A Murder in Central Gardens Part II
Last month, in Part I of this series, we led readers through the early life of Emily Klyce Fisher: her passion for learning, her marriage and young family, her involvement in the arts, and her commitment to her church's charitable causes.
We also related the story of her son, Adrian: his insatiable appetite for drugs, his hopeless attempts at rehab, the "friends" who visited the Fisher home— some demanding money for Adrian's drug debts— and his bragging talk of a family safe that Emily's assailants never found. We told how his parents vacillated between denial and desperation, hoping he would "outgrow" his addiction. Instead, on February 27, 1995, it exploded into one of the most vicious murders in Memphis history.
Through memories shared primarily by Emily's sister, Katherine Klyce, and her daughter, Rebecca Fisher, now 37, we recounted the terrible day of Emily's death and its heartbreaking aftermath, and we took readers through much of the 1996 capital murder trial of Rodney Blades and George Tate, who were both acquitted on the grounds of insufficient evidence. We also let Kathy and Rebecca relate their differing views of Adrian and of his father, Emily's husband Hubert, whose protection of his son prompted Kathy to say, "What about Emily? Who was there to protect her?"
In this, the conclusion of a two-part series, we tell of Adrian's long-held secret knowledge, his friend's confession, his father's failing health, and a detective's determination. We also share Rebecca's account of losing her brother and father, the story of DNA evidence that failed to convict a man of murder, Kathy's frustration with Tennessee's judicial system, and how Emily's loved ones move forward — hoping at last to celebrate her life.
"I knew something like this was going to happen."
On an April afternoon in 1999, Rebecca Fisher was at work in Chicago, at her job with a business advertising company, when she received a call from her father in Memphis. In the breathless voice of a weary old man, though Hubert was only 60, he said, "I wanted to let you know that Adrian died."
Adrian Fisher had lived in Minneapolis, in and out of rehab, since 1994. There, he'd sporadically attended the University of Minnesota and worked briefly at a Blockbuster store. But Adrian never conquered his drug habit, and by 1998, he was addicted to heroin.
During the fall of that year, in typical fashion, he was calling his father every day for money and faxing him fake invoices for "bills due." Hubert — who often caved in to his son's demands — stood his ground on occasion and denied him money. But Adrian still managed to trick his father. "On a visit home," says Rebecca, "he snuck into Dad's house and stole checks from the middle of the checkbook," so Hubert wouldn't notice them missing.
Although Rebecca had joined Hubert in Minneapolis to check Adrian into another treatment program, she felt the cause was hopeless; "I thought then, 'He probably doesn't want to stay clean because the truth of what happened to Mom has started to sink in.'"
On the day he died, Adrian was in Chicago — unbeknownst to Rebecca, who lived there. He was staying at an EconoLodge with a friend who later told police that Adrian had been having seizures from shooting up so much heroin. When the friend tried to wake him the next morning, Adrian's body was cool and stiff.
"I knew something like this was going to happen," Hubert told Rebecca after he got the news. "He'd either die or go to jail." Rebecca wept, yet "deep down I was relieved it was finally over," she says. "The moment he started heroin was when I really thought he died."
She and her father went to Minneapolis to deal with Adrian's affairs. At his apartment, Rebecca was struck by the lack of Fisher family photos. Instead, pictures of another family — Aaron Williams and his brother Teont Austin, Adrian's friends since middle school, and their mother, Alma Austin, who considered Adrian her godson — dominated the living room. "He used to have one of Mom in a blue suit and hat," says Rebecca. "But it was gone. There were none of us."
She and her father buried Adrian next to his mother at a Memphis cemetery. In spite of everything, she still sees her brother "as this lost soul who suffered in the world and a source of heartbreak. I loved him very much. And yet," she adds, "he was also a source of shame."
