Illustration by Erin Perfect.

My childhood nights were punctuated by a phone ringing for my father, a detective. I learned that a phone sounding at such a late hour often meant robbery or murder. If my mother was out of town, my father would carry me in my pajamas to the back seat of his cruiser so he could investigate. I’d sleep through dispatchers murmuring addresses and directions, blue lights, flashlights, broken glass on the ground, doors and trunks opening, equipment being retrieved. Sometimes I woke disoriented from a hard sleep, the plush blue fabric of the bench seat imprinted on my face, trapped in the back seat of the car, where there were no door handles. When someone finally noticed my hands pressed against the window and let me out, I would find my father kneeling over a crime scene, making notes or taking photos. “Go to sleep, baby,” he always said, and I did, because I knew I was safe so long as I was with him.

But there are other memories, too. A latchkey kid from the age of seven, I regularly used my time alone at home to search the drawer where my father kept rare coins, the locked metal box my mother kept hidden, the top shelf of my parents’ closet. I didn’t know what I was looking for, only that there was something I needed to find. I never found the birth announcement for my younger half-sister, a product of my father’s many affairs. I never found the paperwork from the many times my mother filed for divorce. But in the closet I found a Tupperware bowl, lidded, its inside coated in ashy residue, pungent and sweet.

*

Five years ago, the day after my father was arrested for growing thirty-two marijuana plants, he left me a voicemail. Just three words: “Call me back.” He sounded sober and anxious.

News of his arrest took three days to travel from his trailer in Waco, Kentucky, to the front page of my hometown newspaper in Frankfort, Kentucky. The headline of The State-Journal’s online story read: “Retired police sergeant arrested for growing marijuana in his home.” The newspaper reported the details:

Detectives with [Kentucky State Police]’s Cannabis Suppression Branch arrested Jack Hazelwood, 55, around 2 p.m. Thursday after executing a search warrant at his Waco home. They found 27 marijuana plants growing in one bedroom and five growing inside a closet, according to his arrest citation.

Detectives also found a small amount of processed marijuana in a plastic bowl on a living room coffee table.

Here were the details my father could never speak aloud, proof of the habit he had denied for decades. This drug, for so long demonized and tied to panic over cross-border smugglings, was being decriminalized and legalized state by state—but not yet in Kentucky. Marijuana is a multi-million-dollar cash crop for the state, but users are furtive. This is Baptist country. Cannabidiol, a marijuana extract commonly used as a dietary supplement, wasn’t even legalized for medical purposes until 2014.

My father was taken to the Madison County Detention Center, where he was charged with cultivation of five or more marijuana plants and possession of marijuana. His bail was set at ten thousand dollars.

*

My father, mother, and sister Danna moved to Kentucky in 1979, three years before I was born. My father had just finished serving in the Air Force in Michigan, and Granny insisted he interview with the Frankfort Police Department. He went on to serve for nineteen years, working as a detective and reaching the rank of sergeant. Over that time, he took on a range of cases: a gas station robbery, a break-in at the Goodwill, a local pedophile. Murder was rare, and so it always garnered extensive coverage. This was certainly true of the 1992 murder of a woman named Peggy King.

I know the facts of the case by heart. In the winter of 1991, King was a fifty-year-old widowed librarian and amateur actress living in Frankfort. She was well-liked; friends described her as intelligent, shy, and kind, with an infectious laugh. Carlos Thurman was nineteen, and often in trouble with the law; he was dating a young woman named Katherine Stosberg, whose parents were friends of King’s. Stosberg’s parents had divorced and moved away from Kentucky, but their daughter had chosen to stay behind. King took her in, acting as both parent and friend as Stosberg tried to break up with Thurman. But wherever Stosberg went to get away from him, he followed.

On the evening of January 26, 1992, Stosberg went with Thurman to his sister’s apartment in Prince Hall Village, a rundown section of public housing next to an old cemetery. While they were there, Thurman stunned Stosberg by showing off his gun. The next day, frightened, Stosberg told Peggy King she needed to get away. On January 28, King put her on a bus to Huntington, West Virginia, to see a friend.

