Raise your right hand.
You saw my square from you're listening to a trial which took place in 1997. A beautiful 27 year old blonde woman named Tracy Rame is on the stand.
Ms. Rame. Excuse me. Just could you pull that microphone just a little bit closer to me?
Is that good? You said you live in the savannah? Yes. Do you have any children? Yes, I do. How many children? I have two children.
Tracy was impeccably dressed with perfectly quaffed hair, but her appearance was deceiving. She grew up on the poverty line and was exposed to extreme abuse. The prosecutor asked why she had worked so hard to see this case brought to trial.
It was a search for truth. I realized that something bad had happened, and it was to correct that bad thing.
A bad thing did happen. When she was just two, tracy Raquel's brother Matthew died. He was only four months old. There were many accounts as to what occurred, but her family chalked it up to a tragedy, and life moved on.
So what was your brother's death described as? What did they tell you?
So when I was growing up, I was always told that Matthew died of crib death, that he slipped between the bars and fell on the floor.
I had this idea of what I thought I knew. I was 25. I had finally gotten the records sent to me.
These were the hospital records from the day of his death. They contained all the details she was desperate to know.
I remember waiting for those documents on a daily basis.
It was a bright, sunny day. I was downstairs in the living room.
I had to get them open as fast as I could. And that's when the world caved in around me. I wasn't prepared for what they said.
It states child was thrown from crib by sister. Oh, hold on. Did I do this? Is this everybody trying to protect me?
Imagine, just imagine seeing a report that says you were the reason someone died. Tracy Raquel is a kind and caring person. She couldn't picture hurting a baby ever, even by accident. Yet there it was in black and white.
Child thrown from crib.
My sister Tracy saw in writing that she had thrown her little brother out of his crib. Was that true? Could she have done this? Or did something much more sinister happen? My name is Nancy Glass. I'm an investigative reporter. I've covered some of the most notorious crimes in U. S. History. I've interviewed Jeffrey Dahmer in prison. I practically lived at the courthouse for a year covering the OJ. Simpson trial. But even after being close to evil time after time, this is the story that has affected me more than any other. This is burden of guilt episode one age of innocence. Tracy changed her name several years back to Tracy Raquel. So you will hear her referred to as both Tracy and Tracy raquel in this podcast, especially since many of the people we speak to remember her from her younger years. I'll explain why she made that change later in the series, but out of respect for her, I will only refer to her as Tracy Raquel from here on out. This series talks about crime, domestic abuse and homicide, but it's so much more than a true crime story. It's a real account of survival, resilience, and justice.
It's taken us two years to put it together because it's that hard, it's that dramatic. And most importantly, it's taken 25 years for Tracy Raquel to be able to tell her story. I went to see her at her home in Colorado. She lives on a heavily protected military base. We sat outside, so it's a little noisy. Do you just sit and enjoy the view?
I can only see the very top of it from my house, but I'm under, you know, war games, the movies, NORAD, that's where we are. It's all beautiful, though.
This place has everything her soul needs peace, tranquility, and beauty and a garden. But there's also everything her head needs fences, uniforms, and.
Yeah, that's just the little pilots training over there at the Air Force capital.
Yeah, that's them. That's their touch and goes.
Tracy Raquel is a veteran. She served in the army for two years. She has lived all over Hawaii, Colorado, Alabama, different states, cities, and bases to her home is where her family is. She's a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. Against all odds, she has created a stable and comfortable life for herself and her family with her husband, Bart, who is still on active duty.
Because I'm with him, I don't feel terrified. I don't feel as vulnerable. I feel safe. I guess that's the easiest way to say it, right? Yeah, I feel safe. I think we're that coupled now that when you see pictures of us, we've started to look like each other, like people look like their dogs sometimes, or their dogs look like them, and then you see people. I think that's where we are. We've got the same little quirks now.
I love hearing the way she talks about her husband. It's really special. When I see her life in Colorado and hear about her family, it makes me smile because the odds were so stacked against her.
If I decide something's going to be something's going to be I'm pretty annoyingly. Tenacious. If I believe something has to happen, then it's going to happen.
Well, that's the theme of all of this, isn't?
Yeah, I guess it is.
Before I went to Colorado, I had been fascinated by Tracy Raquel's story for almost a decade. A few years ago, we started corresponding, and I have spent the last four years getting to know her. We come from such different backgrounds, yet we do have so much in common, like our love for gardening and poodles and cooking and our kids of course, Tracy Raquel is in a safe place now, and any pain is well hidden. But her road was a long and difficult one. Now, at times, the story can be difficult to hear, but please stick with me. After seeing hospital records that said Tracy Raquel was responsible for her four month old baby brother's death, it was a reckoning. The night Matthew died also happens to be her very first memory.
