A Shooting In Duchesne




“Tony’s dead.”

I understood Del's words, but couldn’t quite comprehend their meaning. He looked at me with a look that said, Please don’t make me say it again.

“What?” I asked.

“Tony is dead,” he repeated, enunciating each word as if he were speaking to a child.

“Is this a joke?”

“Honey, I wouldn’t joke about something like this.”

I stood there looking at Del--my husband of the past 16 years--and allowed his words to sink in. Eventually my brain was able to process what it had just heard. I took a deep breath and asked, “What happened?”

 

###

Tony and I grew up together, and I’d secretly loved him since I was seven. I remember watching him when his family came to visit, following him around like some pathetic puppy dog. He was older, he was beautiful, and he listened to groups like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Pink Floyd--forbidden music in the Cramé household.

Tony got into trouble with the law during his teen years, spending some time in a juvenile correctional facility in Anchorage. Dad tried to “save” him by making sure Don Francisco or some other religious music was playing in the background when Tony came to visit, but I didn’t care. He was mysterious, and I was intrigued.

Our parents had been best friends for as long as I could remember, and when my family decided to leave Alaska behind for the wide open spaces of Montana in the spring of '83, Tony’s family left too. I was two months shy of my fifteenth birthday then. Tony was nineteen, and not the least bit interested in some snot-nosed kid.

Two years passed, and I grew up. In the spring of 1985 a rumor surfaced that Tony was coming to town. I wondered what he looked like, and it occurred to me that I was no longer a child, but a beautiful sixteen-year-old young woman. Surely, he’ll notice me now, I thought.

Notice me he did. Tony and I had a whirlwind romance that began in May when he asked me out to dinner for my seventeenth birthday. By August we were talking marriage, but my parents wouldn’t have it. They wanted us to wait until I turned eighteen, but when you’re seventeen-years-old, nine months seems like an eternity.

We decided to elope.

We took our time and drove for days, spending time in Kansas, St. Louis, Chicago, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. It was the biggest adventure of my life, and I could barely contain my excitement. “Where are we going?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise,” he said. "Close your eyes."

Later I opened them to behold the awesome power of Niagara Falls. Is this a dream? I wondered. It was all so surreal.

The next two months passed quickly. I wrote letters to my parents to let them know I was happy and safe so they wouldn't worry. Tony begged them to reconsider. Little did we know that my parents reported me as a runaway, and it was only a matter of time before the police came knocking on our door.

“Is Shannon Cramé here?” the officer asked.

“I don’t know anyone by that name,” Tony replied.

“Well, can we come in to look around? I mean, if she’s not here then you shouldn’t mind if we come in to have a look.”

“It’s against my beliefs to allow the police to enter my home without a warrant.”

While Tony dealt with the officers at the front of the apartment, I was at the back dangling from bed sheets I’d tied together and flung out our third-floor window. I lowered myself to the ground and walked to safety at a nearby friend's house.

In October of 1985 my parents agreed to let us marry. We drove back to Montana, married, and in July of 1986 our first child, Moriah, was born.

The responsibility of a wife and child changed Tony. He became very possessive, and eventually physically, verbally, and mentally abusive. In early 1988 Moriah was eighteen-months-old and I was pregnant again. Although Tony and I lived under the same roof we were galaxies apart. We separated in June.

I met Del at my brother’s high school graduation that same month; he was my brother's best friend. He was sweet, funny and kind. Before long Del, my brother and I were inseparable, and when my second child, Ashley, was born in August Del held my hand and cried as if she were his own.

My divorce from Tony was final in December of 1988. I was twenty years old with two small children. I had no diploma, no job, no money, no driver’s license and no car. I decided the welfare lifestyle wasn’t for me and began attending night school. Over time I obtained my GED and eventually earned an associate's degree in nursing.

Tony wasn’t so lucky. He began this downward spiral of increasingly bad behavior that culminated in a string of armed bank robberies and two appearances on America’s Most Wanted. He was eventually caught, escaped, recaptured, and sentenced to an additional five years in prison for the escape, ultimately spending the better part of the next sixteen years in federal prison.

When Moriah turned eighteen in July of 2004, she decided she wanted to contact Tony, so Del and I--married since June of 1989--assisted her in locating him. For the next sixteen months they kept in touch, and in November 2005 Moriah informed us that Tony was being released from prison.

“Tony wants to come to Boise on his way to Portland ’cause he wants to meet me and Ashley.”

The girls were adamant about seeing him, but I was scared to death. “You guys are adults now,” I said. “I guess all I can say is be careful, keep your guard up, and only meet with him in a public place.”

