She Says: The Oath

Aug 2, 2018

Linda goes back to court and comes face to face with the man charged in her assault as she attempts to get a no-contact order. We hear how the podcast has impacted her life and what the future of her case looks like. Stay with us through the very end of the episode to hear a message from two familiar voices.

READ THE TRANSCRIPT:

EPISODE 10: THE OATH

Editor’s note: This podcast includes adult language and themes. It also contains descriptions about sexual violence. Please be advised.

SARAH DELIA: When I first met Linda, over a year ago in June of 2017, she didn’t have many answers around the investigation of her sexaul assault. She didn’t know what the police were doing, or not, to help move her case forward.

DELIA (to Melanie Peacock, from episode 5): If she had not done the Google research and provided that name, would we be here today? Would he be arrested today?

PEACOCK: Probably not. It's hard to say. I mean she, her providing that information was critical, but unfortunately, it does not give us probable cause to charge him just based on that.

DELIA: The idea of there ever being a DNA match or an arrest, let alone coming face to face with the man she says sexually assaulted her over three years ago — well, those weren’t destinations she ever thought she would get to. Those were sights unseen as she walked this path.

But so much has changed.

COURT OFFICIAL: Will both parties place your left hand on the Bible and raise your right hand, please. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you, God?

MAN: Yes, ma’am.

DELIA: Over the course of our investigation we’ve spoken to judges, detectives, forensic scientists, lawyers, nurses and others. We’ve recreated key pieces of Linda’s investigation and retraced the footsteps of police. We’ve looked into what training is available to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and how other police in North Carolina and beyond treat sexual assault survivors.

JOHN SOMBERINDYE (from episode 5): After I notified her and then apologized to her, she immediately said, ‘You know, my faith in the Fayetteville Police Department is restored.’

DELIA: I’ve walked this winding road with Linda, and so have you. You’ve heard her struggle to pick the correct turn. You’ve witnessed her successfully navigate the tricky terrain of this road. You’ve felt the deep, dead thud every time she came across a sign that read “Wrong way. Do not enter.” And then, there were the roadblocks, some of which were put in place from the very start of her investigation.

LINDA (from episode 1): ‘You realize that you could be arrested,’ and I said ‘What for?’ And, she said, you know — I don't know the terminology but it was basically along the lines about false allegations. Like filing, I guess a false police report, I don’t know, or even worse. Like she was questioning me more so than asking questions about the man that did this to me.

DELIA: Every step we’ve taken alongside Linda has been leading up to right now. This is the episode Linda will face the man she believes to be her assailant. This is the episode Linda will have to make a choice: To crumble, or stand and face him head-on.

JUDGE: That's what we call a temporary order. That temporary order is, would expire today.

DELIA: In the final episode of this season of She Says, we’re going to be asking questions up until the very end.

DELIA: And I don't think I ever asked you how that felt to be asked those questions by a female in that role. I mean, did you think a lot about that?
LINDA: Yes, it did, it did weigh on me a lot.

DELIA: We’ll end where we started. With Linda. Many of her questions have been answered, but there are some that remain as unknowns. When will her preparator be brought to justice? What does justice even look like? Is she any closer to finding it?

I’m Sarah Delia. This is She Says.

(end of intro)

COURT OFFICIAL: Will both parties place your left hand on the Bible and raise your right hand please. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God? MAN: Yes, ma’am.

DELIA: Do you swear to tell the truth? The whole truth? And nothing but the truth, so help you God?

That’s what Linda’s been trying to do for over the last three years as she’s navigated the winding road. The truth is what she’s been searching for.

About a week and half after the first hearing for the temporary order, Linda was back in domestic violence court. She wanted her 50C — a no-contact order — to be put in place for a year. That meant she would have to place her hand on the Bible for a second time, swear to tell the truth, and make her case as to why the defendant, the man arrested in connection with her assault, should not be allowed to contact her. In the state of North Carolina, a no-contact order expires after a year. It can be renewed. And in some cases, a permanent order can be granted.

She wanted this 50C because she was scared for her family’s safety. This was something she could do to take a little bit of control back, even though she would have to testify in front of him. Although a no-contact order doesn’t necessarily result in an arrest if the defendant doesn’t abide by it, it can establish a paper trail to document unwanted behavior.

