George Hartwig: Justice finally served?

by  Cross Post from It has been almost exactly 9 years since my life as I knew it ended with the arrest of my ex-husband. I can say I am a “survivor,” but my life will never be what it would have been had this not happened. In the wake of Barry Lichtenthal, many people have been permanently damaged. Perhaps the best marker of a sociopath is the number of broken and wounded who fall on the paths of their lives. But I am lucky, as are the rest of those who survive life shared with a sociopath free of bodily damage. I have come to understand that the bodily damage that sociopaths inflict is both direct and indirect. George Hartwig’s story gives us an example of both. It also causes us to pause and think about the issues of justice and recovery. Before she was really mature enough to know better, Denise Richardson made the mistake of marrying George Hartwig. She then suffered years of physical and emotional torment, the stress from which I believe contributed to her early death from cancer. There are many, many victims for whom the stress of emotional abuse at the hands of a sociopath has caused physical illness- from cancer to infection to cardiovascular disease. Many victims thus die from their tragic relationship choices. Those who inflicted the stress that contributed to the deaths are never charged with a crime, and yet they, in a sense, commit murder. Sociopaths whose torment leads victims to suicide also commit murder. The impact of George Hartwig on Denise Richardson and her family went even further. Following an argument with Denise’s mother, George shot Denise’s sister Louisa Rodas in the face; she lost an eye and she remains permanently brain damaged. Yesterday, Hartwig, now age 43, was sentenced to a 20-year term for the attempted murder of Louisa, and a consecutive 10-year term for the attempted murder of Rodas’ brother, Thomas Richardson. He must serve nearly 26 years before he can be considered for parole. Judge DeAvila-Silebi, also imposed a $100,000 fine and said she will hold a hearing on whether Hartwig, who may have received a settlement from a worker’s compensation claim, can make the payment. Read: Lodi man gets 30 years for shooting sister-in-law in the face, on Denise and Louisa’s mother, BettyJean Downing- Kling, maintains a website, and posted the following on her blog, George Hartwig gets 30 years for shooting sister-in-law in the face: DV Justice at last: ON behalf of my daughters and their sons – I ask interested persons send letters to the Judge thanking her for her sentencing in the following case. Judge DeAvila-Silebi handed down a most fair sentence citing Domestic Violence statistics as her major consideration in making her final decision along with the testimony and guilty pleas of the defendant. It is apparent, this jurist sentenced George Hartwig to the full extent of the law within the bounds of the law, and she is to be commended for her careful, honest and thoughtful consideration of domestic violence and taking brutal offenders off the streets and refusing to fall for the defendants and his attorney’s arguments of mitigating circumstances. This Judge knows her business and we certainly need more of her on the bench all across this nation! I, too, am glad that Hartwig received the toughest sentence possible, but why should this small modicum of justice be some unusual event that has us all writing thank you notes to the judge? Is there really any sentence here that would be considered “just” by any thinking person? In my opinion, it is too late for justice in this case. Justice was only possible years ago when the abuse first happened, or maybe even earlier when Hartwig first manifested his disorder. Sadly, often recovery is as incomplete as justice. What kind of life will BettyJean and her family have now that this case is finally “over”? We all wish them the most peace and happiness they can find, but we know life will not be the same as it would have been if they had never met George Hartwig.

One Response

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments on our story. I would like to explain why I am satisfied with the sentence and why I am thanking the judge. Unfortunately, DV laws are weak; judge’s sentences are often weaker here and across the nation. Usually minimum sentences are given and they are served concurrently and rarely do you hear a judge cite DV statistics.
    This case was so different – it was as they should be and a prime example for every case.
    I am working hard and would ask that you and others join me in my efforts to pass Louisa’s law will strengthen DV laws so that judges like Liliana S. DeAvila-Silebi have a case to hand down harsher sentence- right now they can only sentence based on the laws and sentences for what is on the books. This judge gave him all that she could and she told him why!
    If we want more we will have to make specific laws to give judges the ability to sentence under. I need your help to do that. To join us in this effort email me and put Louisa’s Law in the subject- we need and can accept donations under 501 c3 at Please get involved.
    “How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand: there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend; some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.” –Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
    J. R. R. Tolkien has the talent for putting thoughts into words that I, as her representative and that of her children cannot. How could I possibly put into words our journey and all the events that brought us to where we are today? These past three years, I have asked myself, “What does the human spirit need in order to heal and move on?”
    I have settled on the following, we need a safe place to share our pain and be acknowledged, we need compassion, and need to know that we and others will be protected from the perpetrator, we need accountability — someone who will hold the perpetrator accountable, we need restitution for the losses incurred by the victim, and we need justice (not revenge) but vindication — to be set free. Scars remain, but healing is sufficient so as not to continue to be held in bondage to the trauma.

    Again thank you. I want you to know that we worked tirelessly to write this judge and she received no less than 300 letters from all over the country and several other countries as well urging her to do the right thing. See some of the letters here:…..or-louisa/

    I bring this up to show that the old adage “it’s the squeaky door that gets oiled” still stands true. If you do a search you will find that we never lead up from 12/15/08 until present.
    No stone was left unturned and believe me- when it seemed as if no one was on our side and no help was forthcoming we never gave up prodding, begging, asking and annoying everyone we knew and those we never knew.
    We saturated the net, we sunk to the low of showing my poor baby in her despicable condition and I pleaded asking “what if this was your daughter?”

    If that is what it takes – then do it and never be dismayed because shamefully, women have given up far too easily at the first few closed doors- I am here to tell you – it takes TENACITY!

    Only three women showed up in court by our side yesterday and the courtroom should have been full. What message did that send? It told me that my fight and struggle was worth it and yet so many women missed the opportunity to see DV justice which to date has been so damned rare.

    Are we so used to failure that we have given up?

    I stand here to urge my sisters to never give up- never give out and never let them see us sweat! Today we have won one small step for womankind BUT- we can’t give up here- we need to move forward.

    Join Louisa and me as we ask for more victories and Justice for all women everywhere!

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