MEMORIES IN THE TWILIGHT OF MY LIFEMemories of music in the night, Sad and mellow melodies in the twilight of my mind, Enjoying friends and family, Building quiet memories in the twilight of my life. Sitting in the night the quiet pulls me back To memories of your mellow sound in the twilight of my life, And longing to go back and stay I know I have to leave if only for a little while. I carry in my heart forever The memories of that sound. This poem was probably written while Bonnie was resting and recuperating with her newly adopted family at the Sandy Hoof Stables barn in Galveston, Texas (before hurricane Alicia destroyed it in 1983). In late November or early December I got an engraved invitation from my dentist, Alan Markoff, to his annual Christmas party on Thursday 15 December at his office at Post Oak Place, Houston, TX. The dark blue invitation with gold lettering read:
March has the ides
May we memorialize; and in
July we celebrate our national birthday;
September we recognize labor,
and in November we give thanksgivings
but in December
WE GONNA PARTY AGAIN
Now, and in the year ahead,
May each of us find a
Light in his heart...
A star to follow, and
A faith to live by.
For a week after that meeting I had recurring visions of an older woman, and now realize that it was the face of Bonnie I was shown as she would appear 14 years older! On 23 March 1981 I had attended a Baptist retreat in Palacios, TX. On my way back to Houston on the bus I was asked by a male telepathic voice, "Are you ready to serve God and do whatever He asks you to do?" After I said yes, the voice said, "There is someone who needs help. If I bring her to you, will you help her?" I said yes, and then asked when I would meet this person. The voice in my mind replied, "Before the year is out." And true to "His" word, I saw (met) Bonnie before the year was out on 5 October 1981. In the lobby of the Playboy Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ, I noticed her as she walked past me with a group of girlfriends. She stopped and turned towards me, and we both looked at each other for a moment before her friends called to her to catch up. I was surprised to remember the event so clearly. As she walked away, she stopped again and looked back at me with a smile. In order to make sure that I would be able to help Bonnie (fulfilling the second part of His request), she was brought to Houston from New Jersey under very unusual circumstances. And her brother-in-law brought her to my dentist's building and to me just before the year was out. He didn't say which year.In order to make sure that when I saw her I would recognize her, I was given the urge to turn on the television twice before the party so that I would see Bonnie on television! Two months before the party I was flipping stations when a program on PBS caught my attention. It was about hypnosis. Even though I didn't recognize her, I saw Bonnie and her partner on that program give a demonstration on hypnosis! When she told me on the phone about her hypnotherapy practice and career, I said, "I saw a program recently on television about hypnosis. There was this older man hypnotizing a younger woman." Bonnie said, "That was me and my partner Jim. We did a special program for television on hypnosis. It was the first time they allowed anyone to be hypnotized on television, but we taped that program back in 1978!" I asked her to describe Jim, and she described the man I remember seeing on that show. She then said, "You mean they were showing our tape in Houston this year? We made that tape five years ago!" During that same conversation she told me she had attended a benefit for the disabled at Gilley's dancehall in Pasadena a month earlier, and I remembered seeing her. I had again turned on the television to the same channel just in time to see Bonnie being led onto the stage. I asked her if that was her on stage with Mickey Gilley, and she said, "Yes! They saw me with my cane in the audience and invited me to come up on stage where I sang along with Mickey. It was so funny seeing 'Killer', Mickey's hulk of a bodyguard, walk me through the audience carrying my purse!" Thus twice just before meeting her at the party I saw her on television, insuring that when I saw her in person I would unconsciously remember her. The movie, Urban Cowboy, was filmed at Gilley's dancehall and on Richey Street where Bill Marzi, her second husband, lived. Recall Debbra Winger, who starred in that movie. A year later she would play a prophetic role in the movie, Terms of Endearment, which was also filmed in Houston. Bonnie and her youngest son Chuckie moved into my three-bedroom house on Portobello Drive in Alief, Texas, on 12 January 1984 after a short period of dating. I was so certain that this was the woman I had been waiting for that I asked Bonnie to marry me that same evening. I think I was more surprised than she was when the words just popped out of my mouth, and she accepted the proposal. For the next two years and four months our lives were like a roller coaster ride, with periods of dream fulfillment followed by periods of testing and challenge. Bonnie describes our lives together, and talks about her past with a sense of the prophetic. In a letter to Jim Forberg dated 2 February 1984 she wrote: "So much has been happening to me. I hardly know where to begin. How strange, I would never have thought I would ever, in a million years wind up with anyone other than you let alone I never thought I would ever be married again, I know, never use the words never, ever or always I mean my God luv my whole life has changed and for the most part it's very very good, in many ways I'm happier than I've ever been but there are a few equally as bad things at the other end of the stick and none of them have to do with Bruce, he loves me very very much and I love him in some ways that I didn't even know existed in me. Oh well with all good things