This man knew who Linda was. When he was charged with her assault, her name was revealed. And a woman who has children in common with the man had looked her up on LinkedIn.

Linda knew this woman’s name — she had seen it in court documents. Linda saw that this woman had taken multiple domestic violence protection orders out against the man Linda says assaulted her. The same man whose DNA matched to the evidence found in her sexual assault kit.

We looked into it further and pulled more court records. This woman had called the police multiple times claiming this man, the man arrested in connection to Linda’s case, exhibited violent behavior. At least once, that violence was directed toward the children they have in common, according to details outlined in a public document.

Her anonymity was gone. And that’s why, Linda says, she needed to go through this second, more difficult hearing.

DELIA: In domestic violence court in Mecklenburg County, women sit on the left side of the courtroom and the men are on the right. I got to court a little late that day, so I was solely focused on finding Linda. I didn’t see anyone else who we might be sitting nearby. Linda’s husband on the right side of the room sat directly in front of the suspect. That was intentional.

The room was packed. Many people that day were there for no-contact orders like Linda. If you’ve ever been to court before, there are two basic rules to follow: There’s no talking unless you’re spoken to by a court official. And two, don’t talk when the judge is talking. Both of those rules were about to be broken.

When Linda’s name was called. She carefully placed her jacket on the pew-like seats we were sitting on. Folder in hand, which was filled with various court documents, she walked up the aisle to the front of the room. After swearing to tell the truth, the judge asked her to explain why she wanted this 50C. I remember as she held up her hand while she swore to tell the truth, so help her God, she looked like she was waving to a friend. That’s how much her body was trembling.

Standing feet away from the defendant, Linda started from the beginning but didn’t get very far.

LINDA: OK. And, uh, June 29, 2015, um, um, he um, violently sexually assaulted me. Um, and um, he was arrested after a DNA match, um, was found and other evidence.
MAN: Your honor.
LINDA: Um.
MAN: This case is open. This is an open case in court. We have an open case on this so we can talk about that in this court?
JUDGE: Um, well,
she can talk about it and it's being recorded.
MAN: OK, thank you.
JUDGE: There is an open criminal case.
MAN: Yes, ma’am.
JUDGE: You may want to plead the Fifth and not answer any questions.
MAN: OK.
JUDGE: But she can say what she wants.
MAN: All right.
LINDA: Thank you, your honor.

DELIA: That male voice you just heard is the man who has been charged with Linda’s assault. The judge says he could plead the Fifth and points out that this hearing is being recorded. They proceed.

LINDA: He was indicted on three counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of assault by strangulation. Um, I have the case numbers if you're interested. I was notified by the state notification service that he had been released on bond. It was very frightening to find, to know, that he knew my name now and he had been released on bond. Also, um, um, on...while he was in jail before the indictment, the mother of his children I believe is who she is, um, viewed my LinkedIn profile. That's actually how I came to found out, find out that my name was known.

DELIA: Linda pointed out various charges from his criminal history which she felt proved he had a pattern of violence. Linda went on to describe the fear her family felt and the measures they had taken to defend themselves. Linda remained focused on the judge as she spoke. The man’s glare was fixated on Linda.

LINDA: My husband, he's here in in the courtroom with me. Um, we have, um, multiple children. Um, we have, um, um, we have had to go to great lengths since this to ensure safety — working on safety plans, video security system. Um, my husband has a permit to carry a firearm. Um, I for the probably second time in my life am learning to handle a firearm. My kids are having nightmares. Um, and, um it's just it's been very, very frightening.

DELIA: The judge jumps in.

JUDGE: I’ll tell you what. I'm not trying to cut you off.
LINDA: No, ma’am. That’s fine, your honor.
JUDGE: But that’s a lot of information and enough for a no-contact order.

DELIA: The judge turns to the defendant.

JUDGE: Sir, do you want to speak or do you want to remain silent?
MAN: No, I want to speak.
JUDGE: Go ahead.
MAN: Um, I want to, um...
JUDGE: Now before you speak...
MAN: Yes, ma'am.
JUDGE: Let me make sure you understand that this is being recorded…
MAN: Yes, ma’am.
JUDGE: ...and that anything that you say in this court can be used against you in another court.
MAN: Yes, ma’am.
JUDGE: All right, go ahead.

DELIA: He didn’t seem to care, he was eager to talk.

MAN: Um, It is um alleged, these charges. We have an active case on it. I've only supposedly met the plaintiff one time back in 2015. I have had no contact with her. I do not have her information on any of the paperwork that they gave me. Her address or anything. I've never had it, never sought to get it. I was on my visitation with my children playing in the front yard with them, and the plaintiff and another person in the car — but I seen her — drive past my house, go down and turn around.
JUDGE: You’re saying this lady (Linda) here drove past your house?
MAN: This lady. This lady right here. And I went and tried to file a complaint, but not knowing anything, any information on her, they would not give me an ex-parte order because I had
no — nothing but a name — no address, no nothing. But my family has been torn apart by these allegations, and I just want to be left alone.

DELIA: The man says that he wants to take a no-contact order out against Linda. The judge responds.

JUDGE: All right, well you know what? You’re going to get your wish. In that, in that there's a no-contact order that I just signed and you are not to — and I don’t think you will. And you have no reason to…
MAN: But your honor…
JUDGE: Not to, uh, not to visit, assault, molest or otherwise interfere with her — to not abuse or injure her, to not contact her by phone, written communication or electronic means. That includes the LinkedIn page.

DELIA: The judge describes all the ways he is not allowed to contact Linda or any member of her family.

JUDGE: That being said, even though technically, it's not a reciprocal order, I can guarantee you that she ain't gonna come looking for you. All right? Thank y’all.
MAN: But she’s already been to my house!

DELIA: For the record, Linda says she never drove by his house. There was a tension building in the courtroom. Others softly murmured questions about what was going on. There was no contest, this was the most hostile hearing of the day so far.

As much as this man wanted to go on, the judge’s mind was already made up. The man was agitated.

MAN: Boy.
JUDGE: Make sure that people you know aren't looking at any of her stuff either.

DELIA: She told him to make sure no one else he knew was looking Linda up, basically just leave her alone.

This next part is a little hard to hear. The woman who had searched for Linda on LinkedIn stood up behind me, it caught me a little off guard. I didn’t realize she had been sitting behind me the whole time. She addressed the judge, that caught others in the courtroom off guard. Remember what I said about the two court rules, it’s generally not a good idea to speak when you’re not spoken to. And it’s especially not a good idea to interrupt a judge or their courtroom.

Because she’s in the audience not speaking into a microphone she’s pretty much inaudible, but since I was inches away from her, I could hear her pretty well. This woman was trying to take responsibility for looking Linda up. She says she didn’t intend to scare Linda, she was curious as to who Linda was.

The judge's response:

JUDGE: OK, well that was a bad move.
MAN: But she's looking at my stuff online.
JUDGE: Go away now. Good luck.

DELIA: The judge had had enough. And by now the man was worked up. Things started to happen really quickly. At some point, the woman behind me slipped out of the courtroom. The man tried to do the same. The sheriff’s deputies asked him to remain seated. They were trying to regain control.

Linda and Linda’s husband exited the courtroom. I walked out with them, it felt like all eyes in the room where on us especially as the man sat glaring. A sheriff’s deputy was waiting outside the courtroom. He explained how the order worked. He had been in the room and saw the growing anger in the man as he spoke and attempted to keep speaking over the judge. So the deputy asked the couple: what kind of guns do you have at home? His advice was to become comfortable and familiar with how to handle them. Just in case.

Linda mentioned she was learning how to fire a shotgun. The deputy turned to Linda’s husband and said he would recommend a smaller handgun for her. She wouldn’t be able to handle a shotgun, he said.

Linda’s husband and I were instructed to leave the courthouse. A deputy stayed with Linda until her husband pulled the car up. Once she was out of the courthouse, they let the man go.

As tense as that day in court was, two things happened. Linda was granted a 50C that would last a year. And second, she was able to calmly face the man charged in her assault. She didn’t crumble.

Since we had to leave the courthouse, we agreed to meet up at a local coffeehouse. I climbed into the back of their car, the two of them were in the front. They were both still on edge after the hearing and kept looking out the windows periodically to make sure there wasn’t anyone out there who shouldn’t be. Linda’s husband retrieved his handgun from the glove compartment and placed it in the center console of the car. He said since he doesn’t have a conceal carry permit, the gun needed to be in plain sight.

