Friday, April 10, 2009

A Community Responds the Way it Should

by Pat Brown

It might seem impossible to see any silver lining in the horrific abduction and murder of little eight-year-old Sandra Cantu, but I am actually ecstatic over one issue related to this case: family, community, and police response.

For once, we don't see a muted, shrug-shoulders, "stuff happens" reaction from anyone. I have been in this business for over a decade and I have been forever frustrated with the general acceptance of heinous crimes as passing sad events that we just have to accept. The answer is "WE DON'T!"

In 1998, biologist Christine Mirzayan was raped and murdered on a path near Georgetown University where Mirzayan was returning after a barbecue with friends. At the time, only a paragraph about her murder made the newspapers and no one at the university or the community made much of a ruckus about this crime. If you Google her name now, you will see a few articles, but only because reporters were criticizing the Chandra Levy case and her name was brought up because it was another unsolved murder of an intern. Of course, she had no family in the area and she was somewhat blamed for walking in the dark. I guess those are good reasons to ignore the fact innocent women are getting killed and a serial killer is on the loose.

Fourteen-year-old Nia Owens had a similar fate in 1996 (you won't find a picture of her on the Internet). She was strangled and left in some bushes near her school. She got two or three small stories. Perhaps the lack of concern had something to do with her being African-American and making the mistake of playing around with phone dating. But there still remained a serial killer in town.

Just a few miles down the road in Greenbelt, Maryland in 1995, seventeen-year-old Julie Ferguson (no picture around of her either), a very popular girl at the local high school, was abducted and found on the side of the road with her throat cut. She got a few more stories because she was white, local, and very pretty. Still, I don't remember citizens swarming about in protest of such a horrible crime in our community. Unsolved, a killer remained at large.

But, finally, we see the appropriate response to Sandra Cantu's murder. The community is furious. They are keeping the pressure up to find her killer. They are calling for "the monster" to be caught. Law enforcement has worked around the clock putting all the manpower they can into the investigation. They have put up roadblocks and checked cars and gotten search warrant after search warrant in an attempt to prevent Sandra's killer from getting away with his crime.

Finally, the mother of Sandra appeared on the Today Show (sitting on the right), and, for once, instead of the viewers seeing a parent struggling to stay composed and speaking calmly, a national audience got to see the depth of devastation the family experiences when their loved one is brutally murdered. Maria Chavez could get no more than a few words out as she choked up and hyperventilated. Her grief was so overwhelming that she gave the best interview I have ever seen; she couldn't put on an act, and just sat there unable to speak. I cried watching her and I am sure other viewers did as well. Ms. Chavez made people aware, even if unintentionally, of just how much damage these monsters in our society are doing.

I would like to see every community, family member, and police force go berserk when such murders are committed. I would like every jury to lose all sympathy for these son-of-bitches and give them the full punishment the law will allow (preferably the death penalty). These creatures deserve no sympathy, no breaks, no life. The killer gave Sandra Cantu, a totally innocent child, the death penalty without any trial or lawyer. He gave the family life in prison. He deserves the same response from us.


FleaStiff said...

>but I am actually ecstatic over: family, community, and police response.
Maybe there has been a few slow news days.

>frustrated with the general acceptance of heinous crimes
>as passing sad events that we just have to accept.
We don't have unlimited resources and do not want our tax dollars squandered. "If it bleeds, it leads" has been a media rule for some time since much crime reporting is entertainment.

>only a paragraph about her murder made the newspapers
>and no one ... made much of a ruckus about this crime.
So what is your solution? Have the family hire better publicists, tell more young women to date Congressman or hire more cable-news types to palaver about ever more crimes as some sort of substitute for the Bread-and-Circuses of ancient Rome?

>Perhaps the lack of concern had something to do with her being African-American
Probably. I doubt the Black newspapers make much of a fuss about White victims.
>But there still remained a serial killer in town.
He will probably eventually be caught as his file grows and somebody notices a mistake that he made somewhere, but not all killers are caught.

>she was white, local, and very pretty.
That sure helps. You think that Honeymoon Cruise Case would have had much media interest if there were no photos available of the parties in revealing gym clothes and sun tanning outfits? You think there would have been all that hullabaloo if they had been Black or elderly?

>Unsolved, a killer remained at large.
I would suspect that most crime goes unreported and most crimes that are reported go unsolved.

>They have put up roadblocks and checked cars
Yeah, that would probably make the community furious alright!

