An open letter to Curtis Hart, Andy Huffman, and Muirah Imhoff of Cowlitz County, Washington as well as Irma Ybarra-Hill and Paula Brownhill of Clatsop County, Oregon:
I have been writing and re-writing this letter for a long time now. I plan to send it and post it as many times as it takes to draw awareness for this issue. While I am the subject subject of this story, it is not only about me.
I want to learn how to be a better person. I am more than willing to do the work, and I think I have shown that, but the community I grew up in has become less and less welcoming. As the doors continue continue to slam in my face, I still live and therefore require food and shelter.
It is not usually my character or personality that keeps me barred from my basic human rights, although I am definitely human and prone to error. It is my criminal background. After 2 years of incarceration, 3 years of treatment, and 5 years of probation, I am left with very few financial opportunities and the renters barely even look at me.
I have asked for help in every available option I can think of. So far it has only lead to more isolation.
So I ask again, and I will keep asking.
Please help me find a path to recovery from the harm I have done to myself and others, so that I can work on being a person who does more good than harm.
So far the most common solutions I have been given are death, suicide, life on an island, or moving through the rest of my time as some for of leper or pariah. Not human.
It’s not a feeling like I COULD kill myself. Just that I think it would make sense. With the bills and the people. The way the look at me and dismiss me so easily.
I feel worthless. I can’t see it getting much better. My old friends will never return. On their own or otherwise. I apparently can’t do enough of the right kind of work to support myself or earn their respect.
I cost more resources than I provide. My life is unhappy and I do very little to improve anyone else’s environment or personal feelings.
I am a black spot. Filth. Garbage.
I have only been pretending to fit in and I’ve been doing a very poor job of it.
Life is not a real option. My family and friends have had enough of me. The rest believe I should be dead.
The middle road is a locked down prison facility on an island where society can forget I exist.
I still think I’m human. And I have always had trouble causing purposeful damage to a person.
But most of them see me as a thing. A thing that is distasteful and costly.
Everyday I am alive, there are fewer resources for the ones who haven’t done what I’ve done.
It’s okay to kill me. It is okay if I starve or freeze or die of dysentery.
I’m not important or valuable. I am only a liability.
Do not help that thing. There are people who deserve it much more than that thing.
Ignore it. Scold it. Remove it. Cover it. Wash the stain it left.
Do not help it. Don’t listen to it or talk to it.
Never feed it and certainly do not let it inside.
I wonder how I would have fared in the other world, where it didn’t happen.
Would I have been a person then? Because I still felt the disconnect long before my mistakes. Would I have still felt like I was always outside, watching some one else’s tv?
Fighting the elements so I can catch a glimpse of Homer choking Bart Simpson with no sound while I wonder what went wrong in my family?
I am what happens when intelligence and kindness are matched with isolation.
But much of that is ego and my own perception.
It’s all I have. My thoughts and feelings.
Like a bitch.
30 years in. Scared. Lonely. Unaccomplished. Broken. Broke. Breaking more everyday.
The little boy who gets beat up by the babysitter’s kid, punished for it and ridiculed by his family for the scars it leaves.
True story. Tater tot. Scab face.
Do I become “a man”?
I’m not even a person. I’m barely even good on most days.
To them or myself. It’s a real question to me.
Is there value in my life?
And what should I do when we all agree there is not?
Personal Inventory 1.9.2017
- Advanced customer service skills
- Fear of being found out and removed
- Managerial experience
- Above average work ethic and learning curve
- Criminal history
- 200 + for credit (currently owe $5000 to red canoe)
- 250+ for rent (currently owe $500+)
- 150 car insurance (overdue)
- 40 phone bill
- 20 gym
- 200-400 food
- 100-200 clothes, entertainment, other
- 100-200 unknown expense
****these are estimates although, very close to accurate****
I was released from St. Helen’s jail in 2011.
I did not have a car. I walked, ran, or rode a bike ( when I had one that worked) until mid 2016.
