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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Live and Learn: When Mistakes Come Back and Bite You.

When I sat down for a radio interview with Chaz and AJ on 99.1, PLR, "Connecticut's #1 Rock Station" this morning, I expected to be asked questions about the six murders that took place along an 8-mile stretch of Route 8 between 1988 and 2004. The notes in front of me referenced the list of victims, how and when they died, how they were discovered, and a possible link between the unsolved Route 8 Murders and the unsolved New Bedford Highway murders that ended just one month before the Route 8 murders began. I was also prepared to discuss the false confessions of Steven Hayes, the Petit home invasion murderer, who I visited on death row in May 2015.

What I was not prepared for in today's interview was the possibility of a listener calling in to offer, shall we say, 'feedback.' Why I did not expect that possibility is beyond me. Here is one of my favorite sayings: Anticipation is the heart of wisdom. How many times have I said that to my clients when preparing them for court? Today, it seems that I forgot to take that adage to heart.

For those of you who heard the interview, you witnessed the train wreck from start to finish. Everything was going great until Chaz took a phone call from a family member of one of the Route 8 victims, Jessica Muskus. The caller was livid. "What kind of a woman are you?" she demanded to know. "How can you look at yourself in the mirror? How can you sleep with yourself at night?" And perhaps the most stinging comment of all: "You are going to burn in Hell."

Her grievance against me was 100% justified. I began to research the unsolved Route 8 murders two years ago. It was my first attempt at writing true crime, although I have been an avid true crime reader for decades. Early on, I was desperate to talk to friends and family of the victims. In my investigative zeal (i.e. euphemism for recklessness and profound stupidity) I thought I would drop off my card with my contact information at a funeral for a member of the Muskus family. Despicable, I know. What the hell was I thinking? A woman is grieving her father's death and I slip her my contact information and tell her to give me a call if she wants to talk about her sister, who was murdered 13 years before?

I had officially joined the league of the infamous paparazzi, hated by all. As soon as I did it, I knew that I had committed a grievous wrong. I saw the pain and shock on her face and I felt like crawling into a hole; a deep one, with no chance of exit.

Lesson learned. I will never, ever do that again. That's the best I can offer, in terms of repentance. To the Muskus family: you don't need to accept my apology, but please know that it comes from a place of sincerity. I stated, on the air, that doing what I did two years ago was one of the two biggest regrets of my life. I brought additional pain to you in a time when you deserved only comfort and respect. I let my single-minded determination get the best of me and I have no excuse. Usually, that quality serves me well and helps me to advocate for people without a voice. Here, it caused destruction.

That said, now that the cards are all on the table, I can also say with confidence that I did not share any information on air today, or in my blog, that had not been verified by reputable sources. With respect to concerns that were brought forth today by Muskus family members, I suggest readers take a look at the article from The Litchfield County Times dated December 14, 2006, "Body Count at 5; Now What?"

I don't want to broach that subject any further because I feel it distracts from the more important questions at hand, specifically: Who killed five of the six victims found between Exits 39 and 42 along Route 8 from 1988 to 2004? Was it just one person, or were there separate killers? Why have these cases gone cold? Are there any new leads? Does anyone out there know more?

Frankly, the fact that many of the victims worked the streets and had substance abuse problems makes me feel for them all the more. There is a drug epidemic sweeping our country and anyone's child can fall prey to it... and to all of the dangerous situations that come along with it- including murder. No family is immune. Labels do not matter. Who cares about what the victim was doing or addicted to when her life was cruelly stolen? The fact remains: she was a human being, a mother, a daughter, a sister... she had great worth.  
To date, I have not made one cent in writing about the unsolved Route 8 murders and I don't even plan to write a book about the subject. I am currently writing a book about a different, high profile criminal case in Connecticut and will not publish the contents until a trial takes place and verdicts are rendered. My original intent in researching and writing about the Route 8 murders was to light a fire beneath these cold cases and maybe, just maybe, give voice to the victims in terms of rendering final justice in a court of law. I feel that my earlier blog posts about the murders reflect that intent.
My good boy, Max. Putting him to sleep is my second biggest regret. 

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