Last Saturday, my twin sister and I said goodbye to my niece Stephaney as her journey to Valdosta, Georgia began. Stephaney was excited and looking forward to spending a few months on a beautiful ranch with horses, rolling meadows and atv’s.
Cindy and I felt surely the change of scenery in Georgia would be good for my niece. Our entire family were “on board” with this decision for Stephaney to give Georgia a try but, within days we would greatly regret sending Stephaney to Georgia.
My niece is 31 years old. She is beautiful and she is Bipolar One. Stephaney also struggles with meth addiction and self medication. For 16 years, my twin sister and I have tried to “save Stephaney.”
It would be while trying to save Stephaney (yet again) that would put my family far too close to losing Stephaney to “the wrong person.” A person who wanted her solely to benefit financially from having her.
After putting Stephaney on the second bus bus to Valdosta last Saturday, (I will explain the first bus fiasco momentarily), Cindy and I walked back to my SUV after saying goodbye to Stephaney while double checking she had plenty of money and two suitcases with everything she might need at the Dallas Greyhound Terminal.
I remember watching my niece get settled into the bus and praying for a safe journey. Cindy and I walked back to one of our black suvs and finally felt that “worrying about Stephaney” was something that we could stop doing on an hourly, daily, and weekly occurrence for the first time in 19 months as we waved goodbye to her on the bus. Or so we thought.
Cindy and I left Dallas to drive straight to Eastland, Texas to meet our Saturday client and begin a jam packed weekend of 6 events for my main company, Texas Twins Events. There wasn’t time to grab a bite as we began a long day after several days of staying at a hotel with Stephaney waiting on the second bus that would eventually take her right into the greedy arms of Jane Doe. The person we believed had a beautiful sprawling ranch and who also helped people with mental illness and addiction problems. The person who had convinced our family of what an “angel” she was. Umm hmm. Jane Doe was nothing if not elaborate regarding convincing our family to send Stephaney to Georgia.
“Traditional bookings” occupy my nights and evenings year round but, during wedding season, the combination of Monday through Friday inmate wedding services at Prisons and Jail combined with my “traditional” weekend and evening bookings gives me no spare time at all.
Cindy and I could finally put all of our tears, anger and frustration regarding “fixing Stephaney” far behind us as we headed to Eastland or so we thought.
The Texas Twins were about to embark on a journey so surprising and shocking while we continued to juggle our TDCJ Clients, Texas Twins Events Clients and our lives that the details of losing Stephaney will enlighten and astound you. We would effectively be “balancing a juggling act of looking normal for clients” while dealing with trying to save Stephaney by Monday when her bus finally arrived in Valdosta.
I “fell” for the “trap that I was led straight into.” Jane Doe should have used her talents for the entertainment industry because she would have made one helluva actress. Her fluid flare for dishonesty would be unmatched by anyone that I have ever encountered.
Cindy and I were “easy targets” for Jane Doe though due mainly to our transparent nature. We have always been honest about our lives and our journey. It isn’t an easy path but life doesn’t have an “easy button.” Dealing with Stephaney had literally worn my twin sister and I both to the bone.
Looking normal for clients and our existing family would be the hardest thing we’ve managed to do in years but, we did. My husband had other issues at a development while Cindy’s husband was dealing with issues at Cindy’s home.
Cindy and I have never hid the fact that Stephaney and her choices have created a carnival of chaos for us both.
At 15, Cindy and I were homeless and eating out of trash cans. It’s important you know this. We had nothing at one time in our lives and worked to becoming something.
Because of our history, Cindy and I also knew that desperate people either take the right path in life or they don’t. Jane Doe had NOTHING. We wouldn’t know this though until it was too late. Jane Doe also chose the wrong path in life. Jane Doe was an opportunist. A parasite. A person who looks for “opportunities” regardless of who is hurt.
Jane Doe is the most devious person that I have ever encountered or may ever encounter in this lifetime. She wanted Stephaney and like idiots, we had delivered her.
For people who have nothing, everything is worth something. A half eaten sandwich in a trash can years ago was worth something to two homeless and starving teens. We felt lucky and blessed to find that half eaten sandwich without mayonnaise. Why? We had learned not to eat anything from a trash can with mayonnaise because we would get sick.
Without understanding our own background and struggles, you will never know why Jane Doe wanted Stephaney so badly. Luckily, one day, the police found Cindy and I digging through the trash and saved us by taking us to Women’s Haven. We were truly blessed on that day and finally off the street.
Jane Doe would create and fabricate a false life and false reasons to get Stephaney to Valdosta. Jane Doe had nothing but, Jane Doe took the wrong path. Jane Doe chose two fighters. We would fight back after learning the actual details too.
Most everyone is aware that Cindy and I have had more than our share of heartache with Stephaney. While other thirty one year olds are taking their parents to dinner, my thirty one year old niece was dragging my twin sister and I through one emotionally traumatizing escapade right into the next. From jail to Psych Wards and everywhere in between, any degree of predictable behavior effectively flew out the window when Stephaney relapsed.
A few months ago, Jane Doe “reached out” to help Cindy and I with Stephaney by offering a change of scenery. This invitation was what I had thought at the time, a literal Godsend. But, Jane Doe had other reasons for wanting to “help us with Stephaney.” At the time Jane Doe contacted me, Stephaney was back in a mental institution again. We’ve had nearly two years of the Merry Go Round that Stephaney’s addiction and mental illness have brought into our lives now. Jane Doe was about to use her knowledge to an advantage regarding my niece.
The phone calls and messages between Jane Doe and I went on right until yesterday. It would be the last time I would ever correspond with her again. It would also be the last time I would trust someone without checking their “story” and “background” out myself too.
Jane Doe was the “Devil In Disguise.” She’s where she won’t be able to hurt anyone anymore and she belongs there. Jane Doe should have tried to earn an honest living.
Had I gone to Valdosta, Georgia myself and seen in where I was really sending my niece, I can promise you that Stephaney would never have left Texas.
