This is Part II of A Two Part Series
This picks up from where “My Encounter with Robert Garwood Part I,” left off.
In early June I had my chance for an intervention. My new job was a normal Monday to Friday schedule, but then one week I was scheduled to come into work on a special Saturday project. Although Marilou had been working every weekend for the past few months, the day after I told her of my Saturday schedule she announced she would have that Saturday off.
That Saturday morning, before leaving I told Marilou I’d be coming home at my normal workday time. I called her at my 11:00 lunch break, our normal routine, and mentioned that I’d be coming home about 5:00 PM. In reality, my work was finished at 2:30 and I left without calling ahead (until then, for our 14 years of marriage I always called first when coming home early).
Marilou was not in the house when I arrived home. Lights were off; breakfast dishes were still on the table, the bed unmade. It was apparent the house had been empty most of the day, but Marilou’s car was in the garage. Our wireless telephone that could receive calls from inside Robert’s house was missing from its charger cradle. All of Robert’s vehicles were in his driveway.
I walked down to Robert’s pier; it was deserted. Then I quietly walked to Robert’s back patio and looked into the open sliding glass door. I could see all through the kitchen, living room, and den. The house lights were off, no one visible, the house was silent. From the direction of the bedrooms I could hear “sleeping noises.”
I stood at the back door for a few minutes, thinking about what I should do. After a struggle I decided not to enter Robert’s house. Instead, I went back home and called our house phone from the cell phone. Our house phone rang a few times, and then the answering machine message kicked in. I left a message saying I would be home a bit earlier than 5:00 and hung up. I watched Robert’s back door from our Kitchen window.
Moments later, Marilou walked out of Robert’s house via his back door wearing only a house dress, with sleep in her eyes. The look on her face when she walked into our house through our back door and saw me standing in the kitchen was “priceless.”
What was said next will never be published. I will say that during several minutes of “talking,” I gave her the ultimatum: “Him or me.” Then our phone rang. Marilou answered it, listened a moment, said “He was here in the house waiting for me. I’m coming over.” She hung up and walked out the back door over to Robert’s house. I left and spent the night at a motel.
All I will write about the next two weeks between Marilou and myself is that it was a living hell. After nearly 15 years together, I had never seen Marilou exhibit such bizarre mood swings and out-of-control behavior. She maintained a solid front of denial that anything was going on between her and Robert. Her denials and explanations for what I had witnessed that Saturday afternoon were ingenious in their creativity. I would never have expected her to come up with those explanations on her own. In 15 years, I had never known her to so brazenly lie to anybody the way she continually lied to me during these two weeks.
Robert went back into hiding again. At least, he was not seen around his house in the evenings and weekends when I was home. I now believe that Marilou was contacting Robert each evening after leaving work and before returning home. I believe Robert was advising her on how to cover up their affair and play me out.
During this time I also contacted Tom McKenny on basis that he was both a minister, and Robert’s close friend. On my initial contact, he remembered me and willingly invited me to come by his house to talk. I went over on a Saturday afternoon when Marilou was at work, two weeks after discovery of the affair.
Tom and I had a long talk about everything that had happened starting in February. I could see he was deeply shocked with Robert’s behavior, but he made no attempt to take sides or in any way defend Robert. I explained that despite everything that had happened, I was still willing to try and work things out with Marilou and give us a chance in our marriage. Tom did offer to speak with Marilou in his role as minister.
That night Marilou agreed to talk with him. Up to this point, Marilou had refused to speak with even the Catholic priest at the church we had attended for over ten years. Although a devout catholic who rarely ever missed Sunday services, she was now defiantly avoiding all contact with her church.
We went back to Tom’s house the next afternoon in separate cars. Marilou previously insisted she would only talk if I was not present, so I introduced them, left and returned home. Marilou returned home several hours later and refused to say what was discussed, only that she was “not impressed” with Tom. I later learned from Tom that Marilou had talked with him for only a short while after I left, not the several hours she was actually gone. I now suspect she visited with Robert before returning home.
The next day, Monday, Robert reappeared home for the first time since my discovery of the affair. He arrived with several – large – male visitors, apparently planning on a long-term visit. To me, it looked an awful lot like he had brought along bodyguards. Marilou appeared to not notice he was back.
The next day, Tuesday, after more than two weeks of Marilou’ denials, lies and constant arguing, I finally had enough. When I returned home from work that evening I pulled out all the suitcases in the house and dumped them in the middle of the living room. It was my intention of confronting her with the “Or Else” ultimatum when she returned home from her job. I also made a phone call next door to Robert. As I expected, he would not answer the phone even though it was apparent he and his many – large – male visitors were there. I left a rather nasty message involving the use of bad words on his answering machine. In my message I warned him to stay away from Marilou and I called him a coward in several different ways for hiding from me.
Marilou returned home from work almost one hour later than normal that night, about 11:00 PM. She walked through the door and immediately started reprimanding me for calling and harassing Robert, but stopped talking when she saw the suitcases. I told her she had a decision to make – Robert or me. She looked at the suitcases, and announced “I’m Leaving.”
She grabbed a few personal items, walked out of our house and went next door. As she walked out I told her she would have the next day to remove her belongings, but Robert was not allowed in my house. I could hear her as she went next door calling out, in front of Robert’s guests, “Bob, I need a place to stay tonight.”
Her personal belongings were gone when I returned home the next day. Some of the items taken were pieces of furniture too large and heavy for her to move by herself, so I knew Robert or his guests had helped her. I could see that Robert’s house next door was empty again and one of his vehicles was missing. I later learned that Marilou had called into work that day, quitting her job with the explanation that she had to go back to the Philippines immediately for an indefinite period of time to care for her mom.
Once again, Robert had gone into hiding and this time he had taken Marilou with him.
It quickly became common knowledge around the neighborhood what had happened between Marilou, Robert, and I. Two evenings after Marilou left, I was visiting with my neighbor Beth getting drunk and talking things out with her. Then, Beth told me about the conversation she had with Valerie earlier that day.
During her conversation with Valerie, Valerie had casually asked Beth “So what do you think about the abuse?” Upon further discussion, Beth learned that Robert had told Valerie, during the daytime of the previous two weeks he had “disappeared,” that Marilou would soon be leaving me. Valerie claimed Robert had told her I had routinely beaten and sexually abused Marilou for the all the years we were married. Valerie explained that Robert was taking Marilou into hiding, giving Marilou a chance to start her life over. Valerie claimed I had been described by Robert as a “monster.”
I was stunned. Beth explained she had flat told Valerie any stories of my abusing Marilou were simply not true. Beth also suggested I confront Valerie. I was still sober enough to act rationally so I immediately went over to Cris and Valerie’s house. I knocked on the door and Valerie answered, half hidden behind the door. She told me to go away but Cris, standing behind her, told me they were eating dinner and offered to come over and talk with me shortly.
An hour later Cris came by and we talked while sitting at my kitchen table. I started by asking him if he knew what was going on with me. He answered, cautiously, that he knew “infidelity was involved.” I then asked if he knew anything about Robert claiming I was abusing Marilou, as the reason for her leaving me. Cris looked puzzled and said “no.” I explained the conversation between Valerie and Beth earlier that day. Cris told me he would not believe any stories like that about me, but would ask Valerie what was going on and get back to me.
About 30 minutes later Cris returned. He looked angry and shook. He told me he and Valerie had talked, and Valerie had admitted to being told by Robert about my alleged abuse of Marilou. Cris would not tell me exactly what Valerie had claimed, on the grounds that Cris would be “concerned for Robert’s safety” if I knew what had been said about me. The only thing Cris would detail was a vague reference to “Coke Bottles.”
I was now angry. Cris and I talked for a few more minutes. He said he knew nothing of the conversations between Valerie and Robert before now. I could see in his eyes his sudden suspicion of Valerie, wondering what else had been going on between her and Robert. As Cris made to leave, he gave me a hug and wished me strength. Under the circumstances, I still consider his simple gesture one of the kindest I have ever experienced.
Tom McKenny, previously advised that Marilou had left and was in hiding with Robert, happened to call shortly afterwards. I told him of the story. He attempted to discount it as “probably exaggerated.” I was too upset to press the issue.
Several days later Marilou called me for the first time since she left. She refused to divulge where she was staying. During our talk I advised her that Robert had told Valerie she left because I was physically and sexually abusing her. She immediately and belligerently defended Robert. Marilou claimed that Robert had already told her Valerie had made passes at him that he turned down, so Valerie was probably jealous and attempting to make trouble. During this discussion Marilou demanded a divorce and I hung up.
Over the next several days, Marilou contacted me several more times. Each time it was to demand a divorce. She refused to even tell me where she was. I knew she was somewhere in the area close by, as neighbors told me they had seen her with Robert around his house several times during the day since she left me.
Tom had told me, during our first talk several weeks earlier, that Robert was planning a solo summer cross-country RV trip to visit with his family and spend some time back in Seattle. He mentioned it on basis that with Robert out of the picture, Marilou and I would have the chance to reconcile. But on Wednesday June 20 I returned home to a message from Marilou waiting on my answering machine. She told me she was leaving the area for several months and would sign divorce papers when she returned. I looked out the window and saw that Robert’s RV, formerly parked in Cris and Valerie’s driveway, was now gone. Beth later confirmed that she had seen Robert and Marilou drive off in the RV earlier that day.
That night, I started to make phone calls to our family informing them of Marilou’s affair, and that she had now left me. The family members who had met Robert were double shocked at her choice of man. During one of my calls an in-law made what I consider a most insightful comment. After I described what had happened between Marilou and Robert, my in-law observed “Marilou is a deeply moral person. For him to get her into his bed, he must have walked her through the fires of hell.”
I was still in frequent contact with Tom McKenny. I knew he was conflicted by what was happening, feeling pulled by his friendship and ten year’s worth of defending Robert from his Vietnam -related charges. I also suspected that he wasn’t entirely impressed with my reluctance to divorce Marilou, as much as he lauded me for my “forgiving nature.” Tom was also bothered by my accusation that Robert had spread vicious rumors about me in an attempt to justify leaving with Marilou.
One evening about two weeks after Marilou left the area with Robert; Tom came by on a pre-arranged visit. I brought him over to Cris and Valerie’s house, introduced him, then went back home leaving Tom there. Tom came back about 30 minutes later. His face was pale, and it was apparent he was in shock. I poured him a cup of coffee and we sat at my kitchen table. Finally, he collected himself and confessed that Valerie had relayed Robert’s stories about me.
Tom wouldn’t repeat the stories, on grounds he would be concerned by what I might do to Robert if I knew what was said. Tom did mention, as Cris did several weeks earlier, vague references to “coke bottles.” Tom did relay that Robert had told Valerie he (Robert) was taking Marilou away because she had asked his help to get her away from a monster – me. Tom described Robert as making himself out to be a selfless hero for helping a woman being battered and abused by an abusive husband.
Tom went on to state he did not believe any of it, but also admitted that if he had not met me before hearing those stories, he might very well have believed them simply because he believed in Robert. From Tom’s tone, expression, and words, I knew he had just lost a close friend, and all I could say was how sorry I was for him.
This was also the most information I’d yet received on the lies Robert had attempted to spread about me. I now knew that had it not been for Beth, those lies could very easily have gotten around the neighborhood and made it impossible for me to continue living in my house regardless of what happened to my marriage.
Several days later after Valerie’s talk with Tom, Cris and Valerie moved out of the area on Cris’s military transfer orders. Also, shortly after Tom’s visit, Marilou and I established a limited means of communications using Robert’s cell phone. I could never contact her directly – all incoming calls were picked up on Robert’s voice mail, but Marilou would normally call me back within a few hours of my contact. Through these contacts, I learned she was visiting with Robert’s family members in different parts of the Midwest, and she and Robert were slowly working their way to Seattle.
Meanwhile, I was having frequent talks with Tom McKinney. When it became apparent that Robert had deliberately spread vile lies about me I announced I was considering legal actions for “defamation of Character” and anything else I could throw at Robert. Tom nearly panicked and requested I not take this step. He was worried about the impact a lawsuit would have on the many business and legal projects he and Robert were jointly involved with. I remember being less than concerned with projects possibility benefiting Robert, and let Tom know this in no uncertain terms.
After several more discussions Tom announced he would notify various people personally, including Oliver Stone and Senator Bob Smith, as to what was transpiring. Tom’s statement was “It would be better to hear this from a friend than a stranger.” He actually thanked me for pushing him into notifying people. So, my marriage woes became the topic of discussion with a Hollywood movie director and a United States Senator.
On Friday, July 13, Marilou called and announced she would be coming home “to talk” within the next several days. She flew back on July 24, two days after arriving at Robert’s house in Seattle. I made her reservations and paid for her airfare home – not Robert.
Her flight arrived nearly midnight in New Orleans airport where I met her, and we didn’t arrive at the house until 3:00 AM. It was a tense two hour drive back from New Orleans. Our arrival home became very confrontational. While she was gone I had sold our bedroom furniture, bought all new furniture and bedding to my tastes, and redecorated the room. Marilou took great offense to all this and announced she had no intention of sleeping in our room.
Although she spent the nights in our house she slept on the couch. Over the next few days she pretended to slowly move her belongings back into our house that had been previously transferred to Robert’s house the day after she first left. I made frequent attempts to open a dialog with her and talk about us, and our marriage. But she was completely closed, sometimes even to the point of denying anything had been going on with Robert prior to the night I threw her out. Our “talks” normally ended with an argument.
After ten days, late one night during yet another argument she abruptly walked out and went to Robert’s house. The next day she started moving more of her belongings next door and announced she would be living in Robert’s house permanently. Marilou again demanded I file for divorce, and now I acquiesced. As our property settlement, I agreed to file for irreconcilable differences in exchange for her accepting my financial offer. I considered my offer fair, under the circumstances, but it was a lot less than she expected and a take-it-or-leave-it deal; Take what I offered or go fight for more and make her adultery public. She accepted my settlement. I found a lawyer who agreed to take the case and scheduled a date for me to sign the papers two weeks out. Marilou announced she was going back to Seattle as soon as the divorce papers were signed and filed.
While we waited for divorce papers, Marilou spent her days taking care of Robert’s house and supervising contractors on yard work and household projects. It was obvious that she had access to Robert’s funds since she had no job and almost no money of her own. We had near daily contact as Marilou was also busy moving her belongings out of our house. I also know that Marilou was in constant contact with Robert, presumably back at his former residence near Seattle.
With our daily contact, I gained a good sense of her mental state. Marilou did not act like a woman who had found her true love and soul mate. She acted schizophrenic. Her moods swung from ecstatic over our impending divorce and her chance to get back to Robert, to fits of remorse and guilt over our pending divorce bordering on sheer hysteria.