At the time, I didn't understand what all the lights and sirens are, and I don't really have a memory of an emotional state at that point, just asking what they were doing.
Were you scared?
I was terrified.
She has flashbacks of images of herself in a car.
I remember it being a dark green El Camino. I remember standing up in the seat with my arms around that headrest and looking around at all the sirens everywhere and Jan's saying, they're trying to help Matthew.
Jan is Jan Barry Samlin, Tracy Raquel's father. Matthew, a four month old baby, was hurt and needed serious medical attention. Journalist Jill Jordan Cedar explains how the sequence of events started with Tracy Raquel and her mother.
That day, Kathy and Tracy went on an errand. Jan was at home babysitting little Matthew. When they returned, jan came to the door, blocked her entry and asked her to retrieve something from the car. Kathy did that, and Tracy went inside the apartment. When Kathy comes back, she goes into the bedroom, finds Tracy in the crib, matthew on the floor, eyes out of focus, looking in a world of trouble. At that point, Jan says that Tracy has caused Matthew to fall out of the crib, hit his head, and is really chastising Tracy. Jan spanks Tracy and scolds her for what she's just done. Kathy said, look, there's something wrong with Matthew. We've got to get him to the emergency room. And they leave.
They raced the baby to Northside Hospital. The staff took X rays and realized he needed more care than they could provide. He was transferred by ambulance to Dekab Medical Center. As Matthew was evaluated, extended family began to gather outside the hospital. Kathy's sisters and grandparents hovered close by. Uncle Butch, Jan's older brother, paced in the parking lot.
He said, I arrived at the emergency room and you were sitting on a concrete slab where ambulances pull up.
Little Tracy Raquel had no idea what was going on. But Matthew was in dire condition. He had extensive skull fractures, brain bruising, and his pupils were fixed and dilated. Doctors felt they needed to perform surgery to give him a chance to survive. Kathy signed the paperwork giving permission, but it was of no use. Before midnight, Matthew died. Tracy Raquel lost her baby brother. The next paper Kathy would sign would be a release for the county coroner to perform an autopsy and permission for Matthew's body to be sent to a funeral home. But after he died, Matthew just wasn't mentioned much. Tracy Raquel, of course, was always aware of him because of the memories of that night. But the family didn't do much to keep his memory alive or to memorialize him.
You told me a story about a very scary car ride when you were a little kid. Will you tell that story?
I mean, I was seven. I was in the car with Kathy.
And she said, day after tomorrow is Matthew's birthday. And I just had this childlike remark of, if you don't take me to the cemetery, I'm never going to speak to you again. It's funny, I can remember exactly where we were on the road and next to the highway. And her reaction was shocked.
Shocked about what? That you would even mention him.
You're exactly right. Her and Jan were together then, and she went home and had a complete fit.
She told Jan, and he beat me terribly.
He really enjoyed the belt, the wrong end of the belt.
He beat you with a belt?
He wanted to ensure that I didn't.
Talk about Matthew again to her, so I didn't.
Although she was too young to articulate a desire to honor her brother, she craved a connection. Her father, Jan, wasn't interested in the least, except in teaching her a lesson.
And I guess some people think we all got whoopings with belts back in the day or whatever. But it wasn't like that. It wasn't discipline. It was don't ever talk about this again.
You know, in all this time we've been talking, you have never referred to Kathy and Jan as mom and dad. Why not?
I don't think genetics makes you a parent, so no, I don't refer to them as a mother and a father. They weren't that. They weren't parents to me, they were monsters.
Tracy Raquel's parents had a long, complicated relationship, dating back to their childhoods. Jan Barry Sandlin and Kathy Amen had grown up in DeKalb County, Georgia. Even decades later, Kathy would admit she had been in love with Jan since she was twelve years old. One look at Jan's teenage photo, you could see something in him. Confidence, maybe. Or maybe overconfidence is more like it. He had a handsome face and charisma even as a teenager. Reporter joe Jordan Cedar jan and Kathy.
Had known each other for a long time, since 6th and 7th grade, through elementary school into high school. She found him charming. He was a cut up sort of the class clown. He was very popular, very mischievous, had a lot of the girls after him, and she was one of them.
Jackie Wilson knew Jan Sandlin's family growing up. A few of her girlfriends had crushes on him in school.
Jan didn't mind showing how much he cared about somebody whenever he did care for him. But he was also demanding and domineering and expected whatever he said to go.