On February 2, Katherine Stosberg called Carlos Thurman to say she wasn’t returning to Kentucky. She wouldn’t tell him where she was.

On February 4, Peggy King met friends for their regular country music dance club at South Frankfort Presbyterian Church. When she left the church that evening, she was headed home. On February 5, she did not show up for work and she did not call in. She always called, even if she was going to be just a few minutes late.

After work, a friend went to her home to check on her. He found all the lights on, and some melted ice cream in two bowls on the kitchen table. King’s purse was gone, and so was her 1986 Toyota Tercel. He filed a missing persons report the next day.

On February 13, 1992, a local Street Department employee found King’s body facedown near a culvert off Glenns Creek Road. An autopsy revealed three blunt-force injuries to her head and a .22 caliber bullet in her neck. A pathologist was unable to find an entrance wound on King’s body but noted large portions of her neck and face were mutilated by rodent activity. Because rodents attack open wounds, the pathologist concluded the bullet must have entered the right side of King’s neck below the mandible, struck and fractured the C-2 vertebra, and torn the spinal cord.

*

The November 21-22, 2014, edition of The State-Journal is crinkled and yellowing now. My mother saved it for me, as she does all the stories about Peggy King’s murder; my hometown newspaper runs one every time there’s an appeal by one of the men who were convicted for it. Above the fold, this edition of the paper features a photo from 1992 of King’s body wrapped in a black bag, being carried by four men to the back of a wood-paneled van. Other people in the picture, cops I recognize, look away from the body. And there, far off in the background, stands my father, searching for clues in the brush. In the photograph he’s tiny; anyone else looking at it might not be able to identify him. But even when they’re half-obscured, I know his face and his trenchcoat. He looks like the man I remember.

My father was a cocky cop, the kind who had nicknames for his fellow officers: Jumpy, who jumped the gun when they hunted; Baby Shoes, the cop with tiny feet; Russell the Love Muscle, who thought he was a ladies man. If he liked you, my father nicknamed you, but that didn’t mean he respected you. He respected few other cops—certainly not his boss, whom he complained spent all her time shopping. My father gave the sense that he alone was responsible for the success of the detectives in his division.

He was also dedicated to his job, and had a fierce work ethic. When my father’s cases went to trial, he sat at the prosecutor’s table making notes about missed questions. He often thought about going to law school. He spent off-hours practicing on the firing range and acquired an arsenal of BB guns and hunting rifles: a Walther and a target pistol and a muzzle-loader, so many guns he couldn’t fit them all in one cabinet. Our front closet was filled with his sports coats, which hung alongside a bulletproof vest.

When my father was working on Peggy King’s case, he hunkered down in the kitchen and studied photographs of the evidence. The pictures I remember best showed the ice cream bowls: cropped tight, in black and white. He told me not to worry, that he’d catch whoever had killed her. I couldn’t help but worry; Peggy was the name of the murdered librarian and Peggy was my mother’s name, too. The two women seemed connected in my child mind.

*

Three men were tried separately for their roles in the murder of Peggy King: Carlos Thurman, Demond Bush, and Sean Hunter, all of them in their early to mid-twenties, and all already in prison on unrelated charges by the time they were arrested in the King case. They were convicted largely based on circumstantial evidence and damning testimony. Thurman was the only one convicted of murder.

Sean Hunter’s sister testified at Thurman’s trial. She said Thurman told her he’d gotten a ride to King’s house on the night of February 4, and that he’d hoped to talk to King about Stosberg there. At her house, Thurman and King had each eaten a bowl of ice cream, and when they were done talking, he asked her if he could call someone for a ride. King offered to drive him herself. Thurman asked for a lift to Glenns Creek Road. That’s where King’s body was later found.

Another witness saw Thurman and Demond Bush driving King’s blue 1986 Toyota Tercel in South Frankfort—a rough, poor area of town where the cops patrol—after the night of King’s murder. The Tercel was found three days before her body was, with blood stains on the driver’s seat, the running board, and the left side of the console. The stains matched King’s blood type. A hair “similar in color and microscopic characteristics to that of […] Demond Bush” was also found in the car. It was never tested for DNA, because the technology was relatively new in 1992 and courts were reluctant to use it.

Loretta Smith, a friend of Thurman’s, testified that at 10:30 p.m. on the night King disappeared, Thurman came to her Prince Hall apartment to watch TV and play cards. Thurman had a black backpack, she said, which he’d left at her house. Under oath, Smith denied that she knew anything else—but two women who were incarcerated with Smith at a jail the next county over testified that she’d told them other details about that same night. That Smith gave Thurman clothes to wear because his were bloody. That he confessed to Smith that he’d put King’s body in a van and then went downtown to dispose of it. That Smith had refused to keep Thurman’s gun for him, so he walked down to the Kentucky River—the muddy body of water snaking through downtown Frankfort—and threw it in. Though she denied it in court, Smith apparently told the two jailhouse informants that she knew who’d killed Peggy King: Carlos Thurman.

King was likely killed on February 4, and her body was found on February 13. The maintenance manager at Prince Hall testified that on February 6-7, between 11 p.m. and midnight, and again on February 12-13, between midnight and 1 a.m., he saw Thurman and Bush “emerge from the [vacant, heavily wooded area] behind the apartment complex, climb over a six-foot-high chain[-]link fence separating the woods from the complex, and proceed toward the apartments.” Thurman’s 1998 appeal notes that in a February 20 interview with my father, Thurman admitted that Bush had hidden King’s purse in the woods behind Prince Hall. The same day as the interview, that’s where a tree trimmer found the purse.

Because Thurman was the one who orchestrated the murder, he was sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison, and received two five-year sentences for felony theft by unlawful taking and first-degree unlawful imprisonment. Bush and Hunter were convicted of lesser crimes and have since been released from prison.

*

My father was raised in Madison County, on the very western edge of Appalachia, surrounded by mountains. Berea was a city with a college and a town square, but until this century, the population was under 10,000. The state capitol of Frankfort, where we lived, was an hour northwest. But on the weekends I was raised in Madison County, too.

On Sundays, my father or Granny drove me over rolling hills, around gnarled old trees, past chipped and fading black fences, to the gravel driveways and old country homes where Granny’s family had lived for generations. We called the unincorporated land ten miles outside of Berea “Bear Wallow,” or “Dreyfus,” or anything but its actual name on the map: Waco. If Granny wasn’t in the car, my father would drive with his knees so he could swig bourbon or smoke cigarettes—or, if he was quitting smoking, spit his dip into a can or his Nicorette gum out the window. In between swigs and puffs and spits, he always told me the same story.

His daddy, as he called the first Jack Hazelwood, got up early every morning to buy the paper and half a pint of the cheapest corn whiskey he could find. While reading his paper, Jack Sr. would drink the entire half pint, then pass out for the afternoon and wake up ready for more. Every evening, he drank a fifth more of the cheap corn whiskey before he was done for the night. My father seemed almost proud of his daddy when he talked about it, as if his had been a good way to live.

The story ended there. He never talked about how his daddy’s face was covered in dark spots, signs of malnourishment because he stopped eating. He didn’t talk about how Jack Sr. died at forty from cirrhosis of the liver, when my father was fifteen. He never said his daddy’s death was the best thing Jack Sr. ever did for his family, because it meant they received his Social Security benefits, breathing room that Granny’s weekly paycheck at a factory didn’t provide. My uncle, the youngest of Granny’s four children, told me that.

*

For nearly twenty years after Peggy King’s murder, my father was a charismatic local hero, the man who’d put a bad guy behind bars. Everyone in town seemed to know and respect him; he was often quoted in newspaper stories about court cases. After his arrest, commenters on the online news story suggested my father was just another dirty cop. “Lawyers for his drug convictions should reopen every damn case he worked and get them over[-]turned and then go back and check evidence logs and see if this crook really did give all of it up,” one man wrote. “He’s gonna do time[,] that’s what he’s gonna do…lmao.”

