Almost Trailside: A True Story

BOOK: Almost Trailside: A True Story
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ALMOST TRAILSIDE

A True Story

Written by

KATHY ROCCO

“Life is a colorful and intricate patterned tapestry bound by golden threads of love, respect, and understanding.”

Kathy Rocco

ALMOST TRAILSIDE

A True Story

Cover Design by Kathy Rocco

Copyright © 2013 Kathleen Frances Rocco

All rights reserved.

ISBN 10: 1479248959

ISBN 13: 9781479248957

Some character names have been changed.

Dedicated to my sons

CONTENTS

PROLOGUE

Ellen Hansen Memorial Prize

Chapter I         In The Beginning

Chapter II       Thirty Days Out

Chapter III      On the Road

Chapter IV      Stuck In The Desert

Chapter V       Something New

Chapter VI      The Meeting

Chapter VII     Aftershock

Chapter VIII    Coping

Chapter IX      The Trailside
Killer

Chapter X       His Victims

Chapter XI      Conclusion

References

PROLOGUE

T
his story is true. It is a factual account of a rare and chance face-to-face meeting of an unsuspecting young family and a notorious cold blooded serial killer and rapist. This encounter could have had a very different, devastating, and life changing ending for all of us… especially for me.

It’s been many years ago now, in fact decades, but the haunting memories of that fateful day are as clear today as if it occurred yesterday. I could never have guessed, that twenty years later, I would be in a position to face those chilling events once again.

No one can stop destiny.

T
his hot summer morning in mid July 1998, the main office at the middle school where I worked as the school secretary was bustling with activity, as usual. The five minute warning bell just rang for first period. Summer school teachers and associates working in the office hurried to gather their supplies and eagerly headed toward their classrooms. Students arriving on campus quickened their pace to avoid the tardy bell.

When the flag salute and morning announcements were completed, the busy office began to quiet.

I was on the telephone with a second call waiting, when Amy, a school psychologist, appeared in my doorway. I motioned for her to enter. She quickly sat down in front of me on one of the two chairs I had for visitors then neatly placed the several files she carried and small envelope purse on her lap.

I was surprised to see Amy so early. Usually she came in mid-morning and started seeing students shortly after, but something seemed different this morning. Her pretty blue eyes, that usually sparkled, were dark in a way that was unlike her, and that concerned me. She seemed edgy, fidgety, nervous…but something else, too, that seemed to umbrella her in an odd sort of way.

I liked Amy but I didn’t really know her well. She had been assigned to our school for the last few years, coming in twice a week to meet with individual students. Sometimes we ate lunch at the same table in the staff lounge but rarely did we have an opportunity to have a real conversation. Amy was at least ten years younger than I and a new mother…petite, cute, and perky with a sweet smile and an adorable pixie haircut. She was a respected member of the staff, a wonderful role model for students, and well-liked by everyone.

I covered the telephone receiver and quietly told Amy that I had one more call, if she didn’t mind waiting. She nodded, and stared out the window, appearing to lose herself in thought. She looked tired. I wondered what was on her mind.

When I finished the second call, and focused my attention on Amy, she asked if she could close the door to my office so that we could talk privately. I never closed my office door, except for those times when privacy or confidentiality was most important. This seemed like it was going to be one of those times.

Amy placed her files and purse on the little table between the chairs, closed the door, and sat down again. Taking a deep breath she scooted her chair up close to my desk. My curiosity was peaked and my pencil poised against my steno pad ready to take notes.

“I was talking with Becky yesterday and she shared something with me that I want to talk with you about. I came in early this morning hoping you could give me some time out of your busy day.” Amy spoke softly.

Becky occupied the office across the hall when she was an assistant principal. She was tall, attractive, always well dressed, and a hard working woman. We worked together for six years before she accepted a position at the district office. Becky was a fun and very bright professional. Sometimes in the late afternoon when the office was quiet, Becky and I would find some time to chat. I missed Becky when she transferred.

“Well, of course, Amy. You know I’m always here for you. What’s going on that I can help you with?” I could see she was on the edge of emotional.

“I’d like to know about my friend, Ellen…
Ellen Hansen
. She was my
best
friend. We were like
sisters
. I was devastated when she was killed. Becky said you saw her that day. I’d like to know what happened, how she looked, and what she said. I’d like to know her last words.” Amy’s eyes began to glisten.

“Amy, I don’t know what you’re talking about but I can see it’s important to you. I’m sorry that your friend was killed but I really don’t know who Ellen is.” I didn’t have a clue. I wondered why Becky would tell Amy that I saw her friend before she died.

“You know…on the hiking trail that day in Henry Cowell Park. Becky said you talked to the Trailside Killer…that you saw them together. He killed her that day, and you were the last person on earth to see her alive…the last person to see her before she died. Don’t you remember?”

A chill ran through me like a bolt of lightening. The hair on my arms stood up. I began to sweat. My pulse quickened, my heart pounded, my face flushed. Panic and fear began to rise in me as her words brought it all back in a flood of ugly memories. Yes, I knew
exactly
what she was talking about and wished I didn’t.

“Of course I remember. It’s just been such a long time since anyone has spoken of it.” I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts. I set my pencil down, and brushed the hair back from my face to try and cool myself. “I’ll tell you what I know, Amy, but it isn’t much. You can probably get more information from the old newspaper articles.” I tried to sound reassuring. I hated thinking about it again. It was such an unsettling time. I didn’t relish revisiting it but I wanted to help Amy if I could.

“I’ve been through the newspapers many times, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I want to know about
her
, about what you
saw
, about
anything
she said. I’ve had several conversations with Art Danner and he can’t tell me what I want to know, either. Only
you
know those things. You were the last person to see her alive. Please, tell me how she looked. Did she say
anything
…anything at
all
?”

BOOK: Almost Trailside: A True Story
2.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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