Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Murder of Hetty Kathleen Schultheis

(This post is still scattered and not easy to read.  I keep meaning to spend time cleaning it up and actually finishing it, but I seem to always find a reason not to.)

When I was 18, I abruptly moved out of my parent’s home and found myself living with one of my best friends, whose amazing parents opened their home to me.  After living with her for a short time, an opportunity came up to rent a room from a woman who was a friend of my family; Hetty Kathleen Schultheis.

Hetty was a US Navy Reserve Recruiter, working at Andrews Air Force Base.  She stayed in the barracks on Andrews AFB during the week and was only home on the weekends.  As a newly sprung from the nest young adult, knowing that I had an opportunity to live in a home practically all to myself was too good to pass up.  Hetty's house was in town, and at the time I was working at the Commissary on Patuxent River NAS, which meant I could walk to work from her house if and when I needed to; and yes, due to my unreliable car, I needed to walk to work often.

A beautiful, vivacious, spirited red-head, Hetty was quite a remarkable woman.  In the short time I lived in her home, she taught me so many things.  Some of these may seem irrelevant to many people, but they are things I have carried with me to this day.  Macaroni and cheese.  She taught me how to “dress-up” macaroni and cheese by adding fresh tomatoes and green peppers to the pot, after it was done cooking.  Lipstick.  She used a lipstick brush to apply lipstick.  She told me one of the sexiest things a woman could ever do in an office, was to apply lipstick at her desk using a lipstick brush and a mirror.  I’ve never done that, but I can definitely see how that is a very sexy thing to do.  Espresso.  She taught me how to drink espresso, way before Starbucks made it cool. When Hetty was in the Azores with her daughter, they would drink it with whipped cream on top.  

Whenever the movie “Tora Tora Tora” played on tv, she would watch it to the very end.  A friend of hers had a small part in that movie, and she always watched the credits at the end of the movie to see his name.  She also shared stories about her children with me.  She loved her children and I wish I could remember those stories.  But my memories of the time are beginning to fade, and the details are fuzzy at best, which is part of the reason I felt compelled to write this.  1988 seems like several lifetimes ago, yet it also seems like just a couple of years ago.

The room I rented from her was just a simple bedroom with a closet.  My bedroom door wouldn’t latch shut, so at night, I would stack some of my books (I used to be a heavy reader) in front of the door to hold it shut.  This would prevent my cat and her cat from having arguments at night.  There was one bathroom on the second floor, which we shared.  

Around midnight on the night of June 5th, 1988, I came from hanging out with my friend Chris.  I think that was the night she showed me how she had decorated the interior of her dad’s boat.  Hetty had fallen asleep on the couch, and rather than waking her, I decided to let her sleep where she was.  I turned off the tv, locked the front door and shut the front windows.  It was hot in the house, so I left the one side window open and then I went upstairs.  I had recently purchased Mary Kay at a party that one of Hetty’s daughters had hosted, and I was still faithful about washing my face with my new products every night.  I took off my watch and placed it on a glass shelf next to the sink, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and crawled into bed.  Less than three hours later, my life was forever changed when I was abruptly awakened by Hetty screaming my name.

“Marguerite! Marguerite! Call 911, I’ve been stabbed!”

I looked over from my bed to see Hetty laying at the top of the stair case.  At first I was in a sleepy state of confusion, but that quickly changed as  I jumped out of bed and ran into her bedroom to call 911.  I was panicked.  The blood.  Oh God, there was so much blood! She had been stabbed in the neck, severing the carotid artery. The dispatcher on the phone told me to ask her who stabbed her.  She didn’t know who he was, only identifying him as a black man. I remember thinking to myself, stop asking questions and just GET HERE.  As the dispatcher got off the phone with me, Hetty slid down the stairs.  That part always makes me cry.  Hetty gently slid down the stairs.  I called 911 again, panicking even more, yelling  into the phone “Where are you???”  The house was just around the corner from the ambulance/police building.  In fact, it was probably less than a three minute walk.

I don’t remember how Hetty ended up in the middle of the living room floor, but I must have moved her there.  Although barely conscious, she told me to get ice for her neck.  I remember running into the kitchen and as I rounded the corner, I was shocked (for lack of a better term) to see the back door wide open.  It wasn’t just open, part of the frame was broken and the door was practically ripped from of its hinges.  I grabbed a knife from a kitchen drawer, grabbed a tray of ice from the freezer, and went back to Hetty’s side.  She was so calm.  There was no pain for her.  I was a mess.

By the time the police arrived, at least half an hour had passed.  When I opened the door, they wouldn’t come in until I put the knife down.  Looking back, I understand that, but at the time I felt like I needed it for protection.  The two officers came over to Hetty and looked at her.  She must have been gone at that time, because they immediately began looking around the house, both inside and outside.  I wanted them in the house, with us. The fear I felt at that time was insurmountable. My mind was racing and I have no doubt my entire body was shaking.  The ambulance crew finally arrived about 15 minutes later and immediately began working on her.  They tried to keep me in a different room, but I wanted to stay in with Hetty.    That is the image I will never forget from that night.  Beautiful Hetty on the floor.  Her white nightgown and porcelain skin were a stark contrast to the scarlet blood that was starting to blanket her body.

