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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

As I began my vacation in the Canadian Rockies, thrilled that for 2 weeks I would be unreachable by phone, I received an email message from a friend that was utterly disturbing.  Suddenly being thousands of miles from home in a country where I had no phone to contact my friend was not quite as wonderful as it had been moments before I read the email.

My friend had to go away on business for a few days.  Her husband and teenaged daughter drove her to the airport.  That trip was perhaps the last “normal” moment she will have for a while.

I should interject that her teenaged daughter is one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen in person, with long dark hair, piercing dark eyes and a figure “to die for” as the saying goes.  She has been approached to work as a model and I think she could make real money doing just that.

On the way home, after they dropped off my friend, her husband stopped and bought alcohol (the drinking kind not the rubbing kind) for his underaged daughter.  I suspect he had some himself.  He then proceeded to make sexual advances to his daughter!!  Yes, you read that right!!  His daughter was able to fight off the advances, so there was no physical damage;  however, the psychological trauma was devastating.

This incident is what led to my title.  I discussed the whole thing with my husband, since he is a man (big surprise there, I know), and he was as puzzled as I was.  How could a man do something like that to his own child?

Yes, the alcohol provided some fuel, to be sure.  But the alcohol did not put the idea into this man’s head.  What is it with men?

If you think about the sexual abuse of children (at any age), the offenders are most often men.  Women (sane ones, at least) do not damage children – especially their own.  Women protect their children.  In the culture of the Native Americans I work with, children (and women) are considered sacred.  They are the ones who carry life into the future.  I’m sure it has occurred, but I have never personally heard about or read about a mother who has sexually molested her child.  I have heard about many men who have done such things!

Again I ask, what is it with men?

Yes, I’ve read the clichés about men thinking with their penises rather than their brains.  I can see how teenaged boys can get carried away, when the strength of those urges are new and unfamiliar.  But a man who is old enough to have a 17 year old daughter is a man who is old enough to have learned how to control his sexual urges.  A man who is a father ought to be the protector of his family, not the one who damages his family!

My friend is a strong woman who is very protective of her children and her family.  She would often speak of how much she loved her husband and her children.  She is such a positive person and a role model for those around her.  Now she is trying to figure out how to explain these things to her teenaged children — and to herself.

I am so angry for her.  I’d like to slap this man upside the head and ask him  what on God’s good earth could have made him think this was okay to do, alcohol or not!  But I know I’d get the typical answers:  I didn’t know what I was doing; the alcohol made me do it; I just couldn’t control myself.

Baloney!

You all know what I’d really like to do to him – I don’t have to spell it out, I’m sure. . .

Maybe I should put the soapbox away for the time being, before I get carried away.  After all, I’m a woman – I know how to maintain self-control.

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I got back from my recent trip to Pine Ridge Reservation last Wednesday and have spent the past couple of days recovering from travel fatigue and a pesky stomach virus that I must have picked up on the trip home.  I think I was also recovering from some of the stories I heard while I was visiting with my dear Lakota friends.

The occasion for the trip was a happy one – after 10 years of waiting, they had finally obtained a house of their own and had decided to have it blessed.  When I think about the hard times and sadness they have endured over the past 6 years that we’ve known each other (search the category “Lakota friends” for past stories), I think having the house blessed was a really good idea.  I had gone expecting a Lakota holy man to bless the house, but apparently summer, with its powwows and other gatherings, was not a good time to “book” one.  The task and privilege fell to one of the local Episcopal priests, who had also conducted the funeral for my friend’s daughter a couple of years ago.

As an Episcopalian who had also had my own house blessed (some 30+ years ago), I was familiar with the ritual.  I was also pleased to see that the priest, with his Lakota beaded stole, had made slight adaptations in the rite to align it a bit more with Lakota culture.

Much of the rest of the time I was on the reservation was spent sharing stories.  I have often thought that a book should be written about my Lakota friend’s life.  Although it may be somewhat common to the lives of many on the reservation, it is the story of a woman who has already, in her 30’s, overcome more obstacles in her life than most of us will face in a lifetime.  I tell her that if she gives me the stories, I will put them together in a book and the money will be hers since the story is hers.  She laughs, but I think she has been considering it more seriously of late.

While we were sitting at her dining room table sharing coffee and conversation, I asked her what her earliest memory was.  Personally, the early memories I have center around holidays and playing with my younger sister.  So I was not prepared for the story she told me.  As you read her story, I ask you to ask yourself:  What does it do to a person to have this as his/her earliest memory?  Can you put yourself in this picture?

Her earliest memory is an event that occurred when she was about 3 and her sister about 5.  They were at home in their mother’s trailer.  The extended family had gathered there – aunts, uncles and some she does not recall.  Her mother was 8 months pregnant with her next sister.

The adults were all drinking heavily.  Apparently that was typical at that time in her mother’s life.  Suddenly, and for no reason that a 3 year old could recall, her uncle picked up a huge, old-fashioned butcher knife and stabbed her mother in the back.  The knife, which had about a 10 inch blade, had been “slammed about halfway” into the left side of her mother’s back as she and her sister watched.

An aunt quickly pushed the 2 girls into a closet to protect them and locked the door from the outside.  However, since the trailer was in poor condition as are many rez homes, the closet door was not a snug fit.  There was plenty of space between the door and the frame to allow the 2 children to watch what was unfolding in the hallway outside the closet.

The girls could see the knife still protruding from their mother’s back as she lay on the floor only feet away.  They could see the huge pool of blood forming around their mother.  She turned her head and looked straight at them, forming the words “help me” as best she could.  My friend clearly remembers her eyes connecting with her mother’s eyes.

She also recalls that all of the adults who had been there left, without helping her mother or calling for help.  The 2 little girls, who were terrified, threw themselves at the closet door.  The door, which was not well made or in good condition, as I noted before, gave way.  My friend’s older sister ran and tried to pull the knife out of her mother’s back – but she was too small and the knife was too deep.  The girls ran to get a neighbor to help.

The neighbor pulled out the knife and called for help.  When the police arrived, they arrested the neighbor for the stabbing, in spite of the stories told by both the girls.  Although the neighbor was eventually cleared, the uncle was never arrested.  The police refused to believe the girls’ story.

My friend’s mother was taken to the hospital, where they delivered her baby a month early and worked to save both lives.  The baby survived.  So did her mother, although it took a long time for her to recover.

My friend has had a stressful, tumultuous relationship with her mother over the years, for reasons that still remain unclear to me.  However, part of the difficulty seems to stem from the fact that her mother has never accepted and validated the trauma that it was for her 3 year old daughter to observe the stabbing.

My friend told me that she once asked her mother to stop wearing tops with thin straps so much.  Her mother told her she would wear whatever she wanted to.  She didn’t understand that my friend had a reason for asking that of her mother.  You see, every time she saw her mother in a tank top or camisole, she could clearly see the huge scar on her mother’s back when her mother turned away.  The sight of that scar would tear open the scar on her psyche every time, bringing her back to the night she was a terrified 3 year old.

When I think about this story – the alcohol driven chaos, the violent violation of a child’s mother, the abandonment by relatives who were meant to care for family, the adults who would not believe a child’s story and the emotional scars left on an innocent little girl – I can understand much of the rest of my friend’s life.

It makes me feel so protective of that child and so angry at the adults when I think about this story.  It makes me sad beyond words that this is my friend’s first memory.

So let’s go back to my questions now.

What does it do to a person to have this as his/her earliest memory?  I suspect a psychologist could write a book on that.  In all likelihood, in layman’s terms, it would scar the person for life.

Can you put yourself in this picture?  In all honesty, I cannot.  I gratefully grew up in a home where peace was the rule and verbal arguments the infrequent exception.  There was no physical violence.  Some of you may have had more experiences with violence as a child.  I pray that your first childhood memory is not something this traumatic.

But that was rezlife as a child for my friend.  I sadly suspect she was not the only one.

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OK, I know I haven’t ranted in a bit, but it’s getting out of hand.

The current price of fresh green beans is averaging about $1.29, depending on where you live and what kind of market you shop in.  (Add about 20% if you live on Pine Ridge Reservation.)

I am writing about green beans because I wrote about them 3 years ago (have I been doing this that long?) and that post has more hits than any other single post I have written.  When I wrote, the price of green beans where I live was hovering around $3.49 due to bad weather in the areas where we typically grow them in this country.  To have them more than $2 over the price I recalled had been a shock.  But prices are not doing that now and still I am getting hits on that post!  People, the price of green beans (noted above) is where it should be right now.  It will go down a bit in a month or so as green beans become more plentiful in additional local areas.

You might ask why I am so annoyed about that post receiving more hits than anything else – and even if you don’t ask, I’m going to tell you because it’s MY soapbox.

I have written about many more important topics over the years than the price of fresh green beans.

I have written about the Third World conditions that exist in the USA on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

I have written about Independence Through Music, a wonderful program for youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

I’ve written about living and coping with fibromyalgia for 45 years and raising a son (now 29 years old) who has Asperger’s Syndrome.

I’ve written about crime, death, dying, family, health, housing, nature, travel, national news media, passion, depression, rape, values and laundry to name just a “few” more topics.

But what comes up most often?  The price of green beans.  I’m not sure why that cannot be checked when one does the marketing.  Is it that important to know before you get there?  Or are folks in this country getting that lazy that they have to let their fingers do their shopping before they even get to the market?  There can’t be that many kids getting the assignment to find out about the prices of produce – especially in the summer.

OK, I’ve just heaved a huge sigh.

Whatever got you to this post in the first place, I hope you’ll take the time to look up one other category before you leave.  My personal suggestion would be Pine Ridge Reservation because that way you’ll learn something really important and you’ll have a large selection of posts through which to learn it.

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I have  never known anyone who had a child abducted before yesterday – by his or her own parent or a stranger.  Now I can’t say that any more.

I was a single parent for 10 years.  In the early years I worried a little – not that the kids would be abducted by their father, but that he would try to take them away from me in court.  It was a foolish little fear fueled by insufficient sleep and poor health because the truth (which I knew most of the time) was that he would never have done that.  He wasn’t that interested in having the children with him.  But it was still a terrifying thought when it came!

However, as I said, abduction by the non-custodial parent never crossed my mind.  The only time I’ve thought about it is when it makes the news, which is gratefully infrequently.  So you can imagine my shock when I was told the following story.

I had a message from a grandmother on Pine Ridge Reservation.  She left the message Thursday, stating it was an “emergency”.  Unfortunately I was out most of Thursday (it was St Patrick’s Day) and did not get the message until Friday morning.  I called this grandmother back immediately.

She told me one of her grandchildren had been abducted from the Head Start program.  I asked when.  March 14th, she told me.  Four days ago.  Yikes!

I asked if they knew who did it.  Yes, they did.  It was her dad.  The little girl is 4 years old.  I asked if they had any leads on where she was.  Again, yes.  After 2 trips to Rapid City (2.5 hours one way) to be there when the police thought they had found her, but had not, they finally did find her in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Reservation.  They were going to pick her up after she took down the missing child posters at the Head Start program and several other places.

I asked how I could help her.  She asked me to contact their new sponsor and ask her to call them after 5 PM, when they should finally be back home.  She told me that, with the cost of gas for all the running around, she had no money for diapers.  I assured her that I would contact her sponsor.  I asked her to let me know if there was anything else I could do.

After advising the sponsor about this, I could not stop thinking about the whole episode.

It is a frightening event for any parent to have a child abducted, even if it is by someone they are relatively sure will not harm the child.  But what is it like on the rez?  Is it any different?

Of course it is.

Why?  I know that’s the question you were going to ask.  It comes down to money.  No, not for ransom.  Money to do the running around to try to locate the child.  Hopefully you have a car and only need gas money.  But on the rez, you can’t assume that the custodial party has a car.  There are plenty of people on the rez who don’t have their own cars.  If the custodial party has no car — and I use the term “party” intentionally, because it is just as often a grandmother or aunt as it is mom —  he or she must find a car to borrow or “hire” to get around.  This is not always an easy task, though I would like to think it would be easier in a case like this.

