First up to testify this week in the 7-hour halfway house hearing before Assembly Law & Public Safety was Stella Tulli, whose younger sister Viviana was murdered when David Goodell escaped from a facility run by Community Education Centers (CEC) the company with close ties to Gov. Christie. Her voice shook as she asked the panel for answers, but she did it. Grateful she is telling her family’s story here. – promoted by Rosi
Allow me to introduce myself–
My name is Stella Tullli- I”m a 36 year old female, mother of 2 boys and pregnant with a girl who shall be here in about 6 weeks.
You may have recognized my name… I testified at NJ Assembly Hearing yesterday, July 23, 2012 in regards to the halfway house system.
The reason for my speaking out— My lively 21 year old sister, my mini me, Viviana Tulli was tragically murdered by a man who “absconded” from a NJ halfway home on August 30, 2010
The day started off as Mondays usually do- this monday was different though.. It was my mother’s 60th birthday.. a new decade for her. Was supposed to be a day for her…
Imagine getting a call while at work from your parents asking if you had spoken to your sister- and that your town’s police officers were requesting all family members to meet at headquarters. Once I heard that, I knew this day was BAD. I knew at that moment my sister was dead.
Once I learned the awful truth-and gave info as to who I thought did it (David Goodell) -I ran out of the police station and wound up collapsing on the sidewalk..
I kept repeating ” she’s dead” to myself.. This could not be possible. I just saw her the day before, We had plans for the week. No. I”m in a nightmare- this really wasn’t happening….. As I saw my parents and my brother walk out, eyes red, puffy from crying, noses sniffling…. I couldn’t lie to myself. THIS DID HAPPEN.
How could this be?? David was in a halfway house.. I thought there was security. Wasn’t a guard with him at the hospital?
As the days went on, I read IN THE NEWSPAPER there would be an investigation on the events that had happened regarding David’s escape. I figured- “ok then, we will get some answers”.. umm no. that did not seem to be the case.
We didn’t even get the common courtesy of a phone call, letter , not even a fucking apology or a condolence on her death from the state..
I started getting MORE pissed.
The day before Vivi’s wake– my mother and I had to deliver her burial clothing.. My mother had to pick out a dress, turned out to be a dress Vivi had eyed up a year before for my brother’s wedding. It was white with silvery sparkles dress with tulle underneath.. Vivi had joked she was going to get it to upstage my sister in law.. Vivi wound up getting her dress– along with a tiara.. Lil Miss Tulli was going out like the lil princess my parents treated her as.
Once I handed off the clothing– I did something that has left a permanent memory in my head. One that repeats itself – I can’t rid myself of it.I snuck downstairs, unseen by the staff, and found the embalming room..
There she lay, covered in a white blanket her face and shoulders exposed.. The autopsy marks covered… I saw the stitches in her head from where her scalp was peeled back and sewn back together.. her face– swollen, bruised, gray….lifeless.. her skin cold to the touch. My baby sister, my best friend, my partner in crime…. dead..
I got up on that table next to her and cried…. my body shook with sobs… I couldn’t believe this.. this could not be!!! I eventually composed myself and got back up…. as I looked at her lifeless body, I promised her I would hold someone accountable for this murder, not only David, he was already in police custody, but for those who allowed his early parole release, for those who did not take away his cell phones, basically anyone who didn’t do what they were supposed to do– I was going to make them squirm….
I looked her over again, started inspecting— saw the ligature marks around her neck, the bruised line that brought about her tragic end… I saw the bruises on her nose and mouth from the beating he i’m sure gave her as she fought him off and the bruising from him using his weight on her face to take the last bit of life she had left.
Tears rolling down my eyes, I bent down and kissed her forehead, smelled her hair and ran my hands down her arms and held her hand. “I love you Vivi. You know I do”
At that moment, so many memories started flashing before me- the day my parents brought her home from the hospital, her birthdays (july 5) her high school graduation… her holding each of my son’s after they were born…
She was there for so much in my life.. She was me, in a younger, wilder package. She knew what I was going to say before I said it, we finished each other’s sentences.. We had our inside jokes, our own commentary… She and I joked that we should have our own show, we could make $$ off our commentary.. We said we were funnier than half of the people on reality shows. always clowning around, trying to make the other laugh……..