I don’t remember Hetty being placed on a stretcher or the ambulance leaving.  The next thing I do remember, is waiting outside with a police officer for my dad to pick me up, a crowd of people surrounding us.  There was my dad, in his white Ford F-150, rescuing me.  I don’t remember the ride home with him and I vaguely remember walking into my parent’s house.  I was OK at first, but then I started crying.  Uncontrollable crying.  I couldn’t stop crying.  The reality of what had taken place was sinking in.  Maybe it was being in the quiet house and my mind could finally start to process everything?  My mom took me to the hospital on base, hoping they could do something to calm me down.  This was the hospital they had brought Hetty to.  I don’t think the doctor’s gave me anything, but I was beginning to stop crying.  Little whimpers still escaping my throat, my body was spent and exhausted.  Then I heard one of Hetty’s daughter’s come in.  “MOMMY!  MY MOMMY! MOMMY!”  She was screaming.  I can only imagine that her husband must have been with her, holding her.  I did not see her that day.  

My parents cleaned the blood from Hetty’s house.  I don’t think I knew that until a few years later.  Hetty’s daughters gave me some of her household items as they were packing up the house before they sold it.  Some of those things are long gone, having been lost or broken as I moved to and from Maryland, North Carolina, Okinawa, and West Virginia.  I had necklaces made from her tea set, sending them to her children and keeping one for myself.

On June 6, 1988, three children had their mother taken from them in a horrible, violent way.  It doesn't matter that they were adults; losing your mother is tragic no matter what your age.

That night will forever haunt me.  It changed me.  For years after it, the scent of White Linen perfume would instantly take me back to that night.  If anyone screamed, my body would tense up and fear would overcome me.  I could no longer sleep with windows open in the summertime.  To this day, I still check my doors and windows at least three times before going to bed.  

I was angry at the police and the first responders for a long time, not understanding why it took such a long time to show up at the house.  Apparently, there had been a serious car accident on the other side of the county, and all of the emergency resources were on that scene.  I also had to understand that when it comes to the carotid artery, which is where she was stabbed, her odds of survival were very slim.  I spent years, almost two decades, blaming myself.  If I hadn’t left that side window open, that man would not have been able to come into the house.  I had to learn that although yes, I left the window open, it was not my fault a lunatic decided to cut the screen open and crawl through it.
Some other scattered memories from that night.  

The week before the stabbing, one of our cats had chewed through the phone cord.  I bought another phone and placed it next to the old one, however for some reason I did not throw the old one away.  As we were looking over the house, I found that the intruder had cut the phone cord; however, he cut the cord for the phone that didn’t work.  

When they picked up the person they suspected of the crime, JAMES LIONEL LAMBERT DYSON (a name I will never forget), he had my watch on him.  The watch that was in the bathroom upstairs. 
When Hetty called my name, I looked over from my bed and saw her.  I looked over from my bed, and saw her.  My bedroom door was open.  Remember when I said I stacked books in front of my bedroom door at night?  Someone had to push my door open.  This means he was in my bedroom.  I am thankful that I was such a heavy sleeper back then (not the case these days).  

The person who was accused of this crime had served jail time for rape, subsequent jail time for shooting his father, had raped someone in our neighborhood (I had no idea until after the murder), and then this.  Why don’t I believe in rehabilitating rapists and murderers?  This is why.  They have a mental illness and you cannot just “fix” it or “rehabilitate” them.  It doesn’t work.

The investigator for that case was an asshole.  Seriously, he was an asshole.  All he could say to me was things like ‘If my daughter’s room looked like this…”  I didn’t give a FUCK about your daughter’s room, especially given what I had just been through.  Why, why, why was he acting like that?? It’s not like he was a hardened investigator; St. Mary’s County was not a big city with lots of murders.  Why was he such an asshat???

I've Googled Hetty's name a few times, and the only results that came back were from military sites.  Most of the sites have the sentence "On June 06, 1988, she died in a non-hostile incident in United States at the age of 46."  I realize "non-hostile" refers to combat however her death was very hostile.  I felt there should be something on the web that told her story.

I’m sure all of this sounds scattered at the moment, but I don’t want to forget this night.  I feel like I am disrespecting Hetty by not remembering everything.  I remember that I wrote about this for a college English class in September of 1988, but I don’t have anything from back then (say hello to the mom who DOES save everything her kids ever did in school!).  I’m sure that essay had much more detail, and was probably a better written piece.   As I remember things, I will add them to this. I’m also including newspaper clippings, because they are becoming brittle and this is a great way to preserve them..