Adrian's aunt, Kathy Klyce, recalls that when she heard about Adrian, despite his terrible behavior through the years, she cried hysterically. "I felt sad for him and that he didn't get help from his parents in learning how to control his worst impulses," she says. She also acknowledges resentment: "Maybe I was thinking too, 'Why couldn't he have [died] a few years earlier so that Emily could still be alive and able to live without worrying about Adrian?'"
"Dad had a lot of faith in Aaron Williams."
Adrian wasn't the only one who made Minneapolis home after his mother's death. So did his pal, Aaron Williams. He and his wife were like family to Adrian, who would visit them "when he was having a hard time with drugs and wanted to be around people," says Rebecca.
Based on notes kept by her father that she found just recently, Rebecca says Williams also attended some rehab meetings with Adrian and his parents — during the 1994 summer of hell, as Rebecca calls it — and he accompanied them at least once to pay off a drug dealer. But the notes also show where Williams "was a partner" when Adrian tried to cash a bogus check and that Adrian used cocaine while at Williams' house.
Still, while they were both living in Minneapolis, Williams would call Hubert when Adrian "got way off" on drugs. "Both my parents really trusted Aaron," says Rebecca. "And Dad put a lot of faith in him. If anyone could help them with Adrian, Aaron was their guy."
He also turned out to be detective Charles Shettlesworth's "guy." In January 2004, nearly nine years after Emily's death, Williams was picked up for questioning about the murder. He had been interrogated initially in 1995, then again, along with his mother and brother, in July 1999, but each time he denied knowledge of the homicide. This time, however, Shettlesworth had hard evidence.
"Without that robbery, I would have had no leverage."
In the kitchen of his Bartlett home, the detective recalls how he came to live, breathe, and pray over a case that had been gathering dust for three years. "I felt almost a spiritual connection to this woman," he says, flipping through a hefty folder from the Fisher murder. "I never met her, yet I know her. I used to drive by her house, find the route I thought the killers had taken."
During 10 years as a homicide detective with the Memphis Police Department (26 years total with MPD) and 12 years as an investigator for the District Attorney's office, Shettlesworth has solved all but three of the murders assigned to him. He didn't want the Fisher case to languish in cold-case limbo.
In 1999, Shettlesworth was approached by Jerry Harris, the prosecutor who handled the trials of Rodney Blades and George Tate, both acquitted of Emily's murder. "He was devastated that he lost the case," says Shettlesworth of Harris, who is now retired. "He was one of the best prosecutors I know."
When Harris asked the detective to read over the file, "at first it seemed like a good case," says Shettlesworth. "But once I read it all, I concluded they didn't have the evidence, just fingerprints from the victim's car, none from the house, no DNA match to the accused, and a 90-year-old woman with dementia to identify them," he adds, referring to LeeEster Redmond, Fisher's housekeeper, who was tied up and assaulted, but lived to testify. (She died in 1999.) "I told Jerry they were found not guilty because they weren't guilty, so he said, 'See what you can do.'"
From 1999 until 2004, Shettlesworth interviewed numerous people, the first among them Aaron Williams. "The more I talked to him, the more I felt he was involved. You do this enough, you get a radar for the truth," says Shettlesworth. "But still, I floundered around."
Then in October '03 — in response to a Channel 13 News show about the unsolved case and a $26,000 reward — an anonymous informant said Aaron Williams was at the Fisher house when Emily was killed, along with a person called Shawn, which the detective later learned was a nickname for Alfred Turner.
While interviewing the informant, Shettlesworth not only learned more about what happened the day of the murder. He also gained a vital piece of information — that in 1995, just a few days before Emily's death, Aaron Williams had been involved in a kidnapping and robbery at a SavALot grocery store in Frayser. Although nine years had passed since the crime, the detective tracked down the grocery store owner, who identified Williams as the holdup man. "That really broke the whole thing," says Shettlesworth. "Without that robbery, I would have had no leverage."
