My Encounter with Robert Garwood, Part II

Chapter 13

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.

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