Monday, September 8, 2008

More Than Anything Else Has

This article in the 9/2/08 Poughkeepsie (NY) Journal is titled "Victim's Family Finds Closure." When you read the quotes from MVFHR members Marie Verzulli and Marguerite Marsh, you'll see that they describe their experience of meeting with the man responsible for killing their sister/mother in somewhat less absolute terms; the article says that the visit "helped them bring more closure to Cathy's death than anything else has."

That level of subtlety is harder for a newspaper headline to capture: that there is no complete closure after a murder, but that these survivors felt that meeting with the person responsible for the murder brought them closer to closure than an execution would have. It's an important point, though.

Here's the article:

Marguerite Marsh and her daughter sat at a table across from the man who killed Marsh's other daughter.

In a small room in Attica Correctional Facility, for two hours in January, they spoke with Kendall Francois, who is serving a life sentence for the murders of eight women in Poughkeepsie.

"My focus in going there was to tell him that I had forgiven him," Marsh said.

Today is the 10-year anniversary of the grisly discovery of eight women hidden in the home Francois shared with his parents and sister. One of the women whom he admitted to killing, Catherine Marsh, was

Marguerite Marsh's daughter.

"He felt that he owed us this visit because of what he had done," Marguerite Marsh said.

The family had initiated contact with Francois and he agreed to speak with them.

Francois told them about growing up and joining the military. He told them about his sex addiction and how he would often get angry when the women he had sex with wanted to leave.

They asked if he remembered Cathy. He said he did.

"Just before we left, he said, 'Tell Cathy's daughters that I'm sorry I killed their mother,' " Marsh said.

Catherine's daughters, now 16 and 14, have been adopted by their foster mother, and see their grandmother often, Marguerite Marsh said.

For the three-hour drive back to their home in Schenectady, Marie Verzulli, Catherine's sister, said she felt the anger and other emotions surrounding her sister's death, emotions she had slowly overcome.

"It really just flooded it all back in ... the whole thing becoming so, so very real and current," she said. "You could have just wiped away the last 10 years for a moment there."

In the years since Francois' arrest and the discovery of what happened to Catherine Marsh and the other seven women, Verzulli and her mother have tried to use her death to teach others.

Marguerite Marsh tells Catherine's story to school groups. She tells them about her daughter's drug addiction, and how she went to Poughkeepsie for rehab, but suffered a relapse.

"The relapse," Marsh said, "put her back on the street - put her into the arms of Kendall."

Verzulli works as a victim's adviser advocate for New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, a statewide coalition of organizations and individuals committed to the abolition of capital punishment. She said despite the magnitude of Francois' crimes, execution would solve nothing.

"The only thing the death penalty could have done would be a revenge or vengeance-type of answer," she said. "When you were done with that, you still had to deal with your loss."

Verzulli said the fact Francois has not been executed allowed them to make the three-hour drive to visit him in Attica, which helped them bring more closure to Cathy's death than anything else has.

"My mom had wanted to be able to go there and be able to sit across from him and be able to forgive him," Verzulli said. "She felt she had it in her heart, and she needed to sit across from him to know she could do it.

"And she did it."

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