As an adult, I once asked my father how he got a conviction based on circumstantial evidence. He said that it was important to tell the jury a story they could believe. You must set up a timeline, he said, a reasonable sequence of events leading to the murder and its aftermath. You need to present evidence to corroborate each step of the story: an ice cream bowl here, an ice cream bowl there. A lawyer friend confirmed this: the courts don’t care about the timeline, only the laws broken, but the jury does. They are the human element.

Thurman v. Commonwealth notes,

In an April 3, 1992, interview with Hazelwood, [Thurman] stated that Demond Bush had told him that he (Bush) went to King’s house on the night she was killed and ate a bowl of ice cream. However, in the same conversation, [Thurman] admitted that Bush did not know King. He also stated that he had read in the newspaper that the killer went to the victim’s home, although that information had never been reported in the press.

So on the last night anyone saw Peggy King alive, she ate a bowl of ice cream in her own house with someone who was likely her killer, then disappeared before she had the chance to clean the bowls. No one but her killer and the cops could have known this. And Thurman admitted that he knew someone had eaten a bowl of ice cream at King’s house before she’d died.

What did my father say to Thurman to get him to confess with such carelessness? He used to brag, “The Supreme Court says I can lie to you on tape if it will get you to confess.” I picture him pacing the dull white rooms of that police station, pausing to lean forward so he could lie, confuse, belittle, and berate Thurman, his words coming faster and meaner, asking question after question till he got what he was looking for.

I knew what it felt like. I was a well-behaved child, and my father didn’t turn his cruelty on me until I was an adult. But when he did, he’d take a simple comment I’d made and flip it back on me, poking and prodding at all my insecurities and fears until I felt like nothing. It took a long time for me to realize that I wasn’t handcuffed or trapped in a room—I could leave the restaurant, or hang up the phone. The men he interrogated didn’t stand a chance.

*

In 1998, my father celebrated his retirement from the police force with a raucous, drunken party. I had just gotten my driver’s license. When he pulled a female cop onto his lap, my mother said she had a headache and let me drive her home.

It was two years later and I was eighteen when I started to learn the truth about my father. Sitting on the cold metal benches of the University of Kentucky’s thirty-five-yard line with my sister Danna, I decided to ask what she knew. Ten and a half years older than me, Danna had moved out when I was seven and never returned while our parents were still married. We didn’t have much in common, but I trusted her to be honest with me. Under a sky barely dotted with clouds, I thought of the ashy Tupperware bowl in my parents’ closet: “Does Dad smoke pot?”

“What do you think?” she responded.

I paused, afraid to answer.

“I think he does.”

“There’s your answer.”

My mother was terrified when I told her I knew. “You can’t tell anyone,” she said. “He could lose his job.” By then he was no longer a cop, but an investigator for ATF. I promised I wouldn’t say anything.

Over the next few years, my mother disclosed some of the secrets she’d been keeping: My father lighted up the minute he got home from work, and then again the minute he came down from his high. He spent $265 on an ounce of marijuana every two weeks. He bought it from one of his brothers in Madison County. My father kept his marijuana under the bed or in the freezer, and he kept a Tupperware bowl full of roaches in case his supply ran low. Two years in a row, he planted our live Christmas trees in front of the house so he could smoke pot on the porch. The reason he retired was because the police department started conducting routine drug tests. My mother always paused before telling me these things, as if hesitant to annotate my memories.

Once I knew, I saw things differently. I saw that my father’s eyes were always bloodshot, and that he smeared on cologne to cover the smell of pot before each time he saw me. I’d already known he was starting to drink more, but now I counted the number of bourbon and Cokes he knocked back on the forty-five-minute drive from Milledgeville to Macon when he visited me in Georgia. I remembered meeting a woman in a red bathing suit when I was four and my parents were still married. “That was Linda,” my mother said. My father’s girlfriend.