But, Jane Doe was smart enough to know that Cindy and I work seven days a week and that Cindy is the custodial parent of Stephaney’s twin daughters, Maryssa and Makenna who are both currently enrolled in public school. I couldn’t fly to Georgia due to my schedule. Cindy couldn’t fly to Georgia due to her responsibilities.
Cindy, Stephaney and I were “the perfect marks.” Jane Doe chose my family because we were also effectively “easy targets.”
“I’m a fantastic actress. My sister is too. The majority of our clients have no idea that we can effectively forget the chaos in our lives in order to focus on the client standing in front of us. My role demands that I turn my back on the choir to focus on the congregation.”
Wendy M Wortham
The “choir” is and always will be my family. Throughout my life, I’ve shifted focus when working directly to my clients. The “peanut gallery” of my life regarding my family is behind me rather than in front of me intentionally. What you are about to read will surprise you just as much as it hurts me. Shifting the focus from my family to my work put me at a disadvantage.
Trusting the “wrong person” also put my niece, Stephaney in a very dangerous position. Jane Doe knew my habits, my schedule and my thought process. Jane Doe had followed my posts and blogs for years. Jane Doe had researched me.
Jane Doe had also claimed that she wanted to “help Stephaney” by inviting her to Georgia and she expertly “soothed every fear or concern” we had with the talented cunning of an incredibly smooth con artist. How so? Jane Doe was fully aware that Cindy and I were at our wits end after 19 months of trying to get Stephaney on track. We had effectively tried everything humanly possible and we had failed over and over again.
The fear of losing my niece yet again and one day having to bury her if Cindy and I couldn’t “fix Stephaney” were the sole reason that I even entertained a “change of scenery.”
Maybe Jane Doe had been hoodwinking her way through most of her life by taking advantage of others? I don’t know but, I know this, Jane Doe had plenty of time to execute a plan to get my niece several states away. I should add that isolation was part of “the plan.”
Jane Doe was in deep country miles away from the nearest store. At the time she initially contacted me, the distance from “town” wasn’t an issue as Jane also claimed to have transportation to “take Stephaney to MHMR on Tuesday after she got settled in.” Jane Doe had also convinced JPS that getting Stephaney a counselor immediately wouldn’t be an “issue.”
Jane Doe knew Stephaney wasn’t on Social Security Disability due to mental illness. How? She asked me. I told her we would send money every Friday and that Stephaney would find a job within days. Stephaney enjoys working. She always has.
There’s a reason Stephaney isn’t on SS Disability. Stephaney wants to work. It was an odd question but, Jane Doe had her reasons and they were entirely based on the amount of money Stephaney could generate right into her hands. The fact that Cindy and I would also be sending money to Jane Doe while she sneakily attempted to sign Stephaney up for food stamps and SS wouldn’t “surface” for 24 hours after Stephaney arrived in Valdosta.
We had no idea how or why Jane Doe would become so upset at setbacks getting Stephaney to Georgia. Who would? What was the hurry? But, Jane Doe had nothing. No food, no water, no electricity, no job, no car, nothing. Jane Doe was great at fabricating the life she would never have. Jane Doe was also planning to use my niece to obtain the financial freedom she was unwilling to earn the hard way.
After 16 years of dealing with the unpredictable and often chaotic behavior of my niece, Cindy also took the time to take photos of Stephaney’s medication and the location for MHMR in Valdosta.
Our entire family had believed my niece was going to a “luxurious ranch.” Jane Doe is a convincing liar and manipulator.
We document everything. Cindy and I always have with Stephaney. She loses her medicine, her cell phone, her clothes, her ID and everything else all of the time.
Cindy and I have spent thousands over and over again replacing all of the items Stephaney loses for years. Stephaney’s medication is incredibly expensive. She has no health insurance.
Jane Doe made several promissory statements to JPS regarding Stephaney’s release that would later literally “uphold everything” I would be forced to explain to both the DA and AG. I never say anything I cannot prove.
Cindy and I effectively had a paper trail. Jane Doe never anticipated that Cindy and I both would document everything about this “wonderful and relaxing excursion to Georgia” but, we did.
Alleging someone is being held against their will is a serious crime. Before you even consider making such a statement to law enforcement, be certain of the facts. I was.
Cindy also included in those faxes to the DA and AG numerous screenshot messages and unkept promises from Jane Doe.
Cindy and I could easily prove my niece was released from JPS Trinity Pavillion to the care of Jane Doe and when Jane Doe would have Stephaney with her rather than us. Within days of leaving Texas on a Greyhound bus, my niece would effectively be fighting for her life in Georgia.
Within days, I would be fighting to get my niece out of the filth Jane Doe lived in. But, I would get my niece back and while doing so, I would also hold Jane Doe accountable.
While I was saving Stephaney, I would also save Jane Doe’s children from her too.
Those children had been through numerous CPS investigations. I would open another investigation myself within 48 hours of my niece arriving in Valdosta. Hearing and understanding why I contacted CPS will shock you.
Jane Doe was abusive to not only her own children but also the most negligent parent I’ve encountered aside from my own mother who also starved and later sold her four children for $50 each to go buy heroin. I’m not “unfamiliar” with negligent parents. In fact, I’m more than “familiar” with them.
Stephaney’s counselors have always regularly “checked in” with Cindy or I as to where Stephaney was and whether she was taking her medication. Like her mother and I, the counselor also believed “a change of scenery would be beneficial to Stephaney’s recovery.” We were all terribly wrong. Not one of us but all of us including Stephaney.
Jane Doe had convinced JPS that “Stephaney would be in good hands.” Jane Doe NEVER took Stephaney to MHMR on Tuesday. Why? Because my niece wasn’t ever going to be allowed to leave once she had arrived. Jane Doe wanted Stephaney for financial gain alone.
Jane Doe was so convincing about her beautiful home and idea about a change of scenery that even the psychologists treating my niece didn’t question her. Stephaney’s medications are nearly $1k.
On March 26 @ 10AM, Cindy picked up Stephaney while I was headed to TDCJ Michael Unit with my son. Cindy would buy Stephaney whatever she needed for her trip to Valdosta the following morning. Together, Cindy and I would take Stephaney to Greyhound in Fort Worth. Stephaney was excited about her trip. She loves nature and horses and was looking forward to “getting back to nature.”
