Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Revisiting a dark place


I was watching a show tonight about a mother meeting in prison with the man who had murdered her daughter. I've not had a child murdered, so I can't know her pain. I do know the pain of having a friend murdered, and watching this show brought it all back to me.
Silas W. "Bill" May was my neighbor when I lived a block from Lake Michigan in Miller. We became unlikely friends, he a recently retired university vice chancellor and me a 20-something journalist. He taught me that it was invigorating to swim in Lake Michigan in April. I taught him that it was fun to turn up the volume on Irish music and dance in the living room. He told me about his travels and I kept him up-to-date on politics. I bought the beer, he grilled the steaks. And somehow, we always managed to come up with solutions to all the world's problems during each conversation we had in our adjoining driveways.
My phone rang early on July 18, 2002. It was another neighbor, telling me that Bill had been killed. The day became a blur of dried blood in the driveway, police tape, TV cameras and tears. By the time the coroner's van pulled away, there was a suspect in custody.
Lamar Pierre Ricketts. He was 23 at the time. He had four felony convictions and was on parole from prison in Michigan at the time. He had seen Bill's Chrysler 300M in the driveway and decided he had to have it. He got the car, but he had to kill Bill to get it.
Before Bill's sisters arrived in town from New Mexico, I went with another neighbor to discuss the case with the prosecutor. In that office, I saw crime scene photos that I will never be able to erase from my memory. The weapons of choice were a piece of firewood, a wine bottle, scissors and a hammer. I had to excuse myself part of the way through the meeting because I thought I was going to be sick.
Ricketts pleaded guilty in September, then decided, against the advice of his attorney, to withdraw that plea. We all prepared ourselves for a trial and the prosecutor put the death penalty on the table. That seemed enough to persuade Ricketts to reverse course again. He pleaded guilty was sentenced in February 2003 to 92 years.
This brings me back to the TV show I saw tonight. I've often wondered what it would be like to sit down across from Lamar Pierre Ricketts, still a young man at 29. What would he have to say for himself? If he expressed remorse, could I even begin to believe him? Could I sit across from him and forgive him for taking away a brother, an uncle, a friend?
I wish I was brave enough to find out the answers -- his and mine.

1 comment:

joe said...

Wonderful piece of your soul. I don't know how people can sit across from the person who shattered their world and ripped goodness from it. I couldn't do it. People like that are in prison for a reason and don't deserve to be out or to see the face of hurt at his hands. Sociopaths don't care and they've dirtied your life already. Isn't that enough?