Credit: Chris Urso/TBO Staff
At a little after 3 a.m. I heard knocks on the door and the doorbell ringing over and over. Through the window all I could see were police lights. I was scared and tried to call Charlie to tell him what was happening but he didn't answer. I was afraid to answer the door so I called dispatch and asked for Charlie. There was a pause. I asked if he was okay but was directed to answer my door. I was standing in my closet trying not to wake up my daughter and I felt like I couldn't move. I couldn't put the pieces together yet so I forced myself to open the door. I saw a Tarpon Springs uniform and a few other uniforms from different agencies but couldn't look them in the face. My entire body was numb, my heart was pounding and I couldn't think. Everything was in slow motion and sounds were just echoing in my house. I could see the men standing in front of me but it didn't seem real. I just remember saying "No" over and over. I was told we needed to leave immediately and that Charlie had been shot.
My youngest daughter and I rushed to the car while my boys stood by the door watching us drive away. When we got closer to U.S. Hwy 19, I noticed officers blocking traffic at every intersection. I just kept praying that God would let him stay and that his injuries would be something we could handle but when we got to the hospital I knew my life was about to change.
There were officers everywhere and people crowded around the door. I held my daughter’s hand and we were escorted to a room where I was immediately told that my husband was dead. At that second, I learned the real meaning of empty and lost. The sound of my daughter screaming for her father began to crush me inside. I only remember bits and pieces after that. I remember being surrounded by people and I kept hearing the words “I’m sorry” all night but I wanted to just run away from it all. I wanted it to stop. I kept telling myself that this wasn't real and that it wasn't Charlie because I just talked to him and texted him a few hours ago. We had so many plans, he was retiring soon, and our kids were almost grown so this couldn't be happening to us. Not us.
I was asked to identify his body but I was terrified to see my husband dead. I wanted so bad to touch him just one last time, I wanted to smell him, I wanted to hold his hand and say goodbye and tell him how sorry I was that he was gone but I couldn't. I didn't want to remember Charlie that way.
I still didn't want to believe any of it because in some desperate way, my mind was still hoping that this was all a mistake and that Charlie would walk in the door any second. At some point I remember begging for his wedding ring and the necklace he had worn for protection for years. I needed to hold something that belonged to him and it was such a desperate feeling.
A while later I was asked about donating organs. I asked about the process but the details were too graphic so I immediately said no. Hearing that was traumatizing on top of losing him and I didn’t want anyone else to touch him. His body had been through enough. I regretted that decision later and wished it was presented a different way because giving life to someone is something Charlie would be proud of.
From the moment I learned Charlie was dead, I was pressured with questions and decisions. Everyone needed answers from me. I felt like the walls were closing in and there was nowhere to go. It was the beginning of a helpless feeling I would carry for a LONG time.
Telling my kids something that would hurt them the rest of their lives was the last thing I wanted to do as a mother. It wasn't fair for any of us. I had to tell my kids that that their father was DEAD. Looking at their faces broke me inside and I felt like it took some of my motherhood away because for the first time, I couldn't help them. There was absolutely nothing I could do for them and I’ll never forget what that felt like. I saw their faces filled with tears and SO much hurt which brought out so much anger in me as a mother. My babies were breaking in front of me and it was such a terrible feeling.
I don’t remember getting home that morning. Everything was still in slow motion. A day or so later, with officers on our couch, we saw the news coverage on tv and the pain got even worse. We learned that not only was Charlie shot, he was also run over and pulled by his gun belt by a rear bumper. We all burst into tears and went in a different direction to cry. I had to get out of my house and just scream. I started feeling helpless and angry and it was SO uncontrollable. I remember being on my knees in my driveway just screaming his name. I couldn't understand how anyone could do this to another human being and just LEAVE him to die like that.
The days after were a blur. I was taken to a cemetery to make funeral arrangements followed by fund raising events. It was hard to keep track of who I met and who wanted to help. I had absolutely no control of my life and I don’t think I even wanted to at that time. I waited for someone to tell me where to go, what to sign, who to speak to, who to stand next to, and when to come and go. All of that while trying to make my head and heart understand that I would NEVER talk to my husband again.
I called Charlie's cell phone over and over for weeks. I even left messages and texted him to please come home. My head was pounding, I couldn't eat, sleep, think, or process anything. I couldn't stop crying and I had NO idea how we could possibly live the rest of our lives like this. How could we live without the man that made our lives complete? How was I supposed to figure out this life on my own now and help my kids cope with losing a man who made them who they were?