During the first three years of my probation I was required to see a counselor every Tuesday. I was charged $90 a week for individual sessions as group sessions every Tuesday evening for the first few months. After that I only had to pay $45 a week for the group sessions. I was only allowed to be late one week in a row. If I missed two payments, I would not be allowed into group and I would likely go to jail.
I started with yard work while I was looking for real work. In a day or two I was digging ditches, weeding, and performing landscaping jobs for family friends.
Next, I got a job with a painter through All Star Staffing. He was a good person, but a very abrasive boss and a troubled communicator. I woke up at 5am everyday so that I could call him at 7am. We worked most days for ten or twelve hours.
For a short four or five months, my martial arts teacher hired me at East West MMA. This was originally an adult facility where I was allowed to teach one or two Combat Fitness Classes a week. Membership was low and eventually the business had to remove the adults only rule, which also meant removing me.
After about three months, I got a job at Jack in the Box in Longview. I was required through my probation not to engage with customers for the first six to eight months working this job. Eventually I would gain approval to talk to customers after proving myself in counseling and at work.
I continued to look for better employment at all times.
I was very close to a job at UPS. Unfortunately I would be scheduled during my mandatory Tuesday night. I was not able to find a way through that obstacle.
After a little over a year at Jack in the Box, I was hired on at the Papa Murphy’s on Washington Way. I told the regional manager, Dylan Rolf, about my history and asked not to be scheduled with anyone who was under the age of 18. He had me work kitchen prep with a worker named Ricky on Thursdays from 8am until we finished. I was required to waive my right to breaks in order to do this job to the standard requested by Dylan and the store manager, Stephanie. I was given one four hour shift at the front counter. There was a 16 year old girl named Trista on this shift. I was fired within a month. They said that it was because I was not learning fast enough. I believe that the store manager, Stephanie, had previous traumatic experiences in her family that gave her a bias against people with my criminal history. I think this because I overheard her talking to Ricky about similar issues in her family during one of my 10+hour shifts that did not allow break time.
Luckily, I was still working at Jack in the Box. I this point, I had been moved to the new building in Kelso. My manager had also promoted me to Team Leader.
After this failure, I went to the Goodwill for job training. I started with a basic computer class to get to know the staff, then found the Maximize Your Potential class. After taking this class, I moved to an evaluation for warehouse work. After passing the evaluation with exceptional numbers, I was told that I would not be allowed into any job training programs due to my record. I was told that this came from who ever was head of the Longview Goodwill location.
I requested a graveyard shift so that I could return to school.
I found a program at LCC called I-Ramp to I-Best. I paid $50 for $100 worth of school supplies and five hours a day of general review classes that lasted 10 weeks. At the end of the class, I received nearly $2000 in scholarship money that I used to purchase my first 5 credit class since 2007, as well as a couple pairs of work pants, and a few more energy drinks than may have been responsible.
I told one of my study partners, Brittney Trickey, about my history near the end of this class. She took it well at first, but shortly after threatened to share my information with others if I continued to talk to her.
At this time, I was given a job at Cassava, the coffee and bubble tea cafe on 14th Ave in Longview. I wanted to tell the owner, Barry, my history during the interview to be proactive. Unfortunately the interview was given in the lobby, next to customers and I prefer to be discrete when I tell stories about my worst, most shameful past behaviors.
My first shift ran from early morning to mid-day. I left from Cassava and went straight to Jack in the Box for another eight hours of work. At the end of my shift, I had a voicemail from Barry saying that we needed talk immediately.
I walked from the Kelso Jack in the Box, to the Texaco on Cowlitz Way so that Barry could not fire me at my other job or at my home. When he got there, he saw I had something in my pocket. When he asked what it was, I showed him the frozen burrito I just purchased and told him the truth. “Dinner.”
