today. Tanya was my nephews foster-mother. for the past few years, she’s been family. She was a really sweet, warm girl. She was a wonderful mother to my nephew. She fit into our family well, she treated my parents they like were her own from the start, as they did her. We felt really lucky that she wanted us to be able to be as involved as possible with my nephew, because in these cases like that, it’s totally up to the foster parent. It was like something finally went right. She was great with him and loved us and we were all a family. There were also her two other girls (her husband’s girls) Allison and Arianna, both under the age of 12. the girls, Tanya’s mother and sister, they all became extended family. My heart goes out to all of them, and everyone else that knew and loved her.

i am sad. i am heartbroken for my nephew. he lost another mother today. he’s four. he has already lost one and thankfully, isn’t near old enough to understand what happened to her. he knows her by picture, he’ll tell you that’s his mother. tanya taught him that. but what actually happened, the whole tragic story, that would all come later, and that was good. he’s been with tanya for three of his four years. tanya is his mother. he loves her. this one, he will feel. he will know. he always wants his mommy even after a short stay away, and he will cry for her. it is heartbreaking.

i almost wrote the title of this post as a facebook status. and then thought better of it. as it turns out, i have a lot of religious people on my friends list. i wouldn’t want to offend anyone, at least not without at least explaining first. i’ll still use this title as my status, but if you dislike it, at least you can read my argument. then condemn me, if you would have anyway.

i’ve written about religion before. i’ve never been convinced with the whole idea of god, it’s a complex issue. thinking about it today i think its in part because then i would have to believe that everything happens for a reason. Or, maybe more that it is somehow God’s Plan. especially when someone dies, you hear this a lot. God’s Plan? i cant even really think about this. i cant believe that. i will not believe that. because if i were to believe that were true, and he not only allows but plans the kinds of horrible, violent, heartbreaking things that happen to people, then i would have to believe that he is a cruel God. Christians believe that God sacrificed his own son to be tortured and killed to save us. they say he knows your pain. that he makes you stronger, he helps you heal. but i don’t know anyone who has felt these kinds of pains, that wouldn’t want to spare it to someone, anyone, everyone else if they could. so if God, being almighty and merciful, overtly does not, doesn’t this make him a vengeful, spiteful God? who, based on faith alone, would even want to believe in something like that? not me.

i don’t really know what i believe. i am reflective on the idea of a spiritually supreme being of some sort, but i don’t believe it to be a God in any Christian sense of the word. i like the idea of there being some sort of spiritual realm, although i couldn’t possibly fathom anything about it. if there were some sort of higher power in it, i highly doubt it chooses or plans anything that happens in our daily lives down here. wouldn’t it make more sense that we would sort-of be like ants in an ant farm? we’re all busy, fast-paced and small down here, and they have a vast universe to float and expand in an eternity of peace? that sounds a hell of a lot more comforting to me. isn’t comfort one of the main reasons for faith in the first place? who’s to say though? it’s still only relevant after you die.

what i believe in, is that there is no why or reason or sense to most of what happens to people. it’s tragic, and heartbreaking, and unfair, and just is. sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it breaks you. and it probably will again.

i am bitter, i suppose. my dad always told me growing up, “life’s not fair”. this was mostly because my sister and i always had to have everything even, or one would complain that the other got more, or longer, or whatever. one of us would yell, “but that’s not fair!”, and we would always get back “life’s not fair!”. (this taught me that when something kinda stinks and you don’t like it sometimes you just gotta get over it if it’s not a big deal.) But I do think it is sort of instinctual to want to cry out at an injustice. when you feel you are wronged. or when you feel someone else was very wronged. i feel like crying out. this is not fair. not for her parents and her sister, i know all too well how deeply this aches. not fair for my nephew, the girls, or my family who just went through this a few years ago… it’s just too much. it’s just too soon. it’s just not fair.


Rest in Peace, Tanya. You will be deeply missed. We love you.


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My sister, Angela DeLyser Morgan was murdered two years ago today. Or maybe yesterday. We will never really be sure. Either way, it is a very sad anniversary.

I am reminded of my sister all the time. My parents live in the same house that we spent the majority of our high school years in. I go home to visit them every weekend. My sister’s old room is now a bedroom for my nephew- her son, when he visits, as he does often. Her picture hangs in his room. He looks so much like her, at times it seems almost unbelievable. These are obvious reminders. I can picture her sitting in the living room, or running up and down the stairs. I can feel her presence in the memories of past events and old stories my parents and I recall. She was always there.

