This article, from April 1992, was selected by longtime editor Charles Monagan: "The body of a middle-aged woman is found in a gloomy basement condo in Norwalk. Soon it’s determined she’d been lying there for more than three years despite having a mortgage, a car in the parking lot, a job, neighbors and family. How could this have happened? Nonpareil investigative reporter Karon Haller uncovered the astonishing details in a perfect gem of a story — our best ever."
This article is being posted to the web in September 2021 as part of Connecticut Magazine's 50th anniversary celebration.
SHE HAD FAMILY, FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS, YET WHEN HER BODY WAS FOUND IN HER NORWALK HOME, SHE’D BEEN DEAD FOR OVER TWO YEARS. WHO WAS SUZAN CARTER? AND WHY DID SHE DIE THE WAY SHE DID?
BY KARON HALLER
Francis X. Fay Jr., reporting for The Hour (Norwalk), Tuesday, Oct. 22, 1991:
The remains of a woman believed to have died more than two years ago were found in the Berkeley Square Condominiums on Arch Street about 2:45 p.m. Monday. The body is believed to be that of Suzan Krampitz Carter who would have been 44 years old. . . . Police said she was the last known resident of the unit at 7-9 Arch Street. . . . The apartment was entered by a locksmith and a representative of a real estate management firm, who used flashlights and found what they believed to be a human body in a bed in the bedroom and notified police. . . . The Carter unit is at the end of a long, dark, unlit basement hallway that required a flashlight for passage. The front door of the Carter unit had no nameplate, but had a sign reading, “Gopher Hole,” above the double locks. The apartment was in disheveled condition. Fifteen empty beer cans lay in the kitchen sink; forty cigarette butts were in a large ashtray on the kitchen counter. A handbook on Alcoholics Anonymous lay open on the counter. The dwelling was deep with dust and cobwebs were all over. . . . The latest dates on newspapers and television directories found in the dwelling are from 1989.
Don Finch, Finch’s Lock Service, Norwalk:
Once I drilled out the deadbolt lock, Judd [Mott] went on into the apartment and from there I guess he went into the bedroom. He immediately came back out to where I was and said he thought maybe someone was in the bed and what did I think. I said to him, ‘‘Well, maybe it’s a dead body”—just kidding, of course. I never expected it to be true. We both got out of there, and Judd called the police.
From report of Officer Terri Boone, Norwalk Police Department, Oct. 21, 1991:
Mr. Judd Mott of Preferred Properties reports a death at 7-9 Arch St., Unit 25. Mr. Mott reports that the bank that hired his company had foreclosed on said unit. Mr. Molt advised they entered the bedroom area, and he saw what looked like a body under some blankets. Mr. Mott advised he lifted the end of the blanket and saw what looked like a foot. Mr. Mott advised he put the blanket down and left the unit to call the police.... I checked the body on the bed by moving the top cover off the head. The body was decomposed. I checked the unit and found mail—papers and bills. The last date on this paperwork was the year 1989.
Dr. H. Wayne Carver, chief medical examiner, Farmington:
We knew early in the game that we were going to get this one. There’s no way you're going to call in a private doctor on a body that’s more than two-and-a-half years old and he can say what she died of.
We had three big questions we needed to answer about Suzan Carter: When did she die? What did she die from? And who is she?
Now, the longer you go from the time of death, starting with the stiffening of the muscles and the settling of the blood and the beginning of the decomposition process, the less precise you can be about when someone died. There was no doctor magic to answering that question. It was just good police work.
From the report of Det. Michael
Murray, Norwalk Detective Bureau, Oct. 23, 1991:
Ernie D'Angelo of Dime Savings Bank, Uniondale, N.Y., was contacted and he stated that the bank foreclosed on the property due to non-payment. He said the last payment received from the deceased was in December 1988.
National Crime Information Center computer was checked from November 1988, to the present. The log shows no indication of Suzan Carter being entered as a missing person.
A check of the tow log shows her vehicle was towed, due to abandonment, by Nat's Garage to Lajoie’s Auto and Scrap Recycling on June 6, 1989.
Robert Horowitz of Baniff Press was contacted regarding the employment of Suzan Carter. He said she was employed there from Jan. 8, 1985 until Dec. 16, 1988, when she was let go by the company.
Belden Avenue Post Office was contacted. They said Postal Carrier Bruce Anderson filled out a card indicating Carter’s mail was not being taken out of her mailbox. Delivery was ceased in March 1989, after two months of mail had collected at the Post Office.
Northeast Utilities was contacted and they report that service was disconnected on May 18, 1989. They further indicated that the last payment they received was posted on Jan. 23, 1989.
Ann Artell, secretary of the Berkeley Square Condominium Association, was contacted. She said nobody has complained about foul odors emanating from Carter’s unit or the area in general. She said that she remembers Carter’s car sat in the area for a while and was stripped and eventually disappeared. She said that Carter didn’t pay common charges during the time she disappeared.