There would be setbacks getting Stephaney to Georgia as Jane Doe rubbed her hands together waiting on Stephaney to leave Texas.
Stephaney was nervous about leaving her family behind. We all were. We hoped for a positive 2-3 month visit but, after four days with Jane Doe, my niece would never be the same again.
It would take great lengths to save my niece but, I did. Cindy and I went to any and all means necessary to get Stephaney back. We were lucky Stephaney wasn’t moved. Had she been, we may never have seen her again after sending her to Jane Doe.
Stephaney was called “my human” by Jane Doe. I wouldn’t know this until after she had arrived in Valdosta. The first time I heard this term, I was furious. But, Jane Doe had Stephaney. Cindy took the above photos to specifically remind Stephaney daily to take her medication and when to take it. Cindy has also paid over and over to purchase cell phones for Stephaney.
My twin sister and I have spent so much money on treatment for Stephaney the last 16 years that we could both buy two houses. We don’t give up easily. We never have.
Cindy had bought yet another cell phone for Stephaney on March 26th while I was in Tennessee Colony at Michael Unit the day before our first fiasco of trying to get Stephaney on the original bus to Valdosta. Read on.
On Monday April 1st (ironically April Fool’s Day) at approximately 10:37AM after months of being “groomed” by Jane Doe into sending Stephaney to Valdosta, a call from “Jane Doe” came in. “Stephaney has arrived. I’m so excited. She’s really going to love it here.”
Because Jane Doe had called me while Stephaney was midway through her trip about conveniently “having a car accident,” I asked “who was driving?” This is important as Jane Doe wasn’t even at Greyhound in Valdosta. Her cousin was. My niece was getting off a bus to meet someone she had never even spoken to. Someone my niece was completely unfamiliar with. A cousin that knew my niece had “just left a mental facility.” A cousin that also knew “the crazy girl has a rich family in Texas.”
Jane Doe had told her entire family about Stephaney. Jane Doe’s cousin told my niece who thought she was going to a luxurious ranch that Jane Doe was also a prostitute. This would be Stephaney’s first glimpse into the reality she was heading into.
Why didn’t Stephaney return to Greyhound and call us? Because her mother and I had told Stephaney to “work it out in Georgia. Prove yourself. Show your family that you are ready to get your life on track.”
I can only imagine what Stephaney was thinking as the cousin drove her further and further into the woods. It’s horrifying to comprehend. Headed to a prostitute? A pretty girl who thought she was going to a wonderful ranch?
For hours I wondered why my niece wasn’t calling but had another call coming in each time I planned to call and check on her.
Within minutes of Stephaney’s arrival at Jane Doe’s “residence,” the words “make this work” from my sister and I would ring in Stephaneys ears over and over again. She knew she was far from help or even a neighbor. Jane Doe had taken Stephaney’s money, toiletries and more importantly, her state issued ID and SS Card as well as her cell phone. Stephaney was stuck.
My niece would later admit that she was also panicking. After Jane Doe had removed any and all of Stephaney’s personal belongings that Cindy and I had carefully packed into two suitcases, Jane then bartered them to her accomplices AKA her relatives. Jane Doe was like a buzzard. She took her time attacking her prey.
Walking into a filthy home with no food or running water, Stephaney would later describe slipping in dog feces on the floor. The filth covered one end of the trailer to the other. This wasn’t a luxury ranch. There never was a “luxury ranch” for patients with mental illness to “get back to nature.” Jane Doe was no longer the happy and festive person we had come to know either. She was mean to her children and my niece. The older children said menacing things to my niece. Where had they heard such threats? Their mother, Jane Doe who also didn’t send those children to school.
Jane Doe told my niece “you are mine now. I own you.” Jane Doe had children living in the filth without food, water or electricity. The filthiest environment my niece had ever encountered in her life. One of Jane Doe’s older children threatened to cut off Stephaney’s toes if she tried to leave.
Going through my workday on April 1st, I continued answering incoming calls while headed to Jacksboro, Texas to begin my day of county jail Weddings. I was hoping Stephaney was getting settled into her room facing a beautiful lake. With a stunning veranda surrounded by pine trees. Jane Doe really went all out with her description. As far from reality as you can imagine in fact. I waited for a call from my niece.
It would be Cindy that Jane Doe would have Stephaney call rather than me Monday evening some 10 hours after arriving in Valdosta and I’m certain trying to understand how she was going to leave or escape what a situation that must have been more than a little traumatic for Stephaney while Jane Doe ordered her to “call and get Wendy or Cindy or both of them to send me more money. Tell them I need $450 to turn on the electricity.”
Hours after arriving at a Hell Hole, my niece was now being “put up” to calling her mother to send several hundred dollars? Yes. What would happen if we refused? Now you are catching on. Jane Doe HAD Stephaney. Her mother and I were no longer in control.
Not having to worry about Stephaney and knowing she would be in good hands at a “beautiful ranch” was (I thought) a luxury for our entire family. In my mind I thought “Stephaney isn’t calling because she’s having so much fun.” Omg. I cannot believe how far off I was on the truth. That phone call was our first wake up call. No electricity? But, things would get worse.
With Stephaney’s bags ransacked, her money taken, her life at the hands of Satan, my fragile niece assumed that she would never escape. Who could blame her?
Jane Doe wanted Stephaney because she knew once she had Stephaney that Cindy and I would do whatever we were told. Jane Doe would underestimate Cindy and I though. People often do. We came from nothing ourselves and are far more resilient and determined than most folks.
Jane Doe had assumed that Cindy and I were stupid but, Jane Doe and her dirty plan were about to backfire between Monday and Friday. Sure we would send money but only to keep Jane Doe from hurting Stephaney until we could get her out of there. I would stop at nothing to remove Stephaney from the situation she was in solely because we trusted Jane Doe.
I had envisioned my niece horseback riding and unpacking, my niece was actually trying to find a way out. I never have a day off. Cindy doesn’t either. We have “full plates” 24/7. When we aren’t dealing with clients, we are dealing with our own families. It’s a lot to handle. Assuming Stephaney was happily adjusting in Georgia came to an abrupt halt that Monday hours after her arrival with a phone call for $450.
Cindy and I were about to be in for one of the most incredible encounters with someone willing to do anything to get what she wanted that we would never forget trusting the wrong person again. Experience is one helluva teacher.
My niece doesn’t “act insane” on a daily basis and would later tell me that “everyone called me crazy and accused me of talking to myself.” Jane Doe was a bully. I wouldn’t know this from her previous phone calls, texts or emails though.
Cindy and I would realize the depths of Jane Doe’s deception when Stephaney continued to find her hidden cell phone and attempt to call. Jane Doe would be screaming at my niece before grabbing the phone and hanging up.
I don’t believe Jane Doe ever even had a car to be honest with you. The entire car accident claim after we had said goodbye to Stephaney in Dallas was fabricated. My niece said a broken down car was on the property but it hadn’t run in years.
I don’t believe that taking Stephaney’s clothing, hygiene products, perfume and other was as “confusing” as Stephaney thought it was either. “Everything is worth something to people who have nothing.” Cindy says this all the time because it’s true. Jane Doe had nothing. She would take whatever she could from Stephaney because it was worth something to someone. No water? No problem. Jane Doe would trade Stephaney’s possessions for something else. Stephaney wouldn’t tell us about the water until Wednesday while Cindy and I were in Huntsville.
Originally, Cindy and I had planned to fly Stephaney to Valdosta but, Stephaney has only been on a plane twice in her life and although we had a setback trying to get her on a bus Wednesday March 27th that resulted in my niece being taken to Dallas County Jail due to a felony warrant regarding a probation revocation in Cotton County, Texas. This was the “original setback.” Stephaney had boarded the first bus in Fort Worth to Dallas. During the layover in Dallas, an argument escalated resulting in blunt force trauma to my nieces head. The injuries went unchecked until after bonding her out of Dallas County Jail and taking her to Harris Hospital while waiting on the next bus. This time Cindy and I drove Stephaney to Dallas and waited with her in the event of yet another brawl at the Dallas Terminal.
By the time Stephaney finally boarded the second bus in Dallas, Texas on March 30th at 8:30AM in Dallas bound for Valdosta, I was relieved to finally stop worrying about my niece. RELIEVED. Maybe we could finally get Stephaney back on track.
Maybe this time we had a shot at being a normal family? Fresh air and sunshine. Working on the ranch and attending counseling sessions were the “plan” for Stephaney her mother and I had envisioned.
Surviving would be the plan Stephaney was living out in Georgia. Tuesday, Stephaney did make one attempt at escaping. Tuesday, Stephaney also became lost and cut by briar bushes in the deep country. Things would unravel within hours and the following days. Realizing that she couldn’t escape or run away, Stephaney would use brief phone calls to tell her mother or I what was going on with Jane Doe in Valdosta, Georgia.
It would take time for my niece to honestly “enlighten” Cindy and I to the extreme poverty Jane Doe lived in but, eventually Stephaney would tell us. Had she told us sooner, we would have found a way to get her out before Friday.
By Monday evening at 6:27PM, Jane Doe had Stephaney call Cindy. “They don’t have any electricity out here. I need you to wire $450.” This was the first red flag. Cindy could hear Jane “coaching” Stephaney in the background. Angrily coaching I might add.
While I was sleepless in Fort Worth and Cindy sleepless in Weatherford again regarding Stephaney, the curtains to this charade with Jane Doe that we had fallen into were beginning to be pulled aside to let the real show commence. Less than 24 hours after arriving, Jane Doe had Stephaney calling us for money?
Cindy called me. I advised her that I was confused as to how anyone on a 40 acre ranch could be without electricity. Who on earth doesn’t pay their electric bill?
Jane Doe said she knew me from years ago. I had apparently met Jane Doe years ago on location at an event for TCGPWA. I couldn’t remember her. I meet hundreds of people at events.
Jane Doe knew a LOT about me. I knew nearly nothing about her. “Oh you remember me don’t you? I’m contacting you because I really would like an opportunity to help your niece, Stephaney. I’m in Georgia and it’s just beautiful here. A change of scenery will do her good. Ya all have tried to help Stephaney. I’ve seen your posts but, maybe it’s time to try somewhere else.”
Jane Doe was an acquaintance. If she was anything more than an acquaintance, I would have remembered her. She wasn’t a friend or even close friend.
These “Jane Doe” messages and phone calls would go on for weeks in fact, nearly two months. “Friendly and loving while saying all the RIGHT THINGS,” Jane Doe even called Stephaney while a patient at Trinity Springs Pavillion.
Jane Doe spoke to Cindy and I for hours for nearly two months. Jane Doe had invested her time wisely by playing all of us for what SHE wanted.
Jane Doe had finally convinced me, my twin sister, Stephaney and even one of Stephaney’s twin daughters, Makenna, of what a wonderful person she was who “only wanted to help our family with Stephaney” by the time Stephaney agreed to go to Georgia.
My family was being “groomed.” We wouldn’t even know what grooming was until losing Stephaney to Jane Doe. I had never heard of “grooming” before explaining to the DA what was going on and why I needed my niece to be “extracted.”
By then, it was far too late to change the dynamics of a trap we had stepped right into.
Cindy had doubts. “Why would she want to move Stephaney to live with her for the summer” I had waived my sisters concerns aside. “She’s a nice person who wants to help people. Why question the kindness of someone reaching out because they care about our family and want to help?”
I saw this “invitation” for Stephaney to explore Georgia during my busiest time of the year as a gift. I was also naive and so happy to have a few drama free months with a burdened schedule that I never really questioned the reasons Jane Doe was so anxious to get Stephaney to Georgia.
Hell, I was more than happy to send money to Georgia if it would keep us from looking for Stephaney again and again. Cindy was too. But, we were never willing to put Stephaney in harms way.
The original setback was when Stephaney had originally left the Fort Worth terminal headed to Dallas to layover to Georgia. Unbeknownst to me, a warrant in Cotton County regarding a probation revocation had been issued on Stephaney.
A “scuttle” at the Dallas Greyhound Terminal was why my niece was arrested rather than taken to a hospital after being beaten by another passenger. This would be a setback of several days for Jane Doe to get her Golden Goose. Jane Doe was VERY upset about Stephaney being arrested and detained at the Dallas County Jail North Tower. I had thought Jane Doe was so upset regarding the arrest because she was actually concerned about Stephaney. It never occurred to me that Jane Doe was waiting with baited breath on her “golden goose.”
The “setback” of Stephaney’s arrest in Dallas would have sent Stephaney straight to prison in Oklahoma. Acting quickly, Cindy and I immediately found an attorney to address Oklahoma and pay off the bonds and fines. Stephaney was excited leaving Fort Worth to Georgia and terrified at Dallas County Jail when she had called her mother and I after being arrested. We were both angry. Another setback? Another surprise? Again? But, we took care of Cotton County. We also picked up Stephaney and rented a hotel. We were exhausted. I bought another bus ticket online. The next bus didn’t leave for a few days. Jane Doe continued calling and asking “when Stephaney was leaving for Georgia?”
Jane Doe assumed she had lost the golden egg when Stephaney was arrested. But, the “shipment” AKA my niece was delayed only for a matter of days.
Meanwhile, Cindy and Stephaney were enjoying life. We had a few unexpected days with Stephaney to go to the movies, shopping, and even drive to Hobby Unit with one of my clients on a road trip.
Stephaney was having a great time with her family. Stephaney’s daughter, Makenna also joined her Mom and told her “I’m proud of you. Get your life together and we can be a family again Mom.”
Makenna was inadvertently reinforcing telling her mom to “work it out in Georgia.” We all did. We all made a mistake. We all assumed that Stephaney was going to a beautiful place with the possibility of getting her head on straight. A chance to finally get my niece back was worth whatever the cost to me. But, nothing was worth my niece being abused, starved or forced to live in filth.
Looking back, all of the signs were there. The flags. I couldn’t see them. I was far too busy and quite frankly, exhausted. Cindy and I have spent nearly 17 years trying to find any degree of normality with Stephaney.
After a week of working while trying to get Stephaney to Valdosta after her Dallas arrest at Greyhound, Cindy and I had taken turns keeping an eye on Stephaney waiting for her to board the second bus to Georgia.
Stephaney regularly goes off her meds and gets lost. We regularly have spent days or weeks trying to find her again. Now you know how mentally exhausting having a relative with mental illness actually is. Unless you have a loved one with mental illness and addiction issues, you will never begin to comprehend the emotional and financial devastation loving them brings to your life. I do. Cindy does. Stephaney’s children do to.
Now you understand why I didn’t question a break from Stephaney with “clean air, rolling meadows and a safe and loving environment.” I saw a window of a few “drama free months” and I wanted to open that window. Did I see danger? Absolutely not.
After 16 years of Stephaney, Cindy and I were thrilled to have found a solution. Stephaney enjoys working. Jane Doe told her she had talked to a Mexican restaurant that would hire her.
Jane Doe had each and every base covered. Jane Doe had an answer for every question. A solution to every concern.
I believe Jane Doe has done this type of scenario before. No one would be as smooth and cunning without experience.
I had tried to call my niece by Monday at about 4PM since I hadn’t heard from her since she had arrived. Jane Doe answered Stephaney’s cell phone and said “I’m cleaning out the master bedroom for her. I want her to have the best room in the house. She’s fine. She’s enjoying the beautiful backdrop and wildlife of Georgia. I will tell her you called.” Like an idiot, I believed Jane Doe.
By 6:34PM, Jane Doe was coaching Stephaney into demanding several hundreds dollars on the day Stephaney arrived from my twin sister?! Stephaney sounded nervous my sister had said. Something was wrong. I was getting nervous and suspicious.
But, Cindy and I had told Stephaney “have a good time and don’t get into any trouble out there. Please make this holiday work.” It was an actual problem. We wish we had never said this.
We’ve had so many setbacks with Stephaney that what we meant to say was “not to go off her meds or get involuntarily committed again.”
It would take another 24-36 hours for my niece to tell us what she had been duped into.
Cindy and I decided to wire money Tuesday from Huntsville. We were both concerned. This is highly irregular as we had told Jane Doe we would send money on Fridays. Also, we had sent Stephaney with money to Valdosta. Where was THAT money?” How was it that Jane Doe claimed to have a home in Fort Worth and a ranch Georgia and yet had no electricity??
9:31AM Tuesday morning, Cindy and I headed to Huntsville, Texas. My husband was having his own issues. My husband is a developer and custom home builder.
For fifty years now, my husband has pretty much “seen it all” in the homebuilding business but, he had never encountered a skunk problem. I’m going to refer to this incident as the “Stinky Springtown Skunk Debacle.”
Apparently, the skunk had died while the house was being built. Using infrared cameras while tearing into Sheetrock, the skunk was found and removed. The new custom home was repaired and an ozone machine was left in it to remove the smell last week. But, the issue wasn’t solved. Stay tuned.
My husband was agitated about an issue he had never encountered and would be forced to educate himself about.
Meanwhile, I was going through something that I had never encountered with a very different set of circumstances regarding my niece and my complete and total ignorance of a situation I have never thought would happen in my lifetime to either me or anyone in my family.
The home buyer had contacted my husband saying “the smell is stronger than ever. Could there be ANOTHER skunk?” Tuesday morning, my anxious husband assembled a crew to return to Springtown and again tear the house apart searching. There was another skunk. Removing the bathtub, the other skunk was found dead beneath it. I was in Huntsville when he called me. My suggestion was to add more concrete under the tub and effectively “seal the smell.”
My husband went back to the drawing board and considered this idea. Infuriated about a stinky situation in Springtown, my husband was getting as little sleep as Cindy and I while trying to get Stephaney to Valdosta.
Leaving TDCJ Holliday Unit, my grandniece, Makenna called. I should add that my niece, Leigh Ann and my grandniece are both hypochondriacs. Makenna said “my blood pressure is high. Can I go to the hospital when you get to town? I think I’m having a heart attack.”
