Book Excerpt: 'Prison of My Own'

September 1997 -- Cleveland, Ohio

The double doors to Courtroom A on the fifth floor of the Cuyahoga County Courthouse opened. Mr. Ghazoul, my ex-husband's attorney, nodded toward me. I stood, smoothing the lines of my navy blue dress rumpled from hours of sitting, waiting, and wondering when I would ever awaken from this nightmare.

Ghazoul had met me that morning after I arrived in Cleveland from Florida. He took me to a hurried lunch in a cafe across from the courthouse to review what I was to say on the stand. With only minutes to spare before John's trial was to resume, he gobbled a ham and Swiss on rye and explained my husband's chances. The odds were severely stacked against him. And I was the strength of his entire defense -- me, the unsuspecting wife on the other end of Carol Roman's ill-fated phone call. He wanted emotion. It was a non-jury trial, so I only had to win over Judge Griffin, who was known for his compassion. I had to bare my pain, speak from the heart if my children's father was to be spared from a life behind bars. But I entered the hushed courtroom completely devoid of emotion. I took my place in the witness box where I was sworn in with my left hand on the Bible.

WHAT TO KNOW
  • Diane Nichols' life changed forever in August of 1996 when her husband John shot and killed Carol Ramon, his 19-year-old mistress.

    Diane shares her experiences after the murder in her book "Prison of My Own: A True Story of Redemption and Forgiveness."

  • Here is an excerpt from the book's first chapter "A Stranger on Trial."

"Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

Truth. … Did I even know the meaning of the word anymore? There had been none in my marriage since John's affair with this girl started two years ago. The man that I loved and shared a bed with every night turned our life into a complete lie. My gaze shifted to John as he sat next to his other court-appointed attorney, Mr. Markstrom. John had lost so much weight that he looked skeletal. I realized he was wearing the gray suit I'd bought him for Christmas, but it was baggy and hung on him as if he were a young boy in his daddy's clothes. The thirteen months in county jail waiting for trial had changed him. The man I married was handsome and athletic with stunning blue eyes, but in his place sat someone I barely recognized, a gaunt and broken soul who had orchestrated his own destruction. He slumped over, clutching a wadded tissue as he wept.

"Ma'am?" The bailiff waited for an answer.

"I do." All eyes were on me as I settled into the witness box. I could hear the judge writing on a legal pad. I wondered if anyone else had caught the irony of my last two words, the same words that began my marriage fourteen years ago to the man seated in front of me now began the testimony that could save him from life in prison.

Mr. Ghazoul approached me with a soft smile, trying to put me at ease. "Hello, Diane. Please tell the court your relationship to the defendant."

"I'm John's ex-wife." The words echoed through the microphone in front of me.

"How long were you married to the defendant?"

"Thirteen years."

"And do you have children from this marriage?"

"Yes, two daughters, ages four and eleven."

"What are their names?"

Girls, what I'm going to tell you is very hard to understand. Something terrible has happened, and Daddy won't be coming home. He's okay, though. You don't have to worry about him. But he got in a fight with someone and hurt that person very badly. He has to stay in jail for a very long time, and now it's going to be just the three of us.

I blinked back the memory of our children's bewildered tears. That August day was more than a year ago, yet the sounds, smells, and pictures still played in my head as if it were just yesterday.

"Vanessa is our eleven-year-old, and Mariah just turned four."

"Where did you reside with your husband and the two children?"

Our home was so perfect for us. The neighborhood was full of other young families and many playmates for the girls. We could look out our window and see a deer grazing or squirrels at play in the woods in back. The house was spacious with a fireplace where John and I used to cuddle and savor our quiet time together. We had the life we'd always dreamed of. He always asked me how he got to be so lucky.

I cleared my throat, shifting in my seat. "Twinsburg, Ohio."

"And how long did you live there before this event took place?"

"A little over two years."

"Do you still live in Twinsburg, Mrs. Nichols?"

"No. After John's arrest, we moved to Florida to be with my family. We lived with my parents for a couple of months, and then they bought us a small house in their neighborhood. They've been a really big help to us."

He waited a beat. "Would you have described your marriage as a happy one, Mrs. Nichols? Can you give the court an idea of the sort of husband John was?"

The room fell silent. I didn't want to answer that question. How could I describe the perfect love we shared, when that same man was on trial for the murder of his mistress?