From the report of Det. Nelson Alicea, Norwalk Detective Bureau, Oct. 21, 1991:
Information was discovered that a David Carter appeared to have resided with Suzan Carter and there was a work number for him. I made phone contact with Mr. Carter who informed me that Suzan Carter was his ex-wife and he divorced her three years ago. David Carter reported that Suzan had a brother, Robert Krampitz, of New Jersey, a brother, Edward Krampitz, and a son, William Krampitz, both of Plainville, Connecticut.
Contact was made with Officer Gary Miller of the Plainville Police Department who reported that both William and Edward Krampitz resided at the same address and neither was home. A message was left to have them call Norwalk Police. At approximately 2150 hours, Edward Krampitz called me to report he last spoke with his sister via telephone in late 1988 or early 1989, at which time she reported she had lost her job and been in the hospital because of bad knees and emphysema. He said she had a history of alcoholism. She said not to call her, that she would keep in touch with them.
From the report of Sgt. Gary Mecozzi, Norwalk Police Department, Oct. 23, 1991:
A letter found in Suzan Carter’s apartment showed a Stamford Post Office cancel date of Jan. 25, 1989. A check with the Norwalk Post Office on Belden Avenue indicates the letter could have reached 7-9 Arch Street on Jan. 26, 1989. The letter was opened. A check of the apartment does not show any signs of entry from Jan. 26, 1989 to the time the body was discovered.
The following containers were found near the body: Ampicillin, Talacen, Lomotil, Elavil, Erythromycin, Doxycycline, Ceclor, Medrol, and Tylenol with Codeine. The Tylenol was prescribed on Jan. 20, 1989 and she picked up the drug on Jan. 24, 1989.
Dr. H. Wayne Carver:
We estimate she died around noon, Jan. 26, 1989. She'd received a letter that morning which she opened and, according to telephone records, her mother called her from Plainville and they talked for 37 minutes. Then nobody saw or heard from her again.
Due to her disease process, Suzan Carter was so superficially connected to the rest of society that when she disappeared, nobody bothered to check up on her for over two- and-a-half years. She's young. She’s an alcoholic. Bad things happen to alcoholics. They fall down and injure themselves. Other people beat them up. They die of disease caused by the alcoholism, and they have concomitant psychiatric problems which lead them to overdose on other medications.
The big fatal diseases weren’t there. No coronary thrombosis, no cancer, no aneurysms. No cirrhosis either. She had more than lethal amounts of amitriptyline in her tissue, which is an antidepressant drug marketed under different brand names. In her case, she was taking Elavil, which was prescribed by her doctor.
Francis X. Fay Jr., reporting for The Hour, Friday, Oct. 25, 1991:
The city has condemned the condominium of Suzan Carter in the Berkeley Square Condominium complex at 7-9 Arch Street after an onsite inspection. Anthony J. Capuano Sr., Chief Housing Inspector for the Health Department; Roger McFadden, Deputy Zoning Officer; and Fire Marshal James Verda came to identical conclusions Thursday after looking at the condominium of the woman found dead Monday evening, 33 months after last being seen.
Anthony J. Capuano Sr., chief housing inspector, Norwalk Department of Health:
There’s no way that place will meet any housing code, unless it’s in an underdeveloped country. It’s like a cave or even a dungeon. When I walked in, I figured the reason she died was because she’d suffocated down there.
I was amazed at the mess she lived in. Everything was all over. Clothes, magazines, beer cans, liquor bottles, prescription pill bottles, garbage, trash—you name it. One thing that really caught my eye was some dried blood on a picture frame. I figured she had to have been awfully unhappy to live like that.
But you don’t condemn a place because someone’s sloppy. You condemn it because it’s unsafe for human beings to live there. She only had these two little windows, one in her bedroom and one in the living room- kitchen area, and both windows were up near the ceiling. They were really just cutouts in the building’s foundation. According to the building code, a bedroom window has to be at least 5.7 square feet and located no more than 44 inches from the floor, in case- you have to get out of it. like in a fire. Her windows came nowhere close to meeting those requirements.
Sophie Hermanny sold the unit to Suzan Carter in 1987 for $86,000, which is a lot for a place like that, but ’87 was the height of the real estate market, and I understand it was the Dime Savings Bank of New York that gave her the financing.
Thomas Bucci of WiIlinger, Shepro, Tower, and Bucci, Bridgeport, attorney for the Dime Savings Bank of New York:
When somebody doesn't pay their mortgage, then the bank calls the debtor, and they send letters and notices. The bank doesn’t want to take the property. What the bank wants is a performing loan, so they’ll go to all lengths to work out arrangements with the debtor so the loan can continue.
We had a search firm looking for Suzan Carter but it wasn’t a physical search. No one went out looking for her in person. It was a search through the paperwork on her, like credit records, military records, motor vehicle records, Social Security and employment records.
