Summer was found in a drain.
The tank was just behind the Faith Tabernacle Church of Logan, Ohio, along the Hocking River, where, after the discovery of the 25-year-old’s body, a makeshift memorial was set up: plastic flowers, teddy bears, candles.
But because Summer Inman died, because her body was found, just a few short weeks before Easter in 2011, the tokens left for her were placed beneath a six-foot wooden cross, the size and shape of a man holding out his arms.
Soon at the Faith Tabernacle Church would be the Easter sermon, all dawn and restoration. We who believe in such things, though I am not sure I count myself among them, were supposed to be celebrating life, re-birth, spring. And here was this woman facedown in the cold, wet dark, waiting for her absence to matter.
Faith Tabernacle is a small church. “House of Prayer for all People,” the wooden sign out front reads, hand-painted in black. In back of the church, there is a picnic table, a storage shed, a path worn through the grass. This path leads to the septic tank, which looks like a drain in the ground, just a drain.
Summer’s father-in law, Bill Inman, a former minister, helped build this church. Summer and her future husband met when they were teenagers, at that picnic table out back. They were teenagers when they married, teenagers when they began having babies. They had three: two girls and a boy.
In a photograph published in The Columbus Dispatch, the children smile at Summer’s grave, holding onto her black granite tombstone. It looks almost as if they are playing tag, with the grave as home base. The older two kids are grinning with calm but frozen looks. The youngest girl looks away, not smiling, perhaps not understanding — but still, not taking her hand away from that grave.
There’s an engraving of a girl on the tombstone, a ballerina, her arm lifted, her hand outstretched. Something, butterflies or petals, floats away from her palm.
Summer had yellow hair and green eyes. Her smile was easy and white. Her skin is slightly sunburned in every picture of her, cheeks patted with freckles, faint as tea. It is a pretty face, open, radiating a kind of young, natural beauty. Fresh might be the word. She didn’t wear much makeup. She wore her hair parted in the middle, often in a ponytail, two hanks hanging down before her ears. There were dark circles under her eyes.
In the days after the crime, dozens of photographs of Summer turned up online. In one of them — perhaps it is from their wedding, or from prom or homecoming — Summer and Willy, her husband, both wore white. Her hair looks darker in this shot, her body thin. She seems so young.
She is a child, and the man behind her, her husband or would-be husband, kissing her, is a child too, though he looks like a man already, his face blotchy; his dark hair greasy, beginning to thin. His eyes are closed, lips buried in her shoulder. She’s pulling away slightly, as if this is embarrassing — as if, already, it hurts.
Willy had ideas about his marriage.
He thought, for example, that he should take additional wives, that God wanted him to. According to ABC News and other sources, he downloaded pictures of girls, potential polygamous brides — all pretty, all young — onto his phone, pictures he would show to Summer.
He gained weight — they both did — but Willy gained it in his face, giving him a hound dog appearance: sagging jowls, a large chin, thick dark brows. In photographs during the trial, Willy, in an orange prison jumpsuit, often has his mouth hanging open. He has those heavy, glowering brows. His eyes look dark and flat as water.
Prosecutors argued he had grown increasingly violent and controlling. Summer had sworn in an earlier affidavit that he had stolen her keys and her phone, and hid them from her as punishment. He had taken their cats to the animal shelter as punishment. According to Summer’s affidavit, he threatened that if she ever left him and took the kids, he would kill her.
Summer told her mother. Her mother said, he wouldn’t do that.
Logan is one of the poorest towns in Ohio, in a stretch of other poorest towns, a hurting streak that stretches clear to West Virginia. This is the base of the Alleghenies, the foothills of Appalachia: a land of woods, abandoned mines, marijuana patches, hollers, polluted red creeks and rocky ridges. There’s a Dairy Queen in Logan. It’s hard to get back onto the highway from there. There is an old train yard where, for years, abandoned boxcars just sat, rusting in the weeds.
The last picture taken of Summer is a grainy shot from a bank’s security cam. Summer worked at the Century National Bank in Logan as the night janitor. In the black and white image, she has her head down, her hair in the usual way. She is holding a mop in one hand, what looks like a bucket in the other. She wears an oversized black shirt, a message tee with letters printed in white.
I’m With Stupid, some reported her shirt read — but that isn’t what I see when I squint at the image. I think I see something about ANGER written on her shirt, large like that, in all caps. And indeed, the Columbus Dispatch reported her shirt read: I don’t have an ANGER problem. I have an idiot problem.
Summer doesn’t look angry. She looks tired, resigned. She looks like she might be — could she be? — wondering how it all ended up like this: 25-years-old, three children under the age of six, estranged from a man who wanted a polygamous marriage.
She is mopping the floors of a bank alone at midnight.
There are other girls, of course, other cases, others missing even now.
They don’t all look like Summer. And they don’t all end up like her case: with a trial, a conviction, an answer, though there is never an answer. In a long line of decisions, luck and change, does it begin with attraction to a difficult man? Does it escalate with the number of drinks he drinks each night? You lock him out of the bedroom, and he shakes the knob so hard, the door almost breaks; he pants through his teeth like an animal, and you swear…and you swear…
But in the morning he says he is sorry, sorry…He says he would never…and he swears…and he swears…
Is it a matter of luck, of timing, of randomness, who is missing, who is found, who walks away, who doesn’t? And who are these other girls, the lucky ones? Tell me what it feels like, girls who never know the feel of a knee pressing down into a belly; the feel of hands closing around a throat; the feel of fingers squeezing down words; the stomach-drop, the spiral-pit, the black tar feel of someone telling you: That never happened. I would never do that. You must be imagining. I would never, ever hurt you.