>Finally, the mother of Sandra appeared on the Today Show
I think it was in Modesto that the local paper's First Baby of the Year featured the second baby of the year because it was white and born to a young married couple whereas the first baby was black, born to an older woman who had been on welfare. In the Cantu case, the media can't be creative: they are stuck with the actual participants and their actual communicative skills.

>The killer gave Sandra Cantu the death penalty without
>any trial or lawyer. He gave the family life in prison.
Most killers do.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Fleastiff your mentality just might be one of the problems. Do you ever really read this blog before you fire back??? Chill out and let your brain engage before your mouth!

Leah said...

Excellent post Pat, as usual. I do take issue with one thing regarding the Cantu case. They didn't issue an Amber Alert. It is my understanding that they can't because Sandra wasn't abducted but I don't think that should matter when it comes to a missing 8 year old child. That is ridiculous. An Amber Alert might have saved this little girl's life. I hope they change the law that dictates this

Anonymous, I can't even read Fleastiff's post anymore. Sounds like stuff Ann Coulter would regurgitate [sp].

Pat Brown said...

Hi Leah,

The Amber Alert issue is so complicated. There seem to be odd rules that prevent them from going out. The other problem lies with the number of parents who call the police when there child goes missing. The majority of the time the kids just didn't follow the rules and show back up. One would think this shouldn't appy to a child as young as Sandra but the sad fact is quite a few grade school kids (especially from dysfunctional families or single moms) have a lot of freedom at a young age and disappear off and the family has no idea where they are. They go to the police and, sure enough, the kid is found safe and sound someplace his mother didn't expect him to be.

If an Amber Alert went out every time a parent couldn't find their kid, the whole system would become a joke - the too many Cry Wolf alerts would cost a fortune and people would stop believing the Amber Alert was for real.

I think by midnight it should have been fairly clear Sandra was likely abducted and maybe that should be the point an Amber Alert should go out. Hard to say when to draw the line, at how many hours missing should it go out. Does it matter if it is day or night or freezing cold outside? Tough call.

Lastly, and sadly, most abducted children are dead within the hour so Amber Alerts are most successful when a family member that doesn't have custody runs off with then. Although we have the extremely rare case where a child is kept for days before being killed, I don't know if this is what we should base the Amber Alert on. Perhaps we would be better off putting our efforts into getting sex offenders off the streets so they don't have the opportunity to kidnap our children in the first place

Jan said...

"We don't have unlimited resources and do not want our tax dollars squandered. "If it bleeds, it leads" has been a media rule for some time since much crime reporting is entertainment." Wow. As the mother and grandmother of murder victims, (my son, Neal, 27, and his two little boys Devon, 7, and Ian, 3), I have to say that's pretty harsh and insensitive, even for Fleastaff. There's nothing entertaining about a real murder. Anyone who thinks there is has certainly never had to buy a coffin for a 3-year-old or seen the devastation 97 stab wounds leave on a young man's body, despite the careful care of a team of morticians. And I'm sure that anyone who worries about the cost of a murder investigation has never lost someone to violent crime. No cost is too much to save some other family from the complete devastation that murder causes by putting a monster behind bars. Or to bring a grieving family some answers and a chance to heal just a little. Every murder is a tragedy and an outrage, and should be treated as everyone.

Leah said...

I was surprised to wake up this morning and find that they arrested the Pastor's 28 YO daughter for Sandra's murder. How dreadful.

Soobs said...

The 28 year old that was arrested was the pastor's GRANdaughter, not daughter.

An Amber Alert would not have helped in this situation. It's very frustrating that, especially people who follow crime, don't understand the requirements of the alert. There was no car, no POI to add to the alert. There WAS a CANS notice that went out immediately after the police were notified. Also, today, it was stated by the police that they believe she was murdered hours BEFORE they were even notified. Again, an Amber Alert would have been of NO consequence in this instance. Rather than complaining about one not being issued, perhaps people can inform themselves concerning the requirements.

Also, it remains to be seen if in fact, this woman WAS a "sexual offender" and therefore, needed to be (gotten)" off the streets so they don't have the opportunity to kidnap our children in the first place." (Although I certainly believe in a "one-strike law" for all sexual predators.)

Anonymous said...

What has and still is being reported here on TV is that she is the pastor's daughter and a Sunday School teacher.

Why is it frustrating that some of us don't know the parameters for an Amber Alert? We are all continully learning new things everyday. Maybe something else has you frustrated.