Major Projects: One Bullet

"Bullets are cheap. Pistol bullets come in boxes of 50 and cost from $5 to $20 a box. The bullet that killed David cost the shooter less than 50 cents. One bullet. And look at what it did."

Story and illustrations by Karen Blessen
Originally published in The Dallas Morning News on Sunday, August 17, 2003
To read ONE BULLET in it's entirety, click here.

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On August 19, 2000, a young man was randomly murdered in front of our home. The experience was so profound for me, even though I didn't know any of those involved, I couldn't help but wonder what the long term effect of murder is on those who love the victim, on those who love the perpetrators, and on our communities. For three years, I interviewed and photographed those who were most immediately touched by the murder. An agreement was made with the Dallas Police Department that the story would not appear until after the last trial of the accused was completed. "One Bullet" appeared in the Dallas Morning News on August 17, 2003.
—Karen Blessen

Writing Process

During the three years between the murder and publication of "One Bullet", many conversations ensued—with, among others, the victim's mother, the victim's twin brother, the two friends of the victim who were with him the night of the murder and who witnessed the event, the young woman who loved the victim, the homicide detective on the case, the mother of the young man accused of being the shooter, and the accused shooter.

Of the four people who are featured in the story, three of them were first interviewed within months of the murder, and then again 2 1/2 years later. The victim's mother had been diagnosed with cancer prior to the murder, and she died before "One Bullet" was published. She spoke candidly with me frequently in the nearly three years that I knew her, and wanted the story of David's life and death to be commemorated.

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Art Process

thumbnailfinal art
Initially, the illustrations to accompany "One Bullet" were planned to be portraits of the subjects interviewed in the story. Marilyn Bishkin and Lamberto Alvarez, the art directors at the Dallas Morning News who guided this project through, urged me to consider a different direction for the art. They felt that the story called for a more evocative and moody approach - one that conveys the emotion of the subject, rather than documents the people interviewed. So we chose to show the interview subjects by using small head shots, and let the main art integrate with the emotion of the story.

I did a number of small (3 in. x 4 in. or so) cut paper thumbnails of the two pieces of art, to allow me to very quickly work through concepts and color combinations. Once the concept and composition felt like it was "there", the final art was developed with the intention of maintaining the vitality and color of the thumbnail.

thumbnailfinal art

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Readers' Reponses

Dear Karen,

I just finished reading your story in The Dallas Morning News, and was glad to find your contact info at the end. Yours is the thoughtful kind of piece that only an artist could write. I'm deeply touched and can thoroughly identify with the sentiment expressed by everyone in your article. My heart goes out to David's family and friends, because I personally understand the depth of their loss.

My sister was murdered on April 5, 2000, just four months before David's untimely death. Her murder totally devastated my family, and sent my own life into a tailspin which leaves me staggering to this day.

I could write volumes about the aftermath of my sister's murder, and will perhaps; someday. At present it's too big to get my head around. There are so many aspects -- the shock, the disbelief, the anger, the grief, the emptiness, even the guilt; not to mention the ongoing spiritual search to find what was lost. "Getting over it" is not even an option. Living with it is what we are forced to do.

Most people don't completely understand. Some can't bring themselves to talk about our loss and would prefer to ignore it. There are even those who seem to feel that we brought this tragedy upon ourselves -- that if our spiritual beliefs were in good order, God would not have visited this punishment upon us. Those are the people for whom I have the most pity. Those people are trapped in a belief system that is guaranteed to fail them.

You've obviously been deeply touched by your connection to David. I appreciate your article and hope that it reaches many.

Cathy Moore, Dallas, TX,

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I am Karen Ridge and I live in Dallas. I was so moved by your story I wanted to E-mail you and tell you how truly revealing it was on many levels. Generally how one action affects us all. Personally, Family, Community, City, State and Nation. I was deeply touched by the story. I felt it covered a wide range of emotions and considered every one involved in a sense that put you in that persons shoes. The article gave me an opportunity to learn of you and your other works, which I plan to read. Thank you so much for sharing something that was truly tragic in 360 degree presentation, hopefully all of us will be reminded of how precious life really is.

Karen Ridge

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I'm sitting here writing this with tears in my eyes after reading your article....I know the McNulty family wonders WHY....and yes, there are reasons for everything...sometimes the answer is very clear, sometimes it's very vague - I think in this case it's very vague - but with your article, the reason to me is very clear. Maybe altering another's life. I'm going to read this article to my children tonight. I have two boys ages 12 and 9. If this story will just add to 2 boys life, and maybe if one person had to die to sacrifice for others, it could possibly change the path of life for many, many others. I want my boys to know what can happen with one 50 cent bullet. I want them to know that bad things CAN happen to good people. Why it's important what kind of friends they have. Why it's important to know what is right and what is wrong. I know I've been a good parent, and you can tell your children so many things, but showing them.....just showing them. life.

Thank you for "speaking",
Tracey Churchman

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I just sat down with the paper and found your beautiful article. My son played on a basketball team with Peter McNulty at HP High School, and I knew Linda Beth and Gordon through our numerous games and gatherings. Linda Beth was beloved by all who knew her and her son's death and her own were so heart rending. Your article was comforting to me and you raised points I still grapple with. I know that Linda Beth would be proud of your article.

For 5 months, one year ago, I was a "mental health advisor" at St. Paul's Chapel in NYC, the chapel that served as a real "comfort station" for those involved in recovery and clean-up and for the family and friends of those lost on 9/11.The Dallas Morning News ran an editorial I wrote about my time there on the Ed. Page on 9/11/02. I spent that time thinking so much about life and death and continue to wonder and ponder on the fragility of life. Writing that article was a blessing to me. Also, a very close friend who was 29 and a first-year MBA student at Columbia was killed in May by a hit and run driver in NY. So I continue to think and wonder....

Your article was a comfort.
Addie Beth Denton

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I do not usually jump out of bed on Sunday morning in this middle of sipping my coffee and turn on the computer, but this morning is different. I want to sincerely thank you for the fine article about David McNulty. Though I never met him, I felt as though I knew him and his five brothers. As I read your column, I kept hoping that your words would eventually reveal you had met Linda Beth and finally...they did.

