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The Self-Destruction of Gary Evans

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                                                                 by david berkowitz

       Yesterday I was happy.  Today I am sad.  Yesterday my heart was filled with joy because of the surprise birthday party that was held for me.  Today, however, my heart has been ripped into shreds by a vicious and diabolical lie that has just been told about me.
     This morning, as is my custom, I awoke around 5 o'clock.  I quietly said my prayers, and then I read from the Bible.
     I have always been an early riser.  To me these hours are the best part of the day.   Especially being in prison where noise is a way of life, one learns to cherish the brief times of peace and quiet.
     At 6:30 every morning the wake-up bells sound.  A loud continuous clanging reverberates throughout the cell blocks. 
Each prisoner is required to get out of our bunks and stand up for the "morning count".
     Anyhow, around seven o'clock I decided to turn on my portable AM/FM radio and listen to the news.  For a prisoner his radio is one of his main contacts with the outside world, and almost all the men own one.
     So I turned onto 1010 WINS, one of the "all news" stations that comes out of New York city.  Even though I am approximately 120 miles away from the City, this station comes in clear.
     Then, as the lead stories began, I heard something which shook me to the core.  I heard the announcer say that a homicide detective from upstate New York was claiming to have found evidence linking me to a homosexual relationship with a former inmate.  My head was spinning.  I felt like throwing up.
     This person, Gary Evans, did get out of prison many years ago.    I had forgotten about Gary when, years later, his name appeared in my local newspaper.  He had been arrested for killing five men over a period of time, apparently over some kind of dispute or vendetta.  I believe these guys were part of a coterie of local thieves and low-level criminals.
     Gary himself was a career criminal.  He already had a number of run-ins with the law long before I met him at the Clinton Correctional Facility that's situated in the remote town of Dannemora, New York.
     Dannemora is located north of the Adirondack Mountains, and near the Canadian border.  It has three seasons: fall, winter and spring.  It has no summer, or at least it seemed this way to me.  I spent seven years in this tundra-like region of the state.
     Anyhow, I had known Gary for a period of about one year before I was transferred to where I am at present.  He was from Troy, New York.  I've never been to this city.
     At the time we met Gary was doing a light sentence of 2 to 4 years, which by the mindset of most inmates, is not much of sentence at all.  In jail house parlance it's called a "skid bid".  You're in and out of prison quickly as opposed to the men whose sentences may range from five to five hundred or more years.
     Gary, as I remember him, worked out hard.  He had his best friend with him, Wayne Warrington, who was from his hometown.  The three of us, plus a few other men, spent most of our limited recreation time lifting weights.
     Many of the men would often ask for advice about building-up a certain body part, or how to train.  To me he became a good mentor and instructor.
     Gary was also an avid reader.  So was I.   Back in the 1970's Clinton Correctional Facility had no portable television sets in their cells.   Reading and writing, therefore, were my favorite passtimes.
     Ironically, Gary and I were also interested in some of the same reading material.  The exception, however, was his interest in novels like the King Arthur and medieval gladiator stories.
     And while I almost  never read novels, we were both fascinated with people like Genghis Khan and the Mongolian swordsmen.  The ruggedness and strength of these Mongol warriors was something I think we were both trying to achieve because we were living in an extremely violent and exceedingly negative environment.
     At the time, of course, I had yet to become a Christian.  but I do recall my interest in various New Age ideas, to include meditation, Martial Arts, and Zen Buddhism.
     I was seeking mental strength more than anything because Clinton was such a depressing place, and I was still learning how to cope with my long prison sentence. 
     So while prisoners are not permitted to practice any form of Martial Arts, nor are we allowed to read books which demonstrate various Martial Arts techniques, one is allowed to read current or historical martial Arts figures, or read about their philosophies and concepts. 
     I was especially interested in a Japanese Martial Artist by the name of Yamaoka Tesshu.  He lived during the previous century and he was a man of great renown and respect.
     Tesshu was known in his native Japan where he ran his own dojo.  Students came from all over the country to study his successful sword fighting techniques.
     Of course while Tesshu competed with other swordsmen, no one got hurt.  This was not about harming anyone or doing violence.  He was a professional, and as with all forms of competitive Martial Arts, it is about outmaneuvering one's opponent.
     I had come upon the story of Tamaoka Tesshu in an article which appeared in East/West Journal.  I then ordered a biography about Tesshu that had recently come out at the time titled THE SWORD OF NO SWORD by John Stevens.
     I don't even remember the name of the publisher, and I have long since discarded the book.  But it did have many of Tesshyu's sayings and teachings.  He believed that the real sword is not the piece of steel that one holds in his hands.  Instead it is the invisible sword of mental sharpness and extreme concentration, and the inner power that supposedly comes from  these, that determines who wins the match.
     For me, then, this was mentally fortifying.  I worked hard at trying to concentrate on ways to swing this invisible sword so as to overcome the negativity that was around me.
     Nowadays, as a practicing Christian, I no longer feel any need to develop what some call "mental powers".  And I no longer see the need to rely on sayings of Yamaoka Tesshu for strength or peace.   I now have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and this has shown itself to be more than enough.
     Nevertheless, those many years ago when I was at Clinton, Gary and I, as well as a man by the name of John S., would often spend a little time after our workouts to discuss our beliefs.  Gary's friend, Wayne, however, had no interest in our conversations.  So he'd walk off and go across the yard to smoke his cigarettes.
     In an environment where  you thought that your life was always in potential danger, it was easy to get drawn into the mentality of being a soldier and a warrior. 
     But hanging out with Gary Evans wasn't all I did.  I had other friends, too, like my best friend John "Jake" Jacobi, who I would often jog with.  We'd run in endless circles around the recreation yard, even in the middle of winter.