In the early 1970s, it wasn't unusual for couples to get married right after high school. Although Jan and Kathy eventually married, they took a circuitous route with other partners first. Now, this is going to be tricky, so if you're multitasking and I know I do that when I listen to podcasts. Lean in for this. In high school, Kathy wanted to be with Jan.
He came from a bad name, bad family, so she wasn't allowed to be with him.
But obviously she found a way, because when she was 15, she became pregnant by Jan, and her mother found out.
You told me about something very traumatic that happened to Kathy around that time. What was it?
Her mother, my grandmother, told her that someone was going to come and just check to make sure that the baby in the pregnancy was okay. And the woman actually came to do an illegal abortion. They didn't tell her what was going on.
Since Kathy was forbidden to date Jan, she found another boy with a better reputation.
Publicly, she dated this really nice boy, Ted Golder, through high school, but at the same time, she was seeing Jan on the side the whole time. And then when Ted was drafted, she found out she was pregnant with me. He was in the army, and then he went off to war.
Despite her marriage to Ted, kathy still carried a torch for Jan and continued to see him on the side.
How did Kathy ultimately end her relationship with Ted?
She had sent him a Dear John letter while he was deployed over in Vietnam, saying, this is not your child, it's Jan's child. I don't love you. I'm in love with him.
And it was true. Kathy wanted Jan, and she knew the baby wasn't Ted's. Ted was willing to forgive Kathy and raise the baby with her, but Kathy wasn't interested. That baby was Tracy Raquel. Soon after, however, kathy found out that Jan married another woman, a pretty brunette named Nancy Tegader. With Jan, now married Kathy Reconciled with Ted. And during that reconciliation, they conceived Matthew. Just a month after Matthew's birth, jan's wife Nancy tragically committed suicide, and suddenly Kathy's true love was free. It was only weeks after Nancy's death before Jan found comfort with Kathy, who had open arms, waiting. Ted golder was forgotten and Jan moved in with Kathy, Tracy, Raquel and baby Matthew. They lived together as a family.
They were on some honeymoon phase for two days, and then there was enormous amounts of violence.
The house was chaos. There was drug abuse and booze. Jackie Wilson saw the debauchery firsthand.
I know for a fact that Jan sniffed glue, because I've seen it with my own eyes that I know. I know that he took pills, but I don't know what kind of pills. I know he drank alcohol like it was water.
It was no longer a charming teenage romance. The couple's attachment evolved into a rough adult relationship, and Tracy Raquel was exposed to most of it.
I remember jan and Kathy were at Jan's mother's apartment. And there was this huge domestic situation.
That was going on.
She was screaming bloody murder, and he was beating her up. And his mother was yelling at her.
And where were you?
I was sitting outside, and there were people walking on the sidewalk across the street, looking and obviously taking notice. Nobody did anything.
Keep in mind, Tracy Raquel was observing these acts. As a small child, he would put.
Her through horrible beatings and rapes. But she would say, it's the love of my life. It's love of my life. It was one of these things that I didn't understand.
But she had something inside her that was very strong. Even measures buttons and makes buttonholes. She found ways to seek refuge from the toxic, dysfunctional environment that surrounded her to quiet the noise. Just be a kid.
I would get two cookies and milk, and I could watch The Brady Bunch.
Yes. She watched the family all of America embraced. And she dreamed it is escape.
Watching that family work, it was hope.
It was hopeful.
That's what it was.
It was hopeful.
Despite her escapism, tracy Raquel was haunted by the loss of her baby brother. He was a ghost, an ever present ghost. Let me describe him to you. I'm looking at a photo of him at four months old. He's wearing a blue pinafore with a white starched collar. He's got a little tuft of hair on top of his head. And he has this wide eyed look. There's baby fat. The little ones start getting wrinkles around the wrists and folds around the neck. He was adorable. Tracy Raquel didn't attend Matthew's funeral, but relatives shared details with her over the years.
Matthew was buried in Alabama. Our family is stretched from Alabama to Georgia, so it was a lot of people. I was told that the procession from the church to the graveside for Matthew, that Kathy and Jan were in the hearse.
They did say that the vault that Matthew was in was a high end.
Coffin that Jan had paid for the funeral was strange. Jan and Kathy displayed odd behavior. On the way to the cemetery. On what should have been one of the hardest and most painful days of.
Their lives, they pulled into McDonald's how.
May I help you?
And went through a drive through to.
Order food in the middle of being in a funeral procession.
Their dead baby lay in a coffin in the back of their car. But that didn't stop them.
They pulled over and stopped and ate before they proceeded to the graveside to bury Matthew.
What was your family's reaction to that?
It was explained to me that everybody was just mortified. Grandmothers and great grandmothers and aunts were just sobbing in tears.