"He was all I ever wanted in a husband. He was my best friend. My soul mate. My lover. Our marriage grew better with every year instead of going stale like so many do. We had something very rare and special. We were as close as two people could be." I realized how pitiful I must have sounded and dropped my gaze to my lap.

"And was he a good father to your two daughters?"

I nodded. "He was their world. There was nothing he wouldn't do for them. He was the first to diaper both of our babies, he walked the floor with me during the early morning feedings, he played with them, took care of them whenever they got sick, went to school functions, and always made time to simply hug them and say he loved them. He was the best father I could have ever imagined."

Ghazoul paused to examine his notes. A clock ticked loudly from the far wall. I didn't know where to look so I focused on the marble floor, wishing my testimony was over. He slowly walked back and impaled me with a dark somber gaze. It was time to leave happy days behind.

"When did you first hear the name Carol Roman?"

I could still see the headline of The Plain Dealer on the morning after the shooting:

Wal-Mart Manager Murders His Secret Lover.

A suffocating sensation made it hard to find my voice as I forced out my answer. "The newspaper story that came out the next day. That was the first time I ever knew her full name."

"Tell the court how the woman you came to know as Carol Roman devastated your life."

The prosecutor jumped to his feet as if he had suddenly been jabbed by a pin. "Objection, Your Honor! Leading the witness."

Ghazoul drew a breath of annoyance. "I'll rephrase it. Did you ever have any encounters with this young lady named Carol Roman?"

"Young" was an understatement. Her obituary said she was only nineteen. John was old enough to be the girl's father. How could he have had sex with her? I swallowed the acid taste in my mouth.

"Yes. She used to make prank phone calls to my home. She tormented me that way for many months."

"Describe these calls for us, if you can."

Who is this? Why do you keep calling me? Why don't you say anything? I know you're there … I can hear you breathing. What is it that you want with me

My hands, hidden from sight, twisted nervously in my lap as I traveled back in time.

John had been hired as assistant manager of the Brooklyn Wal-Mart, where he had the promise of a bright career. It meant long hours and having him away from us most evenings and weekends, but in exchange for his hard work and dedication, he could climb the ladder and make district management level. It was the brass ring that he had always had his eye on.

Three months later, the calls began to come. Nothing was said, but I could sense someone on the other end -- toying, breathing, listening. I'd hang up each time thinking the prankster would get bored and stop. Instead, the frequency of the calls increased, sometimes two or three times a day. I told John about them, but unfortunately, no calls ever came when he was at home. I would beg the caller to tell me what he or she wanted. We finally contacted the phone company and got a caller ID box.

"Hello?" The next call came the following afternoon. After listening to the same empty silence, I anxiously jotted down the number displayed on the ID box. Without waiting, I hung up and immediately dialed the number. The phone rang once. Twice. Finally, someone answered.

"Who is this?" I shouted. "Why have you been calling me?"

The baffled voice of a young man responded. "Calling you? I was just passing by and heard the pay phone ringing, so I picked it up."

"Pay phone? This is a pay phone?"

"Yeah."

"Where is it? Tell me where."

"Wal-Mart."

The room swayed as I caught my breath. "Wal-Mart? This is a pay phone inside a Wal-Mart store? Which one? Where is the store located?"

"Brooklyn. Just South of Cleveland on Ridge Road." He waited several seconds for a response, but I was too stunned to give one. "Lady? You still there?"

With a gulp, I nodded. "Yeah. Just one more question. Did you see anyone using that phone before you happened to be walking past it?"

"Nobody was here. I was just passing by and heard it ringing, so I answered it. I really can't tell you anything more."

I thanked him and hung up, one step closer but still miserably lost. I had no clue as to who was making the calls or why, but at least now I knew where the last one had come from -- the store where my husband worked.

"It's got to be one of my employees playing a dumb joke," John surmised that evening when I told him. "He must have somehow got my phone number from the office file and is getting his kicks out of driving you crazy."

"But why?" It didn't feel right. Not so many calls over such a long time. "What could someone possibly get out of it? And now we know that he went so far as to spend a quarter on the last call. Who spends money just to make a prank phone call?"

There were no answers, just two choices: change our number or continue with the ID box. I was a freelance writer for several magazines, in contact with editors and publishers. Changing my number and informing people of the new one would have been a hassle. It would be far easier to continue using the ID box and just nail the sicko who was doing this.