DELIA: What kind of gun is that?
LINDA'S HUSBAND: It’s a Taurus 9 mm. Very safe gun. It has four safeties.

DELIA: Linda explained that she was conflicted about learning how to use a gun. She never imagined this being part of her day-to-day life.

As the conversation went on, they both seemed to exhale just a little. Besides getting the court order, they accomplished something else. They let the defendant know they were prepared if he tried to come to their house.

LINDA: It's kind of getting to a point where there's not much more that we can do. If justice is not served here, then, that's going to be a huge problem for me and a lot of people are going to hear me say a lot. I'm going to have a lot to say.

DELIA: They were happy the order was granted. Still, Linda’s husband said, the whole process was frustrating from the investigation of her case to the present day in court.

LINDA'S HUSBAND: But when you're thinking about it, if someone is in your home and you have to worry about your home and your family.
DELIA: Sure...
LINDA'S HUSBAND: And you have five, four or five other people, you can't concentrate on you know, it's so, it's overwhelming. And I'm just pretty frustrated with the system. I'm just disgusted with it.

DELIA: The system. We’ve spent a lot of time looking into the criminal justice system and how the onus is on the survivor to learn how to navigate it. And we’ve asked the experts we’ve interviewed along the way what they think is wrong about the criminal justice system. But that’s not what Harold Medlock calls it. He was the chief of police in Fayetteville, North Carolina. And before that, he worked at CMPD for over two decades.

MEDLOCK: There is no, it's not a criminal justice system. There is no justice. It's a legal system. It's a process. I again think that the basis of the frustration with the system is going to be always with the police department because we're the most visible — we are the face of the, of this legal system — this, what some folks would want to call criminal justice system. So we have to recognize that this system that we're operating in is dysfunctional, it's broken. And then everyone needs to become accountable for what's going on.

DELIA: We asked Mecklenburg District Attorney Spencer Merriweather what he thinks needs to change. And to be clear, he is not speaking about Linda’s case. For Merriweather, it’s about expanding resources to victims. As a former sexual assault prosecutor, Merriweather says there has been some improvement to the amount of time it takes to prosecute a sexual assault case. But it’s still not as quick of a process as it should be.

DELIA: Merriweather says prosecuting sexual assault and domestic violence cases is a priority for his office. It’s something he’s talked a lot about publicly.

MERRIWEATHER: So when you do these cases, more so than any other, really you've become a part of someone's experience. And it's one of the most invasive tragedies that you can be a part of and the first time you go through that it touches you. It's real.

DELIA: I also asked if it’s harder to prosecute cases when drugs or alcohol are involved.

MERRIWEATHER: I don't give a damn whether somebody is perfect or not, nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted. And what I don't want anyone to believe is that just because someone decided to get high or get drunk that the D.A.'s office isn't taking their case seriously or because of that or that they won't take it. If someone was sexually assaulted, um, they need to call the cops. And then we can figure out exactly how best to advance their case in a court of law.

DELIA: I talked to Merriweather before Linda’s case ever got to his office. But now all of her files including all the evidence collected by CMPD are in the hands of prosecutors. Linda has a case number. There’s an impending court date.

Coming up, Linda reflects on how this podcast has affected her case and her life.

I’m Sarah Delia, this is She Says.

(break)

DELIA: Every step Linda has taken on this winding road has been carefully placed. She’s thought about where she should be going and the right turns to take her there.

Of course, along the way, there have been pitfalls and roadblocks. Like the June 23, 2017 conversation she had with CMPD when she was told the man she identified online couldn’t possibly be the man who assaulted her.

COUGILL (Conversation first played in episode 3): If it were him, it would have already hit.
LINDA: That’s what I would think, too.
COUGILL: Right.
BANNER: That’s a fact. Because his DNA is in CODIS.
LINDA: OK.
COUGILL: So as of right now, it’s not him. It’s not him.

DELIA: Of course, not all roadblocks on the winding road are dead ends.

COUGILL (voicemail for Linda from March 2018): I wanted to let you know that the DNA came back, and I signed warrants this morning, and I’m putting a request in to have somebody go and pick him up.

DELIA: Through our investigation, we’ve been able to answer a lot of questions. Questions about how the state and CMPD labs work. Questions around police training. But the big one that must be weighing on you by now: What's next for Linda?

