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It was the early morning hours — around 3:00 am — in the summer of 1979 when I awoke to my mother’s screams.  I remember I watched the movie the “Shining” one time as a kid.  The mother screaming for her life in this movie was comparable.  I could hear things breaking and crashing all through the house while she screamed for her life.  It was a former step-father from my childhood.  I hated him since the day I watched him drink the milk directly out of the milk container one morning.  He was too selfish to put it in a glass.  I remember he left his backwash for everyone else to drink.  He always only thought of himself at all times.  I can still hear his selfish little gulp.  I hate the sound of gulping when someone drinks a beverage even until this day because of this monster.  I remember the first time I seen him hit my mother.  I was six years old sitting in the backseat of the car and my mother was in the passenger seat.  My mother was beautifully dressed and looked beautiful because we were coming home from my Uncle’s wedding celebration and she was all decked out.  This monster punched my mother in the face while driving because she must have said something he did not like.  I remember the shock and helplessness I felt as I watched the red blood from her nose pouring out all over her beautiful dress as she began to raise her hand up to her nose crying.  I remember the tears and blood and makeup streaming down her face.  I can’t even really describe how I felt at 6 years old seeing this and so I won’t even try.  But I am sure you can imagine what I was feeling if you put yourself in my place.  I felt scared and helpless.  I only knew what ‘hate’ was from a young age because of my experience with this former step-father.  It was the first time I ever hated anyone.  This monster had broken just about everything in our house that night in 1979.  I found out later he was on heroin.   Nevertheless I guess the damage matched theJohnny Wright axe marks in the furniture my father had left three years previous.  On this particular morning I could hear my step-monster breaking some of the lighter furniture over my mother’s head.  Someone later said he even smashed a five by three foot glass clock over her head.  I will never forget hearing those screams from my bedroom.  I was helpless.  I was only nine years old.  I could hear my mother eventually run out of the house in effort to save her life.  I have never blamed her for not coming to get me first because he probably would have killed us both the minute she tried.  I continued to lay in my bed and listen to her scream for help in the front yard.  It bothers me to hear a woman cry to this day for this very reason.  Her crying and screams for help are what I remember the most.

My Mother: “Please!  Someone help me!  He is going to kill us!  Please!  He is going to kill my baby!  Please!  Someone please help us!”

No one came.

John Christmas twoI laid in my bed in my dark room feeling like there were pins in my arms and legs that stopped me from running.  I was terrified beyond any comprehension while I listened to him trying to kill her.  I heard one more blood curdling scream from my mother outside and then silence.  My heart sank.  I knew he was coming in to kill me next.  I could hear him walking back into house and down the hallway towards my room.  I had locked my door before I went to bed that night but it did not matter because this monster broke in the door like something out of bad horror movie.  The door was still left on the hinges but the lock did not stop him from coming into my room.  The hallway light was on behind him.   I can still remember his silhouette in the doorway.  I can still see him in my mind.  I could see the dust from the door and the wall being broken floating around his silhouette.  I remember the energy was as if something evil had just entered my room.  It was the first time I ever perceived evil.  I have been able to perceive evil ever since.  That is because I know what it feels like now.  This monster is ultimately the reason I now know the difference between good and evil.  I remember I tried to look as cute as I possibly could at nine years old.  For some reason I thought he might not try to kill me if I looked like a helpless child.  It never occurred to me I did not need to try very hard.  That is because I was a helpless child.  It was a horrible miscalculation on my part.  It was a very long night.


houseHe picked me up out of my bed by the neck and held me directly in front of him.  I remember my legs and feet dangling beneath me.  I looked directly into his eyes and the tears immediately streamed down my face when he began to squeeze his hand around my throat.  This monster squeezed so hard I could not shut my eyes.  He began slamming my head over and over against the wall because he was trying to kill me.  For some reason I did not die. So he carried me outside by my neck holding me directly in front of him.  I could see some of the neighbors shutting their doors and curtains once he brought me outside.  They were too afraid to help me.  I understood why the women and children could not come to help me.  I never understood why the men did not come.  I guess they were cowards.  It is ultimately the reason why I have always in my adult life made sure I run towards the screams.  That is especially when a woman or child is involved.  That is because I would rather be dead than think I let a child die or woman be killed on my watch.

Johnny FiveThis monster took me to where my mother was laying unconscious on the sidewalk.  I can still see the pool of blood around her head.  At one point the monster lifted my small body sideways over his head.  I remember he had lifted me up as far up as he could hold me above his head.  I knew there must have been a neighbor on the phone with the police department.  This is based on the fact that I remember several police car sirens in the distance turning on right at that moment.  The sirens came on one by one.  I still think of this moment even today when I hear police sirens.  I could tell they were too far away and I would be dead by the time they arrived.  At one point the monster started lunging my body down towards the ground and back up as if he wanted to torment me before he killed me.  I prepared for my death each time he lunged me towards the ground where my mother was laying unconscious with blood coming out of her head.  I must have been moving around like a fish out of water.  I was told later by a neighbor I was shaking with such intensity she thought I was having a seizure.  I prepared myself to die at nine years old but I did not want to die.  I wanted to live but it looked like I did not have a choice.  I didn’t know what to do.  So I prayed the prayer my grandmother taught me when I was six years old.  It was the only one I knew.

Now I lay me down to sleep.  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should live another day …. I pray the Lord to guide my way.”

Then something happened.  It was strange.  I cannot really explain it.  My body instantly stopped shaking after I said this prayer.  Nevertheless it was right around this time the monster started screaming loudly at me.  I remember I could hear the sirens coming closer and closer as he screamed something at me.  He seemed to be asking me a question.  He seemed to be asking me to make a choice.


I was in shock.  I could not speak.

I glanced down at my mother laying on the ground with a pool of blood around her head when all the sudden I felt my back arch and my chin go up and my head go backwards.  My eyes stared wide-open on the porch light behind us.  It was a weird feeling.  It felt as though someone had suddenly grabbed my neck or my chin and pushed my head backwards but there was no hand on my chin or my neck.  I did not take my eyes off that porch light even one time.  Then – all of the sudden – words came out of my mouth that were not my words.  I remember there was a very monotone sound or rhythm to my voice when I spoke.  It felt very mechanical.  It almost felt like an angel wrapped his hand around my throat and made me speak.   

I said — “No.  I want to be here with you.”

He looked confused like he was listening to something far away.  Nevertheless it was around this time I felt my former step-father’s whole demeanor change.  I could feel all the power leave his body.   Then — eventually — the monster  ever so gently lowered me to the ground — patted me on the head — and told me I was a good boy and to go back to my room.

Johnny WrightI remember I walked into the house and into my dark bedroom like a zombie in a trance after being lowered back on the ground by the former step-father.  I laid down in my bed in absolute shock.  I was traumatized by the thought of my mother still laying unconscious on the cement — blood pouring out of her head.  I thought she was dead.  I could hear the police sirens were sounding louder and louder.  The police sirens did not offer me any comfort though — I knew my former step-father could hear them too.  I feared he might reason there was nothing to lose by killing me just before the police arrived.  At one point I began to play different scenarios in my mind as I heard the police sirens coming closer to our house for that very reason.  One of the scenarios I feared was my former step-father using me as a human shield holding me up to protect himself from the police when they arrived.  I thought about escaping out of my bedroom window over to the neighbors next door but feared they would not help me as they had shut their doors and curtains.  I had no exit strategy.  I was trapped.  I could hear the former step-father walking in and out of the house and sometimes past my door.  I remember telling myself not to start crying because it might trigger him to come in and try to kill me again.  So I just stared at my bedroom door — eyes wide open — trying to ready myself for whatever was about to happen next.  I could feel my eyes filling up with tears to the point everything looked like it was underwater but I did not dare make a sound.  I reasoned that it was very likely my former step-father would come back into my room to finish what he started.  I was not sure though.  I had no idea what his intentions were at this point. 

I remember I at some point visualized all the faces of the people who loved me.  The first thing I visualized was three years earlier my mother and I had sat on the side of my bed crying together as she told me that my real father was dead.   She said — “I’m so sorry, Johnny.  Your daddy died in a very bad car accident today.  He is gone.  He is in heaven now.”    She hugged me as we cried together for at least a fifteen minutes.   I remembered being confused.  That’s because I don’t think I even knew what death or heaven was at the time.   I was only 6 1/2 years old.   I just knew I never seen my cat again after he died.   I also recalled the last words my real father said to me before he died.  He said — “Johnny I don’t want you to forget how much your mommy loves you!”   I remembered visions of my real father and my mother when they were still together.  One time in particular I remembered when we were camping in what I now know was Yosemite.  I yosemite 01could remember how I thought we were in the middle of heaven watching the water shoot out of these giant rock mountains with green forest trees everywhere you looked.  I remembered my mother yelling out to my father — “Be careful!  I have heard there are bears here!”  I remember my father yelling out — “Oh there are no bears!”  Then turning nervously when he heard a noise in the forest when we were alone.  I started giggling.  I remember he stood there with me on his shoulders watching a big stream move by slowly in front of us.  I asked my dad in my four year old voice –“Is this heaven?”  He said it did look just like heaven.  So even until today I picture standing in the middle of heaven in Yosemite with both my parents loving one another and me.

The police sirens were getting closer and closer and louder and louder as I recalled those times in my life.  At one point I could tell by the sirens the police cars were only seconds away.  My former step-father could hear them coming too.  The sirens were so loud at one point that they sounded like screams — they were just down the street now.  I began to brace myself for the worst.   Then there was silence and the red and blue lights were flashing around my dark bedroom as they pulled up to front of the house.  Beyond the silence I could still hear sirens but I was guessing it was other police cars — fire truck and an ambulance.  I was so nervous at this point I made sure I did not move or make a sound.  The only noise in my room was the sound of me breathing faster and faster through my nose with my eyes filling full of tears from keeping them wide open for so long.  I could hear the policemen yelling but not what they were saying.  Then at one point I could hear a kind of scuffle in the front yard with a lot of people yelling.  My step-father was a massively built man from regularly lifting weights.  In my mind  I pictured him killing every single one of the police officers one by one.  Then I heard a thump against the front of the house and more yelling and then silence.  I began to wonder if my former step-father broke loose and came back into the house.  I could hear the police officers entering the house with their police radios echoing from throughout the house.  One of the policeman said — “Boy did he tear the shit out of this place.”  I did not dare move because I knew it would take my step-father less than half a second to break my neck and kill me right there in front of the police.  I could hear the policemen opening doors to check each room.  Then one of the police officers pushed my door open and shone a flashlight on my face.  He yelled out to the other police officers — “We got a kid here!”  He reached over and turned on the light in my bedroom and began talking to me.

indexPolice Officer: “Are you okay?”

Johnny Wright: “Yeah I’m okay.”

Police Officer: “What is your name?

Johnny Wright: “My name is Johnny Wright.”

Police Officer: “Nice to meet you Johnny.  My name is Officer Bill with the San Jose Police Department.  I don’t want you to be afraid.  The police are here to help you and your mommy.  You are safe now because we arrested the man who did this to you and your mommy.  How old are you Johnny?”

Johnny Wright: “I’m nine years old.”

Police Dispatcher/Radio: “Seven One William Five — San Jose — status?”

