Beyond Rape: A Survivor's Story

David Francis was not always David Francis. He changed his identity with nearly every arrest.

When he was arrested for receiving stolen property, he was Dalin Allen.

When he was arrested for aggravated burglary, robbery and carrying a concealed weapon, he was Daniel Allen.

When he was arrested for breaking and entering, he was Tony Wayne.

And he was Kevin Brown when he was arrested in Cleveland on Jan. 22, 1978, for aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, carrying a concealed weapon -- and kidnapping.

The kidnapping charge stopped me. As David Francis and the other aliases, he had limited his crimes to stealing cars and breaking into buildings.

The kidnapping was his first crime against a person -- at least, the only one I could find. What had he done to draw that charge? Who was the other victim out there?

I learned about the aliases in the thick file the prosecutor's office gave me -- a disorganized pile of lists, police reports, court records and investigative notes. But in all of that, I could find nothing more about the kidnapping charge.

There was no trial transcript, because he pleaded guilty. The police department couldn't find the 30-year-old arrest report.

I'd struck out. But the question continued to nag me: What exactly did Kevin Brown do?

In January, I decided to go back to see Charles McIntyre, Lula Mae Foster's son, who had told me he couldn't remember David Francis. But I knew the two had been arrested together in 1977 for breaking and entering.


I was not as nervous about going into the Hough neighborhood this time. Foster had been friendly when I showed up at her door unannounced; after that first visit, I had gone to see her in the hospital after her knee surgery.

McIntyre was in a more talkative mood this time. His memory of David Francis had returned, too.

"Yeah, we ran together," he said.

David Francis had followed the path of his mother, Millie, to Cleveland in 1976 or 1977. He was 20 or 21, younger than McIntyre by four years, but McIntyre saw promise in the kid from Boston.

"He was a diamond in the rough," McIntyre told me.

McIntyre took him under his wing. "I was basically schooling him," McIntyre said. "He was my protege."

"In crime?" I asked.

"In crime, and the ladies," McIntyre said.

He wouldn't tell me anything about the crimes, though.

Kevin Brown did not have a police file, but Charles McIntyre did. I wondered if I could find an answer there.

The prosecutor's office gave me a file of microfilmed copies -- blurry and dark, almost impossible to decipher. I read through it, and was almost at the end when I found a connection.

On Jan. 23, 1978, while he was already in jail for another crime, McIntyre was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery.

And two counts of kidnapping.

Kevin Brown was arrested Jan. 22, 1978, for aggravated robbery. And kidnapping.

They did it together. McIntyre's file had all the details.

At lunchtime on Monday, Aug. 29, 1977, the Rev. Thomas Gallagher answered the door to the rectory of St. Philip Neri Church on St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland.

A young man was standing there. Gallagher thought he recognized him, maybe from his old church, St. Agatha on St. Clair and East 109th Street.

The young man asked the priest a couple of questions about church youth programs, then asked, "Can I use your bathroom?"

Gallagher hesitated. Did he really recognize this young man? Maybe he shouldn't let him in. But Gallagher ignored the caution light in his head. He had worked in the inner city for years, and it did not feel right to suspect the young man. He pointed to the bathroom.

A minute later, the man came out of the bathroom holding a .38-caliber blue steel revolver.

"I have a present for you," he said, pointing the gun at the priest's head.

The young man opened the rectory door and let in a slightly older man. The first man was clearly the leader.

"Where is your housekeeper?" he asked.

Patty Marek was in the kitchen, making hot dogs for lunch. Patty was a volunteer, only 15 years old. It was her last day of summer vacation.

Patty came in. Gallagher was surprised; she didn't seem to be afraid. She was angry.

"This is the third time I've been robbed," she said. She was tough; she lived in the neighborhood.

The leader turned to Gallagher. "You have three minutes to show me where all the money is."

Gallagher took them upstairs to his bedroom safe. As Gallagher opened the lock, the leader cocked the gun at his head with a loud "click." Gallagher has remembered the sound of that click for 30 years. He took it as a warning: Don't try pulling a gun out of the safe.

The other robber heard the click, too. "Don't shoot the minister unless you have to," he said.

When the safe was open, the men made Gallagher and the girl lie face down on the floor and tied their hands and feet. Then they took Gallagher's briefcase and filled it with the cash in the safe: $1,201 in bingo money.

The second guy went through the priest's pockets, then the girl's. He took the watches off their wrists, a turquoise ring from Patty Marek and a gold pocket watch from the priest's dresser.

They forced the priest and the girl into the closet. Then they barricaded it with a dresser and some chairs and left.

The priest waited awhile after he heard them leave before he pushed out of the closet, cut their hands free with scissors and called the police.

Four months later, when police arrested Charles McIntyre for another crime, they found Gallagher's gold pocket watch.

Five days later, police arrested David Francis. He told them his name was Kevin Brown.



The Rev. Thomas Gallagher: "When they didn't kill me, I forgave them right away."

Father Thomas Gallagher, now 77 and retired, was startled when I told him last month that one of the men who tied him up is still alive and out of prison.

"When all this happened I was thinking they might come after me because I was a witness," he said. "If I say anything now, will he?"

We were having coffee in the food court of Summit Mall. Gallagher had told me to look for the "short guy in the collar," but I would have known him anyway, from the photo in The Plain Dealer story at the time of the robbery.

He told me he stayed on at St. Philip Neri until 1990, when he was assigned to the Veteran's Affairs hospitals in Cleveland and Brecksville. I asked if he was afraid to live in the rectory, alone, after the crime.

At first he said no, he was just happy he survived.

But then he reconsidered. "I always had stress under the surface. When I was driving around, or out for a walk, I was afraid they might see me and do something to me."

He wonders now if the stress triggered his diabetes.

"Could you have asked to be transferred to a suburban parish?" I asked.

Oh, yes, he said. "But it didn't change my attitude about living and working in the inner city. Even before I was a priest, I felt very strongly about interracial justice. "

In the late '50s and early '60s, he earned a master's degree at Case Western Reserve University and completed a summer program created for clergy working with racial issues. "It was a radicalization experience," he said.

In 1965, he and another priest defied their bishop's wishes and marched from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He met King on the plane going down to Alabama; King sat with them to discuss theology and St. Thomas Aquinas' concept of "the unjust law."

He was on the boards of the Urban League in Akron and the NAACP in Cleveland.

Sitting there in an ordinary mall on an ordinary day, drinking coffee with this short man in a collar, I got that otherworldly feeling I get in the presence of the extraordinary. Something mystical was going on.

David Francis had lodged himself inside this priest, too, instilling stress strong enough to possibly trigger diabetes. But although the crime made him more watchful, more cautious, Gallagher had not let it stop him.

I was meant to find him.

He worked in the inner city for 25 years, retiring in 2000. "I am satisfied with my life," he said. "I was ordained at the right time. Now priests working for social justice are thought of as too radical."

"Were you able to forgive the two men who robbed you?" I asked.

He seemed surprised. "When they didn't kill me, I forgave them right away."


I never worried that David Francis might come after me. After the Court of Appeals upheld his conviction on Jan. 9, 1986, I believed the 30- to-75-year sentence would keep him in prison for a long time.

I had no idea that he came up for parole twice. I didn't know that I had to register with the state department of corrections if I wanted officials to notify me so that I could object.

Over the years, therapists encouraged me to get angry about the rape. I never could. I've had all sorts of conflicting emotions about it, but I've never been really angry.

Now my anger began to simmer. Somebody should have told me about the notification system. David Francis could have gotten out of prison, and I never would have known.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction now has an Office of Victim Services, which helps victims in several ways, including setting up meetings with offenders. But victims still have to register to be notified of parole hearings.

The department could not find the records of his first parole hearing, in July 1995.

Records of the second hearing, in May 2000, are boilerplate, with filled-in forms that suggest he was not a model prisoner. His work assignment was library aide, but the record noted he was not currently working. He spent more than a month altogether in disciplinary control -- solitary -- for possession of contraband, disobedience of a direct order, and making threats. The decision was tabled until September 2000.

He died in August 2000 of the cancer that had won him a parole in 1984, a week before he raped me.

At the time of his death, he had been in prison for 16 years. Over those years, the records show he participated in only two programs.

He got his GED.

And he completed a course called "Dealing With Depression."

I read that line again. And again.

I read it and cringed. I read it and laughed. I read it and finally -- finally -- felt rage.

I had been tested repeatedly for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. I had gone through sleepless nights and days I couldn't get out of bed. I had suffered panic attacks. Once, on a work trip to New York, I walked the stairs to and from my 15th-floor room, because I'd been terrified by an encounter on an elevator with a man who looked like David Francis.

And he had a problem with depression?


The night I was raped, my husband took me home from the hospital to a big, nearly empty house. Two months earlier, we had moved into a colonial in Shaker Heights, our first house after years of apartment living.

The house had four bedrooms, and we joked that we had to do something to fill them up. But I was busy, and I loved my career. I wasn't quite ready for children.

The rape changed that. It made me see that a single bad decision, a brief moment of not paying attention, a missed meeting -- anything, anything at all -- can change our lives. Or end them.

Near-death stories always seem to end with the person waking up and shouting bumper-sticker aphorisms: Carpe diem! Life is not a dress rehearsal! Etc.

I did not allow myself to have a Big Moment. But I did start to live less ... oh, let's say less casually. I decided I should think about what I wanted out of this too-short life while I was here, and get to it.

I did. The trial ended in late October 1984, and by January I was pregnant.

My son was born Oct. 7, 1985, just short of a year after the trial. We named him Daniel. They cleaned him up before they handed him to me, wrapped like a burrito in a blanket, showing only a thick head of black hair and a face all battered and bruised from the difficult delivery. My husband said he looked like he had been mugged.

When I held him, my heart and soul filled like a balloon that has been blown up so far it almost breaks. It lifted me.

