My new wife finally gained her visa and arrived in the U.S. July 15, 2005. Six weeks later hurricane Katrina blew though and wiped out the gulf coast.
Along with most of the gulf coast, the storm flooded out our entire sub-division. It was bad, but our homes were all at least still standing. Robert and Marilou’s new home did not do as well. They had bought a large, two-story house on a sheltered salt-water bayou directly off the Mississippi Sound. Their home, as well as almost every other home in their area, was nearly leveled by wind and storm surge damage. After the storm Robert, Marilou, and Lourdes were all living together in Robert’s RV.
Nearly immediately after the storm, Robert attempted to evict Angela and her family so himself, Marilou, and Lourdes could move in. Robert first attempted to file an eviction notice against them but Angela just laughed it off. Eviction notices immediately after Katrina was un-enforceable by order of the state Attorney General’s office.
Then Robert began harassment against Angela’s family in attempts to force them out. Angela and Josh told me that Robert was calling Angela’s family back in Louisiana making wild claims against them. According to Angela, Robert was claiming they were destroying his house, ripping great huge holes in the sheetrock walls, tearing out cabinets, and generally making the house unlivable. The pathetic part was that these statements were mostly true. Angela and her family were spending their own money, as agreed upon with Robert, to repair flood damage to his house. Ripping out cabinets and sheetrock to remove soggy insulation and dry out the structural framing was the initial step in flood recovery.
I also learned from Angela that Robert had only minimal flood insurance on his house on the Mississippi sound, and none on the house Angela’s family was in.
After several weeks of increasingly vicious harassment from Robert, Angela and family had enough. A day after the police were called in to quell a confrontation that nearly became a fistfight between Angela’s husband and Robert, in their driveway, Angela announced they were moving out. They bought a large travel trailer, located it in a friend’s driveway the next town over, and moved. I am very proud to state that Angela’s family and I parted as good friends.
Within days, Robert and Marilou moved in next door. During the time Robert was harassing his cousins, Marilou had taken her mom back to the Philippines.
About one week after Robert and Marilou moved back in, I had the pleasure of going to the Pascagoula DMV to register a utility trailer I had just purchased. The DMV offices had been wiped out during Katrina and temporary offices were now setup in the Pascagoula fairgrounds. Literally thousands of cars had been lost during the storm, and now thousands of people were buying replacement vehicles. The cumulative and completely predictable result was that the DMV line for registering new vehicles (including trailers) was several hours long. On the plus side, there was lots of folding chairs set-up for people to sit on while they waited.
So during the several hours I waited to register a 5×8 utility trailer, I struck up multiple conversations with the people sitting around me. One man in particular proved very talkative. He explained that his house was on the Mississippi sound, but was the only one undamaged in his entire neighborhood. He explained that his house was sitting at a high enough elevation that the storm surge only came halfway up his driveway and suffered some wind damages, but no water.
He talked about his neighbors and one couple in particular who lived directly across the street from him, right on the Mississippi sound. As he talked I began to suspect who these neighbors were. Finally I asked if the names of those neighbors were “Bob and Marilou Garwood.” In surprise, he said yes. The conversation became very interesting from that point on.
I told him who I was, and he was stunned to learn that both Robert and Marilou had previously been married. He had visited with them several times each week ever since they moved there (over three years), and they never once mentioned prior marriages. He didn’t even know they had only been married four years – from the way they talked, he assumed they have been married a very long time.
He talked about the damages to Robert and Marilou’s house. Marilou had owned a Baldwin piano ever since she had come to the US that was one of her most cherished possessions. This man told me it had literally floated out of the house down the street during the peak storm. He also told me a large cache of guns had been discovered after the storm, washed into the vacant lot near their house. No one claimed ownership and the Gautier police, along with ATF agents, had eventually hauled the guns off. This man explained that Robert had later told him the guns belonged to one of their other neighbors who was a CIA agent and former Special Forces agent during the Vietnam War. Robert claimed some involvement with this unspecified neighbor going back to his days in Vietnam.
This man also started talking about Robert’s tenants, Angela and her family. This man related how Robert had treated the husband so generously after the man was paroled from jail on felony charges, and received nothing but trouble in return. Hearing this, I was truly shocked. The man went on to relate that Robert had told him about endless amounts of problems he’d suffered over the years they rented from him, and that after the storm they destroyed what was left of his house before Robert was finally able to evict them.
I had some time to tell my version of the truth, before he was finally served by the DMV staff. I suspect he chose not to believe any of what I told him, other than perhaps believe I was Marilou’s former husband. I suspect I know where the guns came from that this man reported seeing washed into a vacant lot near Robert’s house – and they weren’t from some mysterious former CIA-employed neighbor.
Over the next months that Marilou and Robert lived next door, we managed to mostly avoid each other. My new wife did have the chance to watch Marilou working around the yard on several occasions. Marilou and I occasionally passed in local stores but we had nothing to say to each other. When Robert and I passed, he studiously avoided eye-contact with me. He also mananged to maintain a “safe” distance from me, despite how I moved around him. But living next door was one more stressor, on top of everything else I had to deal with after Katrina.
In October, 2006, my new wife and I moved to northern Virginia. God willing, my encounter with Robert Garwood has ended