There are less obvious reminders. Sometimes it’s as simple as being asked a variation of the question, “do you have any siblings?” I had a client come into the office just the other day. We chatted briefly as I showed him to the conference room and got him some coffee. He thought I looked familiar, and was trying to place me. He asked me if I had a sister. I hesitated. I always hesitate at this question now. I have to choose what I think is the most appropriate response. This time, I responded with “no”.

At first, any time I was asked this question I kind of stumbled and would answer a little pathetically with something like “I did, yes” or “not anymore”, which inevitably begs the bigger question, “what happened?” Or sometimes, just resulted in an awkward apology from someone who was confused but too shy or too respectful to ask me about it. I have one of those faces where strangers often think they know me, or know someone who looks just like me. Such was the case with the client the other day. And while I feel that it is best in these situations to simply avoid the story, the apology and potential awkwardness, answering no still felt like a betrayal to her memory.

There are even less obvious reminders. Any time I see an old picture of Kate Walsh. When Cher comes on the radio. Last week my roommate asked me if I wanted to go to church with her on Easter. Even this reminds me of her.

I immediately declined the offer. I told her I “don’t do the whole church thing”. It made me take note of how quick I am to dismiss the whole subject in general. In a way, I admire the power of faith and the peace that comes with believing in something bigger and more important than yourself. I see a lot of good in believing in a higher purpose, or in places like heaven, or the afterlife. But there are things I simply can’t believe in. Or maybe rather, simply would never want to. The idea that one man died for the sins of every man to come. That an “all merciful God” allowed his son to be tortured to death. Who then, for thousands of years, would allow the people who love him to be treated in thoughtlessly brutal and terrifying ways is just a completely repulsive idea to me.

But my sister believed in God. At least, I’m fairly certain sure she did. We both attended the First Reformed Church in Chatham as children. We went to Sunday School every week, and the church service afterward with my grandmother. We sang in the choir, we preformed in the plays. When I got to be about eleven or so, my parents let us decide for ourselves if we wanted to continue going on a regular basis. I didn’t. Angela did. She went every week. She later went on to be baptized and confirmed through the church. I don’t really know what her specific beliefs were.. we never talked about it. I was happy to not be involved and I think she was happy to have something that was her own.

My grandfather on my father’s side died in May of 2007, about a year before Angela. Many of the Chatham Central School faculty, and the First Reformed church congregation attended his services. I stood next to my sister at the front of the greeting line. I was the first person you met as you came up to the casket. I hardly recognized a person there. But Angela remembered every one of their names. She whispered them to me as they came up in line- both their names and where we knew them from- so I would be able to greet them properly. She was warm and open-hearted with them, and they had so many nice things to say to her. I remember her vividly like this.

Less than a year later, standing at the front of the greeting line at her services, I saw many of the same faces. They all had lovely things to say to me, about her.

It is two years later and I am still just learning of some of the effects that losing my sister has had on me. I believe this will be a feeling I will have for many years to come. Last year, it made me think about life in general in a totally different light. I’m still adjusting the ways I choose to use that insight to enrich my life and better myself. I’ve found it can all too easily take you in the other direction if you’re not paying enough attention. I am paying more attention. More recently, I am learning the effects that it has had on my heart. The way that my brain now processes functions related to those matters. I keep a safe distance now. I think in a way, I am scared to get too close to anything that I might lose. I hold on more tightly to those things and those people who have claimed a place in my heart. I cling to them desperately. This fear of loss I’ve developed has, at times, felt overwhelming.

So now, as I reflect on Angela’s life, the loss of her and the effect that has had on my life, as well as upon those of my family and her friends, I decide I will be less fearful. Fear has a cunning way of holding you back. My sister knew fear. So I decide I will have the courage to use the wisdom of my perspective to keep fear from strangling me. From stunting me. I will not be afraid to try new things. I will not be scared to push myself. To do more. To be better. I will aim high regardless of the fall. I will give myself fully. I will love openly. And I will lose, occasionally. Maybe more. And my heart will ache. But I will have tried more, done more, loved more. I am still here, and they will still be with me, as Angela is. I remember. I reflect. I revise. I am still here. And I go on.

Rest in Peace, Angela. I love you.

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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.


Susan D. Woodruff
(Paternal Aunt)

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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.

Dave and Lorrie DeLyser

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