Linda Beth and I were co-workers when she worked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield. She joined our "Caring for Children" program (how ironic), first as an administrative assistant, then later in a role that took her across the state to raise funds for this nonprofit charity that provides health care and vans that provide mobile immunizations for underprivileged children. I met her on her first day of work since she and her boss officed near me. Someone introduced us on that first day. We chatted and I recall that the day was particularly hectic with all the personnel paperwork, etc. to fill out. She and I later frequently laughed about the question I asked her at the end of that first day. I jokingly asked her if she was "coming back tomorrow" and she said "yes." The next day she gave me a note that said "I came back." She signed and dated it. I found it the other day when I was looking for something in one of my files.

Linda Beth left the company after a few years and her career with Blue Cross was short in comparison to mine (I celebrated my 38th anniversary yesterday), and while I cannot say we were close friends, no one could meet Linda Beth without liking her. We talked occasionally and she related the most wonderful stories about how a female survived living in a home with a husband and six sons. I am an only child and my son is an only child, so I could not get enough of her sharing the unusual happenings with the McNulty clan. I remember one great story about how when they remodeled their home, she went to a hotel for several days while the bathrooms were being remodeled. This would have meant she would be sharing her bathroom with several of the boys and this was just something she could not handle .... even as close as they were. Linda Beth and I remained in touch occasionally, mostly through another coworker who had become her close friend. I sent cards when David died and in the last months of her illness. She sent cards thanking me for caring.

Her friend and I used to wonder if David's death was somehow to prepare the McNultys for what lay ahead for them. Gordon and the boys knew their wife and mother was dying and we hoped somehow they would find comfort in knowing that David would be waiting for her. I think Linda Beth believed this and just as if she were preparing school lunches for the boys, she also attempted to prepare them for the inevitable. Since you say you were in touch with her before her death, you know that she faced it bravely and without feeling sorry for herself. She was always more concerned for others. But what saddens me most is that along with her illness and knowing she was losing a battle, one of her life's greatest treasures was ripped from her. She had to not only deal with her own death, but losing David came at a time when she was struggling with her own mortality.

I think of Linda Beth often. I think of David almost every week. I live in DeSoto and my Friday afternoon trip home for the last several years takes me by Campisi's to pick up pizza. As I head south on Greenville, I usually turn west on Vickery or Miller to wind my way back to Central. I never make that turn west without thinking of him and what happened in those early morning hours. I have never known the full story until your article. And now, as I know where those young men were headed that morning, I will wonder if their path back down Central, across the Trinity bridge toward southern Dallas is the same one I travel. Your memorial tribute to David is commendable. The stone sounds lovely. I wish I could see it.

I salute you for your fine writing. It was, indeed, a story that needed to be told and if you heard Linda Beth whisper, "Speak, Speak", I am sure that in the quiet of the night, you will hear her whisper, "Thank you, Thank you."

Becky Taylor

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Karen: A painful and excellently written story, about ordinary people coming to grips with tragedy in a reasoned way, and offering readers much to remember and to think about. Congratulations.

Bob Compton

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While back in Texas this weekend visiting my parents (I currently live in Missouri), I eagerly anticipated your story in the Sunday paper just from reading the short lead-in in Saturday's paper. I've just finished reading the article and I must say that I was very moved and deeply touched by the pain of the families involved.I also must say this: As a young, black, professional woman, I was deeply disturbed by Jonathan's (the twin brother) statements about "feeling scared when a group of black men pull up beside him." I must admit that I can sort of understand his feelings--after all, when my parents and grandparents were younger, they felt extreme fear whenever a group of white men pulled up beside them (am I going to get hung, shot at, racial slurs thrown at me?, etc.). In a state where, just a few short years ago a black man was dragged to death behind a truck (by white men, imagine!!), it continues to sadden me that such ignorance exists when it comes to stereotyping. Though hangings, draggings, and the like are not as common these days as they were not too long ago, there are more subtle ways of instilling inferiority into our minorities today. I was close to tears as I imagined my 6 yr. old son reading how Jonathan "had black friends, but would never let a black person get close to him" (isn't that an oxymoron?) since just this past year while in the first grade my son was told by another first grader that they could not be friends because my son was "not his type," and "other people would make fun of him because he was friends with a black person." This was said to a 6 yr. old!!!!! Fortunately, since I work at his school in an administrative capacity, I was able to use it as a teaching moment for the other little boy and his parents and reiterate to my son that he was an awesome kid and as good as (or better than in some instances) anyone else. Unfortunately many children of color hearing the same things from a classmate don't have the strong reinforcements that my husband and I provide.Having said all of that, I worked for years at a children's hospital in Dallas and I've seen first-hand what violence can do to a family and its tragic aftermath so I am in no way excusing what happened to David. What I am asking is that we take a minute to use our brains and employ some of what Jonathan must have learned in his study of religion prior to giving up on religion completely: God created ALL of us from two people. That makes us brothers and sisters. If he thinks God made a mistake and made some of us lesser than himself (Jonathan), he is more lost than he thinks. (I'm also more than a little curious about how his black "friends" feel about his revelation. Jonathan, let's not let pain overtake the brain. This was a horrible tragedy and it has happened to black people from white people for centuries without repercussion. No doubt their pain is as intense as yours but it would have been detrimental in all likelihood to say such a thing as boldly as you have. Learn from this and stop a cycle of stereotyping. I'll be praying for you.

Carla London. Take time to stop and smell the roses!

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I'm a single black mother of a 15 year old daughter. I feel the hurt, pain, mental, and emotional anguish that each of you feel. Your heartfelt article leaves me with a vision to work together with others, inorder to help save one youth at a time from such heinous acts of criminal mischief. But, before I can do so, I must save my own.

