Lisa: Earlier that day even though I couldn’t get a hold of my mom, even though this was before cell phones, I couldn’t find my mom, and I’d even called Browning Road and they were kind of, they kind of gave me a funny answer that didn’t sound right, almost like they were looking for (her). And I remember turning to my friend and saying, “Man, I think something’s happened. I think she’s been in a car wreck or something.”
And then I went on to work to my photography shoot. But when I came back people were obviously shaking and she pulls me back into the photography studio and sits me down and starts to tell me. I don’t know what her words were but my mind, knew it was my mom she was going to tell me something happened to. But I said is it my grandma? My grandpa?
And she’s just shaking her head, and I said something like, are you telling me – is it – is it my mom?
And she said yea. And I said is she hurt? And she said no. And I said is she alive and she just shook her head.
And I guess maybe I lost it, I was crying – yelling or something. I don’t remember, but my attention immediately was, well where’s my brother?
And then I was able to gather myself together and my main focus was trying to track him down and let him know, which took all day into the evening. I think by the time we caught up with him it was actually 2 a.m. East Coast time and he was actually pulled out of bed.
The dynamic of the family changed. People stopped talking to each other. You found out who the glue of your family is, like I always thought it’d be my grandmother, Catherine Heisey, but it was definitely – I think everyone would say- it affected my family so much, that you knew who the glue was.
Lisa: There’s a before, and now. It’s my new life. A time everything before it happened and after. And a little there’s the time before I had a child and after I became a mom, but I would still say there’s that mark, when I got that phone call, that everything before that and who I was, I was totally a different person after that.
Lisa: There’s moments when it feels like yesterday and it’s really raw, like out of the blue a news reporter wants to talk to you and then all the emotions and memories come back, or when, July 1, I don’t do it as much anymore but I used to be like oh it’s July 1, at this time I knew exactly what I was doing. I was at work in my photography studio, and I can tell you hour by hour what happened that day and how long it took to track down my brother.
17 Reporter Olivia LaVoice: Do you remember your last conversation with her?
Lisa: (cries) Mine was good at least, so a couple nights before it happened, I called my mom because my best friend, one of my closest friends – and I’m sure I have permission to tell this story – called me and we’re talking for a while and he was trying to tell me something and I started to feel like he had something to say, and there was no reason for me to think this at all but I finally said, ‘Are you trying to tell me that you’re gay?’ And he said yeah.
And I laughed and I said, ‘Oh,’ and I teased him about his roommate in the Coast Guard and said your roommate was so hot, how hard was that?” And kind of teased him and let him know I don’t care.
And he was the first friend to come out to me and have a big conversation about that and I knew it was hard for him to tell somebody that he’d known forever. And so the first person I called was my mom and I told her and she laughed and she said “Oh, you just tell him I love him to death,” and so yeah (cries).
Lisa: There’s not a book that says how to deal with that kind of loss, I mean I’ve read Motherless Daughters, both editions of it. It doesn’t – it touches on accidental death, but it doesn’t say murder. You don’t really meet people who can relate to that. And then the fact that it’s unsolved 18 years later.
Lisa: there’s huge moments that have hit me, my brother graduating from the Naval Academy, huge. That was the first huge, huge moment, not even my wedding day, it was when he graduated from the Naval Academy. It was like, wow.
Olivia: I heard she really wanted to be there.
Lisa: Oh yeah, more than anything.
Lisa: I didn’t know I was having a little girl, but no one was surprised when her name was Kathleen Heisey.
My uncle Tom, my mom’s younger brother, he was the first person to call me, he knew I was due any time. But when he called I had just had her. And her little cry in the background, and I heard him go “ah!” and he said what did you have, and I said, “it’s a Kathleen Heisey.”
Olivia: Was it hard for you to give her your mother’s name?
Kathleen: Not at all, it was a given.
Lisa: There’s so many countless ways she’s missed, friends who were just acquaintances who had her make a birthday cake for their kids. She made everyone’s birthday cakes back then. She had all the character pans, just a huge talent, self taught.
Lisa: She’s missed for crocheting baby blankets, which by the way I don’t have one, so if anyone wants to pass one down, she never made them for her own kids. She’s just missed for her contagious laugh and spontaneous adventure – so adventurous. There’s stories of her running away and joining the circus when she was 19 or 20. I don’t know the exact details but that is a true story. I still have the magazine articles for that. She was the side talk for a Sasquatch, like a Big Foot.
Lisa: She was the first person I called. There was a rule to call her every Sunday, and she had a land line with an 800 number, so the rule was to call every Sunday and just check in, and if you didn’t it better (be) because you’re having a lot of fun. But I was more like pick up the phone and call her every second – I’d call her office and ask for my mom. Sometimes I’d have to say “but this is her daughter,” because everyone called her mom, all the students had to call her mom, so I had to clarify. Um she’s just missed so many countless ways I don’t know how to answer that.
Lisa: To actually know – to have an arrest.
I guess I used to think about holidays, it’s not fair, that person’s out there, he could be spending a holiday with his family. He could be a grandparent and be holding a baby right now. And that used to – I try not to dwell on that because that really makes you mad, especially on the holidays and moments like that.
So I know that would take away that anger and resentment that I try not to have. Aside from taking away one less evil in the world or just having justice, justice finally happen. But knowing that the police department is hopefully finally giving it a really – hopefully last effort – yes last effort, because they’re gonna get it- that would be amazing to know that they’re doing that. I know so many people and myself and my family would love to have this unknown end and to have justice.
Lisa: I could say yes, it’s been solved – gosh that would feel amazing to say “yes it’s been solved!” instead of no, it’s still an unsolved case. Yeah, I do hate referring to her as a case, because yes to me she isn’t a case that hasn’t been solved.
Lisa: Instead of remembering her life you’re remembering her death and wondering, wondering, wondering if it’ll ever be solved, and yeah it is sad because so much is taken away from the amazing life that she had.