by J.D. Rhoades
Well, I had a fun
and funny column planned for today, with
my usual wit and jollity. But I find myself unable to write anything like that
This past Friday
morning, Emily Elizabeth Haddock was home alone, sick with a case
of strep throat. Three young men, not realizing that there was someone in the
house, broke into the mobile home where
she lived. Apparently, when Emily
surprised them, one of them shot her to death with a stolen .22 caliber pistol. Emily’s
grandfather found her body on the floor when he stopped by the house to check
on her and saw the door forced open.
Emily Haddock was
12 years old. She went to my daughter’s school. She lived on the same road as one of my daughter’s close friends.
The three charged
in the murder were apprehended and jailed Monday night. They’re 16, 18, and 19
years old. They’re being held without bond and two are most likely looking at the death
penalty. The time and place of their next bond hearing is being kept secret
because of “security reasons.”
The news vans are all over the courthouse
square, and the reporters are all there, with names like Sloane and Greg and with
their perfect hair perfectly in place,
droning away with that look of fake concern on their faces, and I’m sorry, but I
just want to punch them. They were outside the Sheriff’s office as they were
taking one of the defendants to the jail, and they were asking “why did you do
it?” I mean, do they really expect an answer? Is there one?
Where do you begin to process something like
this? How do I make sense of the utter stupidity and futility of it all when
someone who’s nearly the same age as my son is involved in the killing of a
bright, happy, pretty girl who’s only a
little younger than my daughter ?
I’m sure there will
be those who see this as an indictment of the availability of guns, even though
the gun wasn’t bought from a dealer, it was stolen in another B & E. Comments are already
up on the news stations’ websites blaming the parents for leaving the girl alone, even
though we really know nothing about the economic circumstances that might have led to that.
At some point, since the accused are black and the victim was white, the race
issue is sure to raise its ugly head. The pontificating and chest beating has
just begun, and the whole prospect just makes me sick. These people, victims
and perpetrators, aren’t symbols or symptoms. They’re a sweet, sunny-natured
little girl and a trio of young dimwits like
the ones I see every day. Except now one of them’s dead, and at least one of
the three others are probably going to be dead in a few years at the hands of the State. Because if someone
dies while you’re committing a felony like B & E, it’s first degree murder, baby. Class A, top of the sentencing charts, even if you didn’t
plan the death. Unless you’re under 17, in which case you’re "only" looking at life
without parole. At age 16.
As crime writers,
I think we sometimes lose sight of what murder’s
really like. Most often, it’s not a puzzle for the brilliant detective to
solve. It’s not the plot device that causes the plucky heroine and her true love to get together so they can be happy and just too cute for words forever. It’s
not the dangling thread of a giant tapestry of international conspiracy to be unraveled.
More often than
not, a murder is just a stupid and
pointless fuckup by someone who didn’t start the day out thinking “I’m gonna
kill me someone today,” but who started that day with one bad choice that cascaded
inevitably into another, then another, like a snowflake that turns into a snowball
that turns into an avalanche. In this case, the avalanche leaves an innocent girl dead
and not just one, but four families devastated.
I’ve been looking
at the words above for the last fifteen minutes, trying to draw some conclusion
from all this, some point. And I can’t find one. But maybe that is the point. This
story’s not going to have a happy ending, or a moral, or a compelling or even a coherent plot.
It’s just some really shitty stuff that happened this past weekend. All I can
do to try and make sense of it is to write about it.
And it’s not enough.