Read Empty Promises Online

Authors: Ann Rule

Tags: #General, #Law, #Offenses Against the Person

Empty Promises (5 page)



There was nothing that Judy and Jerry Hagel could do to keep Jami from marrying Steve, so they gave her the best wedding they could afford. Steve's sisters gave Jami a wedding shower, and she listed her china and silver patterns at a local department store. Many of her relatives gave her place settings for her china, Imperial Blossom. Jami was always sentimental; she saved all the minutiae, including the cards and the guest lists, just as any old-fashioned bride would. She wrote thank-you notes for shower and wed
ding gifts. She wanted to relegate all the bad scenes with Steve to the past and make a fresh start.
"It was a nice wedding," Judy remembered. "We did as much as we could for her. It was in a park and there were a lot of family and friends."
Jami and Steve's wedding in July 1987 was a formal affair at Robinswood Park, with its gloriously landscaped grounds that had once been a multimillionaire's estate. Steve wore a white tux with a swallowtail coat and white shoes. He had bleached his hair so blond that he resembled a California beach boy. No one could ever have guessed he was only two months out of jail on burglary charges. He looked like the handsome scion of a wealthy family— which indeed he was.
Jami looked lovely, but shockingly unlike the girl many of the guests recalled. Steve's sister Saundra was with her when she picked out her wedding dress. Far from the demure, simple style Jami had always preferred, the wedding gown she chose was cut so low that, given Jami's enhanced breasts, it verged on indecent.
"Steve loved it," a friend said. "He enjoyed the way men were staring at Jami; it was as if she was the prize and he was the one who owned her.… He said the guys there all had hard-ons because of the way Jami looked."
A few months after their wedding, Steve was arrested for drunken driving. At the Bellevue police station, Officer Bernard Molloy brought Steve out of the holding cell for questioning. Steve had been so combative earlier when he was booked that he had to be restrained. Now he pleaded with Molloy to remove his handcuffs because they hurt him, and Molloy— noting that Sherer wasn't a very large man— took the cuffs off. While there were other officers in the room, Steve was well behaved and cooperative. But when the others left,
Steve leaped at Molloy, choking him with both hands and threatening to kill him.
Remembering that night, Officer Molloy said, "Many times as a police officer, I guess we all have times when you feel like you're gonna die. This time, I really thought I
going to die. I was beginning to black out; the guy was strong and there was a look in his eyes. His eyes… his
It's hard to describe the look that came into them. I'm not exaggerating. I was moments from dying when someone came in and pulled him off me."
Steve was convicted of felonious assault, but he didn't serve much time. As usual, he walked away with "community supervision."