She often talked as though she was being forced into divorcing me as the only way to “make things right.” She once mentioned that she didn’t know if she would be getting married to Robert as she “never asked him” to marry her. She also stated many times she didn’t mind being his mistress; this coming from a person raised a strict Catholic in a country that has been described as practicing a “primitive Christianity.” I frequently had the thought, listening to her that some alien creature had taken over the body of the woman I knew for nearly 15 years. It was as if her entire personality was disintegrating.
I was watching a person go through a complete emotional collapse.
One thing I knew I had to do was force Marilou and Valerie to talk to each other about Robert’s abuse stories. It was as much for Valerie’s sake as it was for Marilou. I knew, from the little I’d received concerning Robert’s stories about me, that neither woman would ever be right until they knew the truth.
All I knew of Cris and Valerie’s whereabouts was that Valerie and the children were at her Mom’s house in northern Mississippi, while Cris was in a navy training school for his next assignment. It took some time, but I tracked down Valerie’s mom’s phone number. On a Saturday morning, I made a call to Valerie’s mom and received an answering machine recording. I left my message, explaining I needed for her to talk with Marilou.
Cris called me back within the hour. He congratulated me on my ability to locate them, stating he was “very impressed.” I told Cris that Marilou had returned home, and I needed for her and Valerie to talk so the truth would come out. I also explained I was thinking of filing a lawsuit against Robert, and if so might consider calling Valerie as a witness. Cris promised to talk with Valerie and have her call me.
Valerie called a few hours later. Her immediate words were that she was not willing to get involved between Marilou, Robert and me. I replied that by relaying stories about me from Robert to Beth, she already had become involved. I gave her a promise that if she willingly talked to Marilou about what happened between her and Robert, I would not call her as a witness if I decided to pursue a lawsuit.
She made me promise, several more times, not to call her as a witness if she spoke with Marilou. I promised each time, finally giving her my word as a former Senior Chief Petty Officer, the strongest promise that I could give. Valerie finally agreed. I told her Marilou was next door at Robert’s house; Valerie replied she already had the phone number and would call there directly.
I waited about 30 minutes, charged up. I attempted to call Robert’s number several time but received only a busy signal. Finally, I walked over and knocked on the back door. Marilou answered, looking as if she had seen a ghost. Her face was pale white, and she appeared in shock. She admitted she had just spoken to Valerie, and flat stated that she had told Valerie “everything that Robert said” about me was false. Then she asked me to leave.
I called back to Valerie and her mom answered. Her mom said Valerie was “outside” and not taking any calls. I just asked her to thank Valerie for me, for speaking with Marilou. I hung up and never called her or Cris again.
The next morning Marilou walked over while I was sitting on my back porch. She looked like she had been awake all night. We talked for a while, the first honest and open talk we had since she returned home. During our talk I asked what Valerie had said to her. Marilou refused to tell me, explaining she didn’t want to be responsible for what I might do to Robert.
My appointment with the divorce lawyer was scheduled for later that week. The day before the appointment, after a two week wait, the lawyer’s receptionist called telling me the appointment needed to be rescheduled as the lawyer would be in court all week. When I told Marilou I needed to reschedule, she went berserk screaming at me that I was trying to “keep us together.” The next day I returned home from work and Marilou came over announcing that she had found a lawyer and was filing the papers herself.
The papers were done within a few days and the clock on our cooling off period began. Two days later after the filing Marilou closed up Robert’s house and flew back to Seattle. Robert paid for the flight.
I spoke with Tom McKenny on a regular basis over the next several weeks and he provided me with some interesting information. One item he told me about was a letter he received from Robert while Marilou was here in Gautier. Tom claimed that the letter appeared to be written while Robert was drunk. In the letter, Robert stated he was sorry he’d ever gotten involved with “the Charest’s.”
Our divorce was scheduled to be finalized at the end of October. Marilou knew she needed to be back in time to sign the final papers so I pretty much knew when to expect her. I assumed she would be coming back with Robert, triumphantly riding into town in his RV to finish the divorce and marry him. By the beginning of October, I realized I didn’t care, and was looking forward to being single again and moving on with my life. I even started dating again.
But less than two weeks before the divorce would become final Marilou called – the first time I had heard from her since she flew back to Seattle. She told me she would be flying back on her own, three days before the waiting period expired. She politely asked if I could pick her up at the Gulfport airport when she returned. I thought a few moments, and then agreed. I was intrigued, as if I was involved in a science experiment, as to what the game was now.
Marilou attempted to call me twice more before her arrival, and I was out of the house both times. Each time, she left a polite message on the answering machine complete with heavy sighs. Her tone was completely different than anything I had heard during her brief mid-summer visit. I was now sure that her relationship with Robert had soured during the past weeks.
Marilou arrived at the airport on time and showed real emotion when she saw me. She offered to buy me dinner on the way home as a thank you for picking her up. When we arrived in Gautier she asked if I would invite her into our house, and I agreed. Marilou came in, looked around, then spontaneously broke down and cried so hysterically she nearly collapsed. We moved to the kitchen table while she cried. When Marilou calmed herself I asked if she wanted to talk, she said “not now.” So I led her to the door, said “good night,” and moved her out.
I had given her a key to the house so she could remove her remaining belongings. The next afternoon, returning from work, I found Marilou in my kitchen preparing dinner for us. We ate and then talked. Marilou was still evasive on what had gone down between her and Robert. But her infatuation with Robert had clearly worn off. She finally asked if we could have a second chance to try and “fix” our marriage. I had expected this question and was ready for it. I had already decided that I really needed to know if our marriage was finished, that if asked I would agree to give Marilou and I one more chance.
So when Marilou asked, I agreed. I did demand that Marilou never contact Robert in any way. She made a vague non-promise on this, and then repeated her demand that I never ask anything about her and Robert. She claimed to not know when Robert was planning on returning back to Gautier.
We spoke for a few more minutes, and then she went back next door. The next day when I returned home from work I discovered Marilou had already moved almost all her belongings back into our house. This was almost everything she had previously taken next door to Robert’s house over a period of many days. Marilou also contacted her lawyer that day and put the divorce proceedings on hold. Her lawyer explained that as the waiting period was already past, all Marilou needed was a judge’s signature and our divorce would be final.
Marilou flew out to the Philippines on a Friday evening, October 27, barely two weeks later, to bring her mom home. Marilou planned on being gone only one week, a quick trip. Seeing her leave was actually a relief as the previous two weeks had been mostly tense.
The day before Marilou was due to arrive back with her mom, Robert returned home driving his RV. My heart sunk when I saw the RV. I knew that with Robert next door Marilou and I had no chance to reconcile even if Marilou really was sincere. But now I was also pretty sure Marilou had played me and that she had known all along when Robert would arrive home.
Marilou and her mom returned on schedule. Over the next several days I attempted to talk even though Marilou spent most of her time caring for her mom. But during this same time period, I knew Marilou was either sneaking over to Robert’s house during the day, or Robert was sneaking over to our house. I knew this because I could see the marks on the paths between our backyards. The evenings and weekends became more and more tense. By the end of the first week, I was dreading even going home. It became obvious that our marriage was finished. I knew I could never again trust her, and after several days realized I didn’t care.
Finally, it was over. Marilou announced on the evening of Tuesday, November 13 that she wanted to complete the divorce. I agreed, with relief. The next day, I signed the papers; Marilou contacted her lawyer and finalized the divorce Thursday November 15, 2001. The next day, Friday, she and her mom were out of the house for good.
During those three days Marilou claimed to be apartment hunting. I asked Marilou how she was planning on paying for the lease or even qualifying for an apartment without a job. She just shrugged and told me it was her problem. But I also witnessed Robert moving furniture out of his house Thursday evening which provided a pretty good idea who was going to be paying. He disappeared from the neighborhood the same day that Marilou and her mom left the house for good.
Marilou and Robert were married in a civil ceremony five days after our divorce became final. I now believe that after her mom was home, Marilou just played for time living with me while she negotiated a marriage with Robert.
My involvement with Robert didn’t end then. Before Marilou left she asked me to promise I would not harass Robert. My reply was that if he absolutely avoided me, and she was still with him, I would not bother Robert. But I also informed her that if I ever learned Robert was attempting to smear me or attempt a second character assignation, I would not limit myself in retaliating. Marilou knew me well enough to know; I was not bluffing. But for the next several years Robert would continue to torment me via proxies.
While Marilou was living in my house with her mom until she could negotiate a marriage with Robert, Robert filed a police report and insurance claims for “stolen” property. He claimed that during the months he was gone thieves had broken into his home, vandalized it and stolen tools, lawn equipment, and one of his boats.
After Marilou had flown back to Seattle Tom and his son Jeff showed up one afternoon at Robert’s house with a truck. Jeff was head doctor for a missionary hospital he operated in Honduras, and didn’t get back to the U.S. very often. It turned out that one of the three boats Robert “owned,” the one that I considered a wreck, actually belonged to Jeff. They were there to reclaim Jeff’s boat.
Jeff explained he had let Robert borrow it long-term the year before with the understanding that Robert would restore it in exchange for its use. Robert never worked on it and now the boat was in worse condition then when Jeff first loaned it to Robert. However, the trailer the boat was on belonged to Robert. Tom and Jeff, with my assistance, hitched the boat and trailer up to their truck (after fixing a flat tire on Robert’s boat trailer) brought it back to Tom’s house, took the boat off the trailer and returned Robert’s trailer.
It was this boat that Robert listed in his police theft and vandalism report.
Tom McKenny contacted me about two weeks after our divorce was final and Marilou gone, to inform me about the theft report Robert had filed. According to Tom, detectives had come by his home to talk with him about the theft; Robert had fingered Tom as the most likely culprit. Tom explained to the detectives that he had in fact taken the boat, but it belonged to his son Jeff. The police showed Tom a copy of the boat title and registration in Robert’s name. Tom explained this didn’t make sense, as there never was any bill of sale to support a property transfer.
Tom subsequently contacted the State boat registration office and had a copy of the bill-of-sale faxed to him that had supported the titling and registration. It had Jeff’s signature on it, but the signature was not Jeff’s handwriting. By all appearances, Robert had forged a bill-of-sale and then titled the boat in his name, never expecting Jeff to someday reclaim the boat.
