By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
The timing of this tragedy was bitter. The day before the shooting, Dawna Straus had traveled back to Long Beach for an ultrasound reading.
As Tom Rogers says, That ultrasound is the only picture the family will see, as we are denied the ability to take future birthday and Christmas photos of her at our local K mart."
Dawna Straus remains stunned at what has happened. Sick of the nightly drone of police helicopters over her Long Beach home, she came to Bullhead to escape the random violence of big cities.
Tom Rogers says he and Dawna's mom had moved to Bullhead for the same reason: To get away from the cesspool." Rogers adds, But let's get factual. I'm retired. If I still had to make an income, I'd be in L.A. or Phoenix. I'm here only because I had the ability to escape the crime. This is all poverty-wage income. You don't come here to get a job. You come here to retire or to get into a community where you're not fearful."
Despite what happened, the clan apparently will stay put. Dawna intends to stay here and so does the rest of the family, because we do like Bullhead," says Rogers. Freak, freak acts do occur."
But the anger remains. Still recuperating at her mom and stepdad's home in Bullhead, Dawna has to wear an ostomy bag while her liver regenerates. Not all of her bile drains into that bag.
I'm very, very angry," she says during a mid-December interview. I would be having a baby in less than ten days from now. A little girl. She was cremated and neither my husband nor I ever saw her."
The sight everyone remembers is Dawna Straus strapped to her hospital bed and hooked up to tubes and a roomful of machinery.
They had to tie her down," recalls her mom, Sherrie Rogers. First, it was because she kept pulling her tubes out. Then, when she stopped pulling her tubes out, she kept crawling out of bed. But she still had IVs in her and they had to tie her down again. Being on the morphine, she didn't understand. She couldn't comprehend what was going on. She just knew she was tied to that bed."
Tom Rogers adds, That's your lovely daughter you're looking at. It's quite frightening."
As she recovered from her wounds and operations, Dawna Straus continued to be sick. Doctors concluded that it was a case of hospital virus" from which she wouldn't recover until she went home.
Now that she's home and better, however, her toddler son, Austin, doesn't recognize her. He calls her sister-mom." Dawna Straus lost 60 pounds while in the hospital. She's having a difficult time getting used to her radically different appearance.
The whole family seems to feel a void.
Dawna will live," says Tom Rogers. Dawna might have other children. She might forget most of this. But she'll never forget that she lost the baby.
That baby was stolen from me, her mother and the whole family, not just Dawna and her husband. When you're a close family and your life centers around grandchildren, that's a major loss. And in the state of Arizona, it doesn't exist."
Dawna still can feel the bullet in her back. Doctors haven't removed it, but she says she would allow them to do so if prosecutors need it for evidence.
Her laconic demeanor doesn't mask the bitterness. I'm just concentrating on being alive," she says. I just think about being here. That I'm here. Looking at the kids, my husband. Thinking about what it would have been like for them if I hadn't survived. Helps me go forward."
THERE ARE OTHER REASONS than safety for moving to Bullhead City.
It just happened to be the next stop for Verne Peyser, who has worked on newspapers since the Ice Age.
Peyser, a wizened, chain-smoking editor who's proud of being from the old school-not journalism school-was a key player a decade ago when noted military pilot Duke Tully was the highflying publisher of the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette. Phoenix was booming, and The Pize," seemingly a fixture as boss of the Republic's suburban staff, hired scads of reporters-many of whom still work there.
Then, in the mid-Eighties, Duke Tully was unmasked as a phony. He had never been a pilot in any war. He'd never even been in the military. Tully left Phoenix in disgrace, and Peyser, a Tully man, wound up working for him in the little burg of Ojai, California.
But that, too, ended, and in April 1990, the peripatetic Peyser found himself in Bullhead City, and editor of a little rag called the Booster.
Fortune is now smiling upon Peyser. While daily newspapers around the country are folding, Pize has helped transform the weekly Booster into a daily newspaper called the Mohave Valley News. Circulation is climbing. And there's even newspaper competition. Another newspaper in town, the Bee, also is expanding.
Pize gets to hire people and make like an old-time news hound. He's old enough to be a snowbird, but since he'll never retire, that label doesn't apply.