A Parole Update
Ten days after my memoir Working for Justice was released, and just nine and a half years after my mother’s murderer was convicted, I received digital notification that he was eligible for parole.
To describe the e-mail as a swift kick to the gut is an extreme understatement. After a few days, however, my perspective shifted. The timing was serendipitous, if anything; I would use every ounce of amplification that my book allowed me to share about this shocking development.
As the days passed and I gained more information, I found out that I would be given time to speak at the hearing (which would be conducted via Zoom). I was informed that if denied parole, my brother would receive either 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, or 15 more years in prison. My biggest hope was to pen a compelling enough statement that would keep him behind bars for as long of a chunk of time as possible. My biggest fear was he would be let out. I had a thousand and a half other emotions in between, but I didn’t have the energy to ruminate on most of them. Instead, I wrote those four months away in preparation.
The morning of the parole hearing, Zoom refused to work.
I signed on a couple minutes before 8:30; I had double-checked the e-mail a thousand times just to make sure I wouldn’t miss the time. No matter my efforts, I arrived in the virtual meeting room fifteen minutes late. Those wasted fifteen minutes were filled with dread and anxiety. Would the meeting commence without me? What would happen if I don’t get to speak? The thought of not being able to attend hadn’t even crossed my mind in the past. I mean, I had just spent months confirming I’d be permitted, even found a typo in an e-mail from a court official permitting me in to the wrong parole hearing. I caught the clerical error and wondered what would have happened if I didn’t. That is the nature of my anxiety: I imagine all the things that could go wrong, so I’m prepared if they do.
What happened at the parole hearing though? I could never have imagined in a thousand years.
When I finally entered the “room,” my brother was already engaged in an argument with the parole board. He had a mask on, but it was easy to see his eyes vibrating in their shells and all of his new prison tattoos snaking up his arms. He was gesturing wildly as he lamented about feeling unprepared and uneducated for his parole hearing. The parole board nodded at me as I entered, and they explained to Rory that his lack of preparation was his fault, that firing his lawyer was sure to leave him with little help. He quipped about how “dumb” she had been, and that’s when the parole board shut the conversation down. They welcomed me verbally at that time, confirmed my identity, and began recording.
Rory was given the chance to speak first; I had no idea what he was going to say, and absolutely no way of preparing myself for what came next.
As soon as the parole hearing was officially underway, my brother began, “I came in here a bad man, and I’ve only gotten worse over the years.” He went on to explain (and I quote) that he had been responsible for “over 90 stabbings since getting in” there, “mostly for money.” He then explained he had no desire to get out of prison, that he knows he’s a lifer, and he can only “get worse from here on out.”
My skin was crawling and my blood was boiling at this point. How was this man up for parole? I interjected, “You’ve already done the worst thing you possibly could. You killed Mom, my best friend.”
To which he replied, “I could do a lot worse.” Then he recited a recent address of mine and said, “I could have your whole family killed.”
He lowered his mask and sneered at me, and drew a line across his throat with his thumb to simulating slicing it. The parole board watched it all.
“Sir, you understand this is all on record, right?” a parole board member says.
“Of course. I just said I never expect to get out though, so who cares?”
He slices at his throat with his thumb again. Then he flicks me off. I can’t help but return the gesture. He laughed, and that’s when the parole board asked me to mute myself and turn off the camera.
After my screen went silent, he asked, “By the way, what are my rights? What’s going to happen next?”
A member of the parole board explained what I had learned before; at parole hearings, California inmates are given either a future parole date, or an extended sentence. Rory went on to ask what other powers he may have. The parole board member explained that in COVID there was a new policy temporarily enacted that allows him to postpone his parole hearing for up to two years. He pulls down his mask again and smiles, cracked and yellowing teeth advancing at me like daggers.
“That’ll piss her off,” he says, pointing to the camera, “So yeah, I’ll do it.”
“Do what? Postpone your hearing for two years?” they ask.
“Yessir, I’ll do that,” he says. “I mean, I’ve got some family up North. I’ve been trying to get moved up there to see them, get some support. Do you think I could maybe get transferred?” He waves a small stack of letters towards the camera and grins, “My mom’s sister, she supports me. Maybe I’ll move up there, get some love, a couple self-help classes, and I’ll be all good to get out.” He laughs heartily, completely defying what he had just said a few minutes before about never rehabilitating. The blood drains from my face.
