It's a tough admission for any parent. And sometimes, when the circumstances are so raw and painful, it's impossible. We can all understand. We love our children, nurture them, watch them grow, celebrate their successes and console them in the tough times. We invest in them, not just our money but our hearts. And we go to bed every night praying that they'll be safe, healthy, and happy.
In the end, however, much happens in life, too often events parents can't predict or control.
The photo at the top is of a man named Bill Barnett. His beautiful 22-year-old daughter, Stacy, was found dead, shot through the head, this past July, in her apartment along with her boyfriend, Johnny Goosey. Both were University of Texas grads getting ready to continue their educations. Stacy had a degree in architecture, and Johnny was looking toward law school. The stars should have been aligning for them, guiding them toward a wonderful future. Instead, Johnny's body lay in a pool of blood, and when Bill Barnett's wife called to say that Stacy was dead, the Houston Chronicle reports that all Stacy's mom could do "was shriek."
In the Chronicle article, an exceptional one titled "Grieving families seek answers," the author tells the stories of Stacy and Johnny, raised in West University, an affluent section of Houston, where most children are catered to and given all they need to move on to success. Both families were at least relatively well off, and Johnny's father is a respected eye surgeon.
So what happened? How did Johnny and Stacy end up dead?
Police have in custody a young man named James Richard "Ricky" Thompson, 19, a high school drop out, who has told police that he was buying pot from Johnny Goosey.
Shortly before the killings, Johnny told friends that Thompson owed him $8,500 for unpaid pot bills. At first, Thompson didn't answer Johnny's phone calls. When he finally did, a meeting was arranged. Someone passed Thompson that fateful day on the stairs leading to Stacy's apartment and saw him carrying a green duffel bag. Police maintain Thompson also had with him a gun he'd borrowed from a friend. Hours later, Johnny's and Stacy's parents received the dreaded news.
According to the Chronicle article, Thompson has confessed to killing Johnny, but claims he did so to prevent being robbed.
This case has yet to go to trial, and I don't know what happened in that apartment on that sad day when Stacy and Johnny died. My sincere sympathies go out to their parents. Many of us who raise children understand this is a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God situation, that our children can make very bad decisions, and that we are tragically unaware and sadly too often unable to stop them.
In this case, the Barnetts and Gooseys, it seems, are having a difficult time compounded by their reluctance to accept that Johnny was involved in selling pot. I can certainly understand that. First their children are killed, then they're told that Johnny, loved by both families, had strayed, crossing a line into a criminal and very dangerous world.
Two years ago, I wrote a book called A Descent into Hell about a brilliant young man from Little Rock, Arkansas, Colton Pitonyak, who'd grown up in a privileged world of private schools and beautiful homes. Colton entered the University of Texas on a full business scholarship, and he was so bright and determined that his high school teachers predicted he'd one day be the next Donald Trump. Instead, once in Austin he turned into a drug-dealing, would-be gangster, and later was convicted of the gruesome murder of Jennifer Cave, a beautiful young girl from Corpus Christi. On the stand at the trial during sentencing, Colton's mother sobbed in a heartbreaking plea to the jury that her son was "a good man."
How horrible to have to confront what a child has become, what a child has done.
I know it's cliche, and we all know it doesn't always work, but the only way I know to help our children understand that drugs aren't the party fun they see on television is to tell them over and over again about the dangers. Because let's face it: our society routinely glamorizes and plays down the dangers of drugs, guns, and violence.
In the Chronicle article, psychiatrist Bruce Perry, who specializes in working with kids in crisis, is quoted as saying: "Whether parents want to believe it or not, most successful dealers are upper-middle-class kids who make a connection with someone in a different strata of life... Parents would rather not hear about some of the real stuff that happens to kids at that age."