In my long career as a reporter and then editor, I have covered or edited some stories of absolutely horrible people and horrible situations.
Brother turning gun on brother, fathers or mothers killing kids. I covered one once in which a man stomped an elderly woman almost to death, then sexually assaulted her and walked downtown to buy a couple of hotdogs.
The Susan Smith story of drowning her two children in a lake in a rural county of South Carolina made us all get chills and then cry.
I thought I had heard it all, seen it all.
Then the news broke the other day that a man in his 50s had been arrested in Atlanta for talking a mother in a chatroom into letting him have sex with her two-year-old daughter. When he arrived, it turned out the cops with handcuffs and a warrant were waiting for him.
I looked into the depths of my soul and the breath of my imagination. I reached back in memory and recalled all the horror I have seen. Yet I still could not fathom or approach any understanding of the depravity of the charge against the man just arrested.
Nothing has prepared me for what a monster it would take to let such an action cross his mind even for a second, much less act on that thought.
I live in a Norman Rockwell world. And even with the horrible things I covered I returned back to my world.
I think what made this latest horrible story even more horrible, if that is possible, is that the papers in Metro Atlanta this week are filled with teachers and bus drivers molesting kids and even a hospital janitor raping a person who came to visit a patient.
I ask myself: Has the whole world gone nuts? Are the evil dark forces gaining strength?
I have always been opposed to the death penalty. Please don't hit me with 40 reasons why I am stupid. My view is based on deeply held religious grounds. I believe the Creator is the one who gives life and is the only one who can take life.
I must say that these horrors do cause my soul to quiver. But as horrible as this latest crime is, it would not be one that would rise to the level of the death penalty in this state. Killings that meet certain criteria are the only reason the death penalty is sought.
And then I ask myself, what would be a fitting punishment if a person is convicted of this latest horrible crime. I can't even think of one. A person who entertains such horrible thoughts must already live in some sort of hell.
I grew up in the 50s. I sometimes slept on the porch in the summer because it was too hot in the house. We lived in downtown, one of the last big old Southern houses two blocks off Main Street. If we got hungry, my brother and I would walk the two blocks late at night and buy a burger at the diner. The thought that some predator was out there trying to bother us never occurred to me.
I am thankful I don't have kids because I am not sure I could sleep well at night. Either there is an increase of monsters out there or the authorities are doing a better job of catching them.
As much as I love the Internet because it is ready with information or even with a chat with someone in a distant place, I think it is the hunting grounds for these wolves. They live, they breathe to snare someone. I think parents need to be more aware of the threat, to monitor things. I think school districts and other places need to do a better job of screening their employees.
I wish we could find a trigger to explain why seemingly normal people suddenly do these horrible things.
Some years ago, I had the most interesting jailhouse interview with a man in his 40s convicted of criminal sexual conduct with kids. I asked him at one point why he did it. He thought a long minute and then said that when he was 10, 11 and 12 his mother molested him, doting over him too much and then suddenly when he reached puberty she stopped, turned cold and never would have anything to do with him again. He speculated that love in his mind froze in that pre-pubescent time. This provided a glimpse inside a predator although there is nothing scientific or even necessarily right about it. The most interesting part was his long explanation of how he hunted. He found an area in which kids from broken homes would congregate. He would befriend them and buy them burgers and presents, take them to the movies and then he would pounce.
As hard as it is to be a kid it is even harder to be one if some monsters are out there hunting. Everyone needs to do his or her part to hunt back and catch these monsters.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (770) 478-5753, Ext. 257.