Officer Drake’s words still rang in my mind: The bad news is your purse will be in police evidence for a while.
I recounted the remarkable events of February 28, 2014. By comparison, my purse spending time in evidence seemed insignificant. A phone call from the precinct the day of the break-in had soothed my concerns; my driver’s license, credit cards, car keys, and checkbook were locked away, safe and sound. The police just needed to photograph everything, and then they would release my property.
On day three, I called Sergeant Sloan. I reminded him of the case details and my name.
“Today’s my birthday, so getting my purse back would really make my day,” I said, injecting a light laugh.
“Yeah, they’re not done with it,” he said, his tone brusque. “But you can call the evidence room yourself. Don’t know which one your purse’s at, though.”
“What are my options?”
“There’s one in the Uptown area and one downtown at the Government Center.” He rattled off both phone numbers.
After some searching, I learned my property was staying at option number two, but was still slated for its photoshoot. A few more days passed. Then on day six came the big phone call: I could get my purse back.
I entered the Government Center downtown Minneapolis and wended my way back to the evidence room. I fell in line behind fifteen other unfortunate folks who were all waiting to get their own stuff back.
When it was my turn, I stepped up to the thick plexiglass. The man behind the window took one look at me, and before I could state my name, he disappeared into a back room. He returned with my purse, plopped it into a pan, and shoved it to me under the window—along with a release for me to sign.
“Can I take a minute to check and see if everything’s here?”
“Be my guest,” he said.
“I’ll be a witness for you,” said the male customer at the window next to mine. “You never know about these people.”
I rifled through my purse, checking all the inside pockets. A pack of wolves might have left it in similar disarray. Wadded papers, shredded Kleenexes, rumpled checkbook, car keys. A tiny envelope held my driver’s license, but the rest of my cards were gone.
“Where are my credit cards?” I said, panic mounting.
The man behind the window pulled out the inventory sheet. “Says here, ‘driver’s license, keys, checkbook, feminine items.’ No credit cards listed.”
“The police told me they were all here. Even mentioned them by name. Where are they?”
“Better check with Sergeant Sloan. Maybe he’s got ‘em.”
“Sergeant Sloan has my credit cards? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Don’t know what else to tell you, ma’am.”
The man sifted through someone else’s file. I could see he was done talking to me. I flicked my eyes over to the guy who had volunteered to witness my search. He shrugged.
“They told me they were all here,” I said. “I didn’t even cancel my cards.”
“Well, that was stupid,” jeered the woman behind me.
I scooped up my purse and left the place, my steps morphing into a jog as I exited the building. I sat in my parked car and dialed Sergeant Sloan. No answer. After the beep, I gave my name and case number.
“Sergeant Sloan,” I said. “I find it very interesting that you told me all my cards were in my purse. They’re not. Actually, only my driver’s license is here. The guy in evidence said I should call you—that maybe you have them. Why would you have my cards? If you don’t, where are they? I didn’t cancel any of them. Call me back ASAP.”
I attempted to slow my breathing as I drove home. Fear and anger make a bad couple.
I pulled into my driveway and turned off the car. I sat for a minute, closing my eyes. Warm sunshine poured in through the windows. Then a thought pricked my mind. I began checking every last pocket of my purse—something I hadn’t thought of in front of the plexiglass.
I felt something hard in a small outer pocket. I unzipped it. My cards. And not only the credit cards, but all the store membership and club point cards I’d accumulated over the years. Even my library card was in the one-inch-thick stack, which had been wedged into the pocket. After tossing up a prayer of thanks, I dialed the familiar number. No answer.
“Sergeant Sloan?” I said, still miffed. “Please disregard my last phone message. I just found the cards. They were crammed into a very obscure pocket of my purse. No need to call back.”
I really hoped he wouldn’t return the call. For any reason. Embarrassment prefers privacy.
Terrance Donaldson’s apprehension brought us frequent attention from the Hennepin County Attorney’s office. Carla Larson, a Legal Services Specialist, phoned regularly to keep us updated on Terrance’s case.
“We’ve already gotten eleven impact statements from community members who heard about what happened to you,” she said one day.
“Wow. That’s a lot.”
“Would you write a victim impact statement for us? It would help the case. Just say how your family was affected by the break-in.”
Victim. I didn’t feel like a victim.
“No problem,” I said. “I’m happy to help.”
“How are your girls?” Ms. Larson’s voice was warm, concerned.
“They’re doing really well.”
“Good. I’ll keep you posted on court dates. You take care of those kids.”
“I’ve got one question,” I said. “Was he armed that day?”
“No. Terrance is really good at being bad, but he’s not dangerous.”
I slipped into a seat in the back of the courtroom on September 8, 2014. Terrance—wearing an orange jumpsuit—shuffled in with an escort. The judge—a petite, stern-faced woman—sized him up with narrowed eyes. She asked him where he was in the early morning of February 28, and whether he knew the people whose home he invaded, crawling in through their kitchen window while they slept in their beds in the other rooms. He confessed his guilt to each question in one-syllable grunts.
“You’re just thirty-four years old, and you’re on a bad track,” the judge said. “This is just one of many felonies for you. All the homeowners you’ve done this to want you out of their neighborhoods. You’re not welcome there.” She thumbed through some of the paperwork and then looked up again. “And many of these people own guns. I’m shocked no one’s blown you away yet.”
The man nodded. This process wasn’t new to him. Maybe he felt a streak of remorse—at least for being caught—or maybe drooping his head and mumbling answers was part of his routine. By the end, Terrance pled guilty to first degree burglary and was sentenced to thirty-six months in prison.
Six months later, I contacted Carla Larson.
“Could I get the phone number for Terrance’s case worker?” I said. “We’d like to visit Terrance in prison. Without the girls, of course.”
“This isn’t typically done between a victim and an offender in this kind of case,” she said. “But here’s the phone number.”
As Ms. Larson had suspected, the case worker refused our request.
Our story was small. We didn’t have to grapple with bodily harm or the loss of a loved one. But we still wanted Terrance to look at us—to show him our names were wrapped in flesh—as a stark reminder that real people lived in our house. We also hoped he would link our faces to clean slates and second chances. But talk of redemption would have to come at a different time from someone else.
While darkness lured Terrance Donaldson into our lives that frigid winter morning, we hoped Light would attract him in the end and help him find his way.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.