I don’t have anyone else to be this way with.. Sure, I have my friends, my brother, and my husband. No one can understand me like she did.. She had this laugh – it sounded like a duck having a seizure. It was hilarious! Once she got going, you couldn’t help but giggle along- and THEN she would get the snorts.. I would cry from laughing so hard at her laughing..
Vivi, as the family called her– was special to each of us. We each had something special with her. I, though, as her older sister, had her the most.. we would go shopping together, go out to eat, she babysat the kids. I have such a deep, strong love for my sister, I was also like a surrogate mother to her.
I tried so hard to get her to stop talking to that loser David. I was FINALLY getting into her head. She was realizing he was a nobody.
David.. ha. that guy hated me. I had no tolerance for his bullshit. I would cut him down quick. I was quick to question his “stories.” He realized I wasn’t buying the crap he was trying sell and made it known to my sister he hated me. Oh well. too bad for you David.
He tried to get her to stop talking to me, said I was a bad influence on her. HAHA!! He realized I was the lil birdie in her ear- making more and more rational sense. Sadly, I didn’t get to her in time, because he ended her life.
Vivi had told me he threatened her by saying if she didn’t so as he wanted, he would have me and my mother killed. He used that gang threat. David was a member of the Bloods, he boasted he was a high ranking official within that gang. ugh, what Vivi saw in him or why she continued to speak to him I can never understand.
I did ask her- and she would say she felt BAD for him. Poor David- his mommy didn’t want him and his daddy died. awwww.. poor guy.. (rolls eyes)so Lil Miss Tulli had to be the shoulder for him to cry on.
The problem – her weakness I guess- was having a big heart. David definitely played on that.
Here it is- almost 2 years after her death- and I have become closer to keeping my promise to her.
Yesterday, I spoke briefly at the Assembly hearing regarding her death.
These last 2 months have been crazy!! Sam Dolnick , the NY Times reporter finally released his 3 part series , the first story being of my sister and David’s escape. That story– those stories made an impact!! the ball had now been set in motion.
Several months after my sister’s murder, I tried getting some answers since I never received any. I emailed Governor Chris Christie’s office and received a generic letter– blah blah blah- we’ll look into this and a copy of your letter will be placed in Mr. Goodell’s file. Months pass and nothing happens.. I get a facebook message from Mr. Dolnick and we begin speaking..
Several months later– our story is out. Local media picks it up and writes about it, I get interviewed.. The halfway house story is showcased on msnbc- Politics Nation with Al Sharpton..
I remember that week of media flurry and I kept thinking– ohh, NOW the governor has a response.. oh Mr. Palatucci is covering his ass now. mmhmmm.
The only reason why they had to cover their asses was because this issue was now SMACKING them in the face. what else is left to do?? backpedal and smooth it over.
Whatever guys, I’ m not buying it.
I was told by someone in media who had been helping me that I was being spoken of as a “glory hound” and a “grandstander”. I was told that had I been HUMBLE and maybe approach Christie’s camp , hat in hand, someone in his camp would have facilitated a meeting with me. WHAT?! I was incensed at this commentary. I have done nothing wrong- my sister was killed and I”m supposed to kiss butt?? look, I”m respectful—- to a point. I’m not going to bend who I am because someone didn’t like a comment I made. We are all adults, if my words sting, how do you feel when life doesn’t go your way??
I”m not here for any political gain. The only thing I want is some reform, some review.. and accountability for what happened to my sister.
If proper procedure had been followed– or even more simply- had David Goodell NOT been paroled early , my sister would be alive.
After the last 2 halfway house hearings and Senator Buono sending Mr. Boxer a letter- I truly hope I can get some well deserved answers– and maybe an apology.
Am I asking for much??