the example of Todd Kendhammer

Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 10.08.31 PMTodd Kendhammer is a strange little man who looks like a potato, and you could even say his gene expression tends more toward the spud side of life than those of us who still retain something known as humanity in this day and age. Eerily enough, several of his kin share this same potato-like affliction of sorts and maybe even some kind of magical belief in talking potatoes. I don’t know, but this is the strangest case I’ve paid attention to in a while. And I think it may be emblematic of both the current national psychosis, the compartmentalizing of trauma by many americans that we may see intensified in years to come with this smash-bang of an opening up to the 20s, and an example of how truth cannot be ignored despite how people buy into lies that make them feel safe even as those lies destroy everything sacred and good around them.

The Wisconsinite was convicted of murdering his wife, Barbara, of 20-odd years in 2017. He received a life sentence with the possibility of parole in 30 years. Though they had been married many years and even had adult children, they weren’t much older than me or my husband, or many of the people I know from my school years who still have like, toddlers, if they have offspring of their own, at the time the crime was alleged to have happened. And Todd would sure like you and any other curious onlooker to believe it is still an alleged ordeal to this day.

I mention the cultural differences I’ve experienced with regard to their close-ish age range (Kendhammer was 47 at the time of his conviction, Barbara just 46 when he beat her to death) because it’s not something that I see mentioned often. The midwest is just this big homogenous blob of nothing “flyover” land filled with people doing the same exact thing as the next. It is in fact diverse, and as I mentioned earlier, there are those of us who came from the same general region without such incestuous small town expectations and who haven’t been necessarily forced into such austere and gendered roles. This of course is a matter of class in many cases but that’s not the only driving force communally; religious belief and ethnic tradition (still) have their influences in the warp speed fascist states of america, but not in a way that replaces class antagonism as it is so often insisted upon in the spectacle. I’m not sure of all their majority potato-ish clan’s beliefs or circumstances, but unfortunately for Barbara, it seems she was trapped. Nearly everyone around them, even after her brutal beating and painful death, waxed poetic, Yukon gold-like, about how perfect of a couple they were.

Todd’s story goes something like this: he and Barbara were on their way to see about replacing a windshield for one of Todd’s “side” gigs on a morning going in the opposite direction of Barbara’s workplace, which was a public school where she had been a beloved cook and trusted coworker for many years. It was a Friday, and she was dressed for work in her special Friday t-shirt. She was so punctual in fact that when she was just two minutes late, coworkers were on the horn trying to find her. The Kendhammers had the good fortune of having well water as their water source, and Barbara had her thermos-like cup she brought with her every day to work because good well water is indeed superior to pretty much anything else around to drink. I can’t remember exactly where the cup ended up in the car, but the important thing is that is was there, she was planning on going to work that day without some planned interruption to her usual schedule. As Todd had it and still does apparently, a large rusty pipe flew off the bed of a semi they were behind as they were driving down the road, crashed through the windshield, and killed Barbara.

This pipe was as magical as the bullet that killed JFK, and in the immediate aftermath, Todd appeared as if he had just stepped out of the ring. Quick-thinking first responders snapped photos of him on the scene and later the defensive scratches and cuts Barbara left behind. It smelled from the jump.

An autopsy revealed that Barbara suffered blunt force trauma to her head and neck, skull fractures, cartilage fractures which indicated she had been strangled, and she had 1 laceration on her forehead and 3 lacerations on the back of her head. Additionally, she had abrasions on her checks and contusions (bruises) on her lips. She also had nasal fractures.

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The t-shirt says it all.

It seems that for where they were found, Todd had beat the shit out of her and was planning on dumping her somewhere more remote but she was hanging on for dear life so he had to stage this ridiculously contrived scene. A passerby reported that he saw their Toyota backed off the road, before the scene was officially a scene, but the windshield was still intact, and indeed when first responders attended to Todd’s 911 call, it was clear to even the amateur sleuth’s eye that it was bashed with the pipe from a stationary position. The pipe could have easily been stored in the trunk of the car, and maybe the most damning aspect of his tale was that no blood was found on it that supposedly left behind a very bloody Barbara.

No one responding found his claim about it flying through the air believable, and subsequent reenactment experiments could not repeat the same kind of trajectory Todd was never able to definitively pin down himself. His testimony about moving Barbara around after she was gravely injured from its impact to remove the pipe from the windshield made no sense because it couldn’t have happened. Glass shards were not found in the passenger seat. Todd never gave up his laughable claim that his knuckles were bloodied because he had punched at the windshield in a panicked attempt to ward off the phantom flying pipe. Was it a bird, a plane? He was even unsure of that at first he claimed. But yeah, why wouldn’t anyone try to hit at a pane of glass in a panicked attempt to protect a loved one? His 911 call itself was ominous, Todd’s oddly high-pitched voice asking for an exact arrival time. He insisted upon riding with Barbara in the ambulance, barely clinging to life, because he just knew she would be so frightened to be “alone” without him. Yeah, sure man. He had enough wits about him despite the adrenaline high from beating his wife into the ultimate form of submission (he actually used “adrenaline rush” to describe his actions in the aftermath) to know that his unfinished business was still conscious. Not for long, tragically.

