Wednesday, January 18, 2017

REMEMBERING ANGIE ONE YEAR LATER


“A moral principle cannot be ignored because it is inconvenient”

The Appalachian School of Law held a memorial and commemoration ceremony on the first anniversary of the shooting, January 16, 2003. The memorial took place in the school’s large, main classroom designed to resemble a courtroom. The victims’ families gathered in the student lounge nearby. The mood was somber. As we were waiting in the lounge for the ceremony to begin, I was involved in a brief encounter occurred that seemed to say so much about Grundy and the law school.

I had stood to the side of the room, not wanting to talk to anyone. Inside I was trembling and wanted to concentrate only on what I had to say and do. I noticed a woman working the crowd, and eventually she approached and introduced herself. I do not remember her name. All I remember is that she portrayed herself as a very important local commodity.

I had spotted her moving from one person to another, looking around for the next handshake and moving on—working the crowd. Something akin to a Walmart greeter; it struck me as inappropriate.

It was my turn. She recognized my name from the program and thanked me for participating in the ceremony.

Under stress the strangest things become significant. I had parked across the street and on the other side of a stream that runs by the school. I was not sure I was parked legally. For lack of anything else to say, I asked her if it were okay to park there. I think subconsciously I wanted her to say, “No, you have to move it.” That way I could move the car and keep on going; run away from the terrible two-minute ordeal that lay ahead of me.

She responded that I should not worry, if I got a ticket, come to her, she would “fix it.” As she said, “fix it,” she strained slightly and the volume of her voice increased… as if to underscore her importance.

Her words, her tone said everything. Fix it? Her whole demeanor had changed, the subject now allowed her to display her importance, her influence. She took on the role of the “grand dame.” I felt a sickness in the pit of my stomach—I suddenly felt as if I were going to throw up. Her “I can fix it” attitude repulsed me. She could “fix” nothing! The time to “fix” had long past. On the surface her words said one thing, her body language and voice said another. For just a moment I felt I had a view inside the nasty, smoke-filled rooms that “fix” things in Grundy. Before I could say anything, she spotted her next victim and moved on. In silence I watched her walk away, but the smell lingered.

           
From the school lounge we went to the school’s courtyard—at the precise time of the shootings, the town’s church bells rang—the noise was faint, even muted. We then walked to the courtroom where the ceremony began.

I really don’t remember much of what was said. I was so concerned about making it through my part of the ceremony with out losing my composure. I had practiced, practiced, and practiced again. Janice and I had stayed at Angie’s house the night before, I stood next to the kitchen counter and read and reread and read again my two pages. The next morning I rehearsed over and over again. Would I say the right thing? Would Angie’s family like my words? Could I even make it through the dreaded two minutes?

Janice had encouraged me. “This is a big honor; they have chosen you to be the family spokesman. If there were any doubt who speaks for the Dales, it will disappear today.” When I wanted to stop, she insisted that I keep practicing. Each reading was an ordeal. It was difficult for me to read and for Janice to listen. Shortly after I started practicing she went into the living and sat so I wouldn’t see her cry. Every time I read my words the hate, the anger, the anguish and depression flooded in—my goal was to be robotic—to build some barrier between the words I was going to speak and the pain I felt inside.

I was the second family representative to speak. The committee had decided to go in alphabetical order of the victim’s last names: Blackwell, Dales, Sutin. I really don’t remember what the others said. I only remember following the program with my index finger as the ceremony moved closer to my name.Then my turn came and I walked to the podium—my legs trembling:

Angela Denise Dales was proud of her heritage. She was the daughter of a coal miner, and the daughter of a cook. Angela was a loving sister and devoted mother to her daughter, Rebecca. The first in her family to receive a college degree, she was the American dream—a small town girl on her way to making it big. A single mother who through hard work, intellect and determination was a success in everything she did. Angela was an honor student at Virginia Intermont College where she won the school’s highest awards. She was proud of her association with the Appalachian School of Law, first as a recruiter and then a student.

Indeed, Angie was at the top of her law school class and had been elected treasurer of Phi Alpha Delta.

How can we find the words to express our loss? The loss that all of us feel.

