GUILTY GA - Laura Townsend, 87, bludgeoned to death, Woodstock, 8 Oct 2004

Discussion in 'Recently Sentenced and Beyond' started by concernedperson, Feb 3, 2005.

  1. concernedperson

    concernedperson Former Member

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    This is a local news story that is very interesting and sad. This school teacher had everything to live for but other memories found there ugly niche.
    It is a conflicting story without any real answers but it does show how child abuse can manifest itself in later years.
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  3. SieSie

    SieSie Active Member

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    Have to register to read the article - can you summarize what's going on?
  4. monkalup

    monkalup Former member

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    here are some excerpts:

    Years of abuse led to killing, daughter says

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    Published on: 02/03/05

    A book on the history of the Townsend family, written by MacDonald's father, who could not be interviewed, also helped shape this article. So, too, did a copy of MacDonald's book "Am I the Only One Who's Crazy?"

    This is how it ended between mother and daughter on that misty October morning last year, when MacDonald's parents came to visit. Townsend slipped into a coma and died five weeks later. MacDonald, an English teacher at Cobb County's Lassiter High, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 11 years in a state prison.

    It was an act of swift, blinding fury.

    Yes, MacDonald admits to the killing. Yes, she feels remorse beyond words. But why? What would drive a daughter to kill her mother?

    The answers, MacDonald says, are buried in her pained childhood. It was her secret, and she hinted at it with other women in her subdivision, and in a book she wrote about a little girl who suffered humiliation and physical abuse at the hands of her mother.

    For years — through three marriages in three states — MacDonald fought the demons from her past.

    She had, in her words, survived.

    She published three children's books. She spoke Spanish and French. She earned a doctorate in English composition. And she had a family of her own — two daughters, Jessica and Elizabeth, and a 2-year-old granddaughter, Emmily.

    At Lassiter High in Marietta, MacDonald was known as a teacher who brought wit and energy to her class. She tried to reach students through group games and led programs on the importance of building character.

    Youngest of five children

    Elizabeth MacDonald had a troubled childhood, or so she told her friends.

    Beth Wachter and MacDonald lived in the same Cherokee County subdivision, across the street from one another.

    Occasionally, Wachter said, MacDonald would reveal glimpses of her childhood.

    "She's a smart person who spent most of her life trying to forget her past and overcome her past," Wachter said. "But I think it caught up with her."

    MacDonald was born in 1953, the youngest of five children.

    For her mother and father, who married in their early 20s, marriage offered quick lessons in adulthood.

    Laura Townsend raised five children while her husband, an accountant, moved them around the country. The family traveled from Pennsylvania, to New Jersey, to Texas, and finally, to New Canaan, Conn., a bedroom community an hour's drive from Manhattan.

    In 1959, the Townsends' 14-year-old son, Tommy, came down with what appeared to be the flu. He later died from encephalitis — brain inflammation from a mosquito bite.

    Ten months later, the oldest son, Stewart, was killed in an automobile accident.

    MacDonald was 6, then 7 when her older brothers died. She wasn't close to either, but the deaths, she remembered, had a profound effect on the family.

    "No one was allowed to ever mention [my brother's] name again," MacDonald wrote in her book. "Grandmother told me not to ask my parents what happened. She said mother was having trouble dealing with it and it might make matters worse."

    Like her mother, Elizabeth Townsend also married young. But her marriage fell apart after five years. In 1977, at 24, she packed her belongings and her two dogs into a van and drove far away, to Montana. Out West, she received a master's degree in English, remarried and gave birth to her two daughters.

    She also began seeing a psychologist. During those weekly sessions, she would close her eyes and lean back in the cushy sofa. She was a little girl again — a child, she says, who was locked in her bedroom, sometimes tied to the bed, spread-eagle.

    Later, MacDonald began putting her thoughts of that troubled time into words. The words slowly became sentences, then chapters, and then, in 1994, a self-published book, "Am I the Only One Who's Crazy?"

    Though the characters are fictionalized, MacDonald says the book is a truthful and accurate portrayal of her childhood as she remembers it — and the physical abuse she says she endured at the hands of her mother: her room always being locked from the outside, pinching, scissors and rope, and hanging upside down.

    "Am I the Only One Who's Crazy?" begins in a therapist's office, and Micky is taken back to a time when she is young and helpless.


    Now, all these years later, MacDonald was standing before a judge, about to be sentenced for killing her mother. Her brother, Hunter Townsend, and her sister, Joanne Taber, were there, too.

    Taber said nothing during the hearing, but Townsend, when questioned by the judge, said he believes there is some truth to MacDonald's recollections. "I would say there is some, yes," he said.

    MacDonald told authorities she wanted to pay for what she had done. She pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and must serve 10 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

    The ideal matriarch

    The portrait MacDonald paints of her mother is dramatically different from the way other people — including Laura Townsend's other children — remember her.

    On Nov. 21, 2004, friends and family, including 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, gathered at the Mystic Congregational Church in Connecticut for a solemn but celebratory memorial service.

    Lilies decorated the white chapel. A violin and cello accompanied the organist in "Now Thank We All Our God."

    To her grandchildren, Townsend was "Nana," the ideal matriarch who would take trips with them to France, buy them new cars and pay for riding lessons. She dressed up as a pirate to accompany a granddaughter to a Peter Pan musical.

    They loved Nana's soothing watercolor paintings — a cottage in a valley, a yacht fighting a wave, two toddlers picking up seashells and hermit crabs on the beach.

