He’s dead — and I’m relieved

By Caitlin Kelly

Time to let go, at last
Time to let go, at last

The world is divided into two groups: people who have become unwitting victims of crime, and those who have not.

It is further subdivided into those who have sought redress and action, from the police and their judicial system, and those who chose not to.

And, yet again, into those whom the judicial system offered recompense, in the form of an arrest, successful prosecution and conviction.

One description we all hope to avoid in this world is plaintiff.

In late December 1997, I met a man through a personal ad in a local weekly newspaper. “Integrity and honesty paramount,” it read. He said he was an athlete and a lawyer. He was slim, slight, dark-haired and dark-eyed, handsome and intelligent. He dressed well and wore crisp white button-down cotton shirts.

He had small teeth, like a child’s, and small hands, someone physically unimposing, someone you’d be silly to fear.

But someone you should.

He was, it became clear much later, a convicted con man who had wrought havoc in Chicago, defrauding local business — and several area women — before being arrested, convicted and serving time.

Then he picked up and moved to suburban New York, where he began again.

And found me.

I won’t bore you with the many arcane details of the four months this man was in my life, morphing , (or not, really), from attentive, generous boyfriend to threatening and emotionally abusive criminal.

When we met, I was planning to fly to Australia, alone, hoping to report a story for my first book, but I missed my connecting flight — costing me an additional $1,800 for a last-minute one-way ticket on Christmas Eve — then, as now, a huge sum for a self-employed writer. Purporting to be a wealthy and successful lawyer, he offered to pay my ticket — just as well, since his deliberate tardiness had made me late for that first flight from New York to Los Angeles.

Instead, it was the first of many traps he laid, his “kindness” a powerful form of entrapment-through-gratitude. He wove a web of obligation and connection, skilled from years of practice.

For years after I rid myself of him, and his ancient, wizened mother, Alma, who helped him in his schemes, I wondered who else he was targeting, cheating and lying to. I wondered if anyone would ever get him arrested and charged and convicted — my local police and district attorney literally laughed me out of their offices when I brought them evidence of the six felonies he had committed against me, including credit card theft and forgery of my signature.

I even wondered if another victim — as one friend also suggested — had killed him, as enraged as I had been once I realized how he’d manipulated and duped me.

So last week, I Googled him. And found a record of his New York City death, in 2007, at the age of 48.

I shook and slept very badly that night. Could it be that he truly was gone? How? When?

When I realized what he’d been doing to me — and to other women simultaneously, as it turned out — I confronted him. The man who had been proposing marriage and telling me “I love you” changed his tune with one phone call.

The next three words were somewhat different, after I asked him if he had stolen and used my credit card — as my issuer had alerted me.

“It’s not provable,” he said icily.

And it was not.

Since then, I refuse to visit the town he lived in, a fact I only discovered by hiring a private detective, a calm, gentle man in whose debt I will remain for life as only heย  — a former New York City detective — truly understood the psychic devastation such vicious deception leaves in its wake.

My job as a journalist is discerning the truth in people, making intelligent judgments about their veracity.

For many months, I doubted this ability, terrified to trust any new man in my life. I lost any faith I once had in the police and judicial system to protect me from harm. I changed my locks and bank account numbers and got an additional unlisted phone number. My family and friends were furious with me for not figuring out who he was, quickly and easily.

It taught me, too, about my own vulnerability, how my isolation and sense of insecurity — like carrion in the road — had attracted his determined attention. I wised up.

It is hard to accept that he is no longer a threat to me or to anyone else.

But I am relieved.

30 thoughts on “He’s dead — and I’m relieved

      1. Just my opinion: you will be done with him more quickly if you don’t. He isn’t worth your time and effort and emotional input. Advice worth every penny you paid for it…

  1. We are all vulnerable. Even people who tell the truth with their words can and do lie to us. There are so many ways to lie. We believe them because we are trusting, or we believe them because we care about them, or we believe them because we’re afraid not to.

    I’m glad he’s dead. No one will make him their hero again, even for a short time.

    1. You say it well. Trust is like oxygen — none of us can function without it, yet if it is badly abused, it’s quite devastating since you just have to muster it up and start again.

      It’s also a commentary on the neediness of the women he selected….sad tale all round.

