Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Disturbing Case

In 1974 my family moved from my grandmother's house to a new three family only six blocks away. I know it was ridiculous, but I missed my grandmother terribly and didn't want to move. My father had bought a very run-down three family in Somerville, Ma. It was the most he could afford at the time. The house was a mess and I disliked living there. My Dad had to refurbish the other two apartments before he could refurbish ours. Never mind the outside of the house. I was embarrassed to have my friends see where I lived. We lived with plaster walls and dirty floors for a long time. 

When we moved in, an old couple named Gallison lived on the first floor, and they moved out not too long afterwards. I don't remember ever seeing them. All I can remember about them is that they painted the stained glass windows black, the windows on the china cabinet, and kept the shades drawn always. It was weird, and even creepier was the basement of the house. I remember in one corner of the cellar there was a bed, beers cans and trash everywhere. Their son had lived in the basement of the house on and off. 

I also remember finding a set of rosary beads in the basement. Raised as a Protestant in a sea of Catholics, I was intrigued with Catholic icons, but these beads gave me a sense of evil and bad karma. Some awful vibes lingered in that cellar. 

A few years later we found out that the son that lived on and off in the basement of our house-- Edward R. Gallison-- was indicted for murder. I remember sketchy details of the case. Something about dismembering his two children and putting them in the trash. We were horrified, but without the internet and mass media at the time we didn't know much about the facts. I can't remember how we found out, but more than likely my detailed oriented mom found an article in the local paper. 

I put the story out of my mind, but I remember having a nightmare about the family on first floor dismembering their children, putting them in a trash bag, and burying them on the side of our house. I can't recall if this dream was before or after the revelation about our former residents. I recall it as a haunting premonition.

Anyway, the other day I decided to look up the case. After some searching, I found the actual write up of the court trail in 1981. The details I remember are basically factual. The true story is that Edward and his wife Denise were convicted of manslaughter and child abuse and neglect of their two year old daughter Jennifer. They also were convicted of abuse of their son. They received 18 to 20 years.

It is unclear how exactly Jennifer died, whether she was deliberately beaten or died of illness and neglect or all three. It is also unclear which parent abused the child, or both. In any case this horrid incident happened during the blizzard of 1978, and the parents kept Jennifer's body in an unheated room in the apartment for six weeks. Edward then disposed of Jennifer in the trash, though Denise says he dismembered Jennifer first and laughed about it. He denies this though there was a knife and ax found with blood on it. Analysis at the time could not determine if it was human blood, or whose blood. Jennifer's body was never found.

The case was instrumental in Massachusetts as a rallying cry to improve state funding for agencies working on the behalf on abused children. A hotline was subsequently set up in Massachusetts because of Jennifer's case. I guess it's somewhat comforting to realize that something good came from the case. In fact Governor Michael Dukakis was criticized for not setting up the hotline fast enough, or putting enough money into it. It's ironic how the rallying cry now is for reduction of government and state funding. 
I don't know what happened to Denise and Edward Gallison, and how long they served their sentences. Let's hope it was long enough.

A picture of Jennifer Gallison, being held up by her former foster parent

No comments: