Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kindertotenlieder

Crossposted from Murderati:

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 right now.

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.

I'm sorry.

4 comments:

C.L. Jahn said...

My condolences all around. There is no punishment to fit this crime.

Sandra Ruttan said...

"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."

You've nailed it. It almost feels wrong, in the context, to say you've beautifully expressed the ugly truth.

Here, you can leave your child home alone I believe at age 10. Your child can be left caring for another child at the age of 12. There was certainly nothing negligent, on the face of it, about a twelve-year-old home alone. It's a way of dismissing blame, when the reality is, if someone else had been home there would likely just be two dead people instead of one. What do they think, the guy with the gun was going to say, "Oh, you're an adult, I can't kill you"?

Anyway, let's hope in all the bickering and finger-pointing that people hold on to what you've addressed - the senseless tragedy of this girl's death.

jeff shelby said...

Wow. Wow. Just awful.

Indiana Joe said...

Makes you wonder if there shouldn't be a crime such as, "Felony murder, second degree". It's for people who panic and kill someone while committing a felony, or for unarmed accomplices to felony murder. If convicted, you get 20 to life.

It won't change any of what happened, but there might be more justice in the future.