Courtesy of Ginger Fitzgerald
A rebellious youth
For all the love she showers on Jordan, for all she tries to protect and guide him, Ginger Fitzgerald has never known where her only child would end up in life.
She is 23 when he's born in 1983, a self-described party girl, staying out late, not interested in college, working odd jobs, still living with her parents. Jordan's father is Rob Sherwood, 29, a Navy veteran and cabinetmaker.
Both come from conservative, middle-class, churchgoing families in the Roanoke area. They never marry and split up when Jordan is 2. They argue over his custody and he ends up spending time with his mother in Roanoke and his father, who moves to Arizona.
Four years later, Ginger marries Steve Price, a Roanoke County restaurant owner. They divorce five years later, although Jordan remains close to Price's parents, Fred and Betty Price, as well as his mother's parents, Ralph and Betty Fitzgerald, and his father's parents, Jack and Jackie Sherwood.
All three older couples, who live in the Roanoke area, have a hand in raising Jordan: baby-sitting, teaching him to play checkers, make a snowman, taking him to church, fishing, Cub Scouts, for walks in the woods. He is an easy child, auburn-haired, happy and talkative.
SOURCE: Walter Reed Army Medical Center; National Naval Medical Center; New England Journal of Medicine; Journal of the American Medical Association
In elementary school, Jordan likes sports, art, music, gets good grades. He looks out for his two older half sisters, stopping bullies who might pick on them. He's compassionate, too -- he gives his favorite Redskins hat to a homeless man he passes one day on a Washington, D.C., street.
When Jordan turns 13, he starts to rebel against his mother, who over the years works long hours waiting tables, tending bar, managing a restaurant, other jobs. She sets strict rules for him, but he ignores them. He talks back, dresses in black, gets piercings, listens to Marilyn Manson, dyes his hair in leopard spots.
In middle school, his grades go from average to bad. He doesn't fit in anymore, gets picked on for being different, hangs out with other misfits.
When Jordan turns 15, he and Ginger have had enough of each other. He moves to Tempe, Ariz., to live with his father, an easygoing, self-educated man who loves books and working with his hands. Rob cuts his work hours to spend more time at home and lets Jordan make his own decisions, thinking it will help him mature.
Jordan behaves for a while, but soon goes back to his old habits. He ignores school, smokes, drinks, gets high, gets arrested for shoplifting.
Jordan knows he's floundering, doesn't like where he's headed, knows he's squandering a chance at a good education.
"I was such a punk," he says, looking back. "I knew I had to choose between grades and friends, so I chose friends. I thought I'd never get the chance to make good friends again."
Before his sophomore year, he switches to a charter school for at-risk teens, where he's more comfortable, the classes smaller, the cliques fewer. He gets decent grades, mostly stays out of trouble, has an after-school job at a bakery, Fairytale Brownies. He still doesn't know what he wants, just that he doesn't like being told what to do -- by his parents, teachers, cops, anybody.
In early 2001, when he's 18 and one class away from graduating, he quits. He's tired of school and his friends, who are getting stoned on marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs.