About a year ago a terrible thing happened in my little town. Something that forced me to think about crime and punishment in ways that I never had before. Four young people, two men, and two women were killed, execution style, and then the trailer they were in was burned to hide the evidence. The two men were known drug dealers, the women were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I knew one of the girls, she was only 23 years old, a very sweet peron, always smiling and had a kind word for everyone. She was a party girl, I knew that, but so was I at her age.
I never personally knew anyone who was murdered before, and I was furious. I wanted whoever did this terrible thing to pay, with their lives. I wanted blood. Everyone in our town felt the same way. We were all shocked that such a thing could happen here in our nice safe little town, to "our kids". There was rumor going around town that the "Mexican mafia" did it, because one of the men owed money to them for a large drug shipment. We waited impatiently for an arrest, afraid that whatever animals did this wouldn't be caught.
My father is a homicide cop, and was working on the case. I questioned him almost daily, and told him about the girl I knew, her name was Christy. I told him how sweet she was, how her death had touched me, and begged him to find the monsters who did this. And then...the arrest came. And we were all shocked once again. Because the "monsters" were four young men, well-known in our communtity. I was friendly with one of them, my sister had actually dated another one of them. These were "our kids", not Mexican mafia. The one I knew was a mechanic, had worked on my car several times. The other, the one who dated my sister, my God, I had smoked with him, talked with him, this was the "monster"? How could this be? I was sure they had the wrong men, surely not these boys. Yes ok, they were also drug dealers, the whole damned town knew that, but did that make them killers?? Men who could gun down two innocent women in cold blood? Apparently so. And my view of what makes a "monster" changed forever. And I began to question my safe comfortable ideas on the death penalty and our justice system.
Three of the four boys who did this thing, and they were all boys, only the mechanic was 30 years old, the rest in their early twenties. Three of them all came from poverty, and abusive homes. I went to school with all of them, it was no secret. There aren't many secrets in a town this size. I knew that one of them had some pretty serious mental problems and needed some kind of help. I had known that since I was in sixth grade with him. I knew that another one of them was beaten regularly by his step-father, I knew that another of them, whose mother died when we were in grade school had virtually no parental supervision or guidance, that he was basically growing up on the streets. But after all, how bad could our streets be? We had no gangs, no homeless people. The other, the mechanic, he was upper middle class and had all the advantages as far as I could see. But who knows what went on behind closed doors? I had to examine what responsibility I may bear, as someone who knew about all of this for years, and said nothing, did nothing. If I had spoken up all those years ago, when we were all kids, if I had insisted that something be done, would anything have been different? Probably not. Like I said, there aren't many secrets in our town. The adults in charge knew as well as I did what the problems were. Would they have listened? Probably not. But I'll never know for sure, will I? Because I said nothing, did nothing.
What really amazes me though is the attitude of people in our town when the arrests were made. Instead of examining our souls to see how far the stain of guilt was spread, the entire town seems to have closed ranks against them. There is a sense of betrayal, how could "our" boys have done such a thing? And the howls for their blood became even louder. I find it incredible, but I suppose I shouldn't. These are the same people who turned a blind eye to the problems, who shrugged everything off with a "boys will be boys" attitude. I want to understand, I want to know what I could have done, what can I do in the future? I'm a mother, a factory worker, not a social worker. But I accept that I have a responsibilty to the society in which I live and work. I'd like to talk to you, to get to know you. You seem to have accepted your own responsiblity for what you did, which these four have not by the way. They are proclaiming their innocence to anyone who will listen. I've listened to the evidence against them, and I wanted them to be innocent, I can't tell you how much I wanted them to be innocent. But after hearing and seeing the evidence, I can't in my heart believe they are innocent. There's just too much proof otherwise. So I have nothing to say to them. I want an honest dialouge, not to hear the same old line, "I'm innocent, it wasn't me. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, I'm a choirboy, a Boy Scout.." I want the truth, no matter how ugly that truth might be, or how uncomfortable.
* From a Visitor to the Site