Instructing Makenna to go take her blood pressure and drink more water, Cindy and I agreed to take her to Harris Hospital. It should be noted that we regularly take Makenna to the hospital because she consistently googles new diseases and then believes she has “all of the symptoms.”
For years now, Cindy and I have taken Makenna to a doctor of hospital to continually “alleviate her concerns.” We also have Makenna in biweekly counseling. Yes, we are overwhelmed but, our family crisis situations have never interfered with our work flow.
Cindy and I are like two clowns juggling too many balls. Thank God we have each other!
Tuesday evening. My husband is diligently attempting to find a solution for Springtown. I’m answering emails and taking client calls. I will be up most of the night doing research myself on the stinky situation to find a solution while wondering what the hell is going on in Valdosta? Cindy and I call each other.
Cindy and I are back in Huntsville early Wednesday morning to go to 3 Units for weddings with clients. Makenna is now relieved to know that rather than having a heart attack, she is actually dehydrated. Cindy’s husband, Steve is now home from his OTR job with Ryder. Steve is rarely home.
Wednesday morning 5:31AM, Cindy and I leave my home AKA WorthamWorld. I spot a raccoon clinging to the chimney outside my leaded glass kitchen window at the three home estate next door that’s now been abandoned for seven years. I advise my husband about this “zoo situation” next door.
My dog, Foxy Wortham is walked three times a day by my husband or I including his last walk at night. A family of raccoons in that estate next door highly concern me.
I’m now on full alert for a possible “raccoon attack” in the city. I hate country living and if my lazy ass neighbor would sell that estate, I wouldn’t be living next door to a zoo. I call all of the time go get the city to mow the yard next door. I pay to repair the fence and for all of these years, I eventually pay yard men to mow the lawn next door. Three homes on one estate left abandoned? What’s wrong with that guy? He could sell the lots and tear down the three houses on that estate and sell the lots for over $600k. It doesn’t make sense to me. I simply can’t stand watching that estate fall apart but, I’m helpless to change it. My OCD tendencies prevent me from ignoring the lawn summer after summer. Ugh. My idiot neighbor must have more money than sense. The taxes alone are well over $30k a year. Every year, I check to see if he has paid the taxes or not. Quite frankly, my husband and I would buy that lot solely to develop it if my lazy neighbor would only fall behind on the taxes. But, he doesn’t. Instead, he allows the property to literally fall apart while paying the taxes. My husband and I are both baffled about this.
5:49AM, stopping at Shell to fill up, I’m outside my SUV when Makenna (one of the Twins) calls Cindy complaining that “Maryssa won’t wake up. She is going to make us late for school again!”
Cindy advises Makenna “tell Maryssa if she doesn’t get out of bed and get ready for school that she won’t be getting her nails and hair done this weekend.”
Maryssa unlike Makenna is entirely focused on elaborate nails and the latest clothing and hair. Maryssa is a fashion Queen and Social butterfly.
Makenna is a stellar student who views being late for ANYTHING as the worst possible situation she can fathom.
7:29AM, Steve (Cindy’s husband), sends this text “I’ve put my clothes in the washer and I’m in the driveway waiting to take the twins to school. While sitting in the driveway, I saw a giant raccoon climb from the fireplace to the hole in the roof Jessie fixed last week. You are gonna need to call Jessie.”
While Cindy reads this text as we are passing through Corsicana, I go on my usual rant about Jessie. “For twenty years now that guy has done the sloppiest work ever at your house. He’s always in jail for public intoxication and he’s a lazy and shiftless bum. Why can’t we find a reliable handyman that takes pride in his work to go to your house? If you hadn’t paid Jessie, there wouldn’t be a hole for the raccoon to crawl into!” This is an accurate statement. Jessie had just went to Cindy and Steve’s a week earlier to fix a squirrel hole. Now a raccoon was climbing into a squirrel hole?
Cindy: “Our house has been a money pit for over twenty years. I know you don’t like him. Hell I’m not crazy about him myself but, eventually he shows up and does his usual shitty job. I will call him. Maybe he isn’t in jail again.” Grrr. I can’t even describe just how much Jessie irritates me. He doesn’t take ANY degree of pride in his work. Jessie is shiftless and shady. He takes money then disappears again only to return later and up his bid to get more money. Jessie is a con artist. My niece, Leigh Ann slams the door when he comes over which I find hilarious. Cindy somehow someway tolerates Jessie and his slovenly work habits. I have no idea why.
8:59AM, Steve calls and advised us to wait on calling Jessie because we now need to wait on trapping the raccoon before sealing the hole in the attic the squirrels created. Cindy tells her husband to “buy canned dog food.”
Steve is upset that with perfect wind conditions that he COULD HAVE shot the raccoon if he wasn’t in his truck waiting to take the twins to school. Steve Daniel regularly shoots squirrels and throws them over the fence.
Steve and Cindy live in the country. It’s a regular occurrence to see a flock of buzzards flying around their home when Steve is back home for a day or two from Ryder. Even in the country, the buzzards within city limits are highly irregular. Cindy wishes her husband would throw the squirrels in the trash. This ongoing debate between them has gone on for years. You know like Jessie and his horrible handyman jobs.
9AM Huntsville, Texas. Cindy and I roll into Motel 6 to meet my Wynn Unit Client. I’m still complaining about Jessie. Cindy is still complaining about Steve throwing squirrels over the fence. We both realize the dead squirrels may very well have attracted the raccoons at about the same time. Matching stink eyes about Jessie, the raccoons, Jane Doe, arguing twin teenagers and the stinky skunk situation stop the moment my beautiful bride walks out of her room.
The moment she walks onto the balcony, we are dazzled by her beauty. It isn’t just the dress either. Anyone else seeing her at that hotel was as jawstruck as we were. She was truly a vision of beauty, grace and style. Cindy and I forget about the raccoon, the skunk, Jessie, Jane Doe and everything else when we are with a client. Instead, I tell Cindy “we will be back in about an hour.”