He let me know that someone had come into the restaurant to inform him of my past. He told me several times that we live in a small community and I am likely to continue to face this obstacle many times if I plan to live and work here. He told me that beyond my criminal history, I was well overqualified for the position. He then said a single word.
I did not understand.
He clarified. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
I felt shame going into Jack in the Box the next day. My managers told me what happened was illegal. I do not know if there was ever any recourse that might have helped make my life any better.
Around this time, I joined the Lower Columbia College debate team. I had also managed to get an interview at Home Depot in Longview. The interviewer was impressed with my experience as a manager and seemed excited to hire me. I got a call a few days later from a corporate office letting me know that a “red flag” had come up on my background check and I would not be given an employee badge at this company.
I continued to work at Jack in the Box until Spring 2014. My former manager, Josh Bohannon, quit due to what many of us saw as unethical business practices from the Northwest Group who operates the regional franchise locations. An example would be the sign posted in the back stating that all employees would be restricted to thirty hours or less at the first installment of the Affordable Care Act, requiring that any corporation with 50 or more employees working over thirty hours would have to assist in their workers health care coverage.
After Bohannon left, general work ethic degraded as our new Manager, Eddie Fox, struggled to fill Bohannon’s shoes. I requested to move down from Team Leader position as there seemed to be an internal power struggle in a place where supervisor roles only merited an 11 cent increase from the minimum wage. When my new shift leader, Jill Williams, started trading food for Dutch Bros. coffee, telling crew members to work off the clock to cut labor hours, as well as calling on shift staff from home to attempt to buy prescription pills, I let her know that I did not respect her and I was not going to be quiet about it. She told me that I was to either respect her or leave. I left.
I was very fortunate to find two more jobs shortly after I walked out on Jack in the Box. For one, I was given a part time position as a cardio kickboxing instructor. I got paid $5 per client that took my class. It was rare to receive $50-100 a week from these classes. I had also found a job at Vernie’s Pizza. I had been applying and dropping off resumes since 2011, but I met Kristanna Eveland through the debate team. Her husband Eric Eveland is the primary owner and operator of Vernie’s Pizza. It originally belonged to Vern and Debbie Eveland, and it is in the process of being passed down to Eric.
I very much enjoyed working at Vernie’s. However, at this point, I was taking 17 college credits, competing with the debate team all over the country, instructing kickboxing, and working full shifts at the pizza place. I was tired and starting to fall behind in class.
I decided to take a desk job at the gym I was working at to compliment the instructor job. This would allow me to do a little of my homework while I was working and cut down on my travel time. I was still mostly walking everywhere. Eric was very understanding when I told him why I was leaving Vernie’s.
Unfortunately, the gym job did not pay very well and I was still struggling to keep up with my classes.
To make matters worse, my speech coach Dr. Dan Schabot lost his tenor review that year. Although it may not seem like much, Dan has been one of my biggest supporters and friends through my battle for recovery. He has taught me how to present myself professionally and defend myself with my words. I owe very much of my success, both scholastic and personal to this man.
I was struggling a bit financially as well as in my studies. I hope not to make excuses for my failures. Dan wanted me to move on to another college. He wanted me to find more opportunities for my personal growth, education, and recovery. I tried to do these things. I have not yet succeeded.
I enrolled in Elena Ross’s online personalized fitness class for the summer of 2015. I was embarrassed when I mismanaged my finances and started to struggle to buy food. I stole $5 from my co-worker, Julie Paprocki’s, tip jar one day so that I could buy a bean and cheese burrito at Muchos Gracias and a package of frozen burritos from Winco. I sold my copies of Final Fantasy 7 and 8 to Corey Strife at Classics and Oddities for about $30. I bought a Bertolli pasta meal, ate it all in one sitting, and almost burned down my house when I quickly fell into a food coma. My mom was not happy.