Charlotte Taylor

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I have just finished reading your story in the Dallas Morning News. I don't think I have ever been so touched. My eyes are filled with tears. It is sad to think that all people cannot express love to each other in an effort to make this a better place...a place where we can help and support each other versus bring pain and suffering. My heartfelt thanks for you taking the time to write this story and have it published. I wish everyone could read it. God Bless YOU!

David Snyder

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It was a wonderful article—very moving. I loved that you so clearly delineated the facts of the case, letting the reader decide what they might mean and then so gently suggesting the questions they raised. Lovely visual images too. I am struck with the gift that you have given all the people involved in the murder. Your concern must have in some way softened the loss for the parents (all three). I am really left with thinking how wonderful is the artist desire and ability to transform our experiences into something that is humanized and meaningful. Just that other people care means so much.

Thanks so much.
Debora Hunter

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A good piece of journalism. I was mad, then I was sad and then I was glad that I happened to see the piece in the DMN. The racial aspects of the crime are disturbing and yet can not be ignored. What were three young people doing riding in to nightclub area with a gun? Had they done it before? Was the District Attorney too lenient? We are in trouble in this country if we are going to have to be looking out the back window of our cars all the time. Thanks for your good work.

Gene Seale, Dallas, TX

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I just finished reading your story about David McNulty out loud with my mother. I wanted to e-mail you and share a small portion of some lyrics that I wrote back in 2000 after hearing of that night from family and friends. I am a Richardson High School 98' graduate and friend of the Hoesterrey family through Mark's younger sister, Sarah, a 98' RHS graduate as well. I had the honor of singing at Mark's wedding a couple of years ago and went to junior high with Peter and Jake.

The song is called "Hammers and Nails,"

The song begins..."Beloved, David by name/Son and brother both in the same/what a peaceful heart/may his legacy remain/to bring strength to his loved ones/when reason can't be explained....

Chorus: It's just a pile of wood/hammers and nails/but it only takes one/to say I'm willing to help/when the bridges are burning/and the lights are going out/love can rebuild what hatred tore down...

There is a bridge later on in the song...
"Young lives taken away/by hands that know no shame/and those left behind/we are praying for change/it might be hammers and nails/but to some its faith... Thank you for your words this morning, and your artwork, for "speaking".

Heather Morgan

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I am not one who writes to strangers normally, but your story in today's Dallas Morning News touched me deeply. I don't know anyone involved, but it touched me as a mother. I have two young boys—black boys who are sweet, kind, happy go lucky kids as most 7 and 9 year olds from good homes are. I get chills from this story and the Patrick Dennehy death because I know the high hopes the mothers had for these successful children. I only pray that I never go through such tragedy. I hope your story makes people value life more.


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Thanks for writing this sad piece. And a big thanks for including the race issue as this plays itself out prominently time and time again. Also, that the detective mentions that its not the guns per se but the fact that we allow politicians to write laws that let these hoods back out onto the streets.

Top notch coverage of a most horrible event. jch159@...

I have just read your article in the DMN. It is simple, yet profound...straightforward, yet poetic...reportorial, yet mystical. Your account of the neighborhood service touched me deeply. I did not know David McNulty. I do not know you. But I am inexorably part of the communion. Thank you.

Jerry Fullinwider

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I've just finished reading your story about the murder...When I was a young reporter – in my teens, covering these horrible events – the same frustrations with the "why" rose in my heart. Maybe that's why I found myself moving away from the police beat and looking for something uplifting in the human condition....the lighthearted feature, a story of personal triumph, heck, even the tale of a farmer who raised a giant watermelon...anything but the dark side of the human soul.....I hid out for years as an editor – a person who worked with words and assignments, not with people and their feelings....

Your story was so moving and so wonderfully explains the challenge of keeping peace alive in our own hearts ..... Thank you for writing it.

I'm at home on a Sunday morning....My sweetspouse Martha, the TV tuned to her beloved BBC America, has nodded off in the recliner with a big totoiseshell cat named Benchley in her lap. Snoring dogs (literally!) are on either side of the human/cat recliner.... It is a peaceful scene...and because of your story, this morning I treasure it more than usual....

I have twin sons, fraternal twins, Bret and Bart. They are 32. Bret lives in Longview where, after years of working as a bartender in the sordid night world of Dallas/Fort Worth, he is the health-conscious, nearly straight-arrow manager of a country club and anticipating a marriage in May to a genuinely delightful young woman who owns her own business and has high standards and ambitions -- they met at a church team softball game.

Bart, father of two, has had a rough year – after years of fighting alcohol and drugs we got him into a rehab center and he came out like a champion. He has been clean and sober for 145 days....and he has gone from a tragic figure to a clear-headed young father with ambition and drive and a respect for living by the rules.

I guess maybe that's part of what draws me to your story, too....sometimes the bullet is fired by a stranger, sometimes the bullet is self-inflicted in a pill or bottle.....

Gosh, Karen, I guess your story really has inspired a lot of "thinking" for me today. I am so sorry that circumstances exist that put this wrenching story on your doorstep and continue to torture all the hearts involved, but I am so grateful you have written it for others to read......You truly may have saved lives by writing one story about a life that was taken.

Thanks for the hard work – I suspect you stopped to cry many's not easy writing about reality,
Larry Powell

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As a father, I cried when I read your article. Still am.

Thank you.

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That was an excellent story about such a horrific episode. I cannot begin to imagine how that night effected you and your husband. I graduated from RHS in 92 and also went to Tech and was friends with Mark Hoesterey (I still talk to him every now and then). I knew David as well, although I wasn't really friends with him. I heard about this tragedy the next day after it happened and I couldn't believe it. Your insight and perspective with regards to this is truly powerful. Hopefully, with the Lord's blessing, all of the people effected by that night (including you and your husband) can find true peace. I prayed for that at the time and I will continue to do so.

RC Datesman

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Thank you for writing your story, and thank you for telling David's.

Rebecca Stephens, Dallas, TX

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What a moving article you've written! I live in Virginia but was raised in the D/FW area. I read the Dallas News online every day just to stay connected in some way to my roots. I was completely taken in by your words and just had to write and let you know. What a gifted writer you are! This article was so moving and so well done and I thank you for sharing. I am recommending that all my friends and co-workers read it.

Rhynda Moreland, Newport News, VA

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Your article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News today was especially moving to me. While my family has not been impacted as the families depicted today, I have seen this kind of hurt time and again. Your article demonstrates to me that life is short, and that any split-second it can change forever.

In my work, I have told many who work for me that we can fix anything as long as the hammer doesn't hit the chamber...then it's all over. I am touched by your work.

Richard Anderson, Longview, TX

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I read with great interest you article in the Sunday Dallas Morning News. Many things could be garnered from your writings and you covered many of them. However, one glaring point jumped out at me.

McNeal, the shooter, takes the plea agreement to MURDER and AGGRAVATED ROBBERY and gets a sentence of 12 1/2 years and could be out in as little as 6 years. His cohort, Woodard, eschews the plea bargain and goes to trial where he receives a life sentence with a possibility of parole in 40 years.

The prosecutors totally misread this case and should be held accountable for deriliction of duty in offering a slap on the hand plea bargain for a cold blooded killer. The obvious miscarriage of justice is yet another outrage and tragedy that this case offers us. I wish your piece would have emphazised that also. As an aside, it wasn't the bullet that changed the life of was McNeal.

Richard Haller, Argyle,TX

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I very much enjoyed your article and illustration in the paper this morning. W hat an incredible job of writing. I haven't stopped thinking about it. A friend of mine recently lost her 26 yr. old son (very much like my son) to a bullet and so it hit close to home. Thanks for a wonderful job under very difficult circumstances.

Sally Johnson

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I just finished reading your article and felt the need to tell you how much it meant to me. I usually don't get to the end of an article due to lack of interest, but I finished your article and cried at the part where you interview Frances and D.T. McNeal. I have not been through an experience of this kind, but I was very touched by your writing style and the fact that you looked at all sides. I could relate to the fact that Jonathan and Dave shared a room for 18 years. My sister and I did that. And after reading that, I have decided to forgive my sister for using me as a punching bag for her anger. Life is too short not to. Thank you for the way you conveyed the story.

Sheila Mann

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AWESOME STORY!!!! What a gift God gave you in relating a story where I experienced everyone's pain.

Thank you for telling it!
S Spur

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Why do the media have a fixation with the type of weapons used in crimes? Would David McNutly have been any deader if he had been stabbed with a steak knife or hacked to death with an ax? Why do weapons used in crimes become the focal point of homicide stories in the news media? The real story should be the plea bargain sentence offered to Diomedes Titus "D.T." McNeal . Is a human life worth a 12 year prison sentence in which only the time may be served before a confessed murderer could be released back into society as the sentence given to Mr. McNeal?

Maybe the next knock on your door may not be that of a victim needing your assistance, but that of a home invader kicking in your door in the middle of the night to rape, plunder, or murder. How comforting it must be to know that you can dial 911 and have the police show up within moments – if your telephone line hasn't been cut. Within those few precious moments, a criminal could kill everyone in your house, regardless of the weapon used. The police would arrive moments later, only to place toe tags on your feet and to take a report. While you cowered behind your door at 2:21am on August 19, 2000, was the only weapon in your or your husbands' hand a telephone?

I understand that Dallas is again recording an increase of homicides as compared to years past. Aside from reporting the type of weapon(s) used in these homicides, why not do a statistical story on the racial comparison of perpetrators vs. victims over the last 15 years or so? Include the sentence given vs. the time served in these homicides. Such a story would indicate the true cost to society of lax sentencing guidelines and may illuminate a reality that the news media and certain segments of our society have not been willing to discuss. Just the statistics would do, less certain factions would accuse the author publishing a biased story.

Steven Springer, Dallas, TX

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My husband and I read your poignant and masterfully written feature about the tragedy of David McNulty's death. We cried because we understand the grief of losing a child to an early and senseless death and because of the fear that we too could be suddenly jerked into a world of violence. You painted a vivid portrait of the wide reach of violence in ways that go far beyond the victim.

Our Sunday school topic today and next week is forgiveness. I find it iseasier to talk about forgiveness in the abstract than to practice it and the McNultys are genuine heroes for putting it to work. I am pained for Mrs. McNeal and for her son and all of the other young men involved and believe they were blessed to find you and your husband in this dark time. I think you are the angel for being there and for sharing this unfortunately common event in such an extraordinary way.

Please continue to write and know that we will include you and your family, the McNultys, McNeals and Mr. Muniz in our prayers.

I would like to send a copy of your article to the members of the Odyssey class at University Methodist Church in Austin and I need you to email a copy of the article to me because the DMN email function doesn't work.

Susan Hull, Round Rock, TX

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Just read the article. Very thought provoking! Those kinds of tragedies so dramatically effect the lives of those who are closest and yet the rest of us totally block out the incident so it is like 2 different worlds. You have managed to affect the unaffected. Our son Stewart is 14 now, and lately when I see a tragedy involving someone's son it haunts me. It is odd since I didn't have that feeling when he was a toddler.

Veletta Lill

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I am one of the officers that worked this murder. Unfortunately most of our m urders get little or no attention from the media. I wanted to thank you for taking the time to give this one the attention it and many others deserve.

Thank you and take care
Bruce Bryant

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I just wanted to let you know how important I think your story was. I graduated with David's older brother Matt and consider him a good friend. I knew David and his brother Jonathan fairly well back in the junior high and high school years too. They are good people – as is their entire family – as is Mark. It's obvious that you saw that through your story – and I thank you for reminding people about what happened to David and the people who shared his life.

Cristy Smith

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The article and artwork turned out very nicely. What sort of feedback have you received? Someone pointed out to me that a letter to the editor praised your piece but disagreed with "Detective Danny Muniz" about my concept of evil.

A friend of mine told me that my picture made me look like the guy at the police station they use to test if drugs are real!!