then must also be the bad or we wouldn't be able to recognize the good right? Well if the amount of bad is any measurement of the amount of good to come, I should finally have one hell of a good life....." "This man has gone thru so much money (without a complaint) in doctors, medicine, dressings, and moving and storage expenses to try to salvage what we could of my life not to mention legal fees, it's almost unbelievable. But then we both know what that deal is especially since Murphy's Law does seem to totally dominate my life. One of these days I just may finish the book I started and finish putting it all on paper if nothing else I would have one hell of a soap. True?...." "...I'm trying so hard to be flexible and bend with the change of wind because I know all things must constantly change to grow, thank God I have someone to help hold me up in all this, when I think about how I probably would have gone thru this myself if I hadn't found Bruce and I know it would have really done a total job on me, but since I do have both of you (and I love you both very much) it's making me stronger than I've ever been. "In total contrast my life is now better than it's ever been. I never would have thought I would ever have the family I always wanted and the home I always wanted it is almost unbelievable. I mean really what are the odds of ever winding up with just about everything you ever wanted in life especially with my life? Bruce says if you were to put it all in statistics, that from here on in the odds are all in my favor I mean it had to hit right sooner or later just by the odds alone and I sure am glad it was sooner. Bruce is also going to take some pictures of me for you and boy do I look different hon. I've gained some weight, (I'm actually like a normal person now) and my eyes are totally different everyone who has known me since I've come down here says they have suddenly changed from being the saddest eyes they've ever seen to the brightest happiest eyes and I have some color in my skin and am doing more physically than I ever thought I would be able to again. Even Bill told Bruce he's never in all the years he's known me seen me so steady or so beautiful or so happy as I am now. It's been a long haul baby but thanks to your love and care and some really caring friends I've made down here and the love of another really really good man as hard as it's been I think I've finally rejoined the living with a bang." After Bonnie's near-death experience on 17 October 1983, she began to experience unusual or paranormal experiences which involved her energy field or aura. Electrical appliances or equipment sometimes malfunctioned in her presence. When she walked by the television, for example, I witnessed the picture on the screen sometimes becoming color or image distorted, or the television would simply turn off. She could not wear electrical wristwatches, because they would speed up or slow down depending on her mood. We had an icemaker in the freezer which would stop working if she wasn't feeling well, or not shut off if she was full of energy to the point of causing ice to push open the freezer door and spill onto the kitchen floor. When her partially amputated left leg gave her pain, glass around her was in jeopardy. One time while lying in bed she dropped a lit match into the "hole" in her leg and let out a scream. A glass ashtray on the night table next to her shattered into 12 pieces explosively, sending the pieces flying across the room. I was there as a witness. Another time a glass in her hand shattered into many pieces when she experienced sharp pain in that leg. A profound increase in her awareness of who she was can be connected to what happened during her near-death experience, as can her very rapid recovery in health and strength. Based on information given by her friends and relatives, her personality dramatically changed as a result of that experience. She was no longer just herself. She may have become what some people call a "walk-in", because from that point on she seemed to have been on a mission. The stage was set for my gradual indoctrination into the metaphysical world of the paranormal and psychic. On Saturday, 15 January 1984, Bonnie, Chuckie, and I went on our first weekend trip together as a family to Galveston, Texas. She wanted to show me Sandy Hoof Stables, and have me meet some of her cowboy and cowgirl friends. Bonnie was wearing blue jeans and a dark blue turtleneck sweater under a heavy cotton brown and white plaid shirt with blue pin stripes. She wore the shirt like a jacket and kept it open. Two hatpins decorated the right collar tip: one a silhouette of a black horse standing on its hind legs atop a pyramid in front of a full Moon; the other one looked like a gold crown studded with red gemstones. The crown symbol she wore above the horse and Moon pin (Plate 12). "And I saw, and behold, a black horse, and its rider had a balance in his hand;" (Rev. 6.5).
Her multicolored leather belt was embroidered with armadillos, and it had Bonnie embossed in black on the back. An oval leather belt buckle had a big yellow rose for Texas on it. On her feet was a pair of gray and black embossed cowhide boots, a color and style she preferred throughout the rest of her life. On her head a black winter cowboy hat with braided silver-colored hatband visually set her breast-length reddish golden hair on fire. She wore that hat everywhere except this one time while horseback riding, because it was too windy. She later bought a more expensive and heavier black Stetson replacement, which she faithfully wore outside wherever she went - even on horseback. Her teeth radiated a beautiful smile when she would show them. She was sensitive about the crooked alignment imposed by her upper denture, which bracketed the only upper front tooth she had remaining in her mouth at age 33. The cancer and medication she said caused her teeth to fall apart.
