After the traumatic death of a loved one, his or her things live on. Clothes, hairbrushes, books, cell phones, journals, toothbrushes, CDs, plants, recipes, jewelry, memorabilia add to the burden of loss. It falls to the survivors to deal with these personal effects, and it is never easy.
Take, for instance, the case of Amy Lawton, the youngest daughter of George Hochsprung from his first marriage to Janet (Walzer) Hochsprung. Amy gave an account of her experience receiving her step-mother’s personal effects in a New York Times article, dated April 28, 2013. Here is an excerpt from that article (boldface is mine):
“Last week the pain and grief from these deaths were handed to me in physical form: my dad gave me eight boxes of personal effects from my stepmother’s office, packed up for him by the police, and my ex (no, I mean my “co-parent”) dropped off five boxes of my things, the last remnants of our life together.
“What do I do with all of these things?
“A quick glance into the boxes and it felt difficult to breathe. Dawn’s were half full of books, (easy; donated them to my school) but the rest of the items have stopped me in my tracks. Worn emery boards, a comb with strands of her hair in it, piles of thank you cards from years of students (my favorite says, “You are important to our school because you get supplies and money and eat lunch with the bad kids.” I love that. Is that what being a principal means?) There’s a Dove candy wrapper that she saved (“Be mischievous. It feels good.”), stationery with her name on it, magnets and tampons and photographs.”
Two observations. While reading this article a while ago, what first struck Cinderella was the polish of Amy’s prose. Easily explained: she’s an English teacher who, at the time of the article, was a faculty member of the White Mountain School in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.
But the second observation was that one of Mrs. Hochsprung’s step-daughters received a cache of her sentimental, personal items. Not her older daughter, Cristina Hassinger, or her famous daughter, Erica Lafferty, but her literate step-daughter, Amy Lawton, George Hochsprung’s youngest of three. And it was handed to her by her father at a time when she was burdened with the storage boxes of a failed marriage, a fact that is also covered in the article.
What’s wrong with that picture? Basically, everything.
Step-sibling rivalry. As a teacher, Amy might have been the logical recipient of the books, but why the other items? Was George’s choice merely an oversight? (Read the comments under the article and you’ll see that I’m not the only reader to question this choice.)
Why would George, knowing that his daughter was packing up in the wake of a divorce, burden her with still more boxes containing the belongings of her step-mother — items that Cristina or Erica had more right to claim?
The questions above are particularly relevant considering that there was already evidence of conflict between the Lafferty daughters and their Hochsprung step-sisters.
“They CANNOT call themselves daughters.” See the Facebook entry below by Cristina Hassinger (Dawn’s older daughter), a mini-diatribe against her step-sisters. The prickly reaction was provoked by an article they co-authored in support of gun control.*
A question: Why would George Hochsprung heighten the tension between the daughters and their step-sisters by giving his youngest the lion’s share of Mrs. Hochsprung’s personal treasures from the school?
The pilgrimage. Less than two months after Amy received eight boxes of Mrs. Hochsprung’s books and memorabilia, Cristina Hassinger was given a personal tour of the crime scene. You can read about her pilgrimage with a police officer, step-father George and Mrs. Hochsprung’s poodle, Bella, here.
Here is an excerpt from the article that quotes Cristina (boldface is mine):
“The detective got there a few minutes after we did. She had a pile of papers and posters and a couple envelopes of things that were in my mom’s office. She was going to bring my mom’s clothes that she was wearing that day but they weren’t ready.
“We’d been waiting to get her clothes back and had a lot of conversations about … if we even wanted them back. I had mixed feelings about not getting them. I was disappointed that I didn’t get them, but relieved that I didn’t have to deal with that just yet.
“We have so many things from her office. What do you do with it all?”
So, during a tour of the Sandy Hook Elementary school, Cristina received “a couple envelopes” and a “pile of papers,” but no bloody clothes — which would have been part of the evidence held in the state police major crime division’s archives.
What’s wrong with this picture? Again, nearly everything.
Why were the items from Mrs. Hochsprung’s office handed off in two batches – one to Amy and one to Cristina?
Why would Cristina, Mrs. Hochsprung’s firstborn, receive the left-overs?
And why would the state police be willing to relinquish gory evidence to the daughter of a victim? Years ago, a relative of Cinderella’s was murdered with his clothes on and her family still hasn’t received one scrap of cloth from the carefully preserved and sequestered evidence bag. Normally, in fact, whether or not a case is solved, evidence is not released to family members at all — unless a judge approves first. This is because evidence can become more definitive and revealing as new technologies (e.g., DNA testing) become available. Also, blood-stained clothing is considered a potential biohazard and treated as such.
Clothing riddles. Much has been said about the clothing Mrs. Hochsprung was wearing on 12-14-12. As pointed out and documented in this Reich Watch video, there are still questions as to whether Mrs. Hochsprung was wearing an orange dress (as described by SHES custodian Rick Thorne) or a pair of jeans with a red shirt and a gray-and-red hooded sweater, as described in the State of Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety Investigation Report.
Apart from these questions, both of Mrs. Hochsprung’s biological daughters have been consistent about the condition of their mother’s body and garments. In a recent tweet, for instance, Erica Lafferty said that her mother’s body was “bullet riddled,” implying that the clothes must have been badly damaged, too.
Cristina’s statement on the subject was provoked by former Atlanta Brave Chipper Jones’s tweet that Sandy Hook was a hoax. (Click here.) In response, she tweeted, “Come for dinner. You can meet my grandmother-less children and I’ll show you my mom’s clothes riddled with bullet holes.” See below.
Neither Erica Lafferty nor Cristina Hassinger specify the number of bullet holes in their mother’s dress or sweater/jeans. Or whether they ever received the bullet-riddled clothes. Interesting word they use: “riddled.” That means pierced with multiple holes.
Were the clothes bullet-riddled? The official report doesn’t say they were. Here is the official description of Mrs. Hochsprung’s clothing: “Mrs. Hochsprung had brown hair and was wearing a gray and red hooded sweater, red long sleeve shirt, blue jeans and calf-length brown-colored boots.” (For the full description, go to the 26:00 mark here, or go here for the full report.)
If the clothing was bullet-riddled, you would expect that the report would say it was, wouldn’t you?
The police report for the murder of Cinderella’s relative, for example, describes the clothes of the victim this way: “…a black stained jacket containing T shaped holes in the chest region …” Exactly what you’d expect of a police report about a murder involving gunshot wounds.
Something is wrong with the various accounts of Mrs. Hochsprung’s clothing. Like a badly coordinated business suit, they simply do not match up.
Post script. Chipper Jones, it seems, was never forgiven for his statement. And the Hochsprung step-sisters might never have been forgiven for theirs, either. A funny thing about people: They hold onto personal slights, while discarding facts. And with or without Alzheimer’s, forgetting has become the most natural thing in the world.
*The original article by the Hochsprung sisters (presumably dated earlier) ran on the site for 1 Million Moms for Gun Control here. As you will see, that article is no longer linked.