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Friday, June 16, 2017

Broken

It was a June evening like many other June evenings. The weather was turning hot but still cooling down at night. On this particular evening the sunny heat of the day turned into cloud cover late in the afternoon. According to the calendar, it was late Spring, but everyone knows that when school is out for almost three months, it doesn't matter what the calendar says - it's SUMMER! On this cloudy evening of June 7, 2017, a young female left the house she was visiting, the house her father shared with his girlfriend and her children. 

She left with one of the girlfriend's sons at some time between 7:00 and 8:00 in the evening - the details are fuzzy and have changed more than a few times. They were going to walk to a nearby shopping area, one of those places anchored by a large supermarket and peppered with various restaurants, shops, and services. It was to be the last journey that she would ever take.

At some time around nine that evening, the young male that she was with returned home alone. He told the story that it began to rain and he started to run, at which point the two were separated. Nobody outside of the household will probably ever know what happened in the home that evening, but we do know one thing. Nobody called the local police to report her missing until her older sister dropped by to visit her father as well. The older sister made the call and reported her younger sister missing at about 11:45 p.m., almost three hours after her companion had returned home alone.

The local news outlets reported through various means, including social media, that the young female was missing. The details of the young male's story were recounted, along with the location where she was last seen. Multiple police departments as well as the FBI sprang into action in an effort to find her. 

When I first read the story, which I initially discovered while browsing social media, something didn't feel quite right. You see, I live not far from where the events took place, less than a mile away, and we didn't have any rain at the time the young male said that a storm had separated them. Of course, we all know that weather can be clear at your location and raining very hard just blocks away. So I tried to ignore the feeling that things weren't adding up.

The following day, in an effort to make the public more aware of this missing person, an Amber Alert was issued. (Normally they are reserved for cases in which it is fairly certain that an adult has abducted a minor, but one was issued in this case.) As I followed the story online, I saw comments that made me have that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. People in the area said that there was no rain until at least 10:00. I became more and more convinced that the young female was already dead.

In the middle of Thursday afternoon, I saw that a search party was being organized to support the efforts of more than two dozen police departments that were trying to find the missing one. Meet at School X at such-and-such time to help us find her, the posts said. I mentioned it to Trent and he immediately said that we should go, which was something that was in my mind as well. As soon as he said that, we both got that sinking feeling again and knew that we should stay home. 

At about the time that the search was to begin, there was an announcement made that it would be cancelled because a body had been found. Pending confirmation from the county coroner's office, it was believed to be the missing young female.

It was later confirmed that the body was indeed that of the missing one. Her name was Kiaya Campbell, and her 10 year old body was found face-down in mud by someone who lived near where her body was discarded. There was so much trauma to her face that she was not immediately recognizable as the missing child. The coroner declared that her manner of death was non-accidental.

Comments flew like leaves in the wind. People who live in the same neighborhood as the father and his girlfriend said that they never let their children have any contact with the 15 year old boy that took that last walk with Kiaya. Apparently he has a history of violence toward other children in the neighborhood and the police have been called about this on numerous occasions. Many of the comments about the boy's behavior reminded me (the non-degreed student of Psychology, including what is often called Abnormal Psychology) of disorders that I won't discuss at this time because I haven't the experience or right to do so. Suffice it to say that this young male should probably not have been left alone with younger children.

Two days after Kiaya's body was found, the police returned to her father's home to arrest the 15 year old male for murder. This week he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. One of the charges is intent to commit murder after deliberation, meaning that it didn't just happen, he wanted it to happen. The other is first-degree murder of a child under the age of 12 by a person in a position of trust. The District Attorney also notified the judge that he will file paperwork requesting that the case be moved out of Juvenile Court so that the boy can be charged as an adult.

My heart breaks for the families involved. I feel for the neighbors and schoolmates and extended families. I can't imagine the anguish experienced by the person who found her body or the law-enforcement officers and coroner's office employees. 

This case has made it difficult for me to put on the suit of armor that we use to protect ourselves from such incomprehensible horrors. I think of how I was at age ten, how the whole of life was in front of me like a sumptuous feast. I think of how innocent I was back then. And I have that horrible moment in which I realize that I hope that death came quickly to release her from the pain and fear that she couldn't have ever imagined happening to anyone, much less herself.

Her name was Kiaya. She will never reach young- or old-womanhood. Her mother will never help her get ready for a first date or wipe her tears when her heart is broken or when it is filled with joy. She will never have a career or a family or travel around the world or cure a disease or write a book or sing a hit song or provide humanitarian aid. Her light has been extinguished, but I hope that she leaves us with some lessons. Life is tenuous. Protect the ones you love. Make sure that they know you love them. Too many people, children and adults, disappear every day, from all genders and socioeconomic groups. I hope that they will always live in people's memories and hearts.


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