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He turned out to be muscular, handsome, charming and divorced. They went to a fast-food restaurant for a quick lunch. Rehrer noticed a picture of a little boy in Mots' truck and asked if it was a photo of his son. Yes, Mots told her, but the boy had recently died of an illness. Another child, a baby, had died previously of sudden infant death syndrome. Rehrer, who had three healthy children from a previous marriage, didn't know what to say.
They decided to see each other again. Neither was looking for anything serious, Rehrer says. She'd just moved to Leavenworth after living for 36 years in Idabel, Oklahoma. Rehrer had been working for the government, teaching grant writing in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and was at the office when Timothy McVeigh bombed the building on April 19, 1995. She spent two days under the rubble, a piece of rebar piercing one leg, before she was rescued. Her father, concerned about her recovery, moved her and her children into his Leavenworth home in 1999 so that she would be closer to the rest of her family.
Mots met Rehrer's family three weeks after their first date. Then he took her to his fire station, at 11th Street and Central, to meet his family of firefighters.
The squat, one-story Pumper 9 station faces Central Avenue. A barbecue grill and a smoker sit on a small patio just outside the door.
Mots' fellow firefighters were friendly and welcoming. They nicknamed Rehrer "Miss Okie." The ones closest to Mots pulled her aside. "Tony's been through a lot," she says they told her. "That was always one of the first conversations you had with anyone you met [who knew Mots]," she says.
After a few dates, Rehrer noticed that Mots drank often. When she showed up at his house on Friday nights, he usually had a Crown and Coke in hand.
But Mots wasn't abusive when he drank, and she believed that she could help him work through his grief over the deaths of his children. Mots kept the children's rooms exactly as they'd been left, and he observed every holiday at the cemetery. She helped him pick out stuffed animals and toys to leave. After a few months, Mots invited Rehrer to the cemetery, but she stayed in his truck while he crouched by the graves.
Rehrer says that Mots was an unusually fast driver, even in his civilian vehicle. He was also a fan of demolition derbies. He had a banged-up, spray-painted sedan with a stuffed Dalmatian affixed to the roof that he took to fairs and derbies on a flatbed trailer hooked to his truck.
After one derby in July 2000, Rehrer saw another side of Mots. She, Mots and a fellow firefighter had driven to the event together. She says Mots drank the entire afternoon and agreed to let Rehrer drive his demolition car. She crashed it, wrecking it beyond recognition. Mots was angry — he'd wanted to drive it in another event the following weekend. The three got in the truck to drive home.
"He got on this binge where he decided he was going to take his life, and we just happened to be in the vehicle with him," Rehrer says. "We have a demolition car on a trailer, and we're driving in excess of 100 miles an hour and I'm screaming, 'I'm a mom! I don't want to die!'"