Written by Jerri Mizrahi, a Learning & Development Manager and Personal Success Coach for Boise State University. She was Sue’s first friend in Boise, and misses her dearly each day. Thank you to Jerri for sharing her memories of Sue.
Love me; but if you must – leave me; don’t kill me!
Those are the words I think about for Sue’s situation and other victims of violence. Dealing with a broken heart is much better than a broken body.
It was so hard to understand; how could another person do this to someone. I remember those final days, weeks, months, even today, years’ later.
Sue and I had that type of friendship that we could go for long periods without chatting and easily pick up wherever we left off. Sue married Mark on September 4, 2004, and duration between our conversations was getting longer and longer.
From her birthday and Valentine’s Day of 2008; something had shifted. Sue was struggling. She didn’t really communicate a lot about what was going on, and then slowly, more information was coming. She began to express self-doubt about her sexual appeal and her desirability to Mark. She recently had a hysterectomy. She wondered aloud if this was a result of her hormones being out of whack. Even though she strongly felt that something shifted in her relationship. Mark wasn’t around. He didn’t want to do things with her. She shared that he wasn’t as loving or kind; especially her Birthday and Valentine’s Day. These events meant the world to Sue.
She found that he was going to political events or other types of meetings in the evening. He was an HVAC repair and installation guy and hadn’t expressed interest in these areas previously. She found a pink bandana in his work truck, that she knew was not his.
Whenever she would ask him questions, he would leave her feeling like it was just her wild imagination running away; perhaps a result of her surgery. She would often feel guilty for her suspicions; however, she had a knowing sense and tech savvy on her side.
She started to “break” into his emails; she checked cell phone bills and credit card activities; he was purchasing (women) things that were not for her. She found flowers ordered for Valentine’s Day and she never received them … they weren’t for her. There were cell phone numbers that were repetitive that she didn’t know. When she would ask him, he would make up stories that were meant to shut her down. Then he started to insinuate that it was a result of her working from home and that she was imagining things. She was isolated and had been more removed from her friends since her marriage. She knew something was “off” with her partner.
She was doing more and more to try to please him. She said something about redecorating their space upstairs to a more “Cuban” flair to appease him. Her home was decorated in southwest. There were just little signs; however, they were becoming noticeable and strange to her.
I later learned that this is a form of isolation and “gas-lighting.” According to Wikipedia Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.
Sue was slowly becoming filled with self-doubt and her sense of self; which was always so strong – was not the same as it used to be.
Kathy, Jerri, Roberta, and Sue
She shared that her employer was going through another down-sizing and she was worried she might be let go in the next round of dismissals. Things weren’t looking very bright for Sue at this point in time.
Then there was some statement about him wanting her to increase her life-insurance. My antenna was going way up! I started saving the voice messages and email messages I received from Sue. I saved them; not realizing why at the time that it was so very important.
The more she would try to talk to Mark, the more he would tell her that she was way too sensitive or too stressed; always avoiding her real questions and concerns.
Sue provided me with a woman’s name and asked me to check her out and see if I knew her in my community and professional travels. I saved this information too. She was another professional woman in the area.
Something changed earlier in the week of April 4, 2008. Sue called me really animated and excited that Mark had a change of heart or showed some attention to her. She shared that they were going to go for a lunch-time horseback ride on Friday (April 4). She could hardly wait. She said she didn’t understand what changed his mind; however, she was going to talk heart-to-heart on Friday. She was hoping things would turn-around for them. She planned their picnic lunch.
I never heard from my friend again; except in my head and heart. Later that Friday evening, I was watching the evening news and there was a report of a woman riding her horse in the Eagle foothills that was bucked off her horse and fell a couple of hundred feet to her death; name withheld until family was notified. My heart sunk and then fell apart.
I received a phone call from T (Teresa), Sue’s most loving and dear friend. She called to tell me the news. I knew in an unbelievable heartbeat that my worst intuitive fears were spot on.
I didn’t say anything to Teresa at the time; it would be too much for one to digest in the middle of the initial crisis. Teresa and Jeannie were coordinating events and working with Sue’s sister, Marje and her husband, Frank, in Arizona.
Sue was an experienced equestrian and I knew in my heart of hearts, she wouldn’t ride too close to an edge of a cliff. She knew her horses; she knew limits; this wasn’t a believable story for me.
I vaguely remember that Mark had already ordered a cremation before Marjory even had a chance to get here and that was another disturbing action for me. He had her cremated before her sister could even be here.
Jeannie took in the horses….I can’t remember if her kitty, Jessie, stayed around.
My husband, Bruce, and I went for a hike to check out the area. It’s the Rocky Canyon area in the Eagle Foothills. My husband is also a horseman and when we looked over the edge of the canyon, he also shared that there is no way Sue (an experienced rider) would ever take her horse that close to the edge; nor would they really have a lunch in that spot. Looking down, it made me queasy and my heart and soul was sickened even more. I knew.
I reached out to Ada County Detectives, and was patched through to Shelly Stolberg. I shared my emails, voice mails, and my intuition with her. She DIDN’T discount me. I also learned that another one of Sue’s dear friends’ did the same thing.
The memorial service was held on April 9, at Cloverdale Funeral Home. I remember talking to Mark and noting his reactions. He said after the service that he needed to get away for a few days and was going to a friends’ cabin.
I could only taste bitterness in my mouth as I provided a loving tribute and eulogy to my dear friend, Sue, with Mark seated in the front row, not making any eye contact with me.
All Sue ever wanted in her world was love; loving relationships, loving friendships, and opportunities to be with her horses and doing activities she loved. This man, who sat on the front row, robbed her of that. He hurt her beyond belief and I felt that I couldn’t do anything about it.
Except – Except that I had this connection with an amazing detective, Shelly. I also shared with her the information about the other woman; and the trip he had planned to get away for a few days. She was on to him; and tracked him at his getaway (and it wasn’t alone).
Shelly stayed in touch with us and through the duration of this investigation. She kept us posted, in the loop and met with all of Sue’s friends and sister, Marje by telephone, after Mark committed suicide to fill us in; answer any and all questions, provide support and information about “socio-paths” and how, even professional, strong, sassy and fierce women can be victims of horrific acts of violence. She shared that previous relationships with other women were also victimized. These too, were also intelligent, successful, and powerful women. We even learned about the “other” woman. She was also a victim of his lies. She helped the detectives begin dialogue with Mark, in spite of her fears. As a result of all of our actions we saved other women from becoming victims of his abuse.
Mark committed suicide on May 7 when the police were coming to meet with him.
We will always keep your memory alive and if your story helps another person in distress, may this serve a purpose.
Love forever and always,