Another Family Falls Apart
When he got to his office after a routine trip to the pharmacist over his lunch hour, Ray Dillingham found a group of co-workers waiting to ask him what had happened and to help him if they could. While this electronics engineer had stepped out of his Fort Worth office, a radio update had reported that Ray's son had been arrested the night before, for murder.
Ray's co-worker always heard positive comments about Jeffrey, who had never given his parents a cause for concern. They helped Ray, who had never imagined the need to find an attorney. In fact, he didn't even know where the local jail was.
Ray's wife was on a business trip in west Texas, and he drove to Mineral Wells to inform her of the bad news. "I asked her to get into my truck and I explained it to her. It was extremely hard. We thought it was a mistake and would be cleared up," Ray told the Dallas Morning News.
The "mistake" was never cleared up. Ray and his wife learned that their son had turned from a normal teen to a vicious killer. "People say 'I'll never have to deal with anything like that.' I tell them, 'Before March 1992, I was just as sure as you are,'" said Dillingham's grief-stricken father.
Ray and his wife divorced in 1997, not being able to deal with the stress and saying they were no longer the same people they once had been. The shock of Jeffrey's arrest was too much to bear. "It is like being thrown up against a brick wall over and over again," his mother said.
She became active in Hope, a chapter of Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), an organization of families of prisoners, prisoners, former prisoners and other concerned citizens. The group aims to 1) use prisons only for those who have to be in them, and 2) and for those who have to be in them, to provide them all the rehabilitative opportunities they need to turn their lives around.
Dillingham's father copes by being active in sports: biking, bowling and playing softball. The stress has caused him to be able to fit, at more than 50 years of age, into his son's clothes that were left behind following his incarceration. Youthful greed had taken this couple's marriage and their son. "They bring him in handcuffs and lock him in a cage, and you can talk to him through a wire," says Ray about his visits with his son. "I haven't hugged him in a long time."