Carol Pogash tells the true story of this troubled woman and her turbulent marriage to her therapist. Pogash, who lives in the same little town where the murder occurred, is an award-winning journalist and has covered the Polk story since its inception. She’s written a chilling story of love, hate, power, and control. Below is an excerpt of her book, out this June.
Before the hearing began, Susan’s head turned as she stared longingly at her baby, Gabriel, and then at Adam. Both were dressed in suits and ties, young men on the move. And on the other side of the room, Eli, in an oversized Warriors jacket held hands with a pretty but severe-looking woman with pale skin who bore an eerie resemblance to his mother....
Late in the morning, after listening to the entirety of the defense’s case for a mistrial, Judge Brady rejected all the defense arguments.
The rest of the day was set aside for victim impact statements and statements on Susan’s behalf. …..
Then it was Adam’s turn. ….. he tried to resurrect his father’s good name. Sturdy and muscled, he looked as if the blows he’d taken in life had made him only more resilient. His father had been a kind and good father, he said, inspiring his love of literature and music. As he spoke, his mother watched, turning occasionally to take notes. He told the judge and his mother about the impact his father’s murder has had on his life: “One day I was a sophomore in college,” he said. “The next day I was head of a family.” She had robbed him of his carefree years. “You took my dad, and I don’t know if I can ever forgive you. My father will never see me get married, never share a beer with me, never watch the Giants with me. He will never see Barry beat Hank’s record,” he said. Softer in his denunciation than his older siblings, he told his mother, “I still care about you, sincerely,” he said. Susan smiled, but it disappeared when he added, “I hope you get the help you clearly need.” When he talked about having graduated from UCLA, Susan’s lower lip jutted forward, the closest she would come to a mother’s approving smile. Adam said that he believed his father “loved you even as you murdered him. If he were here today he would want you to get the best head doctor and get fixed.” Gabriel’s comments were the most heartbreaking: He stood at the prosecution’s table and turned toward his mother. “Mother, Mom,” he said “the words are not hard for me to utter.” In the eight months since his mother was convicted of murder, Gabriel had become a freshman at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Although his eyes were sunken, he was fit, as though he spent part of every day working out. He said Susan had given birth to him, she had raised him and “given me so much. Then you took it way. I was fifteen and you left me with no home. No family.” Now twenty he said, “You may have been done with my father, but I was not.” The center of her face turned a shade of pink; she began to cry. …..
Eli, ever his mother’s protector stood up to defend her again. He looked distraught, his empathetic eyebrows lifted like a church steeple. He said his mother was the real victim in this case and that he had loved his father. “He’s my father,” he explained, but “my mom is the best person, the most caring person I know.” Turning toward the audience, he found his brothers and said not in a vindictive voice so much as a sad one, “I don’t know you guys anymore.” Then he talked about how lost he was without his mother. He said he couldn’t start his life again until she was released from custody. “There is an emptiness eating away at me every single day of my life.”
And then it was his mother’s turn to fight for herself. In a highly unusual move, she insisted she speak from the witness stand– so that she could address her adversaries. To her son Adam, she said she could show no remorse. “I cannot express remorse for surviving.” To Adam and Gabe she said, “I can only say this, I forgive you. I love you,” then she added, “I’m sorry the way things turned out,” but she blamed it all on their father, whom she said she had failed to transform “into a better human being.”
To all of Felix’s children, she said that she was “sorry” she dragged Felix’s name through the dirt, but she didn’t sound at all apologetic. Sequeira and the other DAs scattered in the courtroom had never seen a performance like this.
Her eyes swept the court as she proclaimed, “Shame on you all!” In her denunciation she included the court staff and the judge – whom she now icily called “Mrs. Brady -- and the court.” She said “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees. I’m not going to beg for mercy!”
Susan Polk would not give her adversaries the satisfaction of knowing she will be punished. “I hate to tell you this,” she told the court, and she didn’t sound at all regretful, “I enjoy every day in my cell.” She said she writes letters and reads and that if she spends the rest of her life in prison, she’ll write poetry, write about what happened, and “do things I want to do.” ….. To her son Eli she said as she looked down and wept, “Don’t wait for me. This is the springtime of your life.”
“I’m going to be okay, she assured. At least she wasn’t going to be sent to a mental ward: Her fate in prison, she said, “is better than being hospitalized in some sort of coma.” …..
Swiftly and without emotion, Judge Brady sentenced Susan Polk to the maximum: sixteen years to life. The defendant showed no emotion. The judge said Mrs. Polk would be given credit for the 1,376 days she had already served–which means she might be eligible for parole in twelve years, when she is sixty-one. The judge ordered her sent to state prison “forthwith.”