In fact, my mom is not commonly pleasant with me. She is absolutely a wonderful person who strives to help others by teaching them to eat healthy. Her ability to use empathy when dealing with others, or maybe just me could use work. She often makes the mistake of prescribing solutions that have worked for her in the past as absolute correct answers. To an effect where she might be offended if her advice is not followed.
This problem is a shared obstacle. My mom and I struggle to communicate on the same wavelength.
By the end of the summer in 2016. I had dropped out of school, which I hoped would only be temporary. I was depressed because I felt I had been working very hard and should have achieved more. I felt that my life should be more comfortable. I believed I should at least be able to afford more food more often.
Between the pay and a few internal management disputes, which I may have done better to resolve, I asked Eric Eveland if I may return to my job at Vernie’s Pizza. He said yes. He even offered me a driving job.
The driving job scared me as I did not want to go inside a person’s house and the perception attached to people with my history makes it so that going into schools or any place with minors is a risk. This risk comes from the false perception that all sex offenders always reoffend. The studies I have found state otherwise. My life, and the myriad of polygraph tests I’ve taken over the years prove that statement untrue. It only takes one accusation to mark me as a toxic other.
I tried to avoid driving as long as possible. When it seemed unavoidable, I confided in my managers Matt Miller and Scott Browne. I asked that they help me avoid delivering to schools. They were understanding and supportive.
Around this time, I got in a argument with my mom and I was told to leave our home within the week. This was early November. I had already been looking, but now had a deadline. I would not meet that deadline. Instead I stubbornly choose to squat in my former home until October 2016.
I went to Lower Columbia CAP. They directed me to Love Overwhelming. I was met by my good friend’s wife, Karen Meechum. It was embarrassing, even when I told myself it was not. I told her about my issue and that I was scared to apply for a rental after my five year job search had proven to be such a challenge. I knew the renters would be twice as hard as the employers. She gave me a list of renters and I left as soon as I could. I was more comfortable having my friend see me in any other way.
I did not find a renter who would allow me into one of their properties. I tried every agency in town. Most state on the front page of their applications that all sex offenders will be denied. I tried Craigslist. I was directed to the Pawn Shop on 1303 Commerce Ave through the Northwest Housing Resource website. I was specifically told there was an open vacancy. My application sat on a shelf for close to two months regardless of how often I checked on it, either through a phone call or in person. I checked a minimum once a week. Carroll’s Rentals may have allowed me into one of their properties, although they required a one thousand dollar security deposit. I was starting to make a decent amount of money at Vernie’s, but this was still out of my price range. I tried to find a roommate, but found it difficult to trust a person with my history. In many cases adding one or more people to an application creates a bigger obstacle than a solution.
My co-workers started to find out my history In late November. One day I came in and heard Muirah Imhoff and Kelsey-Nelly Nobudrin talking about it. I heard Muirah say, “whaat!? That’s some Micheal Jackson shit!”
Kelsey said very clearly, “I don’t think he should work here.”
I told Matt Miller what I had heard after closing down the store that night. Neither of us had a good answer.
For some reason they still voted me “co-worker of the year” at the Christmas party.
They started training me as a manager in January. I tried to decline. I change a little when I take on leadership roles and I really liked my co-workers. I did not want to risk treating them poorly.
On my first shift as manager, we received a call from Connor Wilson, who is Muirah Imhoff’s uncle. He informed Eric of my history. I believe that he and Muirah had intended to have me fired that day. I tried to forgive her. None of us knew what to do.
Eric did not fire me. He told me that Dr. Schabot had told him a year prior. He let me know that he still trusted me, he had friends who had behaved similarly as I had when they were younger, and that he thought it was wrong for me to be branded like I am for life.
It was still a very serious blow to my morale. I had not yet let any of my friends know that I was also facing residential insecurity. That night I talked with my other co-worker, Alyssa Nelson. Alyssa informed me that Muirah had found the newspaper article printed in the Astorian upon my sentencing. It is a front page article with my picture that reads, “Rapist gets jail time. Judge hopes he goes to prison next.”