I had to resort to a published notice in the Norwalk Hour in April 1991, because Suzan Carter didn’t respond to all the letters and notices and calls that had been directed to her since 1989. The published notice ran in the newspaper for two weeks. We got no reply. So we moved to foreclosure, which the court granted in July 1991.
The bank became the owner of the property. At that point, it hired a local realtor who went to the unit to inspect it and prepare it for resale. He took a locksmith in case he had to gain entry, and they were shocked to find the remains of Suzan Carter in the unit.
Anita Schmidt, director of human resources at Norwalk Community College and president of the Berkeley Square Condominium Association:
Ours is not an active condo association.
We meet only once a year and yes, we were aware that Suzan Carter was not paying her common charges. I think they were around $50 a month, but we thought she’d moved out. We wouldn't think of entering someone else's unit without their permission, and anyway, none of us have keys to each other’s units. The right to privacy is very important around here.
Most of us work during the day and in the evenings we socialize with people who live outside the complex.
I didn’t know Suzan. I don’t think anyone here did. She was very aloof. I saw her once. She was sitting alone in a beach chair by her car.
Alice Kuhn, department store manager and resident of Berkeley Square Condominiums:
I live at the top of the stairs and I used to see her coming up from the basement. It was pretty obvious she drank—not so much that she acted drunk, but you could smell it. We exchanged "Hi, how are yous" when we saw each other but I don’t think she wanted to get to know anybody. She seemed to want to be alone. Sometimes I’d see her sitting out in the parking lot inside her car drinking by herself, which was strange.
“Grace,” retired, a resident of Berkeley Square Condominiums:
I don’t want my name used because I want to live in peace. Everyone is so paranoid around here. It’s not a friendly bunch of people at all. The ones who own their units are furious because they think all the notoriety has ruined their chances to sell. I don’t know if anyone knew her. All I know is that I didn’t.
First of all, there was an odor in that basement. My plumber was working down there on my water heater several years ago and he complained about it—not that he could identify it. When he came upstairs and tried the faucets in my kitchen, he was so relieved they worked because he said he didn't want to go back down there again and have to be around that awful smell.
Second of all, l don’t understand why no one on the board checked up on her when she stopped paying her dues. It’s ridiculous to say the management wouldn’t enter anyone else’s unit. It states in the by-laws that since we share common facilities, the management has the right to enter another unit if it’s necessary.
“Marge,” realtor who sold the Berkeley Square condominium to Suzan Carter:
To tell you the truth, I’m not surprised the city condemned that unit. It was a terrible place for anyone to live. It was completely underground and dark and terribly damp. It was in the summer of 1987, and I told Suzan she’d have to gel a dehumidifier if she wanted to be comfortable down there. Suzan loved it the second she walked in. She said it was just what she and her husband wanted. She said they were very private people and they wanted to be by themselves, but they could only afford so much, and this was the best of what they could afford.
She was a very bright, very smart woman. You could tel! that just by talking to her. She was nice, too. But she was edgy and kind of nervous. And boy, did she ever smoke a lot. She lit up one cigarette after another the whole time she was in my car. One other thing I picked up on: Her job was real, real important to her. She was an accountant, and I think she said she worked something like seven days a week.
Robert Horowitz, Suzan’s employer at Baniff Press, Norwalk:
Suzan Carter worked for us from January 1985 to mid-December 1988. She worked on every aspect of our books from balance sheets to profit-and-loss statements and she finalized all our financial reports. She really knew accounting. Yes, she did work long hours and weekends.
In the beginning she was diligent and very reliable. She was all business and very efficient. She was just like a little mole. She got down on her desk and she worked. She was very, very bright. A nice person, too. But she was also withdrawn. Almost antisocial. Rarely could I get her to come to our holiday parties. She had only one friend that I know of, the woman who worked for her here: her assistant, Linda Mocarski.
Around 1987, things started to deteriorate. By 1988, she’d had a complete mental and physical breakdown and she was highly distracted and incapable of performing the simplest function. She became very depressed over a number of things. One was her marriage. Another was something to do with her son and her family, who live upstate. I know she felt very isolated and ostracized from them.
She also had a poor self-image, which didn’t help matters. She took no pride in her appearance whatsoever. If you didn’t know that she had an excellent job and that she made good money and that she was intelligent, you’d think she was a bag lady. She didn’t do her hair and she didn’t wear any makeup, and she wore the same clothes day in and day out. She enjoyed no extravagances at all, except for cigarettes and, of course, the booze—and the booze wasn’t apparent until later.
Well, the problem, as I recall, with her husband was that he was disabled. He couldn’t walk. He wanted her to be a 24- hour nurse, plus go out and earn all the money, and she couldn't be both nurse and wage-earner at once. They had a lot of fights over that. Then she developed physical problems of her own, which were similar to his, oddly enough. It was something to do with her legs. They gave her constant pain and it became difficult for her to walk. She started taking painkillers and, of course, the combination of painkillers and alcohol is not good.