He knows mentioning my aunt will tear me up inside. See, my mother has two sisters. One is my children’s grandma; the moment my mom was killed, she stepped up as a mentor, guide, friend, and surrogate mama when I need one. She paid for Mom’s funeral because in the Jewish religion, we must bury the dead within about a week of death, and I had no way of amassing over $25,000 in that short amount of time. I paid her back eventually, but when I say “she has been my savior when I’ve needed loved the most,” it does not do her justice. She is an Earth-bound angel. So much so, that she was actually sitting beside me at the hearing, watching all of these threats unfold, as she had with my mom over the past years, too.
My other aunt, on the other hand, is petty and simple. She gave me a receipt for $90 after Mom’s funeral. She wanted money back for the small bouquet of flowers she bought for her sister’s funeral. If that doesn’t tell you what type of person she is, I don’t know what would. It also should tell you about their relationship as sisters; Mom was the baby and (we’ll call her) DiDi was the oldest. DiDi has always been jealous of my mother, and also relatively mean. I can remember her condescending tone towards Mom whenever they spoke. It’s the same tone she takes on with me now. My aunt DiDi was a teacher. She has always wanted to be an author, too. Also a divorcee. She has a mentally ill son. The parallels were always too much for DiDi, I think. Instead of drawing them together it created a rivalry that kept them from ever being close. I think it’s done the same here with her and I.
When my book came out, I even received a text from Didi’s daughter (who often “represents the family” in a similarly controlling way my brother did) stating she wouldn’t be reading my book, but that she wanted to share her side of the story. I very clearly told them that I would not be listening to anyone’s opinion about the abuse I’ve faced until they can take a moment to hear me. So, to find out at the hearing that they had taken the time to listen to Rory? The man who had verbally, mentally, physically, and sexually abused me over a twenty year period?
It was almost as gutting as the death threat. Almost.
The saving grace, I think, is that I have to pity them more than anything. All I can imagine is that Rory has manipulated them in to believing we were abused as kids, that is the only reason I can imagine them supporting him. I imagine Rory said Mom hit us and was physical with us, verbally abusive, too. Never mind that it was actually him exacting these attacks on Mom and I.
I simply have to pity them for being selfish. I also have to pity them because they are not discerning, or intuitive, or even kind, apparently. Lastly, I have to pity them because they are being abused by Rory, too. Pity aside, however, I blocked them on social media the moment the hearing was over. I also reached out and let them know I would be. I went on to explain that I cannot carry on a relationship with anyone who keeps in contact with Rory, to do so would be endangering my family. And being a mother always comes first. Mom taught me that.
That is all to say, after Rory had stated his decision to postpone the hearing for two more years, I crumbled. The thought of reconvening, of seeing his face again, crushed me. So, I unmuted my camera and shouted, “He molested me! He abused us so much! How is this possible?”
The parole board member spoke over me kindly but firmly. “Ma’am, you’ll still be given a chance to speak even if he’s postponing. Please wait until it’s your turn.”
Rory tugged his mask down again and grinned, “Do I have to stay and listen to her though?”
The parole board confirmed he had the power to leave and that they would look in to getting him a prison transfer.
Then he said, “Yeah, I’m done.”
He rose in preparation to exit the room.
But before he was out of frame he said, “By the way I know I’m shitty, but my sister’s pretty shitty, too,” then exited the room before I began to speak.
I was defeated. I had no desire to make a statement if he wasn’t there to hear it. He had avoided hearing my words fourteen years before, how could he do the same now? Still, the parole board encouraged me to read. They informed me Rory would be given a transcript of the hearing after the fact, so he could read it then. But they also needed to hear my statement, too, if for nothing else but their record. So, I did. I read my statement to a virtual room of parole board members and one of the parole officers that had sat behind my brother. It was as follows:
A few weeks ago I was given the ability to tell our family story for an episode of a popular true crime show. In the process, the producers gave me several things to prepare for today: Rory’s current mug shot, his interrogation tape, and the letters he wrote to an inmate about me, to name a few things. These aforementioned letters, which Rory penned nearly four years in to his jail time and right before he was convicted, attempted to place the blame for my mother’s murder on me. He begins, and I quote… “A couple years ago when my sister initially came up with the idea to do ‘this thing’ the first thing she said is ‘you won’t get a life sentence…’” He goes on to write, “I said I would get the electric chair.”