After Matthew's death, kathy couldn't cope.
Kathy attempted suicide a couple of months after Matthew died.
She took Tracy Raquel onto the balcony of their apartment and then right in front of her own two year old child. Kathy climbed up on the railing and jumped, jumped right off the two story balcony.
Now, she said she sat me there so that the police would find me. I think she broke both legs and both arms.
It was only two floors, so Kathy survived, but was badly injured. Immobilized Jan couldn't be counted on, and Tracy Raquel, a toddler, was thrust into the caretaker role. It was mind blowing.
I remember days later, she was on the couch in Know, pretty much full body cast, yelling at me, telling me how to scramble eggs. That's the first time I scrambled eggs, because she couldn't do it.
Can you imagine scrambling eggs at two? It's hard to fathom. Kathy became more dependent on Tracy Raquel for other adult tasks as well.
I was buying cigarettes for her when I was five.
All by yourself as a little kid? Why do you think she did that?
Your electricity gets cut off or your water gets cut off and you send your child to stand in line with a bunch of adults who are paying their bills because you don't have enough courage to stand in there and pay your own white bill.
Kathy didn't want to stand in line because her bills were being paid late. That's why she sent her daughter to do it. I have this image of this little blonde child reaching up to a cashier with a money order and then asking in a tiny voice, please, can I have a pack of Virginia Slims? It all feels absurd. As time went on, life resumed and nobody seemed to talk much about what happened to Matthew. He was just there one day, and then he wasn't. A few years after Matthew died, kathy and Jan had another son. He was named Jason. Tracy Raquel had a new younger brother, but another baby in the house did nothing to quell the violence.
I guess chaotic people do chaotic things, so lots of violence and abuse. We would be settled somewhere from the time I was a little child, and he would just show up in the middle of the night and throw us on the street.
Where would you guys go?
We spent lots of time just sleeping on a park bench, just wherever. One time, I think I was seven or so, he showed up in the middle of the night and beat the door down and beat her up really bad and took Jason.
But Tracy Raquel could hardly look to her mom for comfort.
Kathy was equally as bad as Jan, just in a different way.
In what way?
I was in the first grade and got gum in my hair. Her answer to that was just to shave my head and then send me to school.
That story hit me in the gut. And when Tracy Raquel first told me this, my thought was, didn't anybody else notice or try to intervene my aunt.
June is Kathy's older sister. She's the oldest of the five of them. It's my understanding that she and my grandfather tried very desperately to take me away from Kathy shortly after Matthew died. The system just wouldn't allow it. So I think you do what you can do when you can, and that's what they did.
But her family was also fearful of offering shelter to Kathy. They believed Kathy would always take Jan back, and they would put themselves in harm's way for nothing. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of Jan's rage, only to find Kathy back in the same situation. Days later, when Jan threw Kathy and the two kids on the street, she would take the kids to motels, and then Jan would show up. It was a cycle. So as a child, Tracy raquel was basically homeless. Her life was completely erratic. Going through her day, avoiding what emotional or physical landmine she could step on next. Her mother was beaten down, broken. And her dad well, there was another side to Jan sandlin that I haven't shared yet. Her father was involved in criminal activity.
He was connected to an organized crime group in the south.
She was even a witness to some of it.
I must be four at the time. I remember all of these men being in this apartment living room, and they were making a plan. There were guns everywhere, and they were getting ready to do something.
Jan was focused on the task at hand, and when Kathy objected, jan got her out of his way.
They had a protest about something, and he locked her in a tiny little closet while they went and did their, I don't know, robbery, whatever they were doing.
How long was she stuck in there?
She would be able to tell you how many hours she stayed in that closet, but a long time.
And there was also this.
The CABB county police officer was murdered, and Kathy said, yeah, he killed that police officer. She didn't even know his name.
There were rumors that Jan was involved in the murder of the officer. Only 24 years old, the young police officer had been shot execution style while working at a part time security job.
But Kathy said, he killed that police officer, and then we drove to Alabama and threw the gun in a lake.
I'll tell you more about his story later in the series. It seems like there was never a moment of stability. Tracy raquel has vivid memories of Jan breaking into the house and kidnapping her and Jason as a way to get at Kathy. Jan had a special affinity for Jason because he knew for certain that Jason was his son.
I believe that Jan is the personality type that's very primal. I only take care of my own, so to speak.
In Jan's mind, tracy Raquel's paternity was a little more dubious, considering the overlapping relationships kathy had with jan and her first husband, Ted Golder. But Tracy Raquel was useful to Jan in one way. He used her to look after her younger brother. She has a memory that plays almost like a short film in her mind. Jan had kidnapped her and her brother Jason.