I had actually developed a bit of a fear of people asking me my whole name at this point as a result of this article existing. I believe that along with life time registration and the loss of voting rights, this article gives me many forms of social death. They are definitely obstacles on my way to financial security, education, my own concept of self worth, and any sort of meaningful trusting relationship.
Alyssa told me that she defended me. That made me feel safe. I told her that I had also been struggling to find a place to live. She said it seemed like a slap in the face after everything I have been through. She did not fully understand how much I was struggling.
When Muirah’s uncle called, I translated it to be a statement from both of them.
“You are disgusting. You do not deserve food, a place to live, or friends. I do not care where you go or what happens to you or if you live. Just stay away from me.”
We all decided it was best to not do anything. I now believe this was the wrong decision. At the very least, I should have left here.
Aylssa was going through a break up. I was just getting off five years of “you are definitely not one of us” probation. I felt safe with her. I was attracted to her. Although I tried to tell her that we should stay friends for both professional and personal reasons, we ended up getting too close anyway. This was my fault. We discussed what happened and agreed that we could still be friends. I was still embarassed and trying to deal with residual feelings mixed with fears from my housing insecurity and being otherized at work.
I lost my composure quickly. I stayed away from my co-workers outside of work because I felt toxic and I thought they saw me as something gross and untrustworthy. I went full shifts without talking to anyone. I had trouble meeting their eyes. I still performed well for the customers. Everyone smiled on the surface. I increased productivity and tip percentage for everyone.
I was losing my house and my job and my friends.
I frequently sent Alyssa messages through Facebook messenger and through text. I was asking her for help. She thought I was trying to get in her pants. I said over and over again, I just want to be able to be happy at work again.
Eventually she told me that “she was dead to me”. We were no longer friends and she did not want me working there.
Eric and Nicole Graybill, another manager, sat me down to talk about what was going on. The main issue was that Alyssa threatened to quit if I did not stop talking to her inside and outside of work. Eric asked if everything was okay. I told him that I was struggling both inside and outside of work. He told me at least three times that he was in “an awkward position” because Alyssa was dating his brother-in-law, Micheal Boettcher. It was agreed that my only option for keeping my job would be to limit my personal interactions with my co-workers, with emphasis on Alyssa, Micheal, Muirah, and Kelsey to nearly zero. I felt a physical amount of anxiety that day. The kind that makes you sit back and catch your breathe. It was not the first time.
The next day, I started turning in applications and resumes. I quickly got a job at Jack in the Box in Longview. I was actually fairly surprised given the way I left. I would not be happy to work there. I made over $1800 a month working at Vernie’s, not including tips, but it was hurting me mentally and emotionally. I was not in full control of my behaviour. Even with full time at Jack in the Box, I did not expect to make close to $1000 a month.
Eric seemed to understand why I choose to leave. It may be childish of me, but I was hoping he would try to stop me. He was my boss. I trusted him and I worked hard to make him happy. He would not defend me or try to help me.
I ended up getting a job at Cliff’s Hilltop Market as well. I organized my schedule to allow 25-30 hours at Cliff’s and 5-10 at Jack in the Box. My monthly income went down to about $900.
I am still shocked from my failure at Vernie’s and everything else throughout the last year.
My boss, Jim Hightower, was very critical of me. He was right to be. I was late more often than I have ever been to any job. I made mistakes that were both very simple and very serious. I left doors unlocked and cooking equipment was left on high on my closing shifts. It was not easy for me to fake a smile for the customers. One of my longtime best skills.
It may have gone differently had I been in a better state of mind. I spent most my break time making sad facebook posts. I also spent much of my time off the clock doing this.
Jack in the Box was a very similar environment. I did not even use my real name. I made a name tag that said “Mortie” instead of Marty because I did not want to meet new friends. I clocked in, did my work, and clocked off. The old “come early, stay late Marty” was not to be found.