* * *

Steve owned Jami now.
But marriage didn't make Jami feel any more confident. If anything, she deferred to Steve's wishes even more than she had when they were only living together. When he was sober, he could be nice to her, but she was the main target of his derision when he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. "She just went into a shell then," one of Steve's friends said.
Jami had gone into the marriage with full awareness of Steve's faults, despite the pleas of her parents and her friends. Before her wonderful career at Microsoft, she had lost jobs because of him, and she was cut off from her friends because of him. But she still made excuses for him. Whatever Steve said or did remained gospel to her.
"I never, ever,
would have believed in brainwashing," Judy Hagel said. "But I sat and watched it before my very eyes. I watched my daughter change. She got depressed. She was not happy anymore."
Judy was most shocked to realize that Jami had
begun blaming others for anything that went wrong in her marriage. Jami had always been totally honest and had a strong conscience, but that had changed too.
"She wasn't the daughter I raised," Judy said, as she related her suspicions after talking with an insurance investigator about the burglary claim Steve and Jami had filed in Palm Desert. "The investigator asked me about a couple of different items [that Steve and Jami] said I had given her, and I told them, 'Yeah, [I gave them] a couple of the things.' They called me back and kept conversing with me on it. The insurance company guy said, 'I know this is a fraud, but I can't prove it. Can you help me?' I told him, 'No, I don't know what they had.' "
But Judy Hagel did remember her daughter's engagement ring, the ring worth almost $14,000 which was supposedly lost in the burglary. Sometime after Jami's marriage, she was sitting at her mother's table and Judy felt a chill: "I looked at the ring [Jami had on], and I said, 'Jami, you know that is the same ring you've always had.' And she looked at me sort of funny, and I said, 'You know, that insurance, that was a fraud. Jami, that
your ring!' "
"How do you know, Mom?"
"That is the same ring," Judy repeated.
"Yes," Jami said, "it is."
"How could you do something like that? You've been brought up to know better."
Jami looked away. "I didn't know at the time what was going on," she said quietly. "Then it was too late."
Judy felt sick, but she didn't turn her daughter in. How could she? It wasn't Jami who had thought up the scam; she was sure of that. It was Steve; Jami did anything he asked of her.
She did anything, that is, except abandon her family. When Jami visited Judy and Jerry, she could put on a
happy face, even if it was often a mask. Steve seldom accompanied her, but Jami was a frequent visitor and her parents were always delighted to see her. Still, Jami rarely enjoyed an undisturbed visit; Steve called constantly to ask when she was coming home. Wherever Jami went without him, Steve's phone calls were sure to follow, as if he had her on an invisible leash. He demanded that she account for every minute of each day.
There was, however, one side of Jami that didn't buckle under to Steve. When she and Steve returned from Palm Desert in 1987 and she went to work for Microsoft, she was a valuable employee from the very beginning. Since Steve's employment record was so spotty, it helped a lot that Jami had a position with Bill Gates's booming software company, whose campus was located on the east side of Lake Washington. The complex was bigger than many towns, and Gates by then was well on his way to being the richest man in America.
Jami was highly thought of at Microsoft. She had worked her way up steadily, eventually finding a secure niche in the human resources department. Jami was responsible for setting up offices for new hires, ordering the software they needed, and helping them adjust to the unique ambience of Microsoft. Her outgoing personality and natural friendliness made her a natural in her job. No one she dealt with at work even imagined the smothering atmosphere she faced in her marriage.
"She had a fantastic work ethic," a co-worker recalled, also noting that Jami never talked about Steve until the time she broke off her engagement to him. Jami and Steve, of course, reconciled and many of her co-workers were invited to the wedding. The Jami at Microsoft was totally different from the Jami who sat silently beside Steve when they went to clubs or bowling or out with his friends. On
the job, she was confident and competent, and she made life so much easier for newcomers lured to Seattle by the exciting new company. Jami was always punctual and rarely missed a day's work because of illness.
The newlyweds moved continually, usually from one apartment to another. Jami longed to have her own home, and finally they rented a little house. It wasn't long after that when Jami learned she was pregnant. She was elated; motherhood was something she had always longed for. As tiny as she was, she carried her pregnancy proudly.
Steve seemed pleased that he had demonstrated his virility, but a baby wasn't the first thing on his list. He was still interested in the bar scene and in bowling, where he won a number of tournaments. He had begun to gamble on football games, and he worked out a schedule with several of his friends, charting professional sports wins and losses. Cocaine and alcohol mattered more than ever to him, often igniting his already short fuse. Steve was a man whose own needs always came first, and he was constantly looking for ways to enhance his sex life as well as his ability to party.
Steve baffled many of Jami's co-workers, when they finally met him. Like her family and friends, they wondered why a woman with so much going for her would stay with a man who attempted to control every facet of her life. Jami seemed to love him, but it was difficult for anyone to understand why. They had virtually no common interests: Jami hated to bowl and it made her uncomfortable to hang out at the bowling alleys with him. For some reason, he was meaner to her at the alleys than anywhere else in public. Even Steve's friends wondered why he picked on her.
Janet Gilman, who for three years worked closely with Jami at Microsoft, came to learn a great deal about
Steve Sherer. She and Jami often ate lunch together, although never anywhere extravagant. Jami's favorite spot was Taco Time.
Jami once commented to Janet that she hated going bowling. Steve loved it and had special shirts made up with his nickname, "Sparky," on his and "Jami" on hers. On the back, Steve's sponsor's name— All But Here's Traveling Software— was embroidered.
Steve was adamant that Jami had to bowl with him. "But I hate it," Jami told Janet.
"Well then, don't go," Janet said. "It can't be comfortable for you when you're pregnant."
"Steve wouldn't allow that," Jami said quietly.
The women continued their lunches at Taco Time. When Jami was pregnant, she had a craving for McDonald's and they went there also.
One day when Jami was nearing the end of her pregnancy, Janet walked into Jami's office to find her doubled over in pain. Janet got Jami to the hospital and the doctors said she was in premature labor.
"I called Steve," Janet remembered. "He was watching something or other on TV and he said he'd come to the hospital when it was over."