9:07AM, I jump into my clients car as Cindy takes my SUV to go “junk shopping.” Cindy and I still have a storage unit of items to list for Texas Twins Treasures but lack the time to list the items. We are “inventory rich.” Cindy and I simply don’t have the time to flip anything “in season.” With raccoons, squirrels, shady handymen and everything else going on including a full schedule, it may be winter before we go through inventory and list items in the storeroom.
9:41AM Wynn Unit, my gorgeous bride and groom are married. We wait for their wedding photos to print while counting quarters to purchase them.
My cell phone is in my clients car. Cell phones are prohibited at Prisons. I had “checked in” on FB at Wynn Unit to let Cindy know where I was and Jane Doe (who was following me on FB) knew I would be unavailable.
Jane Doe “used this window to call Cindy and demand that she wire more money.” This time for food. 10:04AM, Cindy is now at Walmart in Huntsville “wiring money to Jane Doe.” While I was at Wynn Unit, Jane Doe called Cindy stating urgently “we have no food here. I need you to send us money.” Jane Doe has Cindy stay on the phone with her causing further stress.
Cindy has NEVER wired money. Cindy also couldn’t call me about this “urgent money need” as I was at Wynn Unit. I would have insisted on sending money ONLY to my niece and Jane Doe most likely knew it.
With Jane Doe on speakerphone, Cindy attempts to use Walmart to Walmart to send the money. Cindy also suggests sending it to her daughter, Stephaney as we know she has a valid ID because we took her to get it before sending her to Valdosta.
Jane Doe gets agitated and says “send it to me and use a code word.” Walmart requires ID. Jane Doe then says “send it to my cousin #### ######.” A few minutes later, Jane Doe says “send it to my aunt ##### ########.” Jane Doe doesn’t have an ID. Hmm.
Cindy was losing her mind trying to comprehend why she cannot simply send money to her daughter? Cindy is beyond stressed. Cindy is confused and concerned. Other employees and shoppers continue to ask my twin sister “are you okay? Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know.” Even strangers recognized there was a problem.
The urgency Jane Doe is suddenly exhibiting regarding “needing more money for food immediately” on Tuesday after just having had Stephaney call Cindy for money to turn on the electricity Monday evening would be how Wendy and Cindy finally recognized there was a problem in Valdosta, Georgia. Had we known ANY of this, we would have never sent Stephaney to Georgia.
Leaving Wynn Unit, I call Cindy to meet my bride and I. Cindy doesn’t tell me about Walmart or Jane Doe. She waits. Upsetting a client on wedding day takes precedence.
11:05AM, Cindy meets my bride and I for photos following the wedding ceremony at Wynn Unit. I’m still unaware of the Walmart money. I’m with a client and when I am, solely focused on the client. Cindy knows this. We begin unloading my SUV full of props together. I’m on a timeline. I’m meeting my next client immediately after at Byrd Unit.
I arrange the bride, her mother, her stepdaughter and her best friend in numerous photos while Cindy hands me various items including tiaras, bouquets and other items I’ve brought with me in order to make their photo shoot beautiful and memorable. I’m also “on the clock” to get to my next Unit.11:28AM, Cindy and I roll out of Motel 6 to head to my next Unit. I’m dropping Cindy at Salvation Army as planned to dig through trash searching for something “flip worthy” for Texas Twins Treasures when Cindy finally tells me about Walmart Money Transfers to ANYONE OTHER THAN HER DAUGHTER who has a valid ID and that Jane Doe has no food. I hit the brakes. Wtf?
Me: “she doesn’t have electricity or food? What the hell is going on in Georgia?” Cindy: “Jane Doe says she has Stephaney’s purse, her ID and SS card. Jane Doe is signing Stephaney up for food stamps and SS Disability. Stephaney found her cell phone and told me they don’t have water either and haven’t in a very long time based on the filth in the bathtub and sinks. They use the bathroom in the woods. Omg what have we done?” OMG WHAT HAD WE DONE?! We had sent a mentally ill person, a fragile doll to hillbillies who were going to do God knows what to her while bilking Cindy and I for thousands of dollars. I needed a plan.
I google the address of Jane Doe from the Walmart to Walmart receipt. I search property records. Jane Doe was living in an abandoned house. SOB. Jane Doe was worse than anyone I have ever encountered in my entire life. This is saying a lot. My grandfather molested my sisters and I. My mother left us locked in closets and cars and regularly “forgot about us.” My first husband beat me half to death. My second husband had mistresses. I’ve been lied to. I’ve been deceived. I’ve trusted the wrong people to do the right thing.
I had never been in a situation with a loved ones safety in jeaopardy from my own hand. I had trusted Jane Doe.
I think what can I do as I drive on to the next unit? I wonder how I can get my niece out of a bad situation that I’ve inadvertently put her into? I kick myself for falling right into a trap. But, while at Byrd Unit, I also devise a plan.
Picking Cindy up after my second Unit, I tell her “Jane Doe has us under her thumb. She has Stephaney and knows she is in control. There are children in that house with no running water, electricity or food. It’s child endangerment to have children in that type of circumstance. Stephaney was just discharged last Tuesday from a Psych Ward with PTSD and Bipolar One. Jane Doe knows Stephaney has been involuntarily committed 16 times in less than 2 years. Jane Doe assumes you are well off and somehow knows I’m affluent. Jane Doe wanted Stephaney to benefit financially. We have to get Stephaney out of there. We must also save those children while we are at it.”
12:32AM, I call CPS Valdosta, Georgia and request a visit to Jane Doe’s address. It’s an address that I wouldn’t have had if not for Cindy wiring money at Walmart.
2:02PM, Stephaney finds her cell phone and calls us. “Listen, I’m hiding in the woods here. She lied to you. This is a hell hole. The kids are starving. I believe I’m going to die here. They won’t let me leave. I’m watched all of the time. Jane Doe said that if I try to leave, I will get lost in the forest and never find my way back.” Me: “listen. We are going to get you out. CPS is coming for a welfare check. When they arrive be where you can see a car enter while hiding in the woods. Go with them. Get out of there. We will get you home.” The line went dead.
8:41PM, Stephaney has seconds to tell Cindy from her cell phone “CPS came and I’m still here. Please tell the twins I love them. I will never get out of here. They won’t let me look for work. Jane Doe lied about everything. They want you both to send money and sign me up for food stamps and SS Disability. I’ve given up. I’m miles from town. No one has a car here. These people are so poor that I’ve never witnessed poverty this bad in my life.” Jane Doe screamed for Stephaney to get in the house. Jane was angry about CPS coming to the trailer and wouldn’t allow them inside. For reasons unclear to me, CPS does not pursue the issue. The line went dead. Jane Doe had taken Stephaney’s cell phone again.
I decided to call Jane Doe and “dummy up.” When she answered she was agitated “I know who called me in. They don’t even know my real name. We have a lot going on here.” She hung up. Her real name? There was a name other than what she had given me? Cindy and I (as usual) call each other. This IS A PROBLEM because Jane Doe might hurt my niece if she knows we are in Texas “stirring the chili.” I need a better plan.
Wednesday evening 11:12PM, I email the Haven in Valdosta, Georgia. I also “explain the situation.” I email ANYONE I think can help us. My niece is mentally ill and being held against her will. She cannot leave and we cannot go get her.
Thursday morning 6:21AM, the Haven administrator emails me to call her. I do. She tells me “she must call us herself. We can only act if we hear from her. We cannot act on her behalf without her consent.”
6:24AM, I call Cindy while making my husband breakfast. I haven’t told my husband that I’ve made a tragic mistake sending Stephaney to Georgia. I can’t. He has a development with a skunk problem. Instead, I research “human trafficking for financial gain.” I need to know who to contact to get my niece out of that situation.
7:02AM, I email the DA in Valdosta. I also call Cindy to fax all of the records pertaining to Stephaney to the DA. Jane Doe spoke to JPS and made arrangements with MHMR in Valdosta for Stephaney. Jane Doe has no idea that we can prove all of this either. Cindy and I document everything. We are willing to contact every government agency necessary to get those kids and Stephaney out.
In 2012, I sold Debt Survival Solutions LLC. I’m nothing if not dilligent and articulate. Did I ever in a million years imagine I would find myself in a situation where I was completely at the mercy of someone else? NEVER. Yet, I was and when I can’t solve a problem in a straight line, I resort to a circle. I would cover every base. I would bring my niece home.
Failure is never an option. I could never forgive myself if something happened to Stephaney “on my watch.” For years, Stephaney has consistently put herself in harms way. For years, her mother and I have tried to save her. This time was DIFFERENT though. I needed a successful extraction. I couldn’t do it myself. I would need help. I had to find the right help. I would do just that.
8:22AM, I leave to head to Green Bay Unit and meet my client. Cindy is already faxing the DA from Office Depot in Weatherford, Texas.
My niece isn’t answering her cell phone. Jane Doe probably has it and I know it. I wonder if my niece is still alive?
9:03AM, Jane Doe now wants me to send more money. “Stephaney eats more than anyone I’ve ever met. I can’t keep enough food in this house. Send whatever you can and do it now!”
9:12AM I’m sitting in my SUV thinking. I have no days off to go to Georgia myself and save my niece. I consider paying my son to do it for me. I call him. He can’t. He’s moving into his new home.
10:34AM, I pull into Tarrant County Clerks Office. I’m filing marriage licenses before I walk across the street to meet my next client. While waiting with my number in hand at the clerks office to file a stack of marriage licenses, I have another idea.
10.48AM, I email the Attorney General of Georgia. I call Cindy to fax the same documents to the AG she earlier faxed to the DA. I still can’t get ahold of Stephaney and I’m now fearful she’s chained to a bed being beaten or raped. I’m panicking. I’ve inadvertently put my niece in a horrific situation solely because I trusted the wrong person.
11:09AM, leaving the clerks office, I send a FB message to Jane Doe. “If anything happens to Stephaney, I promise I will use any and all means necessary to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law. You lied to me. You lied to her. You lied to her mother. You even lied to her daughter. You know damn well I would never have sent her out there under these conditions. Where is my niece?! You had better pray she’s safe.”
Jane Doe waits to respond. She’s wondering how I know what’s going on. She has no idea that Stephaney keeps finding the cell phone her mother bought less than a week ago to contact us. Jane Doe keeps someone watching Stephaney at all times.
12:11PM, Jane Doe calls me. “Look, she’s safe I’ve got my aunt and my mom watching her. She isn’t allowed to leave. It’s unsafe. It’s to protect her. She isn’t hurt. I’m in Macon, Georgia and I’m going to send my cousin to bring her here.” I say “no. You leave her where she is and you had best not hurt her in any way, shape or fashion.”
I need Stephaney at that house. I’m on a timeline. If Jane Doe moves her, I may never see my niece again. There are law enforcement officers preparing to go to Jane Doe’s address. I cannot have my niece moved. I’m firm about this. I even agree to send more money but not if Stephaney is moved. I’m buying time.
1:27PM Weatherford, Texas. Cindy is in my SUV, I call the DA. The DA is contacting the PD to “send someone out there.”
Cindy and I have no idea if Jane Doe has moved Stephaney or not at this point. We have both googled “Macon, Georgia human trafficking” and are shocked as to what we learn. We are also terrified.
2:14PM, Valdosta PD call my cell phone. The Sheriffs Department has Stephaney.
2:37PM, Cindy and I buy a bus pass for Stephaney with while walking into Walmart to wire her money.
Stephaney is safe. She’s out. She wasn’t a statistic. The Sheriffs department transports Stephaney to the Valdosta Bus Station. We wire money to Walmart for Stephaney. We are relieved and thankful Stephaney is okay and coming home.
But, Cindy and I will never be as trusting as we once were…by the way, Jane Doe is exactly where she needs to be.
Jane Doe won’t be doing anything like this to anyone else. Jane Doe underestimated her “marks.” Jane Doe deserves everything she has coming to her…
“COURAGE is being SCARED to DEATH but, SADDLING up ANYWAY.”