Detective Danny Muniz

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I'm in awe. I sat down last night and read the thing from start to finish, and it is, simply put, one of the best pieces of journalism I have ever read. Not only that, but it is one of the best pieces of writing I've ever read. Words fail me in expressing how deeply it touched me. It was what great writing should be – full of humanity, full of little details like 50-cent bullets, full of the good and the bad and the inbetween, full of life even though it's about death. It's an excellent tale and I'm very proud of you.

Now turn it into a book.

What kind of reaction are you getting from it in Dallas?

David Hanners

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Dear Karen, I appreciated your article in the Sunday paper about the murder of David McNulty. I am going to send it to my sister-in-law in North Carolina. She was a good friend of Linda Beth. I had a vague memory of one of Linda Beth's sons dying, but I didn't know the details. What a sad thing. Your article was a very honest look at trying to understand why God allows these things to happen - we can't explain it. And look at how many people it affected. I'm sure you will never forget it.

Thank you for sharing your experience and all that you learned from all the others involved.

Diane Lagow

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Thanks for your article in the Sunday Dallas Morning News about the young man killed in front of your house. We live in a confusing, sometimes evil world and have to learn how to deal with it as best as we can.There were certainly no winners in your story but you and your family are helping them, and yourselves, to deal with it.

I especially liked the detective and his outlook on life.Is there anything we as humans can do to change the evil and reckless way life on this planet unfolds? I sure hope there is but don't hold out much hope for it.

Thanks again,

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Thank you for your "Ghost in the Garden" contribution to the Dallas Morning News. The article meant a lot to all of us who knew David and were friends with McNulty family. Jonathan and I are pledge brothers from Trinity University and I was friends with David through him. Seeing how all of the various lives came together in such a tragic situation was very enlightening. We can now only hold onto those happy memories that we had with David and all of the McNulty brothers. Reading your story helped bring some of those memories back and I thank you for that. I know that David and Linda Beth are sitting up there now looking down on the McNulty boys and all their friends. David was there to meet her and she is now there to take care of David.

I just pray that your story will touch some of the young lives out there that might not understand how far reaching the effects can be of such a senseless act. We all pray for the McNulty and the McNeal families.

James C. Bohnsack

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I retired from my company a couple of years ago after working 32 years - enjoyed (most) every minute of that time - but now think retirement is certainly a wonderful thing. Gives me time to read the newspaper (DMN) - all the different articles related to so many different subjects.

But, once I wade through the usual: the Austin/New Mexico redistricting debaucle, the California governor's up-coming race (this is almost laughable if it wasn't so serious), all the amazing and deadly hot-spots in the world involving our military, the black-out in the east - I tend to most always find one special article, such as yours, that I read thoroughly - from start to finish.

I'm sure there are many, many stories in the Metroplex - that accompany each of the lives that are lost on a daily basis. It is so sad. The lives that are lost, all the families and friends that are touched forever plus all the others, such as yourself, who are touched by the violence. Yours was a very good story - well written, informative and extremely interesting. Hope you will have others printed.

A very happy retired senior citizen
Joyce Stamer, Mesquite, TX

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I am sure that you have or will receive other mail, like mine. I worked with David at HDVest. He and I became great friends. Tonight, for the first time, upon reading your article, I cried about his death. I dealt with his death like Jonathan. I couldn't think; just shock. I haven't spoken with him since just after David's death. I locked it all up. Thank you for capturing so much of the frustration of this tragedy. Thanks for the release, the catharsis. David was always the one who protected everyone else...and, in that way, I like to think that in death he is even more powerful, than in life. I think I will call Jonathan.

Thank you,
Lee Revels

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I am writing you to thank you for Sunday's story about David McNulty. My family is friends with their family. My sister went to school with him growing up. I have to tell you that reading the article was tough. You painted such a horrible, and yet beautiful picture of what happened that night. I feel as if I had been a witness myself to his unfortunate death. Anyway, your writing and pictures were wonderful. You are talented in writing and drawing. I also have to say thanks so much for giving this story some needed attention. They are a wonderful family that had someone special taken from them. I just wanted to tell you that it touched me. And to say thanks again, in case the family could not bear to tell you themselves.

Ryan Axley

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Rarely do I spend time reading an article in the DMN. But I started reading your article on Sunday, and quite literally could not put the paper down.

A good article. No, a damn good article. Well written. Introspective. Thoughtful. Balanced. You did substantial justice to what, in lesser hands, could have been rather difficult and potentially uncomfortable subject matter.

Jim AuBuchon, Irving, TX

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It is an extremely rare occasion when I write to a columnist or freelance contributor to the DMN, but then it is even rarer that I have tears streaking my face when I finish an article in the newspaper. Well done – I wept for both families. Thank you for sharing the experience.

Michelle Wheeler, Dallas, TX

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I have just finished reading your incredibly moving account of that tragic night some three years ago. I just want to thank you for taking the time to put such a "human face" on this senseless, random act of violence. While I have never been near such an act, I felt acutely the pain that Jonathan, his Father, Mother and siblings have and are feeling. I sensed the way it forever changed your life and so many others in David's path.

I do not know if "thank you" is quite the adequate thing to say now, but certainly I appreciate the efforts you took to tell this story. I will not take my guardian angel for granted for a long time to come...

Brian J. Kelley

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Thank you for giving us a very stong feeling of how an act of murder can affect so many people and in so many different ways. My prayers go out to all those effected by this terrible act. Again, thank you. kcompary@...

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Thank you for writing such a beautiful article. I'm praying that you and all involved will heal from this tragic event.

