I’ve brought this up before when I blogged about Remembering 911. In breaking news, you set your emotions aside and go on auto pilot. Similar to a cop dealing with the carnage at a head-on collison, you just do your job.
It was that way this week. A lot of carnage.
On Monday, Kurtis Chapman, 23, changed his plea, accepting responsibility for the ghastly strangulation of Shenay Greenough, 19. In exchange for his guilty plea to second degree murder–and manslaughter for the death of Greenough’s unborn child–prosecutors recommended and the judge rendered a 24 year prison sentence. Christina Sullivan, Shenay’s mother, handled it well. She told me she believes Chapman is truly sorry. For Chapman, 24 years beats life in prison, I suppose.
Still, no one wins in a murder case. Everyone loses: the victim, the victim’s family and friends, and the convicted.
On Tuesday, I returned to court to see Aaron Velasco, if not in better spirits, more cognizant than when I first saw him. Police arrested him in June after officers responded to a domestic violence call and found Velasco’s younger sister dead in front of the family home. Detectives say she had been attacked with a machete.
Walking the dogs Tuesday afternoon, I thought about Velasco in his orange, jailhouse jumpsuit, shackled at the feet, and this constant changing impression. One moment he looks like a lost teenage boy who appears to have fallen through the cracks, and then he’ll morph back to a man of 28, and someone you might avoid eye contact with if you passed him on the sidewalk.
Velasco has yet to enter a plea because attorneys are still going through the procedure of establishing whether he’s competent to stand trial.
On Wednesday, at the Benton County Justice Center, a young couple sat in the front row of Courtroom E watching the proceedings of their nanny, accused in the death of their one-year-old boy. Ryder Morrison died in June. Kelli Jacobsen, says she called 911 when the boy fell and hit his head, but the coroner says his injuries aren’t consistent with her story. The prosecutor has charged her with manslaughter. The parents, you can only imagine their pain, and the nanny, she’s all of 26; the whole thing is tragic. Afterwards, I went up to the mother, and in small talk, let her know that while I can’t speak for other reporters, I’ll try to respect her privacy while still having to do my job. “You haven’t been too bad,” was her response.
Well, so far, but she may have a lot yet to endure.
Thursday was a change of pace. I attended an assembly at Badger Mountain Elementary School, the kids honoring veterans. Parents and grandparents who are veterans sat in a special section. It was quite the scene: grandfatherly type guys, one man in his thirties holding his infant son to his chest, the 300 or so grade schoolers belting out in song, “…From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli…”
The fifth graders recited by memory the preamble of the Constitution. One Boy Scout, who had also led the presentation of the American flag at the outset of the assembly, was particularly impressive by the way he proudly nailed the lengthy preamble word for word (I bet he wouldn’t forget which government agencies he’d close if elected President).
Friday morning, immediately following the newscast, I drove to Pasco where a family of six is shivering in the fog outside their home, watching firefighters put out the fire. The family is from the Ukraine. Dad had left for work about 4, Olga Dzyuk had gotten up about 5:30 to feed her baby girl and heard the smoke alarms in the basement. With the baby in her arms, Olga and her four sons got out safe. The Red Cross is helping with clothing and shelter, but, jeesh, the last thing anyone needs.
Oh, and I must mention that Claire Graham joined me on the set Friday morning. She is a welcomed addition, especially after a month of going solo (Trust me, there’s more to it than just sitting there for two and half hours. You got radio newscasts, updating stories during commercial breaks, posting on the KNDU AND KNDO Facebook pages throughout the morning, starting another pot of coffee–It’s been nuts).