Steve eventually made it to the hospital two hours later, but Janet found his attitude "indifferent," far from the way most fathers-to-be acted. It was as if the baby was no part of him and he was a little annoyed to have his plans interrupted. Jami's labor turned out to be false, however, and her obstetrician sent her home.
As she neared childbirth, Jami wanted her mother around, but Steve had made it clear that if Judy came to the hospital when Jami was in labor, he wouldn't be there. He had long since stopped being a real member of the Hagel family, and he resented Judy the most.
"I had been told numerous times," Judy said, "that if I didn't stay out of their business, I wouldn't see Jami."
When Jami went into labor a few weeks later, Judy wanted so much to be with her, but she forced herself to stay home. Jami called her mother at about 11:30 that night, but Judy said, "I was scared to go." She didn't want to cause trouble in Jami's marriage, and Steve was so volatile. However, when Jami was in hard labor and near delivery, Steve himself called Judy at 1:00 A.M. and said that Jami wanted her.
"So then I said okay," Judy recalled. "I did go, and I was with her while she was in labor. I was with her when she gave birth."
After hours of hard labor, Jami gave birth to a baby boy. Chris* Sherer was to be the most important thing in her life.
Jami's life grew happier after the birth of her wonderful, healthy baby boy. She was a devoted mother and very careful with Chris. Although Steve enjoyed showing him off, Jami didn't really trust him to stay with the baby. Steve was not a caregiver and she feared he would get distracted by something he wanted to do and forget about the baby. She didn't complain about that, but she only rarely left Steve alone with Chris. Luckily, Judy Hagel was happy to baby-sit when Jami had to go out. Eventually, Jami's maternity leave was up and she had to return to work at Microsoft.
Steve was out of work, a fairly common situation, and he said he would look after Chris. Vaguely worried, Jami agreed— until she came home one day and found the floor covered with broken glass. Steve had deliberately smashed all their framed wedding pictures in one of his fits of rage. Chris could have crawled in the glass
and cut himself badly; at the very least, he must have been witness to his father's tantrum.
The next day, Jami placed Chris in day care. If she had to be gone on a weekend, Jami could usually count on her mother to look after Chris. One weekend, Jami called Judy to ask her to baby-sit because Steve wanted to go someplace and Jami had a commitment. But Judy couldn't get off work early enough to suit Steve. "Jerry will be home at four o'clock," she said. "He'll be glad to take Chris then."
But Steve wouldn't wait. He didn't leave eighteen-month-old Chris home alone; he took the baby with him, wherever he was headed. Jami and her mother were worried sick and called each other all evening to see if Steve had left Chris with one or the other of them. Finally, just before eleven that night, Steve and Chris showed up. He had taken the toddler to the racetrack, stayed until the last race, and arrived home long after Chris was exhausted and hungry.
Judy edged along a tightrope, trying to help Jami but afraid to appear to be a meddler in her daughter's marriage. Steve constantly made it clear that he didn't want her involved and told Judy so often. "I was told [by Steve]: 'Leave us alone. If you don't stay out of our business, I'm going to take Chris and Jami and move. We're going to move to California.' So I knew I just couldn't show up when I wasn't supposed to," Judy said.
Judy feared that if Steve moved her daughter and grandson back to California, she would never see them again. "I don't know if Jami would have moved, but I wasn't going to push him on that."
In a sense, Steve now had control not only over Jami but also over her mother and the rest of her family. Occasionally, he would grudgingly allow Judy to come
over and work in the yard with them, but he didn't want her doing anything to help Jami fix up the interior of their house. Judy was a slender and pretty blond woman who looked much younger than her age. She had a job at an auto dealership, and she was never the kind of mother-in-law who hovered, but she had reason to be worried about Jami and Chris.
June Young, Jami's longtime friend, who hadn't seen her since the wedding, came to visit Jami when Chris was less than a year old. "I'm not sure of the date," June recalled, "but Chris was sitting up, so he was probably about eight months old."
When June called to arrange the visit, she heard tears in Jami's voice. She regretted that they hadn't been as close as they once were, but she suspected it was because she had warned Jami not to marry Steve. "He didn't treat her well," June recalled, with massive understatement.
This time, Jami urged her to come over for a visit. When June arrived at Jami's house in Bothell, Washington, she quickly learned why Jami was crying. Jami confessed that Steve had hit her and pulled her down the hall by her hair. And it wasn't the first time.
"You're going to pack your things and come with me," June said firmly. "Nobody deserves to be treated like this."
For a moment, June thought Jami was going to come with her. Then Steve came home. When he saw June there, he glared at her and grabbed Jami's arm, pulling her into the bedroom, slamming the door behind them.
"Steve came out yelling and swearing," June said, "And then Jami came out, and she was crying. She told me that I should go, that she could take care of it."
Saddened, June had no choice but to leave, but she was troubled for a long time, remembering how dimin
ished Jami was; her dear friend had lost all of her exuberance and her zest for life and there was nothing June could do to change it. She wondered if she would ever see Jami again.
Apparently, Jami was able to appease Steve after the incident with June— but not for long. Like almost all domestic abusers, Steve's assaults on Jami only escalated. Now he not only put her down verbally but he was also increasingly physically abusive when she annoyed him.
And Jami seemed to annoy Steve frequently; it was almost impossible to please him. He was given to large and sudden shifts of mood, alternately depressed, euphoric, and angry. It was hard for Jami to tell if this was a result of the drugs or his natural unstable personality. Jami continued to withhold a portion of his cocaine, but it was like mending a huge, oozing wound with a Band-Aid.
Most distressing of all to the few who knew about it, Jami herself sometimes used cocaine. Steve had finally coaxed her into trying the drug. Timarie couldn't fathom how anyone could truly enjoy getting higher and higher all night long— only to land with a crash when the supply of cocaine inevitably ran out. When Timarie asked Jami why she used cocaine, Jami answered, "Because the more I do, the less [Steve] will— and the less I will have to put up with. We won't have so much fighting.… I do it just to keep the peace."
Steve had pulled Jami down with him in his endless pursuit of newer and grander sensations. As impossible as it seemed for the little girl who had loved to climb trees, ride horses and play softball, Jami had long been caught up in Steve's shadowy world of chasing drugs. Not only that but what most people would consider "normal" sex didn't turn him on much anymore either,

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