Nine years ago today dawned sunny and hot in New York City. Ray D’Amelio had gone to bed with the air conditioner on and the bathroom window open to combat the heat. On the calendar on his wall, all of the days of the year had been neatly crossed off– June 12 and beyond were left blank.
At a few minutes past 6 am, Steven Santos climbed up the fire escape into Ray’s bathroom window. He saw, or maybe heard, Ray in bed, put his gun next to Ray’s head, pulled the trigger, and killed him.
Santos then went into Ray’s kitchen, found a bottle of Jack Daniels and poured himself a glass. He sat down on the couch in front of Ray’s television, found a porn film in Ray’s video collection, popped it in and sat back and watched while he sipped his drink. Next, he went back out the bathroom window and upstairs into the neighbor’s apartment, where he raped an 88 year old woman, then shot her and her husband to death. He snuck out of their apartment and down the fire escape with a few credit cards, 400 dollars and the watch I gave Ray on our first wedding anniversary. Santos was apprehended a few minutes later, tackled by a police officer, actually, and taken into custody.
For nine years, these events have run through my head, like one of Ray’s videos–stop, start, stop, and rewind, over and over. I desperately wish I could edit it differently, or erase it completely and make it not have happened.
But life isn’t like that. Neither is death.
Ray was kind and generous to a fault. He never knew Santos, had never met him, but would have given him anything, had he only asked for it. There was no reason that Ray should have died that morning, or that way. No reason at all.
Ray’s death left scores of us stunned and heart broken. The world was gentler, funnier, warmer, and more beautiful when he was in it. With every passing year, every new season, on every beautiful day, or any difficult day, we miss him again. Nine years later, the pain is still palpable, the memory of that morning still surreal.
After a three week trial, it took the jury only two hours of deliberating to find Santos guilty on all 11 counts of murder, rape and robbery. He is now serving three consecutive life sentences in a prison in upstate New York.
I imagine his life is miserable.
I know Raymond is at peace.