When tempers flare and restraining orders become necessary … sometimes the next phone call is life-shattering. That is exactly what happened in Dee Fournier’s family July 17, 2002 when an officer knocked on the door.
“The officer knocked on our dad’s door,” Fournier, “and then dad made the call to mom.”
That was followed by the parents splitting up the notification to their four other children that their oldest “sister had been murdered by her estranged husband.”
“I remember waking to my husband yelling for me,” Fournier said. “He woke me from a blissful sleep. And after I got to the phone my mother told me – ‘He shot her. He killed her, right in front of the kids,’ my mother said between sobs.”
Juli had been married to her husband, and the father of her two children, for “15 to 18 years”, Fournier recalls. “While she said she was unhappy and they argued, she never told us of any physical abuse,” Fournier said shaking her head.
But with the “if I can’t have her no one will,” attitude Juli’s husband was overheard expounding (by one of the couple’s mutual friends), one of the (possibly) first physical encounters looks to have been the deadliest.
“I just wish we’d known,” Fournier admits as the weight of guilt weighs heavy on those left behind. “It’s the ‘what ifs?’ ‘should of’, ‘could of’ and the ‘only if’ that linger,” even 17 years later, Fournier admits with grief laden eyes.
These are some of the reasons Fournier will be putting one foot in front of the other this year as she steps out on the American Discovery Trail.
Fournier will be walking/hiking from California “which is, in part, where I’ve been hiding from my grief” to Maine. You see, Fournier is heading back home to where her sister Juli and the other 5 siblings were raised, as well as where a good number of the family still make their homes. But this journey is not really starting in California.
“I sat, with the rest of my family, (in Florida) trial side through the first trial, in which my brother-in-law was convicted of first-degree murder.”
He exercised his ‘right’ to an appeal. But that did not change the outcome.
“My brother-in-law was found guilty, both times. Guilty of premeditated murder…” Fournier said, swallowing hard. “Well, I thought the healing would begin there,” Fournier said shaking her head. “But it didn’t. The trials were just beginning.”
Now, 17 years later, Fournier’s focus has changed. She hopes to stop running from the guilt, running from the sadness, running from the longing to be around her sister and “stop the wake of destructiveness for others and their families before domestic violence permanently and irreversibly scars them,” Fournier admits.
This is where the trail begins to lead to an end. Fournier is ready to set off on the trail of awareness and healing, but not just for her family.
“It’s ironic, it seems I have been a bit lost since my sister’s murder,” Fournier said, “and recently, as I was looking for what my purpose in life is … a friend encouraged me to follow my passion.” A light chuckle escaped Fournier’s throat. “I didn’t even recognize I had anything I was passionate about when my friend pointed out I had two things – my love for hiking and photography.”
Add the desire to not let her sister’s death be in vain and Fournier’s multi-faceted goals came into view.
“As I am out on the west coast, I decided to make the cross-country hike and head home. But not before I paid homage to my sister, her plight and all who endure any domestic violence,” Fournier said, braving a smile.
But it’s not just a 6,800 plus mile hike. Fournier will be stopping along the trail, in towns where she can talk with ladies who are experiencing domestic violence.
As Fournier hikes from coast to coast she will be stopping to bring light to the serious nature of domestic violence while encouraging many to 1) not to accept such behaviors, 2) believe in themselves and their ability to stand up for themselves and their children, 3) get free and 4) “don’t let them sweet-talk you back.”
The trail will take Fournier through California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Delaware, but then she will continue on her path up to Main where she will complete this 9-month to a yearlong hike.
While Fournier’s first footfall on the trail will be on her sister’s birthday, April 24, she shares: “I would love to make it in 9 months, after all, I was delivered after that length of time,” Fournier said with a light chuckle as her heart began to ease as she realized she was heading home. All awhile knowing it may take longer depending on the number of stops.
Fournier will not be working, of course, during this 9-month plus long trek that will be bringing awareness to the multitude of dangers associated with domestic violence. There has been a GoFundMe page set up for those who would like to support her efforts to highlight, among other facts, that approximately every minute about 20 people become victims of domestic violence as pointed out by the U.S. Department of Justice report on just the non-fatal domestic violence acts.
There have already been a couple of folks step up in support of Fournier’s gallant endeavor. The Verizon Wireless company has become a sponsor as well as other individuals who are against domestic violence.
“I will be chronicling my trip along the American Discovery Trail with my camera and a diary.”
Although Fournier is aware some men are victims of domestic violence, she “will be speaking to as many women as I can,” across the U.S. near the trail “as I want to do something specifically associated with the same reason for my sister’s death.”
Fournier will be lacing up her hiking boots, darning her backpack and hitting the trail on April 24th of 2019 at the west coast head of the trail in Point Reyes, Calif.
You can follow her on Twitter #DeeGoesFromTrialToTrail or Instagram at Deestahdiva, at her website http://deegoesfromtrialtotrail.com/ and, if you desire to, you can catch up with what Fournier is doing by going to her YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qea-QT2Ss6g. Donations can be made by going to http://www.GoFundMe.com where you will be able to look up DeeGoesFromTrialToTrail.
Dee Fournier is a strong lady who I have had the pleasure of becoming friends with over the last few years. As a former victim of domestic violence myself, I applaud Dee’s decision to take back her life all awhile speaking out to help others not end up like her sister. I know Miss Juli looks down from heaven and smiles as her baby sister begins to take back her life and inspire others to do the same. May your foot-falls be on solid ground and your voice be heard across this nation. — Kathleen Kline