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EP 1: Dealing with the Traumatic Loss of a Child with C.J. and Greg Malson (Part 1)

Family is the most important thing to all of us and when something happens to disrupt that, it can be incredibly difficult. That’s why we’re grateful for today’s guests, C.J. and Greg Malson, who are former clients and endured a traumatic loss in 2019 when their son Ian died tragically.

Everyone wants to hear that everything will be okay, but we want to have an open and honest conversation about the true feelings and emotions that parents have to process in this unthinkable situation.

We’ve broken this conversation into three parts since there’s a lot to digest, but you’ll want to hear each piece of the story. In this first video, we’ll get more background on the Malson family and how important the relationships with their children have been since day one. You’ll get to hear some of the stories and memories they cherish with their children, but you’ll also get a little sense of the demands that Greg faced working as an attorney in the military.

Here is some of what we’ll cover in this episode:
0:00 – Intro
2:32 – Developing a strong relationship with their children
12:50 – Trips at ages 5, 10, and 15
18:00 – Ian’s love for the outdoors
24:53 – Ian’s gift of memories & friends
27:24 – Fraternity party story
29:38 – The demands on Greg & the family while working for the military

You can call 833-SPEAKS-4U to contact the show.

Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury. Hi, and welcome to catastrophic comeback. Today I'm very happy to have CJ and Greg with me. CJ and Greg are former clients. And, and people we got to know very well. Well, welcome and thank you for being here.

Thank you, Clark, you,

thank you, we feel very honored to be here and that you felt we had something that might help others? Well, I definitely

think you have something that might help others. And it relates to an incident that happened with you and your family. And first of all, tell me a little bit about your, your, your family before the incident that happened? You know, how many kids do you have? Where do you live? What's what's going on?

Three children we live in, lived in North Carolina for right around 25 years up in Fayetteville and you know, I would kind of say we're kind of just the average, you know, normal family raising three children and their stairsteps. So, you know, their age differences, only 21 months apart. So it was actually so fun having them so close together. They were just so bonded to one another, but also hated one another from time to time, you know,

I have three kids, you know, and so we've we've talked about some of this stuff, many times before. And anyway, so I know exactly what you mean, you know, in fact, you know, we were just on vacation together with my kids. And I and I, and I thought about some of the things that you told me in the past and, and I hope we know they have the relationship, that and we all have the relationship that you guys enjoy with your family. Let me ask you this. Now. Now, there's a terrible incident that happened. And so I'd like to talk to you about that incident. And what happened before and what's happened since we do have to keep in mind that we have a comprehensive confidentiality agreement, we want to honor and we want to respect and we want to make sure that we abide by the terms of. So we'll omit some of the details. But I think that a lot of people will benefit from hearing what you guys went through and where you are now,

would you like to start or everything was normal during the week, Ian was working and was planning on going out for the weekend. And he left on a Thursday, and just typical, like gone 1000 times before that he'd gone out, I remember specifically going out to the to the, to his truck with him walked out with and just like always, you know, he gave him the, almost of the rote speech of you know, be careful, you know, let me know where you're where you're at, and things like that, because we always, like I said, it became rote, in the sense that we said it. Of course, I loved him. And I tell him, I love him. And, you know, just keep me updated. And he always did that. It wasn't like I had to beat it into him or make him remember he was very good about letting us know where he was and things check

in that sort of thing. Oh, man, I imagined all your kids were right. That's the kind of Absolutely that's

kind of relationship between where you just to our you know, I think my greatest if there's a pleasure to be had in this as my, my greatest pleasure was I spent Thursday with him and our last words to each other. And I got that last hug. And that last I love you. And, you know, he went off to be in, you know, and I think that has been such a comfort, because we had shared some really in depth conversations on that afternoon about his future and, you know, his future plans for when he graduated from ECU and, you know, and he had a plan. I mean, he had a very specific goals that he wanted to achieve. And we had some property that he was interested in developing as he was a construction management major. And his dream had also always been to get his pilot's license. So you know, we talked about such important things and I have always felt that that was God's gift to me. Was that one last day with a man? Well,

so let me ask you this, these connections that people have with one another. It doesn't sound like that. are developed in just that one day. It's it's in I know, from talking to you guys in the past, that you are very intentional and very committed to developing these relationships with your kids collectively and also individually. Can you tell us about that? What that was like for you to build those relationships? And what those relationships? You know, how you develop those relationships? Well,

I, one of the things like you said, it didn't happen on that one day, you know, obviously, through a lifetime of, of being parents to the kids, who, especially in reflection, that they made it, it was almost like, they made it easy. Yeah, we, you know, he said that, when our daughter was born, if it hadn't been a girl, we may not have had any more kids, but she was such, she was so easy. And you know, and I'm like, Well, maybe everyone's got this whole parenting thing wrong. They're just all this, well, the boys came, and they're different. They were they're definitely different than the girls. But, you know, in an early age, you know, there was no formal lesson teaching other than just being acutely aware of kind of what you do, because they're, they're copying, they're, they're, they're picking up things that you never think you'd be picking up on. And I think that, through that, that's how they develop their relationships amongst each other, and with their friend groups, and things like that, that, you know, they, they, like I said, they I think they mimic a lot of what they see at home. And it wasn't a chore. I mean, I didn't have to make conscious decisions of, you know, kiss the wife, when you get home from work, and do this or do that. It just, that's the way we were together, we'd been together for quite some time, seven years, seven, eight years, before we got married, or that children, so we were, you know, well along, we weren't newlyweds or anything like that. So we'd been together quite a while. And I think that that just their observations of us was one of the things and are involved involvement in their lives.

