Friday, October 28, 2011

Views on the Media and a Major Crime

Baby Lisa Irwin has been missing for quite a while. (If you don't know the story, Google it.) The parents were helping the police at first but are not any more. They are under suspicion and under attack in the media. I have opinions on all of this and feel the need to share a different perspective.
  1. Do not believe everything the police say in public. How the police work on TV shows is not necessarily how they work in real life.
  2. The police can make mistakes. The person they "hint" committed the crime may not be the real criminal.
  3. Just because family members have stopped working with the police or refuse to take polygraphs does not indicate they are guilty, no matter what the public message might be.
Here is the story behind my attitude:

A couple in a major US city was murdered in their home. The police were stumped with very few real leads or clues. Because the couple was well respected and loved with no known enemies, the adult children were considered suspects, even though none of them lived in the same town.

Knowing that family members are always suspects and wanting to be eliminated as quickly as possible, the adult children all agreed to take polygraphs. The results were "inconclusive," according to the police. Even though none of the kids was in town at the time of the deaths, they were kept as the prime suspects.

No matter what the adult children did, the police were convinced that they were involved. The police tried unsuccessfully to get the kids to turn on each other. They SUCCESSFULLY got other relatives -- aunts and uncles -- to believe that the kids were involved. The kids as a group agreed they would no longer cooperate with the police -- no more polygraphs, no more interrogations, nothing. The relatives would say if they were innocent why weren't they cooperating with the police? A major rift was caused in the family and for about 10 years the kids were the only suspects.

Does this series of events sound familiar? How many times have you heard in the news that family members of a victim have stopped cooperating with the police? How many times have you heard that polygraph results were "inconclusive"? How many times did you automatically assume the family members were guilty? (If they were innocent, they wouldn't refuse to help, would they?)

Let's leap ahead 10 years.

A serial sexual criminal broke his parole and was being sent back to jail. He said he would tell the police who committed the unrelated 10-year-old murder if it would keep him out of jail. He gives up his brother as the murderer, who at that time was living in a different state. The police in this other state bring in the suspect and the suspect admits he killed the couple.

The murderer is convicted and sentenced to death. He is currently sitting on Death Row.

Did the police apologize to the children? Did the police apologize to the aunts and uncles? Did the other relatives ever admit they were wrong? Did the police admit they lied about the polygraphs? Did anyone ever say, "Oops"?

The answer is a resounding NO!

Some relatives still feel it would have been solved quicker if the kids had continued to cooperate -- even though the police had absolutely no other suspects, were not looking for anyone and had lied to everyone.

So, when I see a family that has experienced a tragedy -- such as having their daughter kidnapped from their home -- that is no longer cooperating with the police, I immediately feel a great deal of sympathy for them. I wonder if they are being subjected to the same police games. I know there is a chance they are completely innocent and the police are making a tragedy even worse.

There are plenty of cases, such as Susan Smith, where the supposed victim was guilty of the crime that made national news. But, there are just as many situations where the police abuse a family, lie to a family and have tunnel vision so severely they cannot see the truth. And the fact the family was victimized twice is rarely a front-page story.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Nice Encounter in the Dallas Airport

While between flights, I was standing in front of the map of the Dallas airport and having trouble deciding where to eat. I was surprised when a nice-looking older gentleman with beautiful silver hair and wearing a green vest asked if I was lost. I explained that I wasn’t, I just couldn’t figure out where to eat. He then proceeded to explain to me what my restaurant options were.

As I looked around, I noticed there was a small information podium (it was way too small to be a desk), across from the map. “You are the first person who has ever stopped me in an airport and offered assistance like this,” I said.

He explained that he was a volunteer. “I used to work for a couple different airlines, but I retired,” he said. “I knew I needed something to do to keep my mind active, and I know this airport very well, so I volunteer here.” He said he also encouraged his grandson, age 15, to volunteer. Similar to most high schools I know of, his grandson's school requires a certain number of volunteer hours for graduation.

“It’s important for teens to learn the value of volunteering,” he said. In the program at this airport, teens make a commitment to work at least two days a month, not a lot for even the busiest young adult. “It’s also important for teens to learn how to talk to people. He definitely gets that opportunity here.”

He gave me good advice on where to eat AND made me smile.

It's not often that a random encounter with a stranger can have a positive impact. The friendliness of this gentleman, his attitude on life and the pride he has in his grandson made my day. Unfortunately, I didn't get his name or I would recommend that everyone who flies through the Dallas/Fort Worth airport look for him.

In the meantime, I hope he knows that dining advice was not the most important thing I gained from him that day.


I wanted to include more information about how this proud grandfather bragged about his grandson. Unfortunately, I just couldn't make it work. It's still not worded quite right to convey the picture in my head, but here it is.

The grandson also volunteers in Concourse A. Recently he told his grandfather he knows everything there is to know about terminal A -- he knows every restaurant and he knows every inch. He said it was time to move on to terminal B. “You know how young people are now,” said the grandfather. “They learn everything so fast.”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Which way do we go?

The other day, my husband and I were driving to meet some friends out for dinner.

As we got close to our turn, I suggested he get in the right lane since we would be turning right. He disagreed and said that we would be turning left at the end of the road. I was convinced he was wrong and repeated that we would be veering to the right.

Finally he asked if I knew where the restaurant was. "Yes," I said. "It's at the Kingsdale mall." Then he asked what street I thought we were on. I looked up and noticed we were on Reed Road, which runs PARALLEL to Kenny Road, where I thought we were.

I was pretty embarrassed, and he teased me about my more and more frequent "brain fades."

Finally he said, "If it makes you feel any better, I had intended to go that way. I pulled out of the driveway and realized we were facing the wrong direction and didn't want to pull back in and turn around."

FYI to our kids -- In the near future I think GPS will make a great gift for your parents.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dance Like you Are at an Art Festival?

Last weekend my husband and I went to an art festival held downtown by the river.

After we grabbed some food, we sat in the amphitheater to eat and listen to local bands. We showed up a few minutes before the band was to start and listened to recorded music blasting from the speakers while we waited.

Understandably, there weren't a lot of people sitting there. The weather had been rotten all weekend and the turnout for that day was very light.

But, there was one guy who seemed to be really enjoying the music. In the space between the stage and the first row of seats, he danced all by himself. He seemed oblivious of the people sitting there watching him. His movements were both erratic and graceful as he alternated between moving with the music or on the off beat. For at least 15 minutes he danced -- moving in his own little world.

As we watched him, at first I was simply amused. What a silly man he is, I thought. After a while, I tried to figure him out. Was he with one of the local bands and he is just relaxing between sets? Is he just someone who loves music? Is he mentally ill?

After a couple of minutes, though, I started to become jealous. Here was a man who felt like moving to the music and was totally uninhibited. He wanted to dance, so he got up and danced. He wasn't doing it for attention, he wasn't dancing because he was required to, he just wanted to dance.

How many times in my life have I wanted to feel that free, but I just couldn't let go. What if I look stupid? What if I'm not good enough? What if people laugh at me? (In my defense, I have no rhythm. People do laugh when I dance.)

I've spent my entire life being conservative and restrained. I'm very good at NOT making a spectacle of myself. I'm very good at watching other people have fun and enjoy themselves.

Over the past year or so, I have tried things that are outside my comfort zone. And the truth is, I don't remember regretting any of them. Despite the positive reinforcement I gained from those experiences, I am still that inhibited, conservative person. (I have to laugh because I was just thinking that I should plan to have a spontaneous moment.)

I hope that someday I am comfortable enough with myself that I, too, can dance like I'm at an art festival.