Today’s word prompt from the Daily Post is reprieve. Well, I thought I knew what that word was , but after taking a look at Webster’s just to make sure, I had to rethink my angle on it.
So that the reader is just as certain, here’s the skinny:
1: to delay the punishment of (someone, such as a condemned prisoner)
2: to give relief or deliverance to for a time
Yes, I could talk about a man who is in jail for the murder of two people who was supposed to be punished by death but . . . okay, I will, since no other incident comes to mind. I’ve changed (almost everyone’s) names for whatever reason.
Back in the early 1990s, according to the accused and found guilty (twice now) Darold Stenson, he came home to find his wife and his business partner both murdered in his home in which they were all partners in an exotic bird-farm business. But his story didn’t ring true with the sheriff’s deputies because of gunshot residue on his person and the victims’ blood all over his clothes. He was arrested for the murders and sentenced to death.
I never knew the man or his business partner or his wife. However, my best friend (and fellow artist) and her husband wound up renting that house a few years later. The rent was cheap and finding someone willing to live in a house where a double homicide happened couldn’t have been easy. For my friend and her husband, the price was right. They would care take the place too, because there were ostriches left and probably some other birds.
One afternoon as we sat painting in our shop, a spunky old lady named Lucy walked in to visit. She told us tales of a time, years before, when our neighboring business, a bar, was undergoing a sorely needed renovation and the construction crew discovered a couple skeletons beneath the bar. Lucy said, “Folks concluded that those men had been there for so many years that they were probably a couple of drunks that got knocked, clubbed over the head with the intention to shanghai them but they got hit too hard and died. Shanghaiing folks into ship service happened frequently in the old days.”
We were quiet fro a time after she left, I was thinking about the old days. My friend was painting a dragon on one of the ostrich eggs she’d blown the yoke from when she told me a tale. For this blog post I’ve changed (almost everyone’s) names for whatever reason.
She held her brush in the air and began. “Brian can see things, you know.”
Brian is her husband.
I asked, “Like what?” because I knew it was expected.
“He sees spirits.”
My eyebrows shot up. I lifted my brush from the conk I was painting a butterfly on and gave her my full attention.
“You know where we’re living at two people got murdered.” I nodded. I did know, but I never had given it much thought. She continued. “Well, one night Brian couldn’t sleep so he went downstairs and he saw the whole thing re-enacted.”
“The whole murder?”
“Yes. And he says that the man they arrested for it didn’t do it. He says ‘they got the wrong man.'”
Her husband later confirmed to my husband and I what his wife had told me. “Yep. I saw the whole thing and the guy they arrested didn’t do it.”
What are you going to do about it?”
“Nothing. I can’t do nothing. Why’d the copes ever believe me? They don’t go for paranormal stuff and ghost stories.”
Many years later, around 2008, as I was cleaning up my art supplies, I came across a blown out ostrich egg that my best friend had given me to paint that had come from the bird farm. A few days later I read in the local paper that the time had come for Stenson to die for his alleged crimes. . . crimes my best friends husband said he didn’t commit and I wouldn’t have believed Brian’s story but I was there with Brian as my best friend passed away and I do believe him now. His sister even admitted to me that he can “see things.” But after his wife passed away, we lost contact with Brian. And now, Stenson was given 48 hours to live.
What to do but pray?
Well, I became a bit more active than that. I knew I would sound crazy and there was nothing the current sheriff could do but I called him anyway. Of course he wrote me off as being crazy telling him I had a friend who stayed in that house and saw the whole thing re-enacted and that Stenson didn’t do it . . . so what. What amazed me was within the following 24 hours, reporters stated, there were more people who came forward with more information than what I had to offer. And Stenson was given a reprieve . . . a stay of execution, and since that time, at least one re-trial, and he still lives, as far as I know, in jail on death row to this day. The sheriff still “knows” Stenson is guilty. But is he? I don’t know the man or his family.
I have no idea but I do believe Brian saw what he said he saw, a re-enactment. I don’t believe in ghosts, but many people have said they’ve seen battles from the Civil War take place and according to the Bible, after Cain slew Abel, Abel’s blood cried out. So I understand (sort of) that “things” can be —um — “absorbed.” And I was there when Brian’s wife died. I could feel her spirit in the room with us for some time after she’d “clinically” passed on (she had cancer) but if I could feel her she hadn’t “gone” yet . . . and during that time, Brian didn’t just sense her. He saw her . . . when she was no longer inhabiting her mortal body.
So back to Stenson – – – the fat lady keeps going on stage but keeps tripping before she gets to the microphone to start singing. He may well die a natural death before receiving the death penalty. We all have death before us. But even so, Stenson keeps claiming he did not murder his wife or his business partner all those years ago. Is this a case like the Fugitive? Is there still a murderer on the loose? Or is this a man awaiting the death penalty a person with no compunction to confess? There are people who know. I just don’t happen to be one of them.
I still have that ostrich egg. Somewhere. I haven’t painted it yet.
You are free to Google up Darold Stenson for more information.