I wouldn't tell him, I always said that your child's inner voice becomes, what your parents and how your parents treated you. So their self worth was very, you know, tied up in how they were raised. And I was very determined that my children would grow up in a very positive environment. You know, Greg, and I made pacts before we even had children, and always said that consistently, having, you know, presenting a united front, rather, we really agreed with one another or not that in front of them, we were united front. And if anything, were going to be different than that we would take those conversations in private. And so therefore, our children never saw a lot of arguing between us. And, you know, I'm certainly not trying to paint the picture perfect scene here, but I just think we were very kind of no nonsense, you know, we had some very hard straightforward rules. And, you know, that was be kind human beings, be thoughtful, human beings, always tell the truth, that we, you will never be punished for telling the truth. But if you catch you an ally, but you know, when they knew there were consequences for poor behavior and actions. So, you know, and we really never had to do any major punishing, you know, of them, because they were aware, and thankfully, I think they believed us that there were consequences. But, you know, of course, there were a few minor incidents that, you know, they weren't grounded or had their keys taken away from them or whatnot. But I think for us, you know, we've respected our kids so much as well, because they were the children that always took in the people. It seemed like that didn't have that at home. And we had a complete open door policy in our house. We wanted to be the house where all the kids hung out, because you know, we just felt we then knew what our children were like then when they were away from home. Because we saw what they were like around their friends when they are around us. And so the relationships even still today, and I think that have gotten us through, you know, a lot of what we've been through is, you know, family structure, faith, and those people that are still like our own children, that still, you know, come and visit voluntarily and drop by for a drink or drop by for a meal, you know, and we still have an open door policy with all their friends. And, you know, just to maintain those relationships, you know, these kids, these are not kids now, you know, these young adults are voluntarily having a relationship with us. And I told my kids, a few weeks ago, when we were all together, as I said, this is what every parent waits for in life, you know, your kids kind of become that, that you come to that place where you can be friends, and we never have to ask our kids to come visit their, our house so much, and they don't live locally, you know, one lives in Winston Salem, and one lives in Charlotte. So, you know, it's not like they're, we're right down the street from them. And, and I just told them, and I've always been very emotionally open with my children, as well as you know, open and many other ways. But I just looked at him and I said, this is the good stuff. You know, this is, this is what every parent dreams of is this relationship that we have together. And we often tell them how proud we are of them? Because we are, you know, I mean, the bottom line is, we raised three amazing humans, and everything as you would you know, a test. That's the best of life. Sure,

yeah. And what strikes me is, it wasn't accidental. In fact, when, when we work together, I remember coming to your house, and I remember just the entire the house itself, where it's located. The size of the prop, like, you know, you guys live near downtown, but somehow you have like, all this space. And it's all set up for exactly what you're describing, to be the Kool Aid house to be the house where all the kids hang out to be where people feel comfortable, you know, and I remember walking in and sitting down with you at your kitchen table, and there's a little fridge over in the corner that is there, specifically in anticipation of people come in and sit into that table so they can have, you know, a drink and facilitate communication and conversation and connection. And so, it strikes me that that's not no, that's accidental. In fact, I remember that you talking about you guys both talking about things that you did intentionally to build relationships with each of your children, you know, trips with you, time fishing team, could you talk to us about that a little bit? And what was involved in, in building relationships? And you can, with all of them, were they in or have you? Well,

you know, we were lucky enough that we just, again, we decided that I would take them on each individually, on a trip at five at 10. And at 15. Because they're such different stages in their lives at that point. And having three children so close together, it is oftentimes hard to have that one on one time with each child. And it was something that we both believed was very important, because they were all three such different personalities. And so, you know, they each had their own likes and dislikes and whatnot. And in those travels, we got to play to that one child's, you know, desires. And so, you know, those trips were are just were priceless. And give me an example.

Can you give me an example of one of those Yankees saying when

we surprised Yankee en he, he was going through his baseball phase in life, which there were many sports phases that didn't last well it was baseball at the time when he was 10. And so we went to New York, and I had gotten some pretty good tickets to Yankee Stadium. And I'd gotten him in Yankees jersey. And so you know, we had gone out and done a lot of the touristy things, and he had no idea that the next day we were we were going to the Yankees game. So while he was asleep, I laid the the jersey and the tickets and of course I it's knock his catcher's mitt in my luggage. So I had his catcher's mitt. And, you know, just the elation. I mean, just the absolute elation of of him when he woke up and realize that, you know, he was kind of realizing a little dream of his. And you can't put a price on those things, you know, you just absolutely can't. And then I remember when Rex our, our middle son, we went to San Francisco for 15. And one of the things that we had the honor of doing was, I procured some sandwiches from the hotel that we were staying at, had a really nice little deli in the foyer, and I was down there, and I noticed the girl putting all these beautiful sandwiches in a garbage bag. And I was like, What are you doing with these? And she said, Well, the lunch hours over and we have these left, and we throw them away. And I was just horrified. I was like, you know, and she said, from a liability standpoint, that they could not hand those sandwiches out. And I said, Where's the dumpster? And so I went, I went to the bathroom, and Rex was off down the street at a, at a sneaker store, you know, that we, you know, didn't have where we're from. And so I I texted him and I said, Hey, you know, meet me in the lobby of the hotel. And I said, Take all your valuables your phone or whatnot, you know, up to the room and leave them and meet me in the lobby. And so of course, you know, his interest was piqued. So he comes back. And while I had gone and made that phone call, the girl had actually put all the sandwiches in a big shopping bag, and just left them at the end of the bar, and was kind of like, I'm looking. So I took that as you know, the invitation, and she'd even thrown in napkins and whatnot. And I had been down to get your deli square and gotten a whole bunch of the chocolate and threw those in the bag. And Rex comes in. He's like, Well, what are we doing? And it was Easter Sunday, by the way. And I said, Come on, just come with me. We had lived in the San Francisco area for six years. So I was very familiar with the city. I was very familiar with the homeless population and whatnot. So Rex and I went out and we just started handing out sandwiches to the homeless people. And racks it still gives me goosebumps because Rex just took to it like, you know, and that's still one of his favorite core memories. Sure, yeah. So those were the type of things that again, you know, those singular trips, just created such bonds between us. And so, you know, just all of it, I think has played into them just willingly being our friends.