Everyone in this room who knew Angela feels the pain of her passing. There are no words that console Angela’s family—there are no words in any religion, in any language, in any country that can capture the horror, grief, and anger felt by Angie’s family one year ago today—and every day since then.

We have to move on—but how can we fully function questioning why she died? The family appreciates the students who were at Angela’s side, but how do we deal with and fight the suffocation that wakes us in the middle of the night in a cold sweat—the suffocation of knowing that Angie did not get all the help she needed. Why did she need to die when the hospital was only six minutes away?

When Angela Denise Dales died, something good in every one of us died. Part of the soul of this town died. Part of the spirit of this law school died that can never be replaced. No tree, no flower, no plaque can replace what we have lost.

We will never forget you Angie. We will always remember that you spoke words of truth, kindness and encouragement to family and friends alike. The family will try to live every day to the fullest we can as a tribute to you—the young woman who reveled in life and all that life offers. Your passing has made all of us remember that if we have something to say to a loved one, say it lovingly.

Say it as if we would never have another day with them—we must make every second of every day count.

We miss you every moment of every day Angie. We will never forget you. We will see that your daughter, Rebecca, grows up and has every opportunity to fulfill all the dreams you had for her. We will always love you.


(To be continued)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

WHO ARE THE KILGORES?


Want to know why then-Attorney General Kilgore would not help the family of murdered student at the Appalachian School of Law?  Well look at it this way:

If I were the Attorney General and wanted to run for governor of Virginia, I might look for every way possible to avoid an investigation that would embarrass Virginia officials. If I were the Attorney General and part of my political power base is southwest Virginia, would I really want to alienate the power structure that helped me get where I am today and will play a role in my bid for governor? Then-Virginia Attorney General Kilgore’s family members are high rollers in the Republican Party, and he is tied directly to Grundy. His twin brother, Terry Kilgore, was named dean of Grundy’s University of Appalachia’s new College of Pharmacy in April 2006. The same power structure that established the Appalachian School of Law is behind the new College of Pharmacy.

Indeed, the Kilgores are such a powerful family that Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Jeff Schapiro ran an article on them February 11, 2007. Shapiro pointed out that Jerry Kilgore’s mother is the registrar for Scott county and his father, John, runs the local Republican committee. Twin brother Terry is the number three Republican in Virginia’s House of Delegates, and according to Schapiro, has 57 votes in his pocket.

Looking at the power behind Jerry Kilgore’s throne, Schapiro wrote the following:

“These are the repro men, whose lobbyists include Ken Hutcheson, manager of Jerry’s ’05 race against Tim Kaine. They put Terry behind the wheel a bill extending to them the same supposedly rapacious privileges as their tarted-up kin, payday lenders. Their lead lobbyist, by the way, is one of Jerry’s partners, the poker-faced Reggie Jones. Another is Chris Nolen, Jerry’s consigliore in the AG’s office.”

“Like Jerry’s gubernatorial ambitions, the car-title proposal
crashed and burned. It was a rare setback for Terry. But not before he collected $4,500.00 from subprime-market lenders for a 2007 campaign that is likely to be a breeze. This means Terry, who already has raised $107,000, could have extra jack with which to keep friends and make new ones.”

“Terry already has a lot of them. Not all are elected by the people.”

“One is Circuit Judge Teresa Chafin. She is a member of the State Judicial Council, an important advisory group for the black-robed set. Chafin also serves on the Commission on Virginia Courts in the 21stCentury, created by Supreme Court Chief Justice Leroy Hassell to recommend ways to modernize the state judiciary.”

“Chafin sits in the 29th Judicial Circuit, which includes Russell County, where she lives. However, her lawyer-husband, Frank Kilgore, who shares a name with the political clan but not a bloodline, wants to build on the Clinch River in Wise County. (Frank Kilgore is the chairman of the Appalachian School of Law’s Board of Trustees.) That’s in the 30th Judicial Circuit.”

“Problem is, judges are required by law to live in their circuit. Problem solved—almost—by Terry Kilgore.”

“He proposed adding 28 words to the law: ‘However, this residency shall not apply to any sitting judge who resides within the Commonwealth of Virginia upon property that is located contiguous to his respective circuit.”