    1. I learned a lot through this ordeal — it’s called “prosecutorial discretion” and it’s one reason I am willing to share the story, to warn others not only of con men but how little help they may get. It means that even with multiple felonies (!) the cops and DA do not have to investigate or prosecute. They have limited resources and people with more serious crimes (rape, etc) get preference. I was told “there’s no harm done here.” Yet a friend who’s a DA in the Bronx explained this and told me they would have taken my case if it had been within their purview. I suspect people have no idea. I sure didn’t.

      1. Every woman should read “The Gift of Fear”, an excellent book on avoiding all sorts of criminal mayhem, by Gavin de Becker. In it is a page listing all the behaviors these guys use. He fit just about all of them.

  2. Wow, that is quite a story Caitlin. I’m sorry you experienced such betrayal and unkindness from such a creep! Curious if he died of natural causes or not, but not sure how much you want to inquire and revisit. Either way, sounds like he got what was coming to him. Glad you got out when you did, and now have Jose by your side.

    1. Wish it only WAS a story…:-)

      I am glad he can’t do anyone else any harm. I got away with less damage than some of his other victims. And, yes, thank heaven for Jose. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Steve

    I will have an extra beer tonight in celebration of this scum bags’ demise, hopefully of un- natural causes. I can’t think of many things lower than a man that would take advantage of a woman

  4. Caitlin, that is sad and so terrifying. (But, may I say, so well written.) Don’t beat yourself up about trusting someone like that. Every victim thinks she could have done something to stop it. That’s not necessarily so. He was a con man. He knew every manipulative trick in the book and was obviously good at it.

    Now he’s gone and he won’t be back, unless you keep him around by obsessing over how he died and where he died. It was good that you wrote this and I feel privileged to be here reading it, but call it your “Cease and Desist” order. Throw that bugger out of your life.

  5. One piece of advice: Just because ONE person pulled the wool over your head doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust other people coming into your life. If that is the legacy that now dead person left you then that’s worse than any credit card fraud.

    If the above doesn’t sound ‘touchy feely’: I do feel for you. My own sister betrayed my trust and, so incredulous was I as to her purpose, I spent three years mulching it over and over and over in my head. Every day. Every night. Shedding many a tear. I withdrew into my shell. Until I realized that if I allowed her action to distance myself from other people (friends) coming into my life I’d be adding injury to insult.

    Yes, Caitlin. You are glad someone has died. I have had to bury the living.

    Personal ads/Internet dating? Well, you are a braver woman than me. Wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.

    And, as one of your other commentators said: Don’t feel a fool because you fell for someone who then didn’t live up to what one can expect in terms of morals and ethics. You fell, you stumbled, you bruised. Now you are unblemished again. Or so I hope. Not that I don’t understand that a wound may heal, yet the scar remains.

    Touched whenever I read you write about your vulnerabilities,


    1. Thanks…It is difficult to have to cut off someone alive who has behaved badly. I’ve done that as well, also with family members.

      I met my second husband online and he’s a treasure. I think anyone can meet a baddie anywhere, sorry to say. One of the worst people I ever met was introduced to me by the wife of a friend of mine, a co-worker of hers. Terrifying. Brrrr. People have no idea.

  6. I’m so glad you can sleep a little easier knowing he isn’t out there manipulating someone else. You just never know and even those of us who believe are good judges of character are still only human.

    1. Thanks! I felt culpable not pursuing an arrest and prosecution, but was warned that all he would do was lie in court anyway…It felt like a no-win no matter what my choice.

  7. We must be on the same wave length this week. After our chat a few weeks ago about how difficult it is for women on the Internet when they share their stuff, I came across a scary story. It worried me and then I worried about my students. We adults get taken, and we hate ourselves for being taken. But we are adults, and as your story states…you are a survivor and you are stronger for it. But the kids….they have nothing to prepare them for lies, manipulations, and craziness of the real world, let alone the online world. How do we teach them to wary, yet still live their lives? http://mrsralf.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/internet-predators/

    1. Interesting.

      But they have YOU and other wise adults to warn them and, when necessary and possible, block incoming data from their screens until they better understand the dangers.

  8. This was very sad to read, I am sorry you had to come across such a person. Odd thing is that I kind of found myself in between the lines. By that, I mean that I too used to help a girl friend of mine with money and things, which made her feel like she had obligations towards me. I tried very hard not to act upon those and I succeeded, but only because she moved away.

    So in a way, I am glad I read this and didn’t become that. It will surely help in the future!


  9. this is a horrible experience with a sociopathic vampire of the highest order. i am happy you and others escaped his grasp. i can understand your relief that he is finally gone

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