By: Rebbecca Detwiler
The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
To think I must sum up my brother’s life on a piece of paper of what he meant to me and how much this has impacted my life is beyond me. No words can sum up 33 years of memories and one year of heartbreak. Robert Detwiler was not only my brother but a best friend. This illegal weapons charge is not just that; It IS a homicide where my brother was left lifeless after great attempts from many to keep him alive long enough to get him to the hospital where they were better equipped to handle the horrific trauma he endured from four bullets striking him. But he never made it to the hospital.
When Robert came into this world, I knew my life would be forever changed. I loved having a brother more than anything. My Mom, our sister Barbara and I never missed any of his baseball or soccer games. Robert was a phenomenal soccer player, and it was always a great joy to watch him bring his team to many victories as he could stand at the half-line and kick a soccer ball perfectly into the goal. Robert and I loved soccer so much that we became certified referees together and refed many soccer games together. Robert loved hiking, making fires, and playing video and card games.
Anytime he could spend quality time making memories with family and friends, he was all about it! He was a great uncle to all my children, and we all loved him dearly. We always had a plan that when we got old, we were going to make sure that we died together in the same nursing home and would cause havoc and have many wheelchair races. Robert has always been there for me – every special memory, every breakup, every misstep, every success he was there.
I do not have the words to express how heartbroken I am about this loss. I do know that I had been incredibly lucky to have shared such amazing memories, and above all, I have been blessed with raising his two youngest daughters, Elisabeth and Mari-Ann. Robert loved his three girls more than anything in this world. The greatest and happiest day of Robert’s life was when his oldest daughter Anastasia was born. I never thought I would have to know what life would look like without him here; it is the absolute worst.
The level of pain I am feeling is unbearable and indescribable. My anger and sadness feed on each other. I am angry at the defendant and angry at the turn of the case and that no matter what the outcome is today, justice will not be served. I have anger towards the defense attorney who thinks it is somehow okay to huff and puff and makes myself and my family feel that we are an inconvenience and do not deserve to be heard.
As much as I’m hurting, what is truly devasting is trying to explain why their dad is not coming back to two little girls. They are so young and do not understand that death is final. They see him in their dreams and wake up wanting to know when he is coming home. Not one day passed that Robert did not talk to his children. Looking at the girls brings me both joy and heartache as they are a constant reminder of their father; they look and act just like him. Which, to me, is both a blessing and a curse.
Our family has been shattered, and instead of having family events at the park or in our homes, we now find ourselves creating new traditions and spending special occasions at his gravesite. This literally has destroyed me as a person. I have never feared anything in this life until now. Now I am terrified. I jump at the slightest sound; I am afraid of crowded and unfamiliar places, and every time my phone rings, I panic, assuming the worst.
August 15, 2020, is when I received the worst phone call of my life. All I heard was Sydney (my middle daughter) screaming on the other end that Robert had been shot, and she had tried to save his life by giving him CPR until the EMTs arrived. All I could do was sit with the
phone on speaker and listen to everyone surrounding him, yelling for him to fight because his children need him. I was too far away to get to him.
All I could do was drive to the hospital and stay on the phone. Maddie (my oldest daughter) was able to get to Sydney’s apartment complex only in enough time to follow the ambulance, and as they arrived at the hospital and pulled the stretcher out of the back, all she could do was scream, “Mom, they aren’t saving his life anymore,” and the EMT’s advised her that she couldn’t touch him because his body was part of a crime scene. They made us sit and wait three hours before they would tell us anything more. All I wanted to do was hold him in my arms and tell him I love him.
The one act perpetrated by the defendant not only obliterated my world but destroyed who I am as a person. How do I go about life as normal, raising children and going to work when it takes everything I have just to get out of bed after crying myself to sleep? I’ve lost myself, friends, and even a job over this life-altering event. I feel like the criminal justice system has failed everyone in this case. I will never comprehend how my brother’s life could be taken.
Yet, I am sitting here literally begging the court to see that the defendant deserves more than just probation for an illegal weapons possession. It’s incomprehensible and shameful. I have been repeatedly informed that in pleas such as this, when probation is on the table that the judge always goes with probation. I would like to think that in this case that there is more consideration that is given so that the defendant is held accountable for his actions so that my family and I aren’t’ standing here reopening these wounds and baring our souls to no avail.
This is not the first time this defendant has been caught with an illegal weapon, and clearly, he has no regard for the law. I fear that if the consequences are not harsh enough, this will not be the last time he will be sitting in this position, and someone else may die because of the result.