I met Karen in 2019 and consider her a friend, even though she is pretty upset with me at the moment. Karen has been in the grip of a gambling addiction for decades now and because I tried to help her beat it (and failed) she has given me the silent treatment. I know that an addict needs to want to help themselves before they can get a grip on their addiction, but there was hope, until she had cash in her hands.....
Karen's story is really tragic, but Joe is the victim - not Karen. She tells everyone that Joe tried to kill her and she cannot recall what happened that day. That is all lies, she recalls perfectly well what happened and that is why she never wants people to research or speak to anyone from Joe's side. Karen fears what people wil learn about what she did.
When I met Karen in 2019 I listened to what she had to say, every word of it. I heard what wasn't said as well. In the time I have known her, not once have I seen her shed a tear for the man she supposedly loves with all her heart. Not once have I heard her speak of family gatherings, family vacations or any type of memory EXCEPT times she and Joe went to casinos. This is what told me Karen was suffering from a gambling addiction so strong that it blotted out any other rational thoughts.
It was after she took off back over the hill that I realized the crime she was originally charged with was the right crime. Every ounce of my being feels terrible for talking Karen into accepting the manslaughter plea. Karen was locked up for almost 8 years and the first thing she sought when she got out was a casino. Not even all that time in West Valley and other facilities, none of that put a dent in the gambling addiction that has a hold on her.
I saw the home she and Joe bought together, the one she made payments on all the years she was locked up. The home she is hell bent to move back into because she feels entitled to it because she is handicapped and she made those payments all those years. I heard about all the fancy things she claimed was in the house and is now gone. Karen is so bitter about all the things from the house that are gone that it eats her up inside. She could not possibly know those things were gone though unless she has been to the home since she got out of prison!
Never has she talked of how she and Joe went shopping for those items, or how much fun it was to pick them out. Karen only speaks of how she is entitled to those things and how they have been stolen from HER. She never speaks of anything except the items and gambling with Joe. I listened to her when she said how upset Joe would get if she went gambling without him, or at other casinos except the one he allowed her to. I listened when she told me she went to the gambler's anon classes and how "he made her quit". I knew Joe never made her quit. She claimed it was because she always won big and he wanted her to keep gambling. I knew this was complete bullshit when she said it but I said nothing, just kept listening as she spun her web of lies.
Addiction does that to people. Addiction makes a person lie, cheat, steal and betray friendships.
Karen's addiction has her in such a stranglehold that she cannot even enjoy the good memories she had with Joe or her family. The only thing that exists for Karen is gambling and the need to gamble.
On December 14, 2022 I received a call around 1 a.m. from Karen. I had been talking to her off and on all week and much of what she kept telling me made no sense at all. That night she said she was lost, had no money to get back to her hotel and was in a tent with a homeless guy who was kind enough to keep her safe and warm. I also listened to how she said she met this homeless guy. I think she said his name was Bob or Bill. He had gone into the casino to use the bathroom and she met him just outside of the casino. She never could explain to me how she got from the urgent care where her mother had left her to this casino though.She was supposed to go to the pharmacy to pick up her meds and ended up nowhere near the pharmacy.
Karen had around $6,000 on her that day, she claimed she only had $3,000 and somehow she lost it. Karen kept annoying an Uber driver claiming she lost the cash in his car. I knew this wasn't true because of where I picked her up from and because of the fact she admitted she had played a few slots but they shut the machine off on her. Casinos do not shut off machines. Karen ran out of money is why she couldn't play anymore. She didn't even have enough money left to get a ride back to her hotel so she called me to bail her out.
It was near 4 a.m. when I got there and took her to the motel. Karen was so scatterbrained I could tell she had hit near rock bottom. The lies she spewed just kept coming but I listened. I also told her this was her one shot with me to get back on track and do what parole said she had to. Her parole agent in San Diego was done with her, he never said why though, just that he kicked her back to San Bernadino and she had to report there the day I had picked her up.
I spent that entire day running Karen's errands. Karen could not tell me what urgent care she went to or what pharmacy her meds were at! This is how bad her addiction had a hold on her. It took hours to get that figured out and on the road to San Bernadino. Karen refused to allow me to speak to her doctors. She really did not want me speaking to her parole agent either, or anyone who might have any case information. I saw the paranoia in her on that issue but I said nothing.
I brought Karen to Barstow, far away from casinos and all the things that could get her parole violated. I watched as she paced the floor in her hotel room because the need to feed that addiction was stronger than her will power to fight it. Each day the pacing grew worse and her ability to think was clouded more and more. I listened as she told stories, the same stories over and over. It sounded rehearsed, staged and repetitive. Karen kept repeating the story of how Joe only let her gamble at this one casino and never without him.
Each day that passed was another day her need to be back over the hill grew stronger. There are no casinos anywhere near Barstow so Karen could not feed her addiction and it was literally driving her crazy. Nothing else existed for Karen except her and what she perceived she "needed" to get done. None of which was actually the important stuff. I did force her to accomplish a few of her important issues but that seemed to drive her to the point that she finally broke and ran off back over the hill. It was then that I realized how powerful her gambling addiction truly was.
It had only been a couple of days since she had received two of her retirement checks and cashed them. With the cash in hand her need to gamble was too powerful and she caved. She rented a U-Haul and succumbed. We have not heard a peep from her since. We will though. She will hit rock bottom and violate her parole. She will call one of us, but this time we will only be moral support. Karen will not get any other assistance from any of us.
After she left I did some research and put pieces of the story together. It began to sound like so many other true crime stories I have read over the years. I also realized that Karen was very good at getting people to fall for her victim act and that Joe deserved so much better than having his memory tarnished with her lies about being a victim of domestic violence.
