The blame game: The contrast between the message delivered by Patricia Calhoun's "Crash Course" column last week and that of Luke Turf's "Headed for Trouble" left me with a somewhat disturbed feeling.
Calhoun's column was remarkably sensitive given the horrible nature of the crime for which Mr. Romero was tried and convicted. She does not preach. Her writing here is full of compassion. The extra feature at the bottom of the page is also a dark tale, enhanced in its impact in some bizarre way by the gray shading behind the text. These are awful, awful stories that are told in a wonderfully effective manner.
Mr. Turf's piece, on the other hand, seems to be another of those trademark Westword attempts to raise sympathy for some asshole who was "wronged by the system," even though guilty of amazingly nasty crimes. Erik Jensen may be an incredibly stupid person for getting sucked into his friend's situation, but he could have just said no. And he should have just said no at a number of different moments as the wrongs just kept coming at him. Is he any less guilty because he is stupid? Is he any less guilty because he was so young? Are we to believe, as the article suggests, that the whole thing seemed to be a cosmic conspiracy against him, poor little stupid Erik?
No on all three counts. At least the article ends with "And Erik blames no one but himself for that." If he doesn't blame anyone else, why does Westword seem to be looking for a scapegoat?
A friend in need: I have a friend I used to work with who suffered a horrible tragedy. His teenage son murdered his wife.
It was unspeakably sad, literally. We didn't speak of it. My friend appreciated that I wouldn't bring up the subject, and we hung out together, skiing, playing cards and competing in pro golf tournaments. (We were both teaching pros at the time.) I wouldn't dream of bringing up this subject again, except that Westword already has. In your cover story last week featuring the plight of underage criminals who are sentenced to long terms, guess which case was used as an example.
It gets worse. The teen in this case, now in his twenties, was sentenced to life without parole. In an effort to get a new trial, he is introducing new "evidence" claiming that his parents sexually abused him, and other ugly accusations. His lawyer is even initiating a civil suit against my friend. Of course, none of this came out before. The Westword article is something less than critical of these accusations.
Roger Ybanez, if you happen to come across this, you have my sympathy. You've now been victimized twice over.
And a hearty thank you to Westword and Luke Turf. Nothing's too sensational to use to advance an agenda, I suppose. Victims be damned.
Blood will tell: As I began to read about Nate Ybanez in Luke Turf's "Headed for Trouble," the writing -- like Nate's mom's blood -- was clearly splattered on the wall. Just the one sentence that Nate's father had supposedly uttered, about how Nate was a "pain in the butt," was extremely telling. Obviously a comment like that does not come from loving, caring parents.
This does not excuse the vicious murder of Nate's mom; it might explain it, however, and hopefully carry a lesson that we need to listen to our children. Ignoring Nate's continual pleas, including his running away many times, is absolutely inexcusable (and is also a crime). If he had been listened to, it might have prevented the desperate act of murder in the first place.
Ruth Suli Urman
Setting son: It is too bad that Julie Ybanez doesn't have the opportunity to refute the allegations made by her son; too bad Nathan couldn't have gone to a school authority or a local authority to let them know what was happening -- if it was true. I only knew Julie briefly, mostly in conversations with her about her sister, my friend. I met both Julie and Nathan after her sister had a stroke, and they'd come to Kansas to visit her. They had supper at my house. I saw a loving mother and sister and a nice young man. Ironically, a year later this scenario unfolded.
The teenage years are difficult on everybody. I don't doubt that by now Nathan believes that his stories of abuse are true; how else could he live with himself after murdering his mother? But that doesn't make it so.
This story was entirely biased and I wonder how factual it was. Don't forget who the victim is here... Julie Ybanez.