Classic: The Killing of Karen Wood
And far from Maine Karen’s death made a difference. A close friend of Karen’s who lives in Clark County, Washington, made a tearful proposal, based on Karen’s death, for that county to increase the hunting distance from residences. The ordinance passed.
In the months following the shooting Kevin returned to Bangor only a few times, briefly, to check on the house, which was left frozen in time from that November afternoon, the wallpaper still only half hung in the kitchen.He engaged a lawyer who brought suit against Rogerson for wrongful death, and in late May a settlement was reached: $122,000 went to Kevin and the babies from Donald Rogerson, much of the money coming from a liability clause in Rogerson’s homeowner’s insurance. Kevin called the settlement a “pittance,” but claims he needed to be realistic about it. “No amount of money could bring Karen back. The man has a limited net worth. You can’t get blood out of a stone.”
He also made the decision to move back to Iowa, where he and Karen had close friends. “I certainly had plenty of time to evaluate what living in Bangor would be like. I just decided there was no way, as difficult as it was to leave. Bangor represents the city of our dreams — the perfect house, the perfect job, the ideal family. Just too many dreams gone by. The dreams died with Karen.”
At Doug’s Shop ‘N’ Save in Bangor Donald Rogerson still stocks the shelves with apples and pears and celery and makes sure the items at the salad bar are fresh and varied. He lives nearby with his wife and children in a white clapboard duplex on a small lot with hardly any yard at all. He is 45 and has lived all of his life in Bangor. He has hunted since he was 10 loves to hunt, but since the shooting he has said that he will “never hunt again” though there is nothing to stop him should he have a turn of heart.
He is soft-spoken with reddish hair and deep-set blue eyes that bear out the words that appeared in the papers following the shooting: nice guy, good citizen. Except for the hubbub that followed the shooting, his life has changed little, if at all. He is surprised when approached by a reporter, seven months after the shooting. “I know of murders that die quicker than this,” he says, unable to understand why Karen’s death is still newsworthy. He wants to talk, seems almost to need to talk, but on the advice of his lawyer he declines the request for an interview and turns back to his work.
Kevin Wood has never seen Donald Rogerson face to face. He doesn’t want to but he sees him in his mind’s eye. Kevin has moved into a new house in a quiet suburban neighborhood in Davenport Iowa. Like the house on Treadwell Acres’ there is a bow window in front and a deck out back. Otherwise, it is far from the house of his dreams. He has hired a nanny to take care of Laura and Lindsey, a pretty girl named Kim who makes the girls laugh by blowing air onto their stomachs and who feeds them grilled cheese and cut-up pieces of fruit as their mother might have. Kevin has a new job, a good job but nothing like the one in Maine. He is happy to be back, though, because there are good friends nearby who remember the wonder of Karen. And he is happy to be away from the noise, the harangue that surrounded Karen’s death.
On his desk is a letter from Jeffrey Hjelm, reassuring Kevin that the case is still open and will remain so for five years. If any new evidence emerges, there could still be an indictment. Kevin holds hopes that there may someday be a trial. It angers him that Rogerson can still go into the woods with a loaded gun. It angers him that Rogerson knows things about how Karen died that he doesn’t.
The house is filled with push toys and fuzzy pink bears, and on weekends, when Kim is not there, Kevin finds himself on the couch, watching cartoons while the babies spin about the living room. To someone who has never met Karen, the girls have their father’s eyes and his hair, seem to look just like him, but to Kevin they look like Karen. Though they cry, maybe too hard, when there is knocking at the door, Kevin doesn’t feel that the girls endured any real trauma from the day that Karen died, only that they will have to live the rest of their lives without their mother.
And he worries about what he will tell them, how he will explain that the man who shot their mother was never brought to trial. His life, he says, was in pieces, and now is the time, at last, to start living again, to move on past the tragedy they left behind in Bangor. In the meantime, Laura and Lindsey have bonded with Kim and love to give their daddy lots of kisses. When he comes home from work at the end of the day, they squeal and propel themselves toward him on sturdy little legs, two whirling pinwheels of life.