What do you say to the man who murdered your sister?
Kim Hoynes had 23 years to think about it -- longer than her sister Robin lived.
Now in a chilly, wood-paneled courtroom in Torrance, Kim, 47, stood at a lectern and smoothed her dark blue linen skirt suit. William Charles Marshall was just moments away from being sentenced to life without possibility of parole.
Kim had been writing notes to herself in the weeks since the jury took only five hours to find Marshall guilty. She had so many memories to search. How do you choose the moments that would bring Robin back to life, to get through to the man who took her life?
The terrible news came on Halloween 1984. Ever since, the family has kept the Whittier home dark on the holiday, no pumpkins carved, no candy given out.
It would have meant so much to their father to be in court this day. Each morning after Robin's death, Virgil Hoynes sat on the edge of his bed believing, if only for a second, that she would walk down the hallway to greet him. In 1995, still heartbroken and dying of emphysema, he took his own life.
Kim took a breath and opened the plastic-covered folder she'd carried into court along with a framed 8-by-10 photo of Robin for her mother to hold up.
Marshall, now 46, sat expressionless with his leather-bound Bible, just as he had each day of his monthlong trial. He was handcuffed, his legs shackled. He was so still it seemed as though he'd stopped breathing.
"Do you know what murder means?" she asked him last Friday. "From the moment you hear it you wonder. . . . Did she die right away? Did she know what was happening? Was she sexually assaulted? My mom and dad worried about this until we were able to read the autopsy report weeks after she died."
Her voice rose as Marshall sat with his back to her, unflinching.
"William," she said, "you are responsible for this!"
It started with a note on the door. Lunchtime, Oct. 31, 1984.
Kim, 24, was the oldest of four daughters and the only one not still living with her parents. She'd left her job at the mall with a migraine. Her parents' house was only a few blocks away, so she went there to rest. No one was home.
The note read: Please contact the Torrance Police Department regarding Robin Hoynes.
She let herself in and dialed the kitchen phone. Try back in 20 minutes, she was told; the officers you need to talk to aren't here. She called her mother, who was baby-sitting for family friends. Ethel Hoynes wasn't too worried. Robin had planned to stay with friends the night before. It's probably just car trouble, she told her daughter. Kim hung up and dialed the police again.
"Kim Hoynes calling about Robin Hoynes. Is she OK?"
"No, I'm sorry, she's not," the detective said.
Robin, 21, had been stabbed at work, a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, the night before. She was found that morning.
Kim wanted to tell her mother in person. She remembers the detective worrying about her driving but she got in the car anyway.
"I told her Robin had been -- for a long time we didn't even say 'murdered' because the connotations of what that means were bigger than we could get around at the time. 'Killed,' I think maybe I said. Mom said I was lying to her, those were the first words out of her mouth: 'You're lying to me' and I said 'No, Mom, I wish I was.' "
Together they called Kim's father, a maintenance man for Suburban Water Systems in West Covina, at work. The grim notifications had begun.
Wendy Hoynes was a 16-year-old La Serna High School junior. It was near the end of the school day. She was in her sixth-period biology class. She was dressed as a lion for Halloween.
There was a substitute teacher that day. An administrator opened the door and spoke briefly to the teacher. Wendy, who had only been to the principal's office for student government meetings, needed to go with him.
In the hallway, she saw her cousin Beth walking toward her. How strange, she thought, that Beth was there. Then Beth was next to her saying: Robin was stabbed at work last night.
"Did she die?" Wendy asked. Beth said yes. Wendy began to shake.
No one had called Tricia Hoynes, 18, at her job at Sizzler. When she came home, the street was lined with the cars of family and friends. Wendy and a cousin were standing on the front lawn. Tricia's first thought was that their next door neighbor, an older woman who was like a grandmother to them, had passed away.
Instead, she heard someone say: Robin was killed. Tricia collapsed. They helped her into the house and took her to her bedroom. She sat down on the floor. Her mother said: "Bring her a Pepsi and her cigarettes."
Tricia looked down at herself. She'd worn Robin's high school flag team outfit to work for Halloween.
She started pulling at her clothes, screaming: "Get it off me."
Torrance police arrested William Charles Marshall 12 days after Robin was found dead.