Brooks was not a stranger to me, our family knew him for years. He used to drink too much but he quit; he was angry and lonely. Frequently, he was lonely more than angry and I felt sorry for him. Once he shot our pet chicken, Chicken Little, because she was trespassing on his property. I was not afraid of him, though; I just thought that he had a temper as we used to say in Michigan. As a child, I reflected, I had a temper, too. Once I ran to his house when Black Beauty, our Labrador retriever, was locked in the backseat of our car. She must have gotten in when we opened the doors to go into the house. I remember I had a feeling that she entered while I was taking my time getting out of the car. It was that feeling that led me to discover where she was...I desperately tried to call Mom and Dad who were at work but there was no way to contact either of them. Brooks said the only way to open the door was by breaking a window, I tried but I couldn't. He said that the dog looked dead anyway. His lack of action was disheartening. Black Beauty, a gorgeous reject from a seeing eye dog school, died from the intense heat and lack of air. I saw her rolled up in a comfortable circle on the floor just waiting for her next car ride. (I know that sounds like a sad country song.)
Brooks occasionally threatened to shoot Cin-Cin, my French alpine 4H show goat, especially when she slipped out of the corral to contentedly enjoy the fresh green leaves off of his young apple trees. He threatened to shoot often but usually, he controlled himself by calling the police or reporting us for some imagined (or real) minor infraction. Ironically, he was reporting Mom and Christine for animal abuse. He shot at Mom's dogs, Arrow and Ms. Pitt, for trespassing. Ms. Pitt -yes, she was a pittbull-had a thyroid condition that slowed her down; she was heavy and not much of a wanderer so Mom kept her inside of the house most of the time. Brooks was shooting at Arrow and reporting Mom to any authority he could think of while passing more and more time at the Orchard Grove restaurant and bar. Shocked neighbors encouraged his rage at the lesbian women over at the Pittmann place. I imagine them questioning, "What happened to Sue, anyway? Wasn't she married to Richard all those years?" They would try to reason, "I always knew there was something weird about her; she rode a big motorcycle, you know. I heard she went all the way to Alaska on her bike; she's such a showoff." The grapevine reports that Brooks shared his plans to kill Mom and Christine down at the Grove where he would receive ongoing sympathy and support for his distressing viewing situation. He was going to kill them; he told the neighbors. He was going to kill them; he told Mom and Christine.
Brooks was not always a man of his word; he had a record of temper, not commitment. In the kitchen where he would sit and drink coffee, he had a gun-a hunting rifle-behind him. He had a couple of rifles in the corner and a shotgun as well. I imagine him sitting there at the table, rage pouring over his skin while he thought,"It's not natural ...those women together like that; it's just not right." Decisively, he got up and went to the property line; he crossed it and confronted Christine who was working on the fence posts.
Mom told me that Christine had a camera and was trying to take his picture while he was on their property; maybe she did snap a picture. Who knows? Brooks and Christine exchanged words and he went back to his house, pointed a rifle from the kitchen doorway and at a distance, shot Christine. Mom was calling 911 when Christine was shot. I heard the recording, "He shot my worker!" she said. The police operator tried to get details; address, descriptions-anything to keep Mom on the phone. I heard a sound like a phone falling to the ground and that was all. Mom ran out to help Christine who was face down in the grass. Brooks walked to our circle drive with his shotgun. With the strength of metal and gun powder, he faced my mom. She looked directly at him, courageously stood in front of him, while he lifted the gun and shot into her. She was so close to him that the bullets made a dollar-sized hole in her body; the blood poured out quickly and she was gone.
Sometime during the event, probably after Brooks killed Mom, he walked up to Christine and shot her directly in the back. Then he got into his car, backed up, and sat there waiting for the police to come. When they approached him, he didn't try to escape, he just said, "It had to be done." It had to be done. When you shoot wounded animals; a horse with a broken leg, a dog hit by a car, or a litter of puppies infested with maggots; you might say, it has to be done. When you kill two women who loved each other; and you are James Elwood Brooks or the community that supported him, you say; it had to be done.
Mom was 55 years old and Christine was 36, I think. I know it was May 5, 1992, Cinco de Mayo in southern California, when I heard the news. My sister, Linda, called me at work- the US Department of Defense, Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar, and said, "Mom is dead." I replied, "Mom is dead? How do you know? Tell me, are you sure?" Someone called her, a cousin, I think, and said your mom's been shot. I couldn't believe it. I wouldn't believe it. I was going to see her soon. I had my airline ticket and her new baby granddaughter, Amber, too; we were going to be there. She's not dead, I thought. But she was...her body was gone and I was too shaken to feel her in any other way.
Sue Pittmann was powerful. Her presence cleared the space of doubt around me and made me sure I could do anything. I am so proud to be her daughter. When the sun set on her life; it set in my heart and I knew I had to be strong on my own; I had to go on without a powerful mother lighting the way for me. I think I'm fine. Today's Mom's birthday; how glad I am that she was born. Happy Birthday Mom and thank you for my life.