Most personal feelings in most public forum

On an Internet blog, a Baltimore woman records her pain in the wake of her brother's killing

March 17, 2006|By JULIE BYKOWICZ | JULIE BYKOWICZ,SUN REPORTER

LIZ, 26, STARTED AN INTERNET DIARY — Inside a rowhouse in Baltimore's Remington neighborhood, around the corner from where her brother was shot to death last year, Liz Richardson sits at a computer and tells the world how she feels.

Liz, 26, started an Internet diary - a blog - in October by posting a short tribute to her brother, Samuel Richardson. Since then, her blog, called "From My Point of View: Baltimore," has evolved into a sort of public therapy, joining her with those who use the Internet as the latest outlet for their grief.

"The old Liz is gone forever ... I mourn for her almost as much as I mourn for Sam," she wrote on Christmas.

Liz's blog is a raw, heartfelt stream of consciousness - a landscape dotted with anger and grief and even humor. She says she's relying on the blog to help her through the court process, which began this week when the man accused of killing her brother entered a plea of not guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court. Ameer Taylor, charged with first-degree murder, is scheduled for trial in June.

"It's easy to talk online because it's still somewhat anonymous," she says. "I don't have to worry about people judging me. It's a good outlet because you can say whatever you want to say, whenever you want."

Her Web site (lizpointofview.blogspot.com) is simple, mostly white text on a black background.

There are few pictures, but one that she has posted several times shows her smiling brother looking cozy on a couch, his bald head shining.

Liz has logged 39 entries, and, according to a counter on her site, about 14 people visit every day - some from as far away as Tarzana, Calif., and South Africa.

"People like the blog because I write from the heart," she says. "I blurt it all out."

Kim Holmes, director of a family bereavement center that is run by the Baltimore state's attorney's office and funded by a state human resources grant, says that in recent years she has seen many of her clients turn to the computer to help them through their grief. Sometimes they'll research books on loss or join e-mail lists specific to their situation, such as mothers who have lost their sons.

Holmes says she can think of at least two other relatives of homicide victims who, like Liz, began a Web site about their loved one and their grief.

"The computer gives people who are feeling very alone a way to connect with others," she says. "It's a way to feel empowered, and that's something we very much encourage."

On the Internet, a growing number of Web sites are devoted to crime victims, their relatives and others dealing with death.

For example, a Georgia-based group that says it provides support to those in mourning runs a Web site called groww.org, linking to almost 100 "walls." Like tombstones, the passages include names, basic information and short memorials about the deceased. The Florida-based belovedhearts.com bills itself as "a virtual interactive home for your departed Loved One" and links to dozens of virtual gravesites.

Fellow bloggers, particularly locals who also have an interest in crime, have been supportive of Liz, linking her site to theirs, posting comments about her entries and urging her to keep writing.

"I think it's an incredible contribution that she's making," says Chuck Amos, who writes Tao Te Chuck, a blog about his Highlandtown neighborhood and Baltimore crime. "Liz's blog forces people to realize that crime victims are real people. Real people are affected, and it's not always just some anonymous drug user who's killed. It's someone's brother."

Samuel Richardson, 30, was walking home from his job at Rendezvous Bar in Remington about 2:30 a.m. June 2. A woman was with him. A car pulled up, according to court documents, and someone shot him.

The Richardson family would soon be receiving and making frantic phone calls, dressing hastily and rushing to the emergency room at Johns Hopkins Hospital. A doctor told Liz that Sam had died. She fell into her husband's arms. "I lost it," she says.

The next few months were a blur. Rather than face the pain of packing her brother's belongings, Liz and her husband, Larry Jordan, moved into the Remington house that her brother had shared with his girlfriend.

Neighbors stopped by to stoke rumors and theories about who killed Sam Richardson and why. Friends offered advice: "You don't need to cry" and "you'll be all right." Liz went to the bereavement center for counseling, but she says has never been entirely comfortable sharing her feelings with someone paid to listen.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Liz is a self-assured woman with a 5-year-old son and a job at an optical lab. She finished her GED a few years ago and says she hopes to study early childhood development at a community college.

She has a million stories to tell and wants to add her two cents to every conversation, just as her brother Sam did.

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