The two teenaged boys decided to cut through the woods that separated their subdivision from a busy strip mall, in the middle of the small suburb of Fort Worth. As they were talking about a possible pepperoni pizza, after looking at music CDs at the Kmart, they both saw Ida May at the same time. Starting at a pair of pink house slippers, they scanned up to see her abused 83 year-old body, laying on a bed of weeds, under the hot Texas sun. The two boys ran screaming towards a chicken wing restaurant on the edge of the shopping center.
Ida May had been murdered the previous night in her own home. The murderer, was her next door neighbor, Charles Simpson (pseudonym). Simpson was a transplanted felon and violent offender from New York. Ida May had befriended him and had grown to really like Charles after he did a series of small repairs to her neat, ranch-style house. Charles had committed the sexual assault and murder with careless abandon. Leaving so much evidence that it led swiftly to his arrest and just two days later he was in my department’s holding cell, waiting on a transfer to the county jail.
What I saw at that crime scene remains with me today, many years later. What Ida May suffered through, before her heart just couldn’t take it anymore, was unfathomable to me before this case. I don’t know if I have ever fully processed it, just how evil one human can be to another. I cannot express here in this blog exactly what I saw, only to say the level of torture the victim endured was at a level none of us on my police department had ever seen. Hannibal Lecter would have run screaming from this crime scene.
Charles Simpson was evil incarnate. I walked into the holding cell area, looked at Simpson the first time, and it just didn’t compute. He looked a little like George Constanza on Seinfeld. As I walked towards him, he was standing with his head squeezed between the bars, screaming about …now get this…..”Inhumane treatment.” It had been 5 hours since lunch was served and “You fucking dyke! You better tell the kitchen staff to bring me my dinner!” I leaned in and spoke ever so softly to Charles. “I was at the crime scene. I saw first hand what you did to Ida May. The unfortunate thing for you tonight is that this fucking dyke is responsible for your dinner.”
This was a small department and we wore many hats. One of my jobs as the officer in charge of the shift was to come to the jail once on the evening shift, dispense dinner, then get back to patrolling my district. The dispatchers monitored the jail camera feeds at all other times, for the four cell jail. Simpson knew he was in for a terrible dinner after our first encounter, he just didn’t know how terrible. I walked into the department’s kitchen, pulled a frozen chicken pot pie out of its box, jammed a plastic fork, right in the middle of it, and proceeded back to Simpson. “Hey bitch, this is frozen!!” “Well, I told him, the Chief said to give you dinner, he didn’t tell me I had to heat it up!”
I checked with the Texas Department of Corrections a couple of years ago and found out Charles had died in prison, a slow agonizing death as a result of cancer. I actually smiled, that was more punishment than the lethal injection that had awaited.
Ida May didn’t deserve to die that way. Her resting place was never supposed to be in a field behind a Kmart.
I write this today, because I ran into one of the teenaged boys last week. He remembered me because after that long ago, awful day, we would occasionally chat whenever he was about town and flagged down my patrol car or I saw him at the high school ball fields.
I often blog about very small perfect moments in your life that you should hold onto..snippets of perfection, to tuck away. The moments sustain you and make your life a memory bank of happiness to guide you down your path, especially when times get very hard.
Well, this now 40 year-old man told me he was a forensic pathologist. The terrifying moment at first eyeing those pink slippers had changed the trajectory of his life. He chose a career that allows him to contribute and help prosecute the Charles Simpsons of the world. He chose to never forget Ida May. He chose to never forget a day that most people would surely block out. My practice of small perfect moments yielding goodness was now being joined by a moment of darkness…darkness turned into light.
Ida May lived a long, productive life. She had a family, including ten wonderful grandchildren. She loved thy neighbor and believe that all men acted out of the kindness of their heart, not at the call of their inner demons.
Life is weird. A kid going to buy a Nirvana CD sees something that will become the catalyst for years of good work in his community. What a great thing he has done. What a great legacy for Ida May. A woman, I too, shall never forget.