Bonnie introduced me to Moma and Chuck, an older couple who ran the stables. Moma and Chuck had that Texas look and kindness that made Bonnie feel right at home. They gave me the third degree, wanting to be sure I wasn't some Yankee dude just out for a good time. When they were satisfied, they sent their stable hand to ready two horses for us. Chuckie was given the small donkey to ride around the stable yard with some of the other children, while Bonnie and I joined other riders headed for the beach. That experience was one I will never forget. Bonnie was given Moon, a dark brown quarterhorse, to ride. I don't remember the name of my horse, but it certainly did not have as much spunk as Moon. This story is full of symbolism. Bonnie had difficulty mounting Moon with her bad left leg, which functioned more like an artificial limb due to missing muscles and tendons. In order to mount, she stood on Moon's left side, grabbed the horse's mane with her left hand, the back of the saddle with her right, and pulled herself up and onto the saddle with her strong but slender muscular arms. Balancing herself on her hips, she released her right hand and swung her good right leg across Moon's back, much like mounting a gymnast's horse - something she was very good at as a teenager in high school gym. She asked if the saddle was properly cinched, and the stable hand said, "Yes." But it wasn't. He wanted to find out just how good a rider she was after she had bragged so often that she had ridden every breed of riding horse and had never been thrown from or fallen off a horse. She liked to tell the story of how she played cowboys and Indians as a child on real horseback. As we rode in file towards West Beach, Bonnie pulled ahead and disappeared over a sand dune. As my horse slowly got to the top of that dune I saw her trying to adjust the saddle, which seemed to be slipping to the right side.
As we rode west down West Beach, Bonnie spurred Moon into a slow gallop, as other riders tried to keep up with her. Then, as I watched her saddle slip again, to my astonishment she pulled herself forward onto Moon's neck, still moving in a slow gallop, raised her hips and reached behind, grabbing the saddle horn with her right hand through her legs, and with one powerful movement of her right arm threw the saddle off the horse onto the sand. Now riding bareback, she urged Moon into a full gallop, and raced down the beach, passing between rows of wooden pylons as though they weren't there. I had a hard time believing what I saw. But with Bonnie I learned that the unusual was her norm. I never caught up, and returned to the stables. A while later Bonnie returned, and Moma chided her for bringing Moon back in a lather, and for racing on the beach. She returned the admonishment with a complaint about the saddle not being cinched at all. Moma apologized, realizing that her stable hand had put her business in serious jeopardy by letting her ride that way with her medical conditions. They were all thankful that she was as good a rider as she claimed.
In February 1984 I got an invitation in the mail to attend a wholesale jeweler's convention in Houston on the 14th of April. When Bonnie saw it, she began talking about getting an engagement ring with an amethyst in it rather than the traditional diamond, which she said was too cold for her - too much like ice. She thought that she might find her ring at this convention. I thought I had gotten the invitation because I belonged to the Houston Mineral and Fossil Club, which routinely sent me advertisements about upcoming events. What is so unusual about this particular event is that the convention was closed to the general public. Millions of dollars in gems were on display in easy reach to thieves if the merchants or guards became distracted. If the convention hall became too crowded, some visitors might be tempted to find a bargain through a slight of hand or five finger discount. Thousands of raw and cut jewels, rings, and settings were on display, but not for sale except to retail jewelers, which made the adventure that much more unusual: How would I be able to purchase a ring for Bonnie if she found what she wanted? We began our expedition in search of a perfect engagement ring by circling the display area clock-wise. We saw several examples of rings made from large amethysts, but Bonnie said that none of them caught her fancy. It took us at least two hours to check out each booth as we made our rounds, and I was getting tired. Bonnie's enthusiasm had not faded, even though she was beginning to limp more on her cane and bad leg. As we approached the front doors, I began to think that she wouldn't find what she was looking for, and that our trip would go down in memory as just another fun weekend outing.
