January 25, 2007
By HELEN UBINAS, Courant Staff Writer
I don't know, Linda Clark says, her eyes darting between me and an empty spot in the middle of her dining room table. I just don't.
She still can't figure out why her 28-year-old daughter, a good student who graduated from high school, drifted into such an aimless existence.
Why the little girl she and her husband indulged turned to drugs and petty thievery.
So no, she says, her eyes returning to the empty spot, she has no idea why her oldest daughter would lie about being raped by a black man at Hartford's Bushnell Park on a weekday afternoon.
I'd gone looking for Rosemarie Clark's family after she appeared in court Tuesday, charged with filing a false report. Finally, we knew the identity of the white woman who had sent the city into a panic, who had angered a community that demanded she be held accountable for perpetuating a destructive stereotype. But we still didn't know why.
Was she, I wanted to know, a traumatized rape victim or a reckless liar?
I thought finding her family on a quiet street in Waterbury might offer some answers. But there were only more questions.
Linda and her husband, Brian, an oil deliveryman, had always worked hard to make sure their children didn't want for anything; Rosemarie especially. Clothes. Dance lessons. A car they surprised her with at the McDonald's drive-through window where she worked as a teenager.
It made Linda wonder just how her daughter's life could go so wrong, though she admits it isn't a question she asks herself much anymore.
I expected the family to say they didn't think Rosemarie should have been charged; she still says she was raped, though not by a stranger in the park. But they didn't. They wouldn't be surprised if she was lying about it all.
Maybe she was looking for attention, her sister Kim guessed. Maybe she wanted to get arrested, her brother suggested.
It was clear that Rosemarie had long ago worn out the family. They tried to help, they said. But there was always an excuse with Rosemarie, always a story. When Rosemarie called Kim in November and said she needed to talk - "I was raped," Kim says Rosemarie told her - Kim didn't call her back.
About the only one in the family who hadn't completely given up on Rosemarie is her father.
Daddy's little girl, they teased, as he tried to deflect their banter. What parent wants to admit they have a favorite? But yes, Brian admitted, he'd give Rosemarie a couple of bucks here and there. He'd call in favors to get her apartments. And something in his eyes told me that even though she was facing stolen credit card charges, he would have paid the $905 to bail her out of Niantic if Linda hadn't threatened to divorce him.
As I listened to the family, I came to the sobering realization that a case that had inflamed racial passions in the city might, in the end, boil down to a young woman who'd long ago lost her way.
"It hurts me," Brian says, his eyes filling up with tears he quickly wiped away. "But what are you going to do?"
Brian pauses for a moment, and then starts talking about Rosemarie's 8-year-old daughter, who he and Linda have been raising for years. She gets good grades. She dances. She plays the flute.
"She's a good kid," Brian says of the granddaughter who calls him Daddy.
Sounds a lot like Rosemarie, I tell him.
"Yeah, I guess it does," he says, his words drifting off with his thoughts.
"But maybe this time things will turn out different."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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