The calls began to feel more like a game of cat and mouse. The phone would ring, I'd answer to the silence, only to find the number of the same pay phone at Wal-Mart displayed on the box. Each time I'd call back, hoping to trap my tormentor, but I was always disappointed when no one picked up.

The game took a turn the day after Christmas. It was getting old now, and my patience had worn a bit thin. I wanted it to stop, and I decided to get aggressive.

"How nice to hear from you," I sarcastically said to the silence on the other end. "Did you have a good Christmas?" The breathing was rhythmic as I waited for a response. As usual, the caller was too cowardly to give one. "You know, you must be a pathetic person to do something like this for kicks. Don't you have anything better to do with your time? Why not grow up and quit acting like such a psycho? Get a life and leave me alone!"

I slammed the phone down, hoping the children hadn't heard me as they played in the other room. I battled to calm myself, when the phone rang again. It was a sound that was beginning to drive me mad.

"Hello," I shouted, expecting silence in return. Instead, the caller spoke.

"Who are you calling a psycho?" The voice was female, small and childlike, with just a tinge of evil. Nothing like the monster I always pictured on the other end.

"So, you have a voice. How refreshing. Why don't you tell me what your problem is. Don't you have something better to do than call my house?"

She waited. Her breathing seemed to get louder. "I'm screwing your husband. We've been having an affair for a long time now."

I burst out laughing. This girl was trying, but batting zero. My husband and I had the kind of marriage most people only dreamed of. Leaving love notes for each other after thirteen years wasn't a sign of an unhappy union.

"Sure, honey," I spat in response. "Let's see … My husband works sixty hours a week. He seems a little busy to have all this time for an affair. Can't you do better than that?"

There was another pause. I could hear her moving, maybe switching the phone to her other hand. "Oh, he's busy all right." Her giggle oozed venom. "He's very, very busy."

The click severed our connection long before I was ready. Who was this girl? Why was she doing this? What did she get out of it anyway? I dialed the number back as my fingers began to tremble. Pick up … pick up … please be there and just pick up the stupid phone. … I sank into the nearest chair in an exhausted heap as the ringing went on and on.

Mr. Ghazoul stood next to the witness box, facing the crowded courtroom. I found it hard to breathe. It seemed like an eternity since I'd left the hotel that morning. John's sobs had slowed, but he still kept his head down as if too humiliated to look up. I was relieved. I didn't want to see his eyes, since they were what made me fall in love with him in the first place. Never before had I seen such an awesome shade of blue.

"Did you believe her at this point?" Ghazoul asked. He shoved his hands into his trouser pockets and paced slowly.

"No. Not at all."

"Why not? Don't a lot of men cheat on their wives? Couldn't it have been something you would have at least considered?"

"No," I repeated. "Not as much in love as John and I were. It was an impossible notion."

"I see," he said, going back to his notes. John briefly lifted his head to swipe his nose with a tissue. "What was John's reaction when you told him of the garbage this girl was telling you? Did he deny having an affair with your caller?"

Again, the prosecution awakened and shouted an objection. Referring to what the girl said as "garbage" was misleading. Ghazoul stood corrected and politely changed his wording. He wanted nothing to destroy the delicate foundation he was laying.

I tried to appear calm and crossed my legs. Perspiration trickled down my sides. "John was angry when I told him. He said it was a cruel stunt to play and he wanted to know which one of his employees was doing it. He swore to catch her and see that she was fired. He seemed as unsettled as I was."

"So, he gave no hint that he knew who it was? He was as baffled as you were?"

"That's right."

"And the kind of marriage you had with your husband was trusting, loving, and very sound? You had no reason to disbelieve him?"

"No … no, I didn't."

"What happened then? Take us to the next call."

I remembered the night perfectly. I had just put the children to bed and was in my office working on a story. John wasn't due home until after midnight, so I thought it might be him. He often called once he knew the kids were in bed just to tell me that he loved me.

Her voice startled me. "I'm having an affair with your husband."

I sat back from my computer, astonished that she'd call at this late hour. The house was dark and quiet except for the small light on my desk. Maybe it was the darkness that made her sound especially chilling, but I was frightened -- almost as if I knew this was no longer a harmless joke.

"Look," I said in a steady tone, "just tell me what you want. I'm not buying your story, so give it a rest. John and I are very happy."

"I know."

"You do, huh?"

"I know a lot. He tells me everything."