Then we arrived at the last booth nearest the doors. Bonnie was immediately struck by a display case containing a shelf with large amethyst rings set in platinum gold. Most of the rings were surrounded by small diamonds in Tiffany settings. Bonnie said to me, "Oh Bruce, look at this these." Pointing to one of the rings she said, "What do you think about this one as an engagement ring?" The Japanese dealer overheard her words, and asked her if she was serious about wanting the ring for her engagement. He wanted to know if she would really wear such a large and conspicuous ring all the time. When Bonnie said, "Yes. They would have to pry that ring off my dead body," he let her try it on. The action attracted a number of people who also wanted to try on the rings, but the dealer kept saying, "Only for her; only for her." When he saw Bonnie's face light up like a sunburst as she admired the ring on her finger, he said to me in a low voice, "Make me offer; make me offer." I began with a very low figure, thinking that he was going to barter with me by countering with a higher figure. I had already peeked at the sticker price of $1,250, and knew that I didn't have that much in my checking account. He looked shocked, but then excused himself as he consulted the president of the company, who was attending another counter. The president came over and asked us if the ring was going to be worn as an engagement ring, and Bonnie said, "Yes." He then nodded to the salesman, and the salesman said to me, "OK." Now I was in shock! I trembled as I wrote out a check for $500. Later another jeweler in Houston, who heard about this ring, offered Bonnie $10,000 for it when she came into his store! No one would offer that much for just the material value of the stones and metal unless he recognized some extraordinary significance to this ring. After I purchased it, Bonnie said, "You are going to have to put it on my finger." I slipped the ring on her finger and kissed her, as the crowd, which now numbered about a dozen people, moaned in delight and then clapped with their approval. It was quite a moment for the two of us. Bonnie was beaming.
The next morning she woke up and screemed, as she looked at the ring on her finger. I asked her why she screemed. She said, "I can't believe it's real. I thought I would wake up in the morning and it wouldn't be there!" The only other time I saw Bonnie that happy was on our wedding day.
JUST WHEN WE THOUGHT SHE WAS SAFE
By the end of November 1981 her insurance had paid out $30,173 for that year. During 1982 her legal problems began from an attempt by the Camden County Department of Human Services to recover money given to her in error through the incompetence of her only case worker, Linda. When she couldn't repay the overpayment, the department instigated a bogus fraud charge that evolved into prosecution by ignorant or biased state officials and lawyers who seemed to be more interested in practicing the law than in justice or truth. That ignorance and bias turned into persecution through hardship and added trauma, which to Bonnie was the equivalent of severe punishment before any arraignment, let alone verdict, had been reached. The system was not equipped to handle a person as ill as Bonnie, and any trial or legal punishment for fraud could have meant a death sentence, as it nearly was on several occasions during this ordeal.
Here is an example where a department in the service of public welfare viciously turned on a helpless crippled individual who could never work again for repayment of monies she did not have. That mindless bureaucracy didn't seem to have a clue that any attempt to prosecute this case was hopeless, meaningless, and immoral. It was as though cosmic forces wanted her to live a tormented life ending in despair, alone, and without love. She had committed no crime, and had done nothing worthy of such treatment. She eventually won after a lengthy battle without ever being arraigned on charges, but at what cost? The ultimate cost to Bonnie was physical and emotional, not monetary. She was destitute. The ultimate cost to the legal system and her insurance company measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - ten fold what they wanted her to repay. Maybe justice was served! Not quite: Linda, the caseworker, was never investigated for her wrongdoing!
The details of this tragic story must be told: Because her ex-husband wasn't paying child support, and she didn't have both children living with her all the time because of an ongoing custody battle for Billy, the welfare department investigated Bonnie in 1981. That was the time when Ronald Reagan started to crack down on welfare fraud. During the investigation Bonnie was waiting for her long-term disability (LTD) to begin. She had to turn to welfare for additional support after her short-term disability (STD) ran out, because her insurance company took three months to process her LTD claim. Later her husband accepted a job in Texas when he learned that he also was being investigated for lack of child support and back payments. President Reagan wanted convictions for fraud so that he could appear to be cleaning up welfare problems in the country, and Camden County was out to get convictions.
When her long-term disability checks began, she reported the income to the caseworker, who came to her house, because she was bedridden most of the time. She had witnesses, including Jim Forberg, her business partner. But subsequent welfare checks did not reflect any adjustment. On 1 June 1981she complained to the caseworker's boss when subsequent checks did not show any adjustment. The mistake had caused her to be overpaid for seven months. The caseworker got in trouble, and apparently decided to frame Bonnie in order to take the blame off herself and avoid prosecution. In July she got the document she needed from Bonnie's insurance company that showed, erroneously, that Bonnie was receiving long term disability (LTD) from the time her short-term disability ran out. Her insurance company did not make it a policy to inform the welfare agency that for three months she was not receiving insurance, or that she was retroactively paid back LTD in one lump sum after her LTD was approved. Even though Bonnie could prove that she was entitled to the welfare support for those three months (with later adjustments for the retroactive payment), the case worker used that insurance document against her to persuade the investigator for the Division of Public Welfare that Bonnie may be in violation of New Jersey Statue 2C:20-4 (welfare fraud) for the period of 08-01-80 to 06-30-81. The first Grand Jury session in July 1983 heard charges that Bonnie committed an act of theft of $11,863.52 (total amount of welfare assistance received) from the Camden County Board of Social Services by deception, by creating or reinforcing a false impression that she was in need of assistance well knowing that she was receiving disability benefits and failed to report receipt of said income. Because of the way her insurance company listed the LTD payments, that company is as much to blame for what happened as is the caseworker.
While Bonnie was recovering in the post-op room at Garden State Community Hospital from major surgery, still groggy from anesthesia, Linda (the case worker assigned to Bonnie) came in and wanted her to sign a re-evaluation form for continued welfare assistance. The date was 1 April 1981 (The numbers just keep having an uncanny irony!). On that very same day as President of Geminoil, Inc., I signed an oil deal in Dallas that began my career as an independent oil man, a deal that came back to haunt me two years later, because unknowingly certain wording had been omitted or altered in the final draft. Bonnie asked whether her LTD income was listed, and Linda said, "No." Linda said that she would put it on the form back in the office. Bonnie told her that she would sign only the top of the form, but not the bottom until she was sure her income was listed on the form. Instead, the case worker forged Bonnie's signature at the bottom of the form (a bad forgery and clearly in the case worker's unique handwriting) without recording her LTD income, and presented it to a grand jury with testimony that Bonnie had appeared in her office (on the same day it can be proven that she was in the hospital), and had not claimed her LTD. On Application and Affidavit for Continuation of Assistance (PA-1J) dated 1 April, 1981 and signed by Bonnie Marzi, the client (according to investigator J.M. Hall) failed to report the fact that she was in receipt of monthly disability benefits. Linda apparently also told Investigator Hall that she had contacted Bonnie only that once on 1 April (letter from Hall dated 07-11-84) in her office (cf. Camden County Grand Jury, 09-28-83, Indictment No. 2363-10-83, page 4), but in fact had been to Bonnie's house on several previous occasions per written testimony by Jim Forberg. Linda's testimony at Fair Hearings and to the Grand Jury (28 September 1983) led to a fraudulent indictment and court dates for which she was too ill to attend. Finally a warrant for her arrest was issued several months later. No one who tried to help Bonnie, including her older brother, Scott, could get anyone at the welfare department or prosecutor's office to listen to reason, and no one there gave more than lip service concern for Bonnie's health or circumstances. Bonnie suspected that Greg was somehow involved in causing the indictment by telling lies to county officials, and she was satisfied that he was in some way responsible when she learned in late 1990 just before her death that the Camden County prosecutor went after him for the $11000 they tried to get from her - and apparently got it.
Because of the timing of our relationship, I was unable to get a continuance on the December 1983 court appearance. Even though my lawyer contacted Prosecutor Fred Solar, he could not prevent Judge Donald Bigley from issuing a bench warrant for Bonnie's arrest. That warrant became a fugitive warrant in Texas. About a week before she was picked up a car slowly passed us in the Kroger parking lot as we were loading groceries into my Bronco II, and Bonnie said, "Did you see that? Someone just took our picture."
On 6 February 1984 she called me at work to say that a Houston detective (Johnny Bonds: "The cop who wouldn't quit", by Rick Nelson - really!) was there to take her into custody on a fugitive warrant from New Jersey for that welfare fraud case. When Bonnie answered the doorbell and opened the door, there stood a huge strongly built handsome man in a sheriff's uniform with an enormous revolver by his side (her description). He asked her if she was Bonnie Lee Marzi, and she replied, yes. He said he had a warrant from New Jersey for her arrest. Just before he arrived the phone had rung, but no one answered when Bonnie picked up the phone. Bonnie asked him if he had called. Johnny said, "Yes." He was checking to make sure Bonnie was home. Bonnie invited him into my house and offered him some coffee. She limped across the living room to the kitchen on her aluminum cane, where she called me at work. While he waited for me to arrive and drank his coffee, she let him read some of her medical records. She jokingly asked him, "Would you like some light reading while you wait?" as she handed him a five pound stack of medical records.