The only person that can really answer that is her. So she came into the studio, one last time. Well, one last time, for now, to discuss the future and reflect on what life has been like since the podcast came out.

Linda doesn’t hear the episodes ahead of time, she listens when the podcast is updated like everyone else. But she is up at midnight waiting for the next episode to drop.

So I asked her: what has it been like to hear her life unfold in a weekly podcast?

LINDA: I worry, what have I risked by doing this? But, um, so there's the scary part of it, you know, and how will it affect the case? But with that being said, I don't know that the case would have gotten this far had I not brought the story and this information to you so there’s a healing part to it. I feel like it's given me a voice. And that's an important thing to a survivor, a very important thing. And to hear other survivors, you know, be given an opportunity as well through the podcast to have a voice has been really amazing, too. I do worry about what the listeners think about me. I mean, I do. Because, you know, there's only so much that you can fit into a podcast. You know there's a whole other side to me out there that, that is me and who I am as a person.
DELIA: We've talked a lot about Detective Cougill and I know that's a really complicated relationship. LINDA: It is.
DELIA: If you could say something to her, or you wanted her to hear something or you could have a conversation with her, do you — what would that be like?
LINDA: I don't, um,— It's kind of crazy that I’ve, um — I don't want her to be to be hurt, or you know, I don't wish her any ill will at all. But she, you know, she has a job to do but there's the part of me that, you know, that's — do I say this? — that's ‘regrettable.’ But, that's not my fault. And it may not fall directly onto her as being specifically her fault. It's just, it's a broken system, and I really would love to see the system repaired. I guess I got kinda tearful because I don't want to attack anybody personally, their character or anything like that and I guess that’s why I felt, you know, sad when we talk about Detective Cougill because you know, I think — or at least I want to believe — that deep down
there's good intentions there. It's just, um, it's just the lack of training and knowledge.

DELIA: What I find interesting about both yours and Emily's cases is that you both had female detectives.
LINDA: Right.
DELIA: And you were both asked some really interesting questions about your cases. For Emilie's I feel like it was, you know, asked if she had an orgasm during her assault.
LINDA: Right.
DELIA: And then for
you the whole issue of belief and that feeling like it was a recurring theme throughout your case of like you were believed.
LINDA: Right.

DELIA: I find it very interesting that these detectives were both women and I don't think I ever asked you how that felt to be asked those questions by a female in that role. I mean did you think a lot about that?
LINDA: Yes, it did. It did weigh on me a lot because I teach all of my kids, you know, that we are to, you know, lift each other up and, women especially, we need to be there for each other and have each other's backs because we do face some unique challenges. I feel like it was it was shocking, I guess, to kind of — I expected there to be a bit more understanding. But, you know, so yeah, it was very surprising. When I would, if I was talking to someone about the investigation or whatever, you know there were a couple times people (said), ‘And this was a female?’ They couldn't get really past that. You know, I still don't know what to make of that. I guess I kind of thought, I didn't know if just the job itself, they harden themselves and you know and it's the job part of it and then taking the gender aspect away from it? I don't know. And
still to listen, you know, and hear the interview with Detective Cougill and Detective Banner. You know, there's one part of that interview and I don't know, I don't know, Detective Banner very well at all, and I know nothing of her, you know, personal life. But I think there is one part she interrupts me and she’s like, she says to me that she does understand. I think I was crying and I said, but you don't understand. And she said, but we do understand. I'm really careful with saying that to someone. If I catch myself saying, ‘Oh I understand,’ you know, I’m like let me back it up because I really don't. I'm not you.

DELIA: There are parts of the investigation that still bother Linda. The biggest one goes back to the first interview she did at CMPD headquarters with Detective Christina Cougill.

LINDA: I don't remember the exact verbiage of it but you know you can be arrested or go to jail for, you know, for what, you know? And false allegations, and I'm thinking ‘What?’ You seeing me here. You know, there's a bruise in the shape of a handprint on my inner left thigh, here. People are asking me if I've been in a car accident. That was that was terrible to go through, that interview like that.

DELIA: Linda did confront Cougill with this false allegation line of questioning. It was during a conversation Linda had with Cougill in February 2018, we played a part of it for you in a previous episode. In this conversation, Linda calls Cougill upset wondering about the state of her case. She tells the detective that several things hang over her head. Linda worries over Cougill’s perception of her and the case.

