Letter to the Editor - Saratoga News

Letter to the Editor written by Bob Baratta-Lorton in response to the November 15, 2006 article relating to the death of Mary Baratta-Lorton

When Jason Sweeney first contacted me about writing an article about my wife Mary, he said he had been inspired to do a story about her because he had read the tribute I had written about Mary that was posted on the Center for Innovation in Education’s website [www.center.edu]. I loved Mary very much and would have been very willing to help Mr. Sweeney write an article sharing her many accomplishments. However, it quickly became apparent in my e-mail exchanges with Mr. Sweeney that he was not at all interested in Mary as a person. To him, it seemed, she was an opportunity to gain a front page by-line for himself writing of some old unsolved murder. At the point I could see that Mr. Sweeney had little interest in focusing on Mary’s accomplishments, I declined to cooperate further in his efforts.

The front page of the Wednesday, November 15, 2006 issue of the Saratoga News had splashed across its cover a picture of Mary that Mr. Sweeney downloaded from my tribute to Mary. However, Mr. Sweeny did not use this picture as a tribute to anyone. Instead, he used it as a lead in to an article that is a shameful depiction of Mary’s and my loving relationship.

Ordinarily, I would not respond to Mr. Sweeney’s article, because his innuendos have no impact on those who know me. However, in the age of the Internet, there is no such thing as local news. Mr. Sweeney’s article is now available for anyone in the world who searches either for my name or Mary’s to see. For the good of Mary’s legacy, which I have been advancing for the past 28 years, I cannot let Mr. Sweeney’s article go unanswered.

Mary’s death was very painful for me, for her family and for everyone who knew her.

The facts of her death were that she was out jogging at night in San Francisco in the area around 19th Street, someone followed her into the home in which she was staying, shot her in the back of the head and then robbed her. Although Detective Falzon, who is used as a source in Mr. Sweeney’s article, was presented evidence of both the robbery and what was taken, he rejected the information, preferring his own theories to the facts of the matter. Detective Falzon told me that in the course of his investigation, he learned what an incredibly nice person Mary was, which made him all the more anxious to catch her killer. He also told me that people said I was a very nice person as well, which he said lead him to believe I was the leader of a cult and was controlling the minds of everyone with whom he spoke.

Since Mr. Falzon was convinced I was the leader of a cult, he had no qualms about telling everyone he spoke to that I was, in fact, Mary’s killer. This “everyone” included all my family members. all of my employees, and any of my friends who lived locally. Mr. Falzon’s pronouncing to everyone that I was Mary’s killer had no effect on anyone who really knew Mary and me, because it was simply nonsense. It did, however, have an effect on Mary’s brother Joseph, who lived in Boston and had very little knowledge of Mary and me as a couple. Joseph became obsessed with the idea that I either killed his sister, or knew who did. Over the years since Mary’s death, Joseph has even written to me asking me to confess to him, on his promise that he will not reveal anything I tell him to the authorities.

I do not blame Joseph for his obsession. He loved his sister Mary nearly as much as did I. I am sure he meant well by providing the information he did for Mr. Sweeney’s article, no mater how factually misleading his information may have been. I do not wish to rebut each and every point made in the article about Mary’s and my relationship. It should suffice to say that Mary’s talk of leaving me had been an annual event for the three years since we had started the Center in 1975, but it was not because we were at all upset with one another. Mary frequently found the stress of writing books and running the Center to be overwhelming. What she wanted to do at those points in time was move to Oregon, live in the woods, and make pottery. She knew if she were to go, it would be without me, regardless of how much I loved her. However, in each year, Mary’s obsession with making pottery wore off with the passing of summer, and she knew, occasionally to her frustration, that I never took her talk of going off to live in the woods very seriously.

Mary’s friend Kathy said to us once that she had never seen a couple contemplating separation who got along so well. It is too bad that Joseph did not get to know Mary and me better as a couple.

I wish Mr. Sweeney had chosen to write about Mary’s life with the respect her life deserved. I would hope anyone who read Mr. Sweeney’s article would also read the tribute I wrote for and about Mary at the time of her death. To do so, please Google Mary Baratta-Lorton, and click on the “A Tribute to Mary” link.


Bob Baratta-Lorton