Yeah. Greg, you talked to me before about, for example, hunting and the time that you spent,

it was especially with with Ian, in particular, Rex, he

was like an outdoorsman. Yeah, he

was, I mean, he was, I mean, he, from a young age, he was, you know, bow hunting, he, you know, got him a rifle when he was old enough to be able to understand safety and things like that, and we got all that that he loved, but hunting with a bow. And, yeah, and he was very, he was very good at it. Like to go fish and love the you know, being out in the boat, anything that's you know, being out and doing things but I just have such great memories of with Him alone and with other his mostly his friends, taking them all out hunting. And one of the big things was the lottery, that lottery draws for the different impoundments and, you know, he he would forget his homework for three months, but he would never forget to get his his get names in on the lottery drawers for the and was just tickled to death that he got a mat of Lake mattamuskeet Lottery draw, you know, it's like duck heaven for North Carolina. So went up there. And that was during the polar vortex of Homer, you know, like 2016 or 1514, something like that. And it was just you go it was my birthday. In fact, it was just indescribably cold or whatever. And that vortex came in and it was just just bitter cold like I've never felt before. I've not lived in Chicago and bit up some cold areas. We went out there and had a probably a one kilometer walk once was closest we could drive to where our blind was and that water was freezing over and he acted like he could be out They're in his underwear. He it bothered him zero. And because he was a light, he could walk on the ice. Well, dad with his big bottom, couldn't walk on ice. And if it had not been for him, I would probably bet would probably have been more I ended up he came, he took, took the guns took the sled from me, he ran it all the way up to the duck behind, came back. Got me, which is

what you're describing, you were describing to me, that what it was like to try to trudge through this site. Oh, if you had like, a couple 100 yards to go, right. Yeah,

I mean, it was we we didn't we got a great, a great blind, but it was not easily accessible. He he Johnny on the spot went out there. And even once he got me up there and I was exhausted, I mean, I was spent and wheat The sun was so it was like doing lunges in the winter, exactly what it was, I could not get my feet up above the ice even to break it, I was having to try and push through, he comes, grab a hold of him gets a hold of me. And you know, he's grabbing my waders and picking them up and we walked back over and he busted when he came, he put his weight into it and broke it up, we got off on a stand, I'm exhausted, I'm sitting there and all I can do is just sit, he's out there throwing decoys out breaking ice up getting his decoys, just like he wants him walking out in that water. Like it makes nary a bit of difference to him. Anyway, and that's just one example of a, you know, probably 100 or more duck concept we've been on and just had just such good times good memories, he was so happy doing that, you know, and it wasn't, you know, surprisingly, and this is certainly nothing that I taught him. But it wasn't about killing the ducks. You know, it was the he enjoyed the experience. He liked the preparation, he liked getting things together, he liked, you know, the, the being able to, you know, draw on the ducks and get this as decoys, right. And that and that just tickled me to death because I was the same way it's like, you know, I can have the most successful hunt without pulling the trigger. And it was, it was a delight to do that with him, you'd never know, you know, he would never complain about the heat the bugs, you know,

and there's something fun about seeing your kid get to the point where they're doing something and, and they're leading this activity, right with with it with you personally, you can tell that you're kind of dependent on them for the knowledge or for the information just

in the strand. And now almost for the carry along. And that is one of the you know, the times that you realize, I mean, through your life, you're the you know, to, to project that the or that you're a symbol of strength of you know, of that person. And while they're kids, that's, I think the way they kind of envision you but you get to a point where, like, in that I just felt weak in the, in the in the heart. I mean, you know, of course, it was weak physically, but it was just like, and he just stepped right up, you know, and took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and just kept driving on and, you know, he's like, sit down, you know, he had coffee for me, and he didn't even drink coffee, and, you know, barely alive and we just had stayed up there a couple days and just had a wonderful time. And I just, I can think back on all of these duck concept we went on. Sometimes he was just short, you know, hey, we got time to go do this, we'll always had time to go do it, you know, and he found he would. He was the kind of kid who would research tax records to find owners, right owners in Maryland or in New York or wherever they would be asked for permission if we could hunt he's you know, when he would detail I will not leave anything I will clean up after those shells. You'll never know I was there. And but you know 50% of the time he get the A okay. And I was just tickled to death that that that he would take such an initiative in no one doing the right thing. He could have just gone down there and hunted the property, you know, and probably got a 99% chance that nothing would happen. No God but he wouldn't do that. He knew that you have to get permission to go out and other people's property and stuff. But you know, we were talking about the leaving the legacy of what she was talking about for his friends. To me that is one of the greatest things that he's left us. I knew at percent or 90% of all of his friends, it like I said, they were regulars at the house, whether he was there or not. And I really enjoyed that, that you know, that drive by to the area stop by you know, and we'd hang out we talk to find out how they're how they're doing in their studies or their work or. And then there's others that we knew better. But the longevity of a core group, which is kind of large of people that he knew, that are people that I enjoy, I enjoy the company I love. There's some of them that I love, like my my own children. And his he, you know, I don't know, if not his knack for picking friends. But that's the group he was hanging around. It was the guys who went hunting. It's the guys who weren't getting in trouble. And then he was the one getting up at three in the morning to go hunting, to come back, unload, get all the stuff out and then go to school at 730. That morning. Yeah, so it was crazy. And those, like I said, that's, that's one of the greatest gifts he's left is the friends that he had, that we to this day, we still enjoy their company there. We take them on trips, we go see them where they are. And I think

that, to me, that's where God comes in. I honestly do believe that this legacy of his friends, as well as our other other two children's brands, is the takeaway from this, if there is one, that he left us this, these gifts, here to be constant reminders and to share stories that we would never know. Otherwise, you know, we had a whole life apart from us. And as much as you know, we were engaged with them and everything, there are still tons of stories out there that we don't know about. And they would come forward with the stories of him helping other individuals. And he never came home and patted himself on the back and let us know that he had done something good. And, you know, so that, you know, that has been such a miraculous gift. So

I remember one of those stories in particular, this is the story that you told me, that was about Ian being at a fraternity party, and can you can you tell us that Sawyer is

who he was at his fraternity Ka and they were having a party and they have someone that mans the, the fence gate to be able to get into the

parties regulating who comes in party and who yes, because

you know, they have very stringent rules about how many people can be, you know, on the property at one time and whatnot. Well, this friend of his that was already there at the party. She had gotten a text from one of her girlfriends saying that she was on her way over to the K house. And she gets a text a little bit later. And it's the girl outside and they and they said you know, they they wouldn't let me in. And this girl was not, you know, necessarily your typical beautiful COVID college student. She was a little overweight. You know, not dressed and some of those cute college girl outfits. And in was like, Oh, hell no. I've got this. And he goes down and has a little chat with the guy manning the door and gets the girl into the party. He actually

goes down finds her because of this time she's going somewhere else. Yes. No, she's at least headed down the street. Yeah, finds her brings her into the party and checks on her throughout the evening. She's

having a good time. And and then the next morning, I guess they all got together and he took her Shannon his friend to breakfast. And we see photographs now from that party. Or he's you know, she's in with this girl and her friend and you know, and he was just just to know that just to know what a good human being he was. It makes you feel like he did something right. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

Well, let me ask you this. So you're intentionally building these relationships and doing these different things. Okay. So when when when I hear that, and when, you know, you'd hear this in the past you'd always think okay, well, these people are independently wealthy. They don't work they all they have to do is build these relationships with their kids, but a lot of people you know, they have how house payments and car payments and professional obligations and things to do. But but but you know, Greg, can you tell everybody like what you did for a living and what that was like, involved

in the army spent 26 years in the military, so I wasn't I wasn't on the on the fast track to riches at all. Just put it mildly. And Jack, we had a lot of bills. I mean, I, you know, the car payments, house payments, and all of that stuff came and there wasn't no money tree in the backyard. You know, raising kids nowadays is just expensive. I mean, you know, I'm shocked. I figured it's just, you know, how much can they eat? Well, they don't need to diapers, but they go through a lot of them and then formula and, you know, everything is excellent. And you gotta get a little bigger car, you got to do this and that, but so it was not a known those and you

had a demanding job. Yeah,

I was gone a lot. And in fact, I, I resigned at one point. Because, you know, we thought about it. And you know, military kids are resilient, and they, they get along the kids were too young, to really be affected by my early moves. But once we got to Fort Bragg, then it became an issue because they were in middle school around then. I was up to I'd been at Fort Bragg for way too long. And they said, you have to go up to Charlottesville for a year for a schooling and then you're you're you're not going back to Fort Bragg. So I had to do some soul searching. I was previously enlisted. So, you know, I had maybe 1011 years in. So nine from retirement, you know, at a minimum, do I want to move the kids around, probably, you know, every year for the you know, every other year. You know, and I know that CJ didn't want to I didn't want to I don't like I didn't like moving I you know, we were comfortable, we'd get where we were for quite a while. So I resigned and didn't know really what I was going to do. I'm licensed in California, so licensed for what law as an attorney in California, so I could certainly practice in the federal courts in North Carolina, but you know, just hanging a shingle out, I'd have to retake the bar and all that which which would probably not be a big deal. But it probably could be because after 10 years, you've forgotten everything, all the book, all the book knowledge that I had, but resigned. And fortunately, unfortunately, the the big war started and literally about four months after I resigned, well, first thing that happens is the calls come in, Hey, come on back in. Okay, so I went back in under a two year contract, essentially a two year set of orders. And for the next 13 years, I stayed at Fort Bragg renewing that contract basically every two years as a soldier, because I stuck. I stayed with doing criminal defense work.

What kind of criminal defense work is, at the

end of the last portion of the last six years, it was all capital, capital defense. And for the people that don't know what cap death, the death penalty litigation, so in the military, so I don't

know that people necessarily intuitively know what this means. So just so to give them some context, in the criminal in the world of criminal defense, most criminal lawyers will start out doing speeding tickets and tickets and all that kind of stuff. And then eventually, they'll get a little more into doing, you know, assault, and then maybe DWI. And then, you know, some guys go into to represent people who are charged with dealing drugs, or I should say, and then they go into, you know, maybe sex offenses and those kinds of things, the sort of the highest order of that whole line of work is murder and murder cases. And the highest of that is capital case line, where somebody's lives on the line. So it's so I've done Capitol work before and I understand that the pressure and the work the intense nature of the work and the responsibility of doing those cases where someone's life is in your hands, it's can be all consuming

it's it's so it is so different it's it's just a completely different you know, area we in the army, they throw attorneys into the court fire pretty early. We don't you know, we don't deal they all the speeding tickets we have as Special Assistant US attorneys and things but generally, you know, you can have someone with a years experience handling, you know, potentially, you know, robberies and serious drug offenses. angle. So they toss you in pretty quick. But I had I had a number of years under my belt was specifically requested by a cut to well, in the military, I did some. And then I had civilian attorneys who would also get a military attorney they do what's a request for me, because there's just not that many people were had experience at the time. Because it's so all encompassing, there's so much involved with it that, you know, we had a lot of support from the civilian world, you know, the capital defenders, and all of those people were very helpful to us. We there's not a whole lot of death penalty litigation in the military anymore. It's it is so time consuming. That in the way the military operates, people come in and go in and things that, you know, they and the length of time that those cases take, they're kind of finding that there's, it's it's a it's a difficult, difficult road to go down now sort of

find people who have that set of skills and have that capability, right. And you were involved in some very high profile

had the United States versus bails who was pled guilty to killing the Afghani civilians are 13 of them. At the Fort Bragg, Sniper, United States versus Kreutzer, which was on his retrial. And a lot of those cases were the good outcome, a great outcome is basically to keep them off death row, that there is, it was difficult to defend certain cases, on their merits. And so therefore, sometimes get death off the table was was a main goal, even if it meant a guilty plea, or whatever. So if you could get certain cases death off the table, it's it's a win. You know, it's not a whole it's not a guilty type thing, because, you know, they've got to admit their guilt. But

then also, I imagine most of these cases the evidence of guilt is overwhelming. It's Oh, my

God, I'm experienced surveillance, especially the mill, you know, video and witness they've got, you know, there's there's computer evidence, video video, you think it's, you know, crazy in England, or here, how many video see you see, have a single event all over their events are caught on video from 20? Different? You know, I mean, it's kind of crazy, but so some of them will be very, very

difficult to defend. So the point of that, as it relates to this is that there is no, you have the same demands on your lives, or more than every other person does. When they're trying to be a parent, and do the things.

Let me just say, you know, he's a very humble man and, and kind of downplays, I think some of his work experience, he sacrificed a lot for our family. He kind of gave up his career path in that, you know, of course, I think he could have been a five star general. But that was not important to him. The moving up the ranks was not important to him, he put us and our family first always, and his ability to handle these, basically atrocities. And the pictures. And the I mean, you know, you're, you know, you've done capital murder. I mean, you're exposed to things that are horrific. And his ability to compartmentalize. And when he came home every evening, he left out at the door, and was still able to be my Prince Charming, as I've always referred to him, and the kids hero, and he never brought any of that. You know, and I know that there must have been anguish and everything in his job. And but when he walked through that door, he was dad first. And, you know, he did everything as a father. I mean, he changed diapers, he did baths, he took the kids in bed and usually did the dishes after dinner. So, you know, he just, he's a remarkable human being so, you know, it. It was very seamless, actually, for me. I never, hardly ever knew what he was going through. Because, of course, you know, confidentiality, he couldn't speak to me about a lot of what he was doing. So It's just a great man thank

you CJ Thank you Greg we'll be right back

Transcript

Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury. Hi, and welcome to catastrophic comeback. Today I'm very happy to have CJ and Greg with me. CJ and Greg are former clients. And, and people we got to know very well. Well, welcome and thank you for being here.

Thank you, Clark, you,

thank you, we feel very honored to be here and that you felt we had something that might help others? Well, I definitely

think you have something that might help others. And it relates to an incident that happened with you and your family. And first of all, tell me a little bit about your, your, your family before the incident that happened? You know, how many kids do you have? Where do you live? What's what's going on?

Three children we live in, lived in North Carolina for right around 25 years up in Fayetteville and you know, I would kind of say we're kind of just the average, you know, normal family raising three children and their stairsteps. So, you know, their age differences, only 21 months apart. So it was actually so fun having them so close together. They were just so bonded to one another, but also hated one another from time to time, you know,

I have three kids, you know, and so we've we've talked about some of this stuff, many times before. And anyway, so I know exactly what you mean, you know, in fact, you know, we were just on vacation together with my kids. And I and I, and I thought about some of the things that you told me in the past and, and I hope we know they have the relationship, that and we all have the relationship that you guys enjoy with your family. Let me ask you this. Now. Now, there's a terrible incident that happened. And so I'd like to talk to you about that incident. And what happened before and what's happened since we do have to keep in mind that we have a comprehensive confidentiality agreement, we want to honor and we want to respect and we want to make sure that we abide by the terms of. So we'll omit some of the details. But I think that a lot of people will benefit from hearing what you guys went through and where you are now,

would you like to start or everything was normal during the week, Ian was working and was planning on going out for the weekend. And he left on a Thursday, and just typical, like gone 1000 times before that he'd gone out, I remember specifically going out to the to the, to his truck with him walked out with and just like always, you know, he gave him the, almost of the rote speech of you know, be careful, you know, let me know where you're where you're at, and things like that, because we always, like I said, it became rote, in the sense that we said it. Of course, I loved him. And I tell him, I love him. And, you know, just keep me updated. And he always did that. It wasn't like I had to beat it into him or make him remember he was very good about letting us know where he was and things check

in that sort of thing. Oh, man, I imagined all your kids were right. That's the kind of Absolutely that's

kind of relationship between where you just to our you know, I think my greatest if there's a pleasure to be had in this as my, my greatest pleasure was I spent Thursday with him and our last words to each other. And I got that last hug. And that last I love you. And, you know, he went off to be in, you know, and I think that has been such a comfort, because we had shared some really in depth conversations on that afternoon about his future and, you know, his future plans for when he graduated from ECU and, you know, and he had a plan. I mean, he had a very specific goals that he wanted to achieve. And we had some property that he was interested in developing as he was a construction management major. And his dream had also always been to get his pilot's license. So you know, we talked about such important things and I have always felt that that was God's gift to me. Was that one last day with a man? Well,

so let me ask you this, these connections that people have with one another. It doesn't sound like that. are developed in just that one day. It's it's in I know, from talking to you guys in the past, that you are very intentional and very committed to developing these relationships with your kids collectively and also individually. Can you tell us about that? What that was like for you to build those relationships? And what those relationships? You know, how you develop those relationships? Well,

I, one of the things like you said, it didn't happen on that one day, you know, obviously, through a lifetime of, of being parents to the kids, who, especially in reflection, that they made it, it was almost like, they made it easy. Yeah, we, you know, he said that, when our daughter was born, if it hadn't been a girl, we may not have had any more kids, but she was such, she was so easy. And you know, and I'm like, Well, maybe everyone's got this whole parenting thing wrong. They're just all this, well, the boys came, and they're different. They were they're definitely different than the girls. But, you know, in an early age, you know, there was no formal lesson teaching other than just being acutely aware of kind of what you do, because they're, they're copying, they're, they're, they're picking up things that you never think you'd be picking up on. And I think that, through that, that's how they develop their relationships amongst each other, and with their friend groups, and things like that, that, you know, they, they, like I said, they I think they mimic a lot of what they see at home. And it wasn't a chore. I mean, I didn't have to make conscious decisions of, you know, kiss the wife, when you get home from work, and do this or do that. It just, that's the way we were together, we'd been together for quite some time, seven years, seven, eight years, before we got married, or that children, so we were, you know, well along, we weren't newlyweds or anything like that. So we'd been together quite a while. And I think that that just their observations of us was one of the things and are involved involvement in their lives.

I wouldn't tell him, I always said that your child's inner voice becomes, what your parents and how your parents treated you. So their self worth was very, you know, tied up in how they were raised. And I was very determined that my children would grow up in a very positive environment. You know, Greg, and I made pacts before we even had children, and always said that consistently, having, you know, presenting a united front, rather, we really agreed with one another or not that in front of them, we were united front. And if anything, were going to be different than that we would take those conversations in private. And so therefore, our children never saw a lot of arguing between us. And, you know, I'm certainly not trying to paint the picture perfect scene here, but I just think we were very kind of no nonsense, you know, we had some very hard straightforward rules. And, you know, that was be kind human beings, be thoughtful, human beings, always tell the truth, that we, you will never be punished for telling the truth. But if you catch you an ally, but you know, when they knew there were consequences for poor behavior and actions. So, you know, and we really never had to do any major punishing, you know, of them, because they were aware, and thankfully, I think they believed us that there were consequences. But, you know, of course, there were a few minor incidents that, you know, they weren't grounded or had their keys taken away from them or whatnot. But I think for us, you know, we've respected our kids so much as well, because they were the children that always took in the people. It seemed like that didn't have that at home. And we had a complete open door policy in our house. We wanted to be the house where all the kids hung out, because you know, we just felt we then knew what our children were like then when they were away from home. Because we saw what they were like around their friends when they are around us. And so the relationships even still today, and I think that have gotten us through, you know, a lot of what we've been through is, you know, family structure, faith, and those people that are still like our own children, that still, you know, come and visit voluntarily and drop by for a drink or drop by for a meal, you know, and we still have an open door policy with all their friends. And, you know, just to maintain those relationships, you know, these kids, these are not kids now, you know, these young adults are voluntarily having a relationship with us. And I told my kids, a few weeks ago, when we were all together, as I said, this is what every parent waits for in life, you know, your kids kind of become that, that you come to that place where you can be friends, and we never have to ask our kids to come visit their, our house so much, and they don't live locally, you know, one lives in Winston Salem, and one lives in Charlotte. So, you know, it's not like they're, we're right down the street from them. And, and I just told them, and I've always been very emotionally open with my children, as well as you know, open and many other ways. But I just looked at him and I said, this is the good stuff. You know, this is, this is what every parent dreams of is this relationship that we have together. And we often tell them how proud we are of them? Because we are, you know, I mean, the bottom line is, we raised three amazing humans, and everything as you would you know, a test. That's the best of life. Sure,

yeah. And what strikes me is, it wasn't accidental. In fact, when, when we work together, I remember coming to your house, and I remember just the entire the house itself, where it's located. The size of the prop, like, you know, you guys live near downtown, but somehow you have like, all this space. And it's all set up for exactly what you're describing, to be the Kool Aid house to be the house where all the kids hang out to be where people feel comfortable, you know, and I remember walking in and sitting down with you at your kitchen table, and there's a little fridge over in the corner that is there, specifically in anticipation of people come in and sit into that table so they can have, you know, a drink and facilitate communication and conversation and connection. And so, it strikes me that that's not no, that's accidental. In fact, I remember that you talking about you guys both talking about things that you did intentionally to build relationships with each of your children, you know, trips with you, time fishing team, could you talk to us about that a little bit? And what was involved in, in building relationships? And you can, with all of them, were they in or have you? Well,

you know, we were lucky enough that we just, again, we decided that I would take them on each individually, on a trip at five at 10. And at 15. Because they're such different stages in their lives at that point. And having three children so close together, it is oftentimes hard to have that one on one time with each child. And it was something that we both believed was very important, because they were all three such different personalities. And so, you know, they each had their own likes and dislikes and whatnot. And in those travels, we got to play to that one child's, you know, desires. And so, you know, those trips were are just were priceless. And give me an example.

Can you give me an example of one of those Yankees saying when

we surprised Yankee en he, he was going through his baseball phase in life, which there were many sports phases that didn't last well it was baseball at the time when he was 10. And so we went to New York, and I had gotten some pretty good tickets to Yankee Stadium. And I'd gotten him in Yankees jersey. And so you know, we had gone out and done a lot of the touristy things, and he had no idea that the next day we were we were going to the Yankees game. So while he was asleep, I laid the the jersey and the tickets and of course I it's knock his catcher's mitt in my luggage. So I had his catcher's mitt. And, you know, just the elation. I mean, just the absolute elation of of him when he woke up and realize that, you know, he was kind of realizing a little dream of his. And you can't put a price on those things, you know, you just absolutely can't. And then I remember when Rex our, our middle son, we went to San Francisco for 15. And one of the things that we had the honor of doing was, I procured some sandwiches from the hotel that we were staying at, had a really nice little deli in the foyer, and I was down there, and I noticed the girl putting all these beautiful sandwiches in a garbage bag. And I was like, What are you doing with these? And she said, Well, the lunch hours over and we have these left, and we throw them away. And I was just horrified. I was like, you know, and she said, from a liability standpoint, that they could not hand those sandwiches out. And I said, Where's the dumpster? And so I went, I went to the bathroom, and Rex was off down the street at a, at a sneaker store, you know, that we, you know, didn't have where we're from. And so I I texted him and I said, Hey, you know, meet me in the lobby of the hotel. And I said, Take all your valuables your phone or whatnot, you know, up to the room and leave them and meet me in the lobby. And so of course, you know, his interest was piqued. So he comes back. And while I had gone and made that phone call, the girl had actually put all the sandwiches in a big shopping bag, and just left them at the end of the bar, and was kind of like, I'm looking. So I took that as you know, the invitation, and she'd even thrown in napkins and whatnot. And I had been down to get your deli square and gotten a whole bunch of the chocolate and threw those in the bag. And Rex comes in. He's like, Well, what are we doing? And it was Easter Sunday, by the way. And I said, Come on, just come with me. We had lived in the San Francisco area for six years. So I was very familiar with the city. I was very familiar with the homeless population and whatnot. So Rex and I went out and we just started handing out sandwiches to the homeless people. And racks it still gives me goosebumps because Rex just took to it like, you know, and that's still one of his favorite core memories. Sure, yeah. So those were the type of things that again, you know, those singular trips, just created such bonds between us. And so, you know, just all of it, I think has played into them just willingly being our friends.

Yeah. Greg, you talked to me before about, for example, hunting and the time that you spent,

it was especially with with Ian, in particular, Rex, he

was like an outdoorsman. Yeah, he

was, I mean, he was, I mean, he, from a young age, he was, you know, bow hunting, he, you know, got him a rifle when he was old enough to be able to understand safety and things like that, and we got all that that he loved, but hunting with a bow. And, yeah, and he was very, he was very good at it. Like to go fish and love the you know, being out in the boat, anything that's you know, being out and doing things but I just have such great memories of with Him alone and with other his mostly his friends, taking them all out hunting. And one of the big things was the lottery, that lottery draws for the different impoundments and, you know, he he would forget his homework for three months, but he would never forget to get his his get names in on the lottery drawers for the and was just tickled to death that he got a mat of Lake mattamuskeet Lottery draw, you know, it's like duck heaven for North Carolina. So went up there. And that was during the polar vortex of Homer, you know, like 2016 or 1514, something like that. And it was just you go it was my birthday. In fact, it was just indescribably cold or whatever. And that vortex came in and it was just just bitter cold like I've never felt before. I've not lived in Chicago and bit up some cold areas. We went out there and had a probably a one kilometer walk once was closest we could drive to where our blind was and that water was freezing over and he acted like he could be out They're in his underwear. He it bothered him zero. And because he was a light, he could walk on the ice. Well, dad with his big bottom, couldn't walk on ice. And if it had not been for him, I would probably bet would probably have been more I ended up he came, he took, took the guns took the sled from me, he ran it all the way up to the duck behind, came back. Got me, which is

what you're describing, you were describing to me, that what it was like to try to trudge through this site. Oh, if you had like, a couple 100 yards to go, right. Yeah,