     I hung out with Jake for approximately six years before he was transferred to Auburn Prison, and then eventually to a medium security facility, where he died.  Shortly after Jake arrived at Auburn, he began to get sick.  It was discovered that he had leukemia.
     Jake passed away a short time later.  And when he died he already had twenty-four years in prison for his sentence of 25-years to life.  He had only one year left to do before he was eligible for parole.
     And for a handful of years after Jake's death I stayed in touch with his mother.  Each Christmas and Mother's day I would send her a card along with a short letter.  She would always write back until one day when her letters stopped coming, and one of my greeting cards came back to me stamped on the envelope, "Moved with No Forwarding Address."
     Jake's mother was an elderly woman who lived by herself in a small town in upstate New York.  His father had passed away only a few years before Jake did.  Now all alone in a house with empty rooms, the hope she had that one day her son would get out of prison and return home, was gone forever.
     Gary Evans, however, I was later to learn, was paroled in 1988.  He finished his sentence and apparently returned to the Albany/Troy area.
     But during the time I knew Gary, I do not recall him ever being violent or even getting into a fistfight.  At times he was moody, and there were days when he made it clear by his facial expressions that he wanted to be left alone.  But when Gary felt like this he simply stayed in his cell during the recreation period to leave Wayne and I to work out by ourselves, or with a few other guys who would occasionally join us.
     There was nothing crazy or evil about Gary Evans that I could see.  He had his predudices and his peculiar views about life.  Yet I never saw him as especially dangerous.  Likewise he never went into any details about what brought him to prison, nor did he talk with me about his criminal past.
     And I knew nothing about his friends or family, and I never asked.
     I also never observed Gary to be homosexual or bisexual, as the media now claims.  To me he seemed totally straight, and he gave me no reason to think otherwise.
     Many years later, in the late 1990's, and long since I had left Clinton Correctional Facility, I happened to read a local newspaper and there inside it was a lengthy article about Gary Evans being arrested for several murders.
     I was stunned.  It was surprising to see Gary capable of such violence.  I was to learn, too, that Gary was not only a career criminal and burglar, but he was also a forger.  In addition, he had been working as a police informant.  Obviously, Gary had many faces, of which I had seen one.
     But aside from seeing this article, I did not follow his case.  I figured he would eventually get sentenced, and that would be the end of it.
     To my surprise, however, in 1998, while he was still going to trial, Gary Evans made a desperate escape attempt from a moving vehicle.  While still in handcuffs, if the media reports are correct, he jumped off a bridge spanning the Hudson River, where he plummeted onto the rocks below and died instantly.
     Recently, some letters I had alledgedly written to Gary when he and I were confined at Clinton Prison surfaced.  Someone claims to have found them in a storage box that supposedly contained his remaining possessions.  But I think these were only notes and not letters.
     The media also reported that a stack of "Gay magazines" were also found in Gary's box.  I am skeptical about this.  And even if these were indeed among his small amount of remaining possessions, I believe they were placed there by someone who hated Gary Evans.  He was an embarrassment to the law enforcement agencies who were using him as an informant, when all the while he was committing crimes, to include homicide.  My theory is that someone wanted to disgrace this man.
     My gut feeling, even though I had known Mr. Evans for only a year, is that he is not gay.  But who knows?
     Nevertheless, the media had to throw me into this.  And to my horror, every half hour, again and again for the entire day, radio stations like 1010 WINS and WABC yapped about my having Gary Evans as a lover.  Plus each time these announcers told the story, it got more bizarre.
     By evening, for example, the announcer for 1010 WINS was saying that I had just filed a lawsuit against my former lawyer because I wanted to get back the"love letters"and "missives" that he had in his possesion.
     Throughout the day, however, many of the men in my cell block were stopping by to ask if I was okay.  They heard the news reports on their radios.  Within a few hours the entire prison was abuzz with this rediculous tale.
     Then the 10:00PM television news stations out of New York City  started on their kick.  The men who were in the dayrooms in all the cell blocks heard this story.  I was in torment.
     Yet, as things turned out, all these guys were very supportive.  Both the men from my fellowship and many who were not rallied around me.  I got so much encouragement.  And while my pain was very great at being so disgraced, none of these prisoners believed what they were being told by the media.  For if they did, then I surely would have been spit upon and punched in the face for being a "homo" and "sissy".  I would have ended up in Protective Custody.
     Today was a nightmare.  It was like an attack from Hell.  I'm sure, too, that millions of people have heard this story in all its twisted versions.
     While I did write probably a dozen or so short letters or notes to Gary Evans while we were confined, these were the kinds of things that prisoners send to each other all the time.  Especially in maximum security prisons where you're confined for much of the day, and you could only have contact with your friends during the recreation periods, sending them "kites" (which is the jail house term for these notes and letters) is as common as people who, nowadays, send E-mails to one another.
     Other than yelling down the long tiers--which are about the length of a city block--at the top of one's voice, I opted to communicate with my friends via notes.   And there was nothing homosexual in any of this.  There were no "love letters", as the media is implying.
     At times in these notes I would goof around in order to try to make Gary laugh.  While other times I would try to encourage him by reminding Gary of Tusshu's words to swing  his "royal sword," which was Tesshu's mental weapon of the mind to use in order to overcome negativity.
     In any event, it was a shock to me that, years later, Gary Evans would be arrested for a string of murders.  What a waste of his life as well as the lives of his victims.  Gary could have made something of himself.    He was intelligent and not illiterate like many of these men are.  He made bad choices, and he died young.
     Nevertheless, in spite of this malicious attack by the media, I am not going to put down my Bible.  God is stronger than the media.  And by his grace I shall continue to overcome.
                                                     David Berkowitz
                                                     June 4, 2005
(c)2005 David Berkowitz 

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