Beatriz Garnica was independent growing up because she had to be.
Her mom has suffered from debilitating illnesses for years and rarely was able to attend Garnica’s childhood performances or walk with her to and from school.
“It was always upsetting to me to see everyone hug their parents, but my mom was never there,” Garnica said.
Garnica, now 18, has cared for her mother since the eighth grade. She often manages her medication, drives her to appointments, wakes her up in the mornings or walks her to and from bed.
Despite having spent so much time caring for her mom, Garnica hasn’t put her own life on hold. She is set to graduate from Delavan-Darien High School on Thursday, June 6, with about 197 other students.
She is a captain of the high school soccer team, and her principal calls her the “heartbeat” of the school. She has been accepted to George Williams College of Aurora University in Williams Bay to study nursing.
“She has every attribute that I want from a Comet,” Principal Jim Karedes said of Garnica.
Garnica is the youngest of six children—four girls and two boys—and was raised in Delavan. She is the daughter of immigrants from León, Guanajuato, Mexico.
Her father has worked in factories for Garnica’s entire life, and her mom has bounced from one medical appointment to the next for years.
Garnica said her mother’s health worsened as she grew up. Her mother suffers from diabetes and lingering complications from three serious car accidents and a heart attack.
How does Garnica feel about it all?
“My mom’s probably one of the main reasons why I am who I am,” she said. “She’s both the sweetest but strongest person I’ve ever met. …I always strive to be just like her.”
Garnica’s relationship with her mother has inspired her to become a nurse.
She has noticed how people treat her mother. Some hospital employees have acted like her mother is worthless, Garnica said, and others have been rough with her.
“You can tell the difference between those who love their job and those who don’t,” she said.
Garnica said she wants to make a difference in the medical field. Her experience with her mom has set the standard for what kind of nurse she wants to be. And after years of caring for her mom, Garnica already has a caregiving background.
Karedes describes Garnica as bubbly. She knows and respects everyone and calls them by name, he said.
Garnica admits that she is always smiling and trying to brighten everyone’s day. She said she will miss doing that after graduation.
“Every day is not a good day. But there’s good in every day,” she said. “If you focus on the negative, that’s all it will be.”
Pardeep Singh Kaleka has surveyed the landscape of an America scarred by mass shootings.
Seven years ago, a white supremacist invaded a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and killed six worshippers—among them Kaleka’s father, who died clutching a butter knife he’d grabbed in a desperate attempt to stop the shooter. Now, whenever another gunman bloodies another town, Kaleka posts a supportive message on social media. Then later, either by invitation or on his own initiative, he’ll journey to the community to shore up others who share his pain.
He’s been to Newtown, Connecticut. Charleston, South Carolina. Pittsburgh. “We’ve become kind of a family,” Kaleka says.
It’s true. The unending litany of mass shootings in recent years—the latest, on Friday, leaving 12 dead in Virginia Beach, Virginia—has built an unacknowledged community of heartbreak, touching and warping the lives of untold thousands.
All the survivors, none of them unscathed. The loved ones of the living and dead. Their neighbors, relatives and colleagues. The first responders, the health care workers, the elected officials.
The attacks have changed how America talks, prays and prepares for trouble. Today, the phrases “active shooter” and “shelter in place” need no explanation. A house of worship will have a priest, a rabbi or an imam—and maybe, an armed guard. And more schools are holding “lockdown drills” to prepare students for the possibility of a shooter.
Post-traumatic stress disorder was once largely associated with combat-weary veterans; now some police and firefighters tormented by the memories of the carnage they’ve witnessed are seeking professional help. Healing centers have opened to offer survivors therapy and a place to gather. Support groups of survivors of mass shootings have formed.
Mayors, doctors, police and other leaders who’ve endured these crises are paying it forward—offering comfort, mentoring and guidance to the next town that has to wrestle with the nightmare.
Former Oak Creek Mayor Stephen Scaffidi, who’d been on the job just four months at the time of the 2012 Sikh temple attack, remembers a call that night from the mayor of Aurora, Colorado, where 12 people had been fatally shot at a movie theater less than three weeks earlier. “He gave me the best advice I could ever receive in that moment: ‘Be calm. Reassure your community. And only speak to what you know. Don’t speculate, don’t pretend to be an expert on something that you’re not,’” Scaffidi recalls.
Last year, two days after the fatal shooting of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Christine Hunschofsky, mayor of Parkland, Florida, met the mother of a 6-year-old killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School who offered a road map into the future.
“She forewarned me of many of the things that we would encounter,” Hunschofsky recalls. “She said at first it will seem like everyone comes together. Then it seems like a tsunami that hits the community. People become very divided. This is all normal after a mass trauma.”
Three months later, it was Hunschofsky’s turn. She sent a message to the incoming mayor of Santa Fe, Texas, where a school shooting left 10 dead. “She told me this is not going to be the hardest day and harder days are coming,” recalls Mayor Jason Tabor. “’Prepare for that.’ She was 100 percent right.”
The two mayors have since become fast friends and Hunschofsky visited Santa Fe. “We’re bonded for life,” Tabor says.
Mass shootings account for a tiny percentage of homicides, but their scale sets them apart. In 1999, the Columbine shooting shocked the nation with its unforgettable images of teens running from the school with their hands up—scenes repeated in other similar attacks years later. Today, the public sees and hears about these events as they unfold, through live-streamed video or tweets.
Each tragedy is horrifying, but the sense of it-can’t-happen-here has worn off.
“We’re a desensitized society,” says Jaclyn Schildkraut, a criminologist at the State University of New York at Oswego.
“There is an element of mass shooting fatigue where we’ve gone from ONE MORE,” she says, her voice rising with exasperation, “to add another one to the list. Everybody immediately goes for the gun argument ... and maybe throw a little mental health in there, but we really don’t have a consistent, prolonged conversation about these events and how to prevent them.”
Studies have offered some hints of their emotional wallop. The National Center for PTSD estimates 28 percent of people who have witnessed a mass shooting develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and about a third develop acute stress disorder.
Laura Wilson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia conducted a meta-analysis—an examination of data from 11 studies of PTSD symptoms among more than 8,000 participants who ranged from those who’d witnessed shootings to those who just lived in the communities in a 20-year period. She found the greater the exposure—someone who was at the scene or who lost a friend or family—the greatest risk of developing PTSD. But, in her work, Wilson has found other factors, too, including previous psychological symptoms and a lack of social support, also played a role in increasing the likelihood.
“Mass shootings are a different type of trauma,” Wilson says. “People are confronted with the idea that bad things can happen to good people. ... Most people have a hard time reconciling the idea that a young, innocent person made the good decision to go to school, was sitting there, learning and was murdered. That does not make sense to us. ... It just rattles us to our core.”
And yet, some people don’t fully appreciate the lasting psychological wounds of those who escaped physical harm.
A study conducted by a University of Nevada-Las Vegas professor after the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting that left 58 people dead found PTSD levels for those at the concert remained elevated at least a year later. Most of these people had a friend, family member or co-worker asking—as early as 1½ months after the event—why they were still troubled.
“Almost everyone had someone say, ‘Get over it. Why are you letting this bother you?’” says Stephen Benning, a psychology professor who conducted the research. Those kinds of remarks were associated with increased levels of PTSD, which lasted longer than depression.
April Foreman, a psychologist and board member of the American Association of Suicidology, likens exposure to mass shootings to a flu epidemic that affects the entire community in different ways.
“When we have these mass casualty events it’s like an outbreak of a virus,” she says. “Some people might be immune or not susceptible to that strain. Some people are going to get a little sick, some people are going to be very sick. Some people might have compromised immune systems and if they’re exposed they have a very high risk for life-threatening illness. Suicide is like the extreme outcome.”
In one week in March, two student survivors of the Parkland school shooting killed themselves. Around the same time, the father of a 6-year-old killed girl in Newtown died of an apparent suicide. He had created a foundation in his daughter’s name to support research on violence prevention.
Austin Eubanks, a Columbine student who was shot and watched his best friend die in the school massacre, died last month, possibly of an overdose. He struggled with opioid use after the attack and later became an addiction recovery speaker. A memorial fund established in his name is seeking funds for a trauma-informed program for families and victims of mass violence.
After the Parkland suicides, Hunschofsky says, many people sought mental health help for the first time. “They just told me, ‘I thought I was OK, but after this happened, maybe I’m not. Maybe I do need to talk to someone.’” The community’s wellness center, established after the Parkland shooting, extended its hours.
A similar program, the Resiliency Center of Newtown, is an informal gathering place for those grappling with anxiety, depression and PTSD. Though the school attack occurred 6½ years ago, the center still gets new clients and after every mass shooting, more people stop by.
“Your heart hurts every time a new tragedy happens because you know what those people who are impacted are going to have to go through and what the community is going to go through, and that’s hard,” says Stephanie Cinque, the center’s founder and executive director. “You don’t just get over it and move on.”
