Wednesday, October 04, 2006

no hell hot enough

Yesterday was a beautiful day for a hike and an outdoor lunch. It was icing on the cake that I had the chance to meet Sperwer's wife and daughter, along with his daughter's good friend. They're elementary schoolers, the two littl'uns-- frisky, jokey bundles of energy and imagination. They enjoyed smacking me on my shoulder blades, pretending to cut my arms off, histrionically expressing horror at the thought of eating lamb, and generally running around the way six-year-olds do. It was hilarious.

Then came the downer. When I got home from my trip and sent off emails to Charles and Sperwer, I also flipped around online and saw the horrifying story of a milkman, Charles Roberts, who had killed several small schoolgirls. The story of what he did and why he did it is still unfolding in real time, but it appears to be the tale of a deeply disturbed, perverted individual who had planned on reenacting sexual abuse fantasies from his youth. He left a note for his wife explaining his continued grief over the death of one of their own children, expressed anger at himself and God, rounded up a fearsome assemblage of firearms and assorted tools, and drove to the nearest, unsecured schoolhouse.

As most of you probably know by now, the schoolhouse he chose was Amish, filled with people who wouldn't hurt a fly. Roberts commandeered the schoolhouse, allowing the men, the boys, and the women with babies to leave. All he had left were the frightened schoolgirls. He chained them together by the blackboard, asked them whether they had ever seen weapons like the one he was carrying, and then... the question was what to do next.

By the look of things, Roberts had intended to violate the schoolgirls. He didn't, perhaps because one of the released adults immediately called the police, who arrived within minutes. What Roberts did instead was shoot the girls. As this story unfolds, more and more of them are dying from their wounds. Last night, the death toll was three. At the moment I'm writing this, the death toll is five.

Roberts didn't leave us with a chance to deal with him: as the police stormed the schoolhouse, he put a bullet in his own head.

There is no hell hot enough for a man like Charles Roberts, the kind of person for whom slow torture was invented. I would happily put aside all veneer of civilization to deal with a man like that. You might say he was driven by compulsions beyond his control, but this claim is undermined by the fact that he held those impulses in check for twenty years, and when he finally gave in to them, he did so in a rational, methodical manner. Not being too sympathetic to the insanity defense, I'd say Roberts was fully responsible for the crimes he committed, and I'd have no compunctions about slicing open his thigh, digging into his leg with long-handle pliers, and crushing his femur.

Believe me, the above isn't a routine thought for yours truly. But a person like Charles Roberts, well... he steers the mind of anyone who cares about kids in that dark direction.


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