Saturday, February 28, 2009

Parking cops and the dead guys they ... miss

In Gainesville, Fla., parking cops issued seven tickets to a 2001 BMW parked in a neighborhood for several days. It was only after a perturbed neighbor finally called to have it towed a couple weeks later that they found a dead guy in the back seat. John Waldo, 41, had been missing since the day of the first parking ticket.

Why is this important?

Well, we now have solved a true-crime mystery that's been plaguing us for years: Where's Waldo?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Baby Grace: This killer mom is going to prison for life

Kim Trenor, the twisted mom of a dead child who came to be known as Baby Grace, was convicted in the bizarre murder this week in Galveston, Texas, and will spend the rest of her life in prison without any hope of ever being released ... and, one hopes, with her child's death-cries ringing every day in her dreams.

Trenor and
husband Royce Zeigler (Baby Grace's stepfather) are accused of lashing the little girl with leather belts, smothering her under pillows, holding her head underwater and throwing her across a room by her hair during a 4- to 6-hour "discipline session" in 2007. Her corpse was stowed in a storage shed for 2 months before it was set adrift in Galveston Bay. Zeigler awaits his own unscheduled capital-murder trial.

Because the killer mom is a danger to herself and because Texas takes special care with all capital-murder convicts, she'll be held under suicide watch indefinitely. But Trenor's safety in prison might be a whole new challenge, with any number of inmates chomping at the bit to take a shot at a mother who helped kill her own baby daughter, covered up the killing and dumped the child's corpse in the Gulf of Mexico, then hoped nobody would notice her absence.

I believe facts have no moral quality, only what we project upon them.

Thus, it seems to me, a criminal trial is like a cultural ink-blot test, in which society looks at a set of insensate, numb facts and projects its own history, fears, impatience, insolence, clemency, insecurities, dreams — and nightmares — upon those facts.

In theory, we are not really describing the ink blots, but something inside ourselves. And what’s inside is every fairy-tale monster: A brutal ogre, a bloodthirsty werewolf, an elegant vampire, a bullying giant, a scheming devil, a predatory wolf, a sneering troll, or maybe just an abusive mother.

The archetypes of our fears have trickled into every heart. And when a crime captures the public’s imagination before a trial, the great majority of citizens are already projecting the monsters of our collective mythology onto the suspects.

Since no courtroom in the world is expansive enough to accommodate the populace of even a small-ish town in the least populated state in America, we select twelve neighbors at random to sift and cull the truth from evidence, testimony and lawyers’ speechifying. Placing our faith in randomness, we presume these 12 will reflect the psychology and conscience of the place we live, surrogates that reflect the best and worst of us. Their noble duty is to protect the public from the monsters among us. But they are charged with an equally noble trust that almost nobody else wants: To protect the monsters from the public.

For me, Kim Trenor is a monster of the first-degree and I won't lose a night's sleep worrying about her safety in prison. I prefer to save my concern for others whose hearts haven't shriveled and whose lives have not already ended, except for the rot.