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WAS JUSTICE SERVED?For the Brutal Murder of Former TIME Magazine Writer/Reporter Julie R. Grace
By Nancy Hoffman
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Nancy Hoffman and Ruth Grace
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhy Did This Happen to Julie?
No matter how long I live, I'll always be haunted and tormented by the horrible news I received at approximately 7:45 the morning of Tuesday, May 20th, 2003. Hearing the phone ring, I quickly went over, picked it up and said, "Hello," confident that I would be hearing my daughter Julie respond back with, "Hi, Mom." It had been a few days since I had spoken with her, and I was very excited that she had finally called, as I was beginning to really worry. She and I typically spoke one or more times a day, and even though I had tried numerous times to reach her, she never answered her phone. I thought, finally, she's calling to let me know why I hadn't heard from her since last week. I believed my worries were over. I could now relax, knowing everything was okay.
However, that was not the case, and my excitement soon turned into horror and shock. Instead of hearing Julie's voice, what I heard was the voice of Edward Heerdt, a detective from the Chicago Police Department. My heart sank and my body went numb as he told me the news that Julie was dead, and the cause of her death was under investigation. He went on to say that George Thompson had been arrested and taken into custody.
"What? No way! Julie cannot be dead! You've made a mistake. It can't be my Julie!" These phrases kept running rampantly through my head.
What the detective said to me after that fell on deaf ears. I was confident I was having a very bad nightmare, and as soon as I woke up everything would be fine. Julie would call me and let me know what she had been doing. We'd discuss her plans for the day, just as we had always done.
My husband of forty-six years, Duard, was standing beside me watching my reaction as Detective Heerdt relayed the dreadful news. Soon after hearing that Julie was dead, I became speechless. Sensing my severe state of shock, the detective asked to speak to my husband. I handed the phone to Duard. Detective Heedt relayed the news of Julie's death to him. Duard asked some questions, and then the detective proceeded to explain what procedures had to be followed in the handling of Julie's remains.
After hanging up the phone, Duard and I stood motionless, still in disbelief that our Julie was gone. Why? What happened? In those long, agonizing moments, no matter what the detective had told us, we knew. Julie had become a victim of domestic violence. An investigation wasn't necessary. There was no question in our minds that George had killed her.
The loss of Julie was almost more than either of us could handle, but life goes on, and that's what we knew we had to do. Duard and I had been through a lot during our life together, but we'd never experienced anything as devastating as Julie's death. We knew we had to lean on each other and remain strong in order to accomplish our goal of seeing Julie's killer convicted of murder. It was going to happen. We weren't sure when, but we knew it would happen, and we were both committed to seeing that it did because that was the only way justice for Julie's murder could be served.
Although we were deeply grieved by the detective's phone call, Duard and I asked each other why this had happened to our daughter and searched for answers, hoping that would somehow ease our pain. We questioned, "Where did we go wrong? What should we have done to protect Julie? Could we have kept this from happening if we had just made her move out of Chicago?" Over and over again we continued to blame ourselves for Julie's untimely death. We had thoughts that if we had raised her differently she would still be alive, well, and happy. After all, how could someone with such an outgoing personality be the victim of this horrible tragic death?
Looking for answers, both Duard and I continued to focus more and more of our attention on Julie's life, trying to determine how we had failed her. We had moments where we believed that if we had been better parents, Julie would not have been so trusting of people but rather would have been more cautious of everyone she met, especially those with whom she developed close relationships. Over and over again we mentally researched Julie's and our past to try and determine what we did wrong. Even though we knew we couldn't bring our Julie back, we thought that perhaps by retracing our past we would learn what we should have done to have prevented her death. We were both so disturbed and distraught, and we desperately searched for answers to help us understand what led to Julie's untimely death.
I thought maybe it was my fault, as Duard was always a very good husband and a wonderful father to our children. Duard had been raised in a very poor household; however, his father always stressed to his children that they needed to set high goals for themselves and work very hard to attain them. As a result, Duard and his siblings did just that, and each grew up to be a very successful and productive adult. Because of the way he was raised, Duard impressed these same beliefs and convictions upon our children. His drive and determination to succeed were things I always admired about him. Yes, Duard was a good man who loved his family very much. He always did everything possible to be a good provider and role model for his children.
I'll never forget the day I met Duard. There was no doubt in my mind the moment I saw him that he was someone I really wanted to get to know. I was nineteen years old, and he was twenty-seven. It was summer, and I had just graduated from Scottsboro High School, a small school in northern Alabama, and was spending a few weeks with my aunt in Homewood, Illinois, before starting nursing school in the fall. However, my career plans soon changed after I met the love of my life.
It was on a Sunday afternoon after church when a girlfriend talked me into going to one of our local restaurant hangouts in Harvey, Illinois, a small suburb of Chicago. While having lunch, I noticed a very handsome man seated at another table. We exchanged glances, and soon after, he came over and introduced himself. He told me he had recently graduated from David Lipson College in Tennessee with his bachelor's degree in psychology and business administration. He had been teaching two years in Tinley Park, Illinois. He went on to say that he had been in the army two years and attended college under the GI bill.
Well, it was love at first sight when I met this handsome, six-foot-three, slender built man with black curly hair and dark brown eyes. We talked awhile, and then he said he was going to the movies and asked me to come along. Although I wanted to, I told him I could not go because I had just met him. Instead, I invited him to come to my aunt's house the following weekend. Without hesitation he graciously accepted my invitation. I was so excited. I couldn't wait to see him again.
Well, that was the beginning of our whirlwind courtship. Duard came over the following Saturday, met my aunt, and we started dating. After a couple of dates I knew he was the man I wanted to marry. But how could this be, I wondered? I thought I was in love with my high school boyfriend, who I had been dating for four years.
Teddy was a basketball player. He was a few years older than me, so we weren't able to see much of each other, as he was off at college. However, when he came home to Scottsboro we always got together. Prior to meeting Duard, I believed Teddy and I would one day get married, even though we had never discussed marriage and had made no plans.
I loved spending time with Duard. He liked to party, smoke, and drink, something I was never allowed to do growing up in a religious household. My dad was a Christian minister, so he did not look at smoking and drinking in a favorable way.
Duard had one favorite hangout, a bowling alley that had a small bar. Musical entertainment was provided by a coin-operated jukebox. There was never a live band. Because we had no car, everywhere we went was on foot. The bowling alley was close, so that's the main reason we picked it for our usual hangout place.
Being raised as a minister's daughter, my exposure to any activities outside the church was limited, so I had never met anyone like Duard. We loved going out, and he labeled me as a cheap date because I only ordered one drink all night. When I introduced Duard to my dad, he immediately liked him even though my dad would have preferred he was someone who didn't smoke or drink. However, Mom and Dad were very happy we had found each other and never discouraged us from being together.
On November 25, 1956, three months after we met, Duard and I were married by the justice of the peace in a small town in Indiana. We had no money, so we could not afford a big wedding. Duard and I asked two of our close friends to stand up with us. After we got married, the four of us went to the corner café in Harvey, Illinois, to celebrate. Duard called his parents to tell them the news, and I called mine. All were very happy and excited for us.
Our first home was a one-bedroom apartment in Harvey. Duard continued teaching at Tinley Park, and I stayed home. Approximately one year after we were married I became pregnant, and on August 12, 1958, I gave birth to a cute bouncing baby boy, Glenn Duard Grace.
Chapter TwoRaising Glenn And Julie
Since we now had three people living in a one-bedroom apartment, Duard said it was time to find a bigger place, so we packed up and moved into a small three-bedroom house in Harvey. A few months after Glenn was born, Duard realized he needed to make more money to support his family. That is when he returned to college and began working on his master's degree. While continuing to work full time as a teacher, he attended night school at the University of Chicago.
Upon receiving his master's degree in psychology, Duard was promoted to principal at Tinley Park School. Soon after being promoted, construction began on our new home in Country Club Hills, a small suburb of Chicago, which was near Tinley Park. Within a few months the house was finished, and Duard, Glenn, and I moved once again. It was so nice to be able to move into a new home all our very own. Even better yet, within a short time I became pregnant with our second child. Things were good for us, and we were very happy.
On March 30, 1962, at 3:15 AM, Julie Ruth Grace entered this world weighing in at a whopping eight pounds nine ounces. Taking after her dad's tall, slender build, she measured twenty-two inches long. Julie was born at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, Illinois. I was twenty-four years old, and Duard was thirty-two.