In that moment, I stopped fearing for myself. I began fearing for him. He was five minutes old, and I knew that if I ever lost him, I could not go on.

When we got home from the hospital, I wept for four weeks straight, uncontrollable tears running down my face. "I'm fine!" I kept saying. "I don't know why I'm crying!"

One day, when all the grandparents had gone home and my husband had gone back to work, I sat on the couch in that big, quiet house, my baby on my lap.

I looked at him, and he looked back, with that look of intense concentration babies sometimes get. I said to him, "You will always have me. I will always love you, I will protect you, and I promise I will never go away."

And then I cried some more.


Before he found me, David Francis had another victim in mind.

His baby sister, Laura Wills.

The youngest of the eight children, Laura came to Cleveland with her mother in the mid-'70s. She stayed here after her mother and Charlene moved back to Boston -- her mother because she was sick, Charlene because she thought Boston would be a better place to raise her kids.

Charlene gave me Laura's phone number, and right before Christmas 2007, I went to see her. Lights blinked on a tree in the front room of her house. In the living room, a televangelist was preaching on the TV.

"I kept my distance from David," Laura said. "He was always a problem child. I think he was disturbed in the head."

She remembered her last conversation with him. It was in the summer of 1984, days before he raped me. Laura was 19 and had a new baby.

David wanted her to come downtown and meet him at a hotel. He didn't sound right, not at all. He wanted to put her out on the stroll -- pimp her out. When Laura declined, he started threatening her, saying he was going to have her beaten if she didn't do what he wanted.

Laura moved before he could find out where she was. Next thing she heard, he had died in prison.

Like Charlene, Laura succumbed to drugs and prostitution, and lost her children. She, too, was raped.

Four years ago, she went through two drug- and alcohol-addiction programs to get clean. She went to church and back to her husband.

Now, at age 43, she has a 3-year-old son, all but one of her other kids back from the protective-services system, and goes to church at least four times a week.

I went with her, three times. Each time, Laura introduced me to everyone, hugged me, and told me she loved me. She took me by the hand and led me to the altar to be saved.

One evening in April, sitting in the church basement for a women's support group, Laura told the others, "It's a blessing that this woman, who was raped by my brother, doesn't hate me," she said. "It's a blessing."

Tears came to her eyes. Tears came to my eyes. Another moment of grace.

I couldn't speak. I could only nod and smile.


I've lost count of all the therapists I saw over the years. Whenever the depression came, waking me in the middle of the night and keeping me in bed during the day, I made another appointment.

I was not depressed all the time. My friends would be surprised if I told them about the dark cloud that regularly hid my sun in those days. On the outside, I was fine, just as I kept insisting to myself.

But a part of me had never returned after that day in the theater, when I left my body and hovered over myself, watching, certain I would die. I was still detached, still an observer.

Journalists observe for a living, so I had that going for me. I had become the film critic for the newspaper and worked at home most of those years. So it was easy to hide my depression.

I used humor, sometimes sarcasm, as a shield. I was a smart-aleck in my movie reviews. I also wrote a column, ironically titled "Domestic Bliss." I was J. Co., a power-mad diva ruling over the home office and underground laboratories of Domestic Bliss Inc.

I volunteered in my kids' classrooms and sat outside with neighbors on summer evenings, listening to our children play Ghost in the Graveyard. I had dinner parties and swam laps with a group of friends. By pretending to be fine, I was fine -- most of the time.

But sometimes I wasn't all there. My daughter would wave her hand in front of my face and say, "Mom!" when I slipped away.

I still thought the rape had happened only to me. My children weren't even born at the time; how could it affect them?

I was so wrong. Families absorb trauma like gauze absorbs blood from a wound.

Every therapist I saw asked me, right away, if I was thinking about suicide. I gave my standard answer: No, I could never commit suicide. I had my two children: My daughter, Zoe, was born May 30, 1988. I loved them desperately.

On the other hand, I said, I could really, really understand why someone might want to commit suicide.

They always put me on anti-depressants, fast. When I began to feel better, I would stop. I hated being on medications, but I needed them. I hated needing them.

The first time a therapist diagnosed me with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I argued with her. PTSD happened to soldiers who had been in combat. What happened to me could not compare.


Evolutionary psychologists tell us we have fear embedded in our DNA. From the start, Darwinian selection favored the humans who were cautious -- the ones who did not eat the pretty berries right away, the ones who did not blunder into the dark caves. It really was a jungle out there, a jungle where the reckless died, while the fearful survived to pass on their genes.

The risk-taking impulse did not entirely disappear, otherwise we'd have a hard time explaining bungee jumping and online dating. But fear has the definite edge in our collective psyche.

Fear protects us from threats. But fear is such a powerful, primal response, it appears even when no dark cave is at hand.

I tried to bury my fear, but denying it did not make me fearless. I had to unearth it, and understand it, to change things.

Now that I knew who and what David Francis was, I had shed some of my fear. But I needed a final confrontation.