Thursday, April 04, 2002
Death row tale
Jillian's side of the story
I'd heard that she had an interesting story. A sad story. One she was eager to tell because she was still angry.
Jillian Hansert answered the door of her Colerain Township apartment with an exceptionally cute newborn baby tucked in the crook of one arm. Sarah, she says, born March 22. Jillian rubs her finger absently through the infant's abundant dark hair. The baby looks like her mother, she says.
Mothers and daughters. That's what Jillian wants to talk about.
A year ago, in a business law class at Colerain High School, Jillian was watching a taped TV show about women on California's death row. As Joan Lunden interviewed Kerry Lyn Dalton, Jillian realized she was listening to the woman who murdered her mother. It made me feel kind of sick, she says.
A perfectly understandable reaction.
Before she died in 1988, Irene Louise May was beaten, stabbed, injected with battery acid and tortured with electric shocks. Jillian knew these things, having read news accounts. But she had never seen the woman convicted of the murder.
Then I had to listen to her talk about how tough it was for her to be in prison, Jillian says. She said her children don't come to see her. At least, that's their choice. I have no choice. She took that away from me.
It made her angry, she says, that the woman had a national audience for her complaints. They never asked me how I felt.
Jillian was only 5 when her mother was killed. Her memories are not good. Addicted to drugs, Irene May often left Jillian and her two younger brothers to fend for themselves. We'd be in the bedroom, kind of hiding, and I'd try to take care of them, she says.
It's hard, she says, to separate what I really remember from what I've been told over and over. She believes she sometimes begged for food. But she knows that she did her best to take care of her little brothers.
My mother loved us, she says. She was trying to stay clean. She has seen records from San Diego social services. The children had been removed from their home, but their mother was trying to get them back. She never got the chance to be a better person.
Jillian was adopted two weeks before her seventh birthday. They wouldn't let me be adopted with my brothers, she says. Because all I wanted to do was to take care of them. I thought that was my job.
At age 5.
Now, here comes the good part. Her adoptive parents are Steve and Cinda Gorman, co-pastors of Westwood First Presbyterian Church. I came with a lot of baggage, Jillian says, but I'm proud of who I became. And I love the family I have now. This includes her husband, Charlie, a mechanic.
As we talk, Sarah fusses a little, and Jillian soothes her. Competently. Kindly. A good mom, I am thinking.
Child neglect, drugs, murder. A tiny girl hiding with her brothers, thinking they were her responsibility. Then taking on real responsibility as an adult.
Proud of who she became.
Writing her own ending to the story.
E-mail Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 768-8393. She can be heard at noon Fridays on WVXU radio (91.7 FM).
Deals provide 'turning point'
Leaders scramble to show progress
Linking cases greased deal's final resolution
Over-the-Rhine waits for reality
Plaintiffs greet agreement with hope
Plan may alter policy more than beat
Police monitor called crucial to enforcing settlement
Suburbs take news with passing interest
Text of Collaborative Agreement
Text of Justice Dept. Agreement
Agencies' members embrace change
Cincinnati may set a precedent
Business responds to call for change
CAN has plan for safe streets
Neighbor arraigned in 2 deaths
Winter won't wither
Cardinal pays visit to area
County gives away ballpark plaza bricks
IT high school's success draws governor's praise
Peace hopes, prayers
Tristate A.M. Report
Wyoming group slows down on land-use plan
HOWARD: Some Good News
PULFER: Death row tale
RADEL: The settlement
Guilty verdict in death case
Hospital would add 3,200 jobs
Subdivisions may be allowed to pick schools
Cooper'stown serves 'em up in Cleveland
Judge to Traficant: Quit 'dillydallying' on defense
Ohio court expands search power
Ohio man accused of fraud
Panel to study officials' ties to party
Campbell OKs social services budgets
Lawmakers leave bills in limbo
NKU sculpture's destruction called an accident
Officers to be honored for bravery