On April 26, in the late afternoon, the Vietnam War claimed two more casualties.
Two men, one of them my son, Tim DeJulis, happened to enter a downtown Salt Lake City supermarket at about the same time to do some shopping. A third man, Kiet Thanh Ly, a citizen of Vietnam, walked into the store, purchased a knife, went outside and, according to witnesses, began randomly stabbing people.
His first victim was repeatedly stabbed in the abdomen and arms. My son was stabbed in the head, the blade piercing his skull and injuring his brain.
Luckily, a Good Samaritan saw what was happening, drew his legally carried concealed handgun and forced the assailant to the ground. The police were called and the two victims, who didn't know the identity of the attacker or each other, were rushed to University of Utah Medical Center.
The alleged perpetrator remains jailed on $500,000 bail.
During the attacks, the assailant repeatedly yelled, “You killed my people!” Yet, at 34, he was born well after the Vietnam War. At his initial court hearing, he was asked why he surrendered so easily. He said he did so because he didn’t want to die.
Our justice system set bail, but neither my son nor the other man can “bail” out of what lies ahead for them. Only God knows how my son’s recovery will turn out and if he will ever be able to return to work. He has a lovely wife and two young children who depend on him.
The attacker, if he is convicted and imprisoned, will never have to worry about his next meal and eventually will be free. My son and the other victim will never be free of their injuries or their mental torment.
The staff at the hospital was wonderful. The people of the valley and the Salt Lake City police have been wonderful. My son’s co-workers and circle of friends have pitched in and done everything possible to assist the family. I have two brothers in Salt Lake City and they and their wives and children have been awesome. Prayer circles at many churches and group gatherings also have helped. I will be forever grateful.
On May 30, Tim was released from the hospital and continues his rehabilitation at home. So far, he remembers nothing of the attack.
On the day he returned home he received a letter indicating that he had passed his professional engineer’s exam. Only time and the Almighty will tell if he will ever be able to use it.
As the summer rolls on, Tim’s recovery is very encouraging as he continues to work hard with his physical, occupational and other therapists. The signs are good, but there remains a cloud of uncertainty. We are all holding our breath.
At a June 20 meeting with the prosecuting attorney assigned to the case, my son, my daughter-in-law Susanne, Tim’s cousin and a couple of others interested in the case were told that it could take up to three years to resolve. They were reminded, condescendingly, that suspected criminals have a 6th Amendment right to a “fair and speedy” trial.
Three years? Speedy? We’re not encouraged.
I wrote these words because I need some way to come to grips with what happened to my boy. I can’t rationalize it as the act of a crazy person. But it’s likely that court-appointed defense counsel will endeavor to convince judge and jury that the attacker was insane — at the time.
The fact is, the only way I can deal with it is to treat it as an act of premeditated violence. Those who say there will be “closure” when and if he is convicted, sentenced and sent to prison don’t really understand.
Closure is only a word. There will never be closure of any kind. Both victims will never forget what happened to them. They will bear the scars to remind them for the rest of their lives.
Michael H. DeJulis was born in Pocatello, trained in electronics at Idaho State University, and worked for IBM and then Boise Cascade before retiring in 2006. He lives in Boise. His son, Tim, 44, graduated from the University of Utah in 1991 with a degree in chemical engineering. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and two children. This guest opinion originally appeared in the July 14 Salt Lake Tribune.