Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not My Child

by Kathryn Casey

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."


A Voice of Sanity said...

Based on a retail price of $7.87 a gram, a pound of marijuana is worth $3,570 and the commodity is worth $7,871,480 per metric ton. At this price the annual supply of 14,349 mt of marijuana available in the United States is worth $112.9 billion.

There are three choices:
1) Let the government manage the sales and thus the profits from $112.9 billion.
2) Let private enterprise manage the sales and thus the profits from $112.9 billion.
3) Let dangerous criminals manage the sales and thus the profits from $112.9 billion.

Which one did the US choose? What are the consequences?

Cheryl said...

I'm sure we're both gonna get bashed for our comments Sanity, but I couldn't agree with you more.

cheryl said...

Me three. I think the marijuana laws are stupid.

Cheryl said...

I'm just thinking about all the revenue it can produce.

We are never going to stop people from growing or selling it why not make it legal, tax it and put the money to good use? The gov't can regulate it....hell they have their nose in everything else.

...And while we're at it, lets legalize prostitution. If someone wants to sell their body and someone else is dumb enough to pay for it...let them.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Sanity and the Cheryl's.

I recently stopped smoking pot after about 15 years of smoking. I quit because I want to be sober. I also quit drinking. I would not endorse alcohol or marijuana usage because of it's habit forming potential.

That being said - if people are going to partake in those substances why not regulate them and produce income for our country?

It would create a safer environment for the users.

It would open up a whole industry of employment for our economically challenged country.

It would save us from paying room and board for "criminals" who are currently being housed in our detention centers due to marijuana related charges.

It would go a long way towards personal responsibility.

The taxes generated (if treated like alcohol or cigarettes) could go a long way towards reducing our national debt.

It would be more honest than the setup we have now.

The way marijuana is currently handled is indicative of the way we, as Americans, tend to focus on problems without embracing or attempting real solutions.

Leah said...

Unfortunately it isn't that simple. M is a mind altering substance that leads people to do stupid things like drive while they are under the influence of it and steal to have $$$ to buy it when they are broke. Many legal consequences to be dealt with before M can be legalized. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Paralegal Sandy said...

Great article K.C. I don't think anybody has a baby and says .... my dream is that this child will grow up to be a drug dealer, pot head, rapist, murderer, theif, etc. Do they? Not unless they are that themselves. Most of us have dreams of doctors, lawyers, and chief executives. Too often it doesn't turn out that way. It's not always they way they are raised either. Why is it that you can have two kids that turn out to be model citizens and a third one that is just the total opposite. Doing all the things you never dreamed they would get into. Making all the wrong choices in life. Life is really hard to understand sometimes.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Leah said...
Unfortunately it isn't that simple. M is a mind altering substance that leads people to do stupid things like drive while they are under the influence of it and steal to have $$$ to buy it when they are broke. Many legal consequences to be dealt with before M can be legalized. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Actual tests (as distinct from the pronouncements of governments) have shown that cannabis consumption results in better driving (no road rage) and less crime. Criminals use cannabis consumption as an excuse for crimes. Criminals have been known to lie to minimize their responsibility.
Alcohol is the most dangerous drug when it comes to crime and dangerous driving.

Leah said...

Then they should make alcohol illegal as well. But that is pure BS that cannibis makes better driving and less crime. Pure!

Anonymous said...

My hearts go out to this family. I have lived the hell that they are going to live. My problem is with UT. They know they have a tremendous drug problem and refuse to acknowledgement.

Kathryn.. Let me know if I can help this family.

Anonymous said...

Actually Leah you are wrong. It actually does make a mellow driver. And concentration actually goes up, unlike with alcohol. If you MIX the two however, thats a different story.

And if its legal how would crime go up? People could just buy it in the store. The people that sell it would not be criminals.

Much like prohibition on this one. Gangs sold alcohol during that time. People were killed and people were jailed. And it was highly lucrative for the sellers.

And as for Anon 9:19 - and which University does not have pot and alcohol consumtion going on? If there is one, let me know.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Leah said...
But that is pure BS that cannibis makes better driving and less crime. Pure!