In January 2004, Aaron Williams was brought to police headquarters, where Shettles-worth told him he knew about the grocery store crime. Then, when questioned about the Fisher murder, Williams said, "I didn't rob Mrs. Fisher. I was there when she was killed, but he killed her," pointing to Alfred Turner's picture, "and if he says anything different he's lying." Then, according to Shettlesworth, "the story sort of flowed out of him."
"Why are you doing this?"
On the morning of February 27, 1995, Aaron Williams heard a loud banging at his door at Northside Manor Apartments in Frayser. Three men demanded to see Snowball — the nickname for Adrian Fisher because of his abuse of powder cocaine — and Williams told them, "He don't live here, he's just my best friend." One of the men, who had a gun under his shirt, said, "He's dodging me. I want my money, but that's okay, I know where to find him."
When they left, Williams went upstairs to find Alfred Turner to see if he could get a ride to the Fisher home. His purpose, according to his statement to Shettlesworth, was to warn the family that the men were looking for Adrian. An acquaintance of Turner gave Williams a ride, and Turner went along. When the driver dropped Williams off at Lamar and Central, he says he "didn't have any idea" that Turner would get out too. But he did — since Turner said Adrian owed him a $20 drug debt — and the two walked the few blocks to the Fisher house.
When Emily Fisher responded to their knock at the side door, Williams told her about the men coming to his apartment and that he needed to talk to Adrian. At first she didn't seem to hear him or couldn't believe what he was saying; she asked him to repeat it. Finally, she said Adrian was in rehab in Minnesota and that she'd call him. The men entered the house, and as Emily walked into the next room, they remained in the kitchen talking to Redmond, the housekeeper. Then Turner followed Emily out of the kitchen, and within a few seconds Williams heard screaming and yelling and sounds of a struggle. When Williams entered the adjacent room, he saw the victim on the floor as Turner stood over her, stabbing her with his pocket-knife. When Emily managed to ask, "Why are you doing this?" Turner yelled, "I want my money! Where is my goddamn money?"
As Williams screamed, "What the f*ck is wrong with you?!" Turner told him, "Get that bitch," referring to Redmond, who was hitting her employer's attacker with a wooden spoon. Williams said he grabbed her away in fear that Turner would turn around and kill her. Then, in a panic, he ran out the door toward the end of the driveway, but came back into the house. By then, Turner was upstairs in the Fishers' bedroom, yelling at Redmond that he wanted his money. When Williams ran upstairs, he saw Turner tying Redmond with a telephone cord. Williams told him, "I'm gone. I'm leaving you here."
Downstairs, he grabbed the car keys off the island in the kitchen, pushed the remote that opened the Fishers' green Ford Taurus, and screamed at Turner one more time. As Williams was backing out, Turner came running outside, holding his bloody knife, and Williams feared for his own life. "I backed over the median in the middle of Central, and [Turner] said, "Don't say sh*t, shut the f*ck up. If I don't get my money, I'm goin' to get his ass too," referring to Adrian.
From Central Avenue to the Klondyke area of North Memphis, the two screamed and argued, abandoning the car at Fern and Annie Place. There, he and Turner were approached by Rodney Blades, who lived close by. "I just knew him as a neighborhood crackhead," Williams told the detective, adding that Blades took items from the car but had nothing to do with the murder. (However, Blades' fingerprints on the stolen items led to his arrest, trial, and ultimate acquittal in 1996.)
After ditching the Fishers' car, Turner and Williams continued to argue, finally catching buses back to Northside Manor in Frayser. There, Turner wrapped a cut on his hand, which, according to Williams, Turner received during the struggle inside the house. It was a "deep gash" on the side of Turner's right palm. Questioned about the amount of blood on Turner, Williams replied, "It was on [Turner's] hand, jacket, and pants in the lap area."
As Turner bandaged his hand, he demanded of Williams, "You gon' snitch?" Williams said, "No. If I do, I will be in just as much trouble."
Turner replied, "If I get caught, that's your ass."
"He didn't even act upset."
