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In the shadow of violence

By CATHY KESSINGER Gazette-Times reporter
November 9, 1998

ADAIR VILLAGE — It wasn’t the first time Sandy DeMers had waited for her husband to arrive. He was late dropping off her car.
“The man was perpetually late,” she said.
But on the morning of Aug. 12, it was more than dawdling that held up Dennis DeMers. The former Adair Village city councilor had been beaten and left for dead at the bottom of a staircase outside the Benton County Courthouse.
Sandy tells the story of that day quickly, as though she can’t bear to relive it again. The tears begin to make their way down her face as she describes what her husband of 31 years wore that morning — shorts and the golf shirt his kids had given him for Father’s Day.
She hasn’t seen the police reports to learn the details of the beating, she said, because she doesn’t think she could bear to read them.
All she does know is that her husband is coming back. DeMers was unconscious when he was found, and he remained in a coma for 10 weeks. He was recently transferred to a Corvallis nursing home and started waking up about two weeks ago. While Sandy describes him as “dazed,” she is thankful that he is finally on the road to recovery.
The first person he asked to see when he came out of the coma several weeks ago was his son, Sandy said. When she came to see him the following day, she forced herself to ask one question.
“I shored up my courage and I asked if he knew who I was,” she said. “He said I was his wife.”
Police say two door-to-door magazine salesmen beat DeMers following an argument concerning a few dollars at Burger King.
When medics arrived, DeMers was critically injured and not breathing. He was taken by Life Flight helicopter to a Portland hospital.
The argument between DeMers and his alleged attackers involved a few dollars, police say, but they may never know the details. Police say the dispute did not involve a magazine sale but won’t say more because they have only the suspects’ version of events.
So far, Sandy said, her husband doesn’t remember anything about what happened to him on that Wednesday morning in August.
Witnesses told police the 49-year-old DeMers was running toward the courthouse about 11:30 a.m. Aug. 12 with two young men following him. The men then allegedly pushed DeMers down the stairs outside the courthouse, and one of the suspects kicked him.
Jeremy Delano Kincaid, 19, and James Larry Ransom, 16, both magazine-subscription salesmen from Spokane, were charged with felony assault following the incident. The two remain in the Benton County jail awaiting trial, which is set for January. Both have pleaded not guilty.
“I’m really not vindictive,” Sandy said. “I imagine these kids had a tough upbringing.”
A family’s struggle
The attack on DeMers has been rough on his family, and it is his wife who has shouldered the burden.
Since her world fell apart on that sunny summer day, Sandy has been juggling her job as co-director of victims’ services for the Benton County District Attorney’s Office, her duties as the mother of two children and her own fight against cancer while being there for her husband.
Sandy stops by the nursing home to see her husband every day on her way home from work. Then she goes to their Adair Village home and feeds her kids before heading back to the nursing home.
“It’s kind of a roller coaster ride.”
Meanwhile, the medical bills are adding up. Sandy estimated DeMers’ medical expenses have topped $150,000. Her insurance company will pay for DeMers to stay in the nursing home for only 21 days, she said, so she is busy finding out whether he qualifies for Social Security benefits, disability insurance or other help.
The past few months haven’t been easy for the children.
The couple has a son, 24, and a daughter, 12. “They each have their own way of dealing with it,” Sandy said. “My daughter has handled it with the optimism of a 12-year-old, but our son has had a real tough time with it. “
Meanwhile, Sandy has had her own health problems to contend with. She went through two cancer surgeries in 1996, and the day before her husband was attacked, doctors had found cancer behind her eye. So in the weeks following the attack, as she drove between Corvallis and Portland to visit Demers in the hospital, she was also starting a new round of chemotherapy.
And to top it all off, the transmission in her car went out as she headed to Portland the day DeMers was beaten.
DeMers doesn’t recall what happened last August, Sandy said, and she thinks that’s best for now.
“If he only knew what he had been through,” Sandy said. “I really hope he doesn’t ever remember.”
Cathy Kessinger is the environmental and general assignment reporter for the Gazette-Times. She can be reached at 758-9523 or by e-mail at cathyk@gtconnect.com.


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