In Florida, Orange County Sheriff John Mina, Orlando’s police chief during the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub, realized that when he reached out to law enforcement peers—former chiefs of Aurora and Newtown—afterward. “’What do you think I should be doing six months, a year from now?” he asked. “They said, ‘John, you’re not going to be dealing with this a year. You’re going to be dealing with this five or 10 years. That was like a punch in the gut.”
There were some immediate lessons learned, he says. Among them: improved communications with the fire department and better equipment. After the Pulse shooting, officers were given Kevlar helmets and an extra layer of body armor that will stop rifle rounds.
Mental health debriefings were held six months and a year after the shooting rampage for Orlando officers who went to the nightclub that morning.
Some have reached beyond the department to UCF RESTORES, a clinic at the University of Central Florida that helps trauma victims. It was originally designed to serve the military, but has expanded to include first responders and sexual assault victims, among others.
Deborah Beidel, the clinic’s director, says first responders called to mass shootings face trauma similar to those in combat. About 50 firefighters, police and paramedics who were at Parkland and Pulse have been treated, most in a three-week outpatient program that exposes them to the sounds, smells and sights they encountered that caused their PTSD.
For those inside the Pulse, Beidel says, “the sound of cellphones ringing and ringing and ringing and no one answering them became a trigger for many people. Afterward, any time they heard a cellphone, particularly that Marimba ring on the iPhone, they would have a flashback.”
Beidel says the goal isn’t to make workers forget but to “put that memory in a file where it no longer affects every other aspect of their life, so that they no longer are restricted in what they can do because ... of flashbacks or panic or whatever they might be experiencing.”
Jimmy Reyes, a 35-year-old Orlando firefighter, enrolled in the program about five months after Pulse. He’d been haunted by the memory of tending to more than two dozen bloody, wounded people carried from the club, sprawled over a parking lot, screaming in agony.
After more than four stressful hours caring for the wounded, not knowing who’d live or die, he returned home. As he and his wife watched the TV news, he began sobbing. She held him. “We did the best that we could,” he told her.
Less than a week later, Reyes had a panic attack while working a second job—he was on a safety team in a jet ski race. “I couldn’t breathe,” he says. “I kept telling myself, ‘You’ll be fine. It’ll pass.’” It didn’t. He dreaded another big call at work.
Firefighters, he says, “kind of bury a lot of stuff. It gets put in a file in the back of your head. That’s what I thought this was going to be.”
But it didn’t stay there. He was short-tempered with his family. He had little interest in doing anything but sitting at home. Finally, Reyes decided to seek help.
For three weeks, he relived his experiences, answering questions from a therapist as he told his Pulse story over and over, recalling everything he saw.
At first, he says, he cried. By the end of the sessions, he was dry-eyed and calm.
Reyes is better now and remains a firefighter. He never considered quitting. But he has changed.
“I felt like I was normal before Pulse,” he says. “I was a very happy guy, no problems, no issues with mental health. Now I still deal with depression. I still deal with anxiety. ... I look back at those days. ... June 11th, I was normal. Then June 12th happened. I’m a completely different person.”
Rosemary “Rosie” Barajas
Karen Long Loback Madaus
Jerry D. Ozee
Ferguson. Baltimore. Chicago. Madison.
The list of tragic encounters between police and juveniles or young adults of color goes on and on. It inflames people on all sides. They wince every time they see the latest headline: Again? Why?
The toughest question might be, how can we fix this?
Janesville might seem an unlikely place to address this question, but Janesville will be part of a national effort to try solutions developed by a police-and-youth-oriented organization in recent years.
The Police Training Institute, a unit of the Council for a Strong America, has already visited Rock County and about 60 youths here to find out what they think about police. Representatives also met with police staff and rode in patrol cars.
Another meeting to learn more from the community is set for Tuesday, June 18.
John Shanks, the institute’s director, said a panel of police and youths will start “an open, honest discussion about the police and how we can do better. The police need to hear from the community, and the community also needs to hear from police.”
Then on June 20 and 21, law enforcement from around Rock County and from Madison will undergo training designed to prevent the worst from happening.
Employees at the institute developed the training with help from social scientists and psychologists and refined it with the help of an education expert. They tweaked their approach in recent years as they took it to cities around the country, Shanks said.
And they conducted evaluations 90 to 100 days later to find out whether police remembered and used what they had been taught.
It is making a difference, Shanks said.
The number of police-youth interactions did not change, Shanks said, but the use of force declined. And the number of arrests declined.
Officers who went through the training said it changed them, and they said more officers should be exposed to it, he said.
An officer in Austin, Texas, wrote to the institute, saying he was called to a home to handle a runaway who had returned and was causing a disturbance.
