Now she has another wish: to see lawmakers criminalize using a child as a weapon against his or her parents.
The Tundidors didn’t need a gun or a knife, she said; “They had our son. It’s upsetting to me to not really see a charge for that. . . . If you use a child, you should automatically get life. If it’s your kid, they’re going to get whatever they want.’’
Kay Morrissey also thinks people should understand that being a victim in real life is nothing like it is on television. It was days before she could go back home for even the basics.
“I left with no shoes, no purse, no toothbrush. I didn’t even have a change of underwear and my son didn’t have his little bear toys. We had nothing.’’
Then she had to deal with Senior’s relatives, who stayed more than a month in the townhouse he’d rented from Joe. She had to go to court to evict them.
Joe, 46, had no life insurance beyond a university policy equal to one year’s salary, so the loss of his income has drastically altered the way his widow and son live. While their empty house deteriorates, they’re in a rented apartment. Ice hockey and kung fu are no longer in the budget.
She and Patrick collected $19,000 from the Florida Victims Compensation Program, mainly reimbursement for funeral expenses. She said it took two years for the state to respond to her requests for more money — and the answer was “no.’’
“There’s a big misconception of how much help you’re going to get,’’ Kay said.
Although Patrick gets Social Security survivor’s benefits, by the agency’s complicated formula, Kay earns too much to collect what’s due the widowed parent of a minor child.
Ironic, she said, considering that Senior, an obese window tint-shop owner, had no trouble collecting Social Security disability benefits for the two years he sat in jail awaiting trial.
Payments stopped when he was convicted, said his lawyer, Richard Rosenbaum.
Then there are the debts. Based on Joe’s income, they took out $100,000 in student loans for Kay’s graduate work and her daughter’s education. Each month, she pays $1,015.
Last fall, she wrote to President Barack Obama, asking him to forgive the debt. She’s waiting for an answer.
“He’s the only one who can do that,’’ she said. “If he did, we could breathe.’’
For a year after the calamity, Kay kept up the mortgage on her one-time dream house, hoping some day to return. But major insurance claims remain unsettled, and the bank is foreclosing.
The place seems eerily stuck in its unfortunate past. A crucifix once hung on the wall near the spot where Joe fell. Its ghostly outline remains in soot from the fire.
In the master bedroom, where Kay and Patrick cowered in terror, Kay later scrawled in crayon: “Give me five minutes to talk alone with the devil.’’
In that room, Junior swore he’d never hurt a child — then left a 5-year-old to die in a burning house. He’s the devil, says Kay, and so is his father.
“How would you define this, in one word?’’ she wonders. “A person trying to portray himself as a human being while he has you tied on your knees with a towel over your face and a gun to your head?’’