Sad Days in the City

Ritualistic Murder

Ritualistic murder. That phrase really bothers me. There are so many bad implications to that phrase — “murder” implies that someone is dead by another person’s hand; “ritualistic” implies that the person who committed the murder assumes no responsibility for the act, rather the responsibility is pushed off onto someone else (a priest, teacher, guru, book) who said the action is good and must be done. The word “murder” implies that the killing is NOT condoned by society at large.

There’s nothing at all good about the phrase “ritualistic murder.”

In April a family moved to Sioux City, enrolling their two little girls in one of the local elementary schools. The two girls, ages eight and ten, were found strangled to death in the basement of their home, which had then been set on fire. Police found their 25-year-old step-father in the house when they responded to the fire call. He said he had to kill the girls because a spell he cast had “gone bad” and could have “severe consequences.”

The Sioux City Journal article termed it “ritualistic murder.”

Note: Everything from here on out are my opinions as of today, and I hope not to offend anyone. These are simply my thoughts. They may be wrong, and I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow. I’m just trying to think things through.

I skimmed very briefly through the comments people posted on the Journal’s web site, and found them bothersome for the most part. Some comments were condolences for the family, and showed general (and genuine) concern. Other comments, the bothersome ones, were from proponents of various religions pointing their fingers at each other, each trying to blame the other for the man’s actions. Still other comments wondered whether the step-father had a mental illness. No one seemed to think that the man who killed his step-children might actually be responsible. The tenor of the comments were, “sounds like psychosis to me,” or “Wicca should be outlawed” (though as far as I know no one has confirmed the man’s religion).

I’m only going to say one more thing regarding the religious aspect of this. Freedom of religion means freedom of ALL religions, not just Christianity. To me the argument that “he committed a horrible act in the name of his religion, therefore we must ban his religion” is specious. I’m not familiar with any religions outside the Judeo-Christian heritage (at least not familiar enough to say anything with authority), but I’d be surprised if killing children is condoned by ANY modern religion. It’s my opinion that the man who committed this atrocity went beyond his religion, whatever that may be. Now, does freedom of religion mean that I can start my own religion and go start killing people in the name of my religion? No, it does not. People in the United States, both citizens and visitors, must obey the laws our society puts forth. Our laws supersede our religion, but we go through contortions to ensure that everyone can practice their religion, whatever it may be, WITHIN the confines of the law, and that no one feels forced to practice another’s faith against their will.

Did the man who did this suffer from a mental illness? That may be. I could also make an argument that anyone who murders another human being is, by definition, mentally ill. This may sound vaguely cruel, but I feel that having a mental illness should not be a mitigating factor in murder cases, with the exception of the severely handicapped. Was the man hearing voices? I don’t know. I do know that mental illness is real, and can do powerful things to a person’s mind. If the man was obeying the voices in his head when he strangled the two children, do we let him go free? My vote is no. The man should get treatment if it’s needed, but he should still be held responsible for his actions. Should he go to prison if he suffers a mental illness? I don’t know, but he needs to go somewhere.

Is fanaticism a mental illness?

Could we, as a society, have stopped this tragedy? Could we have saved the two girls? I don’t know. Were there warning signs? Was the man who killed the girls an abusive man? Had he been “in the system” in the past? Was he known to law enforcement officials? I don’t know. And if there had been warning signs, should someone have acted? Where do personal privacy and public safety meet? Who makes the judgment calls? I don’t know. I just don’t know. Should laws be changed? I don’t know.

I don’t know, but I’m sure thinking about these issues today.

I hope the family can recover from this. I wish them well, and hope they find solace somewhere. And I hope that the Sioux City community can try to learn and grow from this tragedy rather than spend time pointing fingers.

A Family in Need

An e-mail crossed my in-box this afternoon. It was about a small boy here in Sioux City who lost his brother to cancer last February. The family struggled to meet the medical expenses attendant with cancer, and after the boy’s death, struggled to make payments to the funeral home to pay for the funeral. Four days ago the father passed away after battling cancer himself. Two illnesses and two deaths in less than a year.