Front Yard Police Officer:Seven One William Five.  The suspect is in custody at this time.  I am out in front of the house with paramedics and the adult female victim is on the ground in front of the house.  The victim is unconscious with blood coming out of the side of her head.  The suspect beat her head on top of the sharp point of a chain link fence until she was unconscious.  The status of the victim at this time is unknown.  An ambulance is en route.”

Police Dispatch/Radio: “Seven One William Five…..10-4.”

The policeman could see me staring at his radio knowing they were talking about my mom.  He turned down the radio and continued to talk to me.

Police Officer: “Your mommy is going to be okay.  The ambulance is going to take her to the doctor so they can help her get better.  I am sure you will be able to see her very soon.  I don’t want you to worry because we arrested the man who did this to you and your mommy.  You’re safe now.  Was that your daddy we arrested outside?”

Johnny Wright: “No.  He’s my step-dad.  My mom makes me call him ‘dad’ but he is not my real dad.”

Police Officer: “Where is your real daddy?”

Johnny Wright: “My real daddy is in heaven.”

Police Officer: “Oh I see.  I am sorry your daddy died.  I am sure he loved you very much.  I’m also sure he is really proud of what a good and brave little boy you are being right now.

Johnny I need your help.  I need to ask you a few questions about what happened tonight.  Would that be okay with you?”

Johnny Wright: “I don’t know what happened.  I was sleeping the whole time.  I just woke up right now when you came into my room.”

Police Officer: “One of the neighbors said you were outside with your step-dad.  Were you outside with your step-dad?”

Johnny Wright (crying): “I’m not lying.  I was sleeping the whole time.  I did not see anything.  I promise.  Please don’t take me to jail.  I promise I will be good boy.  Are you going to take me to jail?”

Police Officer: “No honey I am not going to take you to jail.  The police don’t take good little boys like you to jail.  The police are here to help you and your mommy.  We just want to make sure your step-daddy does not hurt you and your mommy again.  You will not get in trouble for talking to the police.  I don’t want you to be afraid of the man who hurt you and your mommy.  He can never hurt you again.  He is not going to be allowed to be around you anymore.  That is why I don’t want you to be afraid to talk to the police.  Johnny are you afraid someone is going to hurt you if you talk the police?”

Johnny Wright (crying): “No.  I am afraid you are going to take me away from my mom.  I will die if you take me away from my mom.  Please don’t take me away from my mom.  I promise I’ll be good.”

Police Officer: “No Johnny… I am not going to take you away from your mommy.  There is nothing to worry about.  I am here to help you and your mommy.  Okay I can see you are really upset.  You don’t have to answer any more questions tonight.

Johnny — your grandma and grandpa are here.  They are out in front of the house waiting to see you.  Boy I can tell they really love you a lot.  They are really excited to see you and have been waiting for me to bring you outside.  Johnny they are going to take you to their house until your mommy feels better.  Is that okay with you?”

Johnny Wright (crying): “Yes.”

Police Officer: “Okay Johnny.  Thank you for talking to me and for being such good boy.  I want you to know something before we walk outside though.  Johnny you are going to see a lot of police cars and police officers and stuff going on out in front of your house.  You are also going to see a fire truck and ambulance outside your house.  They are here to help your mommy and take her to the hospital so she can get better.   I don’t want you to be afraid though — the police are not here because you did something wrong.  You did not do anything wrong.  We are here to help you and your mommy and make sure this bad man never hurts you or your mommy ever again.

Okay.  Are you ready to see your grandma and grandpa?”

Johnny Wright (crying): “Yes please.”

Police Officer: “Okay Johnny.  Give me your hand.  We will walk outside together.”

The police officer held my hand and walked me down the hallway of our house.  He was taking me outside where my grandparents were waiting for me.  I had agreed to stay with my grandparents during the time my mother was in the hospital.  I remember all the police officers in the living room stopping whatever they were doing to look over and stare at me walking by with the policeman holding my hand.  The front door of the house was open with police officers constantly walking in and out.  The policeman stopped at the front door to make sure I was ready.  Then we stepped out together into the front yard.

There was a lot of activity going on there.  Police cars with flashing lights were all over the street.  There was also a fire truck and an ambulance.  The ambulance was parked backwards in our driveway with the back doors open.  I could see the bright lights on the inside the ambulance waiting for the stretcher with my mother on it.  At one point I noticed some of the neighbors at different houses standing outside staring at me and the police officer as we walked outside.  The neighbors to the right of our house were standing on their lawn with a group of other neighbors just staring at mepolice two like I was a ghost.  I am guessing the majority of neighbors were expecting me to be rolled out on a stretcher with a sheet pulled over my head.  I recognized several adults in the group of neighbors whom I had pleaded with in the past to help me escape before someone killed me.  I remembered one conversation a few months prior where a young couple looked at one another because they did not know what to do.  She responded saying —“I know Johnny.  We hear the screams.” I had in the past asked for help many times from the neighbors on both sides and behind our house.  The only thing that accomplished was that I was prohibited from ever going outside to play with my friends ever again. I am sure there were feelings of guilt on this morning with some of these neighbors I had begged for help.  I remember one of the neighbors standing there with her hand over her mouth crying and just staring at me.  I waved to let her know I was okay.  She waved back and yelled out to me.

Neighbor Lady: “We love you Johnny!”

ambulanceThe police officer walked me down the front walkway of our house.  I could see police cars all over the front of the house with policemen walking all over the place.  I immediately looked over to where I remembered my mother laying on the ground.  The paramedics were wheeling her on a stretcher heading towards the ambulance — walking towards me and the policeman.  I could hear my mother talking now — she was no longer unconscious.  She was crying and asking the police if her son was okay.  The police walking alongside the stretcher assured her I was alive and okay.  At one point my mother’s eyes locked on mine as I stood there holding the police officer’s hand.  I remember her reaching her arms out towards me crying and saying —“I love you Johnny!  Be a good boy!”   I could barely understand her because she was crying and looked confused.  It was apparent she was not doing very well.  They continued past me rolling my mother into the back of the ambulance — shut the doors and pulled out of the driveway with lights flashing.  I watched the ambulance go down the street.  The ambulance hit the sirens as they reached the main road.

Now I could see my grandparents standing in the front yard watching the entire incident.  They looked confused and horrified.  I looked up at the policeman holding my hand.  He smiled at me and winked as he let go of my hand.

Police Officer: “Go ahead Johnny.  You can go over to your grandparents now.”

I began to walk down the long sidewalk in my pajamas towards my grandmother who was walking directly towards me looking into my eyes crying.  The space between us lessened and lessened until she reached down towards me and picked me up into the air and held me in her arms.  She began kissing my face over and over telling me how much she loved me.  At one point I just laid my head on her shoulder and looked behind her.  I could see my grandfather walking up behind her.

Grandfather: “Hey shorty!  Are you ready to go home with us?”

ssjm0328shooting004_300I nodded my head in the ‘yes’ mode as my grandmother turned to go to their car with me in her arms.  I continued watching behind my grandmother as I had my head on her shoulder.  I looked over at the policeman who held my hand that night.  He was still standing in the same spot.  He was such a nice man.  I really appreciated how kind and gentle he was with me before we came out of the house.  I remember thinking about how I wished he was my step-father instead of the monster.  I waved goodbye to him as we walked away with all the police cars in front of the house.  He smiled and waved goodbye to me as he watched my grandparents take me to their car.

I was so happy to finally be safe and with someone I knew loved me and would never hurt me.  I could now see my aunt and uncle in the car too — they were only a few years older than I.  I am guessing my grandparents were totally unaware of anything that happened to me that morning because I refused to tell the police officer what had happened.  That is why the morning we drove away from the scene I was thinking about how I had successfully kept my shameful secret.  No one in the car that morning knew what happened to me.

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