I mean, it was we we didn't we got a great, a great blind, but it was not easily accessible. He he Johnny on the spot went out there. And even once he got me up there and I was exhausted, I mean, I was spent and wheat The sun was so it was like doing lunges in the winter, exactly what it was, I could not get my feet up above the ice even to break it, I was having to try and push through, he comes, grab a hold of him gets a hold of me. And you know, he's grabbing my waders and picking them up and we walked back over and he busted when he came, he put his weight into it and broke it up, we got off on a stand, I'm exhausted, I'm sitting there and all I can do is just sit, he's out there throwing decoys out breaking ice up getting his decoys, just like he wants him walking out in that water. Like it makes nary a bit of difference to him. Anyway, and that's just one example of a, you know, probably 100 or more duck concept we've been on and just had just such good times good memories, he was so happy doing that, you know, and it wasn't, you know, surprisingly, and this is certainly nothing that I taught him. But it wasn't about killing the ducks. You know, it was the he enjoyed the experience. He liked the preparation, he liked getting things together, he liked, you know, the, the being able to, you know, draw on the ducks and get this as decoys, right. And that and that just tickled me to death because I was the same way it's like, you know, I can have the most successful hunt without pulling the trigger. And it was, it was a delight to do that with him, you'd never know, you know, he would never complain about the heat the bugs, you know,

and there's something fun about seeing your kid get to the point where they're doing something and, and they're leading this activity, right with with it with you personally, you can tell that you're kind of dependent on them for the knowledge or for the information just

in the strand. And now almost for the carry along. And that is one of the you know, the times that you realize, I mean, through your life, you're the you know, to, to project that the or that you're a symbol of strength of you know, of that person. And while they're kids, that's, I think the way they kind of envision you but you get to a point where, like, in that I just felt weak in the, in the in the heart. I mean, you know, of course, it was weak physically, but it was just like, and he just stepped right up, you know, and took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and just kept driving on and, you know, he's like, sit down, you know, he had coffee for me, and he didn't even drink coffee, and, you know, barely alive and we just had stayed up there a couple days and just had a wonderful time. And I just, I can think back on all of these duck concept we went on. Sometimes he was just short, you know, hey, we got time to go do this, we'll always had time to go do it, you know, and he found he would. He was the kind of kid who would research tax records to find owners, right owners in Maryland or in New York or wherever they would be asked for permission if we could hunt he's you know, when he would detail I will not leave anything I will clean up after those shells. You'll never know I was there. And but you know 50% of the time he get the A okay. And I was just tickled to death that that that he would take such an initiative in no one doing the right thing. He could have just gone down there and hunted the property, you know, and probably got a 99% chance that nothing would happen. No God but he wouldn't do that. He knew that you have to get permission to go out and other people's property and stuff. But you know, we were talking about the leaving the legacy of what she was talking about for his friends. To me that is one of the greatest things that he's left us. I knew at percent or 90% of all of his friends, it like I said, they were regulars at the house, whether he was there or not. And I really enjoyed that, that you know, that drive by to the area stop by you know, and we'd hang out we talk to find out how they're how they're doing in their studies or their work or. And then there's others that we knew better. But the longevity of a core group, which is kind of large of people that he knew, that are people that I enjoy, I enjoy the company I love. There's some of them that I love, like my my own children. And his he, you know, I don't know, if not his knack for picking friends. But that's the group he was hanging around. It was the guys who went hunting. It's the guys who weren't getting in trouble. And then he was the one getting up at three in the morning to go hunting, to come back, unload, get all the stuff out and then go to school at 730. That morning. Yeah, so it was crazy. And those, like I said, that's, that's one of the greatest gifts he's left is the friends that he had, that we to this day, we still enjoy their company there. We take them on trips, we go see them where they are. And I think

that, to me, that's where God comes in. I honestly do believe that this legacy of his friends, as well as our other other two children's brands, is the takeaway from this, if there is one, that he left us this, these gifts, here to be constant reminders and to share stories that we would never know. Otherwise, you know, we had a whole life apart from us. And as much as you know, we were engaged with them and everything, there are still tons of stories out there that we don't know about. And they would come forward with the stories of him helping other individuals. And he never came home and patted himself on the back and let us know that he had done something good. And, you know, so that, you know, that has been such a miraculous gift. So

I remember one of those stories in particular, this is the story that you told me, that was about Ian being at a fraternity party, and can you can you tell us that Sawyer is

who he was at his fraternity Ka and they were having a party and they have someone that mans the, the fence gate to be able to get into the

parties regulating who comes in party and who yes, because

you know, they have very stringent rules about how many people can be, you know, on the property at one time and whatnot. Well, this friend of his that was already there at the party. She had gotten a text from one of her girlfriends saying that she was on her way over to the K house. And she gets a text a little bit later. And it's the girl outside and they and they said you know, they they wouldn't let me in. And this girl was not, you know, necessarily your typical beautiful COVID college student. She was a little overweight. You know, not dressed and some of those cute college girl outfits. And in was like, Oh, hell no. I've got this. And he goes down and has a little chat with the guy manning the door and gets the girl into the party. He actually

goes down finds her because of this time she's going somewhere else. Yes. No, she's at least headed down the street. Yeah, finds her brings her into the party and checks on her throughout the evening. She's

having a good time. And and then the next morning, I guess they all got together and he took her Shannon his friend to breakfast. And we see photographs now from that party. Or he's you know, she's in with this girl and her friend and you know, and he was just just to know that just to know what a good human being he was. It makes you feel like he did something right. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