When it was time for Jason to take a nap, he would put us both in there, and we would take a nap. And I had this little girl, and she knew what was going on. She knew that he had kidnapped us or taken us, that this was a violent situation.
The little neighbor girl started coming to the bedroom window every day at lunchtime to try and help Tracy Raquel and Jason escape.
Then I would be like, okay, I can do this. I can pick him up and hand him down there.
Did you have a plan?
This place was at the end of the Decab airport. My Uncle Steve worked at the airport. I just thought if I could get him out, I could run him down this runway and be fine. But I was so afraid I was going to hurt him.
She had already lost her younger brother, Matthew. She couldn't bear the thought of doing anything that would harm Jason.
We tried every day for about two weeks.
And then what happened?
The police came. One day, this nice policewoman came and took my hand, and he was arrested, and off we went.
It sounds like a disconnect, but here's what happened. The police showed up because justice had finally caught up with Jan. In the spring of 1981, ten years after Jan and Kathy got together, he was going to prison.
He drove to Panama City, committed armed robbery in a gas station or convenience store or something like that, and then got into a shootout on Panama City Beach with the Panama City Police Department. And then he was arrested and sentenced in Florida. And I understand it was like, 25 to life.
He had done time for crimes like forgery and breaking and entering, but this conviction would be the one to put him out of their lives.
I thought for sure everything was going to be great.
Life would be great without Jan.
Sometimes you just don't see the forest for the trees.
Kathy didn't physically abuse Tracy Raquel, but the relationship was broken, dysfunctional. Kathy was a battered woman and couldn't see much beyond her own pain to offer any love or comfort to her daughter.
When I was 14 years old, I was very ill and ended up in the hospital, and they diagnosed me with a seizure disorder. I was just done.
What did you mean, you were done?
There was no way out.
There's nowhere to go.
I just really didn't want to be in that environment. I didn't know how to get out. It was not help.
So she saved 30 days of a medication, tegridol, an anticomvulsant drug, and she took it all at once.
At the time, I thought I'd be with Matthew or I'd be in some better place. Seems kind of hokey now, but at the time, seemed like there was probably something far better than what was going on.
She figured a month's worth of the tablets would have been enough to kill her. And it should have.
I woke up to Kathy standing over me, shaking my face, saying, oh, my God, what have you done now?
That is not the reaction you'd expect from a mother who just discovered her daughter had attempted suicide.
And all I could think was, wow, I'm really still here.
It's remarkable that she survived. Maybe it was luck. Maybe it was fate. Perhaps she was destined for a greater purpose. There was a lot of wrong in Tracy Raquel's childhood, enough to break anyone. But for Tracy Raquel, her upbringing only instilled a strong sense of right and wrong. And something with those medical records did not seem right.
It states child was thrown from crib by sister.
Rather than just looking at my own abuse and suffering, I took on this whole full thing of, I'm going to find out what happened to Matthew.
On the next episode of Burden of Guilt, tracy Raquel persuades an investigator to look into Matthew's death.
Wasn't someone of great importance just a child that died? It's terrible. Yeah, but why would I take it? Well, Tracy said some things that intrigued.
Me, and later this season there's no.
Way in hell that this child died from being pushed out of a crib.
I'm Nancy Glass. That's all coming up on Burden of Guilt. Stay tuned for Burden of Guilt, the documentary coming in 2024 and airing only on Paramount. Plus, if you would like to reach out to the Burden of Guilt team, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's email@example.com. If you or someone you know is worried about maltreatment or suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, call the Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline. You can call or text 1804 a child that's 1804 224-4531. Way to show support is by subscribing to our show on Apple podcasts. And don't forget to rate and review Burden of Guilt. Five star reviews go a long way. A big thank you to all of you who are listening. And also be sure to check us out and follow us on Instagram at Glass podcasts. Burden of Guilt is a production of Glass Podcasts, a division of Glass Entertainment Group in partnership with Iheart Podcasts. The show is hosted and executive produced by me, Nancy Glass, written and produced by Carrie Hartman and Andrea Gunning, also produced by Ben Fetterman and associate producer Kristen Melchiori. Our Iheart team is Ali Perry and Jessica Krinchek.
Special thanks to Tracy Raquel Burns and her husband Bart. Audio editing and mixing by Matt Delbecchio. Burden of Guilt's theme composed by Oliver Baines music library provided by My music. And for more podcasts from Iheart, visit the iHeartRadio app. Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Stay tuned for Burden of Build, the documentary coming in 2024 and airing only on Paramount. Plus.