William F. Fenzau
November 10, 1966 - June 7, 2005
On June 7, 2005, William Fenzau was murdered in his Miami home. The investigation into his death was filmed by the true-crime reality television series, The First 48 (Season 3, Episode 13). This website is written by his sister, Lori Grande who has spent almost 19 years navigating the criminal justice system, advocating for the case to go to trial. It is written to offer validation, support, and encouragement to all those who live with the absence of justice.
The producers of The First 48 accompanied detectives on a homicide investigation and broadcast their version of William’s homicide. This occurred without a legal contract authorizing their participation or signed consent from anyone involved. Consequently, a story was told without evidence of the conclusions drawn, void of research of the truth and lacking knowledge of the character, history or daily activities of any of the people involved. This business venture served Granada Entertainment USA and the City of Miami. It was encouraged and condoned by the Mayor’s Office with apathetic acquiescence from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. These actions resulted in a legacy of harm.
Almost 19 years later, while possessing the legal responsibility, necessary resources and evidence, the case has not gone to trial.
Not a day passes that I do not in some manner, reflect on William's death. I have become accustomed to his absence, but time will not render me accustomed to what was done to him. Every day I think of justice. Accountability is instinctive.
In the days immediately following William's murder I was known under the profile name, "Still I Breathe" on a gay men's hook-up site called Manhunt. This began as a desperate attempt to reveal anguish and encourage witnesses to come forward, but it came to serve an internal drive to demonstrate my existence and my strength. It was a mechanism for survival. "Still I Breathe" became a way of being and interacting with others as an outward presence of a formidable foe; a message that William was not defeated as he lived in me.
Murder gives birth to an instinctual fight. It can be tamed, but not extinguished. Loved ones of homicide victims live in the space between what could have been and the possibility of what might be, while trying to stand on the ever changing landscape of reality. I did not face the evil William faced the day he fought for his life, yet, I actively immersed myself in the evil that surrounded him for many years. I hoped witnesses, information and answers would create meaning for me to frame a context to the chaos I lived.
Non-attachment is a necessary skill born from trauma. Whether justice is served or not, homicide elicits profound feelings of defeat. Human nature draws upon an urge to persevere through failure. The various roles I embodied allowed me to be strong and calculated when needed - a false sense of control. I became paralyzed where I needed to move and inhabited constant motion where I needed to be still. As I left the crime scene and headed to my mother's apartment on June 8th, I detached. Grief replaced with my fight against defeat. There is a price to be paid for avoidance and preventing the flow of life, even if it feels like it is saving you.
William's failed homicide investigation was my greatest defeat. Eventually, I learned to live with two diametrically opposed internal drives: a consistent fight for justice and a reasoned acceptance of a failed homicide investigation. No amount of fighting for justice or investigation prepared me to navigate the path from living a life surviving the absence of justice to a life choosing peace in spite of that absence.
Using William's homicide investigation as my template, the primary questions I will explore are:
1. When that which is designed to take your fight (i.e. the criminal justice system) fails, how does a loved one of a homicide victim not seek an eye for an eye?
2. When justice does not prevail, how do loved ones’ manifest stability in the absence of justice?
3. Is it possible to feel success while living in the shadow of defeat?
In The Story of Jumping Mouse, Jumping Mouse survives his journey of hardships and reaches the far-off land. As he arrives, he says, "I am here. I feel the earth beneath my paws. I hear the wind rustling leaves on the trees. The sun warms my bones. All is not lost, but I'll never be as I was." (Steptoe). Jumping Mouse took one final jump as high as he ever jumped, transformed into an eagle and began to fly. I did not reach the far-off land I chased. I choose to fly anyway.
"While attempting to shut down distressing sensations, one pays the price of losing the capacity to appreciate the subtle physical shifts that denote comfort, satisfaction or warning of clear and present danger. Sadly, as a result, the capacity for feeling pleasure, garnering relevant meaning and accessing self-protective reflexes also shuts down." (Levine, pg.136)