Bella is Who I’ve Become
Bella is not my given name, but it is who I have finally become and this is my story. I never believed I would be able to write about the shocking existence I endured from the time I was only four, but I know I must if others are to be helped.My co-authors, Dennis Griffin and Morgan St. James, held my hand all the way through the trauma of reliving everything I’ve been through and together we put my memories and stories into what you are about to read.
I warn you, this book is not for the faint of heart. No child or young woman should ever have to go through what I did. If you looked at our family on the surface, we appeared to be living the American Dream with a nice house, luxuries, my father’s successful career and plenty of his important friends. The dark secrets of a sadistically abusive father and brother, sexual abuse, ties to organized crime and free-flowing drugs should have had no place in the life of the little girl who twirled and danced in her perfect pink bedroom while wearing a fluffy tutu.
That lovely image was what everyone saw, while the horrendous underbelly of our family remained hidden, and continued into my life as a teen and an adult. You might think things like these only happen in movies, on TV or in fiction, but let me assure you, everything is true. By all odds, I should have died many times, but something in me gave me the strength to close out the horrible reality, the physical abuse and living on the edge. Every page is stained with my tears.
I have been through hell on earth, but I know beauty like no other. My sole purpose is to keep reaching more people through the brutal honesty of my story.
There are many more like me, facing a life that makes them wish they were dead every day. We call ourselves La Bella Mafia, and we are survivors.
In order for you to understand what my life was really like growing up, it is important that you know a few things about my family background—specifically who and what my father was. That way you’ll better understand the evil that lurked beneath his successful public image.
He was a very large man with dark skin and hair, standing six foot six inches tall and weighing in at about 250 pounds. I was forever in awe of how easily he did everything.
He was able to achieve almost anything he set his mind to. For example, he loved motorcycles and built his very own Harley when he was around eighteen years old, and after that built several more bikes.
As an adult he became involved in the production of semiconductors, and designed and built the plants that produced them. After a plant was up and running, he’d move to another area and build the next one. That meant my family never lived in any one place for very long.
Through his business activities he gained power and in my opinion he was the leader and his followers were cult-like. Plainly put, he was an influencer and a crime boss with his own minions. He brought a lot of people up the ladder of success with him, building these men up out of nothing and making them into something. But my father was always the top dog, the leader, and those he helped elevate to success as respected businessmen were heavily indebted to him.
He wanted to be the best and always took first place in everything he entered or tried. In addition to moving so often, we traveled from state-to-state showing off his bikes. Everywhere he went he constantly developed new contacts ranging from the biker gangs he was affiliated with, to lawyers, judges and politicians. His domineering personality coupled with his vast network of followers and connections, made him fit the profile of a very powerful overlord. He could make some-body’s career with a phone call or a whispered word. And he could destroy them just as easily.
I must admit, aspects of my father’s personality and drive rubbed off on me, and I am like him in some respects. I’m strong and can get people to follow my lead. Thankfully, that is where the resemblance stops.
When I was still a child, our house was the scene of many parties and get-togethers. Designed for entertainment, one floor had a pool table, a handmade glass chess table, a fireplace and video games. Sometimes a hundred or more people were partying and other times just a handful of guys playing poker. But it was almost always busy, and marijuana was always available.
Despite my father’s violent streak, he was my hero and I saw him as someone who could do anything and knew everyone. Back then I didn’t question the “how” and “why” of it. I had no reason to. That’s just the way it was, and I was still an innocent kid.
Looking back, though, I didn’t pick up on signs of how my father operated. I was just a little child when he took me into bars with him and I hid under the tables while he had meetings. I heard things I was too young to understand at the time. As I got older I’d hear him call people and have the friendliest conversations although I knew he didn’t like them. It didn’t seem important to me then, but as an adult I realize he was gathering information about those people that he could later use to coerce or intimidate them. I also heard him talk about tapping people’s telephones. I guess the reason it didn’t seem odd to me at the time was because I thought that’s how things were done—to me it was normal.
Due to his connections, and the ability to get things done and make or break people, my father had the aura of a Mafia Godfather. People came to him for everything. And if he granted their request and helped them get what they wanted, they owed him. People have asked me if he actually was in the Mafia. I don’t know for sure either way. But I do know that he wielded Mafia-like power.