Roberta Smith

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I just finished reading the article you wrote in the Dallas Morning News about David McNulty. I knew that you had a memorial for David after his death. Several of my friends told me about it. David's death impacted many people's lives. My name is Betsy "Schooler" Denny and I now live in Jackson, MS. I grew up with David, and Jonathan and was close to their family. While reading your article at moments it was hard to keep reading on. It brought back a lot of memories I have. I have known their family since grade school. All of the children in the neighborhood used to get together after school and on the weekends to hang out. I can vividly remember the basket ball goal in their yard. Many afternoon's were spent out there. The McNulty house was always filled with kids from all ages. Linda Beth and Gordon loved kids. During our Jr. High days, Gordon was the Youth director at a near by Bible Church that many of us spent weekend nights at during our years at West Jr. High. I have always had a great deal of respect for his parents. I have not seen Gordon or Linda Beth since I was at David's funeral. I can still remember Linda Beth's sweet voice and smile that day. They have such a strong family. They did such a wonderful job raising all of their children. All of them are fine young men. I can still remember getting the phone call from my mother that morning. When she told me that David had been shot, I could not believe it. Even after flying home to Dallas for his funeral, it still was hard to make sense of this tragic event. The question of why him? How? His family is already in so much pain with Linda Beth being sick .... He and Leigh Ann are so in love with each other.... The only thing that makes since to me, is that I know that David is in heaven with Jesus and now with his mother. When ever there is an ending there is also a new beginning. I want to thank you for sharing your journal with so many people. I pray that many people would either read your article or hear about it through friends and it would soften their heart. I also pray that all the McNulty's would find peace in their hearts and that God would take the horrible memories of that night from Mark's mind. If you are still reading this e-mail, I want to thank you for listening.

Betsy Denny, Jackson, MS

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Your story was so well written, and so thought provoking. Being the mom of five sons myself, I felt the pain of the family that was left behind. You made it all seem feel close, and I must admit, I had tears in my eyes when I finished the story.

I felt compassion for them but did feel like the shooter should have had to give up his life too! Young David had so much to live for, and so much to give back to society. We live in a sad world, don't we? Thanks for the time you spent bringing this to us.

Betty Cox, Kingston, OK

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Ms. Blessen. It was an awkward day yesterday. My boss at my new job was talking about stolen credit cards. He mentioned that a friends killer was caught by using his card at a gas station. When he said the name David my eyes widened. What a small world. He had met them at Texas Tech. I went to Richardson High School with twins. He printed your article off the internet for me. It was a remarkable article. I knew all of these people in the article, and there good friends. I have not seen them much after the funeral. I was touched by your article. We go through life not really thinking of death, but it is always there. As is LIFE. Now, as a father I try not to think too much of the "evil that men do". All the child deaths, car deaths, murders, rapes, sexual assaults. When or how do we let our children know of this evil. I want to protect her, but I know there is only so much that I can do. Your article was an awakening to reality we don't want to deal with. Although we must. I thank you again for the article. It has sparked some good conversation with my wife and friend (who knew Dave).

Please take care and continue to challenge man/womankind to be better.
Bobby Heck

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My name is Cory Davies and I was Jon McNulty's roommate our Freshman year at Trinity. He played basketball and I played football so we went separate ways after our first year and then I transferred to the University of Texas after my sophomore year. After I moved to Austin, I lost touch with a lot of my friends back at you can imagine what an eye-opening experience it was to open the paper last Sunday and see my old roommate starring back at me and then reading the tragic story unfolding around his picture.

I don't really have the words and I don't know what I'd say to Jon if I saw him today, but he must be in an unbelievable amount of pain, one that I can not even imagine. The Jon I knew came from a pretty religious background. He never touched a beer our entire freshman year. I was always envious of his strength and his resolve. I'm ashamed that I've been in Dallas for almost five years now and I've yet to look him up. It's even worse when you consider I now reside in Lake Highlands which is practically Richardson, where his family lives.

Please do me a favor and forward a message to Jon; Please tell him that I'm in town and interested in catching up with him. I'd like to tell him how sorry I am about his brother and his mother.

Thank you,

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Your words are beautiful and very moving. The value of a human life vs. the value of a macho "fitting in" image. How can there be any question that human life is more valuable? Detective Muniz's quote: "The value of a person's life is more valuable than anything else" says it all in my opinion. How can we change conflicting value systems on the streets of Dallas and conflicting value systems in the terrorism we witness in national news to preserve human life?

Thank you for a thought provoking article.
Karen Uhr

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I have just finished reading your article "A Ghost in the Garden." I, too, have had interaction with the McNulty family. Linda Beth McNulty was treated at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, one of the hospitals my office raises money for, for cancer and after David's tragic death memorials were sent to the Oncology Dept. at PHD at the request of Mrs. McNulty.

We featured the stories of both David and Linda Beth McNulty in our last issue of PRISM, our annual Foundation publication. Upon learning the terrible loss felt by the McNultys, I found myself deeply saddened and wondering "why?"

After reading what you have written, I somehow feel better seeing David's story a little more clearly, yet I still feel as though I can not fathom why it had to happen.

I sincerely appreciate having had the opportunity to read your article, as do my co-workers who have read it, as well. I just wanted you to know what an impact your words have had on me personally. Thank you for writing this.

Laran Carman
Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation

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I found your article in the Sunday Dallas Morning News beautifully written and terribly moving. The entries from your journal were extremely dynamic. You handled the problems of race and violence in our modern culture fairly, deftly and sensitively.

I also am full of respect for the shrine you have created in your front yard for the young man who was so brutally murdered there. You really had no choice in the matter of it happening in your front yard, yet the Love that you have manifested in the world and through your article is to be commended. You are indeed a blessing to the world, and I thank you, and salute you for it.

I am forced to wonder however, if in this post 9/11 world, you or any one else sees the ironic connection between Christianity and being raised in a so called "Christian" home, and the fact that "12% of black American men between the ages of 20 and 34" are in American prisons.

I question the validity of the current Judeao/Christian/ Islamic paradigm because of the judgmental violence it historically as well as currently seems to bring out in people, regardless of race. It seems to encourage people to have a disregard for Life in this world in favor of "the next," whatever that may be. This belief structure appears to me to be inherently dysfunctional and co-dependent, and seems to make its followers "medicated" at best, psychotic at worst.

