Published: Jan 05, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 05, 2013 04:50 PM
Somehow I couldnt get past state Sen. Ellie Kinnairds remark about the three young people charged with murdering a Durham man who had offered them a ride from Avondale Avenue to Firth Street. You will remember this incident, one of many brutal acts of mayhem in the final days of 2012, as the one in which a 12-year-old suspect accidentally shot herself.
Im just heartsick, Kinnaird, a longtime legislator from Orange County and advocate for juvenile justice, told the N&Os Jane Stancill. Theres so much we dont know about how to reach children.
Well, Ellie, guess youre right. But if we dont know by now, after decades of studies and one well-intended program after another, after untold millions of tax dollars have swirled into the maelstrom, I fear well never know.
Unless, of course, you continue to ignore the elephant in the room. That would be good parenting, emphasis on values that promote individual as well as civic weal and a commitment to education.
Think for a moment about kids who descend into the continuum of violence that at its worst results in someones death, as it did in the case of 35-year-old Johnny D. Villatoro. Hes the departed whose life ended on Firth Street.
The fact that a 12-year-old girl, in the company of a 14-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy, had access to a handgun is blood-chilling evidence of how badly things have gone south in American society. Only weeks before, a 13-year-old girl was charged in connection with a Wake County killing.
Its true, as Stancill reported, that violent crimes among teens 15 and younger has been trending downward nationally since 2002. But that does nothing for Villatoro, who died not nationally but locally.
Why he died is more important than how he died. Maybe the three teens (the girls are from Raleigh, the boy from Durham) thought carjacking Villatoros SUV and killing him would be a neat thing. Maybe, God forbid, his death was a gang initiation.
At some point, we will know. But whatever the reasoning among the teens, or more objectively the lack of it, this incident and other homicides in Durham continue to sully the citys reputation.
The killing of Johnny Villatoro quickly became an international story. In fact, the mug shot of the 16-year-old boy, Justino Navarette Maya, showed up on the website of Londons Daily Mail newspaper.
Thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June and the de facto end of the death penalty in North Carolina, the worse that can happen to the two older teens is life without parole. They might serve no more than 25 years.
One can hardly imagine what kind of people they would be upon release, especially the 12-year-old girl, and what kind of society will receive them. If past really is prologue, its rather hard to be optimistic about the outcome.
But yes, Ellie, the effort to do better is still worth trying.