During this time, while she was having these physical problems, her husband moved out and started seeing another woman. Then I believe Suzan got a divorce, and the now ex-husband and the other woman got married. But what was really peculiar was that Suzan then hired this woman, the new wife, to come and do computer work here in the office for her.
I try to run a business where we care about our employees, but we can’t adopt them. They do have to function. Quite frankly, I kept Suzan on much longer than I would have ordinarily because she was so good at what she did in the beginning. And I did feel empathy for her.
Francis X. Fay Jr., reporting for The Hour, Dec. 22, 1991:
An autopsy by Dr. H. Wayne Carver, the Chief State Medical Examiner, has revealed that the body of Suzan Krampitz Carter had lethal levels of amitriptyline, a commonly prescribed antidepressant drug. Carver would not rule on whether the death was suicidal or accidental. “The drug level was high enough to cause death, but my official finding is that death was from undetermined causes,” he concluded.
Dr. H. Wayne Carver:
Was it homicide? Well, you can’t force amitriptyline on someone. If you dissolve it in a drink and give it to someone, that person would know what you were doing. He’d go “aaargh.” It tastes awful. I have no reason to suspect Suzan Carter was murdered.
And I don’t have enough data or history to say she committed suicide. I don't know how many antidepressant pills she look. Granted, she was in a great deal of emotional turmoil, but that doesn’t mean she killed herself. She could have forgotten how many pills she took or she might have been taking them improperly or maybe she was just careless.
Linda Mocarski, homemaker and Suzan’s assistant at Baniff Press:
When I read about Suzan in The Hour, I couldn’t believe it. It never once occurred to me that the reason I hadn’t heard from her all this time was because she was dead. She talked about moving. She had this chronic cough and I assumed she’d gone to Arizona, for the climate and all.
Truthfully, she didn’t tell me much about her personal life. I knew she loved her son, Billy; he’s a paramedic up in Plainville. And I know she loved her brother Robert, who lived in New Jersey. He’s got all these kids and she liked to have the kids come up and visit her during school vacations. A couple times she brought the kids over to my house so they could play in the pool with my son. Only she didn’t just sit on the side and supervise them, she jumped right in with them—flipping everybody and splashing and shouting and laughing louder than any of the kids even. You would have thought she was 10 years old herself instead of 40. I wondered if maybe she’d lost out on a childhood somehow, and she was making up for it now.
The last time I saw her was Christmastime, when she treated me to lunch at Victoria Station. I remember she was pretty breezy that day and full of fun. She talked about the future. She truly believed she was going to meet the right man someday. She believed in romance.
“Anne,” businesswoman and Suzan’s part-time employer, New Canaan:
I can’t let my real name be used because of my business, and also my husband and kids don’t know about Suzan and me. Suzan and I were lovers for a couple months in 1988 while she did some tax work for me. She’d come to my office on weekends, at night, and one thing led to another. These things happen.
Was Suzan gay? No, at least not from my perspective. She wasn’t straight or bisexual, either. Actually, she wasn’t sexual at all. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? I think she just liked the warmth of another human being next to her. Sex was the only way she knew how to get it.
She got pregnant when she was real young, like 15, I think. I asked her what her family did when they found out; it was the early ’60s, you know, so I wondered, did they force her to get married or go to a home or try for an illegal abortion or what? She said no one in her family noticed she was pregnant until she went into labor.
After her son was bom, her mother made her pretend he was her baby brother so the family wouldn’t be scandalized. You can imagine how weird that must have been.
His father? Suzan was what people today call sexually abused, but back when she got pregnant, she was what men still like to call “public property.” Everybody had a go at her, including her relatives. I doubt that she identified herself as a victim of abuse. She said sex felt good. The fact that she was 5 years old when it began did not make any difference in her line of thinking.
Roger, railroad official and Suzan’s second husband:
First of all, we were never married. Suzan just wanted to say that to people because she knew her mother wouldn’t approve of us living together. This was from 1977 until 1983.
I met her in 1977, when she was in recovery for alcoholism. She’d been drinking since grade school so it was tough for her to give it up. She impressed me with her intelligence and her determination to overcome her drinking. She said she got strength from me and I guess I liked being seen that way, as somebody’s tower of strength.
We moved down to Norwalk because we knew we could make more money in Fairfield County, especially Suzan, since she ran her own business. She was a freelance bookkeeper and she developed her own clientele. But she had too many personal problems. For instance, she got depressed over things in the past. A man once died in her bed, and she couldn’t remember what had happened, and she thought she’d killed him. That happened in her early 20s, when she’d go on alcoholic binges and no one would hear from her for six months. She told me that when she went on a binge she’d stay drunk all day, every day, and she’d support herself through prostitution.
That was something I had trouble with—her sexual behavior. She wasn’t faithful to me. She slept with other men and other women, and she’d come home and tell me about it. I ignored it for the most part because she said she’d been having sex like that all her life.