A couple of months after the murder, Williams headed to Minneapolis, where he visited Adrian Fisher. There, according to Shettlesworth, he told Adrian who killed his mother.
"So [Emily's son knew] that Rodney Blades and George Tate were not responsible for his mother's death before their trial?" asked the detective.
"Yes," said Williams, then added, "He didn't even act upset. Once before he tried to have his parents robbed to pay back money owed to drug dealers."
When Shettlesworth asked Williams why he waited so long to come forward with this information, Adrian's old friend replied, "I was scared I was gonna get charged with the murder because I know the family and also I was worried about the race card being a factor." At the end of their interview, Shettlesworth asked if there was anything Williams would like to add to this statement that would aid in the investigation.
"That I didn't go to the Fisher house to rob them and I didn't kill Mrs. Fisher," he responded. " . . . I got scared and didn't know what to do. We got along well. They helped not only myself but my family with bills and holiday gifts. They'd given me my first car as a Christmas gift. Mr. Fisher helped pay for my wedding and gave us $200 on our wedding anniversary. . . . The Fishers have been very good and helpful to my family."
In exchange for his testimony against Turner, the prosecution recommended Williams' sentence at eight years each, to run concurrently, on aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping charges — penalties which would ordinarily run 15 to 25 years — and one year on the charge of accessory to first-degree murder after the fact.
"Don't tell police."
On January 30, 2004, the day after Williams' arrest, Shettlesworth prepared a search warrant to have blood taken from Alfred Turner to compare it to the sample taken from the Fisher homicide. During an interview with police, Turner denied any involvement in the crime, said he'd never been in the Fisher house and didn't know where it was located. He admitted to knowing Adrian Fisher and Aaron Williams and said they were "running around together" in February 1995.
On February 5, 2004, Turner was arrested; his blood standard matched that taken at the crime scene. When asked if he had any explanation that could explain this match, Turner — according to Shettlesworth's written report — "never spoke another word. He mostly stared at the writer in an intimidating way, or would just smirk. If I did not know about Turner's past record (one prior misdemeanor), I would have concluded, from the way he was acting, that he would have had a lengthy record and may have done some penitentiary time." Turner was charged the next day with first-degree murder.
Three months later, at a pretrial hearing, forensic serologist Donna Nelson of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testified that blood from the Fisher crime scene was a complete match with Alfred Turner's DNA. Odds of the blood coming from another person, she added, "exceeded the world's population."
As a key state witness at the hearing in 2004, Aaron Williams, who stood before the judge in handcuffs, said that he saw Turner repeatedly stab Emily Fisher. Under cross examination by defense attorney Gerald Skahan, Williams admitted that he lied to police who questioned him the day of the murder "because he was scared of Turner." He also acknowledged that prosecutors had given him a good deal in return for his testimony. Said Skahan: "Eight years in prison is a lot better than 50, isn't it?"
Williams also testified that he later told his friend Adrian Fisher what had happened. Adrian's response: "I figured that. Don't tell police. [If you do] they're going to lock me up for it."
Today, Shettlesworth says that, based on that statement, Adrian could have been charged with accessory to murder after the fact. "But it would have to be corroborated by someone else," he adds. "I think Adrian said it, but we'd have to prove it."
"The reality of another trial was worse than death to my father."
Hubert — who had predicted that Adrian would either die or go to prison — never lived to see the second trial. Williams' testimony about Adrian at the preliminary hearing was a blow to Hubert's health. He developed pneumonia and, later, pulmonary heart failure. In 2006, he was diagnosed with cancer. "He couldn't physically stand the experience of hearing the truth," says his daughter.
During the first two years after Emily's death in 1995, Rebecca had made regular trips home to Memphis to check on her father. "He wasn't an emotional man," says Rebecca, "though I did see him cry a few times. But when I would break down and sob, he would say, 'I understand, honey. It will be okay.'"
In 1997, a year after the first trial, Hubert met another woman through a personals ad and married her. "I really like his wife," says Rebecca, "and I think my mother would have liked her too." In the fall of 1997, Hubert sold the house on Central where Emily was murdered, moved to East Memphis, retired from his job at FedEx a year later, and lived "a smaller, more private life" for more than seven years.
Then the news broke of Williams' involvement in the murder, and "the reality of another trial was worse than death to him," says Rebecca. "When he found out Aaron was at the house that day, that meant he'd have to reconcile the fact that Adrian knew more than he told." Hubert died of cancer in September 2006.
Emily's sister and Rebecca's aunt, Kathy Klyce, says she felt no sadness at Hubert's passing. "The division [between us after the first trial] was complete and final. I always wondered if the police questioned him after Turner's arrest. I feel angry that he died without telling us what he knew."
Rebecca acknowledges her father's "self-serving element," but she also saw a man in deep denial. "It would be a lot to expect [him] to suddenly see the light and say, 'Oh, my son should finally face the consequences of his actions.' Denial doesn't work that way," she says. "My father wasn't a man to make choices based on strong values. He was a parent who did the best he could with the tools and experiences he had — in a difficult situation."
She also admits she protected Adrian too, by letting herself believe he knew nothing about the murder. "But I also did it to protect myself," she says. "If I had come home to discover my mother was brutally killed, my brother was on the phone with her moments before it happened, and that his best friend was there with her at the time, I most likely would have cracked up. But I didn't crack up. It took years for this all to sink in. My survival skills have kept me alive — and relatively sane."
Her father's faults aside, Rebecca remembers a man who wrote his children funny, warm, encouraging letters, and how he'd say, after Emily's death, "You look so much like your mother." Hearing this made Rebecca happy, because "I knew he thought of her too. And when I would act like her with him, I felt she was there."
"There was only one man bleeding in that house . . ."
Three years after his arrest, on January 10, 2007, 33-year-old Alfred Turner stood trial for the murder of Emily Fisher. Aaron Williams took the stand and told jurors that he saw the defendant kneeling over the victim with a pocketknife "just constantly stabbing away." He also said that Turner forced Redmond, the Fisher's housekeeper, upstairs to a bedroom, demanding to know, "Where's the money?" There, according to prosecutors, Turner left his blood on the carpet under a bed, and, later, on a screen door.
On cross examination, defense attorney Skahan called as a witness O.C. Smith, former Shelby County medical examiner. Smith claimed that the DNA evidence used in the case had not been carefully handled and thus was not reliable. When questioned by prosecutor Tom Henderson, however, Smith acknowledged that he was not a DNA specialist.
The defense also claimed that they were unable to conduct their own DNA tests on Turner's blood because the material no longer existed. But today the District Attorney's office maintains that material was never lost and is still available and that, if they choose, the defense can obtain a sample of Turner's blood and have a separate lab compare it to the DNA sample from the crime scene.
At Turner's trial, the jurors also saw videotaped portions of the 1996 trial of Rodney Blades and George Tate, in which Adrian and Hubert Fisher testified about Adrian's relationship with these men. Blades at the time had 16 previous arrests and nine convictions, three of which were for felonies. Tate's record included drug dealing, kidnapping, and a home invasion, and he had been inside the Fisher home. In closing arguments defense attorney Skahan said police had "the right men on trial in 1996 and the wrong man now."
But prosecutor Henderson reiterated: "There was only one man bleeding in that house and it was Shawn [Alfred Turner] over there. That's the man who killed Emily Fisher."
On January 17, 2007, after 11 hours of deliberation, the jury found Turner guilty of facilitation to commit felony murder. Their decision indicated they believed Turner was there but they weren't convinced he did the deed.
Detective Shettlesworth says he sensed trouble when the prosecution didn't make it clear how Turner's blood got there. "The one who does the stabbing, most of the time," he explains, "is the one who stabs himself." It was mentioned, he says, but it wasn't hammered home to jurors.