I never knew Joe but everyone, even Karen, spoke of what a great man he was. I have not heard one bad word about him except from Karen and her stories fell apart on closer inspection. Her story began that Joe had been drinking that day and had gotten some bad moonshine. When pressed about how much moonshine she had difficulty explaining before finally saying a mason jar full. This is where her story fell apart! Anyone who knows anything about homemade moonshine also knows it cannot be kept in glass mason jars! But, I let her talk... She claimed after he drank this he began acting crazy and attacked her. She claimed he grabbed her teeth and "pulled them down" to the point she had to eat with a straw for over a year. She claimed he tried to pry her eyes out with his thumbs. She claimed he was tossing the sledgehammer up in the air and letting it fall. She claimed that she was in and out and has little memory of what happened, but seemed to recall quite a bit. She claimed her bit her pinkie finger off. She did have a neck brace on in her mugshot but could not recall how her neck was hurt. She claimed he shoved her head into the toilet and that he was swinging the sledgehammer at her in the bathroom and that is how the toilet got smashed. None of this is true and all of it sounds unreal each time she recites it.
Karen also claims there was no argument prior to the attack. She sounds like any other addict swearing everyone else is lying and only she is telling the truth about the incident.
The truth of the matter though is that her addiction had ruined her three decade marriage to a man most woman would die to have. Joe was handsome and from all accounts, a very good man. Joe was not abusive, not even on the day of the incident. Joe had never raised a hand to Karen, not even as he lay dying on the floor. Joe did everything he could to hold his marriage together and get Karen the help she needed to beat her gambling addiction. Sadly, the addiction meant more to her than her love for Joe. Karen hates his children because they demanded their father to stop her from gambling away everything Joe had worked all his life to build up. They stood between her and the retirement accounts Joe had removed her name from and all of the cash she wanted, but Joe had prevented her from accessing.
Joe put her on a leash. The one past of her story that I do believe is the part about Joe only permitting her to gamble at this one casino when he was with her. I believe this because he was trying to control what she spent. She did say that he would give her cash and collect any tickets she won. This makes 100% sense if he was trying to control her spending at the casino. When she would speak of this she also seemed to resent it because it sounded like she wanted far more freedom. She also spoke of how Joe would get upset if she went to a casino without him.
The arguments got worse with each passing day of their marriage. Karen was gambling away everything they had. Karen would tell anyone who listened how her mother cleaned out her bank accounts but this is not true. Karen gambled it all away and when it was gone she began gambling Joe's money away and this was the downfall of the relationship. Nothing was ever enough for Karen because she believed each dollar she dumped into those machines was the one that would hit big and she had to keep trying for that huge payday.
Joe loved Karen and his heart broke watching her succumb to the addiction. When she quit gambler's anon that was when Joe hit his breaking point. Karen swears he made her quit because he wanted her to keep gambling, she always won big and he wanted her to keep winning. IF this had been true then he would still be alive. Sadly, her quitting the program is the straw that broke the camel's back. Joe wanted her gambling to stop. He could not watch her waste everything he had worked so hard to build up so that his children had a good inheritance. His children had finally convinced him to take action and he spoke to an attorney about a divorce.
The arguments were bad and frequent. Neighbors heard many of them. The day of the incident the arguing began early because Karen wanted to go to the casino and Joe refused. He had reached a point that he would no longer enable her addiction, not even if he was present while she gambled. Joe swore not one more penny would go to those machines and Karen was not going to put up with that.They argued all day off and on until Joe had enough and went to take a shower. When he walked away something inside of Karen snapped.
We may never know if she was so angry or if she just thought if he was dead that she would have access to his money, but something inside of her snapped when he stepped into the shower that evening. As the water washed over him Karen found the sledgehammer and used it to attack a naked, unarmed man while he showered. The attack was so vicious the toilet was smashed and the bathroom was destroyed. When she stopped swinging it was a miracle that Joe was still alive. He tried to crawl away and get help....
Some time passed, time Karen could have called for help but chose not to. We may also never know what drove her to attack him a second time, using the sledgehammer to end his life. When the paramedics and police finally did show up, it was too late. Joe was dead and they home was covered in his blood. This is when Karen's lies began and have not ended.
Joe deserves so much better than to have his name and memory tarnished with the lies he tells. His children deserve so much better than to suffer hearing these lies through the rumors that get told to them. I has regrets about convincing Karen to accept the manslaughter plea that got her released on parole. The only comfort I have is that I know she will violate and end up back inside because her addiction is far stronger than her need to abide by parole requirements. This must be how Joe felt in those final weeks before he was killed. I care about Karen as a friend and it is heartbreaking to watch her self destruct when I know she has the capability to do better.
For his sake I will never quit trying to get the woman he loved to overcome the demon she is fighting. I will not enable the behavior, but I will be here to support her emotionally. In the last day of his life Joe had not given up completely on Karen. Joe gave her a choice, the gambling or him. Karen made a bad decision that left Joe bludgeoned to death and her locked up unable to feed her addiction. Sadly, all those years locked up did nothing to quench the thirst of her addiction. The first opportunity she got she took it. That was the night she called me at 1 a.m. broke, lost and in a tent with a homeless man.
I pray that Karen gets the help she needs to beat this demon, but I also know she will have to hit true rock bottom before that happens. Anyone watching a loved one battle this type of addiction knows how painful it is. For Joe's sake though, he must not have died in vain. The Lord put me in Karen's life for a reason and I believe that might be to help her overcome the addiction so that Joe may truly rest in peace.
***More on this story to come.......