August 29, 2004
Union Leader News Interview
Surviving wife still struggles with day husband crashed a plane into their home
By ROGER TALBOT
Sunday News Staff
In 20 years of marriage he had left no visible bruise, but she had long been scarred inside before that Saturday in August 2001 when he destroyed all that defined their lives.
At about 7:25 that sunny morning, a few minutes after his Socata Trinidad rose from the tarmac at Nashua’s Boire Field, Louis W. Joy III radioed the control tower to ask if Amherst was “over by the green water tower,” the National Transportation Safety Board would later report.
Twelve minutes later, Joy circled the single-engine plane above the lavish house, whose construction he had obsessed over, among the tall trees at 10 High Meadow Lane in Amherst. In an eerie prelude to what would happen at the World Trade Center in just 18 days, he used the plane as a weapon, crashing it into the house, dying amid the burning and exploding rubble.
The Amherst home of Louis W. Joy III on Aug. 25, 2001, after he crashed his plane into it.
(BOB LaPREE/UNION LEADER)
In a flash of violence, Jo A. Joy’s sandcastle was gone.
Three years later, her life still turns on that moment.
She described the residual effects in an interview with the Sunday News.
She spoke of a potent emotional brew that combines the memory of years of abuse that preceded the climactic event, the violence of that day, and its proximity in time to what terrorists did by crashing commercial airliners into the towers in New York City and the Pentagon.
“It’s difficult at times,” said Jo, who has taken back her maiden name of Fonda.
“There are a lot of things that can trigger a reaction from me. I’m way better than I used to be in terms of dealing with stress and conflict and things like that, but I still have a lot of wounds that are easily opened.”
The story, she said, picking the words with care, “isn’t in the sensational ending. It’s really in what led up to it.”
“To the extent that people can gain insight for their own relationships and for those around them who might be in an abusive situation by hearing my example, my story, that is the good I’m looking for,” she said.
Mrs. Joy was not in her home on Aug. 25, 2001. She was staying at a hotel with the couple’s 8-year-old daughter at the urging of David Lauren, the lawyer who had helped get a restraining order against her husband. Police had served the papers the night before and escorted Louis Joy from the house.
“I always advise clients not to go back for at least 12 to 24 hours because, unfortunately, there are all too many circumstances where batterers, being told to leave the house, leave and then come back an hour or two later with some form of a weapon,” Lauren said.
“When people think of domestic violence, they think of physical violence. They think of bruises, black eyes, broken arms, but domestic violence is all about power and control.”
That control can be psychological — an assault, but purely emotional. It is, the lawyer said, “the most insidious form of domestic violence because it leaves no visible scars.”
Such was the case with Jo Fonda.
The early years
She was 16 when she first met Louis Joy, five years her senior. They lived in upstate New York, near Schenectady.
In the 1980s, they worked to put each other through college and earn graduate degrees in business: Louis, at Duke University; Jo, at Penn State’s Wharton School.
They lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, on Long Island, N.Y., and in Delaware.
Picture two well-educated, motivated, focused individuals who worked well together.
“We were definitely good business partners,” Fonda said.
Teamwork and success
In 1993, they co-authored a trade book, “Frontline Teamwork,” that told the story of a fictional manager and his “team” who rejuvenate an ailing manufacturing company. Not a best-seller, but it remains recommended reading in business circles.
“The point of the book wasn’t to make a lot of money. It was to grow the consulting business, which it did,” Fonda recalled. “It all worked very well. The companies he worked with did really well with his teachings and when they implemented his practices.”
Louis Joy was at a stage where he ran his business out of his hat. He had developed a national reputation as a manufacturing and operations management consultant to big-name companies.
Home in New Hampshire
Job changes precipitated some of the Joys’ moves, including the one that brought them to New Hampshire.
Fonda remembered how she came north in January 2000, to take a job as financial controller for a high tech firm.