I grew uneasy. It was too late at night. It felt like she and I were alone in the world. I wanted to see her. Have a face to put with the voice. Make myself believe that this madness was real.

"I still don't buy it. If all this is true, you'll have to give me some kind of proof. You should have something to back it up, but since you don't, I guess you're just some bored, jealous girl who has no love of her own, so you're trying to sabotage mine."

A stillness followed. I thought at first she would hang up since I had called her bluff and put the ball back in her court. She had no proof. All she had were empty words.

"I can get your proof," she finally replied, her tone edged with anger. "The next time I call, I'll tell you exactly where and when you can find us together. You'll see then that I'm telling the truth." The line suddenly clicked and she was gone.

"And did she call back to let you know where you could find them together?"

Ghazoul took careful steps in front of the witness box. His expression was stiffly solemn.

"No. She didn't call back. The calls stopped for several weeks."

"And how did that make you feel?"

I shrugged. "Relieved somewhat, but still disturbed. I had the nagging feeling that I hadn't heard the last of her."

"And how did John feel about the way these calls were going? Did you tell him about the proof she claimed she would get? That she would let you know when and where to catch them together?"

"Yes, I told him. It boiled his blood that it had gotten that far. He kept vowing to find out who was behind it and make sure she lost her job."

"Did John go away on a business trip soon after that?"

"Yes. To Pittsburgh. It was a five-day seminar for Wal-Mart managers at their distribution center."

"And did you and the children join him on this trip?"

"No. It was just for the managers."

"And while he was gone on this business trip to Pittsburgh for five days, did you receive any calls from this young girl?"

"No. None at all. Things were very quiet."

He surveyed the room, letting my answer sink in. "Then there was a lull in the storm, so to speak. Now, take us to the next time you got a call. Wasn't it the call Carol Roman made to your home from Remington College on August 13?"

A damp, clammy sensation feathered my skin. "Yes. She called me that day."

"Set it up for us. What time was it? What were you doing when she called? Tell us what happened from there."

The sweet summer air filled the house that afternoon. All the windows were open, and I could smell the fragrance of freshly mown grass from the yard next door. It was close to five o'clock, and John was coming home for dinner. The girls and I had made all of his favorites since it had been so long since we had a family dinner together. Mariah stirred the batter for the lemon bars while Vanessa greased the pan. The phone rang, and I broke away from setting the table. I saw John's work number on the caller ID box.

"Hello, sweetheart," I answered. "Are you ready to leave for the day?"

"You bet," he said, sounding quite festive. "I can't wait to come home to my girls. I've just got a quick meeting with the guy from a McDonald's promotion we're doing and then I'll hit the road. I love you and miss you. I can't wait to spend an evening relaxing with you guys."

The core of my heart melted. "I can't wait, either. Drive carefully and we'll see you soon."

I hung up and saw Mariah licking both sets of her sticky fingers. "Is Daddy coming home now?"

I smiled. "He's just about on his way."

Then the phone rang again. I figured it was John and that he had forgotten to tell me something. I didn't even bother to check the ID box. "Will you hurry up and get out of there?" I laughed as I answered. Then my eyes scanned the display screen. It was a number I didn't recognize.

"My name is Carol, and I'm having an affair with your husband."

Shock siphoned blood from my face. Now she had a name. I was too stunned to jot down the number, although I knew it wasn't the usual Wal-Mart pay phone.

"I told you I need proof. I don't believe you."

"Oh, I've got proof," she answered in a cocky tone. "I've got all the proof you can handle."

The list she gave me was endless. Things they did together. Places they went. Movies they saw. Gifts he had given her. But, like a snake preparing to strike, she saved the most lethal hit for last.

"And he took me on that business trip to Pittsburgh. I know everything he packed and even what time he called you from the hotel each evening."

My mouth grew dry as I struggled to swallow. "No … you couldn't."

She laughed. "He called you and the kids at exactly 8:30 every night. I was right there waiting for him once he hung up."

My mind spiraled, trying to find some reason not to believe her, but to my horror, what she had just said was true. Still, there had to be some explanation. There was no way it could be real. She sensed my desperate skepticism and came back with both barrels loaded.

"He packed a pair of gray dress pants, a pair of brown dress pants, three ivory dress shirts, and silk ties. One he said was a gift from you. He says you have good taste in ties. He also brought his yellow sweats, his jogging shorts, a blue tank top, and his beat-up old Nikes. Should I go on, or are you finally getting the picture?"