That so many black children are raised in this "Christian" culture of religiously glorifying violence (And yes, just look at it, Christianity is at heart very scary and violent, with the father sending the son to be crucified, albeit for the "sins of others", rather than just having the son peacefully teach the "others" some responsibility for their own actions and respect for themselves, each other, and the environment; What kind of father role model is that?!) leads me to not be surprised that so many of them are involved in violent crimes as they grow up.

This of course is a legacy of slavery, (also historically sanctified and approved by The Bible) when all their poor beleaguered enslaved ancestors had to get them through that horror was their hybrid mixture of African and "Christian" faiths. Doesn't anyone else see that their current hip hop culture today that glorifies violence is actually a direct result of their inherited "faith?"

This "faith" is now passed down to their descendants today in a warped inheritance of fear-based brainwashing, glorifying violence and crime in this world, manifesting itself in the "chilling indifference" to death and responsibility for it described in your article by Danny Muniz. I ask, why SHOULD they care, when they are co- dependently taught that someone else has already died for their sins, instead of encouraging them to make the best of themselves in this world, and to take some responsibility for the consequences of their own actions.

While I grieve right along with Frances McNeal, she admits she was out of town when the murder happened. Why wasn't she home, watching her teenaged son? Why wasn't he at home? How did a bunch of "Christian" teenagers get a gun? How could she not have known? How could this have happened in a "Christian" culture?

I have come to believe that the main stream, patriarchal religions are only half of the story, and therefore are misunderstood and misinterpreted by their angry, confused followers. This lopsidedness, I believe, is what's holding us back as a species, and is creating the frustrated, violent culture we live in today, because people understand, deep down inside, that what they are "believing" is wrong; flawed at best, or at least only half of the truth.

While I appreciate the warm fuzzy ending of your article with the memorial service, the awesome memorial stone your husband made, and the I assume Christian minister blessing the street with water, I am still forced to wonder how anyone can draw comfort from a collection of religions that has brought us the Crusades, the Inquisition, the horror of 9/11, the Christian- Vs- Islam attitude of the current regime in Washington, the current Intafada and Islam Vs Jewish/ Jewish Vs Islam attitudes in the so called "Holy Land," the daily suicide bombings and wars and fighting all over the Judeao/Christian/Islamic world, as well as the shooting death of David McNulty, by a young black man that was thoroughly and dysfunctional indoctrinated into the brainwashing of Christianity by his well meaning mother, who was also indoctrinated into that violent, co-dependent "religion," that was actually, historically formed as a spin off cult of Judaism!

Not so surprisingly, the soft spoken Danny Muniz hits the nail on the head when he says, "Humanity needs to learn to love humanity again..." You almost started to go there yourself when you quoted Olive Schreiner who said, "No woman who is a woman says of a human body, ‘It is nothing.' On this point, and this point alone, the knowledge of a woman is superior to that of a man. She knows the history of human flesh; she knows its cost. he does not."

With that in mind, I would like to respectfully posit that perhaps what we as a society need is to strive for a balance between the judgmental, hate filled patriarchal main stream religions with their glorification of violence that sp ills over into our daily culture "on TV and radio," and an attitude of respect and appreciation for the gift of Life here in THIS world, that is manifested by the matriarchal religions currently coming into the mass consciousness of our culture through the so called "New Age" movements.

Perhaps if we as a culture teach our children to love and respect That Which Is Sacred in the planet, each other, and ourselves, to celebrate and respect our differences, and stop all the angry judging and fighting and destroying in the name of God, there will be less judging, less hate, less wars, less suicide bombings, and maybe even less car jackings, robberies, and random, callous heartless shootings by out of control teenagers with absentee parents, not to mention a healthier environment and world peace.

All in all, I was mostly alarmed in your article that when David McNulty was lying there dying, someone was reciting The Lords Prayer. That's all well and good, but that is also what got us into this mess. Perhaps, if we are going to pray Christian prayers, we would be better off to remember the words of the Hail Mary, "...Holy Mary, MOTHER OF GOD, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death."

I send this email to you with the deepest respect for YOU AND what you have been through, how you are trying to deal with it, and the beautiful work of art you have created in the memorial stone in your yard, and the article in the paper itself.

Maurice Griffin, Dallas, TX

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Last night I finally carved out some quiet time to read the article from Sunday's paper. Glad I didn't read it piecemeal with interruptions from TV and phone calls. It deserved full attention. Of course, I was stunned, as most readers probably were, to learn that so many senseless killings take place under our noses with so little outcry from the community. I was particularly moved by Danny Muniz, by his ability to wade in human sewage for a living and still lead a centered, moral life.

As I writer, I appreciate the way you chose to tell the story, with a matter of factness broken by the occasional emotionally charged journal entry. It's as though you, like Danny Muniz, worked to segregate your feelings from the task at hand, acknowledging the validity of each but keeping them separate. A beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing.

Poppy Sundeen

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I started work at H.D. Vest the same day as David McNulty. We played softball together on the company team - me in left field, David in left center and we laughed more than we actually played softball. I remember having the biggest crush on him - mostly because whenever I saw him - in the halls at work, walking across the parking lot, out for a company happy hour - he would always give me a huge grin. I can't say I knew him well, or that I kept in touch with him when I moved away from Dallas, but when friends in Dallas called to tell me about his death, it still hit me as a great loss. A random, senseless, violent thing - that extinguished the life of a good man. My heart goes out to his brothers, his family and friends. Such a tragic loss. And I'm truly bothered that the shooter's excuse for his behavior that night was that he was just "trying to fit in." What kind of world do we live in where that passes for contrition?

Your piece was moving - horrifying in its matter of factness and often heartbreaking. David deserves to be remembered and your story reminded us why.

Tracy Sorrentino,Chicago, IL

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Your article on the senseless death of David McMulty was extraordinary. While it stands as one of the most faith dimming wastes of life that we have heard of, your treatment of it was ironically faith inspiring. Your diligence in assembling the hard data and reactions of those involved was almost as exemplary as the way you managed to distill what precious little essence of beauty was there to be had. We were spellbound from the first paragraph and still haven't stopped reading it in our minds. Excellent work.

