by Robert Lanz, LCSW
Maybe the police shouldn’t have brought him into my office. I really didn’t need to see him in up close. I didn’t want to know him, speak to him, hear him, or in any way have to think of him as a person. Not after he killed a child. But the cops showed up during their investigation of the child’s death just like they’re supposed to, and there wasn’t much I could have done about it. No matter how well you know the officers that come in on a regular basis, and no matter how much you like them, working with the police can have its downside. They are so used to bringing in victims and sitting around my office with them, they probably didn’t even think about it when they brought in the young man who struck the blow that took a child’s life.
I wish I hadn’t looked into his eyes and seen what I saw. It would have been so much easier if he had just been locked away, given a brief trial and a long sentence. I didn’t care. I just knew I didn’t want to meet him. I sure as hell didn’t want to come to think of him as a person in any way.
He was so young. Not nearly as young as the little girl he killed of course, but young, still in his teens. Too young to have his life take such a harsh turn. Too young to have his mother worried about him locked up somewhere where child killers are of the lowest status. Too young to have to deal with the cold reality of prison life every waking hour, maybe even in his sleep, until some way or another he could find a way to make it stop. Too young to defend himself against the really hard guys, who for once in their lives, could claim some moral superiority, beating this child killer senseless and sexually assaulting him whenever they wanted to. He would be a defenseless kid, just like the little girl he hit so hard in the abdomen he broke an artery that slowly bled and bled until there wasn’t enough blood in her to sustain life.
Baby-sitting is a difficult job. Baby-sitting for the woman you think you love may have been too much to ask of an eighteen year old who, in many ways, was still a baby himself.
“I couldn’t make her stop crying”, I heard him tell the sheriff. “I talked to her. I held her. I told her to stop and I yelled at her. She wouldn’t stop crying. She just kept crying, and finally I punched her in the stomach and put her down on the couch. After awhile I felt bad and I was going to give her some ice cream but she wouldn’t wake up. She was cold. She was sort of blue. I tried to warm her up, but I couldn’t so I called her mother at work. When she came home, I guess it was too late.”
It was, but just barely. The little girl was still alive when she got to the ER. Her pulse was weak and her breathing was shallow. Her blood pressure was so low, she had turned cold and blue. The trauma team took her to the operating room, gave her transfusions and found the bleeding artery and tied it off, but it wasn’t enough and the little girl died. We were too late by about five minutes. Five minutes. If only he had called sooner. If only the mother had come home sooner. If only she had told him to call the paramedics. If only he had hit her somewhere else. If only he had hit her a little softer. If. If. If. If. If only the police had taken him somewhere else, I wouldn’t have gotten to know him.
Before I came face to face with him, he was an evil young man—a child killer who took the life of an innocent little girl. After I met him, he was still a killer, but he didn’t seem so evil. He seemed scared but also sorry as he cried and he begged for death to somehow come and find him. Maybe he knew in his heart the terrible things that were ahead of him, or maybe he had genuine remorse for what was behind him. I couldn’t really tell, but when they took him away I watched, glad he wasn’t my child. I don’t think he planned to do wrong and I don’t think he wanted to do wrong. He just lost control and wrong happened. And nothing will ever be the same.
Later that same night, there was a guy I did want to meet. I wanted to meet him because I knew exactly what he did and I wanted to hurt him. I wanted him to show up five minutes too late to save and I wanted to watch while the last breath went out of him. I wanted to watch while he turned blue and gasped for that last breath that would never come. I was in a rage over him, and he didn’t even kill anyone. Not in the legal sense at least, but he did kill something else. He killed innocence, and he did it on purpose. He planned it, he carried it out. He knew what he doing and had a long time to reconsider his actions, but he didn’t.
The twenty-eight-year-old student he chose wanted to be a virgin when she got married, because it was very important in her culture. She didn’t want to get married until she finished medical school and her residency. She was working hard and saving a lot of the great things in life for later, when her studies were behind her and she could devote the necessary energy to those great things. When we talked after her exam and collection of evidence, I was struck by how little she knew about sex. Probably not a lot more than she had been learning in her classes. That didn’t matter, she explained, because she was saving the physical part of sex for a later time. A special time with a special man. The only man who would ever know her that way.
But another man didn’t want her to wait because he didn’t want to wait. She learned about the physical part of sex on the greasy floor of her carport where she was pinned to the ground, hit, bit, choked and forcibly raped by a person who had wanted it that way. The night turned out exactly like he planned it. Exactly like he wanted it. He left home that night with a plan to perform an evil act, knowing that if he ever got caught and convicted, he would do less time in prison than the child killer. He would probably brag about what he had done, and no hardened convict would try to bend him over and take him as his prison lover. He would probably get out after a few years of lying around his cell thinking what a cool guy he was, then he would go on to commit more evil acts.
Unlike the first bad boy of the night, this was a guy I would like to have met. And I wouldn’t have wanted the police to be anywhere around when I did.