The cemetery won’t let the family bury the father until they come up with $2,700.

A group of people (I’m not sure who) started an e-mail to raise money for the family. They’re trying to get $15,000 — enough to cover the unpaid portion of the boy’s funeral, the father’s funeral and cemetery plot, and a little left over for the family to use as they see fit.

The deadline has already passed, so I’m not soliciting money, but I thought I’d share the story. There are things to think of.

The funeral home and the cemetery provide a service, and should be paid for that service. But gosh, how sad.

If you’re reading this on Facebook, you can see the original blog at, click on “Blog.”

6 thoughts on “Sad Days in the City

  1. The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch:

    Both very moving and thoughtful stories…
    On the first story:
    I have to wonder if neighbors or family members noticed or reported anything to the local children services…

    On the second story:
    The funeral business is such a scam. It costs so much more than it should and so many of those people take advantage of grieving families.

  2. Chris

    Nice avatar, Lady! When did you change?

    I don’t know if the family had been reported to any authorities. If I hear something about that in the next few days I’ll post it. I’m curious, too, if the family has had problems before.

    About the funeral story — I guess I always assumed that cemeteries pretty much HAD to let you bury someone, the same as hospitals must treat anyone in need. I have no problem with them making money (they provide a needed service and should be compensated), but it’s a sad, sad story, and it makes me, well, sad.

  3. ~:*:*:Pixie:*:*:~

    Thank you Chris… both stories were enough to pull me from my own reality which seems trifle and insignificant at best in comparison.

    I do want to make a point in terms of the “spell gone bad” in reference to the “wicca” statement.

    People, as a rule, are more frightened, amused by and ignorant of Wicca than they are the Church of Latter Day Saints.

    What I mean is, there is so much “secrecy” and Wicca / Witch Craft are immediately construed as “works of the devil”. “Satanic” “Evil”

    The reality is: Wicca is an earth based faith – polytheistic. The ultimate rule and crede of a Wicca practitioner is: HARM YE NONE.

    It is as ridiculous to blame Wiccan(let’s outlaw it!) for the death by a persons hand as it is to blame Christian Science practitioner (let’s outlaw it!) for the death by a persons hand.

    Wiccans live by a code of love, trust and the rule of three: what thou gives comes back to thee, times three. No true practitioner would EVER harm any living thing, or manipulate any living thing. The consequences would be… unthinkable.

    Further… call it SATAN… a Wiccan practitioner does not know satan. Satan was created by Christians and therefore only Christians can suffer the wrath of Satan – Wiccans do not acknowledge Satan…

    Let’s call it what it is. A man with some serious psychological issues and perhaps a penchant for “Charmed”.

    I’m (and I am sure my Wiccan sisters and brothers are also) so sorry this happened…

    … I am more sorry that it will happen again because people simply do not recognize mental illness and it’s many levels and if they did… what to do.


  4. Chris

    Mr. At Dawn: I didn’t mean to bum you out, but if I’m sad, well then, by golly, everyone should be sad. (Kind of like when Mom’s cold everyone wears sweaters whether they want to or not.)

    Pixie: Thanks for the quick Wicca lesson! I learned things! Like I said in the post, it seems like people around town are pointing fingers at each other, making broad assumptions about the man with little or no information.

  5. Virginia

    One of my first encounters here in Santa Fe was at a yard sale being held to pay for the funeral of a baby. The people hosting the sale were barely eking out a living and the items for sale amounted to most people’s idea of just junk. A photo of the then-live baby and a smiling young mother stared at me from a large can wth a slot for donations. I walked away with some useless item after handing the aunt a couple bills. Then I wnet back and jammed a few more dollars into the can. Death is difficult enough, without haviing to consider the economics of putting our loved ones to rest.

    Aunt V/Ginn


Leave a Reply