He continues to purport that I told him he could live with me and I would split the money I got after Mom was dead. He also wrote that I suggested to “kill her when I’m in Mexico with everyone.” In the next letter, which I never saw until the filming, he attempted to hire an inmate to stalk me, leave me incessant notes, and (according to the inmate, even though it wasn’t written in the letter) eventually kill me if I did not comply.
I think it’s crucial to understand he was prepared to boldly lie and allegedly elicit murder to get rid of me, only four years after killing Mom.
In deep contrast to these letters were the interrogation tape. I’m not sure if you’ve heard it, but it is chilling. In it he shares that he and my mom were fighting, and he didn’t want to hear her bull shit anymore, so he killed her. When asked what he used to do it, he said exactly this: “A kitchen knife, it should still be in her neck.”
I mention these things not to cast doubt upon me, but to establish Rory’s absolutely sociopathic existence. Also because after fourteen years, the murder of my mother still haunts me every day. Finding her there on the floor, with a knife sticking out of her neck, was the most traumatic thing I will ever go through. And yet still, my lifelong abuser is being enabled, and perhaps released, after years of torture that persisted after imprisonment. Both events are almost equally as traumatic.
To address what he’s purported in his letters, I’d like to begin by saying, I can never even speak about my mom and her murder or anyone’s murder for that matter and call it “this thing,” as Rory callously wrote. I have lost loved ones because I cannot speak with anything but candidness about my mother’s murder and the horrible preceding abuse she and I experienced at Rory’s hands.
To go on, I would never hurt her. She and I were best friends. The trip to Mexico Rory mentioned in his letter to the inmate? The last time I ever headed there before Mom’s murder was with Mom on a Mother-daughter cruise. I could never have hurt her, and I never even spoke about doing so. In fact, in our past I thwarted so many conversations from Rory as he begged, “I’m gonna kill her. Just let me make it to Mexico, I promise you can have everything.” I, of course, thought he was kidding to a certain degree, despite his abusive nature. I was just raised by Mom to believe the best in people.
Oh, and in regards to money? All I inherited was a house full of pock marks in the walls from Rory’s angry outbursts and the history of my mom’s murder on its kitchen floor. Also, I inherited an accidental death life insurance policy. It was the only one that did not name Rory as a beneficiary, and it is the only one (of about 20 policies) that covered murder. Mom knew Rory was going to kill her, and she did everything to continue protecting me from the grave. So, there really wasn’t anything for Rory to ever inherit. As far as I am concerned, he deserves nothing, except a Life sentence.
Yet here we are, UNDER TEN YEARS AFTER CONVICTION.
However, for you to truly understand why Rory needs to remain in prison, I need to go back much further than four years after his capture, even earlier than Mom’s murder, too. I want to tell the rest of the story that neither Mom nor I ever got to share because we were never given a trial. I’m here to expose the over twenty years of verbal, physical, mental, emotional, and sometimes even sexual abuse, we endured at Rory’s hands. I’m here, as one of many victims coming forward in today’s political climate to plead for you to start a new tradition of effective public service support for our family.
To begin, Rory has been a manipulative liar since as far back as even his preschool teacher could remember. She came up to me at Mom’s funeral, which had over 1,000 attendees, to tell me so. Mom used to tell me stories of him selling fake treasure maps to passerby at the grocery store when he was only 4; Mom thought this was entrepreneurial now in retrospect I suppose this was his beginning as a conman. He continued on in to adolescence, stealing Oreos out of the pantry and lying through gritty, blackened teeth that I had eaten them.
Eventually he added obscene anger to his emotional repertoire. I remember him punching holes in the walls and shoving Mom as early as the age of 13. She was wheelchair-bound and legally handicapped for many of those attacks. He molested me when he was around fifteen and I was 12. I think it’s important to note this happened before any suicide attempts or mental health issues. It’s also important to note how he did it, and that he blackmailed me in to masturbating with different objects in front of him. He kept these items in his drawers as totems and also as punishments/threats to me. I think it’s essential to see that he was even shrewd enough at abuse in his early teen years. So much so that he sexually abused me without ever even touching me, and made me think it was truly my fault.
