New Year’s Day, when we all look forward to a new start, hoping for the best year ever. It didn’t take long to realize life may not work out that way.
In February, I had surgery. Everything went well, and I was recovering on schedule.
In March, a dear friend who lived in Tuscaloosa took a turn for the worse in his battle with lung disease. We got approval from my doctor and headed to Alabama. We were there one week before he passed then stayed to help his wife with the service and burial arrangements. We headed back to Florida after the Funeral.
In May, my father-in-law got up during the night for the bathroom then fell and broke his hip. It was an awful experience. It took a few minutes before his voice got loud enough to wake us. Charlie can sleep through a train going through the house. (I don’t understand how he can hear an armadillo digging in the yard in the middle of the night, though.) Bless his heart.
Anyway, Papa had hip replacement surgery and was in rehab for a month. That brings us to June. Our anniversary is in June, so we decided we needed a break. We asked my brother and sister-in-law to stay with Mr. Lawrence so we could have a mini-vacation. We were gone four days and returned home the Thursday before Father’s Day on the 21st. I remember because I felt guilty feeding Charlie and Papa tuna casserole for Father’s Day lunch. Not just casserole, I served crackers, too.
The following Tuesday morning, while I was taking my morning walk, Charlie got the call from a childhood friend about John. When he told me, my first words were, “We have to go. Mary Grace has no one else.” I called my friend back, and she told me what she knew. Mary Grace was in the hospital and doing good under the circumstances. Since John B. committed suicide by drinking cyanide, the police felt it would be best if she was checked for contamination. Also, the house had to be cleaned and cyanide free.
We not only had to pack but make arrangements for Papa, who, by the way, was doing great since his surgery. We thought we would be going to a funeral, checking on Mary Grace, and only be gone a few days. (I’m not sure why I was not thinking about Mary Grace’s long-term care. I guess I thought John had made arrangements.) We had to go to the store and get food that Papa could fix in the microwave, buy snacks, prepare medicine, and talk to our neighbors about checking on him. It was after lunch before we left home, so we drove to Troy, Alabama, for the night and drove the rest of the way Wednesday morning.
Before we go any further, I need to make something clear about Tyler. At this time, I did not know Tyler, I had never heard the name Tyler, I did not know Tyler was a friend of the McLemores, I did not know Tyler worked for John. I mean, I knew nothing. Once while I was visiting them, John told me he had hired a couple of kids who were down on their luck and was helping buy Christmas for their kids. But he never told me their names. Also, at this time I had not heard the podcast. Actually, I did not know what a podcast was.
For years, we had been aware of the living conditions at the house. I knew John was in the process of remodeling the home to its original structure. A few years back, he had mentioned that he had invested a lot of money in the house. When he took me to his room to show me his computer, I noticed how filthy his room was and that his sheets were so soiled they looked like red dirt. The living room area was closed off and without any furniture except a piano, which was covered with a blanket. Most of the windows were broken. There was one filthy recliner in the kitchen — no other place to sit or eat. At one point in the dining room (the only room finished), was nothing but bags of dog food. Mary Grace’s room was closed off, so I could not see in it. John told me he had boarded her windows so she could not get out; Mary Grace had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Later, John said she did not have Alzheimer’s but had been over-medicated. She did have dementia, though.
Regardless of my disapproval, you just don’t go into someone’s home and tell them how to keep house. Especially John B. Later I would ask home healthcare why they did not report the conditions. The reply was, “We kept her clean and John kept her fed.” They did mention to him about buying new sheets, but he said he would not spend his money on that.
One other thing people should know: Since I grew up in Woodstock, I knew most of the people or their parents. I went to school with Faye, Woodstock town clerk, graduated with the current mayor, and was closer to John and Mary Grace than you think. John and I emailed and talked on the phone. I had been unable to get them by phone in a while then learned they had turned the ringer off. The last few times I had visited Alabama I did not go over there because I always called first, and with no answer, I did not feel that John’s was a place where you just showed up. Now, after the podcast, I’m sure it wasn’t.
Since we knew Mary Grace was in the hospital and being taken care of, we decided to go to city hall to see what was going on. We needed details. At this point, I did not know if the house had been cleaned, where John’s body had been taken, or if they needed information from family.
We got to Woodstock between 9 and 9:30 a.m. and went straight to Woodstock Town Hall to talk to Faye Gamble and Police Chief Len Price, who filled us in on what happened. John B. talked to Faye and told her he was going to kill himself and she should not try to stop him. He told her where some money was hidden to pay for the dogs to be euthanized. He told her Tyler’s tools had been put out by the shop/porch so he could pick them up. (Don’t you think that meant Tyler had just a few tools?) He also told her there was gold hidden in the freezer.
John B. died while talking to Faye. She called Woodstock Police. Mary Grace was in her room, and they told her she needed to check on John. When she saw him on the porch, she told me she did not know he was dead. She told me later that she had heard something but thought it was the dogs. She said it must have been when John fell. She also later asked me what happened to the boy who was in the house the night John died.
No one at Town Hall mentioned Tyler Goodson. John had sent Faye a list of people to call. She said some were out of the country, so she was unable to contact all of them. I did not see the list. As a matter of fact, I never saw the list until weeks later when one of John’s friends pulled it up on his phone and showed me. I do not have a copy.
We told the police chief we were going to see John’s attorney, Boozer Downs then go to the house. Still no mention of Tyler, who was supposed to be so close to John and Mary Grace.
We went to see City Attorney Boozer Downs to see if he could shed some light on the situation, but he was in court. At this point, I was not even thinking about a will, power of attorney, or any other legal stuff. I was hoping Boozer could give me guidance on what was needed to handle the burial of John and long-term care for Mary Grace. (I would have thought that if John knew he was going to take his life, he would have made plans for this mother. More on that later.)
We left there and went to Mary Grace’s house. I needed to get her some clothes, her insurance information, medicine, and her purse. And make sure the house had been locked. I knew they never locked their house, as a matter of fact, I asked John once about keeping those valuable clocks he worked on in his shop with no security. He said all the dogs were his security system. Besides, not many people knew there was even a house back in those woods.
Ok–Lets keep talking,