Book, TV show give murder victim a voice

New Hampshire residents Carrie Freitag and Margaret Kerouac (“Peg,” a Nashua native), co-authors of the book, “Aftermath in the Wake of Murder,” have had the story of the murder of Carrie’s brother Bill, told on a new Investigation Discovery Channel series, “Impact of Murder.” The premiere episode aired Sunday night.

Freitag said that her impact statement, read at the murder trial of Bill’s childhood friend, Lawrence Tutt, caught the attention of the show’s producers.

“The Discovery Channel had a concept for a series that they wanted to do, focusing on impact statements and victims and survivors,” said Freitag. “And the producer Ali Naushahi had reached out to me because years ago, when we had to deliver our impact statement in my brother’s case at the sentencing of his murderer, we were allowed one impact statement to represent the whole family that could be read aloud. Others could be sent in and kept in the file. I had made that impact statement available to a support group – murdervictimsurvivors.com as a sample impact statement. They liked it, and they asked if I would mind if they used that as an online sample for other survivors.”

Freitag and Kerouac were intrigued by the idea of participating in the docuseries, with Freitag adding, “We really liked the theme – we felt that it had an educational component, and it would be something that other survivors and people who have been through tragedies would find empowering so we decided to go ahead with it.”

The concept for the authors’ collaboration on the book, written in 2003, was instigated by the lack of materials available to survivors of murder victims.

“What I was finding were either very scholarly-type articles that weren’t really written for the lay audience or books that just weren’t getting to the heart of it and weren’t dealing with the hard issues,” said Freitag. “So, I felt there was a need for this book.”

The writing duo began by breaking the book down into chapters, the different types of issues, and the emotional aspects that grieving families are forced to deal with.

“We really went through topics like rage, trust, survivor’s guilt- those type of things,” said Freitag. “Not just drawing from my own personal situation, but I was doing a lot of corresponding with other survivors online, and via phone, so we really tried to capture a broad perspective of survivors. Because not everyone deals with it the same way.”

Some chapters were less difficult than others; Freitag said for her, the chapter on survivor’s guilt was probably the toughest.

“With survivor’s guilt, there’s really a lot of different ways that takes place,” she said. “It’s when the people who have survived their loved one actually are feeling guilty or that they’re somehow responsible. Usually it comes from that sense, ‘if only I had known. If only I had done something differently.’ I think that is something that a lot of survivor’s grapple with.”

“I think in Carrie’s case, the issue to her, was that she wasn’t being adamant enough with her brother,” said Kerouac. “She saw danger signs around the visit by his friend Larry who did end up killing him. Carrie spent a few years wondering ‘What if I had more adamant? What if I trusted my instincts more? What if I had been more emphatic with my brother?’ They’re very common questions that people raise. ‘I was the last person to speak with them. Or ‘I was supposed to meet them, and I didn’t.’ There’s all kinds of ways that the guilt of the people who survive them gets connected to the person who was killed.”

Some authors often attest that writing a book can provide closure – a “making something good out of something terrible” scenario.

“It helped a lot,” said Freitag. “When you take something that’s difficult, you really write down everything that you have to say about it and try to find the best ways to say it and convey it – just through the writing. It was so much repetition, that I felt like I got a lot of that out of my system.”

One of the things that Freitag is quick to point out is the subject of post-traumatic stress.

“People ruminate and replay things in their mind over and over,” she said. “I felt that this was a very constructive route to do that. And when I got through with it, I noticed that I was able to devote my attention to other things without constantly being distracted by this loss and trauma that had occurred.”

Kerouac also clarified the “making something good out of something bad” proponent.

“We try to avoid saying that,” she said. “I think a better wording is that we try to bring out our good coping mechanisms during terrible events and show other people that they can actually go beyond trauma and there’s life beyond that trauma. Not to say that you became a better person. But rather you maybe became a better person.”