A Grammar Geeks Examination of a Note – Part 2

A condensed version of this post was used in Aggravated. If you haven’t read Part 1 of this yet, you probably should do that first. It’s at this link.

Line by Line

Buried in the text of the note are several clues which might indicate when the note was written, along with some other information. Let’s take it a sentence or two at a time, but just for clarity I’m going to capitalize and punctuate it.

“Hey, Hanna. I know that we really don’t get along, but I know that you really need me to do this for you.”

The two girls were asked multiple times during the trials whether they were friends or not. Was it because of this one sentence? Did Hanna and Rhonda really not get along? The most important part of the sentence, though, is “you really need me to do this for you.” She didn’t say “you might need me,” or will need me.” “You really need me” is present tense, and infers now, not some future time. What reason would Rhonda have, shortly after a ride home from a rodeo (during which she claimed that nothing bad happened), to think that Hanna needed her to write that note immediately?

“The night of the Deep Springs Rodeo, when you and I went together ….. I really don’t remember much from that night, or any specific incidents.”

She didn’t “remember much” “or any specific incidents” right after it happened? Why would she be worried enough to feel compelled to write the note if she didn’t “remember much?” These aren’t the words of someone looking just a few days or a few weeks into their past.

“What I do remember, though, is thinking that you and the man who picked us up seemed really involved in each other, or he seemed really involved in you. I really didn’t think anything of it at the time, but now that I sit here and think about it, I realize how serious it could have been.”

This is another reflective passage, searching a past memory. She says that “at the time” she “didn’t think anything of it,” [in the past] but “now” [after the fact], while she “think(s) about it” (and maybe has had time to talk to others about it) she realizes “how serious it could have been. Doesn’t that sound like it wasn’t a big deal when it happened, but it felt that way once there was a legal case? Also, why does she say the man who picked us up” instead of calling Steve by name?

“All I really remember about that night was that we were in a small truck and you sat in the middle. He took us to a water tower and let us go inside.”

As Doug Sanford said in Trial #2, “He didn’t force you inside, did he?” Rhonda said no, he didn’t. All she remembered was that they were in a little truck, Hanna was in the middle, and they stopped at a water tower. That doesn’t sound very sinister.

“I also remember that, in the truck, every time I would look over at you, he would have his hands on you.”

Explained by the tiny seat and Hanna sitting so close to the gearshift (that’s covered in Aggravated).

“I never wanted to say anything because I figured it was nothing to be concerned about, until you asked me about it.”

“I never wanted to say anything…” That’s another phrase that wouldn’t be used right after an event. “Never” seems like a word someone would use later, after time had passed. Her initial thought was that it was inconsequential, “nothing to be concerned about,” so she had stopped thinking about it “…until you asked me about it.” You don’t stop thinking about something immediately after it happens. This reeks of something that wasn’t written at the time.

“I’m so sorry that I cannot be of more help to you, but this is all I remember from that night. I do remember that things did not seem right, and I really didn’t want him to drop me off and you stay with him.”

This was the third time she said she didn’t remember, but each time she said that she followed it with something she did remember. It’s almost as if someone was peering over her shoulder, saying “No, we need more, can’t you think of something else?”

“I sensed that something was out of place, and I’m sorry that I cannot remember more from that night. I really hope that this can, in some way, help you. All my love, Rhonda Bresnick.”

Over and over again, she said she was sorry, but she couldn’t remember. She closes with, “I really hope that this can, in some way, help you.” That seems like a lot of regret for an uncomfortable ride home from a rodeo. It sounds more like what someone might say years later, after they have been convinced that a tragedy occurred, maybe something they could have prevented but didn’t.  Also, do the words “cannot,” “specific,” “sensed,” and “incidents” seem like typical words for a fourteen year old? Maybe, maybe not.

There was a great deal of testimony about the note, especially in the second trial, but the prosecution used the premise that it was something Rhonda wrote out of concern for her friend; and, even though she was no longer friends with Hanna, she gave the note to Darla and testified for Hanna because it was the right thing to do.

A Stray Thought: Rhonda testified that Hanna didn’t want to talk about that night after the rodeo. If they didn’t discuss it, how would Hanna’s mother have known about the existence of a note? They portrayed it in the trials as if Rhonda, once contacted, was eager to help. My sarcastic mind imagines Rhonda saying something like: “Oh, golly gee. You know what, Mrs. Belisle? I wrote a note about it two years ago and I’ve been hanging onto it all this time just in case Hanna might need it. Would you like to have it?” Ridiculous, right? It makes much more sense that the note was written later.

Another Stray Thought: There is an odd notation on the trial exhibit (the copy of the faxed note) which could help establish a date or could confuse things even more. It’s a handwritten date, 8-16-05 (for August 16, 2005). I have no idea who added that date to the faxed page, or when it was added. The fax was sent on August 23, 2005. August 16th is exactly one week before that. Writing that date on the fax makes no sense unless (stay with me) maybe 8-16-05 was when someone (possibly Darla?) called the DA and said they would be sending him some interesting evidence. But why would he wait until after they received the fax to jot that date down? And why would Darla have needed a week in order to send a fax, unless someone had to create the contents of the fax before they sent it, perhaps? Yes, too strange to be true. Or is it?

Michael Sirois

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