I thought about my father’s temper, how quickly he could explode if my mother didn’t get the deli meat sliced right, or bought margarine instead of butter. I thought about how he ended an argument, hurling a hunk of glass at my mother’s ankle. I remembered his apologies that day, the way he iced my mother’s foot and tried to make it all better. How he begged for her forgiveness. I remembered my parents making up after fights, too, kissing in the kitchen like teenagers.

*

I started seeing a therapist around my twenty-eighth birthday, after my mother told me that when I was a kid, my father had gotten two different women pregnant. One of the women lost her baby. The other gave birth to my sister Hannah when I was eight, though I didn’t know that for nearly twenty years. My mother kept Hannah’s birth announcement in a locked box until a couple of days before my graduate school winter break ended one year, as I was packing to go back to Georgia. “Your father wanted to be the one to tell you,” she said. And then she unfolded the newspaper clipping to show me.

When I finally worked up the nerve to tell my father what I knew, he said, “It was not my proudest moment.” But when I asked about the other woman, he shrugged and looked away. “It could’ve been anyone’s baby,” he said.

Learning about Hannah was what got me to therapy, but I was really there to talk about my crumbling relationship with my father. Sometimes my therapist had me list the topics I avoided on the phone with him: why I didn’t date, my weight, what I was writing about, the MFA in creative writing I was pursuing, why I wasn’t going to law school, my student loans, the fact that I lived in Georgia instead of Kentucky, my father’s infidelities, my father’s addictions. I never knew for sure what would trigger my father, but when it happened he argued with me over the phone—getting louder and angrier by the minute while assuring me he wasn’t yelling—until I stopped talking and just began to cry silently, listening. By then, two years before my father was arrested, we hardly had anything to talk about except things related to his work as a detective. After a student was murdered on my campus, he told me that one man on trial seemed guilty because he’d hid in a closet for days after the crime. When my bank card number was stolen, he told me how easy it would be to find the person who did it. I trusted that he was smarter than me.

One week my therapist asked me, “How do you know your father loves you?”

I told her he gave me spending money when I was in college. I told her I was the first person he thought of when he was drunk or high, so he often called me. I told her that my father told me the same story, over and over, about putting a new roof on our house in the summer of 1986. I was four, pink-cheeked and flaxen-haired, “a little bitty thing,” as he said. My parents ripped up and carted to the trash twenty or thirty boxes of black, rotting roofing before hammering on new shingles. I saw everything because I was tethered to the roof. I never forgot that day, and he never stopped telling me about it. He took the small details I remembered and turned them into a story I could believe.

“I remember when we was so close that I couldn’t put shingles on the roof without you coming up with me,” he often said on the phone. “Now I never see you.” Sometimes he told me if he’d known he’d see as little of me as he did, he’d never have had me.

“That’s not love,” my therapist said, but she didn’t say what it was.

*

One of the ways defense attorneys create reasonable doubt is by making the jury question the credibility of witnesses—referred to as “impeaching” them. In 2001, Carlos Thurman filed another appeal with the Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals that stated that his lawyer had failed to impeach a witness: Shawn Ogden—a drug user—who had testified that he’d overheard Thurman and Demond Bush making “incriminating statements regarding King’s death.”

But Ogden was only one in a long line of people who’d testified about the confessions Carlos Thurman had made. Another witness testified that she’d heard Thurman arguing with a woman, saying, “You will do what I tell you to do or I’ll do to you what I did to Peggy, but they’ll never find you.” A different witness had overheard Thurman and Bush in conversation; “Bush jokingly referred to going fishing for the gun, but it would never be found” and Thurman “boasted that there was a bullet hole in the head near the back of the neck ‘that they didn’t find.’” Another witness had overheard a conversation between Thurman and Bush in which Thurman said he had “capped” King. And yet another said Thurman had told him that “Bush killed King with a .22 caliber pistol that [Thurman] had obtained from his great-uncle in Richmond,” likely the same gun that Thurman had showed Katherine Stosberg.