I visited Tom a few weeks later, and Tom was most anxious to tell me the outcome of the investigation. He showed me a copy of a document signed by Robert, provided to Tom by the Gautier police, attesting that Robert willingly dropped all charges of property theft “on penalty of charges being filed against him.” Marilou’s signature was on the document as witness. Tom explained just how deeply offended he felt by Robert turning against him in this way and attempting to destroy Tom’s reputation.
As a result of this incident, on top of everything else that had happened with Robert over the previous months, Tom later stepped down as one of the trustees of Robert’s legal defense fund. The fund was ultimately closed with all money they had collected going to a charity of the trustee’s choice. This action effectively ended any chance Robert would ever have to gain a new trial on his court-martial.
I still had limited contact with Marilou as I was making monthly payments on our property settlement, as agreed to under terms of our divorce. In the early spring, I learned that Marilou and Robert had purchased a house a house larger than either mine or Robert’s former house next door. It was located on a bayou opening directly on the Mississippi Sound in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Gautier. Robert’s house next door remained empty over the winter and spring, but he continued to store his boats and van there.
I also received occasional information on Marilou and Robert’s doing though Marilou’s cousin. Even after the divorce, I stayed close to Marilou’s family. One of her cousins with two children lived in the next town over. While I made a point of never asking about Marilou, her cousin would frequently volunteer information.
Tom learned from me that Robert and Marilou had bought a new house. Tom knew via his contacts that Robert was still not working, and I knew Marilou would never hold a job while she was caring for her mom. Tom and I frequently wondered together where Robert was getting his money from. At this point, Robert was still maintaining an empty house in Seattle and first one empty house in Gautier while paying rent for an apartment, then two houses in Gautier, all while supporting three people.
My visits with Tom were both social and for providing technical assistance. Tom was now working on a new book and needed periodic help with computer issues. I always made myself available to help him even on extreme short notice. I felt it was the least I could do as thank you for all the help he had given me the past year.
During the summer, people periodically appeared to cut the grass at Robert’s house next door, but otherwise there was no activity there. Marilou was occasionally spotted coming and going, but she never spoke with any of her former neighbors, nor came by to talk with me.
In the early fall people moved into Robert’s house next door. Even though people were living there, Robert continued to keep his boats and other property stored there. These renters kept to themselves, had an unlisted phone number and at first would not even reveal their last names.
I quickly learned these people were Robert’s relatives, moved from Louisiana and leasing the house long term. Knowing they were Robert’s relatives, I suspected they had already received a long story about me in Robert and Marilou’s version of the truth. I also anticipated trouble. It didn’t take long for trouble to start.
Within weeks of their moving in we had our first confrontation. Arriving home from work one afternoon, I caught several of their kids (there were at least three children living there with frequent extended visitors) in my yard, cutting down trees, building a “pier” on the edge of my bayou shoreline using lumber that had blown in during a previous hurricane, and generally making a mess. I confronted them and their immediate vocal defense was “Bob said this was okay, he told us this is his property and his wood.” I ordered them off and filed a police report.
The parents refused to talk to me in person about the incident, not even allowing me on their front lawn. They rejected delivery of a certified letter, and Marilou ignored my written complaint to her. Then the family started mocking me openly and to my other neighbors. So I showed some teeth. I legally obtained their unlisted phone number and full names then made a late-evening phone call. We had a brief – very brief – chat before my neighbor hung up in shock. Piercing their anonymity shield had its desired effect and they stopped mocking me.
Meanwhile, stories the kids were spreading around the neighborhood drifted back to me. According to this family, Marilou and Robert never had an affair and only even became close long after Marilou was divorced. There were also intriguing stories that the divorce was for “irreconcilable differences,” somehow supposed to prove Marilou and Robert never had an affair while Marilou was still married to me.
On several occasions during that first year I needed to call the police due to gang fights and wild late-evening parties at the neighbor’s house. Then mysterious things began to happen to me. The Freon line on my heat pump’s outside unit, near our common property line, was cut. Water started appearing in my boat’s fuel tanks. That following summer while boating I had to be towed in twice by passing fisherman due to engine malfunctions. I had my boat in two different repair shops trying to figure out what was wrong. The second time, the very competent and very expensive mechanic who worked on my boat explained he discovered “several gallons” of water in each of my 12 gallon fuel tanks. So now I knew what was happening.
After a bit of thought, I wrote a nice letter to Marilou informing her there were some serious vandalism problems in her old neighborhood. I briefly described what was happening and explained that if I could catch the vandals I would be pressing charges, as damages already exceeded the $1000 limit than in Mississippi made vandalism a felony. But I also explained I was telling her so she could better protect her property next door. I wrote that it would be a shame if anything happened to the nice boats and other property her husband stored there.
Late in the afternoon of day the letter was delivered I observed Robert’s truck parked next door for several hours. It was the first time I’d seen his truck there since he moved away with Marilou. Although I had to call the police on several more occasions for fights and wild parties next door, I had no more problems with vandalism.