    "We will never forget the woman who painted the world in such bright colors," said her grandson Todd, as tears rolled down his cheeks.

    'I let my students down'

    Today, MacDonald, 51, sits in the medical ward of the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center. She's waiting to be transferred to a state prison and passes time meditating and reading the Bible. During Christmas, she created a Nativity scene from toilet paper. She draws with colored pencils.

    She's working on another novel — this one about the killing and her time in jail. She's beginning a new chapter in her life.

    "I know this is going to be difficult," she said, "but I accept it. I'm sorry."

    She misses volunteering at a Marietta animal shelter and walking the caged dogs on weekends. She adopted two dogs herself, including a black mutt named Muffin, who is blind in his right eye and is being taken care of by her boyfriend.

    She misses her students at Lassiter, where she led Interact, an extracurricular activity in which students reached out to homeless children and orphans.

    "I let my students down," MacDonald said. "I'm crying because of all those kids out there. I let them down."

    One student missed MacDonald so much that she came to visit her in jail.

    MacDonald has had no contact with her siblings, though her sister did send a postcard. "Call Dad," it read. "He's depressed."

    MacDonald said she would.

    Over the years, Thomas and Laura Townsend occasionally visited their daughter. Several years ago, when they visited MacDonald in Montana, she and her mother began to argue, and MacDonald ordered her parents out of her house.

    "If you don't leave now, I'm going to kill her," MacDonald recalled telling her father.

    But their visit to Georgia last October, MacDonald thought, would be different.

    "They were getting so old that they couldn't travel," she said. "I wanted one last trip together. I wanted one last chance to be their little girl again."

    She bought a photo album, which she planned to fill with pictures of a trip to a kangaroo farm and a train ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    She told students her parents were coming to town, and she took time off from work. She called her sister to ask about her parents' favorite dishes and went shopping to stock her refrigerator. The night before, she finished hanging her mother's paintings.

    In the rush to get it all done, she left the hammer at the bottom of the stairwell.

    A fall, a pinch, then a snap

    Her parents arrived in Atlanta around 4 p.m. Oct. 7.

    It had been a long flight and they were tired — too tired for a big dinner. That evening, MacDonald sat with her mother, who had a bowl of cereal, and her father, who had chicken soup and a sandwich.

    Her mother went to bed early. MacDonald and her father played backgammon until 10.

    Her parents awoke around 7 the next morning. MacDonald turned on the shower for her father. Then, she crawled into bed with her mother and watched the morning news.

    Forty-five minutes later, Laura Townsend decided to go downstairs for a cup of tea.

    That, says MacDonald, is when her mother slipped and tumbled down the 35-step carpeted staircase.

    "Mom! Mom!" MacDonald yelled, running down after her.

    Her mother didn't appear to be injured, but she was livid and began cursing, MacDonald told police. Then, her mother grabbed a wad of flesh and began twisting — just as she did when MacDonald was younger.

    MacDonald says images of her childhood flashed before her eyes. She grabbed the hammer she left along the stairwell the night before and raised it above her mother's head. And she hit her mother — sprawled at the bottom of the stairs — again and again.

    Then, MacDonald placed the hammer under the kitchen faucet and washed away the blood.

    At 7:53 that morning, MacDonald called 911.

    Her father, who was upstairs during the attack, told police he didn't hear a thing.

    As MacDonald sits in jail, she's struggling to forgive herself — just as she struggled all those years to forgive her mother.

    "There were times when I would lay there, tied to the bed. And all night, I'd say to myself, 'I'm going to kill you and I hate you,' " MacDonald said. "And I would dream of ways to do it.

    "But all those years, I never did anything to hurt her. I made it so long. I wish I could have made it till the end."
  5. LovelyPigeon

    LovelyPigeon Former Member

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    I don't buy the abuse excuse in this case.
  6. Amore68

    Amore68 New Member

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    I saw her interview on the news the other night. It was sad, for sure. I just don't know.
  7. fivekidz4me

    fivekidz4me New Member

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    It doesn't seem like this was planned to happen. If you have ever been abused as a child, you'd understand it all better.
  8. oceanblueeyes

    oceanblueeyes Active Member

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    I do understand the abuse as a child......too well...I am sorry to say but I do not believe that anyone has a right to murder someone.

    What if it had been someone else that maybe favored her mother, like an aunt and she fell and grasped her arm....would she be justified killing her?........just because she reminded her of a life long ago?

    Abuse is no excuse for murder.......there are so many people that have endured the most horrendous things and has never harmed a living soul.

    She, imo, kept the abuse the end she abused her mom, just as her mom had done to her..........violence is violence... instead of breaking the cycle, she continued it in the cannot excuse one over the other, in our society.

    Even she knows it was wrong........I do commend her for that.

  9. nanandjim

    nanandjim Former Member

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    I believe that she may have been singled out by her mother for the abuse. Sometimes, only one child in the family is singled out and abused. If my mother had abused me like that, I am not sure that I would allow her to stay in my home unless she had apologized for the abuse.

    I can tell you that no one would be pinching my skin. I would have hit her, slapped her hand, or pinched her the same way that she was pinching me to show her how it felt. I would have told her that those days were over, sister, and that she needed to leave my home.

    I would not have picked up a hammer and started bashing her head in.

    That being said, I do believe that she snapped. However, it scares me to think if something could make her snap again.

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