Eventually the abuse got extremely blatant though; he advanced at me with a knife once and sliced my finger when Mom was gone, and blackmailed me in to saying I did it to myself while cooking. He came up behind me and kicked me in the vagina when I was around 17. It hurt immensely and I bled for a few days; his reasoning was because he wanted to know if it hurt a woman to be kicked in the vagina. Mom kicked him out of the house for a bit for that since he was already 20, but he always sweet-talked his way back with promises of peace and kindness; I don’t fault Mom for believing in him. I’m a mom now, and I would never want to think the worst of my children. And I never did share about my sexual abuse because of the burden I felt by it. It seemed my fault and my cross to bear, as most victims feel at one time or another.
However, his eventual worst advances were always towards Mom. And they occurred mostly when I was gone to classes at CSUN. These attacks eventually began to include things like an aerosol can and a lighter, or other household objects-turned-dangerous weapons.
I feel the need to say at this point that the only reason I don’t cry profusely as I recount these stories now is because, by now, I’ve shared them on the internet, on TV, and in therapy many times. The power they and Rory hold over me has diminished over the years and through my extensive work.
But when Rory killed Mom, I lost my best friend. My children lost their grandmother. A community lost a beloved teacher. Friends lost their confidante. My aunt lost her sister. Rory stole the life of a woman who had, months before her murder, allowed a student to move in with us. Her student had been kicked out of her home because her own mother found out she was pregnant two weeks shy of graduation and her 18th birthday. The student lived in Rory’s room while he was in jail for assaulting Mom. Mom had returned to work not many years earlier, after recovering from her disability, but she laid her job on the line to help. That’s the type of person Mom was. That’s the type of person Rory stole from the world.
By the way, that student went in to premature labor the day after Mom’s murder.
Meanwhile, Rory in all of this, was mostly concerned with his food. It wasn’t long in his jailing that he told me he signed up as “Orthodox because the food is better when you say you’re kosher.” We had the opportunity to speak because I visited him a few times before he was convicted. These visits were an attempt to have him sign over my portion of the inheritance, which was held up in the legal battle he was causing, and left me with bills at 22 for things like my mom’s funeral and her mortgage. He didn’t sign over even my half of my mom’s modest estate until I bought him books and gave him some chump change.
At one point, I had hoped jail was helping to reform Rory. But his actions since his conviction have shown no progression or self-awareness either, even aside from his letters to the inmate. For example, when my Dad died in 2017 Rory refused to bury him in the plot my father actually bought himself. Instead Rory made a deal to bury my father wherever my seventeen-year-old brother wanted to bury him so Rory himself could procure a “burial plot in Israel” as a trade. I mention this because again Rory had forgone my father’s wishes, another human being’s last requests, in order to fulfill his own desires.
It wasn’t until 2019 that I found out Rory had also stolen my social security number weeks or months before murdering Mom. He did so so he could open a Sprint account after he had defrauded them using his own number. I didn’t find out until 2019 when I attempted to get a new phone number for the first time in a decade and a half. Rory had ruined my history with Sprint, and I had to clear up over $900 worth of late fees and charges he still owed. His terrible actions continued to literally cost me (not just emotionally) twelve years after he killed my best friend.
And here we are two years later considering giving him a possible out. He deserves and should serve a life sentence, and I deserve as long of a period of peace of mind as this system will give me.
I’m here, as one of many victims coming forward in today’s political climate to plead for you to start a new tradition of effective public service support for our family. I have spent the last fourteen years since Mom’s slaughter creating a victim’s advocacy and criminal justice education space, and I have a massive community behind me by now.. both within Calabasas and worldwide. Mom was an advocate and helper through and through, and that’s why I will never give up on the task of advocating for justice for her. Mom’s massive impact will also never leave me. I mention all of this because if Rory does not receive more time behind bars, I will use every ounce of support and amplification my book, my ever-growing social media platforms, my community, my friends, and my family allow me to bring light to the terrible continued treatment Mom and I face at the hands of my murderous brother, as well as this system.
The moment I was done speaking, we stopped recording. And the parole board members said something “off the record.”
“Unfortunately, the threat he made towards you and your family cannot gain him an additional sentence, but it absolutely will effect our decision about parole here on out. Also, he is right about prison. It’s a dark place filled with bad people; it’s possible he’s stabbed 90 people since he’s gone there because people turn the other cheek all the time. Chances are slim he’ll ever get out.”
But slim chances are still chances. So, I guess I’ll be seeing him again in two years, and as many more times as I must to keep him locked up.
Thanks for sticking with me through this hellish process. It honestly makes it infinitely more bearable.