One interesting observation I made in filing my many police reports was the police’s attitude towards Robert. They were well aware of him and his background, and seemed to be not particularly pleased he was living in our community. They also exhibited frustration dealing with Robert’s cousins renting out Robert’s house.
After a period of post-divorce recovery, I decided to try a second shot at marriage. My avenue for romance was experimenting with the then newly-developing system of Internet match-making. During the summer of 2003 I met, via the Internet, a wonderful young woman and we quickly became close – emotionally. Physically, she was living in southeastern China which presented some logistics issues in developing our relationship. But we overcame them, and in October 2004 I flew out to China and we married. I returned home after a whirl-wind two week marriage and honeymoon trip, and filed for her visa. Just before my new marriage, I scraped together enough money to pay off Marilou’s property settlement, so I could start my new married life completely free and clear from her.
My new wife’s visa process became a nightmare, ultimately taking 20 months. During this period I slowly became friends with the youngest kid living next door, Josh, at that time just turning 15. By now there was a great deal of hard feelings on my part towards his family, but I could also see Josh was basically decent. Josh volunteered to help me with repairs on my boat several times when he saw me outside working on it, and I repaid him by taking him out fishing. Through him, I slowly got to know his parents, Robert’s cousins, on a non-confrontational basis.
Nearly one year after my second marriage, with my new bride still in China waiting for her visa, I was out in my driveway one Saturday afternoon washing my truck when Josh’s mom, Angela, came by. She asked if we could talk and I invited her up.
We talked for a long while. She admitted that until she and her family became Robert’s tenants, they didn’t really know what Robert was all about. Now, she admitted to being truly disgusted with him. She also admitted that Robert had told her a lot of stories about me that she now knew were untrue. She admitted that the stories Robert had told about me led to the early incidents of her kids vandalizing my property. Angela admitted that stories Robert had told them directly led to the “pier building” incident.
She also told me that Robert was now attempting to spread rumors about me concerning my new wife. Robert was telling people I had had “an Internet marriage, and was now having a lot of problems getting a visa.” The implication Angela had from these stories was that I was involved in a fraudulent marriage scheme.
From that day on, there were no more problems between Angela’s family and me. I relayed the information to Tom McKenny that Robert was once again attempting to spread rumors about me. Tom was already aware of the problems with my wife’s visa and promised to be alert if he heard any rumors about me that Robert was spreading. I had my hands full with my new wife’s visa, and maintaining a long-distance relationship, so I had no energy left to even consider retaliation against Robert for his latest round of rumor mongering against me.
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
Tom McKenny completely lost his Mississippi home during Hurricane Katrina. He had a beautiful small house on the edge of a bayou near the Mississippi Sound built on pilings almost 13 feet above normal sea level. However, the storm surge there during Katrina were about 18 feet and his home was washed completely off the pilings, broken up and drifted into many pieces over the nearby area. The last time I saw Tom, he and his daughter’s family were raking the grass around the foundation of his former home looking for anything they could salvage. Tom did at least have a chance to meet my new wife on that occasion.
I am aware of Tom’s controversial reputation among the Vietnam Veterans POW/MIA community. I flatly state that Tom was my lifeline during one of the toughest periods of my life. Tom supported me against a man whom Tom put his entire reputation on the line to defend for nearly ten years. It is my opinion that Tom is an honest and deeply religious man who wants to believe in the best side of people. Although Tom may still believe Robert’s stories about what happened in Vietnam, he ultimately severed all direct contact with Robert due to Tom’s strong moral convictions that what Robert did to me, and to my marriage with Marilou, was wrong.
Even though Cris and Valerie had moved on Cris’s military orders shortly after Marilou left, they kept their house next to Robert’s as rental property. When they left Cris was headed to his last duty assignment before retiring, and I knew that at one time they had planned on retiring in their Gautier house. However, after Cris retired they moved to Alabama and purchased a new house. I suspect that fallout from knowing Robert Garwood was a prime reason for their choice of retirement location. Their house was also flooded during Katrina, and when my wife and I moved the house was still vacant and unrepaired.
I often wonder what the relationship was between Robert and Valerie, and what part Valerie and Cris’s son had in keeping Robert from destroying their marriage the way Robert destroyed mine.
To this day, I still don’t know exactly what Robert said to Valerie about me. I still consider it my great good fortune that Beth was such an honest woman and tipped me off in time to contain Garwood’s attempted character assassination. Whatever stories Robert made up about me, they were obviously terrible enough that, had they gotten out into the general community, I would have been forced to move far away. I do believe forcing me to move away was part of Robert’s intention in making up those stories. I also believe he wanted to once again present himself as a selfless hero and give himself yet another chance to claim he was being unjustly harassed, this time by a deranged abusive husband.
During the period of time Marilou was riding around the U.S. in Robert’s RV, before our divorce, Tom had briefed writer and alleged journalist Monika Jensen-Stevenson on the sordid affair. During the short time Marilou was back in Gautier, before filing for divorce and going back to Seattle, she mentioned she had spoken by cell phone with Monika while riding around in the RV. Marilou also claimed that Monika had spoken with Robert several times during the RV trip.
