PART V: MOTHER
It's a muggy June afternoon and John Humphrey, who is 70, sits in blue overalls in a white wicker chair on the porch of the empty Lefkow house. He's a big man with a broad, rumpled face and fluffs of white hair he's tamed with a green bandanna. He's come to Chicago from Colorado to help his kid sister, Joanie, fix up the house where their mother was shot to death.
His 43-year-old daughter, Anne, has come too, bearing sea salts to chase off evil spirits.
"A feng shui thing," she says, though she never scatters them as planned. Whatever demons had fouled the house, she determines, have already fled.
Now there are simply toilets to scrub. Baseboards to replace. The brute work of making the house appeal to a buyer undeterred by the killings in the basement.
"Hardly ever have I seen her be overwhelmed by circumstances," John says of his sister, "even this one." He then admits he doesn't really know how she is because she doesn't say.
Lefkow worries that her siblings--John, Judy and Tom--blame her for their mother's death.
"She shouldn't," John says. He raises his beer bottle, stares out toward the marshals milling on the sidewalk. "Anything like that just gets you right in the forehead. But it probably saved my mother 10, 15 really bad years."
Donna Humphrey wanted to die. At least that's what she'd told her children since October 2004 when a bout of sepsis, a blood infection, had sent her into the hospital and then into the home of her daughter Judy.
When Judy herself had to go into the hospital, around New Year's, Joan flew to Colorado and brought her mother to Chicago.
"Mother," Joan had warned, "you can stay with us as long as you tone it down with this `I want to die.'"
Humphrey hated having to live with her children. She'd lived alone since 1977, when her husband, Jake, died; losing her independence deepened the depression that had dragged her down for most of her life.
"Here's the thing you have to know about Donna," eulogized a friend at her funeral. "She was almost never positive and upbeat. ... Donna had been born to parents who didn't know how to show their love for her. ... I think her early lack of love and acceptance made her unable to accept love from others later, and this included God. ... But interestingly, it didn't keep her from feeling deep love for her own children."
The eulogist went on: "If you had told her on the morning of February 28 that this would be her last day, I believe she would have said, `It's about time!'"
In rural Kansas of the 1920s, housework was more valued for girls than homework, and Humphrey had to quit school after 8th grade. She became her own teacher. Married, on the farm, she would sit under trees reading and eating apples, an inspiration to her studious daughter Joan, who nevertheless shrank from her mother's impatience and psychic pain.
"Her depression made me fearful she would leave, commit suicide," Lefkow says. "That theme of abandonment is a theme I've lived with."
In her mother's place and time, Lefkow says, the only anti-depressant was religion. Donna Humphrey gave her children a big dose of the Baptist fundamentalism that was her medicine.
Then a new pastor came up the grassy hill to little Woodlawn Baptist Church. He'd earned a master's at Wheaton College near Chicago. He encouraged Joan Humphrey to go.