I am the subject of the Feb. 24 Portage Daily Register story “Cold but not forgotten” by Noah Vernau.
As a survivor of a violent crime as well as a clinical psychologist who treats survivors of violent crimes, I can attest both personally and professionally to the traumatizing impact such an event has on a young person. Reading the recent account of my ordeal reopened for me a difficult chapter of my life, an unsettling experience that was further confounded by Portage Police Det. Lt. Dan Garrigan’s expression of doubt that the case would ever go to court, in part due to the “lack of cooperation, so far from the lone witness in the case,” referring to me.
It is unclear to me what Garrigan is referring to when he cites my lack of cooperation, his basis for making such an outlandish claim, or what would motivate him to make such an insensitive assertion knowing that it would be published for others, including me, to read.
I never have been contacted by Garrigan. He stated in the article that he had been unable to reach me.
But, given that I maintain ties to Portage through high school friends and a brother in the area, that I have a presence on social media, and that I kept my name when I married, it should not be difficult for any detective (or news reporter) to locate me. Furthermore, I was in Portage twice this past summer, once to attend a class reunion. Also present at that reunion and interviewed for the Daily Register’s article was fellow classmate and son of the former Portage police chief who could have, if asked, served as a liaison to anyone wanting to contact me.
In addition to never having been contacted by Garrigan since taking over my case, I have not been contacted by anyone from the Portage Police Department since the mid-to-late 1970s, with exception of a letter I received at my home in December 2002 from Officer Teresa Johnson informing me that evidence from my case had been lost due to “several remodeling projects in the past years” and because “evidence rooms have been moved around numerous times.” The address to which this letter was sent remains my current home address. It would seem the only way I could not have been located would have been if minimal or no effort was made.
Had I been contacted by Portage Police Department in the intervening years, I would have been responsive. However, without being offered an opportunity to cooperate for nearly 40 years, I fail to see any basis for Garrigan’s unfounded assertion that I have offered a “lack of cooperation, so far.”
The allegation in the article was inaccurate and maligned my character. In addition, the writer failed to provide me with an opportunity to comment or respond to such an allegation before printing it. Had I been contacted for comment, I would have explained that during the ongoing course of police investigative interviews with then Chief of Police William Tierney, his treatment of this then then-17-year-old — who had been brutally assaulted and left for dead — was extremely interrogatory and accusative in nature and marked by victim blaming.
Among other things, I felt pressured by him to implicate a specific individual as the assailant and was accused of lying when I could not identify the source of drugs being brought into Portage (as if I knew and as if it had anything to do with my assault case). The process became so traumatizing that my mother had to intervene and insist that he no longer have contact with me.
I suspect this may be the origin of how I gained the reputation of “uncooperative,” a reputation that has apparently stuck with me for 45 years. Garrigan could not possibly have come up with that description of me on his own as neither he, nor any of his predecessors since Tierney, have made any request for my cooperation.
Despite this challenging major life event, I am fortunate that I have been able to move beyond this experience and that the assault and its aftermath have not come to define who I am. I live a very happy and full life, thanks to family and friends. I would like to express my deep-felt gratitude to Herb Jones whose heroic actions during the early morning hours of Aug. 21, 1972, saved my life.