Tom had told me that Monika was writing another book about Robert and himself at the time Marilou left. According to Tom, Monika’s next book would describe Robert as a misunderstood hero and victim of massive government cover-ups over POWs left behind in Vietnam. Even though Tom passed my contact information to Monika, with my full permission, she never made an attempt to contact me. Considering the level of controversy generated over her book “Spite House: The Last Secret of the War in Vietnam,” to the point of being successfully sued over it, one would think she’d want all available facts about her writing subject. The book she was allegedly working on at the time does not seem to have been published, so maybe she did something right after all.
However, I remain completely unimpressed with her journalism abilities.
The last I heard, Robert and Marilou are still married. I don’t know what type of relationship they have, and I honestly don’t care. But I do continue to feel some sympathy for Marilou. I fully believe, even to this day, that Robert worked very hard to get Marilou into his bed and encouraged her to lie to me about their affair long after she would have on her own. While any affair takes “Two to Tango,” I put the blame for the affair 80% on Robert’s shoulders. I truly believe he coldly used Marilou’s personal insecurities and stresses over the problems in our married life to get her into his bed.
I still often think about what I might have done different to keep her away from Robert, but I honestly don’t know. Given that Robert was determined to get any woman he wanted into his bed, the only real defense would have been for Marilou to recognize what he was, decide she wouldn’t be part of his harem, and kept away from him the way our neighbor Beth did. I truly believe that when Marilou started the affair Robert only wanted free sex, and Marilou never planned to end our marriage for him. I believe Robert marked me as so gullible and naive that I would never notice him and Marilou carrying on. I also believe that Robert actually started putting moves on Marilou from their very first meeting, the day Robert first moved into our neighborhood, a mere two weeks after his beloved wife Cathi died.
I quote the great French film actor, director, screenwriter and playwright Sacha Guitry: “When a man steals your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her.” I think I did better than just extract that level of revenge.
Besides no new books being published about Robert Garwood, no movie about Robert Garwood ever rolled out of Oliver Stones’ film factory. Whether my push into publicizing Roberts’s actions with Marilou had anything to do with it, I don’t know. I’d like to think it did. I know I had an impact on terminating any chance Robert Garwood ever had to gain a new trial or even a pardon through the efforts of Tom McKenny. For this, I feel a large amount of satisfaction. From what I can tell, based on monitoring Vietnam Veteran Newsgroups and other information sources, “The ledgend of Robert Garwood” has now mostly faded away into obscurity.
Just one final observation about Robert Garwood’s claims of being imprisoned and brutally treated for long years at the hands of the Vietnamese:
One evening, during the time Robert was a welcomed dinner guest at my house and before I learned of his true past, Robert gave an interesting monologue after finishing a large meal and several shots of rum. This particular evening was the only time he ever drank with me. After his drinks, Robert started talking about the Vietnam War from the perspective of the Vietnamese people. His tone of voice was different than during his previous monologues, more somber and with more emotion. He spoke about how the Vietnamese were merely defending themselves against what they perceived to be outside invaders and were attempting to defend their country, culture, and their way of life. He spoke about atrocities committed against the Vietnamese by first the French, and then our military. He finished his monologue with an impassioned statement that we, the U.S., never had any business going into Vietnam in the first place.
I distinctly remembered this particular evening’s monologue because it seemed so out of character for him, after the many times he’d regaled us with his roles in Special Forces and the Marines. And I’ve thought about that night’s monologue whenever I read the claims that Robert was held prisoner for many long years, brutally treated at the hands of the Vietnamese people.
There is a large Vietnam community located in the town of Biloxi, Mississippi. Many of the people living there were reportedly resettled by the US government as refugees after South Vietnam collapsed, and every Vietnamese who could fled to the US. From what I learned during the time Robert was a frequent dinner guest my house, and from what Tom knew through his own sources, Robert is fluent with the Vietnamese language and was very tight with this Vietnamese community.
That’s proof of nothing, but I can’t help thinking that if Robert was really held as a POW under brutal circumstances all those long years in Vietnam, he would not be so quick or willing to ingrate himself into any Vietnamese community.
I’m Just Saying…
I know there are still people who continue to believe Robert is living proof that our government left soldiers and airmen behind, alive, in the jungles of Vietnam. It is for those people that I wrote this very personal and still very painful story. Based upon my personal experiences with Robert Garwood, It is my belief that he did in fact fully earn and deserved his court martial convictions. I also state that if there are in fact U.S. soldiers and airmen still held against their will in Vietnam as unreleased POWs, the proof will not be found with Robert Garwood or by anything he says.
Update, October 18, 2007: I received some interesting feedback from one of my readers concerning Robert Garwood. This woman claims to have known Robert in Okinawa, before he was sent to Vietnam. Her account is linked here.
I will publish additional feedback as I receive it, with express permission of the author. If a reader does have a personal account of Robert Garwood, please contact me
ETCS (SS), USN, Ret