Perhaps most damning was the testimony of Charles Cavins, an inmate housed at the Franklin County Correctional Complex with Thurman after he was arrested for charges unrelated to Peggy King’s death (charges that included trafficking cocaine, burglary, fraud, and escaping from a jail). Cavins’s conversation with Thurman and subsequent testimony were what finally provided a reliable scenario for King’s murder: Thurman, Bush, and Hunter “abducted King, beat her, and shot her in the head.” Cavins testified that Thurman had been more precise in a later conversation and said King was shot in the neck.

Charles Cavins’s testimony provided the motive the jury needed: that Peggy King was getting in the way of Thurman’s relationship with Katherine Stosberg. This was corroborated by the two women incarcerated with Thurman’s friend Loretta Smith; they testified that Thurman thought King didn’t like him, so he blamed her for sending Stosberg away. He “planned to kill [King] and steal her money, then find the girl.”

In 2002, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled that Carlos Thurman’s lawyer did indeed impeach Shawn Ogden by getting him to admit that he a was highly intoxicated drug user when he overheard the conversation—so the conviction stood. Furthermore, the court ruled that “[t]he evidence against Thurman at trial was overwhelming.” No small mistake or even a lie could have erased the preponderance of evidence, all those pieces proving Carlos Thurman’s guilt.

It was a solid case.

*

After my parents divorced and he’d retired for good, my father moved back to Madison County, trading a three-bedroom house for a three-bedroom doublewide trailer. I visited him there in the spring of 2012, only a month after he’d been arrested. I’d just turned thirty and had driven up from Georgia on my spring break. The first thing my father showed me was the spare bedroom in his trailer where he’d been growing his plants, the stack of empty black pots, bags of potting soil, and disassembled metal lights laying on the floor—all of it carefully cultivated inside the beige prepatterned walls of his prefabricated house.

He smoked cigarette after cigarette next to his clean air machine as he told me that his thirty-two plants would’ve produced four to sixteen ounces at most—not enough to sell. He didn’t have a ledger book for clients or extra cash lying around. He had five bucks in his bank account. He wasn’t a drug dealer, he said. Still, Kentucky State Police had torn his place apart.

They came to his door because they’d gotten a tip, and asked if they could search the place. “Not without a warrant,” he’d said. He watched the state police sit at the end of his driveway in a cruiser, waiting for a warrant. I wonder now if he tried to get rid of some of his plants, or if he lighted up a joint instead. Maybe he poured some bourbon, thinking his problems would go away if he was drunk enough. He was eventually arrested by Detective Bubba Botkin and Detective Darren Allen, with the assistance of Trooper Charles Brandenburg. I wonder if he resisted arrest, but I was too afraid to ask anything that might set him off.

On that last visit to my father’s trailer, I let him walk me to my car, parked at the top of his gravel driveway on a mountain owned for generations by Granny’s family. It was the land that Great-Grandpa Rose, my father’s maternal grandfather, had owned; my father told me many times that Grandpa Rose was arrested during Prohibition for riding a mule up the side of the mountain with two forty-pound bags of sugar for his still. It was the same land where my great uncle Franklin had lived; Franklin taught my father to drive before he was even a teenager because Franklin had so many DUIs he couldn’t risk another and so needed to be driven around. It was the land where my father was arrested. It was Bear Wallow, on the western edge of Appalachia.

As we said goodbye, my father leaned in and admitted that he was growing marijuana to sell it; what had led to his arrest was just a test run. He said he’d sometimes considered renting a warehouse so he could grow it by the pound and cash out with several hundred thousand dollars for retirement. He said that kind of money would let him pay off my student loans. Then he hugged me and I left, stunned.

About to graduate with my MFA but without a plan, I was afraid I’d have to move back from Georgia to Kentucky, where I’d be stuck on the land my family had lived and drank on for generations. Even returning to my mother’s house in Frankfort was too close. The far edges of the state are too close. There is nowhere in Kentucky far enough from Appalachia.

*

My father was indicted by a grand jury on May 23, 2012. He pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on June 14 of that year. The case was delayed because his attorney wanted the seized marijuana to be tested by an independent source. “He wanted to confirm that the marijuana was in fact marijuana,” the prosecutor said. My father didn’t make the case easy.