Her son Billy was a teenager then, and every time we went to visit her family in Plainville I had to act like he was her younger brother because he didn’t know any different and her mother threatened everyone if they dared think about telling him the truth.
Suzan told me her brother Edward was Billy’s father. It wasn’t any of my business.
In the end, our landlord didn’t renew the lease because he wanted the apartment for a relative, and I told her I didn’t think I wanted to continue living with her. I went away for a few days to think and when I came back she was gone. She took everything—the furniture, the record collection, even my clothes. And she cleaned out our bank account and didn’t leave me a dime. I didn’t go after her or look for her. I was just glad she was out of my life.
David Carter, Suzan’s third husband, Hartford:
I worked most of my life, you know. I wasn’t always laid up like this. I worked 27 years for Pitney Bowes. Best damn place to work in the world. I had my own office, a secretary, a company car. I had money, too. You wanted office equipment from me—damn, you got it the next day.
But then things went bad. Diabetes. First thing to go was my leg. They had to cut it off at Stamford Hospital in 1984. That’s when I met Suzan. Four years later, they took off my other leg at Bridgeport Hospital. My eyes went. My kidneys went. I’m on dialysis.
When we first met, Suzan and I lived in the same apartment house in Norwalk. She lived upstairs and we bumped into each other one day at the front door. She was nice. I remember her hair. She had long, straight hair and it smelled good. The thing about Suzan, though, was her smarts. Smartest woman I ever knew. Very quick mind. And she could make me laugh. Yeah, Suzan made me laugh a lot.
It was a couple months after we met that I asked her to marry me, and she said okay, and we went to city hall the next day and got the license, and a few days later we got married. The justice of the peace had to come out and marry us in my car because the building where his office was had all these steps going up the front and I couldn’t get up them because I’d just lost my leg and I didn’t have a prosthesis yet. No, there wasn’t a reception or a honeymoon or anything. There wasn’t anyone to invite.
We went home afterwards and watched TV. I wasn’t well enough to go anywhere.
She was working all the time and she wasn’t ever home, and when she came home, we’d fight over why she wasn’t ever home. She started hitting the bottle when she came home at night, which at least stopped her from picking fights with me, but then I couldn’t talk to her because she’d be in a stupor. Pretty soon, she was hitting the bottle when she got up in the morning, too. So what was the point in being married to someone like that? I moved out in ’86, or maybe it was ’87.
I never could figure it out, why she drank so much.
She had one son, Billy. He thought Suzan was his sister, and then he found out that Suzan was really his mother. I didn’t want to get involved in it. It wasn’t my problem.
Billy’s father? There were two stories she told me. The first story was that she had this girlfriend she used to hang out with after school and the girlfriend’s father raped her. The second story was that her brother Edward was Billy’s father.
Barbara Carter, homemaker and David’s wife, Milford:
After Dave and I got married, he told me Suzan had a part-time job for me at Baniff Press. It was computer work and she’d pay me an hourly rate. I was a little apprehensive at first, working for my husband’s ex-wife, but I’m the adventurous type and I thought, “Why not? I’ll take a chance and see what it’s like.”
She came to pick me up for work on a Sunday, and my kids were home. Now they’d seen people who were obviously alcoholics but they’d never seen anyone up close before. When they saw Suzan with a can of beer in her hand and a can of beer in each of her pockets—plus she had a couple of six-packs in her car—they were shocked. I mean, she was going to work like that, and on a Sunday morning, too. I worked about five weekends for her and believe me, I was glad when the job was finally over.
Dave and I got married about three weeks before Thanksgiving 1988, and I planned a big Thanksgiving dinner for him with all the trimmings. He asked me if we could invite Suzan since she was going to be alone for the holidays, and in my wish to please him, I called and invited her, even though I didn’t want to.
She came—bringing her own bottle, by the way, and not sharing it with anyone else—and she behaved badly toward Dave, criticizing him all through dinner. No one said anything back to her to make her stop. It was very uncomfortable for my kids and me. Dave just took it.
When Dave wanted to invite her for Christmas dinner, I said no. I didn’t want her coming over and spoiling another holiday for us.
I didn’t feel it was my responsibility to find out where Suzan was after we stopped hearing from her, but as time went on and Dave’s condition kept getting worse, I had to go to her apartment for some things he wanted. He was set to have his other leg amputated and he wanted to listen to his favorite country and western tapes while he was recovering so he asked me to go get them from Suzan. She’d kept them after the divorce. So I drove all the way to Norwalk to get these tapes from her.
I walked down to the basement, and this man came out from another wing in the basement and he started yelling at me to get off the property. I said I was looking for Suzan Carter, and he said he was the manager and that she’d moved out. I wondered how he could say that since her name was still on the mailbox and her car was still in the parking lot.