For Chafin and Frank Kilgore, an ex-Democrat and avid environmentalist who’s given the Brothers Kilgore $25,067, that literally means land hard by the Wise side of the Russell line.”

I asked Frank Kilgore about it, he testily demanded I identify my source. After firing off a couple of e-mails that were little more than screeds, Kilgore finally said he’d ask Terry to introduce the measure.”

“Nine days ago, Terry Kilgore quietly yanked that ol’ bill
bada bing—killing it for the year. He said he worried it would have a disruptive effect statewide.”

“Or did Terry Kilgore fear being found out?”

“After all, he is running a family business.” Terry Kilgore has been a member of the Virginia House of Delegates since 1994. He was there when his brother was Attorney General and when the shootings took place at the law school.


So, now you know a little about the Kilgores, their back-room shenanigans, and their hypocritical and morally repugnant politics. (To be continued)

Monday, January 16, 2017

VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL KILGORE 

The silence related to the threatening e-mail Angie Dales received before her murder remains deafening. Frustrated and angered, and acting on behalf of Angie’s parents, I turned to Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. But, once again double-speak returned—more sophisticated, but double-speak nevertheless.

Following the shootings, Attorney General Kilgore released the following statement:

            “It was with great sadness that I learned of the shootings that injured and killed innocent people at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia.

            At the same time we experience these emotions, however, there is a clear sense among us all that as Virginians we cannot tolerate such acts of violence.

            Our institutions of higher learning are intended to be sanctuaries of education and self-improvement-not places of violence. Law abiding Virginians may rest assured that law enforcement authorities will identify whoever is responsible and our court system will see that justice is done.”

On July 14, 2004, after nearly a year and a half of waiting for Officer Lambert to answer our questions on the threatening email, I decided to take the Attorney General up on his words. I wrote Attorney General Kilgore asking for his assistance.

In response to my letter, James O. Towey, the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Virginia, responded on August 14, 2004:

“Dear Mr. Cariens,
This office is in receipt of your letter with regard to the questions you have concerning the State Police investigation of (a) threatening email received by Angela Dales, the mother of your granddaughter. I am very sorry to hear that Angela’s life was subsequently taken at the Appalachian School of Law.

I understand from your letter that you have been informed by the investigating officer that the author of the email is not known but there is no link between the email and the shooting. Please understand that the authority and jurisdiction of this Office are limited by statute. The Attorney General’s Office functions primarily as a law firm for state government. In this capacity, it advises state officials and represents the various state agencies and departments.

Because this Office is not typically charged with the oversight of the investigatory functions of police and local prosecutors, it has no knowledge of the investigation of which you inquire. The proper functioning of our criminal justice system, however, necessitates that criminal investigations be kept confidential. This need is recognized in Virginia Freedom of Information Act (“VFOIA”), which excludes from its provisions, subject to the discretion of the custodian, “complaints, memoranda, correspondence and evidence relating to a criminal investigation or prosecution, other than criminal incident information.

Criminal incident information” consists of “a general description of the criminal activity reported, the date and general location the alleged crime was committed, the identity of the investigating officer, and a general description of any injuries suffered or property damaged or stolen.” Please note that, under certain circumstances, even “criminal incident information” may be withheld under the VFOIA. Information on obtaining records from the State Police under the VFOIA is contained on their web site at www.vsp.state.va.us.

If you are dissatisfied with the manner in which the investigation was handled, or by the fact that the investigating officer did not follow up on his promise to answer your questions, you may file a complaint at any State Police Office or by calling the Internal Affairs Section at telephone number (804) 323-2383. Information on filing complaints can also be obtained at www.vsp.state.va.us/professionalstandards.htm.

Please understand this Office is prohibited from providing legal advice to private citizens and, consequently, nothing herein may be construed as such. You are of course, free to consult with any attorney engaged in private practice of law. I hope you will find this information helpful in obtaining answers to your questions. Thank you for expressing your concerns.

