This blog is 10 years old this year. Before this web address, it was just WomanCondemned. I had to change it to TheWomanCondemned when the account was hacked. So its really much older, more like 15 years old.
In the early days, I wrote more about my personal life; my job as a crime journalist for my local paper, raising six kids, and rural life. I wrote about my mom when she was dying of lung cancer, my divorce after 17 years of marriage, and my oldest joining the Army. Stressful stuff.
Eventually, I stuck only to the women on death row, or those going through a murder trial because I was afraid my personal life was too boring. I've been rethinking this approach of late. I received so much support when my mom was dying, I don't think I would have come out of the other side of that misery without this blog and you readers who reached out.
During the seven or so years that I was editing my personal life from this blog, something horrific happened. I was a player in a gruesome murder case that was reported worldwide. I came within a hair's breadth of being arrested. A three-word text message denied my culpability.
Its a very, very long story but I'll give you the abridged version now.
In the late 90's I became friends with a local guy who was kind of a trip. He is a death metal fan, into horror movies, and a ne're-do-well by anyone's standards. He was always in trouble. People looked at him weirdly, but in our little circle of friends, he was the comedian.
As the years went by and we became closer, I felt sorry for him. Our town is tiny. Anytime something bad would happen, the police would pick him up for questioning first. I thought of him as harmless. Just a small town asshole. Nothing dangerous about him. He seemed stunted to me. Like after high school he just stopped growing or learning as a person. He still wore untied combat boots with concert Tees even though his hair was thinning and his belly stuck out. He couldn't keep a job and took out with the carnival whenever he needed a break from small-town life.
We grew closer still, despite his problems. I had an abusive husband and this fella would bring my kids food, mow my yard, or help me pay the electric bill when my husband refused to. I knew he had some substance abuse problems but it never changed how I felt about him. He was my friend.
He'd come sit on my porch and we would drink beer and talk about life. He'd tell me about his latest failed relationship or his thoughts on life (we are just bags of meat and when we are dead, we are dead). Sometimes I'd hang out in his garage apartment at his folk's house. He loved to hear about my job and my relationship with people like Richard Ramirez and Charles Manson. He'd ask questions and read through my mail like it was the answer to the world's problems.
Around 2012, things started going really, really bad for him. The Walking Dead was holding a casting call in Nashville and he'd wanted to go so bad but couldn't find a ride. Somehow, to me, that seems like what started the descent.
Nothing was going his way for months and months. He was fighting with his mother a lot, had broken up with his fiance, and lost a job when he called me one Friday for a ride. I left work and found him walking down the highway.
I picked him up and took him to run errands and then to his parent's house where he lived. He was in a foul mood. He kept saying he was going to kill his mother. I had heard this talk before. He liked to say shocking things. It was nothing new in our 20-year friendship. I scolded him and told him to calm down.
I had a dinner date that night and had no time for his particular brand of bullshit. I wish I had.
I dropped him off and went on with my night. Halfway through dinner, I started getting text messages from him. At first, it was lots of misery and stuff I considered as whoa-is-me bullshit. It turned weird, however. I got a sick, queasy feeling in my stomach as I read message after message.
I cant remember them all but I know he told me he'd met a girl at the liquor store and felt like killing her. I blew that one off as bullshit but a bit later he said "I got her here" and then "I did it".
I knew. Without a shadow of a doubt that he had killed someone. I knew it.
I went home and text him the next morning. "What did you do?"
"I was just kidding," he said, and it saved my life, or at least my freedom.
He went on to tell me that he had met a crazy, drunk woman who wanted to go home with him. They drank a whole fifth of 151 vodka and she left during the night. Then he asked me if he could borrow my backhoe.
Yea. That's what I was thinking too.
I considered calling the police but he was a known loser and I feared it was really just his overactive imagination. I drove out to his house. There was no one there but the fire pit was smoking. Again, nothing unusual.
I heard from him again on Sunday. Just the regular, shooting the breeze type stuff. We made plans for Monday afternoon. He needed a ride to a friend's house to pick up some tents and stuff for Bonarroo, a local music festival that was approaching.
Monday morning, I got up and went to work. He called me about four times while I drove the 25 minutes into town. I let it ring, figuring I'd text him when I got to work. The office was buzzing with Monday activity, so I didn't text him right away. Around 10 a.m., I sat down at my desk and turned on the TV.
My friend's face was plastered across the screen. He'd been arrested for murder and cannibalism. Within the hour, his mother was calling asking me to visit him. It didn't take long, and the police were at my work. I wasn't super surprised. I was all over his Facebook page as we tagged each other back and forth in horror memes. My number was definitely in his phone.
The investigator took my phone and computer and asked me to come to his office again later that day. I talked to a lawyer who told me to just cooperate with whatever they wanted which Id planned to do anyway.
I had to print out all our text messages and Facebook correspondence. I was told then that him saying he was just kidding alleviated me of any culpability but I still felt the guilt. I have struggled for years with this woman's death and whether or not I could have stopped it.
I've spent the last few years trying to get to know her and what put her in that spot. I feel like we are friends now. After meeting her family, I kind of understand why she was the way she was. I can tell you about that journey if you like.
At first, I kept in touch with my friend and visited him in various prisons. He did some pretty crappy stuff to me and I finally cut ties. I can tell you about that too if interest reigns.
His name is Gregory Scott Hale. We called him Skottie. Her name was Lisa Marie Hyder, and I wish I'd known her when she was alive.