Edward Krampitz, Suzan’s brother, data processing supervisor, Plainville:
It was not unusual for Suzan to be out of contact with the family for six months or more at a time. She would do this periodically. But as the months became years, I mentioned her absence to my mother, and I remember she said, "I don’t want to waste any time on someone who wants to use vanishing cream and disappear. She knows where we are. She’ll get hold of us when she wants to.”
If anyone suggested looking for Suzan, my mother would get all rattled and then she’d make herself sick. “Robert knows where she is. He says he doesn’t but he’s lying to us.” It got so I started thinking that way myself. Robert had to know where she was. He was the closest one to Suzan.
Robert Krampitz, Suzan’s brother, housing inspector, Browns Mills, N.J.:
When people read in the paper that Suzan’s body was found two-and-a- half years after she died, I know they assumed we didn’t miss her, that we didn’t care about her. That’s simply not true.
Billy’s got this guilt trip now because he didn’t go himself to look for Suzan. But he was taking care of my mother full time and she used her health to keep him away from Suzan. And Ed, well, he’s shut off from his feelings. He’s an introvert and he lives in a world of his own. Ed’s never even been to Norwalk, much less been down here to New Jersey. So it was pretty much left up to me to look for Suzan.
When I didn’t hear from her for a couple of months and after I got no answer whenever I called, I decided to drive up to Norwalk and see if maybe she was in trouble and needed help. My kids came with me.
We went down into the basement where she lived only to find the fire door to her hallway locked. After we pounded on it for some time, we figured if she was home, she had to have heard us. So then we went back upstairs and walked around outside. We tried peering into her little window, but the glass was so dingy we couldn’t see through it. We looked in her mailbox and since it was empty, I assumed she must be picking up her mail. We got really excited when we walked around back to the parking lot and saw her car because then we figured she must be home and maybe she stepped out to run an errand. The kids ran on ahead to the car and tried the doors and found they were open. As I got up closer, I saw the tow sticker on the windshield.
I got out my pen and note pad and I wrote, “Don’t tow this car. I’m Suzan Carter’s brother. Please contact me.” I left my name, my address, and both my day and evening phone numbers. Then I left a letter for Suzan in an envelope in her mailbox. In that letter, I wrote, “Suzan, please call me. Whatever is wrong, I’ll help you. We can work it out.” Again, I left all my phone numbers, just in case someone else read the note and knew where she was.
Finally, the kids and I wrote another note which we slipped under the fire door and then we drove back to New Jersey.
I expected to hear from someone. If not a call from Suzan, then a call from whomever might read all those notes I left. Nothing. No call, no letter, not even a 25 cent postcard.
The next trip I made to Norwalk, her car was gone and my note in the mailbox was gone. The fire door was still locked. So I went around asking people who lived in the complex, had they seen my sister? They weren’t helpful at all. One man did tell me the fire door was locked because some tenants complained about the odor. That should have clued me, but he said it was a moldy odor, so I didn’t think anything more about it.
I was really worried by this time so I called the State Police and the Norwalk Police but I didn’t file a formal report. Suzan had a history of committals and she lived in stark terror that Ruth would commit her again. If she saw a policeman coming for her—well, I didn’t want to risk that. I called the hospitals, but she wasn’t listed as a patient anywhere.
Okay, why didn’t I kick in the door? Don’t you think I lie awake night after night asking myself that question? My wife even said during the time I was looking for Suzan, “You ought to knock down that door. Suzan’s got a bad leg. She might have slipped in the shower and gotten hurt.”
And I said, “C’mon. If that happened, she would have crawled to the phone and called for help. I’m not going to go charging into Suzan’s apartment like I’m gangbusters or something. How would you like it if someone did that to you? Suzan would not appreciate that one bit.”
It was inconceivable to me that she was in there, dead.
At that point, I didn’t think she’d moved. I figured, she’d probably gone away for a while to sort things out. You see, the last time I spoke to Suzan was New Year’s Eve, 1988. She said she’d lost her job and she was having problems, but she was managing okay. The last thing she said before we hung up was, “I want to take off for a while so don’t try to come and find me if you don’t hear from me.” She’d done this before—just taken off, as a way of solving her problems. But this thing with Ruth was like a magnet and it drew her back. Billy was what bound her to Ruth.
William Krampitz, Suzan’s son, EMS administrator, Plainville:
I overheard some talk from the kids in my class in grade school that I was adopted and when I asked them what they meant, they said that’s what their parents told them. So I asked Ruth, whom I believed to be my biological mother, “Am I adopted?” The look I got—she didn’t hit me—but the verbal reaction put such fear into me that I never brought the subject up again in her presence.
Everyone we knew—relatives, members of our church, and our neighbors— pretended, at least to our faces, that I was Ruth’s child and that Suzan, Robert and Edward were my older siblings.
I left home in 1962 and eventually I joined the Air Force, and when I got out in 1968, after Vietnam, that was the first I knew of Billy. No one wrote and told me about him.