Detective Bonds, realizing her medical condition from talking to Bonnie and seeing some of her medical records, drove around Houston while she told him her side of the story about the fraud charge. He recognized that her story was too crazy not to be true, and decided to help her as much as he could. He informed the jailers of her special medical condition, but once she was behind the main gate to the jail, he could not help her. They couldn't even find a parking ticket on her record. She spent a traumatic three days and two nights in jail (Cell Block 2D4 on the floor with the medical clinic) while I frantically tried to get her help and bail. Less than one month after Bonnie and her youngest son moved in with me in Alief, TX, I was faced with the greatest challenge and test of my life. Was I willing to put everything I had on the line to save Bonnie? It would have been easy just to turn my back and walk away, as her husband had done, justifying my actions with "It's not my problem."
Bonnie recalls her experience in a letter that I wrote to her lawyers: "The conditions were deplorable, filthy, and unheated. Because of my medical condition, which Bruce made known to them through phone calls from his lawyer, my doctors, and secretaries of a state senator and congressman, the guards would not touch me and kept me out of the general prison population. That decision nearly cost me my life, since being in Cell Block 2D4 is the hardest time of any prison in Texas. Although I got special treatment, that did not include getting all my medications and those that I did get were not according to the doctor's prescription. The guards told me that Wednesday night I turned blue, my pulse could not be found, and I had stopped breathing. An inmate gave me CPR and revived me. The next day my head hurt as if I had hit it against something, but I don't remember any of it happening. In addition, when I got out my right ankle swelled up and hurt badly. I had apparently sprained it jumping off of the high hospital-style bed they had given me. I nearly froze at night with no heat and only a thin blanket and dirty sheet to sleep on. The shock of this experience has not passed and I am having recurring nightmares about being in that confinement room. My doctors want me to go into a hospital for examination and were shocked at my appearance after I got out. That was from only three days in jail!"
She gained quite a lot of respect from prisoners and jailers alike, who somehow knew via the in-house grapevine that she was someone special and had a clean record. She said everyone knew that I was trying to reach her by phone, pretending I was a medical doctor and telling the nurse in the jail infirmary to make sure she got special medical care for this and for that, and they knew I had contacted a local senator and congressman for help. Even though they treated her with special privileges because of her medical conditions (providing her and other prisoners with fresh oranges and good meals - unheard of before she arrived), she came home a physical wreck. Soon thereafter she would be in the hospital as her medical condition worsened due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a letter to her old friend Frannie from high school (dated 14 February 1984) Bonnie wrote: "Well, kid I have finally found real happiness, complete with the man I love who (thank God!) loves me in the same way that I love him, the home I always wanted, and children and by the way come hell or high water Billy will be down if we have anything to do with, you do realize that, that agreement for Billy to stay with Greg is up right after Easter in April and from what I could tell from my conversations with Billy is that he would love to come to Texas so looks like the whole family will be back in tact, about time things started to work out in my favor hugh? Now if we can only put all the stupid legal stuff behind us, which by the way we are working on and Bruce feels the worst is over and in the end justice will be served and the truth will come out and the State of New Jersey is going to look awfully bad if they go any further with this thing not to mention the law suits we will have against them; because every officer down here told me if they had known I was disabled this thing never would have gone down at all and that even right now today I have one hell of a personal injury case that I can bring against two states, so what the hell, what will be will be I know in my heart I haven't done anything. We are confident that Bill Dickey will be able to straighten this thing out and we have already sent him in the overnight mail depositions and a cashier's check to get on it right on it so he should receive it this afternoon and Bruce said he is going to stay on top of him by calling him tonight so that he can't forget about it or leave it sit.
"Because at the bottom of this whole thing Bruce is convinced more than ever after talking to my mother Sunday night that what is going to be revealed is the source from which this whole mess started and he's sure it will read Greg [her first husband], May Harrington [her mother], and Bill [her current husband] in that order originally made the accusations. Because I will tell you this whole thing is based on two things that the state may have made a mistake and overpaid me and the other is that the state claims that I said I was disabled when I never was, in other words the D.A. doesn't believe that I am or ever was disabled in any way and the only place that type of information could come is my mother, just ask her she'll tell you that I never have had cancer and that there is nothing wrong with me and that there never has been at least not physically, amazing that she knows something that every doctor that has ever seen me in this whole deal doesn't know and that according to her they are all wrong right down to having optical illusions of operating on me. So that's the deal.
"One good thing has come out of this mess since I was arrested I can very easily prove that I am a cancer patient and that I am disabled if by no other reason than the state of Texas recognized my disabilities and has them listed and me as 100% disabled, but mentally sound and no addictions, so now it's not just my word and Jim's and quite a few other people's word against theirs. So sooner or later the whole thing will be straightened out God willing and with a little patience I just want it to be sooner because now I'm fighting mad and you know me if I put my mind and intelligence and all my energy in one area I can get things done in quite an effective manner, only this time the system has two people to reckon with so these fellows just better look out, they had better put up or shut up right quick because no matter what happens you and I both know that it will take a broken jaw, death and six feet of dirt over my mouth to shut me up. I feel things are wrong and have to be made right especially if I can change the system to make it better for others who may not have my patience and will power and guts and big mouth.
"This situation is one that can either make you or break you (so what's new in my life?) and I certainly have no intentions what so ever of giving anyone the satisfaction of breaking me, not after all I have gone through in my life, I Know, I mean I know for a fact that I am tougher and can fight longer than any of the people making the accusations so if nothing else I can out last them. Do you realize that I got arrested and actually treated the officer as a guest in my home and made him a cup of coffee while we waited for Bruce and the attorney to get here and let him read my doctors letters to make him feel like about 2 cents and had the officer call and talk to my doctors and this one I can tell you: he felt rotten after my doctors and I got done with him and I went with a smile on my face and never fell apart once or cried or got upset through the whole thing, even I can't believe I was able to pull that one off, I was just so determined not to let them get the better of me and while I was in there I saw enough that even our attorney said maybe I should have stayed a little while longer because if I had, I probably would have cleaned house in there and changed the prison system from the inside out, I tried to do what I could and some of it actually worked; the other inmates said for the first time they were actually treated in some what of a facsimile of being somewhat human and I'll tell you there is something to be said for having lived through an experience that would have destroyed most people and come out stronger than ever.
"Frannie, this one is going on paper and will be sold if I have to do the entire thing myself the world has to realize what goes on in those places; by the way just for the record it is true that when you're in there you know everything that is going on, on the outside, I mean; the underground is absolutely incredible and of course I could not resist the temptation to laugh at the guards when they were shity, the rottener they were, the nicer I was and they just couldn't rattle me and they all made comments about it and would you believe I have never even had a parking ticket and I was the one in the jail that was known as the one with the connections; these other people had been in before and knew trustees and snitches and here comes little innocent me and I've got better connections for cigarettes etc., than they do, now that was funny, and yes you were right: I did get everybody laughing and trying to make the best of it; of course I had to give them a few things to think about along the way, but boy do I ever have some stories to tell you, what an experience, in a way I am glad I had it, it was neat in a certain sort of perverted kind of way, but what an experience and I still can't believe that this kid never came unglued; I don't know quite how I did it except to say I got mad as hell about the injustices I saw in that place and never wanted to forget a thing about it just to make me very aware of just how lucky and easy I do have it; there are always people in worse straits than you are and at least that is comforting. Well look at it this way: there is nothing left on earth except death (and I wish that one a lot of luck with me now, ha! ha!) that can be done to me, I have come full circle, of all the miserable things that can conceivably happen to one on this earth. I can honestly say I lived through most of them and each and every one of them has made me a better and more tolerant, tougher, and I hope understanding person than I was before. But girl I'll tell you if there is any way I can change some of the things that go on in this country, I'm going to if it takes the rest of my natural born life to do them. I don't care, I just have to try, who knows the next person might not be able to deal with this kind of stuff the way I can and if I can make things easier or prevent even one person from having to go thru the things I have had to it's well worth the effort. Believe you me I have a few definite ideas about how to change some things and where some of the changes should be made, oh well, enough of me being on my lecturing soapbox; once things are put in order you'll be able to read it any way and that's a promise." I am helping her to fulfill her promise.
At the time I could not believe that anyone, let along any government agency, would try to extradite a woman as ill as Bonnie, or have her put in jail - a place designed for punishment. I was so incensed that I hand wrote and Fedex'd letters to both President Reagan and Vice President Bush, bringing to their attention what was being done to her in the name of cleaning up the welfare system, and giving some information about her case. I told them that even if she was guilty, which was not the case, that her condition warranted special care and treatment. What I got back from them was less than I had hoped. Bush wrote back, giving me his best advice: "Get a good lawyer." Reagan expressed more compassion and concern, and gave me the name of a Freeholder in Camden County who would help me. The Freeholder did inform the prosecutor of her sensitive medical condition, but to little avail. They continued to think she was feigning much of her condition to avoid extradition and court appearances. I figured that if the Chief Prosecutor of Camden County was following a political agenda, knowing that Reagan was informed might help. It was a desperate act in an attempt to save Bonnie. Apparently it worked, because they backed off somewhat, and she received much better care than most of the other prisoners. But even the best in jail wasn't good enough for someone so ill. I have not yet forgiven Camden County for what they did. In my opinion, no reason is good enough, the law notwithstanding. You may not be able to hide from the law, but they may not hide behind it either. Bonnie's poor health never allowed her to fulfill her wishes to change the deplorable conditions she experienced in prison. She was too weak and vulnerable to the forces that create and nurture such depravity, but I am not.
