A young girl who lives in a trailer park teeming with sex offenders - 15, to be exact - goes missing. It's the media's dream come true, law enforcement thinks they've got their suspect all wrapped up, and the public gets another chance at their favorite tirades, about how sex offenders are the scum of the earth, followed closely by ripping another parent to shreds for making a decision that eventually (but unknowingly) led to her child's death. It's the perfect trifecta that skyrockets an isolated incident in an Indiana town to a national tragedy.
As I've mentioned before, I have learned to take comments that people post online with a grain of salt. Although I'm not one of them, many individuals say things they wouldn't dare say in a face-to-face confrontation when protected by the shroud of the internet. Particularly on websites where you are not required to provide your full name, or even your first name, people say things that make me question THEIR sanity and mental stability. It is striking that the majority of public reactions are suggestions of barbaric punishments or uninformed rants that ooze ignorance and hatred.
There have been thousands of articles written about this tragedy, where 9-year-old Aliahna Lemmon was pummeled to death with a brick, then dismembered and frozen. Her killer was a 39-year-old man who had been babysitting Aliahna and her siblings, and someone she had known for quite some time. Her mother had arranged for the babysitter because she was busy caring for her mother, Aliahna's grandmother, who had the flu. They had initially moved to the trailer park because Aliahna's grandfather lived there, and was dying from emphysema.
Child murder is bad enough, and the grisly details of Aliahna's death make this particular case even more shocking. It is a tragedy, any way you look at it, and I for one am thankful for the quick apprehension of her suspected murderer. Her community, and of course her family, are spared the painful and often drawn-out process of locating her body and wondering who is responsible. The conviction process can begin, and the healing can start. That is, if it weren't for the media coverage.
MSNBC coverage of Aliahna's murder <---- this is one of the thousands of articles I referred to earlier, that has chosen to focus on a piece of information that is completely irrelevant to her murder. It is almost as though the media is disappointed that one of the sex offenders wasn't responsible for her murder. What purpose can this type of article possibly serve? It seems bordering on spiteful. A child's gruesome murder wasn't sensational enough, so they grasp at straws attempting to draw out the public outrage for as long as possible. And instead of seeing that for the shameful, selfish tactic that it is, the public's response is to bring out the pitchforks and torches.
Shame on the public. Shame on all of you, blogging and commenting and otherwise spewing your hatred of this poor mother, who has lost a child in a way that most of us, thank God, can only imagine. Shame on you for sinking to a level where it's perfectly okay to wish for death, pain and suffering on an individual who inflicted just that on an innocent little girl. And shame on you for being so weak-minded that you cannot see anything beyond the media's portrayal of anything. It is sad and pathetic that you would claim to care about this girl's innocent little soul in the same breath as you are tainting her memory with hateful garbage.
Most of all, SHAME on law enforcement, legislators, and everyone else who would rather pacify a misinformed public than implement laws that could actually make our communities safer and prevent tragedies such as this. Is everyone truly so cowardly that they will not acknowledge the numerous ways in which existing legislation failed massively at keeping Aliahna alive and safe, or are they just more interested in their image and stature that they won't suggest reform that might upset the uneducated public?
The statistics I have pleaded with people to learn, and have been accused of fabricating, are impossible to ignore in this case. Aliahna knew her killer, as did her mother and siblings. He was not on the sex offender registry. She was beaten to death with a brick on the front stairs leading into her house, in familiar surroundings. The alleged killer himself was a convicted felon, but not of a sex crime. There were fifteen registered sex offenders living in that trailer park, all being actively tracked and monitored by law enforcement. None of them harmed her. The man who confessed to her murder is a convicted felon, who in addition to having a prior record, had an active arrest warrant for physical assault in the state of Florida.
To me, it seems glaringly obvious that Aliahna's death could have been prevented by fact-based delegation of resources. If legislation was appropriately applied to those who are truly at a higher risk to re-offend, it is very likely that this individual would be in jail and unable to kill anyone. Or at the very least, a wanted fugitive would have been caught and jailed, on one of the many occasions law enforcement presumably visited the trailer park to "manage" the sex offenders. Imagine if the time spent tracking and monitoring the 15 registered sex offenders was instead used to track and manage those proven to be more likely to commit another crime. Imagine if there were a public registry for all felonies, particularly violent ones - perhaps Aliahna's mother would have decided not to move to this particular trailer park. Most importantly, perhaps Aliahna would be ALIVE. Perhaps many other children would be ALIVE if their parents and communities were educated on actual facts, instead of hysteria.
Aliahna's murder reminded me of 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera, who was beaten to death earlier this month in Georgia. (Read the story here: MSNBC coverage of Jorelys Rivera). Police were proud to let the public know they were actively interrogating all the known sex offenders in the area. Luckily, the suspect was apprehended rather quickly. It was only quietly revealed that he was a maintenance worker at the apartment complex where Jorelys lived, that he had no prior record whatsoever and was not a sex offender, therefore not on the registry. Oddly, the public's reaction, rather than learning from the experience, was to launch a community-wide effort to let parents know they can search for registered sex offenders in their area. Somehow, the fact that a sex offender resided in Jorelys' building unbeknownst to her mother had taken precedence over the actual facts in the case, even though the offender had nothing to do with her murder.
Everyone claims to care about children, but time after time, facts are ignored. Whenever I point out statistics demonstrating the ineffectiveness of sex crime legislation, I am accused of being a sex offender, being sick, twisted, and in need of mental help. But what can be said for someone who consciously chooses to ignore a proven fact? Until we accept that sex crime legislation has been allowed to turn into an empire of ineffectiveness that fails at keeping us safe, more children will die. Ignore that.
RIP, Aliahna and Jorelys.