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Resting Places / Chapter Eight: Five days in March

COURTESY OF YOKO KATO
Sherry Morton and Cedric Seabrooks in  1992, months before they were murdered in Northampton on Jan. 11, 1993.

COURTESY OF YOKO KATO Sherry Morton and Cedric Seabrooks in 1992, months before they were murdered in Northampton on Jan. 11, 1993. Purchase photo reprints »

NORTHAMPTON

On March 3, 1993, not two months after the murders, a Northampton court held a 2 p.m. hearing on the terms of Sean Seabrooks’ bail. Jeannie Banas attended and that evening called her mother, Yoko Kato, to tell her that the knife used to kill Sherry and Cedric had been left in her face, near her eye.

The next day, Yoko was overcome by panic. At work, listening to talk radio, she heard a program that featured a psychic. She had been to see a psychic once, the month before, because she wanted a glimpse into what happens after death. The words “multiple stab wounds” haunted her. She worried that because Sherry and Cedric had been so abused, they might not be in heaven. She kept picturing Sherry and Cedric lying together by the end of the bed.

That first visit to a psychic had been on a Saturday morning in early February. Yoko told her seamstress she’d be out for a while and walked a few blocks to the Hotel Northampton to attend a psychic fair.

She had heard about mediums who claim they can contact the dead. Sherry had gone so quickly, without a goodbye. Yoko wanted to know how she was. She wanted someone to tell her Sherry wasn’t in pain.

Inside the hotel’s ballroom, 15 psychic readers were sitting at tables with clients. Yoko was sent to a reader in her early 40s. She had short hair and lived in Easthampton.

The reader asked her to shuffle a deck of Tarot cards. Yoko found them hard to manage with her small hands. The reader shuffled the cards a bit more and asked her to cut the deck. Then she placed the cards on the table and pulled one out that bore an image of a sword and bloodstains. Yoko’s heart started racing.

The woman said there had been a tragedy. She explained that the card signified blood. Yoko wondered if the woman recognized her from photographs in the newspaper. The reader said she saw darkness and a baby. She kept repeating: There has been a tragedy.

Yoko told her she had just lost her daughter and grandson. The psychic fell silent, studying the cards. She looked up and told Yoko that the baby didn’t have asthma any longer. Yoko couldn’t recall mentioning Cedric’s asthma in any interview. She asked, “How are they doing?” She couldn’t bring herself to ask about the cuts on Sherry’s face.

It’s too soon to tell, the psychic said. The killings are too recent. But it was clear, she told Yoko, that Sherry and Cedric were not yet in heaven.

On the way home that afternoon, Yoko stopped at Spring Grove and looked at the frozen flowers beside Sherry and Cedric’s grave. The flowers were holding their color. She told Sherry about her visit with the psychic.

A month later, Yoko heard another psychic, this one from Springfield, interviewed on a radio show. It was late afternoon. She waited long enough to give the woman time to drive home after her radio appearance, then called her to ask for an appointment.

The first opening was six weeks off. Yoko was disappointed but scheduled a time. A few minutes later, the woman called her back. Come down tonight and I’ll see you, she said.

It was snowing, so Yoko called her husband, Rad Nutting, at his auto shop and asked him to drive her the 20 miles to Springfield. She just wanted someone to tell her Sherry and Cedric were not suffering, she told him. They arrived at the psychic’s house around 7.

The psychic and her husband were sitting downstairs waiting for her, with that day’s Springfield newspaper open to a page with a story about the murders.

Yoko climbed stairs to a curtained room lit by candles. A large painting of an Indian chief hung on one wall. There was a smell that Yoko couldn’t identify. The woman followed Yoko in and asked her to sit on a couch. She sat in a chair opposite Yoko, across a coffee table, and turned on a tape recorder.

The psychic asked Yoko why she had come. The woman closed her eyes as Yoko explained, and said nothing.

When she opened her eyes, she told Yoko that 2,000 years ago in Europe, in a past life, Sherry had killed Sean. The murders were Sean’s revenge, a rightful revenge, and what had happened inside Sherry’s apartment had been her own fault.

Yoko felt her mouth go dry. She listened, hoping at least to hear that in heaven Sherry’s face was not disfigured.

Cedric’s death was part of the punishment, the psychic told Yoko. Children who live short lives are messengers, dispatched to instruct people about the wrongs they have committed. Another child in the family would also die early, the woman said. Yoko thought of Jeannie and Paul and their plans to begin a family.

Yoko had brought Cedric’s winter coat and the pearl barrette that Sherry had been wearing the night she died. The psychic asked for the barrette.

Yoko dug for it in her bag and handed it across the coffee table. The psychic threw it aside with a shout. She told Yoko it bore signs of violence. She picked it up and threw it again. Then she asked to see Cedric’s coat —a small one adorned with an Oakland Raiders logo. After moving her hands over it, the woman told Yoko that heat emanated from it, showing that Cedric had been much loved. But she added that he was not yet in heaven — and was no longer with Sherry.

The psychic wasn’t finished. Sherry wasn’t in heaven because Yoko was visiting the cemetery too much. Don’t go back for at least six months, she said. Then, the reading over, she handed Yoko a tape recording of their session.

It was snowing even more heavily now. Yoko broke down in the car when recounting the visit. When they got home, Rad listened to the tape. Then Yoko dropped it on the floor and ground her heel into it. At 10:15 p.m., she called her mother in Japan.

The next morning, she drove to Spring Grove and walked through the new snow to where Sherry and Cedric lay together and told them she’d made a mistake. She told them the psychic had instructed her not to visit again until September. But they were family, she said, and nothing could keep them apart.

•••

PROGRESS NOTE

CLIENT NAME: Yoko Kato

DATE: 3-5-93

CLIENT PROGRESS & ISSUES: Yoko is attempting to deal with revelations of graphic material made during the bail hearing & subsequent media coverage. This has left her highly vulnerable & distressed. Y. sought guidance from a professional psychic, who under the guise of “helping,” blamed Y’s daughter and grandson for own deaths & told Y. her mourning rituals would “keep them from passing on” and cause them pain. ... Y. was able to express her anger at the psychic & to discuss more reliable sources of guidance & support.

•••

That evening, Yoko walked from her shop to a psychotherapy session with Cat Chapin, staying from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Though she’d destroyed the tape, she couldn’t erase the psychic’s predictions about Jeannie’s first child. Cat worked to undo the damage.

Cat wrote in her notes that Yoko was struggling to understand why someone could be so hurtful. She reminded her that she was already painfully aware of how treacherous people can be. “When the universe has allowed something that bad to happen to Sherry and Cedric, your daughter and grandson, what terrible thing is impossible to believe?” she asked. “It’s hard to have faith in anything good.”

A day after her session with Cat, while watching a TV movie at home, Yoko heard a baby crying and threw up.

On March 9, she created her first shrine for Sherry and Cedric.

MONDAY: Making a personal religion.

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