Even “just” gas money is likely to add up when you consider the distances on the reservation.  Traveling from the settlement of Pine Ridge on the southern border of the reservation to Kyle in the northeast takes at least 40 minutes and to Red Shirt in the northwest takes nearly an hour.  To get to Rapid City, you need to add another hour from Red Shirt or one and a half hours from Kyle.  They say time is money, and in this case it is because more time in the car means more gas used.  I’m sure you are aware of the rising cost of gas!

Imagine being in this situation:  Your child, who was abducted, may have been located.  Of course, you want to be present when the authorities go in to get the child.  You find a car to borrow, fill the tank with gas and travel the 2.5 hours to get there.  But she is not there any longer.  You return home, another 2.5 hour drive.  You get another call telling you that you need to go to a different location to pick up the child.  You travel those same roads again and return on them empty-handed – another 10 hours of fruitless driving.  Finally, you find out where the child is . . . and you know the drill from here.  Except now you have to travel 216 miles (taking about 4.25 hours) — one way!! You also have four other children in the home you care for.  They are all younger than the abducted child.  Ages?  3,2,2,1.  Their primary needs?  Food, diapers and warmth.  You have food and heat – but no money left for diapers.

How does that feel? It doesn’t matter whether you use disposable diapers which need to be purchased frequently with that many young ones or cloth diapers which need to be washed frequently (which requires plenty of laundry detergent).  The fact is you can’t afford either.  How does it feel to not be able to provide adequately for the children in your care?

I hope you said it feels lousy.  If not, I am very sad for you.  You have no empathy, which is also lousy.

Gratefully, this grandmother has a good sponsor and I am certain the sponsor will do whatever she can to help out.  Not every grandmother or aunt or mother or dad or uncle or grandfather could say the same.  I wish they could.  You probably do too, because then I would write about lots of other things that are far less painful to read.

 

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I had intended to write this post earlier in the day but decided that I should wait a bit.  I rarely do that,  because I find I write better with the heat of passion running through my veins.

In this case, however, I realized that if I tried to write earlier, when I first had the urge to write, I would have had to censor every other word.  I am so angry I could “spit nickels”, as the saying goes.  Another day I might be intrigued enough to ferret out the origin of that saying.  Today, I’m just plain angry.

You need some back story here, especially if you aren’t a regular reader and you did not read the few posts I done on the subject prior to this.

My mom died in January 2008.  My stepdad, in his late 80’s, “inherited” the house from her along with everything else, since things were in both names.  He was not well and could certainly not keep up with the house they had built and lived in.  The house has a full basement, a first floor devoted to the screen printing business they ran for over 40 years – even when they should have retired.  But Social Security is not enough to live on so they kept limping the business along.  Lastly, there was a second floor which included a huge open space that made entertaining a breeze.  My mother thought of everything.

She also saved everything.  Every card or note she received, every trinket and gift.  Clothing had to be threadbare before they were thrown out.  But new things were bought for style.  Many things had sentimental meaning.  Others were for “just in case” they were needed in the future.  We cleaned out some things after she died, but since my stepdad was living there, he didn’t want us to clean it all out.

They both refused to sell the house and downsize, even though they could not keep up with the maintainance or cleaning.  We suggested a reverse mortgage so they would have the funds to keep the house up, have some cleaning help and still have a better lifestyle than living solely on Social Security in a huge house brings.  They refused because they didn’t want the bank to own the house.  They wanted it to be free and clear for us to inherit.  We told them we’d be happier if they were living comfortably than we would with a monetary inheritance.  No dice.

My stepdad died in February 2010, almost a year ago.  After an appropriate. period of mourning, we kept waiting for my sister, who is executrix of the will, to make some decisions and get things moving.

But nothing happened.  So in late spring, my husband and I started cleaning the house (a monumental undertaking) and clearing out the things.  By summer, we had barely finished the upper floor.  People kept dragging their feet.

Finally, I got an auctioneer to come take a look at the “stuff” that remained.  His opinion was that there wasn’t enough of value to warrant his time.  I think the others involved finally got the message that the contents were good and usable but not valuable.  A realtor was finally hired and a guy to clean out the house.  Just as the house was cleaned out and being readied for sale, someone broke into the house.  The first time.  There was no forced entry that we could see.  They decided to leave the few old things that could have been antiques; instead the stole the broken lawn mower, the brand new replacement lawn mower and the power snow shovel.

Since the executrix had not obtained new home insurance after the original policy was canceled because no one was living there, there was no insurance to cover the loss.  So my sister chose not to call the police.

A couple of weeks later, when my husband went over to check on the house, he discovered someone had broken in and stolen all the copper water pipes in the basement and first floor.  This had left the well pump running, filling the basement with several inches of water.  They had also stolen the new dehumidifier we’d put in after having black mold removed from the basement in the spring.

Here it is, about a week later, and we are trying to figure out how we are going to pay for the repairs to the plumbing as well as the new septic system we’ve discovered we will need in order to be able to sell the house under Massachusetts law.  The realtor, preparing for an “Open House”, went over to take some additional photos yesterday.  She called my sister from the house.

“They came back.”  Who came back?  What?  The thieves came back.  They broke in through the garage this time.  The greedy bastards wanted the rest of the copper pipes from the upper floor.  So they ripped out the pipes under the kitchen and bathroom sinks!!  They even took the metal door handle to the wood stove.  My sister thinks they are going back yet again to remove the wood stove, based on what she saw.  Cast iron.  Sure!

I know when people suffer break ins and thefts in their own residence, they feel violated.  I don’t feel violated.  I feel (censored) angry!!!

I am angry at my parents for being too stubborn to listen to reason when it was discussed years ago.

I am angry that things didn’t get done for so many months.

I am angry that my mother collected so much (censored) stuff.

I am angry that these (censored) thieves are making the process SO much more difficult and expensive.

I am angry that everyone – the police, friends, strangers – have to point out that this is really common when a house is empty.  I don’t care!  It shouldn’t be!

I am angry that I will now have to put money out of my own pocket to have repairs done so that I can sell my inheritance for its proper price, money that I don’t have!

I am angry that this stress will likely cause my fibromyalgia to flare up.

I don’t like being angry.  Anger is the one emotion that can cause me to lose control.  I don’t yell and scream when I get angry like this – I think because I lose the lose the ability to think coherently when I am so angry.  Instead, I tend to cry because I feel so frustrated and helpless.

Last night, my first thought was:  get me a shotgun, drop me off at the house.  I’ll sit there in the dark until the thieves arrive and turn on a light.  Then I’ll show them how angry I am.

Fortunately, I am a pacifist at heart.  I could not do something rash and violent.

But as angry as I am, it would have made me happy to scare the (censored) (censored) (censored) out of them!!

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[This is not fiction.]

I called my Lakota friends this evening to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.  Okay, it’s Black Friday, I know that.  But we are on vacation and I wasn’t able to make the call yesterday.

I almost wish I hadn’t made the call today either.

My friend asked how our Thanksgiving was and I told her it was lovely.  I asked her the same question, hoping that the day had been good for her.  I should have known better.  You probably knew better, if you’ve read any of my prior posts about my Lakota friends.

She told me that the aunt she and her husband were living with had been hospitalized twice recently and told to stay off her feet or she might lose her leg (complications of diabetes).  That’s easy for the doctor to say, but who will care for the young children in the aunt’s care and custody while she stays “off her feet”?  She worried about her 18 year old daughter who recently moved from Pine Ridge Reservation to Salt Lake City.  She told me about the shoulder pain that she is still having after months of seeking treatment at the clinic on the reservation.  She has finally gotten a referral to an orthopedic doctor, after months of being given stronger and stronger pain medications.  Then she told me about her youngest daughter, who turned 15 in July.  She was 10 years old when we first met her and it has been a tumultuous 5 years.

