Thursday, November 29, 2012

Three Thanksgiving Tragedies

I had a pleasant Thanksgiving this year. It was a quiet day at home with immediate family, a turkey, and the basic traditional fixings. Just the way I like it.

Unfortunately, not everyone in this country was able to experience the same.

The news is rife with horrific stories of tragedy on Thanksgiving, from all over the country. Here are just a few of the disturbing stories I have read about that took place a week ago.

Disturbing Thanksgiving Story #1 - Terre Haute, Indiana

Years ago, when I traveled to Chicago from western Kentucky I passed through this quaint little town in western Indiana. There was nothing particularly noteworthy about Terre Haute, other than the fast food restaurants that line the stretch of Highway 41 that one travels when navigating through the city. There is also an airplane on the lawn of a city building that you pass by, and that usually catches one's eye as you pass.

So I am sure that many of the residents in Terre Haute were as appalled as I was to read about a couple who have been accused of confining and abusing some of their children. Especially disturbing is what happened on Thanksgiving Day. Here is how the Indianapolis Star reported on the story: 
Locked in a nearly empty second-floor bedroom, three adopted boys shared their meager Thanksgiving Day dinner: two microwave burritos and a half glass of water.
Downstairs in the Terre Haute home, Larry and Nikki Russell shared a holiday feast with their biological son and another adopted child.

Later that day, as families across America enjoyed time together and gave thanks for the blessings in their lives, the bizarre treatment inside the Russell home allegedly turned violent.

The hands of the oldest adopted boy, who is 17, were bound. He was “back handed” across the face. Blood flowed from his nose and down his cheek. Balled up socks were stuffed in his and his adopted brother’s mouths, then covered with duct tape.

The next day, the teen broke out a window from his second-story prison and jumped to the ground. Looking for help, he soon made it to Union Hospital, where officials called police and the Department of Child Services to investigate a possible case of abuse.
Mug shots of child abusers Larry and Nikki Russell.

The U.K. Daily Mail provides additional details of the horrors these children suffered.
A couple have been arrested after allegedly locking three of their adopted children in a bedroom and starving them - before enjoying a Thanksgiving feast downstairs with their biological son.

The alleged treatment at the hands of Larry and Nikki Russell was uncovered when their eldest adopted son escaped at their Terre Haute, Indiana home Friday after breaking a window. Wandering barefoot and weighing just 93 pounds, the 17-year-old boy was picked up by a motorist and taken to Union Hospital, where staff called police and the Department of Child Services. He told officials the couple doused him and his adopted brothers in urine, bound them to their bed posts, locked them in pitch-black rooms and regularly left them without food and water. 
Locking the Russells in jail and throwing away the key would be too good of a punishment for these two. Unless you separated them and never let them see and feed off each other's evil again.

Disturbing Thanksgiving Story #2 - Mobile Alabama

Meanwhile, several hundred miles south of Terre Haute, another brutal family disturbance played out. In this case, a young woman was severely beaten by her girlfriend's brother.

This is Travis Hawkins, the cowardly idiot who beat up Mallory Owens.

This is Mallory Owens at the hospital after being beaten by Hawkins.

The truth of the beating has yet to be solidified, but there are suspicions that Hawkins did not like the fact that Owens is his sister's lesbian lover. A few days after the savage beating on Thanksgiving, Owens was back at her girlfriend's house, saying she does not hate Hawkins for hitting her.

Something tells me we have not heard the last of this story. Sadly, I foresee hearses and funerals and murder trials.

Disturbing Thanksgiving Story #3 - Little Falls, Minnesota

The disturbances on Thanksgiving were not confined to the east of the Mississippi River either. And it was not just abuse and beatings that took place in Little Falls. Rather, it was a case to rival the George Zimmerman - Trayvon Martin controversy in terms of whether the murders were in self-defense.

In this terrible tragedy two teens ended up dead -- 17- and 18-year-old cousins.

Homeowner Byron Smith who shot the two home-invading cousins.

Cousins Nicholas Brady, 17, and Haile Kiifer, 18, died in Smith's basement.
This story is particularly troubling for me to sort out. I firmly believe in the adage A man's home is his castle, and I have no problem with a robbery victim shooting home invaders who knowingly break into his occupied dwelling. Clearly, these teen cousins broke into Mr. Smith's house with the intention of burglarizing it. In addition, it now is believed the innocent-looking teen cousins had burglarized another unoccupied (at the time) local home just the previous day. And it is even suspected that these two may have been responsible for one or more of the previous SEVEN burglaries of Mr. Smith's home in recent years.

So what gives me pause in declaring this a righteous case of protecting one's life and property? Well, there is a detailed description of what happened in the home, and Mr. Smith has been arrested after confessing to the manner in which he shot the home invaders. I would not want to be on his jury. They will have to decide if he went farther than the law allows in the defense of his property after disabling first the boy and then the girl without having to kill them.

What I am also distressed about is how the family and friends of these twin criminal cousins are playing them up to be the victims and pretending they were so wonderful and upstanding and yes, maybe a little naughty and maybe she had a drug problem, but they did not deserve to be shot.

Baloney! They were young adults and they knew right from wrong and they knew the consequences of their actions. Smith on the other hand, also knew the consequences of his actions, and he appears ready to face them. Here is how the Daily Mail reported on the burglary.
Smith told authorities that he was in his basement last Thursday when he heard a window break upstairs.

When he saw Brady on the basement stairwell, he fired at the teenager then shot him again in the face after he fell down.

The complaint said Smith told an investigator: 'I want him dead.'

Smith said he dragged Brady's body into his workshop. When Kifer came down the stairs, he shot her multiple times.

He dragged her into the room and as she gasped for air, he fired what he described as a 'good clean finishing shot' under her chin 'up into the cranium,' the complaint said.
Yesterday, Smith admitted that he fired 'more shots than he needed to,' as friends and family of the dead teens expressed outrage over their deaths.

On Monday, he was charged with second-degree murder and police revealed he told them he fired more shots than necessary after his gun jammed and Kifer laughed at him.

While Minnesota law stipulates people are allowed to use deadly force when defending their homes, relatives, friends, police and prosecutors claimed Smith reacted too drastically by killing them.
Thank goodness the cousin thieves were not black. That would really complicate things.

The question of how much force is too much now moves from sunny Florida to lake-riddled Minnesota, "America's heartland."


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