By Russ Lemmon
The last thing I wanted to do today was write another column about serial killer David Alan Gore, whose execution on Thursday served as the final paragraph in one of the saddest chapters in Indian River County history.
I know many readers have had more than their fill of our extensive coverage related to the execution, held Thursday at the Florida State Prison in Starke. So if you’re one of those (I can respect that), please check back on Tuesday when I return to “regular programming.”
Still with me? Good. I’m pretty sure you’ll find today’s column interesting. I realize there’s a good chance it’ll make you mad (again, I can respect that), but I was fascinated by what these two men had to say.
Mike and John Gore didn’t make the trip from South Carolina to visit with their father on the day of his execution.
“I was afraid it would be too emotional, and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life thinking about that,” Mike said.
Mike, 38, believes his father deserved to be executed. He received the death sentence for the 1983 murder of Lynn Elliott. (David Gore and his cousin, Fred Waterfield, killed four girls and two women in the early 1980s.)
John, 30, has a different view than his older brother — but only because he is strongly opposed to the death penalty.
“I believe, firmly, that he should answer for those (killings),” John said. “I’m just not an eye-for-an-eye person.”
Mike was just 9 years old when Elliott was killed. Family members did their best to shelter him from the news. However, he found out about it when kids started talking about it at school.
He would spend eighth, ninth and 10th grades attending school in South Carolina, but he returned to Vero Beach for his junior and senior years of high school. He graduated from Vero Beach High School in 1991.
While Mike believes his father’s execution was warranted, try putting yourself in his shoes for a minute. He harbors great resentment toward his father for what he did, but, like everyone else, there are certain childhood memories he cherishes.
“He’s my dad,” he said. “He took me fishing. He took me hunting. He put me to sleep — tucked me in. He taught me how to ride a bike. He surprised me with my very first dog, a puppy.
“He taught me how to shoot. My favorite sport is hunting. How weird and conflicting that is for me, knowing (what my dad did). I hate him for that, but yet, I hear him talk, and I’m a kid again, back in the ‘old house.’ ”
I can’t imagine what it would be like being the son of a serial killer. Or knowing your father is the most despised person Indian River County has ever seen.
Mike says he’s thought about writing a book, attempting to make sense of his father’s two lives.
“I want to find out how he could do that — tuck me in (at home while, in his other life, going out and killing people),” he said. “It is a strange feeling, and I don’t think I can describe it. He was a good father.”
What were you doing at age 9? My main memory is playing Little League Baseball — it was probably the most “innocent” time of my life.
In South Carolina, only Mike’s closest friends know about his father’s past. He’s never told his employer.
His two kids — ages 5 and 8 — don’t know either. They never met Grandpa Gore.
“I’m not sure (what) I will tell them when they ask about my father,” he said. “I’m surprised they haven’t already.”
Man, that’s a tough one.
I don’t know anyone who didn’t consider David Gore to be a despicable human being. Knowing what he did is the reason why I felt no emotion while watching his execution. He deserved it — lethal injection was far too easy for him, if you ask me.
It’s unfortunate his two children have had to deal with “guilt by association” condemnation throughout their lives.
Of course, Mike didn’t help his cause when in 2009 he was tried in Indian River County on two counts of molesting a 12-year-old girl six years before. A jury found him not guilty.
Acknowledging he had to face “the apple doesn’t fall from the tree” claims because of the trial, Mike said the experience made him appreciate his freedom.
“It made me a better father,” he said.
Mike works in the sign industry. John is a long-haul truck driver.
I find it refreshing that neither brother disputes their father’s guilt. Contrast that to certain members of the Waterfield family — including Fred himself — who believe Fred is not guilty.
John said he did not visit his father on the day of his execution because he wanted to be respectful of the Elliott family and the families of the other victims (Hsiang Huang Ling, Ying Hua Ling, Judy Kay Daley, Barbara Ann Byer and Angel LaVallee).
Click here to see a photo gallery and read details about each of Gore’s victims – the ones he killed as well as those whom he let go.
Speaking specifically about the Elliott family, John said: “I didn’t want to get in the way. They went through so much. … What they went through was heinous.”
John was 2 years old when Lynn Elliott was killed.The two people who visited David Gore on execution day were his mother, Velma Gore, and one of his ex-wives, Gloria Coleman. (Mike and John’s mother, Donna Blanton, who married David Gore twice, did not go.)
“I wasn’t surprised by either of his visitors,” Mike said. “Gloria and my dad remained very close even after their divorce.”
Mike said he last visited his father about a year ago. They exchanged letters on a regular basis — for the past two years, David Gore wrote Mike about once a week. Before two years ago, Mike said his father would write two or three letters a year.
Mike says his grandmother, Velma, has never been the same since her son confessed to killing six people.
He then told a story that makes you realize the tremendous “ripple effect” in a case like this.
“Last year I saw a birthday card on her counter,” Mike said, “and I asked her who it was for. She said, ‘Your dad.’ She then started talking about how she selects them. Among the several criteria, one stuck with me: ‘Proud’ — like, ‘I’m proud of you, son.’ She said she wasn’t, and really spent time selecting a simple Hallmark card (without the word ‘proud’). I really never even thought of that. A card.”
David Alan Gore, 58, is dead.
Here’s hoping the community’s healing process includes changing the verdict for any relative named Gore to “not guilty by association.”
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.