Above all she stresses vigilance, which is new for a lot of people here. Brown knows almost all the vehicles in her subdivision of about 50 homes. She has trained herself to be aware of bumper stickers and other identifying characteristics. She knows who belongs in Cedar Lake Estates and who doesn’t, and the man she says stopped at her house in a silver SUV did not belong. “We know everyone who’s from here,” she says.
“The other week, we had a van come though,” Brown recalls. From her living room window, she counted five occupants — “three males and two females” — who fanned out into the neighborhood selling OxiClean disinfectant wipes and products. Brown was outside, in her yard, before the first man could reach her front door. “He had that little wipe in his hand,” she says. “I said, ‘We don’t do that here.’ ”
Eight miles from Sharon Church Road, in a subdivision of more-modest homes, the silver SUV is parked in the driveway of a two-story brick house.
The Mercury Mountaineer has never handled right since the sheriff’s office released it to Slater’s wife, a 37-year-old elementary school teacher.
“Let’s go,” Zakia Slater calls to two of her sons, who have just inhaled dinner and are 20 minutes from the start of basketball practice. They load into the SUV. As Zakia backs out of the driveway, the steering wheel shimmies.
“Mom, it’s obviously not safe,” the 9-year-old boy says.
“It certainly isn’t,” Zakia says, trying to conceal one more frustration in a life now built on them.
Suddenly she is on her own with six children, and her husband is known as “that guy who got shot by the lady.” She owes a lawyer $7,500. Her phone rings with collect calls from jail.
“I want to see Daddy,” her youngest daughter says. “When are we gonna be able to see Daddy?”
“Daddy broke the law,” she says.
The community that Paul Slater upended includes his own family. His wife of nine years was so frightened by the public outrage that she slept with a knife under her mattress. She spent her days in her classroom with “The Legend of the Bluebonnet” and her nights in a chair at the hospital for five weeks. This went on as teachers and colleagues from school came to her house with casseroles, lasagna and red velvet cake. One crocheted a scarf for her. “We’re praying for you,” they said.