Oct 07, 2021
5 mins read
My son Donald and I were very close and I feel most mothers would have done exactly what I have done if they were in my situation. Information came to me, and once I was aware, there was no turning back.
My motivation has been to turn something so horrible into something worthy of my son’s death. I had to find some balance to the evil. I had to find justice.
Instead of my honorable son being senselessly killed by a corrupt judge and a handful of drunks, it has been much easier to rationalize that my son’s death resulted in stopping five terrible threats to society; Judge Gossett, Malcolm McBurnett, Allen Schmidt, the bar owner Tracy Lawson and Samantha Turner, the bartender who served Allen Schmidt another drink as my son lay dying in the road.
I spent three years visiting San Angelo before my son was killed and I would like the people of San Angelo to know how much I loved my son, and how the actions of a few evil people do not cancel the goodness of the people of San Angelo.
The first time I was in San Angelo was in 2006. I had driven a car from Detroit to San Angelo to give to my son Donald, then I flew back home to Detroit. He was a new Marine, in a city far from home, and it was like a movie when he turned the corner in an open jeep, wearing his cami's, as I waited for him. He was smiling from ear to ear and so was I.
I stayed on the Goodfellow Air Force Base and my heart exploded with pride as I saw my son being part of such an honorable institution as the United States Marine Corps.
One morning, before dawn, I sat in the stands of the track where the Marines were doing PT - Physical Training. Unlike the other military branches, Marines must maintain battle ready physical standards throughout their career. All Marines are tested every six months on these physical standards.
As I sat there, I watched the Marines run around the track, do push-ups, pull-ups, etc., and I will never forget watching my son and the other Marines run up and down the field with another Marine on their shoulders. Leave no man behind.
In 2009, I moved from Detroit to San Antonio. It is just a three hour drive from San Antonio to San Angelo and at least once a month, either I would drive to San Angelo or Donald would drive to San Antonio, on a Friday night, and we would spend the weekend together.
We especially loved spending time together in San Angelo. Unlike the city where we are from, which has frequently been called the Murder Capital, we found San Angelo to be peaceful. No matter where we went, the people in San Angelo were kind and sincere and charming.
I have so many wonderful memories of being with my son in San Angelo; the Lily Ponds, college baseball games, Sealy Flats, The Deadhorse, Mar-Tiques, Cortez Flag Shop, The Boat Races, Eggemeyer’s, Tarpley Music, The Riverwalk, especially at Christmas, the sheep statues, breakfast burritos, real cowboys, long horns, cotton fields, murals, and the happy sound of accordions and trumpets flowing through the air.
Yes, the death of my son is a horrible memory, but it is not my only memory and I feel terrible about so many people in San Angelo being hurt by this tragedy. I would like to acknowledge and thank the following people:
As Malcolm McBurnett's truck blocked an entire lane in the road in front of the Party Ranch bar, a man and woman stopped and offered help. Allen Schmidt refused but the couple ignored him and were turning their car around to face their headlights onto the situation, as neither Malcolm McBurnett nor Allen Schmidt had their lights on, on their trucks. The bar owner, Tracy Lawson, only had a 40-watt bulb on the bar and so it was very dark.
Before they could get their headlights on the situation, they watched Allen Schmidt jump out of the way to save his own life and my son crash into the truck.
I never got to thank them for trying to save my son’s life. Thank you. God bless you and I’m sorry you had to go through this too.
Twice, I have been back to San Angelo and attended church where each congregation embraced me as I wept. Thank you so much to the kind, compassionate, generous members of the First United Methodist Church on Oakes, and Calvary Lutheran Church on College Hills Blvd.
In 2016, I came back to San Angelo to attend the pre-trial of Malcolm McBurnett and I was by myself. After I arrived at the airport, I got into a van that was going to take me to the hotel and there were two other people in the van who were brother and sister. They were going to meet another sister in San Angelo.
We were in the van for quite a while before I arrived at the hotel. They were very friendly and struck up a conversation. They asked me why I was in town and I said, “You don’t want to know.” But they were big hearted and kind and they insisted that I tell them, so on the ride to the hotel, I told them what happened to my son and why I was there. They were horrified but very compassionate and kind and I was really touched.
The next day I went to the courthouse and it was very traumatic for me. As I sat there in the courtroom, I began to cry when suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked over and there were the people who were in the van with me, and the brother said to me, “We are here for you.” They sat with me through the pre-trial and I was completely blown away with their kindness. Thank you and God bless you.
I have had to take the stand twice in court and on top of my horror of the moment, I was devasted to watch several people in the courtroom cry as I testified. But as I looked into these people's eyes, my tears flowing too, they gave me strength. I felt connected to them. And after the trial, some of these complete strangers came up to me to offer comfort. Thank you and God bless you.
Other especially kind people in San Angelo have been Jim Johnson, Jesse Caloway, and Carey Tomerlin.
The Standard Times Newspaper has worked very hard on the many stories related to this tragedy and I would like to thank Jennifer Guadarrama, Mike Kelly, Ann Flippin, Alana Edgin, Ngan Ho, and Y’day Yossifor.
Thank you San Angelo, from the bottom of my heart, for the beautiful memories of my son, and for your kindness to a Snowbird.
God bless your beautiful city.