Sincerely,
James O. Towey
Assistant Attorney General”

The response from the Attorney General’s office, albeit polite, contains prime examples of the “double talk” that victims and their families encounter in Virginia. First, Mr. Towey completely ignores the illogical aspect of the police saying they don’t know who wrote the e-mail, but there is no connection to the law school murders. Second, Mr. Towey wrote that his office “is not typically charged with the oversight of investigatory functions of local police and local prosecutors, it has no knowledge of the investigation of which you inquire.” The word “typical” tells me that the state’s Attorney General’s office does have the statutory powers to review local investigations. In fact, I cannot find anything in the statutes governing the functioning of the Attorney General’s office that prohibits him from investigating the circumstances and investigations surrounding the e-mail. Furthermore, the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law were not typical. The shootings were the worst to occur on school grounds in the state’s history up to that time. If there are indications of incompetence in either the investigation surrounding the crime or in prosecuting the case against the killer, are we to believe that it is “typical” for the state’s Attorney General to turn a blind eye to a miscarriage of justice?

Kilgore Turns His Back on Investigation

A month after the shooting, then-Attorney General Kilgore joined other elected officials in visiting the campus to express condolences. He is quoted as saying “there is not greater memorial to (the murder victim) than the continued growth and success of this law school.” Actually, there would be no greater memorial to them, and to Angela Dales specifically, than find out all the facts and truth surrounding the tragedy.

The bottom-line is that based on the information we have to date, Attorney General Kilgore’s office did turn its back on delving further into the shooting. Apparently, Mr. Kilgore and his staff believe that you can ignore evidence that may be part of a criminal investigation; they apparently believe the evidence will go away, it will be forgotten—they must have believed that we would go away. We will not go away.

Mr. Towey wrote, “The Attorney General’s office functions as a law firm for state government. In this capacity, it advises state officials (I assume the state highway patrol falls in this category) and represents the various state agencies and departments.” Isn’t it logical to believe that when confronted with evidence or information of questionable police investigations, sloppiness that may have contributed to a school shooting, that the Attorney General’s office would “advise” the state police to review the investigation of the case? (To be continued)


Sunday, January 15, 2017

THE COMMONWEALTH ATTORNEY--PART TWO



Confirmation that Angie was Targeted

The “good cop,” Officer Santolla confirmed our suspicions that Peter Odighizuwa had targeted Angie specifically. Officer Santolla theorized that the killer was headed for the library after shooting the two faculty members, but when he got in the student lounge, he saw Angie sitting diagonally across the room. Odighizuwa walked around a number of students, up to Angie and fired his pistol hitting her three times. He then turned his pistol on two other female students sitting with Angie, wounding both but not killing either of them.

Why Angie? The only glimpse we have into Odighizuwa’s motive for targeting her is a comment he reportedly made that since leaving the school’s staff and becoming a student, “Angie had not been nice to him.”

No one present could answer the question of who transported Angie to the hospital—we are still waiting for someone to tell us.

Officer Santolla confirmed that a medevac helicopter landed on the school grounds shortly after the shooting, but none of the officers would tell us who was evacuated first or who made the decision about what order the victims would be removed from the crime scene.

The doctors we consulted in the aftermath of the tragedy told us that in the event of a disaster, triage procedures dictate that the most seriously wounded is evacuated first. Angie’s injuries were the most serious. Given the serious nature of her gun shot wounds, she should have been the first evacuated. Because no vital organs were hit; Angie would have had a chance if she had been evacuated to the hospital. In fact, she bled to death because did not receive medical attention. The helicopter was there, the hospital was close. None of the officers could or would give us any information on how the decisions were made on who was evacuated. They did remember many other details.

We did, however, learn that Dr. Sagan was at the shooting site within minutes of the first reports. He has now left Grundy. No one apparently bothered to ask him about his triage procedures. As far as we know, no one bothered to ask him if he saw Angie and if he did, why he didn’t get help for her--help that might have saved her life.

Odighizuwa and Domestic Violence

One question that has bothered all of us was Peter Odighizuwa’s domestic violence. Our question was how someone with a restraining order against him can have a gun? In fact, as we were to learn it was not a restraining order. Mrs. Odighizuwa had an Emergency Protection Order against her husband. This was explained to us as a three-day cooling off period and does not carry the restrictions of a restraining order. At the end of the three days, Mrs. Odighizuwa had the right to get a restraining order, but didn’t. The whole question was moot.