My parents put the house on sale in June. I did not find a place to live until October. I spent months living in a house where everyday, they took something else. The washer and dryer, my couch, my refrigerator, my cats.
Eventually, I found a person who was willing to sublet a room for $200 a month plus utilities and general housework. It is small and humble. I had cats when I lived with my parents. My parents now have my cats. I haven’t seen them for months. They used to sleep with me every night. This was a small comfort during the time I was losing my friends, family, house, and job. But I lost them too. I love my cats. I miss my cats dearly.
My friends kept hearing me promise them that there was a version of me that was strong, confident, and fun. I have never felt so down for so long without any clear path for recourse or recovery.
I am left wondering what financial opportunities are left for me in the area I grew up and went to school in.
I continually question my own morals, thoughts, behaviours, words, and motivation. Am I a good person? Am I doing the right work to become closer to a good person?
Who should I ask for help? Where should I work?
How do I do better next time a customer, co-worker, or boss makes me feel like a wrong and valueless thing? Not a person. A thing.
How do I move forward?
Near the end of November 2016, Jim from Cliff’s Hilltop Market cut me down to one eight hour shift a week. I had been working four hours a week at Jack in the Box. This would mean that my combined wages from both jobs would total less than $200 for a two week pay period.
Instead of waiting for my money to run out, I quit both jobs and bought a train ticket to Santa Rosa, California to stay with my long time friends. I was able to make about $400 dollars doing a variety of landscaping jobs and some street performing. I did not find permanent employment and I have returned to Kelso for now. I am not sure I am ready for another real job, but I am already behind on bills.
I owe $200 + to my line of credit. It has been near the $5000 limit for years. I have only just now started missing payments.
I owe my roommate, $500 for rent and utilities for the last two months.
I also haven’t paid my other bills yet.
I have been surviving mostly on luck, odd jobs, and gifts from the universe.
I think I need real help.
Some temporary financial support would be greatly appreciated, but I do not believe that will solve any of my real issues.
I do not trust society.
I am scared to make another friend who will threaten to expose my secret to a world that does not want me alive.
I am scared to get a job with a boss I can appreciate and respect, because I may let them down or they may let me down.
I am terrified of telling the story to a thousand more potential employers and renters that will deem me not worth food or shelter.
I am scared that Curtis Hart will continue to advocate for community members to deny the sale of food, housing, healthcare, political involvement, and education to me as well as other people who have committed sex crimes in their past.
This statement is clearly made on the July 3 airing of Curtis Hart’s podcast, Because Liberty. It’s at about the twelve minute mark.
I am worried that I will work for the rest of my life to never break the poverty line, and never feel comfortable with another personal at any range, and that there just might not be a path to recovery from the crimes I committed when I was younger.
I am nearly certain that my path to recovery, if there is one, will not be found in the place that I grew up and went to school.
What do I do? How do I pay my bills?
Where should I apply to work? Will I ever get a degree?
Will I ever have a comfortable house for my cats and myself, that I might even be willing to invite company over?
How do I improve myself so that I can survive and be of use to you in your world?
These statements are all factual, according to my memory. Should any part of this come into question, there are people that can be called on to clarify or confirm my accounting of events. I did not know that I would be compiling such a large list of barriers to my recovery.
Please note, that I am not in anyway interested in punishment for any malicious or negligent parties, although some may be warranted.
I just want to recover.
Please help me find a way to work again, go to school, and live in a home some day. I am willing to do whatever it takes.
I don’t have specific proof in records, pictures, or dates for all this. If it helps you to believe that this is all a fabrication, feel free to delude yourself. This is my honest recall of what I have been through on my path to recovery. The truth can be difficult to deal with at times.
If I told you today, that I have been wrong about everything. I’ll admit to whatever you want me to and I’ll do the program and I will do whatever it takes to get better in your eyes, would you help me?
Because I would really like to know what I am supposed to do. If I am wrong about everything, what am I supposed to do?