Die, My Love
A True Story of Revenge, Murder, and Two Texas Sisters
Violence can erupt at the quietest moments, in the most secure places, to the unlikeliest victims. So it was early on the morning of October 30, 2004, in the tranquil Richmond, Virginia, suburb of Kingsley. From that moment forward, lives would be changed and perceptions of the world forever altered. Family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues would understand with a new certainty how selfish and dangerous love can be.
Throughout Kingsley, massive oaks and maples surrounded impressive brick homes set back from streets that rolled with a gentle undulation. The entrance to the subdivision was marked with a prim green and white sign, and the day before Halloween, well-tended yards were replete with leaf-bag pumpkins and scarecrows fashioned of worn jeans and faded plaid shirts stuffed with brittle straw. Bedsheet ghosts wafted gently in the breeze as they dangled from the near barren limbs of trees still clutching the last remains of fall's red and gold. The following morning daylight savings time would begin, and the streets would be bright at just past six-thirty. But this morning Hearthglow Lane remained shrouded in night.
As the gunshots echoed through the quiet neighborhood, dogs barked in yards and frightened neighbors rousted from bed ran to windows, where they stared out into the quiet streets. Only a gray-haired salesman named Bob McArdle caught a fleeting glimpse of a mysterious figure sprinting through the neighborhood, directly in front of his house. A jogger? he wondered. Perhaps. Or could this person—he couldn't tell if it was a man orwoman—be responsible for the gunfire?
"Maybe it was only a car backfiring?" the 911 dispatcher asked, questioning him.
"No," McArdle, a former Marine, insisted. "It was gunfire."
Within minutes of the 911 call a Henrico County squad car snaked slowly down Hearthglow Lane, shining high-beam flashlights that threw shimmering funnels of light across lawns, onto front doors, and into the curtained windows of homes where some families lingered in bed as others gathered for breakfast, preparing for the errands and plans that awaited them that Saturday. In the darkness, three uniformed officers searched but found nothing out of the ordinary on Hearthglow, convincing them the gunshots must have originated elsewhere. They fanned out, combing the rest of the neighborhood. It had happened before, reports of gunshots that were never explained, the source never found. They must have wondered: Was there anything to look for in the early morning darkness? It seemed unlikely. Bloodshed was an uncommon visitor to Richmond's affluent bedroom communities called the West End.
At first glance the stately brick home at 1515 Hearthglow Lane appeared unremarkable. Inside the house, steaming coffee drained into a glass pot in the kitchen, while upstairs in their bedrooms, three children slept peacefully, unaware of the nightmare that awaited them. Once they awoke, nothing in their young lives would ever be the same. How could they ever forget the horror of this chill fall morning?
Outside on the long, narrow asphalt driveway, their father, Fred Jablin, lay dying, his life leaking out in a steady stream of dark crimson blood.
On his stomach with his head turned to the side, Fred's eyes were open and staring out toward the street. When he'd fallen, he landed on a thin bed of brown leaves, his head hitting a row of brick that lined the driveway, directly under his children's basketball hoop. Later observers would describe him as lying in a near fetal position, knees slightly bent, as if in death he'd tried to retreat into the tightness of his very beginnings, his mother's womb.
All around Fred the breeze whispered, a susurrus born of ruffling, withering leaves.
Of all the ways death can come, who would have predicted that Fred Jablin's life would end this way, gunned down in his own driveway? He was the most improbable of victims.
The world knew Fred as an esteemed University of Richmond professor, a man who lectured to thousands across the world, whose ideas helped define the field of organizational communication. His work and his life were based on logic and painstaking attention to detail, and his personal habits were regimented. A meticulous man, he kept to a precise routine. It was that predictable schedule that had made him so vulnerable: Those close to him knew that each morning at approximately six, he awoke, put on coffee to brew, then walked not out the front door, but the back one, near the kitchen, to claim his newspaper off the driveway.
Perhaps this morning he had smiled as he emerged from the house, anticipating the pleasure of the Saturday that lay ahead: the neighborhood's annual pumpkin festival, an afternoon with his children, a time to play and feel young again. Did he see the figure emerging from the shadows as he shuffled outside in slippers, navy blue sweatpants and sweatshirt? As he looked down the barrel of the gun, was he surprised? Or had he often feared this might happen?
Did he plead for his life or turn to run, desperate to escape? Did the intruder say anything as the trigger was pulled? Did Fred Jablin cry out in horror into the pitch-dark night?
It happened so quickly, life changing on a dime, as they say. One moment Fred was planning his day, anticipating all that lay ahead—then three gunshots, and suddenly he had no future. What went through his mind in those final, brief moments as he lay dying? Did postcards of his fifty-two years flash before him? Did he wonder how his world had gone so terribly wrong?
Or, as his consciousness faded, did Fred Jablin pray, entreating God to keep his children from finding his lifeless body? In his last moments of life, perhaps he simply replayed over and over again a question he'd asked so often, a question to which many doubted he'd ever found an answer: Why? Die, My Love
A True Story of Revenge, Murder, and Two Texas Sisters
. Copyright © by Kathryn Casey. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.