If you could, we would like to know where the memorial is, exactly, so that we might pay a short visit, if it wouldn't be an intrusion. We drove all over the Vickery/Abrams area to no avail.

Gratefully, Sybil and Mike Harmon

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I typically throw away most of the DMN Sunday paper in favor of the NY Times and Washington Post. For some reason – your illustration, the arresting "One Bullet" caption, or something else – I retained the Texas Living section. Last night I read – or rather, cried my way through – your article. It was one of the most well-written articles the DMN has ever published. If your goal was to touch the hearts (and minds) of others, you scored a direct hit. I'll hold the McNulty and McNeal families and friends in my prayers for a long time. They have been transformed from anonymous strangers into real people, and my heart grieves for them all. I hope you continue to write, well and often.


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The ghost in the garden was so moving and I wanted to reach out and give you all a hug. What a terrifying experience to hear the voices and to see him lying there and not being able to change anything for him. He was so handsome and he had a beautiful smile. His angels were with him. They took his soul to heaven and allowed him to go in peace and not to suffer, I am glad your husband made the monument and that you had the service of remembrance in your street and yard. This gave closure to his friends and family to know if his spirit was there he knew it was alright to leave and go to God.

Your yard became hallowed ground when he died there and he gave you a gift of the knowledge that senseless acts of violence can touch any of us and we each should treasure what time we were given. I believe when our time arrives that is it, if we are not meant to die at that moment we will be saved, if it is our destiny, then know matter how hard others try to save us we will still pass on.

I am sure that moment in time will never leave you but be assured your dialing 911 right away was what you could do to help him and his friends at that moment. Can you imagine the coldness of buying treats and gas minutes after shooting someone? Like you said that 50 cent bullet changed and touched so many other lives that night, maybe that was the lesson. God chose you and your husband to be there so you could write about it and share the senselessness of it all with others.

Dallas has way too much violence. Maybe this story will make a difference. It was a moving tribute to the victim and hopefully some young person will read it and it will stop another unnecessary act of bravado and proving how bad they are.

Becky Schenaman

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I read your article about David McNulty w/ personal interest, since his dad, Gordon, is my first cousin. I grew up in Dallas and now I live in Houston, but my sister-in-law in Dallas read your article and sent it to me. You commented that you didn't know David. I really didn't know him either. I knew Gordon very well, we spent many holidays and summer vacations together at our shared grandparents in Arkansas. When Gordon was in college he played football (University of Arkansas) and I went w/ my parents (I was a preteen girl), and his parents to most of his games. For the last ten or fifteen years, I only seem to see Gordon at family funerals, once every few years. We, as a family, have always been very fortunate. Other than David and Linda Beth, everyone else has lived full lives, dying at an old age. David's death is the only encounter w/ violence. I remember when David and Jonathan were born. Gordon & Linda Beth were fairly new to Dallas, and my parents were the only other family members living there. Gordon called my dad (Gordon's Mom & my Dad were brother & sister) to tell him that Linda Beth was in labor and that they were headed to the hospital. A couple of hours later, he called back to say it was twins (before ultrasound!). Gordon & Linda Beth took the twins home from the hospital on Matt's 1st birthday! Three babies in one year! My Mom helped Linda Beth w/ the babies when they were little and they were frequently at our house. After I went to college, and subsequently moved away from Dallas, I didn't see them very often. Probably 8 or 10 years had gone by since I had seen Gordon's family, but the last time I saw them all was March of 2000 when Gordon's dad (my uncle) died. David greeted us at the door when we arrived at my aunt & uncle's home. That is my most distinct memory of David. He was tall, very warm, nice. When my Mom called me the morning he died to tell me, all I could think of was the memory of him greeting us at the door 5 months earlier. Gordon had to deal w/ his father's death, Linda Beth's diagnosis of cancer & awful prognosis, and David's death all in 5 months. I can't imagine.

Your article answered many questions that I had about his death. I knew a lot of the facts that you told, but there were a lot of things I didn't know. I know that Linda Beth's faith was so strong. It made me sad about Jonathan being agnostic. I hope he works through that and comes back to God, because God could give him strength & peace. I wonder how Gordon is now? I've considered writing him and this may be the impetus that I need, but I'm not sure how he would feel? I know that Matt is getting married this fall. I hope that will bring them some happiness. Do you know the other boys and did you talk to David's girl friend?

Our family has always been a very happy family and this seemed to be more than anyone should have to bear. Thank you for your article, I hope that writing it will give you peace and closure? I'll also remember Chris in my prayers. I can't imagine his loss. I remember that right after David died, Gordon and Linda Beth were very concerned about David's friends that were w/ him. Now I understand.

Just as you were shocked that violence came unexpectedly to your front yard, we were shocked that anyone in our family would be a victim, in such a random way. David's violent and needless death hurt so many people. I wonder if D.T. and the other boys could even imagine or care. Your memorial to David seemed very touching. I know (I got a letter-did you get the same letter?) from Gordon & Linda Beth saying how blessed they were by all of the efforts from friends, the police, etc.

Mari Kramer

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I was very moved by your article in the Dallas Morning News. . .so much so that I have cut it out and brought it home to North Carolina with me. You have much compassion and insight.

May God hold you close . . .
Rev. Patience Brumley

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Wow! I have been sitting here for an hour with tears in my eyes.My husband and I lived just a few miles from your house and we were some of the folks "stalking" your house shortly after the accident occurred. David was a close friend of my sister in law. What a powerful story you have written. My hat is off to you!

Kristi Lankford

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Karen Blessen's Sunday story "One Bullet" was superb journalism. So many lives are horrifically impacted by this kind of senseless violence, and her experience portrays well the amount of pain that is suffered. Unlike Detective Muniz, however, I believe evil exists, that it has a physical presence, and that some people succumb to it. The absence of love may be indifference, but evil is not the absence of good any more than Satan is the absence of God. Satan is alive and well, and he delights in our misery, especially when we inflict it upon each other.

Larry Burgess, Dallas

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