One late Spring afternoon in 2008 my young daughter, Aspen, asked a simple question: “Mommy, everybody has a daddy. Where’s your daddy?” There was a moment of panic as I searched to find the right answer to give my sweet 6-year-old. I then gave the first answer I could think of. “He lives in Salem, Oregon.” This was only part of the truth.
The complete truth I had come to learn in March of 1995 as a 16-year-old. Returning home from my high school classes, my mother had an impromptu family gathering to relay that our dad was in jail for murder. Over the years, my father had confessed to raping and killing eight women. Media soon after dubbed him as The Happy Face Killer, due to the confession letters sent to the press signed with a smiley face.
Socially humiliated and ashamed of the horrendous actions of my father, I silently carried my father’s identity as a secret. Hurtful judgments from others came. One lady was so cruel to say I was the “seed of the devil.” I started to carry the feeling that I was guilty by association and by genetics.
I had convinced myself that the past could be erased over time. Now, my daughter’s pondering made it relevant. I did not want my daughter to know at such a young age that there were very dangerous people that exist ” some too close to home. I wanted to preserve her innocence of the world as long possible. I then decided to send an email to the Dr. Phil show for guidance on this rare issue.
Within weeks, I was face to face, onstage with Dr. Phil and thirteen other members of the “Get Real Retreat.” It was now my turn to share why I was there. Scared, I quietly said, “My father is a serial killer. I don’t want others to know what I have done.” The years of guilt of being related to what others call a “monster” had resurfaced. Dr. Phil then said, “You have nothing to be guilty of.”
His words kept replaying over and over, until it finally started to sink in weeks later. Dr. Phil was right. It was not me who tortured and killed women. The fifteen-year-old secret was not a secret anymore. The burden I had to carry was starting to lift, and I became free to start living my life.
Today, my life couldn’t be any more different than it was two years ago. After the “Get Real Retreat,” I started writing my memoir, titled Shattered Silence. I wanted to share the message I had learned through all of my experiences – that we do not have to become products of our circumstances. Shattered Silence is currently being developed into a film. I am now embarking on a new career in media as the creative consultant in a television series, and I travel the nation sharing my message as a speaker. I have found my purpose and passion with thanks to Dr. Phil and his wonderful staff!