Stories of Resilience: Geoff Starling

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Remember that grief has a different look, feel, and timeline for everyone. Embrace yours and confront it with compassion.

My younger brother was murdered by a motorcycle gang for fighting back when they stole property from his custom car shop.”

On July 24, 2014, I was catching up with a colleague in her office when my phone rang. It showed that it was my mum calling which was strange because it was the middle of the night in Australia and she knew I was out of town. 

Although living in Calgary, I was in Oklahoma City attending a series of meetings as part of a new job – a dream job that she knew I was really excited about and wouldn’t interrupt unnecessarily. 

I excused myself and took the call in an empty room nearby. “Hi, mum, what’s going on?” 

My first thought was that something had happened to my dad. He had recently survived prostate cancer and was still in recovery. 

“Geoff, it’s your brother, Laurie.’ she starts. “He’s been killed.” 

My brain flinched. My vision flashed white. I collapsed to the floor in a pile, like a marionette who just had its strings cut. 

“He was shot dead in his truck leaving the shop”, she continued. 

I’m immobile. 

Speechless. 

“Mum…?” I pleaded, hoping it was all some kind of mistake. “Who shot him?… Why?”. 

They still didn’t know at this point. My dad and older brother were on their way to the police station for information and to identify the body. 

The call ended and my mind was racing. I text the one person I know will be nearby, my new director, Kip. ‘I need help. I just found out my brother was killed.”. 

I still have the text. He was by my side within minutes. We made our way out of the building and to the hotel where I was staying nearby. Once he was confident that I was safe in my room, he left to arrange an emergency flight back to Calgary.

The next time I picked up the phone was to call my wife. She was at home with our one and three-year-old. 

“Hi, love,” I said, “Can you find somewhere quiet so I can tell you something?” 

I shared as best I could that Kip would have me home that night. The next few hours saw me in a cab to the airport then sitting by a window watching other passengers’ planes leaving and arriving. All I wanted was to be home. Then the messages started flooding in…

The news of Laurie’s death hit the media immediately and was being reported as a ‘gang-related drive-by shooting’. Mercifully, my dad and older brother were interviewed alongside the local police chief almost immediately who upheld that there was zero evidence connecting Laurie to organised crime. 

In fact, they communicated that he was a pillar of the community who pushed back against crime. The media narrative began to shift but sure enough the gang element lingered and speculation around his involvement grew. 

‘Good people don’t just get shot in the street’, you know. Sadly, good people are killed by bad people every day. 

The ensuing investigation identified four suspects. The first was arrested three months later on another charge and subsequently linked to the murder; the second was arrested another three months after that; the third was never found and presumed deceased; and the fourth – and suspected orchestrator of the crime – remains at large due to insufficient evidence. 

The trial spanned more than two years with final verdicts delivered nearly three years after Laurie’s murder. This served our family with a three-year sentence before we could properly grieve alongside the lifetime punishment of losing our brother. He was a few months away from his 30th birthday. 

Our family banded together stronger than ever to endure the loss and navigate the trial. We leaned on our friends for support and met each oncoming challenge with the attitude of ‘whatever it takes.. Please remember that grief has a different look, feel, and timeline for everyone. Embrace yours and confront it with compassion. It will serve you in time. 

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.

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