Born almost three weeks late, I experienced a difficult childbirth, and both Julie and I almost died. Fortunately, we both survived, and Duard was very thankful Mom and daughter suffered no ill effects. He and I were so thrilled and proud to have a healthy, beautiful baby girl to join her very active four-year-old big brother Glenn. Although I was told I could not have any more children, I didn't care. We had the perfect family—one boy and one girl—and that was good enough for Duard and me.
The effects of the difficult childbirth left me very weak and tired for a few days afterward. I was so bad that I was in no condition to even see, let alone hold, my daughter. However, I'll never forget how wonderful it felt when I was finally able to cuddle my Julie in my arms. Her tiny little body, her big brown eyes, and her black hair were all so beautiful. From the moment she was born she was always very special to her dad, brother, and me, and she was loved and adored by everyone she met.
Julie was always a very busy little girl, even as a baby. Of course, she had big brother Glenn, who was more than willing to teach her a thing or two. Thanks to him, she learned how to climb out of her playpen before she could even walk. Glenn loved his baby sister and couldn't wait until she was big enough to play with him. Julie worshiped her big brother Glenn, and, in order to keep up with him, she became a tomboy at a very early age. The two of them were always great friends, and both were very good kids. They seldom created any problems for Duard and me, except for the usual sibling rivalry that comes along with the raising of children in any normal family.
As a mother of two, I spent most of my time caring for my family, as Duard never wanted me to work outside the home. He always believed I should be home to raise and take care of our family. I loved being a mom and taking care of Glenn and Julie, so that was never a problem for me.
Once we became a family of four, Duard knew it was time to set another goal. He could see that a bigger income was needed to support our growing family. To accomplish this goal, he decided that once again he would return to college and get his PhD in psychology. He told me that the family would have to move close to Bloomington, Illinois, for a couple of years. He asked me if that would be okay. Because I was confident Duard knew what was best for our family, I never questioned his decision to return to college even though it would result in a temporary move for us. For that reason I told him it was fine, even though I knew I would miss living in Tinley Park. I understood Duard's reason for making this decision and was willing to do whatever he felt was necessary for our family.
Our moving meant we had to do something with the house where we were living. We decided to rent it to another family for the two years while Duard was attending school. When finished with college, our plan was to move back into our house in Country Club Hills, and Duard would complete his one-year internship at Tinley Park. Well, it just so happened that the high school coach of Tinley Park and his family were in need of a place to live, so they were happy to rent our home.
When Duard finished college and we were anticipating our move back to our home in Country Club Hills, the coach and his family didn't want to move and asked if we would sell our house to them. Duard and I discussed the coach's offer and decided that once Duard had completed his internship we wanted to move to the small rural town of Taylorville, Illinois. Duard and I agreed to sell and then rented another house in Country Club Hills for one year.
Upon completion of his internship, Duard accepted a job as psychologist for Mid State Special Education. This was the perfect job for him, as he loved working with kids starting with preschool age and going up through high school. Covering several counties in Illinois, Duard was able to play an integral role in the educational development of many children. Duard was always good with kids, and he wanted all of them to live a prosperous and successful life. Just as he was with his own children, he was always willing to do whatever he could to help other kids achieve their goals and expectations.
When we made the move to Taylorville, Julie was four years old and Glenn was eight. At first we rented a house while we were looking for a place to buy. Approximately one year later, we found and purchased a nice, older, two-story home that was in need of much renovation. Duard and I decided it would be the perfect place to raise our family and were ready to take on the task of completely renovating both floors and the basement. Once all our hard work was completed, our finished home was perfect for us. It had a huge master bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom downstairs. Upstairs was a loft with a bathroom and two bedrooms for Julie and Glenn. The laundry room was located in the finished basement along with a workout room for Glenn's weight-lifting equipment. A pool table and a Ping-Pong table were situated in the basement and were used when Glenn's friends came to visit.
It was a very comfortable home, and Duard, Glenn, Julie, and I all loved living there. Even after Glenn and Julie were grown and had moved away, Duard and I continued to reside there until we moved to Tallahassee, Florida, in1989. For more than twenty-four years this house was home. All four of us had very fond memories of our life in our home at 805 West Poplar Street. Julie's childhood and teenage memories always held a special place in her heart, and she wanted those memories preserved forever. Today I have a watercolor painting of our Taylorville home hanging on my dining room wall. Julie had it painted for her dad, and she presented it to him on his seventieth birthday.
Excerpted from WAS JUSTICE SERVED? by Nancy Hoffman Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Hoffman and Ruth Grace. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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