FACT: SCIENTIFIC TESTS OVER 2 AND 1/2 DECADES HAVE NOT SUBSTANTIALLY CONFIRMED THIS THEORY. In fact, marijuana use may slightly improve driving performance, according to science. Two studies (one indexed below) have shown a negative correlation between marijuana and accidents.
Marijuana and Driving (LINK)

Kathryn Casey said...

These are really interesting questions to discuss, and I'm glad the post opened up dialogue. For the anon who asked if they could help the Gooseys and/or Barnetts, you can link from their names and leave a supportive message. I'm sure they'd be happy to hear from you. This is just so, so sad.

Jan said...

Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. And, even in the best of circumstances you are tortured by unreasonable guilt and the feeling that you should have been there - should have known - should have done something. It's hard enough to get up every morning without beating yourself up or having others apportion blame. I'm sure the Gooseys and the Barnetts would have done anything in their power to protect their children from harm if they had recognized that there was a problem - just as I would have done for my son and his family. There are some things that even super mom couldn't fix. I've had to realize in the end that Neal was an adult and made his own decisions. And, what is even harder, I have had to look at everything that led up to the tragedy and admit that if I went back and did it all again, I still probably would not recognize the signs that might seem obvious to hindsight. It never enters your head that someone you love and trust could ever do something horrible. Never. I ache for all three families and hope that they can eventually come to a place of peace.

Dorith said...

What happened to this couple is terrible and I send my sincere condolences to the families.
However, I want to remark on something which always irks me and that is the emphasis on beauty. Here we read that Stacy was beautiful and that Jennifer Cave was beautiful. I am sure they were, certainly in the eyes of those who loved them. But is that what defines and describes a person?? And what if a murdered girl for example is really not beautiful, then it is less awful? Everywhere one sees the emphasis on external beauty. Would it not be much better if we would look for the inner beauty? Would that not give a much true picture of a person?

Kathryn Casey said...


Good points. I was, of course, concentrating more on the parents in this piece than in the victims, but I could have gone into more detail about both girls.

Stacy, according to the Chronicle, was a great kid, who made super grades, and who made herself available to others when they needed someone to talk to. She regularly cut her long, dark hair and donated it to a charity that makes wigs for kids with cancer. As I did mention, she was a graduate of the school of architecture.

Jennifer was a kind-hearted kid, as well, one who liked to cut her friends' hair. She loved little kids, and sometimes talked about being a teacher. She did well in school, bright, with an incredible memory. She loved to read, but she started getting into trouble in high school, running with a fast crowd. In Austin, she became involved in the drug culture, but she was pulling herself out at the time of her death. She'd just finished her first day on a new job, working for a lawyer.

Zoe said...

We are never going to stop people from growing or selling it why not make it legal

I am tired of this argument. We are never going to stop people from killing other people either. Should we make it legal and just charge someone a tax for each person he/she murders? Profiting from it doesn't make it right.

I have personally seen what continued pot usage does to intelligent, and yes, beautiful, young women in my family. 2 of my cousins started smoking pot around the age of 13. At the time they started using, both were A+ students involved in activities and sports, well liked by their teachers, etc. By the time each of the girls were 14, they had had sex with numerous partners (unprotected, no less), including men they had just met. One got herself the gift that keeps giving, herpes. The other one would later get a baby before she finished high school. When one of the girls gave her speech at graduation (yeah, she was popular because she was easy and she shared her stash), she ended it with F**k s**t up! Impressive, isn't it? 2 lives thrown away and a 3rd one brought into a home that she never should have had to live in.

Pot is awful, because it lowers people's inhibitions, leaves them so "mellow" that they don't care what they do with their bodies. Stop trying to justify legalizing it.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Zoe said... I am tired of this argument. We are never going to stop people from killing other people either.

Your sad story misses the point that cannabis is already illegal. Why weren't these girls drunks instead? Because alcohol is legal but is sold by people who fear loss of their license to sell. Cannabis sales are managed by criminals. Which group is least likely to violate the law?

