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A Son Even a Mother Couldn't--or Wouldn't--Love

Families: Beverly Chapman never wanted Bobby. Today, months after his murder, she doesn't want his ashes. But she can't escape a haunting question.

May 18, 1997|JULIA PRODIS | ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Every morning, as Beverly Chapman penciled in her eyebrows, arching them high above the rim of her glasses, she felt uneasy. The box of her son's ashes, perched on the top shelf of her closet, seemed to judge her somehow, to glare down at her.

Bobby Stone had been killed in his sleep--first hacked to death with a claw hammer, then slashed in the throat with a knife.

Beverly had expected something like that one day. But she always figured her grown son would be the one doing the killing.

She had tried her best with him, rearing him alongside his older brother and sister, but Bobby was different. He was meaner than mean. When he was little, he even tried to drown the family dog.

"You can't continue to treat people the way Bobby treated people and not expect something to happen," Beverly says.

So why did she feel chills every time she looked at his ashes? Was it guilt? Shame? Regret?

She didn't want to think about that. She only knew she couldn't stand those ashes sitting there one more minute.

Lifting the box from the shelf, she took it to her neighbor's house and left it there.

*

Beverly begins her story with the simple truth that she never wanted Bobby to begin with.

It was 1959, and she was married to a tyrant in Golden, Colo., who knocked her teeth out, fractured her ribs and broke her nose three times. She had two small children already--3-year-old Mike, whose father had been killed outside a bar, and newborn daughter Jamie.

Another child by this man would mean bondage. In testament to her resolve to be independent, she gathered up all her maternity clothes, threw them in the driveway and doused them with gasoline. The heap flared up like a funeral pyre.

"I'll never have another kid," she pledged to herself as she watched it all burn.

A week later, she learned she was pregnant with Bobby. His conception had felt like rape, and the next nine months were torture. How could she get away from this man now? How could she support three children on her own?

When Bobby was born in 1960, he had a blood disorder that kept him in the hospital for two months. When Beverly visited, nurses wouldn't let her hold him. Could she touch him? No.

When she finally brought him home, her beatings continued.

One night, bruised and bleeding, she grabbed her children and checked into a motel. Mike, just 5, put ice packs on his mother's swollen face and held the side of her bloody, broken nose while Beverly popped the bone back into place. It crunched as she secured it with a Band-aid.

She resented Bobby for tying her to this man, but she didn't let him see it. Nope, he never knew. She was a pretty good actress and treated all three kids the same. Yes, indeed she did.

Beverly began making plans to escape. At the grocery store, she would write a check for $20 over the food total and give it to a trusted neighbor for safekeeping. Taking in laundry and ironing and collecting pop bottles, she managed in a year to save the $500 for an old white Valiant--her getaway car.

After she fled to a Denver apartment, she worked three jobs to support the kids and put herself through beauty school--office work during the day, bartending at night and operating the apartment switchboard on weekends.

She went through baby-sitters like diapers--one stole her car, hooked up a trailer to it and hauled everything out of the apartment. When Beverly came home, the children were sitting alone in pajamas.

It was too much for a single mother with no child support, so she put them in the Colorado Christian Home. Surely, they would be better off there, she told herself. For the next 4 1/2 years, she kept up her work schedule and collected the children on weekends.

Young Troublemaker

Already, Bobby was a troublemaker. One day, she looked out the window and saw him trying to drown the dog in a bucket of water. Another time, he set the field out back on fire.

Diagnosed as hyperactive when he was 7, Bobby was kept under control with Ritalin. Docile now, he would draw for hours on end--the same picture again and again. A perfect little house with a mom, a dad and three kids. Beverly looked over his shoulder and sighed.

"Bobby, I wish things were that way," she told him, "but they're not that way."

She was on her third or fourth husband by now. A bottle-blond knockout, she invariably was attracted to the wrong kind of men--good-looking, womanizing boozers. The marriages never lasted long, and Bobby didn't help. If he could drive a wedge between Beverly and whatever man happened to be around, he did it.

Jamie, on the other hand, begged each new man to adopt her. And Mike was simply devoted to his mother.

Finally, Beverly saved enough money to buy a little brick house in a Denver suburb. Everything would be perfect now. They would be a real family. She was sure of it.

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