Allow me to recap for any of you who are newcomers to our drama.  We began sponsoring a ten year old Lakota girl 5 years ago.  Over the past 5 years, this girl has given her mother more than a little grief and had more than her share of mishaps and problems.  She began drinking.  She was raped.  She ran away from home several times.  In July, after another runaway, she was finally placed in state custody by the juvenile system of South Dakota as a chronic runaway with substance abuse problems.  After 2 weeks in juvenile detention in Rapid City, she was placed in a secure “girls’ home” in Mitchell, SD.

So her mother thought she would finally be safe, even though she was now 4 hours away from her home instead of just 1 hour.  She would be safe.

But she was wrong!

Her daughter was NOT safe.

This past weekend, my friend got a call to tell her that her daughter had miscarried the baby.  Baby?!!!!  Okay, if she was pregnant, according to her mother’s frantic calculations, it had to occur in July, before she went into state custody.  That meant at least 4 months!  She had not known her daughter was pregnant.  She asked the person who called where the baby was.  She would go to get the body so they could have a funeral.  No, the person responded.  It was only a 6 week pregnancy.  There was no body.

[Pregnant pause . . . if you’ll excuse the pun]

6 weeks??!!  That couldn’t be – she had been in state custody for almost 4 months!!! There must be a mistake.  But there wasn’t.

Uh oh . . .

My friend is not a calm person when someone has hurt one of her daughters.  I would compare her to a mama grizzly when someone has ventured too near her cub.  She began by cussing out everyone she encountered.  She contacted the local television news.  She is still angry.

She still has no answers.

I know my Lakota friend.  She will get answers.  It may take time, but she will get answers, because someone who was supposed to be helping her daughter and keeping her safe hurt her instead.

And that was a big mistake.

I’m sure someone will be paying for that mistake eventually.

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Man arrested in stabbing death of Pine Ridge woman

Rapid City Journal

Journal staff | Posted: Monday, May 24, 2010 9:00 pm

A Martin man has been arrested in the death of a Pine Ridge woman after she was stabbed to death Saturday.

According to a news release from the state Attorney General’s Office, Mary Ellen Red Cloud, 19, of Pine Ridge, was stabbed to death early Saturday in Bennett County.

Clency N. Pulido, 26, of Martin was later arrested in Hay Springs, Neb., on second-degree murder charges. Pulido is being held in Sheridan County Jail in Rushville, Neb.

The stabbing is being investigated by the Martin Police Department, Bennett County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Pine Ridge Tribal Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and the Nebraska State Patrol.

Posted in News, Local, Crime-and-courts on Monday, May 24, 2010 9:00 pm

It’s really a very short story as news stories go.  Very few details on the crime – just the basic “who, what, when and where” are available.  The third “w” – why – probably will never be truly known.

It’s also true that crime is not unusual on Pine Ridge Reservation.  There is far too much of it, as there is in most poverty-stricken places.

So why am I bothering to write about it, other than the sadness?  It was actually the last paragraph that caught my attention.  Let’s read it again, together,

The stabbing is being investigated by the Martin Police Department, Bennett County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Pine Ridge Tribal Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and the Nebraska State Patrol.

Now I’ll list them so we can see how many jurisdictions are really involved.

  1. Martin Police Department
  2. Bennett County Sheriff’s Office
  3. Bureau of Indian Affairs
  4. Pine Ridge Tribal Police
  5. Federal Bureau of Investigation
  6. Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office
  7. Nebraska State Patrol

Seven different jurisdictions!  Seven!

Can you imagine trying to get cooperation in this investigation?  I’m glad it’s not my job.  Please know that I mean no disrespect to any law enforcement personnel here, but it seems to me that they are known for their territoriality and preference for being top dog.  I hope that doesn’t become a problem here, but I won’t hold my breath.

There is an old saying:  too many cooks spoil the soup.  Do you think we’ll have to add a new one:  too many cops spoil the sleuthing?

May justice and truth prevail.

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