What is it like, to live without fear?
Maybe there are no girls who know that.
Summer was missing for eight days.
During that time, her life was delved into: phone checked, diaries found and read. According to her diary, she had left her husband, because of his temper, his threats, her fear for the children.
But also, she had fallen for a man her in-laws had taken in to do odd jobs, a drifter her husband’s family was trying to help get back on his feet. Her father in-law, a former minister whose license had been revoked, according to the Dispatch and other sources, had visions of opening a sort of halfway house to help men like Adam Peters.
Summer was still married to Willy.
But, as she wrote in her diary, later excerpted in newspapers, the very first time she saw Adam, she wanted him.
She was conflicted, though she did leave her husband the summer before she died. She filed for divorce and started to see Adam. And the new relationship with Adam appeared happy. They posed for a photograph together with her children: a studio shot, everyone smiling, like a real family. But when she showed up with Adam to pick up the last of her things from her in-laws’ house, Summer brought a sheriff’s deputy with her. Her former father-in-law threatened to shoot and beat Adam, and got into an altercation with the deputy. Bill was charged with resisting arrest, but, as reported in the Dispatch, the charges were dropped; he was given only probation.
The men of the town showed up at the boxcars in the old train yard of Logan.
The men of the town had rollers, trays and buckets. They went into the train cars, rusting hulks that had been sitting on the tracks for years, attracting vandalism, the usual graffiti tags. But new graffiti had appeared on the inside of the cars — and this was different. It was strange. It was disturbing. It showed a figure.
The men of the town covered the graffiti. The husbands and fathers of Logan, neighbors of the missing girl, used black paint — more coats than were necessary. They covered the graffiti with censor marks, with gags.
By coincidence, the graffiti had been painted in the train cars just a few days before Summer’s disappearance, and in the minds of the husbands and fathers of Logan, those crimes were linked: vandalism, kidnapping. Maybe the same sicko had taken that girl, then painted her picture?
By coincidence, the graffiti was of a girl, head down, strung up by her hands with rope. And in the worst coincidence of all, these were images of Judy Ann Dull, a bondage model from the 1950s who bore more than a passing resemblance to Summer Inman.
Light-eyed, baby-faced and blond, Dull was a young divorcee who had started posing for fetish detective magazine photos in order to pay for her child custody lawyer. She was just 19 years old when she died in 1957, murdered by Harvey Murray Glatman, a TV repairman who had seen Dull’s pictures in magazines, and pretended to be a photographer. He promised her twenty dollars an hour to pose. He tied Dull up, photographed her, raped her, then told her he was taking her home.
In the car, he changed his mind.
Glatman confessed to two more rapes and murders, though police always suspected there were others. He was caught in California, and in 1959, was executed in San Quentin.
When Summer met Adam, she wrote in her diary: The devil had me.
But the devil already had Summer.
Willy and his parents took her in the alley behind the bank.
They knew Summer’s schedule. They waited for her and grabbed her, forcing her into their car. They only meant to talk to her, they said. They said they wanted to have a conversation with her about getting to spend more time with the kids.
It was an accident, they swore, what happened next.
Summer always texted her parents when she was through with work, letting them know she was coming home. That night, no text came. A witness saw a woman matching her description being forced into a car by two men in ski masks while an older blonde woman waited behind the wheel.
The witness was blinded with pepper spray after trying to interfere. Two other witnesses — joggers — reported that Summer was incapacitated with a stun gun by the men, then shoved into the car.
The witnesses ran to the local police station, less than two blocks from the bank. By now, Summer’s father had grown worried at home and called 911. Her mother drove to the bank, and found her daughter’s personal items scattered over the parking lot: cell phone, iPod, keys. By the time the cops arrived at the scene, the car, which had driven through town, right past the police station, was gone.
The next morning, according to the Dispatch, Willy took the car to the car wash. Reportedly, the family bought all new tires.
By the time the men of Logan came into the boxcars, Summer was already dead, though no one but the murderers knew it. They had driven her to the river, carried her past the clapboard building with a cross, and dragged her down the path through the grass.
They lifted the cover on the tank.
They had forced her into the car. They had stunned her; they had bound her. It was an accident, they swore: a flux of grip; a mistake of hands and neck, that neck he had kissed, buried his face in for that old photograph years ago.
Willy had promised to love her then — and she had promised to love and obey him, if they had said that part of the wedding vows, which I imagine they did, being children of the Faith Tabernacle, the little white church by the river.
Willy Inman would receive life in prison without parole, as would Bill. Summer had been killed within forty-five minutes of her abduction, according to the coroner, strangled by her husband and father-in-law.
Her mother-in-law, Sandra, who drove the car, led police to the body, and said she was sorry, received only nineteen years.
As reported by the Associated Press, Sandra said it was an accident, the death of the girl. It happened so fast. Then the panic. Then the driving through town, with a body in the back, the body of somebody they had loved once, not so long ago, somebody who had given them children, who had been a child herself. How could it be an accident, to have a zip tie in the car, which has only one purpose — to bind, to tighten, to hold hold hold — and then to use it? How could that find itself in your hands accidentally? Did she know it was there, in her son’s pocket? Did he touch it during the drive to the bank, or while they waited in the frosted dark? Did it catch the streetlight and flash or shine?
Or maybe it was a surprise, to Sandra, to Summer, to Bill, to all of them: the cord, the killing string, suddenly in Willy’s hands — where did it come from? — around her neck, her neck he had kissed, is kissing still in that old, old photograph, which survives.
To read our Storyteller Spotlight interview with Alison Stine, click here.