The meeting went surprisingly well. Tony brought along his sister, Shirley, and the four of them spent the entire afternoon together. From that day forward Tony and the girls spoke on the phone several times a week. At Christmas, he sent them gifts. On Valentine’s Day 2006 Tony sent chocolates and cards that read, “I can’t wait until I can see you again.”

Wednesday, March 1, 2006: “I think something’s wrong. I haven’t heard from Tony in like two weeks,” Moriah said.

Thursday, March 2, 2006: I got off work at 11:30 P.M. I had a missed call from Moriah on my cell phone, but I'd see her once I got home so I didn’t call her back. I was pulling out of the parking lot when Del called.

“Where are you?” he asked.

“I’m just leaving work.”

“How much longer do you think you’ll be?”

“I should be there in ten to fifteen minutes.” Looking back now, I guess I should have known then that something was wrong.

Del was standing in the kitchen. He looked distressed, and it took him several moments to speak. “Tony’s dead.”

I understood Del's words, but couldn’t quite comprehend their meaning. He looked at me with a look that said, Please don’t make me say it again.

“What?” I asked.

“Tony is dead,” he repeated, enunciating each word as if he were speaking to a child.

“Is this a joke?”

“Honey, I wouldn’t joke about something like this.”

I stood there looking at Del--my husband of the past 16 years--and allowed his words to sink in. Eventually my brain was able to process what it had just heard. I took a deep breath and asked, “What happened?”

“Apparently he violated his parole in Oregon. I guess he decided he wasn’t going back to prison, so he stole a car and drove to Utah. He stopped at a gas station in Duchesne. A police officer drove by, saw a guy with out-of-state plates, and decided to run 'em. He found out the car was stolen and approached Tony, but Tony took off. The cop chased him. Other police cars joined in, and they ended up some 9000 feet up on a mountain road. The snow was deep and Tony’s car got stuck. They had him cornered, and he started shooting. They shot him to death.”

I stared at Del for what seemed like hours. It didn’t seem real. This can’t be, I thought. This is something you see on TV. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen in real life.

“When?” I asked.

“Two days ago. Shirley called Moriah to break the news.”

“How are the girls?”

“Moriah’s in pretty bad shape. I guess she tried to call you and couldn’t get through, so by the time she got me she was completely hysterical. I got here as fast as I could. She just went to bed about twenty minutes ago.”

I remembered her message on my cell phone. “Oh, my God,” I said, frantically dialing my voicemail.

Moriah's message was gut wrenching and very difficult to understand. She was sobbing uncontrollably, and I had to replay it three times to make it out. She said, “Hey mom, this is Moriah. Um, I need you to call me back when you get a minute, a break or something. I need to talk to you about something ’cause something bad has happened. I just want to talk to somebody, so can you call me back? Bye.”

I thought I might vomit. Del hugged me. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“If you need to cry, it’s okay. I’ll understand.”

It was on my mind constantly for the next few weeks. It was the last thing I thought of when I fell asleep at night and the first thing I thought of when I woke in the morning. I needed to be strong for my girls, but one day I sat down with my morning cup of coffee and began to cry. I cried for our childhoods together. I cried for the good times. I cried for his family. I cried for the senseless waste of a life. I cried for the Tony I used to know. I cried for our girls. I cried.

It’s only been a year since that horrific day, but each day gets a little easier. I still don't know what Tony did to violate his parole in Oregon, and I may never know. I'm not sure I want to know. Not yet, anyway.

Sixteen years in prison followed by three short months of freedom seems like such a sad ending. I do believe Tony made a choice that day--a conscious decision to stop the running and end it all on that snow-capped mountain. Tony chose to pursue a lifestyle filled with hardship and pain. I tell my girls that the promise of someday meeting them is what got Tony through those dark years in prison, and when that wish came to fruition he had nothing more to look forward to.

I still find myself wondering, Is this real, or is this a dream? Sometimes I need to look at my beautiful girls to prove to myself that my life with him--and Tony himself--really did exist.

The girls are doing better now. Their strength and resiliency is an inspiration to me, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. As for me: I find that keeping myself busy leaves me little time to think about it, but every once in a while something will pop up to remind me.

Just yesterday, I was tidying up some papers on the kitchen counter when I came across a card. It was face-down in the middle of a stack of papers and old magazines. Out of curiosity I turned it over and opened it. It read:

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, Ashley!!!
I just wanted you to know that I’m thinking of you
& can’t wait to see you again.
Love, Tony