"I never remember handling a multistabbing homicide where the victim was stabbed as many times as Mrs. Fisher that the defendant didn't cut or stab himself," says Shettlesworth.He explains that when you use a knife without a guard, like a pocketknife, and you hit a hard object — such as a skull, where Emily was stabbed at least five times — "your hand is going to slide down on that blade and get cut. The jury should never have gone into the jury room without that being made clear to them."
Prosecutor Reginald Henderson believes that point was made clear. "I just don't think it mattered to the jurors as much as other factors," he adds.
"He should ask for forgiveness, tell the Fisher family what happened."
For juror Jodi Ball, Turner's lack of a violent history and his subdued personality carried more weight in the jury's decision. "The defendants from the first trial [Rodney Blades and George Tate] were career criminals, in and out of prison," she says today. "Turner seemed to have led a quiet life. I believe he was there, his blood was there, but maybe he tried to stop the murder and that's how he got cut."
She and other jurors also had trouble believing Williams and other witnesses with criminal backgrounds. "I just think more people were involved, including one of the first defendants [in 1996]," says Ball. Though she won't specify which defendant, she says, from watching the videotape, "I saw a coldness, a lack of empathy about him from the time he walked in the courtroom. But we had to go with the evidence we had."
Although the jury wasn't convinced that Turner did the stabbing, Judge Otis Higgs Jr. had no problem handing him the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, describing the crime as the most brutal he'd seen in 40 years: "If ever the maximum sentence was deserved in a case, this is it."
That was gratifying to Shettlesworth, who says he prayed about the case and later learned his wife had been praying too. Asked how a man with no criminal record, who is now reportedly teaching a Bible class in prison, could fly into a murderous rage over a $20 debt, Shettlesworth says, "I don't know. Only he knows that and I wish he'd tell it. If he's really been 'saved,' then he should tell the truth, ask for forgiveness, tell the Fisher family what happened."
Prosecutor Reginald Henderson speculates, although he says he has no factual basis, that Turner "was acting under the influence. Or maybe he was owed a lot more than $20."
Family members and others have wondered why none of the three defendants — Blades, Tate, or Turner — fit the description given by the neighbor the morning of the murder. Daniel Holloman testified that he saw three young men, 15 or 16 years old, "small in stature" in baggy clothes, at the Fishers' side door. All three defendants in the 1996 and 2007 trials were heavier and ranged in age, at the time of the murder, from 21 to 30. But in the first trial, Adrian Fisher testified that quite a few boys and young men knew of his wealth, and his father stated that Adrian's associates had come by the house numerous times wanting money for drug debts. So it's possible that more than one group came to the Fisher house that day. "I think the men who banged on Aaron Williams' door that morning looking for Adrian were the ones who [Holloman] saw at the Fishers' house," says Shettlesworth. "But I believe they left, maybe planning to come back. Then, 30 minutes later, Williams and Turner showed up."
"An incredible gift to all of us."
With the second trial behind them and two men in jail, Emily's family has mixed feelings about the verdict. Although Rebecca understands Shettlesworth's disappointment that Turner wasn't found guilty of murder, she's grateful for what the detective gave her. "I was living with no faces and now I have two," she says. "And we have cold, hard evidence and testimony. [Shettlesworth's] persistence was an incredible gift to all of us." While Rebecca isn't convinced that Turner did the stabbing, "I'm convinced he was there. And if I'd had the interview with him that [the detective] had, I'd probably be convinced too. "
As for Adrian's old friend Aaron Williams, who had spent many nights at the Fisher home, Rebecca is still burdened by the knowledge that her mother trusted him: "So when he showed up [with Alfred Turner] she probably felt safe inviting them into the house."
Kathy, who was the only family member present throughout both trials and at all hearings except one — "It could get very lonely," she says — echoes her niece's gratitude to Shettlesworth, saying, "He cared so much." After the verdict, she adds, "I was numb. I was relieved it was over and there wouldn't be any more trials. [The prosecutors] said Turner's penalty could be 25 years and that sounded okay, though not great. I didn't know how unlikely it was that he would actually serve that time."
"Emily would not have wanted to protect the killers."
Kathy also didn't know just how soon Turner, who is serving his sentence at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning would be eligible for a parole hearing. Just two months ago, in early September 2007, she got the word: His first hearing was scheduled for the 13th of that month. The rationale: Credit for three-plus years already served, good behavior, and jail overcrowding. At the hearing, to which Kathy flew from her home in Delaware, Turner stated, ". . . I was not there. I was not involved. I am innocent." Family members also spoke for him, including a sister who contended that the DNA was mishandled, that Turner was framed, and that everyone involved had schemed to convict a scapegoat because Emily was from a prominent family.
Parole was denied. Turner won't be eligible for another hearing till 2013. He is appealing his guilty verdict. His lawyer, Lance Chism, declines to comment on the grounds for his appeal or a timeline.
Looking back at the hearing, Kathy says she felt violated having to listen to Turner's family's accusations. "I was imagining how terrified Emily was when that man, sitting there a few feet away from me, coldly asserting his innocence, was chasing her around her house stabbing her. . . . And to know that we will be lucky if we keep him in jail for 15 years terrifies me. Tennessee does not protect its citizens."
Over the past dozen years, Kathy's psychic wounds haven't healed completely and some days she even blames herself: "Since the last trial, I've thought that if I had never left Memphis, Emily's murder would never have happened." Then she adds with a smile, "A friend calls that magical thinking."
But she knows one thing for certain: "Emily would have wanted to live. She would have wanted the killers caught, even if it meant that Adrian was tried for accessory to murder. She would not have wanted to protect the killers. She would want us to do all we could to see justice done."
"I feel Mom guiding me almost every day."
In May 2007, two events took place that brought joy to Rebecca and other family members. A tribute concert in honor of Emily Klyce Fisher was held at Idlewild Presbyterian Church. Arranged by Emily's brother Henry, who lives in the San Francisco area, the tribute featured the Central High School Concert Singers and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra performing Faure's Requiem. "I really think Mom was working through us," says Rebecca. "We could lay her to rest in a more peaceful way than after the funeral."
A week later, at TheatreWorks in Overton Square, Rebecca opened a one-woman show in Memphis she'd already presented in various other cities. Titled The Magnificence of the Disaster, the play tells the story of her mother's murder with Rebecca portraying various "characters" in the real-life drama — her parents, brother, aunts, Adrian's dope-dealing pals, even the prosecutors and defense attorneys. In some parts, she takes creative license, using anecdotes others had told her about Adrian, and putting herself in their place.
"Strange situations call for strange solutions," Rebecca says when people raise eyebrows at the idea of Emily's daughter performing such a show. "Doing this has helped me deal with the tragedy life handed me, and it's my way of making something good come of it. It will always live inside me, but I wanted to get it out of my head and into the light of day." The show will run again in Memphis March 20-23 and March 27-30 at TheatreWorks.
Truly her mother's daughter, Rebecca is active in several San Francisco arts organizations. "I feel very close to her and more like her when I do this work," she says, "and that I'm following in the Klyce tradition. I love it when people tell me, 'Your mother would be so proud of you.'"
Now, with the murder solved — though questions about it may always linger in the minds of many people — Rebecca believes "an enormous chapter" in her life is over. "I feel Mom guiding me along most every day," she says, "and I think I heard her saying, 'You can go on, Rebecca. Move on from this and start the rest of your life.'"
For Kathy, moving on means "getting the murderer out of the way," and she hopes the crime doesn't come up in court again for at least six years. "It would be such a comfort," she says, "to think of Emily in a different context. To celebrate who she was instead of having to focus on how she died."
For the rest of her life, no matter what happens, she'll yearn for a sister she loved so much. Says Kathy: "I still want Emily to be alive, here, now."