LINDA: You know, I got another thing to play over my head too is the first interview. There, you know, I know you didn't know me well you didn't know anything, you know, you talked about the false allegation part. And I guess I replay that too, you know.
COUGILL: I do that with everybody. I do that. That’s like always my first spiel. That's not, that’s not. That's across the board. You can ask anybody any of my co-workers who I interview. Who interview with me. That’s just across the board that’s not anything personal towards you. That's just my spiel.
LINDA: OK.
COUGILL: And most of all of us give it. So don't take that personally.
LINDA: OK.

DELIA: We asked the experts we interviewed along the way about this. Basically, should law enforcement say or insinuate during an interview with a sexual assault victim that they could be arrested for a false allegation? The overwhelming response we got was no — that’s not something you say. We did ask CMPD if this was something they recommended their detectives say to victims. The answer was, in one word, no. I asked to speak to Detective Cougill but CMPD denied that request. I reached out to her directly, but I never heard back. I wanted to know why she says she starts her interviews with this line of questioning. But unfortunately, that’s a question I don’t have an answer to.

The other part of the investigation that still bothers Linda is that conversation she had at CMPD headquarters with Detectives Cougill and Banner on June 23, 2017. The one where they told her, it’s not him. She’s grateful she thought to record it.

LINDA: I mean let me ask you a question, if I didn't have the recording of that. So imagine if I sat down right now and tried to tell you what happened in that interview — to the best of my ability be able to tell you what happened in that interview with what, with what we know now. I don't know very many people that would, I wouldn't say necessarily not believe me, they would be like I don’t understand. This is confusing and there would be the people that just wouldn’t believe me of course. You know.

DELIA: CMPD has been listening to this podcast. I spoke with Deputy Chief Katrina Graue about her reaction to our reporting.

GRAUE: Quite honestly, I'm going back and listen to it again. It is something that as an organization we take very seriously and we appreciate WFAE’s effort to bring attention to this important and complicated subject. So the investigation into this particular case in Linda's case that you've been highlighting on the podcast has revealed some kinda unique challenges that as an organization I don't think we've ever experienced. And I'm in the process, as we speak, of thoroughly reviewing the case and I have identified some opportunities for us to improve and some of those changes have already been implemented. And I look forward to sharing some of those things with you and the listeners in [this] week's conversation.

DELIA: That conversations she’s referencing is a WFAE event on Aug. 2, 2018. It’s a panel discussion focused on how sexual assault is investigated in Charlotte. And it’s the same day as this episode was originally published.

What she would say during our interview is that CMPD has made changes regarding the way the lab communicates with detectives because of Linda’s case. We reported on that back in episode 4. I also asked ...

DELIA: Is there anything regarding the way that CMPD interviews sexual assault survivors that may be changing or are looked at further?
GRAUE: I will say, I've sat down with the detective in this case and I think she feels like there's a lot that she learned from this case and grew in this case. And I think that's a positive thing for us as an organization and for the victims that we serve each today.
DELIA: When you say that you sat down with the detective, I just want to make sure that's Christina Cougill.
GRAUE: It was.
DELIA: Did you have any conversations with Detective Banner?
GRAUE: Well, I mean, you know as I said, I've been kind of reviewing everything about the case. I've just tried to learn everything I can about the case and kind of how we handled it and, again, like I said ways that we can do better.
DELIA: Ok, great. And so, you're going to be willing to go in more depth on Thursday?
GRAUE: Yeah, I'll be honest. I don't want to talk about this case specifically because I don't want to jeopardize the prosecution. But as much as I can talk about I will.

DELIA: This week deputy chief Graue asked to meet Linda in person. She went to her home. They talked for more than two-and-a-half hours about Linda’s case. Graue told Linda she would be recording their conversation and didn’t mind if Linda was also recording. Then she apologized to Linda.

GRAUE: I just think there are some things we could have done much better. LINDA: Right, right.
GRAUE: And, you know, I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through. You know, you personally and
y’all as a family. And, like I said I think there are some things we could’ve and should’ve done better.
LINDA: Right.
GRAUE: And, um, I know that doesn’t necessarily help you personally, but, you know, I have to make sure that we do better moving forward.

DELIA: After the conversation, Linda gave me a call to let me know how it went.

