On Nov. 21, 2011, Mark Herczog was killed by my nephew Houston during a psychotic break. At the time, we were aware of Houston's disabling depression, isolation and uncharacteristic behaviors. We didn't know he'd been experiencing the classic onset of schizophrenia. We had no knowledge of severe mental illness, the penal or legal system. That morning, our very average family woke up in hell.
If we'd believed that Houston took his father's life under the influence or with premeditation, we'd have been quiet while justice was served. In our case, justice had an agenda. For 18 months, we were honest and forthcoming with District Attorney Jill Ravitch and Deputy District Attorney Bob Waner about our knowledge, including how desperately Mark and Houston's mom, Marilyn, wanted help for their son.
We had it on good authority that when the third expert found Houston insane, Jill Ravitch would finally hospitalize him. She changed her mind, and the district attorney's office requested its own fourth doctor. Livid, I called Waner about him. He replied, "He's not a prosecution whore, if that's what you think." Politics. Unbelievable. Bless you, jury, for finding the truth.
Mr. Waner assured us the state would act in Mark's interest, but he became a footnote in the district attorney's $250,000 mission to win the case. We learned how Mark died in the Press Democrat. We had no warning that the local media would print the gruesome details of my brother's death. I started every interview with, "Please, don't let my brother Mark get lost in all this." He was the victim. This district attorney's office "champions" victim's rights. Shame on them.
Mark Herczog was the finest, funniest and most kindhearted man I've ever known. He was an extraordinary guitar player, vocalist and songwriter whose music evoked joy and inspiration. Mark helped thousands find experience, strength and hope in the 36 years he was a member of AA. He was genuinely loved by anyone who had the good fortune of knowing him. How blessed I am that he was my brother. Rest in peace now, Marky. Your family is healing. May you always be remembered not for how you died, but for how you lived.
Annette Keys is the sister of Mark Herczog, whose story was featured in the April 10, 2013, issue of the 'Bohemian.'
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