An interaction with Carl R. ToersBijns, Author of From the Womb to the Tomb – The Tony Lester Story

Please tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc. So, our readers will get to know the person you.

I am Carl R. ToersBijns. Coming from a military/police family, I grew up traveling around the world or wherever my father’s assignment may take us. This ambiance created many hardships on us, but we endured the trials and tribulations related to being immigrants and transients. We lived on the island Java in the giant Pacific Ocean for a short time after World War II, where incidentally, my uncles and grandfather were police officers and chief of police. After four years of post-war living, we were exiled from the islands to the Netherlands. Since my mom’s side of the family was recognized as Dutch citizens during the war.

My family traveled to Europe via a large freight ship and arrived in Amsterdam’s docks in 1950. We lived in the Netherlands for about eight years when we earned a visa to travel to the United States. A local church in Columbus, Ohio, sponsored us, and my father was in their choir and a church treasurer. We grew up during the turbulent years of the 60’s civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. I was drafted into the war and served overseas in Vietnam as a medic for a year. Coming home was an experience I will never forget. I felt unwanted and struggled with my PTSD for a little more than a decade. 

My struggles were real. I had problems with my anger and drug alcohol addictions. After seeking help, I found out I could be useful if given a chance, so I kept a job for a sustained time rather than the sporadic posts I had in the past. I managed to get a great opportunity when I moved to New Mexico and found a job as a prison officer in Santa Fe, a few years after the riot. I kept that job and worked my way up the ladder to a Deputy Warden position in various prison locations. 

After twenty years, I moved to Arizona and found myself smack in the middle of a terrible prison system. I quickly rose through the ranks based on my experience and education. I observed conditions in the prison system that was draconic and outdated. After five years in the Arizona agency, I retired again to write books and enjoy the non-working class. I found opportunities to write as well as opportunities to consult and advise legal professionals regarding the policies of prison management and principles. 

Based on my experience, I wrote fiction and non-fiction books related to the judicial system, human behaviors, and matters of integrity and ethical conduct. Today, I still serve an active role as an advisor and consultant to many entities and organizations. 


What inspired you to author this book?

From the Womb to the Tomb, this book illustrated the dilemma of the tragic death of a young Native American man who struggled with a severe mental illness while incarcerated in a very harsh prison in Arizona. His death was a miscarriage of justice. It inspired me to write about this young man’s courage to deal with his disabilities and challenges in the most profound way to attempt to survive harsh and toxic conditions, most extreme for most men who do not have a mental illness or disorder. 


Where did you get the inspiration for your book’s cover?

The book cover reveals Tony Lester’s personality and abilities to be kind to humans and animals he loved so much. In the selection of the book cover, it was his mother’s and aunt’s favorite photographs. This photograph illustrated a human trait that was very important to Tony and his family, 


Who has been the most significant influence on your personally and as a writer?

My father, a World War II POW for almost five years, was my inspiration personally to ensure I had the psychological and physiological ability within me to have love and compassion for my fellow men, both free and incarcerated. I needed to be able to tell the truth about Tony Lester’s story. Secondly, I have worked with numerous criminal investigators and television investigative reporters throughout my career who wrote brief but concise reports that could stand the test of being factual and based on evidence gathered during the investigative process. 


What were your struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to get this book written?

Without a doubt, the most serious and likely the most challenging obstacle I had to overcome was the cultural resistance from my peers and former co-workers to express the outrage and miscarriage of justice that occurred in this story. In writing this book, I crossed the line of silence and exposed the flaws that led to Tony’s death. First, and most importantly, there is a code of silence that cannot be broken or compromised without retaliation or other retribution. There were numerous other challenges where the availability of historical records, videotapes, investigative materials that were sealed, or not readily available to a writer or an attorney without some legal work or requests for discovery. 


Please tell our readers about your book.

This book is a collection of human drama with an emphasis on truth and compassion regarding an individual’s struggle to survive a lengthy prison sentence that prosecutors when prosecutors should have offered alternatives for him or the family. Based on the police report, this case arrived ill-prepared and in a manner that included the omission of facts that if they could present direct evidence to tell the real story about his crime in a courtroom. Individuals who have mental disorders are not treated any differently by many county prosecutors because their main goal is a solid prosecution record for their benefit. Lester’s story illustrates the need to do away with traditional judicial processes and develop new strategies for the mentally ill persons arrested by police. This book focuses on the humanity of the victim, Tony, and how his legacy is crammed inside a small eight by nine cell where he died after committing suicide. 

A young man with a life long history of self-mutilation and suicide ideations was restricted to get razors while in protective custody. However, due to a mistake, he was given access to razor blades while inside his cell. Suffering from voices in his head telling him to die, Tony saw an opportunity to slash his body with fatal wounds because he knew he would not be found in time to survive his life. 

Tony would have survived if the prison officers had conducted their rounds promptly. 

When they found him after his cellmate alerted the officers, he bled to death because none of them would offer him first aid or stop the bleeding. He bled out because these ill-trained officers let him suffer for 23 minutes doing nothing to save him. The shame in this story is the coverup of this incident. Officials were quick to deny any wrongdoing, and it was evident via the videotape that there was a severe degree of negligence involved in their response, 


Who is your target audience, and why?

It is difficult to say who my target audience is or was when I wrote this book. It is realistic to say that I wanted to reveal the severe life-threatening flaws of the judicial system to maintain it’s integrity and have families of incarcerated persons to be aware of the pitfalls of this system. I wanted to give them hope that someone cares about their family members and that things can be understood if you ask the right questions. Empathy and compassion are vital possessions when dealing with human beings under stress and anxiety, no matter where they live or what they have done. I wanted to demonstrate that there are people who genuinely care about justice, about human rights, and the truth. Non-fiction books and grief-related stories are emotionally tricky to describe and reveal as they have to cross over so many psychological boundaries of guilt and remorse of the matter. 


What do you consider your greatest success in life?

My greatest success is that I have met thousands of men and women from all walks of life. I have met the good, bad, and sometimes ugly. I have learned how to deal with difficult people and, through empathetic efforts, understanding their actions better or more transparently. 


What one unique thing sets you apart from other writers in your genre?

My uniqueness is that I am transparent and easy to read. I offer no excuse for my lifestyle, writing style, and the words I have chosen to describe any story. I like to think that words are like photographs as their meaning can differ from different people. Being creative is a blessing, but I have not yet reached the stages of creativity that I searched for as a novice writer. Practice makes perfect, but finding the ideal method is the goal of any writer, no matter what genre they may choose.