When alcohol was illegal it was plentiful and the results were just as bad. You can't block a river with a coffee stirrer.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about your article... everything you have written seems to come from credible sources minus one part:

"Shortly before the killings, Johnny told friends that Thompson owed him $8,500 for unpaid pot bills, and that day, Johnny returned to the apartment where he was living with Stacy with a gun, allegedly preparing for a showdown with Thompson, who'd been ignoring his phone calls. In the end, it was Stacy and Johnny who died, and Thompson has told police he shot them, claiming that he did so to prevent being robbed."

Where did you read/hear/discover this information? I have not seen anything suggesting anything even remotely resembling Johnny coming home with a gun ready for "a showdown". In fact, I know that this information is completely false. Unless you can demonstrate the credibility of your statement, I think that you should really reconsider what you are saying. You are alleging, without any reason or provocation, that there was some sort of a prearranged violent meeting between these two (and unfortunately in the end, three) people... that is not the truth. That is a horrible lie, and it suggests that instead of Johnny expecting this murderer to come by and bring him the money he owed him nonviolently and without any problem (which doesn't seem that out of the ordinary at all) that he instead was willing to endanger his own life as well as the life of the girl he loved more than any thing as well as hurt/potentially kill another person, and that is utterly untrue. So, please... if you have a credible source, why don't you share it with us? If not, please stop perpetuating lies and slander that only increase the pain being felt by the grieving family and friends of these two wonderful young people.

Kathryn Casey said...

Anon above:

You're right. Absolutely. I simply misread the article. Here's what it says: But there was friction between the two young men, witnesses told police, because Ricky wasn't paying Johnny for the dope. Ricky made excuses while his debts to Johnny mounted. Finally, witnesses claim, Ricky owed as much as $8,500, and Johnny grew impatient.

Records show Johnny called Ricky 19 times in the days leading up to the murder. The calls went unanswered. Finally, Ricky called Johnny on Monday, July 20, and again early the next morning. He agreed he would meet Johnny at 904 W. 21st.

That was Stacy's second-floor apartment. Bill and Joyce Barnett thought it was safe and well suited to her needs because it was just a short walk to school. They also thought Stacy lived there alone.

Police think Johnny lived there, too. Based on witness accounts, they also say that Johnny, Stacy and assorted friends went to dinner the night of the 20th. At least one young man at the table told police that Johnny talked about “a kid” who owed him $8,500 for marijuana he had “fronted” him.

That night, police say, the young man from dinner slept over at the apartment. He left at 9:50 a.m., just as Ricky was climbing the stairs to the second floor. They passed each other on the stairs.

Ricky, who had been dropped off in the neighborhood by a roommate, was carrying a green duffel bag. He also had a .22-caliber pistol that police determined he borrowed from a friend.

I apologize for the mistake, and I'll edit the article to fix it. The gun was Ricky's not Johnny's. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Anonymous said...

Still not edited nor confirmed that Johnny had a gun. Please update. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for editing. I really enjoy this site and appreciate the opinions of all of the writers as well as the followers.

Kathryn Casey said...


Not sure if the two anons above are the same. If not, for anon on the 21st, I did edit that part of the post on September 17th, as soon as I realized there was a mistake, to this:

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.

Me again: It clearly states now that Thompson was the one with the gun. I don't duck at all that I made a mistake and misread the Chronicle article. I fixed it as soon as I realized the problem.

On the other hand, whomever brought the gun into the apartment, the point of the post is that selling drugs is a dangerous business, one too many college kids looking for easy money are lured into. And let's be honest: Johnny should have known that. He must have been selling quite a bit if Thompson owed him $8,500. Johnny must have realized that this type of activity put him and Stacy in harms way, especially when he arranged to meet a buyer right in her apartment.

If we don't acknowledge these dangers, if we act like Johnny shares none of the blame, we perpetuate the myth that dealing in drugs is a controllable situation. It's not. Drugs are involved in way too many killings in this country.

Again, I'm sincerely sorry for both the families. I'm sure Johnny was a good guy in many ways, but it appears that he made a very tragic mistake.