Before the training, he would have told the kid to calm down and behave, the officer wrote, Shanks said. But this time, he talked and listened, and he discovered the youth was not the problem. She was the victim, said Shanks, who would not offer details.
Youth rely on social media and movies to learn about police, and what they learn is often negative, Shanks said. Officers have no tools to deal with that.
“It’s a recipe for disaster, so we try to turn the tables to provide tools to police and raise awareness and provide tools to the youth,” he said.
The training’s main focus is on four things police need to know when dealing with youth, Shanks said:
Adolescent brain development: This new area of science suggests brains are not fully developed until age 25, so when police see what appears to be a case of a bad kid acting out on the street, it might be a case of a young person not thinking rationally.
Deescalation: Officers have been taught how to keep a bad situation from getting worse, but techniques for calming someone are different when youths are involved.
“Our teens and young adults want to be shown respect; they want conversation and to receive information in an adult manner,” Shanks said. “We want to make sure law enforcement and youth have a good dialogue. … Our motto in the program is, everyone goes home.”
That means they go home safely, not ending up in a hospital or jail.
Bias: Police have heard about implicit bias, but they’ve often been taught by people who have no police experience. The institute’s trainers all are ex-cops who show the officers that everyone is biased, but the question is what they do about it.
One part of the bias training is how to write nonbiased police reports. Shanks said a report might say the suspect, who happens to be black, brandished a weapon threateningly, perhaps because the officer felt threatened. But if the person is white and did the same thing, the description might be that he was just holding a knife.
That loaded language will unfairly follow the suspect as prosecutors write criminal complaints and prison and probation officials copy those words into their reports, which will affect a person’s life, Shanks said.
Shanks said his team found no evidence of that here: “We were very impressed with Janesville.”
Informed response to trauma: Youths might have been bullied in school, seen gang violence or lost friends. Some suffer from violence in the home. The result can be post-traumatic stress, and it’s important for an officer to recognize that.
Police are not psychologists, but if a traumatized youth is acting out, is withdrawn or is self-mutilating, knowing about trauma helps officers handle the situation.
The training includes youth from the community who do role-playing with the officers, which gives the youth tools to use when interacting with police, Shanks said.
The role-playing evolves through the training so that at the end, youths are playing cops and cops play youths. That develops empathy, Shanks said.
The training is grant-funded and comes at no cost to local governments, Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said.
Moore has been involved with the organization for about 15 years and believes in its research-based approach to policing, so he invited Shanks’ group, he said.
Moore sees no dire problem here.
“My interest in this type of program is always to build trust in the community, build trust with our youth, and we’re looking at preventive strategies rather than waiting for something bad to happen and having to react,” Moore said.
Shanks said Janesville is on the Interstate between Chicago and Madison. “Even though Janesville does not have those (negative) interactions, it doesn’t mean officers shouldn’t have tools,” he said.
Janesville is about the 15th city to receive this training, Shanks said. The institute wants to raise money to expand the number of trainers to get the program out to many more police nationwide.
Next up for the trainers are the counties around Natchez, Mississippi; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tampa, Florida; and they’re working to go to Washington, D.C.
Word of the arrest—via a friend’s text message—hit Wayne Sankey like a thunderbolt.
“I said, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” Sankey recalled. “And then I told the wife and she couldn’t believe it. ‘There’s no way,’ she said. ‘Ray down the road?’”
Ray Vannieuwenhoven was his next-door neighbor—a helpful, 82-year-old handyman with a gravelly voice and a loud, distinctive laugh, the kind of guy who always waved from his car.
The widower and father of five grown children had lived quietly for two decades among the 800 residents of Lakewood, a northern Wisconsin town surrounded by forests and small lakes.
Now authorities were saying this man was a cold-blooded killer. They had used genetic genealogy to crack a cold case that stretched back well into the 20th century—a double murder 25 miles southwest of Lakewood.
For nearly 43 years, Vannieuwenoven had lived in plain sight, yet outside detectives’ radar.
It was just too much to be believed. Was the guy next door really a monster?
⃣ ⃣ ⃣
David Schuldes and Ellen Matheys, engaged to be married, set up their campsite at a secluded spot in McClintock Park on Friday afternoon, July 9, 1976.
It appeared they were alone.
Schuldes was a 25-year-old part-timer in the circulation department of the Green Bay Press-Gazette; Matheys, 24, worked at the UW-Green Bay library.
They were about to go for a walk, according to court documents and news reports of the time. First, Matheys stopped to use the restroom.
Two shots from a .30-caliber rifle shattered the quiet. One bullet struck Schuldes’ neck from 50 feet away, killing him instantly. The other bullet lodged in a bathroom wall.
