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A particularly murderous week in America

Three recent violent crimes are so terrible they defy logical explanation

Schoolyard Killings
A group of teachers from Newark Regional Day Care Center join hands behind an elementary school in Newark, N.J., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007, at an impromptu memorial for three young people who were shot and killed at the scene Saturday night.
Mike Derer / AP
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Clint Van Zandt

Almost 17,000 people were murdered in America in a recent year and another 1.4 million were victims of violent crime.  That's an average of 327 homicides and 27,000 violent crimes on the streets of America every week. 

While the last week may have been average in terms of the number of crimes committed, three of these crimes were so terrible as to defy logical explanation.

The murder of Chauncey Bailey
Chauncey Bailey was editor of the Oakland Post, and a veteran newsman.  He fought hard for what was right, and he fought equally hard to get a good story.  His reporting has ruffled a few feathers in the past, but last week his reporting cost him his life.  Bailey was working on a story concerning the Oakland-based "Your Black Muslim Bakery," a group that he may have believed to be deeply involved in criminal activity.  Police knew of the group too, as did local citizens, some who said the group's members would fire guns into the air to show their contempt for authority and society.  Now a 19-year-old member of the group has confessed to gunning down Bailey as he walked to work last week.  Bailey's sin?  He was simply doing his job, one that got him shot gunned to death just blocks from the city's center of business.  Bailey's shooter apparently didn't like a story the newspaperman was working on about the group's means of accumulating cash. 

Other group members have also been arrested for kidnappings, assaults and at least two other murders in the local area.  Interesting that although we have somehow grown accustomed to hearing about crusading reporters and honest judges being murdered in third world countries, this crime, believed to have been committed by a convicted felon, took place in America in broad daylight.  The shooter, prossibly put up to this murder by others, said he did it alone, but police believe otherwise. (Who drove the getaway car?)  In the meantime, the city of Oakland has contributed yet another victim to the growing number of people murdered on the streets and in the homes of this country.

The Petit family murders
Fast forward a few days and across the country to a home in Cheshire, Conn.  This is where a perfect storm of violence converged on the home of William and Jennifer Petit and their daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley.  In one of the most savage crimes that I have heard of recently, two full-blown sociopaths, 44-year-old Steven Hayes and 26-year-old Joshusa Komisarjevsky, somehow followed Jennifer and young Michaela Petit home from a local store, and planned their late-night entry into the Petit home. 

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Delayed police reaction?
Aug. 2: An eyewitness claims police waited outside for as long as 20 minutes while home intruders brutally attacked the Petit family.

In a pact that could only have been forged in hell, the two alleged assailants (they were caught fleeing the Petit home after the crime) entered the quiet house in the middle of the night, tied up and beat Mr. Petit, and then committed acts of untold terror against his family for which there can be no sane explanation.  In the course of the next few hours, Mrs. Petit would be forced to withdraw $15,000 from the family bank account in an ill-fated attempt to dissuade the two murderers-to-be from further attacking her family.  One or both of these two-legged monsters would then, according to media reports, rape and strangle Jennifer Petit, molest one if not both young girls, and then pour gasoline purchased by the assailants after first entering the Petit residence on Mrs. Petit (believed deceased at the time) and her two daughters (still alive) who had been tied to their beds by their assailants.  When police arrived they found the home ablaze, Mr. Petit badly beaten, and Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela Petit all dead.  This is a crime of such unspeakable brutality that it has shaken the very core of the local community.

Although the alleged murderers were almost 20 years apart in age, both shared a lengthy criminal history, and if the two suspected killers were bound by any shared emotion, it was probably the love of drugs like crystal meth, cocaine, and marijuana.  Some question why the two serial offenders had ever been released on parole, but, unlike the confessed killer of Chauncey Bailey, neither men had ever been convicted of a violent crime.  The younger of the two men used rubber gloves and night-vision goggles (vis-à-vis "Silent of the Lambs") when he committed home burglaries, while his older and perhaps more crude counterpart simply used a big rock to smash a window, grab a purse and run.  

Komisarjevsky, described by a judge in 2002 as a "calculating, cold-blooded predator," had once again been released from jail, but was made to wear a GPS tracking bracelet on his leg.  He went straight just long enough to get the bracelet taken off just a week before the destruction of the Petit family.  The alleged murderers of Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela are now back in jail, this time facing penalty of death.  It is a sentence they allegedly already carried out on three innocents whose only fault was coming into the sights of two men who wanted everything the Petit family had to offer. 

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