I came home and I remember Ruth was actually telling people she’d had Billy herself. She said to me, “Suzan’s gone off the deep end. Don’t believe anything she says. She’s crazy. She’s been institutionalized. She thinks Billy’s hers.”
It wasn’t until I had a chance to sit down alone with Suzan and talk to her that I realized she’d given birth to Billy while I was overseas. She said she had to sign him over to Ruth or else be put in a home for wayward girls.
It wasn’t until 1986 that I learned the truth. Robert told me when his father, my grandfather, died. He said he wanted to tell me sooner but Ruth constantly threatened him with, “You know your father has a bad heart. If you tell Bill who his mother is, you know your father will die. Do you want to kill your father? It’s going to be your fault if he has a heart attack and dies.” Robert said to me, “I'm telling you now before she comes up with a new threat.”
Suzan was standing in the back hall of our house crying while Robert told me. She was terrified over what Ruth might do. Ruth was so angry at Robert for “lying” to me that she rewrote her will and had him disinherited.
It wasn’t long afterwards that Ruth's health began to go bad and she suffered a heart attack. I found it difficult to look after her and nurse her. She had to have absolute control and even though I'm with a medical service, she’d disagree with me over every aspect of her care. She'd say, “What you think, what you say does not matter. I’m your mother. You’ll do it my way.”
I called her “Mother” right up until the night she died, which was in 1990. Due to Ruth’s condition, I didn’t feel I could pursue a mother/son relationship with Suzan. Every time I brought up Suzan’s name, Ruth would rile herself up and she'd literally make herself sick. I know Suzan thought I hated her during this time. I’m sure she thought I’d been totally brainwashed back into believing I was her brother, which is how I acted toward her.
I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t one of the reasons that got her so depressed in the end, because even though I knew the truth, I didn’t behave any differently and it looked like I was denying the truth and denying her, too.
I think Suzan felt like she’d gained her son, only to lose him all over again. And I felt that as long as I lived with Ruth, I had no control over the situation. By the time I was free to pursue a relationship with Suzan as my mother and not as this wayward sister, it was too late.
You know what I still can’t figure out? How could my mother not have known Suzan was pregnant for nine months? I’ve got five kids, so I know how obvious a woman’s pregnancy is, even in the early months. Even if Ruth refused to notice, didn’t other people in the community notice? Like our relatives, and the people from church? What about Suzan’s high school teachers? But I guess you had to know my mother; to be around her, you zipped your lip.
According to Robert, when I was bom— this was 1964—Ruth told Suzan she couldn’t raise me unless she got a job. So at 17, as soon as she graduated from high school, Suzan got a job. But then Ruth told her she couldn’t raise a baby without a father, and that’s when Suzan married Joe, her first husband. Then it was, “Well, you have to buy a house,” and Suzan and Joe got the money together and they bought a house, only then Ruth said, “No, Billy can’t be raised without brothers and sisters—you need to start a family.” When Suzan and Joe separated, Ruth said, “How do you expect to raise Billy if you can’t even make your marriage work?”
Finally, they had a big scene, and this, I remember. I was about 4 or 5 years old then. Suzan had been drinking heavily and she was screaming at Ruth in the kitchen, and I saw her grab these pills and swallow them while she held Ruth at bay. Ruth had her committed to Connecticut Valley Hospital as an attempted suicide.
Which is how Ruth always controlled Suzan. It was, “If you don’t toe the line, I’ll put you in an institution and you’ll never get out again.”
I had a girlfriend then and we “got in trouble,” to use the proverbial phrase, and I “did the right thing” and I married my girlfriend. We lost our baby late in my wife’s pregnancy and there was this outpouring of sympathy for us from the family and my co-workers. Then we went on to have another child and people were happy for us. Suzan couldn’t understand why I got so much support. “Why is it,” she said, “that you and I do the same thing, yet, with you, everyone looks the other way, and with me, I’m told I’m worthless?”
Ruth said that Suzan was a bad influence on a baby and an unfit mother because, as Ruth put it, “Suzan’s a drunk.”
That was true. Suzan drank. But what Ruth refused to notice for so many years was that Suzan started drinking when she was only 5 years old.
Suzan loved to go and stay overnight with [woman’s name]. This was who taught her, at an early age, how to add and subtract. That’s where her interest in bookkeeping began. But that wasn’t the only reason Suzan liked to spend the night with her. It seems that after everybody went to bed, [the woman’s husband], who was in his mid-30s then, would come out to the living-room sofa where Suzan slept and he’d give her brandy—you know, to get her fuzzy—and then he’d undress her and fondle her. This happened regularly, and pretty soon he was giving her bottles of brandy to keep, and she’d hide the bottles in her room, where Ruth wouldn’t find them.
When Suzan got pregnant, Ruth refused to notice that, too, and when Suzan went into labor, Ruth told the neighbors that Suzan was hospitalized with a tumor.
Suzan never told me who my father was. I do know, though, that she was sleeping with several people at that time. One possibility is that he’s the father of one of her friends from high school. I know him but I’ve never confronted him or asked for a blood test. I don’t see any benefit in doing that. It would just cause other people pain and it wouldn’t change anything for me.
From what Suzan told me, Edward just told her one day, “Hey, you’re doing it with [another man], you can do it with me. You don’t have any choice.” Maybe he felt that it was his only outlet.
I can’t imagine that it was an intimate relationship, not from what she told me—or a loving relationship, not from something forced.
Of course it makes you wonder, how did they live with themselves?
Back then there was a lot of sibling horseplay between Suzan and me and sometimes that got out of hand. It shouldn’t have happened—the touching and undressing and so on.
We were both loners. We weren’t social, like Robert was. We didn’t get asked to parties and we didn’t go to dances or school functions, and while Suzan at least had one friend and she was an honor student, I had virtually no friends.
I never even had a conversation with anyone until I was out working at my first job after I graduated from high school. I didn’t know how to have a conversation. We didn’t talk to each other in our house. Even when we all sat down in the same room for supper, it was, “Don’t talk—eat your food.”
The anxieties I have felt over the years. ... I made my peace with the Lord long ago by asking His forgiveness—that I was wrong.
[Since being interviewed for this story, Edward denies ever having had sexual intercourse with Suzan.]
In spite of having to call herself my sister, Suzan acted very motherly toward me.
She attended all my graduations, my church confirmation, and she came up every parents’ weekend while I was in college. She was the only person in our house who showed me any affection.
The only time we were touched in our house was when we were punished. Our father would march us down to the cellar, where he hit us. Even then he didn’t touch us with his hands. He used a strap.
We weren’t allowed to touch ourselves either. I remember once I was cold, I was shivering, and I huddled beneath some blankets with my arms around my shoulders. Ruth made me stop hugging myself. She told me to get my arms out and keep them on top of the blanket. She thought, you know, that I was doing something sexual to myself.
It’s only in recent years that I’ve been able to accept a hug as a sign of caring. To me, a hug was a sexual invitation.
I never reached over and hugged my children or kissed them when they were little because it seemed wrong somehow. To me, that kind of emotional coldness was normal child-rearing behavior. I’ve never experienced affection without attaching sex to it. And now, hugging a friend or just sitting and holding hands with my wife mean so much to me. Half my life has gone by. It’s such a simple thing, isn’t it? Yet, I never knew.
We were taught not to cry, too.
Whenever I was being whipped, Ruth would say, “If you cry, you’ll get it all the more. Chew your lip or bite your tongue until it bleeds, but you’d better not let out a peep.”
When the police told me that Suzan was in her apartment all that time, I could not react. I would not believe it. You mean Robert was telling the truth? He wasn’t in contact with her? This is not really happening. It’s just a bad show. Somebody get up and change the channel, now, please.
When Ed told me, I remembered all the times Suzan said, “I love my mother. Why doesn’t she love me? I try so hard to do what she wants, but it’s never good enough.”
And then I felt a tremendous anger toward Ruth. I wanted to raise her up from the dead so she could see Suzan’s body. I wanted to say, “Look at her. Look at what you have done.”
Suzan Krampitz Carter—from notes found in her apartment:
I remember this as clear as if it happened yesterday. I slept on a couch in the living room. He was kneeling on the floor next to me. He gave me a small odd-shaped glass of what I believe today was brandy. He pulled the covers down. He gave me more brandy. When he put his hands on me, I let him. I didn’t know a girl that age could feel sex, but I felt good all over. Maybe it was just the brandy.... It started before I was six.
As they could not believe I was drinking, they refused to notice I was pregnant. I am 99.9% sure who the father is but I refused to tell anyone including the minister and I was excommunicated. I didn’t want anyone to know to insure that Billy would never find out.
It was the happiest time in my life [when] my son was born & I started my senior year. A shrink once told me I was living in a fantasy world where my father was my husband, mother was gramma, brother at home was my son, and brother away in the service was the only real person. Then everything started going downhill, real fast.
I figured working 14 hrs a day would keep me too busy to think. It didn’t work.
My last committal was June 1977. I stayed in Middletown for six months. For at least two weeks they kept me so drugged on Thorazine I didn’t know where I was. They changed it to Elavil and I got better.
When I made my final bus trip here [Norwalk] I had a paper bag with my toothbrush, pictures, & my other blouse. At last I was out of the zoo and alive.
Now it’s Jan. ’89 & I’ve lost it all again. It’s funny, just Wed. I was outside having a cigarette and I wondered if I jumped would I die quick. ...
God doesn’t give people more problems than they can handle. So I’ll make it yet.
Dr. H. Wayne Carver, chief medical examiner:
Sure, you can have a gut feeling that she committed suicide, but a gut feeling is not scientific evidence. Obviously, if I knew the contents of her last phone call, the one from her mother, I’d know a lot more, but her mother died in September 1990, and I don’t know what they talked about.