What isn’t moot is that in Virginia, a man can threaten to kill his wife and family, an Emergency Protection Order or a Restraining Order can be placed against him, and he can go right out and buy a gun. He can buy bullets. There is no provision in Virginia statutes to search and seize weapons in the home of a man or woman whom the law has deemed a threat to others. There are however, strict rules for off color jokes. A man or woman can lose his or her job for an off color remark! Touch someone in Virginia “inappropriately” and you lose your job.

Threatening emails

We then asked the officers about a threatening e-mail Angie had received over a year before her death. They said they were aware of it, and asserted that while they did not know who sent it, the e-mail had nothing to do with Angie’s death. The question that bothers us is, if you don’t know who sent the e-mail, how can you say with such certainty that it had nothing to do with the shooting? It was equally puzzling to us that the Commonwealth’s Attorney bought this assertion.

As far as we can put the pieces together this is what happened: Angie’s computer had accidentally sent a virus to another student’s computer. The virus destroyed some or all of the student’s files and he sent the threat. She told her family about the e-mail but refused to show it to them. She did, upon the urging of a friend, report it to the police and the school.

The threatening e-mail read:

You f**king cocksucker, If you ever try to send me another virus again, I will track you down, cut your nipples off, and stick jumper cables in you and connect them to my truck. I’m not bullshittin. Maybe the sheriff will find you hanging from a tree in Longbottom.

It is against the law to send threats via the Internet. And, an investigation took place, but “nothing” turned up. Ms. Tolliver arranged for us to talk with the investigating officer, Don Lambert.

Ms. Tolliver got Officer Don Lambert on a conference call in her private office. Joe Dales, Ms. Tolliver, and I went into the office for the call. Officer Lambert said he took over the investigation from an Officer Whitmore, who had apparently left the state police for a federal job. Lambert was not clear at what point in time he took over the investigation and could not remember details such as who filed the complaint or whether the school was aware and following up on it. He “thought” the school had made at least one inquiry with regard to the investigation, but he couldn’t be certain.

An Incomplete Investigation

To my request to see the police report of the investigation, he responded by saying he could not give it to me or any member of the family because it was “confidential.” He did volunteer to retrieve the report from Richmond, call me, and answer any questions I might have. I am still waiting for that phone call.

Officer Lambert said that his predecessor had gone to the Internet provider and tracked down the PC that had sent the e-mail. To the best of his memory, the computer belonged to another student, not Peter Odighizuwa. Officer Lambert volunteered that the student had been questioned by the police and denied any knowledge of the e-mail.

There would have been only one way to find out for certain where the threat came from and that was from the Internet provider. In order to get the specifics from the Internet provider, the officer needed a court order. Neither officers Whitmore nor Lambert got the court order, and after 60 days the Internet provider automatically erases all e-mail traffic. That Internet provider now says there is no way to retrieve the information. As a result, the state police claim they cannot identify who sent the e-mail for certain. We still ask the police, if you cannot identify the sender of the e-mail, then how can you say beyond a shadow of a doubt that it does not factor into the shooting?

Punishment in the Hereafter?

When I got up to leave conference call and go back into the room where Angie’s parents were sitting, I heard officers Parker and Santolla try to comfort the Dales. They implied that the Dales should be content with the knowledge that Peter Odighizuwa would get his punishment in the hereafter.

Sue Dales was furious. After the meeting, Sue said she could hardly contain her anger, especially at Officer Parker. To this day, her anger boils over when she thinks of Parker’s behavior. All of us could not help but think, what hypocrites! In other words, what the two highway patrolmen were really saying was—“If you are thinking of a civil lawsuit, why don’t you drop it?” In effect, they were patting the Dales on the head and saying, “There, there, be good. Don’t say anything, don’t question anything. Now run along home.”

Indeed, we did “run along home” because none of our questions were being answered. The only thing the meeting had settled was our determination to get at the truth. The meeting was a turning point for us, there was no doubt in any of our minds—we would get an attorney, there would be a lawsuit. We would do whatever needed to be done to get some answers. (To be continued)



Saturday, January 14, 2017

THE COMMONWEALTH ATTORNEY--PART ONE



As the first anniversary of Law School shootings and Angie’s murder approached, the family decided to take the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Sheila Tolliver, up on her offer to meet with us. She agreed to help answer the Dales’ questions. Angie’s father was especially upset because no one had ever taken the time to tell him some of the particulars—details that mean so much to the family. Who took Angie to the hospital? Where did she die? No one told him then, and no one has told him in subsequent meetings.

But our expectations of getting long-sought answers to questions proved to be unfounded. We had in this instance—as in many others—allowed our hope to deceive us. Even allowing for the limitations of human mental processes and the problems inherent in a crime scene investigation, what took place during the meeting was not only disconcerting in a general sense, but also alarming in terms of uncovering significant shortcomings in the criminal investigative procedures associated with the law school shootings.

Arrogance and Blatant Disrespect

Ms. Tolliver did arrange a meeting with the state highway patrolmen who had responded to the shooting. In addition to Angie’s brother, the Dales wanted Janice and me to be present. We agreed to have the meeting when we would all be in Grundy for the first anniversary of the shooting.    

Three state highway patrolmen were there, John Santolla, Walt Parker, and Ashley Hagy. What ensued was incredible and inexplicable. To this day I am not sure what was going on. The only explanation I have it that it was an example of “good cop, bad cop”—a game with the murder victim’s family. I am puzzled; I am amazed; I am astounded. I could kick myself for falling prey to such a cheap trick and for allowing the officers to get away with such disrespect for the family.

Officer Santolla came in with a box of files on the case and offered to answer anything he could. The numbers of clear and concise answers were, however, few and far between. Indeed, the meeting went from bad to worse. The three police officers were unable or unwilling to produce something as simple as a timeline. One of the basic tools used in crime analysis is the construction of the timeline that is basic to any criminal investigation—think “Law Enforcement 101.” The true horror of what we had gone through was now compounded by the lack of sound investigative practices of the crime scene.

Officer Parker

Officer Parker appeared to take an instant dislike to me. He challenged why he was there, why any of them were there (I wondered that too, but he let the cat out of the bag. He had just met with local, powerful coal mining executives). From the moment he entered the room, it was apparent that Officer Parker’s idea of answering questions that he found distasteful, involved the use of verbal abuse or sarcasm. Any sort of discourse requiring logic, reason, and thoughtful response appeared to be totally alien to him. The Commonwealth’s Attorney was sitting there; therefore there was some limitation on his abusive behavior—at least brute force….

At one point in response to a point I made, officer Parker sarcastically said that if we knew so much why were the officers there? Then in what hinted of a man who had something to hide or one who had a complete lack of sympathy for crime victims—or maybe both—he lashed out at our “lawsuit.” That was an odd assertion because at that time there was no lawsuit. We had met with attorneys and discussed the possibility, but had gone no further than just that discussing it. We had not retained an attorney; we were in part on a fact-finding quest to determine if we needed legal counsel.

If an investigating police officer cannot get his facts straight in a relatively simple meeting with the family of a shooting victim, what must his “official” reports be like? At every turn, Officer Parker undercut his credentials: As a state highway patrolman, as a crime scene investigator, and as a human being. If any police officer is so emotionally strung out that he is unable to cope with a meeting with members of a murder victim’s family, how can we possibly believe anything he says about his investigation of the crime scene?

Officer Parker’s credibility went from bad to worse. It turns out that he did not arrive at the crime scene until approximately an hour after the shooting. Yet, he did not hesitate to say emphatically what happened—often being corrected by Officer Santolla who had arrived at the school four or five minutes after the shooting. I too began to wonder why Officer Parker was there at all.

The reality of what we faced began to sink in—and it was suffocating. Was Officer Parker a plant, what was his motive? He appeared to have one overriding motivation—to discourage the Dales from taking legal action. Angie had joked about incompetence and corruotion in Grundy. A chill went over me. We might be looking at the face of all she had talked about.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney just sat and looked as Officer Parker continued to run amuck. The expression on her face was like a deer caught in headlights. Throughout the meeting, Officer Parker’s actions were an unprecedented display of contempt—even hatred. The Commonwealth Attorney’s inability to take charge of the meeting and bring the errant officer back in line began to raise serious doubts in my mind not only about her sincerity, but also about her ability to prosecute a major murder trial. The third officer, Officer Hagy said nothing throughout the meeting—he simply sat and nervously tapped his feet. (To be continued)