“I moved up first and found some temporary housing and then we all moved up (from Newark, Del.) in July of 2000. We moved into our new house in April 2001,” she said.
The house was big — 5,800 square feet, four bedrooms, five baths, set on 11 acres, valued at $750,000 — and it reflected Louis Joy’s obsession with perfection.
“Without going into the details, he was a very intense person, a very controlling person, very driven,” Fonda said of the man she married. “Those are things that can make you very successful in business, but they can be very difficult in a personal relationship and they eventually led to problems between us that I couldn’t deal with any longer. . .
“He didn’t change. I changed. I decided that I was not going to live his life anymore. I decided and, so, he lost control over me,” Fonda said.
Like her husband, Fonda, who has not worked the past three years, had been successful in business, as a financial manager and controller.
“I’m a person who wants to make other people happy and do the right thing and how I interacted on a personal level with my husband was a different life from how I behaved in public. In school and in business, I was a high achiever.
“In retrospect, they tell me that is very consistent with the model of an abused person because they do tend to excel in areas separate from their abusive partner. That is where they are free to be themselves,” she said.
The threats from Louis were never conspicuous.
“I couldn’t produce evidence of any physical harm ever having been done to me or any direct threat of physical harm, but I knew his personality and I knew how volatile he could be and I was literally scared for my life and my daughter’s life,” she said of the heightened anxiety that led her to seek Lauren’s counsel that fourth week in August 2001.
“It was on a Thursday,” Lauren said of their first meeting. “I think we were just 10 minutes into the conversation when I told her she was a victim of domestic violence.”
And it was psychological and emotional abuse that Lauren saw.
“Jo was fighting this alone because there was no one who saw the physical signs. It doesn’t leave bruises that might cause friends at work, for instance, to say, ‘Are you OK? Are you safe?’”
The very next day, lawyer and client sought a protective order from Milford District Court Judge William R. Drescher. Police served the papers on Louis Joy that night, about 10 hours before he crashed the plane into his home.
Over the past 15 months, Fonda has told her story at about a half-dozen training seminars where lawyers, police officers and those who work with abuse victims study the roots of domestic violence.
She began at the invitation of Henniker Police Chief Timothy Russell, who coordinates and teaches courses in domestic violence law at the police academy run by the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council.
Russell was in Minneapolis last week at a meeting of top officials of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Their plan is to establish a training institute on domestic violence for police administrators.
A societal problem
“It has dawned on us that we have . . . to get the command structure to buy into this issue,” Russell said. “Fifty percent of the homicides in the nation and in our state are domestic-violence related and if we can all pull in the same direction, maybe we can reduce the death and injury rate to women who are victims of this crime.”
Of Fonda, Russell said, “she’s bright, very articulate — an awesome trainer.”
She tells her story chronologically, he said, beginning back when she was in her teens.
“You see how, over time, the relationship became more controlling and how she slipped into that environment without realizing it.”
The hidden abuse
The police chief said Fonda’s story is “extremely worthwhile” for young police officers to hear because many times domestic violence is clearly evident in the physical scars it leaves.
“As heinous as those cases are, those are the easy investigations to do. The hard investigations are those, like Jo Fonda’s, that involve emotional abuse where there is no clear and present evidence of abuse.”
Russell said Fonda ends her presentation by telling what happened on Aug. 25, 2001, at 10 High Meadow Lane in Amherst.
“And when she does, you hear a collective gasp from the audience because that is not what they are expecting,” Russell said.
The rebuilding process
Fonda sold the land at 10 High Meadow Lane. She and her daughter still reside in Amherst, in a big, new house.
“I had a sandcastle and somebody knocked it down. I didn’t stop to think of what kind of sandcastle I really need. I just rebuilt one. . . . At that time I was just trying to get my life back to normal again. So, we have much more house than we need,” she said.
Her daughter is 11 now.
“She is doing excellently in school. She was on the high honors list last semester. She is very active in a number of different sports. . . . She’s just really grown into a very mature, self-confident young lady.”