LINDA: This was hard.
DELIA: Yeah.
LINDA: You know, this was hard and you know, it's, it's kinda bittersweet. And then there’s still that part of me that’s like I didn’t feel like they’ve been that much help to me and then like all of a sudden I’ve got somebody that seems helpful. And, you know, she went as far as not just apologizing, but going on to say, I know that this doesn’t change what happened to you, but I want to apologize and, you know, hope that you are willing to, you know. She even talked about like after whatever happens with the case. Willing to continue to provide feedback. Any suggestions or feedback that I have, that she wants to talk to me about that.

DELIA: What Linda would really like is some justice. And to her, that comes in the form of a trial. She believes that’s how he’s likely to get the longest prison sentence. She believes a plea deal would be letting him off the hook. Still, she doesn’t know how she would feel about being in front of a jury of her peers and getting cross-examined by the defendant’s attorney.

LINDA: You know a trial will be really difficult. I get that or at least I think I get that, you know. And I'm preparing for it. I can be ripped to shreds on the stand easily, you know, so it will be a difficult thing if it goes to trial.

DELIA: So how far is Linda from a possible trial? Or a plea deal? Or charges being dismissed?

After this man was indicted on the four charges in Linda’s case, he had a new court date. It was for what’s called a scheduling conference. Basically, the prosecution turns over the evidence it has and any plea it may be willing to offer. Based on that, a decision is made as to how the case is going to proceed — a trial is a possibility. So is a plea deal. And, of course, the charges could be dropped.

That original scheduling conference was slated for late May, right around the time the podcast was launching. Then, it was rescheduled to right around the time the podcast was coming to a close. The cosmic irony of it all is not lost on me or Linda.

Now it’s been rescheduled for the fall. And Linda will have to do what she’s done so often the last three years. Wait.

Which means while you may be parting ways with Linda on the winding road, at least for now, she’s not getting off the path.

LINDA: I don't, I really don’t know what the end of the road looks like. I'm fine to keep traveling down the road because it's what I have to do, you know. I don’t know where it’s going to take me. But at the end of the day, I mean, I’ve walked this path and I, I’ll continue to do that in search for justice here, I mean that's really important.

DELIA: The hope is that Linda is traveling somewhere new. To a new area of the winding road, she’s never been able to get to before. If that’s the case, staying the course on this road, isn’t such a bad thing. We spoke to many, many experts for this podcast and I remember early on, I had a conversation with a therapist about sexual assault survivors and PTSD. I wanted to better understand how to communicate with Linda when she was triggered and to recognize the signs when she was in the middle of her trauma. The therapist told me when you’re walking through life and something horrible happens and you become traumatized by that horrible event, one of two things can happen. One, you let the trauma consume you, you don’t survive it, you die. Or two, you learn to navigate through it. You can lead a very fulfilling life with PTSD, he said. But it’s still there.

Maybe that’s what the winding road looks like. And it does look different for everyone. Maybe like PTSD, it’s not something you ever get over. Maybe you never exit the winding road. You just learn how to take control and read the map.

This is the last episode of this season of She Says, for now. Linda’s case is ongoing and when there are developments, you will be hearing from us. We started this episode with Linda taking an oath, to tell the truth. For her, part of that oath is continuing to find the truth. And she’s not quite there yet.

You’re parting ways with Linda. But I’m going to stay behind. Someone’s got to be here to see what her next steps are and what direction she finds solace in.

CREDITS:

She Says wouldn’t be possible without the help of so many people, including Greg Collard our editor, Joni Deutsch our producer, and Alex Olgin, our reporter. Thank you Kyrstle and Jason Sauls of Pachyderm Music Lab who composed all of our wonderful theme music. Matthew Scott designed the logo; Greg Harris created the illustrations; Logan Cyrus took photographs.

Thank you to all the other people in our newsroom that have helped make She Says what it is. Ju-Don Marshall, Zuri Berry, Jennifer Lang and Jessa O’Connor. WFAE’s executive director of advancement Jeff Bundy and marketing manager Renee Rallos provided marketing and event support. Office manager Sarah Shanks provided transcription support.

Thank you to all many many experts we interviewed on background, especially those who didn’t make it into the story. Thank you to our family, friends, and partners for your support as we worked late nights, early mornings, and weekends.

And thank you so much to our listeners for calling in and sharing your deeply personal stories with me.

Thanks for listening.

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