Well, let me ask you this. So you're intentionally building these relationships and doing these different things. Okay. So when when when I hear that, and when, you know, you'd hear this in the past you'd always think okay, well, these people are independently wealthy. They don't work they all they have to do is build these relationships with their kids, but a lot of people you know, they have how house payments and car payments and professional obligations and things to do. But but but you know, Greg, can you tell everybody like what you did for a living and what that was like, involved

in the army spent 26 years in the military, so I wasn't I wasn't on the on the fast track to riches at all. Just put it mildly. And Jack, we had a lot of bills. I mean, I, you know, the car payments, house payments, and all of that stuff came and there wasn't no money tree in the backyard. You know, raising kids nowadays is just expensive. I mean, you know, I'm shocked. I figured it's just, you know, how much can they eat? Well, they don't need to diapers, but they go through a lot of them and then formula and, you know, everything is excellent. And you gotta get a little bigger car, you got to do this and that, but so it was not a known those and you

had a demanding job. Yeah,

I was gone a lot. And in fact, I, I resigned at one point. Because, you know, we thought about it. And you know, military kids are resilient, and they, they get along the kids were too young, to really be affected by my early moves. But once we got to Fort Bragg, then it became an issue because they were in middle school around then. I was up to I'd been at Fort Bragg for way too long. And they said, you have to go up to Charlottesville for a year for a schooling and then you're you're you're not going back to Fort Bragg. So I had to do some soul searching. I was previously enlisted. So, you know, I had maybe 1011 years in. So nine from retirement, you know, at a minimum, do I want to move the kids around, probably, you know, every year for the you know, every other year. You know, and I know that CJ didn't want to I didn't want to I don't like I didn't like moving I you know, we were comfortable, we'd get where we were for quite a while. So I resigned and didn't know really what I was going to do. I'm licensed in California, so licensed for what law as an attorney in California, so I could certainly practice in the federal courts in North Carolina, but you know, just hanging a shingle out, I'd have to retake the bar and all that which which would probably not be a big deal. But it probably could be because after 10 years, you've forgotten everything, all the book, all the book knowledge that I had, but resigned. And fortunately, unfortunately, the the big war started and literally about four months after I resigned, well, first thing that happens is the calls come in, Hey, come on back in. Okay, so I went back in under a two year contract, essentially a two year set of orders. And for the next 13 years, I stayed at Fort Bragg renewing that contract basically every two years as a soldier, because I stuck. I stayed with doing criminal defense work.

What kind of criminal defense work is, at the

end of the last portion of the last six years, it was all capital, capital defense. And for the people that don't know what cap death, the death penalty litigation, so in the military, so I don't

know that people necessarily intuitively know what this means. So just so to give them some context, in the criminal in the world of criminal defense, most criminal lawyers will start out doing speeding tickets and tickets and all that kind of stuff. And then eventually, they'll get a little more into doing, you know, assault, and then maybe DWI. And then, you know, some guys go into to represent people who are charged with dealing drugs, or I should say, and then they go into, you know, maybe sex offenses and those kinds of things, the sort of the highest order of that whole line of work is murder and murder cases. And the highest of that is capital case line, where somebody's lives on the line. So it's so I've done Capitol work before and I understand that the pressure and the work the intense nature of the work and the responsibility of doing those cases where someone's life is in your hands, it's can be all consuming

it's it's so it is so different it's it's just a completely different you know, area we in the army, they throw attorneys into the court fire pretty early. We don't you know, we don't deal they all the speeding tickets we have as Special Assistant US attorneys and things but generally, you know, you can have someone with a years experience handling, you know, potentially, you know, robberies and serious drug offenses. angle. So they toss you in pretty quick. But I had I had a number of years under my belt was specifically requested by a cut to well, in the military, I did some. And then I had civilian attorneys who would also get a military attorney they do what's a request for me, because there's just not that many people were had experience at the time. Because it's so all encompassing, there's so much involved with it that, you know, we had a lot of support from the civilian world, you know, the capital defenders, and all of those people were very helpful to us. We there's not a whole lot of death penalty litigation in the military anymore. It's it is so time consuming. That in the way the military operates, people come in and go in and things that, you know, they and the length of time that those cases take, they're kind of finding that there's, it's it's a it's a difficult, difficult road to go down now sort of

find people who have that set of skills and have that capability, right. And you were involved in some very high profile

had the United States versus bails who was pled guilty to killing the Afghani civilians are 13 of them. At the Fort Bragg, Sniper, United States versus Kreutzer, which was on his retrial. And a lot of those cases were the good outcome, a great outcome is basically to keep them off death row, that there is, it was difficult to defend certain cases, on their merits. And so therefore, sometimes get death off the table was was a main goal, even if it meant a guilty plea, or whatever. So if you could get certain cases death off the table, it's it's a win. You know, it's not a whole it's not a guilty type thing, because, you know, they've got to admit their guilt. But

then also, I imagine most of these cases the evidence of guilt is overwhelming. It's Oh, my

God, I'm experienced surveillance, especially the mill, you know, video and witness they've got, you know, there's there's computer evidence, video video, you think it's, you know, crazy in England, or here, how many video see you see, have a single event all over their events are caught on video from 20? Different? You know, I mean, it's kind of crazy, but so some of them will be very, very

difficult to defend. So the point of that, as it relates to this is that there is no, you have the same demands on your lives, or more than every other person does. When they're trying to be a parent, and do the things.

Let me just say, you know, he's a very humble man and, and kind of downplays, I think some of his work experience, he sacrificed a lot for our family. He kind of gave up his career path in that, you know, of course, I think he could have been a five star general. But that was not important to him. The moving up the ranks was not important to him, he put us and our family first always, and his ability to handle these, basically atrocities. And the pictures. And the I mean, you know, you're, you know, you've done capital murder. I mean, you're exposed to things that are horrific. And his ability to compartmentalize. And when he came home every evening, he left out at the door, and was still able to be my Prince Charming, as I've always referred to him, and the kids hero, and he never brought any of that. You know, and I know that there must have been anguish and everything in his job. And but when he walked through that door, he was dad first. And, you know, he did everything as a father. I mean, he changed diapers, he did baths, he took the kids in bed and usually did the dishes after dinner. So, you know, he just, he's a remarkable human being so, you know, it. It was very seamless, actually, for me. I never, hardly ever knew what he was going through. Because, of course, you know, confidentiality, he couldn't speak to me about a lot of what he was doing. So It's just a great man thank

you CJ Thank you Greg we'll be right back

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