Matheys ran, with the killer in pursuit, investigators say. He caught and raped her, then shot her twice in the chest.
Her body was found 200 yards from where Schuldes lay, a camera slung over his shoulder.
Investigators were stumped: The killer took no money and left Matheys’ purse in the couple’s car. They didn’t know why the couple were targeted, and leads were scant. For months, campers avoided McClintock Park.
DNA profiling in the ‘90s brought new hope, but detectives got no matches when they submitted the semen from Matheys’ shorts to the FBI’s national database.
Last year, detectives contacted Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company whose work with genetic genealogy analysis has helped police identify 55 suspects in cold cases nationwide since May 2018, according to the company. Parabon uploads DNA from crime scenes to GEDmatch, a free, public genealogy database with about 1.2 million profiles, all voluntarily submitted by people who’ve used consumer genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe.
California law enforcement used GEDmatch to capture the Golden State Killer last year by finding distant relatives and reverse-engineering his family tree.
Parabon’s experts completed Vannieuwenhoven’s family tree in late December. They’d found his parents, who had lived in the Green Bay area. Now detectives needed DNA samples from Vannieuwenhoven and his three brothers. Two were ruled out with DNA samples collected from one brother’s trash and another’s used coffee cup.
On March 6, two sheriff’s deputies knocked on Vannieuwenhoven’s door, pretending they wanted him to fill out a brief survey on area-policing. They told him to put the survey in an envelope and seal it with his tongue.
Detectives didn’t need to visit the fourth brother. Eight days later, Vannieuwenhoven was in custody.
⃣ ⃣ ⃣
At Vannieuwenhoven’s first court appearance, on March 22, bond was set at $1 million.
“Not guilty, not guilty, not guilty,” Vannieuwenhoven said, when the judge asked him if he understood the charges. His next court date is June 19.
Kurt Schuldes, 68, a cousin of David Schuldes in Green Bay, welcomed the news of an arrest but lamented the time it took: “He just got away with it for way too long, unfortunately.”
“It was a long time coming,” said Cynthia Chizek, Matheys’ 53-year-old niece, who lives in Henderson, Nevada. “It’s just something that always hangs over your head, knowing that there’s someone out there who did this heinous crime.”
Prosecutors and Lakewood residents, meanwhile, were left with the question: Who is Raymand Lawrence Vannieuwenhoven?
Richard Leurquin, twin brother of Vannieuwenhoven’s dead wife, Rita, said his brother-in-law was “a very loving father to his wife and kids.” He’s convinced Vannieuwenhoven is innocent.
The Vannieuwenhovens were married until her death in 2008, a few months after they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Sankey said after Rita died, Vannieuwenhoven spent his days fishing, hunting, and going on weeks-long camping trips.
But Vannieuwenhoven had a dark side. To start, this isn’t his first time in jail.
In 1957, when he was 20, married, and going by the name Lawrence Vannieuwenhoven, he was jailed for six months for an unprovoked attack on a 17-year-old girl. She was walking with three friends when Vannieuwenhoven struck her on the back, face, and shoulder. Shortly before, police said, Vannieuwenhoven also tried to attack a 16-year-old girl.
Vannieuwenhoven said before sentencing he “was only trying to scare the girls,” the Press-Gazette reported at the time.
In 1960, he pleaded guilty to not providing financial support to his wife and their 1-year-old daughter, the Press-Gazette reported then. He was on probation for a year.
More recently, some neighbors caught glimpses of a menacing side when he drank. He stopped only a few years ago, for his health, they said.
“I know this much—when he was drinking he was one son of a bitch. You didn’t want to be anywhere near him when he was drinking. Not just me, a lot of people,” said Fred Mason, 66, who works at the town dump where Vannieuwenhoven was seen frequently, rummaging through scrap piles for small engine parts.
Robert Ganzell, 86, and his wife sometimes dined out with Vannieuwenhoven. He heard from others that he had a temper when he drank, but Ganzell said he never witnessed it.
As for the murder charges, Ganzell was nonplussed. “Never thought of it being him, doing anything like that,” Ganzell said. Aside from that, he had little to say about Vannieuwenhoven.
In fact, the neighbors realized that they knew little about this man. For instance, it’s unclear where he worked before retiring.
Sankey, 68, said he and his wife are still coming to terms with the allegations against their next-door neighbor, the guy who would occasionally repair his lawnmower or snow blower.
“People had the impression that he was a very good, normal person, just a retired guy,” Sankey said. “No matter where you went you’d mention Ray and they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, old Ray.’ That was basically about it. It’s still hard to believe.”