A look back at May 18, 1996

May 18 was my then-girlfriend, later-to-be ex-wife’s birthday. I had purchased tickets for a Dodgers game for the occasion. It was a Saturday.

The phone rang. I don’t recall whether I answered it and handed it to her not knowing what was going on, or whether she answered it. She started screaming. She screamed for a long time.

It was her niece calling to tell her that her parents had been murdered.

We lived a very short distance from her parents’ mobile home. We drove over, talked to her sister and nieces and the law enforcement personnel that were on-site.

Everything changed. Everything.

Sometimes a horrific act like a home invasion robbery that leaves two elderly parents dead, bludgeoned to death, brings loved ones closer together. Not this time. Divisions and petty jealousies and tenuous relationships and tenuous coping mechanisms that had previously been kept in check to the extent that some semblance of order remained in the family–and in my relationship with my then-girlfriend–turned into toxic hate, paranoid fantasies–or, in the case of said relationship, simply planted seeds for psychological collapse on her end, and further alienation, one to the other, down the line.

Ala Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

When people say that everything can change in a moment, they’re not bullshitting you.

There was a person of interest–a would-be handyman, supposedly–but I have no idea if the perpetrator was ever found. Apparently the world (outside of friends and family) couldn’t be bothered to remember two elderly people savagely beaten to death, judging from the Google searches I conducted. Just one short archived news story. One.


I wish I had a wise conclusion to all of this. I don’t. But I did figure out one thing very quickly that I never realized, after watching thousands of murders on TV and on film: Murder Is Not Entertainment.

Oh, and they had names:

Betty Mae Combe.

Louis Joseph Combe.

I’d say rest in peace, but it seems pointless to say if the piece of human shit that killed them, and all but destroyed countless other lives, is still drawing breath.




2 Responses to A look back at May 18, 1996

  1. Linda Combe says:

    Mike, Thank you for your comments and heartfelt expression. The depth of your feeling makes me glad I happened on this website and was able to see into your heart. We never got to know you well, maybe due to the disfunction of those in this family, but we always thought you were a decent person. We were glad you were there for the youngest in the family, and were sad to see that the marriage didn’t work out. Time has gone on, we have all been through hell; Bob misses his sister (your wife) who has disowned him. There may never be resolution in finding answers to this horrible puzzle. The oldest sister passed away last year leaving so many questions. Hope you are well and can move on with building a satisfying new life for yourself. Bob and Linda Combe

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