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Friday, January 17, 2003
Neulander's oldest son calls father `coward'


Courier-Post Staff
CAMDEN

Text of Matthew Neulander's written statement to the court at his father's sentencing Thursday:

Your Honor,

I would like to apologize for not being here in person - my responsibilities at work in Charlotte (N.C.) have precluded me from making the trip. I certainly would have preferred to speak in person. This will likely be my last opportunity to communicate with Fred, albeit indirectly through my remarks to the Court. It is indeed unfortunate that this is the only way available to me to address him. Like most criminals, he is a coward in word and deed, and has refused repeatedly to confront me like a man. I can only hope that he listens as I share my thoughts with Your Honor. I am certainly grateful for this avenue with which I have been provided.

I do not feel that trying to summarize the experience and emotion of the last eight years would be worthwhile. I often find myself at a loss to understand them myself. I have the unenviable task to having to explain Fred's actions to my daughter and her future siblings one day. I am thankful that this discussion is years away - it will probably take me that long to think of what to to say to them.

I thought that it might be more appropriate to focus on my daughter, Madison, rather than dwell on the damage Fred has brought on his family, the community, and on himself. Since her birth last April, I have often used her to refocus myself, my energy, my spirit, and my progress toward the future. My thoughts of her have often lifted me out of the occasional and inevitable doldrums. She may never know how her arrival has affected and helped her daddy - it is a very special bond that I will always have with her. As this chapter of my life thankfully comes to a close today, it seems more fitting to speak about a little girl whose future is filled with limitless possibilities and potential rather than about a man who has wasted those gifts, and stolen them from another. I hope that I can make it clear to the Court how talking about her is relevant to the proceedings today.

At the most superficial level, Madison certainly looks like her grandmother. From birth, she shared Mom's face and color. I have compared pictures of the two of them in their respective infancies and the physical similarity is striking - it at times can take my breath away. I see Madison as a gift; a reminder of my mother' right at the time when recalling her face from memory becomes increasingly difficult, as the years pass. I can hear hints of my mother's laugh in Madison's, and I can easily see a suggestion of Mom's smile in hers. I think, with real pain in my heart, about what this little baby would have meant to my mother, her first grandchild. And as my daughter has been the focus of my strength and slow recovery, she is also the source of how I now experience my loss. My heart aches for their relationship that can now never be. Fred stole one of Madison's grandmothers from her. It is a loss that I can never hope to replace or make up to her.

Fred robbed her of a warm, vibrant, doting grandparent whose late years would have revolved around her grandchildren just as her earlier ones did around her own kids. Madison is left with a worthless, soulless, pathetic shell of a man who did not even have the grace to call or write when she was born. It was further evidence of his unfeeling arrogance and his boundless self-absorption - Fred, with warped self-delusion, still feels that he is the victim and not the cause of these events. And it is through Madison that I pass my own sentence, even today as the Court considers its own. Fred is a textbook sociopath, and it is nearly impossible to punish in a meaningful way a man who has no regard for others. However, in Madison's best interest, I will take from him what would mean the world to a normal man. Madison and her siblings will never know Fred - I will never allow him to be even the most marginal part of their lives. It is with the physical and emotional welfare of my children in mind that I request that the Court permanently remove this vicious and evil person from their respective futures.

I ask the Court's assistance in achieving this goal. I do not want to live the rest of my life worried that there is a chance, however remote, that this person may try to re- enter the lives of my family. Fred showed an almost unthinkable amount of cruelty and disdain by arranging my mother's murder at a place and time where I would be forced to futilely respond to her aid. That fact alone gives me ample concern for the safety of my wife and kids. A man capable of this fiendish act visited on the the woman he wanted to "grow old with, slowly", is clearly capable of any future horror. I respectfully ask for the Court's protection from Fred. Ensuring that he never leaves prison is not only simple justice for my mother, but also a way of safeguarding those in my life that mean the most to me - not only my wife and my children, but the rest of my family was well.

This family's collective recovery began with a heroic effort on the part of the prosecutor's office and the wise verdict of the jury. Let it continue by relegating this man to the status of outcast and afterthought forever.

Thank you for the opportunity to share some on my thoughts. My family and I eagerly anticipate this new beginning. The time for healing has come.

Matthew Neulander

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