May 26 • 04:39 PM

Life will never be the same

Mail bomb victim shares story of courage, triumph

March 24, 2010
Editor's note: The following is the first in a series on the life-changing experiences of Charlene Castle. Charlene was a victim in one of the biggest news stories ever to hit Capac when she was severely injured by a bomb sent through the mail in February, 1995 to ANR Pipeline where she was employed. Charlene is sharing her story now in hopes of inspiring other women in abusive relationships to find their inner strength and make changes.

It's 1995 and Charlene Dell is trying to find herself.

She is digging her way out of a pit of low self-esteem; climbing over a mountain of insecurity and swimming in a sea of doubt created slowly over years with a man who controlled her every move.

Still, the tiny voice inside her says enough is enough. She wants a better life for her young kids—for herself. She files for divorce and hopes for a more peaceful future. By February, she's been battling it out in court for almost a year. She's finding that the Friend of the Court is not her friend and her soon-to-be-ex-husband is keeping his word: He's giving her hell at every turn.

Though she’s obviously beautiful, Charlene Dell doesn’t think so. She poses for photos in 1995 as part of a process to regain self-esteem.
Worn down as she is, Charlene soldiers through it. She doesn't know that her problems will increase exponentially. She hasn't a clue that her world would be rocked like an earthquake; that she'll open a package at work and a bomb will explode; that she'll end up having to pay the sender $30,000 in the divorce settlement. She isn't even remotely aware that Charlene Castle will emerge—courageous, stronger, more loving and inspiring than most people can ever imagine.

Easy pickings

Charlene didn't set out to be in an abusive relationship. She just wanted to be loved.

She's 20 when she meets Lawrence Dell. He's 11 years her senior and that's okay with her.

Today, Charlene says she doesn't really know what the attraction was—except he entered her life when she was at a low point.

"I was at a very lost point in my life right then, and people with a certain type of personality prey upon that and go for it," she says. "They see a weakness. I was at a low point."

Before long, Charlene realizes that something's not right in the relationship but she doesn't want to believe that she'd been so wrong about Dell.

Pretty soon she can no longer identify what's "normal." She's responsible for the entirety of their relationship but she's not allowed to choose a thing. He tells her which friends are acceptable; he checks up on her whereabouts constantly; he becomes enraged easily for reasons that aren't clear and Charlene finds herself walking on eggshells. She has two young children and wants to keep them safe and happy. Giving them a good family life is Charlene's top priority.

"I would try to do everything to avoid any episodes, that's what was expected," she says. "I had gotten into this and then everything becomes like a cover-up game. I don't want to admit I made a mistake, that I changed my whole life for this and add to my emotional problem."

As bad as it was, it would get worse. That is something of a blessing in disguise for Charlene.

Turning a corner

Try as she might to "do everything to avoid episodes," Charlene realizes that's an impossible feat when her father is hospitalized.

"He was in the ER and I was called from work to go there," Charlene says, adding that she remembers the event like it was yesterday.

"Larry had called work and I wasn't there. They told him where I was and he called the ER in Lapeer and got me out of the room and he ordered me to come home."

Charlene says she tried explaining that her dad was seriously injured, that she wasn't going to leave his side. The late John Palacios—an Imlay City Police Lieutenant—was there and he did something that made a huge difference in Charlene's life.

"(Dell) talked loud enough that John could hear it and John says 'Do you need me to go with you?' and I say 'no,'" Charlene recalls. "He says, 'are you going to be okay?' and I say 'yes, John, I'm going to be fine.' And I knew right then I couldn't keep living like that. That (Dell) just proved that he didn't care about anybody but himself. I really think if John hadn't been there that day, him acknowledging that somebody cared and knew it was wrong, I couldn't have left."

Charlene remembers wishing that Dell would just have an accident and 'go away.' She is conflicted about these feelings but they spur her on.

"I say to myself 'that's an awful thing to be thinking and then you're just standing there realizing you've been pushed to the point of being suicidal or homicidal," Charlene says. "This hits deep in the gut. You realize that you've got little kids and no matter what you have to change things."

So she does. She takes off of work to meet an attorney. She begins the process of divorce. In the meantime, she says nothing to Dell. Life must continue in the household on Blacks Corners Road, but it will never be the same.

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
Castle Creek
Milnes Ford
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