By this time, I was crumbling. I felt a searing pain like I had never known before. The pain that comes from learning a truth too horrendous to bear.

"Do you have sex with him?" I already knew her answer.

Her laugh escaped again. "Of course. Lots and lots of sex."

"Where? How? He's always working and then he comes home to me. How could this possibly be?"

"Oh, we go to my apartment or else get it on in the park across the street. His lunch breaks have been pretty steamy."

It all made sense. That was the one time during John's day that I could never reach him. He claimed his management job was so stressful that he used his lunch hour to walk in the park across the street from the store. That he turned off his pager and left his cell phone behind for that block of time so he could unwind. It fit. How convenient. An hour every day when we were completely out of touch. I felt the urge to vomit.

John squirmed in his chair and swiped more tears from the end of his nose. Mr. Ghazoul was now standing next to his client with one hand on his shoulder. "Did you wonder why she was telling you all this? Why expose the affair to you at all?"

"Yes. It didn't make sense to me. I asked her if she wanted him -- if that was what this was all about. But she said no, she didn't."

"Did you ask her anything else?"

"Yes. I asked if he loved her."

"And what did she say?"

Tears slid from my eyes. "Her exact words were 'No, he doesn't love me, he loves you.' Then I asked what he was doing with her then. What kind of love was that? She never gave me an answer."

"What came next in the conversation?"

"I was absorbing so much. Even in my confusion and shock, I began to worry about whether they used condoms or if maybe she had AIDS. John and I made love often, and I was scared that he had put me at risk."

"So, did you ask her if they had used protection?"

"Yes, I did."

He faced the courtroom. "What was her reply?"

"She said no. That she couldn't have any more babies, so she didn't worry about protection."

"What was your response?"

"I told her with all the diseases out there that both she and my husband had played Russian roulette. She didn't know if he had anything any more than he knew if she did. I asked her if she even cared about that."

Mr. Ghazoul turned and stared straight at the prosecutor. "How did she respond?"

I broke down, not wanting to remember as the judge offered me a box of tissues. Carol's voice echoed so clearly in my mind. "She said the words that haunt me to this very day. She told me, 'I don't care what happens to me. I deserve whatever I get.'"

There was a murmur in the courtroom as I fought for composure. John sat hunched in his seat, his gaze fixed to the table, rocking back and forth with a Bible in his embrace. In that instant, I heard gunshots, saw the girl's body soaking in blood as she sat behind the wheel of her car. I deserve whatever I get. …

"Did you feel that was a peculiar statement?"

"It hit me hard. She sounded very strange when she said it."

"Almost as if she were admitting guilt of some sort? Like she deserved something bad to happen to her?"

In a fury, the prosecutor objected. "Pure assumption. We don't know what the victim felt."

"Sustained," the judge ordered. "Strike the comment from the record."

Mr. Ghazoul didn't seem disturbed. His comment was heard by all. This trial wasn't a jury trial. All he had to do was win over the judge and prove that there was substantial provocation in this case. The calls and the cruelty showed that.

"And when did the conversation end?" He calmly straightened his tie as he went back to slowly pacing.

"She said she wanted to meet me somewhere and show me the cards and gifts John had given her. She said she even had one of his jackets."

"Did you agree to that? Did you arrange to meet her someplace?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because she frightened me. There was something about her. She seemed to want to destroy me while laughing in the process -- almost like she got a kick out of watching me go down. I had no desire to be alone with her. I had the feeling she was capable of anything."

Ghazoul let those words linger. "So, you felt she was dangerous?"

"Yes. Very much so."

"You were so frightened by her that you refused to meet her?"

"That's right. Instead, I told her I had heard enough, and I hung up the phone."

"At that point, did you become aware of where your ten-year-old daughter had been during your conversation with Carol?"

Is it true, Mommy? Is what she said about Daddy true?

My chin quivered. "Yes. She saw how upset I was getting and grew protective and concerned, wondering who could have called and made me cry like that. She had gone into our bedroom and listened on the other phone. I had no idea until after the call that she'd heard everything."

Ghazoul pressed on a bit softer. "That must have been very hard for her. What was her reaction to what she had just heard?"

"She was scared. Crying. I was falling apart. Then I had Mariah clinging tightly to my leg. At three years old, she certainly didn't understand what was going on. She just saw all the commotion around her and knew it meant something wasn't right."

