Danny Heinrichs’ allocution on Tuesday puts a horrific, dismal, banally evil period on the Jacob Wetterling story.
US Attorney Andy Lugar’s plea deal – Heinrich confessed to a child porn charge in exchange for no charge for Wetternling’s murder – is both absurd and utterly understandable; better to close the case and put the monster away for 20 years than leave the Wetterlings, and much of the state, in suspended animation forever.
I’m not happy – but then it’s not about me. And there’s always the hope that he’ll accidentally swerve into General Population and get torn into long, thin strips.
One can hope.
For The Kids – I was driving to North Dakota with my fiance and soon-to-be stepson in October of 1990. There was a muffled “boom”, and one of the tires on my 1984 Honda Accord flew apart like a Walmart end table in a gorilla cage. I put on my donut spare and limped to the next freeway exit – Saint Joseph.
And as the town approached the first anniversary of the kidnapping, the place seemed to be plastered with posters, looking for any information anyone could find about Wetterling.
And it occurred to me – it was a terrible time to have children in Minnesota.
The late eighties and early nineties saw a slew of horrific kidnappings in the upper midwest; Jeana North in Fargo; another young girl murdered by a revolting fat pig at a second-hand store in Northeast Minneapolis, another girl in Inver Grove Heights killed by a mom who was in the process of losing her boyfriend, a few more here and there. Unlike Wetterling, most of the cases were solved fairly quickly. Most involved relatives, or people known to the family.
And if we’d have found Danny Heinrich that day, I’d have happily peeled his skin off with a buck knife while he screamed vainly for mercy that’d never come. Because while the phrase “we lost our innocence” is one of the most hackneyed-unto-meaninglessness phrases in the language these days, it certainly applied.
Because as I embarked on raising a stepson, and sooner than later a daughter and son of my own, we all got the pleasure of trying to teach kids, right in the middle of their innocent, wonderful early years, some ineluctible tactical calculus that is hard for adults to absorb.
If a stranger asks you to come with them, don’t. Especially if they tell you we sent them. We’ll never do that.
If a stranger pulls a knife or a gun and tells you to get in the car? Run. Don’t even think; run. They probably won’t shoot – it’ll alert people. And even if they do? Moving targets are much harder to hit – and your odds, even as a kid, of surviving a knife or gunshot wound are much better than of coming home from a “secondary crime scene” alive.
If you hear gunfire at school, get away; do not get cooped up in a “locked down” classroom, like a pen full of sheep waiting for the abattoir to come to them. Get out. Go over the teacher, go out the window, do what it takes. A moving target is harder to hit than one on its knees begging for mercy.
Oh, yeah – make lots of noise. Make an ungodly racket – yell “Rape” and “Kidnapping”; even the most cynical urban adults should response to that – right? We’ll come back to that.
Having to bring that into my kids’ lives? Here’s hoping Satan spends all eternity ass-raping Danny Heinrich. God may forgive. I’m not there yet.
If It Saves One Life – Minnesota in 1989 was a much more pervert-friendly place than it is today.
Three boys biking on a dead-end road after dark, far from any adults, were a tragically easy target for a motivated pervert, of course. Everything that could go wrong for those boys, pretty much did.
But a scream reaching an adult in 1989 had an almost zero percent chance of bringing an adult who could do anything more than hope to get a license plate, and shake their fists in misplaced comic fury.
Stranger kidnappings have always been rare – and while I don’t have the stats handy, they seem like they’ve gotten rarer, if only because the media hammers on them so hard when they do happen, and I’ve seen fewer stories. It’s not scientific…
…but in places like Saint Joseph today, one adult in twenty has the means to respond to a screaming child and an armed adult in in the middle of the act in a more-than-symbolic way. And you have to figure at least some of the perverts know it.
Believe it or don’t – I don’t care. Although at least one life has been saved.
I, Stick – I read Patty Wetterling’s injunction to the media and her well-wishers – go forth, hug your kids, feel joy. It was inspiring and beautiful in its way.
But to every useful, meaningful carrot there must be a stick. Kids who are on guard for the unthinkable, even during a time of their lives when it should be and stay unthinkable; adults who shake off the ennui of modern life and stay aware of the situation around them; the wisdom to ski the moral slalom between vigilance, judgmentalism, and concern when seeing the signs in their fellow adults that might be nothing, or might be warnings.
And we have to do all that without destroying our childrens’ childhoods – among the most important things this world offers anyone.
[Note: I debated closing comments for this post. I will in fact leave them open – but any comment I deem moronic and flatulently self-entitled will be either deleted without ceremony or held up for especial mockery, depending on my mood. And my mood is not good. Be warned]