Sunday, May 26, 2013
Foster paced the floor in a tight semi-circle that seemed to get
narrower each time he passed the telephone on the small table between
the living room and the dining area. With each pass, he’d pause near
the table, look down at the phone, run his fingers through his hair,
glance first at the clock, and then at the address book in his hand.
When he resumed pacing for the fourth time, Gloria spoke up.
God’s sake, Ryan, if you don’t call him, I will.”
will,” he said emphatically. “You heard the dispatcher. They aren’t
going to get too excited about it this early. I’m sure she is okay and
she’ll call if we give her a couple more minutes.” Even as he said the
words, the look on his face seemed to belie them, and Gloria knew it.”
just knew it. She’s too young. I tried to tell you, but no …,” she
okay. You’ve made yourself real clear on that, Gloria.”
then, call him. I mean it.” She got up from the chair and stepped
toward him with her hand out. “Give me the phone. I’ll get him out
held out his arm as if to block her path to the phone. He turned and
picked up the receiver and dialed the number written in the address
book. After several rings, he said, “Come on Sheriff, answer the
phone, damn it.”
Thanks for answering. This is Ryan Foster. Sorry to bother you at home
on a weekend, but we need your help. Marcy is missing over at the
coast, and Gloria and I are scared. She’s not answering her cell, and
I can’t seem to get the Mendocino Sheriff’s Office excited about a
missing teenager. I know something is terribly wrong.”
Ryan. What happened?”
went over to Big River Park with some friends for a picnic at the
beach. About 6:00 pm, she went back to her friend’s car to re-charge
her cell phone, and she never came back to the group. The others
packed up and went to the parking area looking for her and found the
car, but no-one was around. I understand young girls go off with
boyfriends and the sheriff isn’t going to call out the dogs for a
17-year-old girl who is a few hours late, but I know her, and I can
tell you something’s really wrong. I’m leaving to go over there now
myself, and I know you and Mendocino Sheriff Dan Gleason are friends.
I’ve only met him once or twice. I thought you might get him to have
one or two deputies put in some time to help out a fellow cop.”
are right. I remember Marcy, and it doesn’t seem like her. If there is
an emergency, time might be really important.”
“Thanks, Rick. I hope I’m wrong and I’ll owe you and Sheriff Gleason
both an apology later.”
won’t be necessary. Are you going to be on the radio while you drive
and I’ll have my cell phone.”
Moments later, Ryan was on his way to the location his daughter was
last seen, an hour-and-a-half drive to the California North Coast.
Since he was the Commander of the Clear Lake Area of the California
Highway Patrol (CHP), he was on call 24/7, and for that reason, he had
an unmarked sedan for emergencies. Although this was not an ‘official’
call, in his mind it was an emergency, and he turned on the red light,
and urged the Crown Victoria quickly forward across the winding
mountain roads leading to the coast highway.
Fifteen minutes or more passed, and the radio came to life. “7-L,
Ukiah dispatch,” the CHP radio blared.
quickly grabbed the two-way radio microphone from it’s cradle, “This
is 7-L, go ahead, Ukiah.” The urgency of his voice betrayed his
attempt to hide his concerns.
Mendocino Sheriff advises two sheriffs units are en route to the
was relieved that Lake County Sheriff Rick Sanders had been able to
get his counterpart in Mendocino County to give the disappearance
serious consideration, even if only as a favor to a fellow law
enforcement Commander. He breathed a little easier at the thought that
law enforcement help was en route and would be on the scene well
before he got there.
drove on in silence. Every time he looked at his watch it showed that
he was only a few minutes closer than before, and he cursed the windy
mountain road. About forty minutes later, the radio blared again,
Ryan nearly pounced on the microphone. “This is 7-L, Ukiah, go
on Highway 128 two miles west of Boonville.”
a moment, the radio continued, “Mendocino Sheriff Gleason will meet
you at Route 128 and Highway 1.”
“10-4,” he said. “I didn’t expect the Sheriff himself to get
rolled up to the intersection some time later, there was a marked
Sheriff’s unit in the turnout. As he pulled in behind the unit,
Gleason got out of the passenger door and began walking toward his
car. A uniformed deputy sat behind the steering wheel and didn’t get
got out of his car and met Gleason between the vehicles. “Thanks for
everything you are doing, Dan, but I never expected … .” He stopped in
his tracks when he saw the anguish in Gleason’s face. “You aren’t here
for that, are you Dan?”
is the toughest thing I’ve ever done, Ryan.” He gulped and paused to
moisten his lips. “They found Marcy.”
she … okay?”
sorry, Ryan. I’m so sorry. It’s a crime scene. You shouldn’t go there.
knees buckled and he leaned hard against the fender of the car. “Oh,
my God, No! Not Marcy!”
so sorry, Ryan. The Department of Justice crime lab is on the way, and
I’ve got my best guys called out. We’ll solve this. Just give us
“Murdered?” was all his broken voice could force through his trembling
Gleason said in a barely audible voice.”
didn’t feel the need to ask for details at this moment. The look on
Gleason’s face spoke of facts too familiar from his own 28 years of
law enforcement. Marcy’s luck had simply run out. There, in that most
tranquil Pacific Coast setting of warm soft sand and sea grasses
caressed by gentle ocean breezes, serenaded by the tranquility of the
ever present surf, one young girl’s innocence had crossed paths with
the personification of pure evil.
he knew the story; he’d seen it played out dozens of times with other
children, and other parents; and now it was going to be his turn to
cope with it … or not.
stepped away from the men and walked to the edge of the highway. For
several minutes he stood and stared in silence at the ocean bluffs in
the distance, as the surf relentlessly pounded the rocks below them.
Gleason and the deputy, who had gotten out of the car, looked at each
other, neither knowing what to say to a man who had just heard the
worst news either could imagine.
Occasionally, Ryan slammed his fist into the open palm of his hand,
cursing beneath his breath. After a few minutes, he returned to the
other men and said, “I want to see her. Take me there, please.”
suspected you would,” Gleason said with resignation. “If you don’t
mind, I’ll drive your car.”
course. Sure. I understand.”
Gleason motioned at the Deputy, who got back into the patrol car and
waited to lead the way. Once Ryan and Gleason were in Ryan’s car, both
vehicles pulled out onto the highway at a much slower pace than
“Ryan,” Gleason said. “It’s okay not to do this. If at any time you
aren’t comfortable, I’ll understand if you want to stop or leave.”
be okay on that, but I’ll never accept that my beautiful daughter is
dead,” he said through painful tears. “Tell me what you know.”
first officer at the scene began to trace her steps from the beach to
her friend’s car, and found her body hidden in the bushes about thirty
feet from the parking area. We have DOJ en route, so we didn’t
contaminate the scene after he confirmed she was dead.”
“There’s little or nothing to see, until DOJ processes the scene, so
please don’t contaminate the scene. You know if it was anyone else,
I’d never let you near it.”
“Thanks, I won’t do anything. I just want to see her and say goodbye.”
After a few moments, he asked, “Was she … ?” He choked back the words,
but Gleason knew what he wanted to know.
only there for a moment, so I can’t be certain, but the deputy who
found her said it does appear the perpetrator was alone, and probably
did sexually assault her, but it looked like she fought him to the
end. He should be scratched up pretty good. We will know more after
cringed hard, and didn’t ask any more questions. He stared out the
window into the darkness of the road ahead. Occasionally, he uttered,
“Oh God,” in a barely discernable voice. Gleason knew there was
nothing he could say to ease the pain, so he just drove in silence.
Finally, he said, “Do you think you should notify your wife?”
“Shit,” Ryan said, as he pondered the hell he was going to face when
Gloria was told the news. “I’ll take care of it afterwards. This is
going to be bad. We’ve been having problems for a while, and this is
going to send her over the edge. She is going to blame me because we
had a big fight about whether Marcy should be allowed to come over
here with her older teenage friends. I convinced her to let her come,
and now … she’s … dead.” His voice trailed off into tears as they
drove the rest of the trip in silence.
minutes later they turned off of Highway 1 and quickly arrived at the
beach parking area. Both cars pulled up to the crime scene tape that
cordoned off the entire western end of the beach and parking area.
There were three cars parked inside the taped off area. Ryan
recognized his daughter’s best friend’s car, in which Marcy had ridden
over to the beach, and another car he’d seen around with her
daughter’s friends. It appeared they were sequestered until the
Department of Justice had the opportunity to look them over for clues.
“Nice job of protecting the scene for possible clues,” Ryan
thought to himself.
third car was the marked patrol car of the first Deputy on scene, who
had found her body. It is also common to leave the first responder
vehicle where it stopped to prevent it from wiping out possible clues
and Gleason approached the roped off area cautiously and gently moved
under the taped barrier. Gleason led Ryan through the brush-lined path
to a point where he could see the body, twenty feet from the path,
covered by a yellow plastic blanket, and stopped. Upon sight of the
blanket covered body, Ryan put both hands up to his face, and wiped
the tears from his eyes.
think this is as close as we ought to get, Ryan. We want this guy
really bad, and we don’t want to disturb the sand along the path.
There might be clues.”
Gleason stepped away to give him a moment to grieve alone. Ryan cupped
his hands, covering his nose and mouth, took in a deep breath, and
exhaled slowly into his hands. “God, I know we don’t talk much, but
if you are there, you’d better fix this. I’ve been a righteous man … a
cop … I’ve fought the battle for good over evil all my life. Why would
you bring this to my doorstep? You know me. You know
I’m not going to put up with this. You know this won’t be the
end of it for me. If you want to save my soul from hell, fix this …
NOW!” He looked briefly upward again, then back at the body,
staring at the blanket, waiting for it to move and for Marcy to sit
stood there, transfixed, for what seemed an eternity, as if waiting
for God to deliver on a secret pact they had just made. His eyes
closed and his jaw tightened to mask his pain, as his face struggled
to hide the depth of his growing pain and anger. He slowly drew in and
inhaled a full breath deep into his lungs, exhaling slowly and
deliberately, while his face became flushed with inner rage.
forced to accept the truth in front of him, he abandoned the void
between faith and reality, turned and slowly walked back toward his
car. “Then that’s how it will have to be.” he muttered as he
walked away. Once inside the car, he leaned against the steering
wheel, buried his face in his forearms, and sobbed uncontrollably.
As the rising moon from the east broke over the coastal mountain
range, it cast an eerie glow over the Big River beach. The waves
pounding the shoreline seemed to glow in the reflected twilight,
illuminating the crime scene tape that now adorned the once tranquil
park. And, just as the surf on that day forever changed that
landscape, so too, had Ryan Foster’s life changed, not for the better,
and he knew that somewhere out there was a dead man walking.