Judge's words have power to heal
May 05, 2010
For a couple of weeks it's a little forlorn without the Charlene Castle story to tell.
Though it's a difficult story wrought with high emotion, ups and downs and a lot of pain, Char's ability to laugh about so many things makes it unbelievably inspiring for me. There is just so much to this story that I find I miss the chance to tell it all.
For those of you who may not have read the series, Charlene Castle was a victim in one of the biggest stories to ever reach Capac in 1995 when her soon-to-be-ex-husband (Lawrence Dell) sent an explosive device to her workplace. Unfortunately Char opened the package and from that moment in time forward her life would be forever changed. In fact, there was a time when it appeared she may not live to endure the changes. But she does and she perseveres. Today, she thrives.
This came, though, at a heavy, heavy price for Char. Needless to say her physical body was severely altered. She was burned by a blast of flames and pierced by flying shrapnel. It takes years of surgeries, physical therapy and then more surgeries to return to some semblance of "normal." Char doesn't let any of this stop her. She fights inch by inch for her recovery. And while she's fighting, she's in the midst of a very contentious divorce. With the person who sent the bomb. She's also in a custody battle with the bomber's parents. She must deal with the criminal trial as well.
For years Char knew she had to get out of her abusive relationship but a mixture of fear and denial kept her from doing so. When she finally finds the strength to leave— like the experts say—the danger level is at an all-time high. What happened to her was no fault of her own, yet she ended up being "punished" for standing up for herself and stopping the abuse. It's not easy, though, because years of abuse and the low self-esteem that comes with it had shaken her to her core.
After the trial, the jury takes just 45 minutes to find her ex guilty. Then St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Peter A. Deegan makes statements at sentencing that open the door for Char to step through on the path to emotional healing. Judge Deegan's words helped Char a great deal, and since I wasn't able to work his sentencing statements into the series I'd like to do so now:
"...What happened happened, and it cannot be undone. And without a question the jury, and properly so, based upon the evidence presented, have convicted you of two very heinous offenses.
You took upon yourself powers that generally are reserved to God alone. Power over life and death. And except that when they're relegated to God, usually he doesn't misuse those powers. You chose to. You chose by the wickedness of your own heart to make a determination to eliminate and kill a human being, and that human being was your wife. And then you very deviously and (in a) cowardly fashion proceeded to put together a bomb that you sent to her and bombs to other locations. The results of that bomb going off did not kill her, but certainly caused her grievous and horrible, horrible injuries, the like of which she'll probably on this Earth never totally recover from. It's rare that I have witnessed, and I've been on the bench for 15 years, such a cowardly, horrible act planned out by another human being against another person.
In relationship to this act, Charlene, as the victim of this particular crime, and there were so many other victims that were victimized by your acts, Mr. Dell, in this situation, the horrible injuries that Charlene received have not only physically scarred and injured her greviously, and she still continues to suffer as we're here today and will into the future, it scarred her soul in the process very much so.
And the one thing that I'm very clear about, Mr. Dell, is that this arose out of; just didn't happen on the spur of the moment. Your wife Charlene was caught up and captivated within an assaultive-type marriage for a long period of time. And she did everything humanly possible that could be done, in other words, to rid herself of that horrible situation.
This Court, based upon what has been presented to the Court through the course of the evidence is really convinced of something, Charlene, that you must understand, and that is that in no way whatsoever did you contribute to what happened to you. Don't ever allow yourself as the years go by to second guess what you should or should not have done to bring this about.
This was brought about because Lawrence Dell chose to bring it about. It had nothing to do with you in that sense. And you responded with a primeval cry from your very soul at the time when that explosion went off where you were engulfed in flames and not wanting to continue on, and yet as you said under oath in this Court and I heard it, that you found yourself—your whole being crying out that your babies still need you. And it was that that kept you alive. And you focused on that. And the reason I'm taking time to mention that now, it isn't over for you. You're going to suffer in the future and there's going to be times when it's going to be hard for you to keep fighting the good fight, but remember your babies need you and that's important and focus on that. And maybe it will make it a little bit more bearable.
As to you, Mr. Dell, it's going to be the sentence of this court, and you've already told the Court that I haven't done anything justly or properly yet, maybe I haven't, that's up to debate. But what I'm going to do now is something that's very just.
I'm sentencing you under Count I, the charge of Homicide, Attempted Murder, to a minimum of 40 years and a maximum of 80 years...One of the reasons
why I've chosen on that count to go 40 years is because I think it would be a travesty of justice that in any form or fashion that you would ever be released back into society. And I don't think that's going to happen, as long as Charlene still walks the Earth with the rightful fear that she has of you as a human being. And she shouldn't have to be worried about that.
As to Count II, the Explosives Resulting in Injury, as to that charge....the court will sentence you to life, and that is non-paroleable life. It certainly is the intent of this court, and I don't think I've ever had a case that I've felt more strongly about presented to me over the years, that you should never again be able to walk as a free man out of a prison setting, that you should be there for the rest of your life..."
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.