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Barbara’s “best friend” Tina McCoy testifying on behalf of her killer. Not a face I would trust.

Unbelievably, their immediate family and close friends threw their support behind Todd. A smorgasbord of half-baked potatoes testifying as character witnesses took the stand to tell the fact finders how swell Todd was, how perfect his and Barbara’s relationship was, that there was never any violence they saw, couldn’t have been. Even Barbara’s daughter never wavered in her support for her father throughout. Barbara’s barrel-bellied traitor of a brother threw in his two cents for Todd, and it was only her maternal cousin who spoke on behalf of other distanced family members who couldn’t make it to sentencing with righteous indignation against Todd’s actions, detailing Barbara’s humble life in service to others, how she enjoyed the simple and natural wonders of life. Barbara’s mother is rumored to be paying for Todd’s appeal. Not one of these people involved with Barbara’s life on a day to day basis sat behind the state’s side, and oddly enough, not one claimed Todd didn’t or couldn’t do it either. It was an utterly bizarre affair, and the observer comes away with the impression that they are as sociopathic as he is.

P: When the police first noticed scratches on your neck, you first said that was from working with glass, correct?

D: I said that, yes.

P: You don’t work with glass at [workplace], do you?

D: No.

P: You work with windshields, but that’s not the same as working with broken glass, right?

D: [confused look]

P: I assume you’re installing windshields; you’re not getting scratched up with broken glass.

D: It depends how bad it’s broken.

P: Well, were these scratches from glass?

D: No. Not, not from glass being at home.

P: You said it was from working with glass.

D: Correct, I said that.

P: That was a lie.

D: It wasn’t a lie.

P: It’s not true.

D: It was not true.

For his part, the prosecutor calmly laid out the state’s case in a way that expressed the severity of her injuries and disgust for their family’s denial, that this wasn’t a popularity contest to be won. He took a somewhat admirable stand for what domestic abuse can all entail, detailing how little time to herself she had outside of Todd’s persistent texts and phone calls throughout any given day. During the sentencing phase, he told Todd’s supporters they needed to pull their heads out their asses. Though a motive wasn’t glaring everyone in the face considering so many reported happy years and ostensible career success (moreso on Barbara’s part and initiatives), the often typical song and dance about what reasonable doubt is and is not did not come in to play. The state relied on the preponderance of the evidence without saying as much, rather taking a Sherlockian approach demonstrating that what is shown to be true cannot be proven false despite what the accused may claim.

Todd talked a lot during his testimony but didn’t actually claim anything substantial on direct or cross that was helpful to his case. The circumstantial evidence proved that he lied, there was just no way around it. One can deny the facts staring at them in the face but because they have secured gainful employment occasionally and urinated sitting down at their wife’s request throughout their marriage (what? what kind of person testifies to this on trial for murdering their wife they claimed they loved?) doesn’t negate the fact that something didn’t happen the way one claims it did.

The judge certainly judged during Todd’s sentencing hearing. I found his sentencing remarks extraordinary; he gave Todd a thorough dressing down and I don’t think I have seen both a judge and the prosecution so roundly criticize a defendant in court for lying. It is a rare thing these days see a liar called a liar and then to have that be heard, and this jury did hear the call, loud and clear. Todd and his potato patch demonstrably hang on to some distinction between lying and simply uttering untrue statements, for no other apparent reason or motive than to not tell the truth. These people all deserted Barbara in life, in some way at least that’s still not clear, and now in death. She was ultimately flanked by traitors, and I find it utterly despicable and unforgivable. Could she have tried to go to any of them for support? Was that even a possibility? Their conspiracy to save face for Todd and attempt to dispel any lingering doubt or guilt they felt started well before her painful and tragic demise and continues on to this day.

I’m still pretty obsessed with his trial. Though I can describe events in my own life similar to some of the things Barbara may have lived through, surrounded by people who claimed to love me but who found it easier to look the other way during periods of mistreatment and abuse, I still find the callousness of her family and supposed friends deeply and extraordinarily saddening. I think my obsession of sorts is due to the fact I find it so important to understand the psychologies and motivations of people who bury what they must know to be true to some degree in order to lead what is known as a “normal” life, going along with the status quo. In the case of Todd Kendhammer, he exuded some kind of appeal that made these people want to continue to be involved with his life and have him think positively of them in return.

But what if under these facades, as exemplified by the empty and narrowed eyes of people close to Barbara who couldn’t show a shred of sorrow for their loss of her from their lives, there is nothing to discover? What if such study of dismissive human behavior in response to the current plunder, or even personal tragedy, is not that important? What if beneath the years of brainwashing and austerity measures there is just reaction, or reactivity to cues and triggers, as if we are turning into the frightened, cornered animals the ruling class solely sees the rest of us as? What really happens when your dignity and pride is sapped — robbed — from you to the point you find yourself unable to mount a defense and instead present yourself as a shell of something that was once tender and human to the rest of the world?

That to me is the most frightening prospect and I think why I do care to try to understand reactions such as truly superstitious belief in mass masking — there is no middle ground here. You mask or you don’t, and any choice you elect to make now defines you as a person, at any point in your life, and your concern for others. This is a wholly groundless, disingenuous, and ultimately cowardly claim to make against another worker or peer. For example, I gave a store of disposable masks away to more susceptible coworkers early on because they have a grater overall risk of getting ill from any virus, and I was agnostic as to what may be truly out there to poison us, like so many other means of sustenance that we do not have control over. I masked up a few times myself early on for this reason, and I did think there was a possibility that we may have been experiencing the mass release of a respiratory irritant.

However, as I see it now and that is painfully obvious to many others, masking presents a psychological choice of conspiring with other workers, to literally breathe together, operating in full view of each other, and pushing back and saying no to measures that are either useless en masse or actively harmful, or to adapt to what we are being conditioned to believe is safe and comforting to the benefit of our self-appointed masters — and they are not going to be satisfied until they control every aspect of our lives and there is simply a compliant, quivering population remaining to carry out the tasks they couldn’t see themselves doing in a million years.

Frankly, I’m still agnostic to what COVID 19 may or may not be, but I don’t think any worsening wave of illness will be caused by this specific coronavirus. Though I am labeled a “hoaxer” for questioning this narrative at all, there are clearly concerned medical professionals out there who also question what exactly is going on but who have pursued alternative avenues for treatment and I don’t see why I shouldn’t trust them about their taking aspects of this epidemic seriously and adjusting their practice in doing so. Of course that is enough mistrust in the cultish covidian mantra to be cast aside and dismissed — in some cases, to be publicly and cruelly mocked for simply exercising freedom of speech and thought. And, of course, news of what are deemed “alternative” treatments are relentlessly chased down to be erased from the public consciousness and falsely criticized by those appointed influencers representing various pharmaceutical companies and organizations with vested interests through key media outlets, often in the dress of radical or anti-imperialist politics.

All told, it is gobsmacking to be in the middle of this whole production to hide the ruling class’s fascistic disposal of life and eugenics programs that is eroding the general public’s humanity while they couch their ingrained and conditioned authoritarianism as concern for others when it’s actually very selfish and fear based and irrational. We can look at the watershed moments of truth throughout this pandemic of fear and ruling class robbery and easily enumerate the reasons for which all the workers of the world should not be afraid of this virus, rather those deploying the propaganda that tells us we can’t make a living on anything resembling our own terms and we can’t enjoy our lives, that our lives aren’t really for the living, but total subservience much like the prosecution did in the Kendhammer case that in the end delivered some justice for the victim.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, such roundly described justice is not coming from our state institutions as their representatives lie to our faces. It is incredible. Is there anything other than mashed potatoes in the heads of the believers? The fear is there, but so is the truth — we are not yet at a point that it cannot be expressed — and I can’t help but hang on to the belief that those who operate in this intense state of fear are able recognize glimpses of it from time to time. And every day people can look at cases like Todd’s and see the plot, the stories and the alibis, and the conspirators and collaborators for what they are as well. But what will it take for people to recognize that they are harming themselves and others by going along with these big lies on the societal level? I feel like I’m surrounded by a sea of Todd supporters sometimes, but instead they are staying steady in their pathetic fealty to the ruling class at this point. In either case, you strip away the lies, and the truth, the correct order of events that put us in this situation, remains. That cannot be altered.

Who will be the willing jury to decide this and force their institutions to put the corrective into action? If the Todd Kendhammer case is a microcosmic example at all, such a thing is possible, though you may have a lot of true believers that don’t like it even if having a murderer walking free among them is not in their best interests. A reported 45 million people in the US alone have lost their jobs as the rapacious ruling class gets lightyears richer, but you still have a chorus telling you the problem is you for not masking yourself or even criticizing the practice and not washing your hands often enough. Boggling and enraging in both instances. I wish for every reader to continue to be able to stay steady on in their own lives in these bizarre and unbelievable times, in their own individual ways, to push through the cracks to display what they know to be true until we can collectively put together the court to try these maniacs for their ongoing crimes. The jury will assemble in turn.

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