Events have been known to conspire in a way that bends our memory to their will. Twenty years ago this week, an unspeakable murder took place in the quiet suburban town we had just moved into. While Son and Daughter were busy making new friends, a 13-year-old girl in a nearby neighborhood had her life taken away.
She had been at home after school babysitting her younger brother when she received a phone call from a boy on the block asking her to come over to his house. She dashed over for a moment and never returned. Her brother went to the boy’s house to get her, but no one answered the door. Her parents searched for her frantically into the night.
The next day, police found her mutilated body in a closet under the basement stairs at the boy’s house. The boy swore he never saw her or called her home. He said he spent the afternoon in his room smoking pot with two friends. Also in the house was his 21-year-old brother, who was later arrested and convicted of the murder. He is currently serving a term of 25-to-life. The murdered girls parents never stopped aching for justice after the brother’s trial, convinced he had not acted alone. No other charges were ever brought.
In a living nightmare no one could have predicted, neither family – the victim’s or the killer’s – moved away from the block. They continued to go about their lives, separated by a handful of houses and an ocean of misery. Thus the years passed, punctuated with accusations of harassment and flares of hostility that drew police intervention.
In March of 1996, I was writing for a newspaper that covered the happenings of our town. By then our family was settled into our surroundings, but I still felt a sad shiver when I drove by the neighborhood where the murder had occurred. Haunted by the image of a girl killed at an age my own Daughter had recently passed, I asked my editor if I could write a memorial piece for the seventh year since the tragedy. My editor said to go ahead, but I needed a higher blessing.
I called the slain girl’s parents and asked their permission to write a memorial column. I told them my heart ached for what they had gone through, and I had no wish to bring up the past if it was too upsetting for them so the decision would rest entirely in their hands. They told me that day seven years ago was never far from their minds, and they supported any act that would keep their daughter’s memory alive. I wrote the column and drove to their house and put a copy in their mailbox. They called me at the paper the next day to say they liked it. We never spoke in person.
This week the district attorney announced that the case is to be reopened. After twenty years, it’s unclear whether new evidence has been discovered or unknown witnesses have come forward. The victim’s family has never wavered in their belief that others were involved. The man serving time still swears he’s innocent. His parents stand by him. His brother has not commented. As Narcotics Anonymous says in Chapter 10: More will be revealed.
Daughter’s Featured Fotos whisk us away to Florida and then back to NY