Bullets After Brunch

Marc Kajs repeatedly asked the police for protection. They said theycouldn't do anything until his stalker physically harmed him. Eight bulletslater it was too late.

Living at home in Klein, Marc told his parents he was looking for an apartment nearer to downtown. The 25-mile commute was too much. He showed up during dinner one night with Ilhan and a U-Haul. "You look like brothers," Gloria remembers saying. She thought they were almost identical, except Ilhan was taller and quieter and smiled less. Gloria and Ed Swidriski say they never knew Marc was living with Ilhan. It never occurred to them to think that their son was anything but straight. But whenever they stopped by Marc's one-bedroom efficiency to visit or fix Marc's car, Ilhan was always there. Ilhan was a polite, charming young man who was always calm and courteous. He always offered Marc's parents a Coke and asked them to sit down. They thought Ilhan was just a friend.

About six months after moving out, Marc called Gloria around 3 a.m. His voice sounded muffled, choked, like he'd been crying. Gloria heard a female friend of Marc's in the background prompting him to go ahead and tell her. Tell her what? Ilhan had been beating him up, Marc said. Ilhan had threatened to call and tell her himself, and Marc didn't want Gloria to find out that way. "I'm gay," he told her. She didn't believe him. "I thought you knew," he said.

No. Marc always hung around girls. Pretty girls. He had girlfriends; he took a girl to the prom. And Gloria had always thought of him as manly. "It's not like he had dolls and aprons and I combed his hair like a little girl," she says. "He always had baseball hats, basketballs and a tricycle -- little boy stuff." The only time she had doubted Marc's heterosexuality was when she had found a book of matches from a gay club. She asked him if he went there. When he didn't answer, she told him she hoped he wasn't gay.

On Gloria's Mother's Day card Marc wrote to stop worrying about him.
On Gloria's Mother's Day card Marc wrote to stop worrying about him.
Marc always said he wouldn't live past 30.
Marc always said he wouldn't live past 30.

After the phone call, Gloria figured Marc was experimenting. Sometimes young men experiment, she says. She hoped it was a phase he'd grow out of. Gloria doesn't like talking about the fact that Marc was gay. She didn't join PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) or slap a rainbow bumper sticker on her car, partly because she's a hard-core Catholic. Gloria was able to push the idea of Marc and Ilhan being lovers further out of her mind that summer, when Ilhan got married. His four-year student visa was running out and he wasn't taking classes. Marc's parents and friends suspect it was a green-card marriage.

Marc kept calling Gloria, saying Ilhan was beating him. He told her not to tell Ed. Ed's a big guy who isn't into pink triangles. Marc wouldn't visit Gloria for days after these calls; when she did see him he was always wearing long-sleeved white linen shirts. Gloria thinks Marc was waiting for his wounds to heal. Friends saw Marc with a bloody lip and a black eye. After three months of Marc calling his mom saying his boyfriend was beating him up, Ed grabbed the phone from Gloria and told Marc to move out, that he couldn't stay in that apartment. Ed and Gloria drove their van over to Marc's and packed up his stuff. Marc didn't want to take the dishes or silverware or the dining room table he and Ilhan had bought together, because he didn't want to leave Ilhan with nothing.

Marc showed his parents that the bedroom door was off its hinges. He said Ilhan had tried to come after him with a knife. Ilhan laughed. He said Marc couldn't leave -- he owed him money for tuition -- but Gloria had paid his tuition. Ilhan said Marc owed him $30 for the phone bill. Gloria wrote Ilhan a $40 check.

"Victims of domestic violence don't get killed when they stay," says Sergeant Sandy Kline of HPD's Family Violence Unit. "They only get killed when they leave." Domestic violence is about control. It's like having a dog that runs away, she says. If your dog leaves, you have to go get it, bring it home and chain it up. As soon as Marc moved out, the stalking began. Ilhan followed Marc to his friends' houses or waited for Marc to leave work and then trailed him. "When it first started, we made a game out of it," Donna remembers. "We felt like The Dukes of Hazzard. Making a right and a left, ducking down alleys. We always lost him." But never for long. Ilhan cruised Montrose searching for Marc's car. He called all of Marc's friends, either making threats or hanging up. Most of them had caller ID; if it read "pay phone," they didn't answer.

Maybe Marc didn't take the stalking too seriously at first because it was familiar. Marc was used to being adored, idolized and fiercely loved. Marc's father died of leukemia when Marc was 11. Since then his mother took him everywhere -- even on dates with Ed. Whenever Marc was out, he had to check in with his mother. He was used to her calling up his friends' houses trying to find him.

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