IM this article to a friend!

January 27, 2003

Sisters' bond unbroken

From: Colorado Springs Gazette, CO - 27 Jan 2003


The day she stood outside the mobile home as a sheriff's deputy squeezed through a window to find out whether her sister was alive or dead was the worst day of Donna Hardy-Marth's life.

The days since aren't much better.

Seeing her older sister's body through the morgue's glass window, listening to the coroner explain the route the bullet took through Dee Ann Hardy's brain.

Waiting, still, for the murder trial of Dee's former boyfriend, Darrel Hyberg Jr., arrested one week after her death.

Enduring the well-meaning remarks of people telling her Dee is better off or suggesting her mourning should be over now, 18 months later.

"I still have a hard time believing it," Donna said. "I still hope she's going to walk through the door."

But she knows that's not going to happen.

Last year, Donna watched helplessly as one woman after another fell to domestic violence.

The final straw came Oct. 30, when a young woman named Karri Frazier was killed by her ex-boyfriend in the Tejon Street office where she worked.

Donna had to do something. She turned her attention to creating good out of a sad situation by starting a support group for people who have lost loved ones to domestic violence-related homicides.THIS MUCH NEEDS TO GO OUT FRONT

Subhed here here here

They were supposed to be the Golden Girls, Dee and Donna and their older sister Debra growing old together.

"We could imagine us three sitting around a table and yapping about silly things like that, too. Us Hardy girls were going to be the ones sitting around the table, carrying on like `The Golden Girls,'" Donna said.

They were born in Colorado Springs, the children of a deaf mother and father. They learned sign language before they could talk.

Although two years apart, Dee and Donna looked alike, and people often took them for twins, with their similar features and the same, long hair. Sometimes they played along with it. Other times, ornery Dee teased Donna by telling people Donna was older.

They did everything together as girls - gymnastics, playing jacks.

As adults, they did everything in tandem. They both worked at convenience stores, Donna as a manager at a Texaco and Dee as assistant manager at a Conoco.

Then Donna got a job as a teacher's assistant at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. A year later, Dee, or Deedles, as friends called her, joined her there.

They even lived side by side in Calhan for a while.

"We could holler out the window at each other," Donna said.

When Donna moved back to Colorado Springs, Dee stayed in her trailer and met Hyberg, who police say killed her.


The wind screamed down the highway that June day, chilling the air.

It shook the truck where Donna and her husband Raymond Marth sat, parked on the shoulder of Calhan Highway, waiting for a deputy to arrive.

Donna hadn't heard from Dee in 20 hours. She had expected her sister to spend the night at her home in Colorado Springs.

She never arrived.

A renter who lived on Dee's property called Donna to say Dee wasn't answering her door.

Was something wrong?

Donna started calling but got no answer. Finally, she called deputies, who promised they would check on her sister.

Dee's place looked fine, they reported. No sign of forced entry. The dog had plenty of food and water in his dishes outside.

Still, Donna worried.

About a week earlier, deputies had arrested Hyberg for allegedly attacking Dee, breaking her cheekbone and nose.

In the morning, she called the El Paso County Sheriff's Office again.

OK, a deputy said, they would check again.

Donna and Raymond Martin arranged to meet a deputy on U.S. Highway 24 and drive out together.

At Dee's, they waited for a second officer to arrive.

Until then, they couldn't go onto the property, the deputy said.

As they waited in the truck, Donna prayed her sister was OK.

When the second deputy arrived, they all marched to the trailer together. One deputy tried the door. It was locked. He tried the kitchen window. It opened.

"If it's not a crime scene, you can come in. If she's hurt, you can come in," the deputy told them.

Then he climbed through the window.

A minute passed, then another. Finally, he opened the door, shaking his head. "We have a scene," he said.

The other deputy slipped inside.

"Please tell us," Donna begged. "Is she OK?"

The deputy reappeared.

"I'm sorry," he said. "But she's deceased."

Small reminders

A year and a half later, nothing about Donna says tragedy or indicates half of her is gone.

She smiles. She admonishes her son Clinton, 9, and a neighbor to stop making such a racket. She goes to bed early enough so she can be at school by 5 a.m. She teases her students in sign language. They tease her back.

Still, the details hint at the tragedy.

She wears a leather bag containing some of Dee's ashes around her neck.

On her refrigerator, she keeps photos of the children who will grow up without the mother who adored them. Dee's two youngest children live with their grandparents, Hyberg's parents.

Everything at school reminds her of Dee. Everyone there still remembers.

"Dee," one girl said in sign language. "Miss."

Then she made the sign of a cocked gun.

They all know what happened, Donna said, even if they don't really understand it.

But then, neither does Donna.

Once, long before Dee died, Donna was working at a convenience store when two men came in with a gun.

"This is a stickup," one said. Donna giggled, thinking it was a joke.

"Ma'am," he said, and put a clip in. "This is not a joke."

She froze, too frightened to move, and the manager had to get the money for them. After they left, after the shock wore off, anger set in.

"I thought, `They don't even know me. They could've taken my life, and they didn't even know me. They might have liked me,'" she said.

Now the question keeps coming into her mind: How could someone shoot her sister and leave her lying there? How could someone do that?

Comfort in numbers

She knows she is not the only person in Colorado Springs asking these questions, dealing with the justice system or struggling to regain normalcy.

Together, she hopes they can help each other find their way out of grief.

She plans to call her support group, which she is organizing with the help of Nancy Keller, a fellow teacher's assistant at the school, "Stop It!"

Although it is for families and friends of domestic violence victims killed by their abusers, survivors of abuse also will be welcome.

Donna said she will refer victims currently in domestic violence situations to TESSA, an advocacy group.

Running a support group takes an enormous toll, said Jennifer Romero, who started Mothers of Murdered Youth in 1997 after her 13-year-old son Gino was shot to death.

"You live the lives of the people you join with, and I feel like I have to support them in every way," she said.

Being surrounded by people in the same situation eases her grief, Romero said.

"When you're feeling really bad and you talk to one of these other people, you're not feeling sorry for yourself anymore. You're feeling sorry for them. It seems to soothe it. It seems to help you. You realize you're not alone."

That is the sense of solidarity and purpose for which Donna searches.

"If I can help one person," Donna said, "I'll feel better."


Copyright 2003, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved.