By Russ Lemmon
VERO BEACH — Not until my 600th column in the Press Journal did I mention David Alan Gore.
I was curious why Jeanne continued to run the tribute after all these years. So, I called and asked if she’d be willing to talk about it.
Thankfully, she was.
Had she declined to be interviewed, it’s hard telling when I would have gotten around to mentioning the serial killer who, along with his cousin, Fred Waterfield, killed six people — four girls, two women — in the early 1980s.
The interview with Jeanne Elliott changed my whole perception of the Gore case. Before meeting with her, I thought no one — especially the victims’ families — wanted to talk about it. Quite the contrary. Jeanne runs the annual tribute, in part, because she wants people to know Gore has yet to be executed.
I assured her I’d keep the light shining on this judicial travesty. (For those who aren’t familiar with the Gore case, there are no shades of gray. He has admitted to the killings.)
According to our electronic library, I went on to mention Gore’s name eight more times in 2010 and 10 times in ’11.
You might say I became a “crusader” for his execution. Given how he has beaten the system for so long, preventing the death sentence from being carried out, I felt an obligation to do so.
In my view, it was a perfect fit, at both ends, for journalism’s unofficial creed of “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”
Just five months after writing about Jeanne Elliott’s annual tribute to her daughter, I wrote about how she almost didn’t live to see Gore’s execution. She had been in a coma and family members discussed whether to take her off the ventilator.
Carl and Jeanne Elliott divorced three years after Lynn was killed, and their relationship had been rather frosty in the years since the split. It took Jeanne’s health scare to make them realize that, as far as Gore’s execution is concerned, they’re still in this together.
They agreed to do a joint interview — for a column that ran on July 26, 2011 (marking 28 years since Lynn’s death) — and I was struck not only by their lingering heartache but also their steely resolve to see Gore’s execution.
Carl is 81 and Jeanne is 69, and it’s all they want in life.
Another day worth noting is March 8, 2011. That’s when author Pete Earley called and told me about a book that would be published in early ’12. He said letters exchanged between Gore and Tony Ciaglia, who in 1992 suffered a traumatic brain injury, were included in the book.
“They are shocking,” said Earley, a former Washington Post reporter.
Sufficiently intrigued, I asked him to let me know when the book was about to be published.
His Dec. 30 email served as a heads-up it would be out Jan. 10. He agreed to be interviewed in advance of the book’s release — which, in retrospect, was huge.
Because, for my role in this journey, everything intersected on Jan. 5, 2012.
That’s when my column about Earley’s book — “The Serial Killer Whisperer” — ran in the Press Journal.
The day before the meeting, Larry Reisman, the editorial page editor, asked board members to submit questions for the governor. He would do the questioning for the board.
My proposed question for the governor: “How much longer will the people of Indian River County have to wait for David Gore to be executed? He has exhausted all of his appeals, and there’s no DNA-type ‘doubt’ related to the killings.”
Then, on the day of the meeting, right before leaving for Stuart, I forwarded an email to Reisman.
“This is why I’m hoping you ask Rick Scott about David Gore’s execution,” I said in the email to Reisman. “This is from Tom Elliott, who is Lynn Elliott’s cousin.”
Tom wrote in response to the column about “The Serial Killer Whisperer.”
Reisman read this excerpt from Tom’s email to the governor:
“You know, this July will mark 29 years for us. The pain never goes away. I still see it in the faces of my aunt and uncle. They’ve never been the same and never will be. His death will not bring her back, we all know that, nothing will. And for those who don’t believe in the death penalty, it’s the sentence that was given by the laws of our land, and it needs to be carried out. Maybe then our family, and the families of the other victims will be able to have some sense of closure. That’s all we want. Closure.”
While it quickly became apparent the name David Gore meant nothing to the governor, I was encouraged when he said he’d look into the case. My reasoning: If he looked into it, how could he not sign Gore’s death warrant?
Yes, I was skeptical the governor would deliver on his promise. I mean, it wouldn’t have been the first time an elected official provided lip service. Scott signed Gore’s death warrant on Feb. 28. The execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Florida State Prison in Starke.
As I look in the rearview mirror at my journey in this, there have been so many “what ifs” in the last 18 months that you wonder if there’s a higher power involved.
• What if Jeanne Elliott wouldn’t have emerged from her coma?
• What if Pete Earley wouldn’t have written “The Serial Killer Whisperer”?
• What if Tom Elliott wouldn’t have written his powerful email?
• Most importantly, what if Gov. Scott wouldn’t have had a speaking engagement in Stuart, allowing him to meet with the editorial board beforehand?
There are countless “coincidences” that also make you wonder.
• Pete Earley happened to have a speaking engagement in Vero Beach on Jan. 6, the day after the editorial board met with the governor. (The speaking engagement had nothing to do with “The Serial Killer Whisperer.”) While in town, he met with the Elliotts and Beverly Huber, the aunt of Angel LaVallee, one of Gore’s victims.
• California resident Mike Daley, the husband of Gore’s third victim, Judy Kay Daley, embarked on a driving trip to Indian River County on Feb. 27, the day before the governor, seemingly out of the blue, signed Gore’s death warrant. It was Daley’s first trip to Indian River County (where he has several relatives) in more than a decade.
I’m hoping Gore is pronounced dead early this evening. He has beaten the system for far too long.
Obviously, it’s been a very long road for relatives and friends of the victims.
It’s also been a long wait for the residents of Indian River County. Ordinary citizens like Beverly Hilton, who every year writes a letter to the editor asking why Gore hasn’t been executed, made sure a light kept shining on this judicial travesty.
Everything came together in a “perfect storm”-kind of way.
Watching it unfold has been rather surreal.
Russ Lemmon is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects his opinion. Contact him at 772-978-2205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He will appear on WTTB 1490 AM’s “Morning Magazine” at 8:50 a.m. Friday.
• Dec. 27, 2010: Lynn Elliott’s mother ‘is here because of a lot of prayer’
• Jan. 7, 2012: Hopefully, Gore’s name will stay on governor’s radar
• Feb. 28, 2012: Governor delivered on his promise to look into Gore case