We fought extradition to New Jersey for the next 21 months, and went through nine court dates (1984: 10 May, 27 July, 27 September; 1985: 9 January, 16 August, 30 August, 20 September, 25 October, and 6 November). Most of the court dates were cancelled due either to her being in a hospital, to letters from her psychiatrist regarding her poor health and inability to travel, or to legal maneuvers by our lawyer and the Assistant D.A. of Texas. On 10 May 1984 she was supposed to appear in court, but ended up in the hospital just before that date suffering from recurrences of grand mal seizures, angina attacks, blood imbalance, and kidney failure - all brought on by fear of being dragged back to New Jersey in handcuffs and dying in a Camden County jail or prison infirmary from lack of adequate medical care and inhumane treatment - over a case of alleged fraud instigated by a corrupt welfare case worker. If three days in a Texas jail was bad, she had good reason to fear a forced trip to New Jersey into the hands of a prosecutor who by all indications was blind to the truth and possessed by prejudice; either that or he just didn't care. This case became more an ordeal of persecution than prosecution, where a small welfare overpayment and prosecuting the practice of the law meant more to New Jersey than human welfare and life. Even Senator Florio (who became Governor of New Jersey) stated in a letter that he would not help, even though Bonnie had met him when she worked for his re-election campaign. It was too hot a political potato for him.
On 6 November 1985 she appeared in court before Judge Poe (the hanging judge) with Chuckie, me, and our lawyer, Bill Harmeyer, by her side awaiting the arrival of someone from New Jersey to pick her up. No one showed, and Judge Poe summarily granted her a habeas corpus, and sent the Governor's warrant back to New Jersey. Our legal ordeal was over. We won our 21 month battle with New Jersey after we played our trump cards - my lawyer sent through the Houston Assistant D.A.'s office documented proof to the prosecutor in Camden County that showed that the case worker and welfare department had lied to the grand jury and framed her. The New Jersey prosecutor then knew that if he brought Bonnie back he would have no case, Bonnie could sue for medical damage and wrongful arrest (or worse could happen if she died in their custody), and a whole can of worms would be opened up in Camden County. We knew that the prison system would not give her adequate medical care because of her extreme and sensitive medical conditions. At the time she was taking about 20 prescription medications and high potency vitamins, and as many as 12 medications daily for cardiomyopathy and angina, epilepsy, thrombophlebitis in her left leg, colitis, thyroid and kidney dysfunction, extreme potassium deficiency (hypokalemia), water retention around the heart, and pain.
Ironically, her insurance company (AIG), which gave the welfare office the erroneous information that led to the fraud charges, ended up paying an enormous amount of money that they could have avoided had they reported her long term disability accurately and truthfully. During that ordeal her medical problems cost her insurance company more that $85,000 (ten times what it cost them per year following this ordeal), the State of Texas more than $10,000, the State of New Jersey more than $10,000, and me more than $8,000. Even in the end the Camden County prosecutor would not admit he was wrong in what he did, and (through our lawyer in New Jersey) threatened to reopen the case if she should ever return to New Jersey again. That threat, which she took seriously to her grave, caused her to mentally block out all good memories of the nearly 30 years of her life she spent in New Jersey. Sadly, the seizures, angina attacks, and one heart attack that Bonnie had, along with four hospital stays for major health problems during the ordeal may have contributed to her premature death at age 40. She was too weak and ill to go though years of legal battles and court appearances in order to right the wrongs done to her by the State of New Jersey. She told me before she died that she felt she had lived or experienced 10 lifetimes with all that had happened to her.
Her health began to improve in April, and she began going out again during the day to shop. Because we liked going out so much, and enjoyed the country and western setting, we began to frequent Gary Smith's Texas Breeze night club on Westheimer Road.
She would wait at the club until I got out of work, then pick me up in our Bronco II. The freedom to be able to drive around town and shop was an elixir to her. We sometimes returned to the club so that she could share her excitement from the day's adventures while sipping on a margarita, her favorite drink. We also went out to hear folk or country and western singers at concerts and in nightclubs. I introduced her to Shake Russell and the Dana Couper band at a small nightclub near downtown Houston in April. She liked his folk music, and we looked for his concerts whenever he was playing in town.
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Copyright Bruce Cornet 1999