Thursday, March 19, 2015

When the tragedy is local and the horror is real

In the past 48 hours, there have been two horrific stories here locally in the news, the type of news stories that are too awful to believe that they could ever possibly be real.

The first, a story about a mentally disturbed man, off his medications and unhinged. His condition, a known problem, his child, already removed from his custody.

He killed his father, stabbed his mother, then killed himself.

The second, the story of a woman, 7 months pregnant, who went to a home here in town to pick up baby clothing in answer to a craigslist ad. Instead, she was beaten. Her child, cut from her womb. The woman who did this to her took the infant to the hospital, claiming to have had a miscarriage.

The baby did not survive. The mother underwent emergency surgery and is expected to recover. The suspect is in custody.

When tragedies like this happen, when stories that seem to come from the pages of a horror novel become reality, people so often have the same reactions.

What happened to this town? 
It's really gone downhill. 
Our society is ruined. 



Nothing happened to this town. Terrible things happen everywhere. Live anywhere long enough and something will happen there. It's just reality. I grew up in a place with a bad reputation, with a name that still to this day leaves a bad taste in peoples' mouths. That place never deserved that reputation. This town where I live now doesn't deserve one either.

These two tragic stories have far more to do with mental health than geography.

The first man, known to be bipolar as well as suffering from other conditions, known to be off his meds, known to be a danger to his own child. I don't know for sure, but I have to believe that his parents had done what they could to try and help him, not just recently but for as long as he struggled. They weren't protected here the way his child was. They slipped through the cracks of a broken system alongside their son.

The woman in the second case appears to have been pregnant last year. Web searches reveal baby registries online from late last year. It also appears that she had a young child die many years ago. It's all speculation at this point of course, but she appears to have been deeply mentally disturbed as well.

So many in the world of social media have condemned these two. The man who stabbed his parents is already dead at his own hands. The woman responsible for the assault and death of the baby is in police custody. Any help either of them should have received is too late at this point. None of that will bring the people who were killed back. Nothing will ever be able to stop the chain of events for a mother sitting in the hospital right now mourning the loss of her child.

Nothing will ever make that better.

Nothing.

I've seen so many people commenting on the news stories, calling her evil. Often the same people calling her such refuse to believe that mental illness could be the root of this.

It is easier for some to believe that she was possessed by the devil than that she was mentally unstable.

Why is that easier?

There is another aspect of that case in particular that is generating much discussion this morning. It's a legal issue, one that is brought up any time the child of a pregnant woman is killed here in this state.

Until and unless that child is first born alive prior to their death, it is impossible to charge the perpetrator with murder.

They can somehow be charged with child abuse resulting in death, but not with murder because of the nuances of the statute.

In this case, it is presumed that the suspect cut open the mother's abdomen and took the child in an attempt to pass it off as her own, with the intention to keep the baby alive. We don't know whether that child was born alive before it passed, though that detail will become public knowledge eventually, but we do know that the mother was estimated to have been 7 months pregnant.

A fetus at 7 months along can most certainly survive birth.

If the child had not been cut from its mother here, it would still be alive. If the suspect had not caused the death, the baby would still be here.

It seems a pretty clear case to me, and I assume that if and when it is determined that this infant took a breath, she will be charged with murder. The police are asking for cooperation from residents in the investigation, specifically asking if anyone else responded to her online ads. 

Our town is in mourning today. The clouds that hang heavy and low over the city weep with us.

Please don't poke fun at us, please don't mock these tragedies, please don't troll the comment sections, please don't.

Please.

We're all asking why right now. We're all looking for a reason.

And, as we've done in the past when the rain came down and tried to wash us away, we will come together and do what needs to be done. We will, I hope, use these tragedies as a foundation to build our mental health system more firmly upon.

Together.

As a town.

Together we mourn and we question and we hope.

Sending love and strength to the families and friends as they mourn these losses today.

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