Surprising no one, the marijuana turned out to be marijuana. In March 2013, my father pleaded guilty to a felony charge of cultivation of five or more marijuana plants, first offense. He received a three-year pretrial diversion sentence because he had no record, meaning if he followed the conditions of his supervised probation for a year, as well as two years of unsupervised probation, his record would eventually be wiped clean.

I stopped talking to my father about eight months before his guilty plea, for what seems like a minor reason now. He called to yell at me over something I’d written about him, and I hung up. I had been unemployed for months, my self-esteem had bottomed out, and I couldn’t listen to him yell. I never called him back. Granny kept me informed about his case. She said he seemed really worried. She said he’d started drinking more, too. Sometimes he emailed me mean things when he was drunk, and sometimes he called and left me messages on my birthday. “I love you,” he said, reminding me that he’d always be my father.

My mother says she doesn’t doubt my father was a good cop. She used to say he was a good man, too. Now, we talk about him all the time without settling on what kind of man he was, or is, or could be. It would be easier to decide that he’s a bad man, one who hurts people and hides things. But as I review the evidence—over and over, seeking new clues—I linger on the times my father did something right.

When I was little, sometimes I’d crawl into his lap at night while Unsolved Mysteries was on TV. Together, we’d watch as a bad guy fired a gun at a couple of strangers and drove off into the night—committing a random, vicious murder for seemingly no reason. I wondered: Who was the man with the gun? Why did he do it? Would he ever be caught? Snuggled close to my father, I felt chilled but comforted. I told myself that if it was up to him to investigate, we’d already know who was guilty.

When it’s dark outside, and I’m alone and far from Kentucky, that’s still a story I can believe.

Rebecca Hazelwood

Rebecca Hazelwood lives in south Louisiana, where she is a PhD student in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her essays have appeared in December, Anthropoid, Hobart, Still, and PANK. She has been a finalist for the Curt Johnson Prose Awards, and earned an honorable mention in the Robert and Adele Schiff Awards. She is currently writing a memoir about violence, truth, and the breakdown of a family.

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4 Comments on “What Seems to Be the Problem, Officer?

  1. Amazing essay. So powerful. I love the way it moves from issues of criminal justice to the person, a beautiful braiding of these related ideas. Bravo!

  2. As a woman, with three children that has known Jack Hazelwood for over a decade, I can say that I have found him to be a selfless, quiet and generous man. His adoration for my children as well as myself seemed endless. As a detective, he was responsible for arresting and assisting in the prosecution of the murder of my grandfather in Frankfort, Kentucky. As my family mourned the loss of a great man, we knew that during this difficult time, that indeed Jack Hazelwood as well as the prosecuting attorney had done their due diligence in putting behind bars a guilty man. I don’t claim to understand or know his daughter well, however, I can account for my own experiences with him. I can also pass along that Jack did move from a three bedroom home in Frankfort KY to a 3 bedroom double wide. He did so, as his home in Frankfort was paid off and he gave it to his wife in the divorce to be passed down to his children upon their mothers death. I also know that upon his retirement several hundred dollars have been placed per month in an account, since the divorce, to be given to his two, rather than 3, daughters. It should also be noted that approximately a year ago, this man was diagnosed with Dementia, his two daughters, have yet to visit or assist in managing his care. In fact his family has refused to educated or assist in the management of such a crippling disease. So much so that his own mother has asked the state of Kentucky to take over as his guardian. I suspect in knowing this man, and hearing his version, as he is not able to combat such allegations, that he was human, he decided to take a path in life as an officer to protect and serve. In that profession we often see things such as child molestation cases, murder, and rape that the mind can’t handle. I also suspect as most of the memories are from childhood that as a child we are unable to facilitate the memories accurately as an adult mind could. My sympathies are with his daughters as the Jack Hazelwood I know, is a kind, compassionate man that has shown nothing but selfless behaviors that apparently his daughters don’t recognize or make the choice to remain selfish in their adult lives all the while their dad lays mentally dying with each passing day. This life is short….forgive much, love hard and never ever let a day go by that you allow yourself to hold such a grudge.

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