John's muffled sobs drew my attention. Hearing about his children's pain must have struck a nerve.

"Then what, if anything, did you do?"

I hesitated. "I called my husband at work and went ballistic."

"Did you tell him about Carol's call?"

"Yes. I told him I knew her name and all the details of the affair. I was screaming and crying and asking how he could do this. I said I thought he loved me and our two girls. He was speechless until he finally said he'd be right home."

"And did he come home?"

"No."

"What did you do when your husband didn't come home?"

"When the children were calm enough, I put them to bed and then waited on the living room couch. When morning came and he still hadn't come home, I felt very strongly that he had taken his own life. He kept a gun in his glove box for protection when he made nightly bank deposits. I just knew he had shot himself with it. I knew he'd rather die than face his family now that his secret was out."

"What made you think John would kill himself?"

You and the girls are my entire world. If anything ever happened to make me lose that, I'd die. I'd have nothing. There'd be no reason to live. That's how thankful I am for what we have and how very deeply I love you. …

"Because he always told me how much our marriage and our children meant to him. That he'd have no reason to live if anything ever happened to that. I just knew. We'd been soul mates for so many years. I felt this cold black space of terror. I sensed very strongly the presence of death."

"What, if anything, did you do next?"

My heart ached as I thought back to the children waking that next morning, realizing their daddy still wasn't home. I wanted to hug them. To protect them. Make all the hurt go away, but at that point I had completely broken down. I couldn't function or even speak; all I could do was cry. I finally managed to get a few words out and told Vanessa to call 911.

"When the officers arrived at your home, did you tell them what had happened and that you thought your husband was dead?"

"Yes. They made me promise to pull myself together while they went to locate John. They were concerned for the children."

There was a pause. Someone coughed. Ghazoul went back to his mound of notes. "And did they contact you once they located him?"

We found your husband, Mrs. Nichols. He's safe. He's all right. But … the girl is dead … the girl is dead … the girl is dead … multiple gunshots … multiple gunshots … the girl is dead … dead … dead …

The judge's voice drew me back to the present. He asked if I wanted a brief recess. I refused. It would only prolong the proceeding.

"Three squad cars pulled up in my driveway a couple of hours later. I knew they had found my husband's body."

"What were your children doing at this time?"

"They were outside playing. A female officer took them to our backyard while the other officers entered the house."

"And what did they tell you?"

"Sergeant Deal said they had found my husband and he was okay … but … that the girl was dead." I paused to hold back tears, then struggled to continue. "She died from multiple gunshots, and my husband was in the county jail charged with aggravated murder."

My words hung in the air as Ghazoul walked back to John's table. Reluctantly, I allowed my gaze to focus on the man I had married. It was so hard to comprehend that he was the murderer we were talking about. Through all of our years together, I knew him to be so wonderfully gentle and caring. For some stupid reason I momentarily remembered the cat he rescued from the middle of the road one morning. He stopped traffic to gather up this little fur ball and bring it back to the house. Because he saved her life, we named her Hope. I adored him for having such a big heart.

"After you were told about your husband, what happened next?"

"Sergeant Deal told me there was an ambulance waiting out front to take me to the hospital. The children were going to stay with a neighbor until I was able to come back."

This shot might prick a bit, Mrs. Nichols, but it's something to relax you. … Do you know where you are? Can you tell me who the President of the United States is? How about your birth date, Diane. … Can you remember your birth date?

"And why were you brought to the hospital while your children stayed at a neighbor's house?"

"For shock," I answered, my throat painfully dry. "I spent the day there being treated for shock. I was also coached by a child psychologist on how to tell my children what their father had done."

He set his notes down and walked over to where I was sitting. Ghazoul then leaned against the witness box. His eyes were so dark that they swallowed their own pupils. Like smoked glass, they held my stoic reflection.

"In your opinion, Mrs. Nichols, did John plan this killing the day before it happened as the prosecution will try and make us believe? Was this something he calculated, step by step in his mind, even before that fateful day?"

"No, sir. Absolutely not. I know he didn't plan to kill her. I have no doubt in my mind."

"How do you know? Can you tell the court how you can be so sure?"

Tears surfaced as I remembered the lemon bars the girls never had the chance to bake. These are Daddy's favorites, right, Mommy? He's going to be so happy! I forced my gaze to square with my ex-husband's prosecutor. "Because he was about to leave work and come straight home to have dinner with his family."