Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Body by the River by Robert A. Waters

Nevaeh Buchanan, Roy Smith, George Kennedy

Even though I’ve become jaded to many of the tragedies presented on the crime talk shows, the death of Nevaeh Buchanan strikes home. After watching hundreds of horrific cases unfold over many years, I’ll admit I’ve become desensitized to the reality of it all. Many times I view victims and criminals alike as comic book characters with little real depth. I don’t apologize for it: too many similar images bombarding the brain will do that to you.

On the afternoon of May 24, five-year-old Nevaeh disappeared from outside her apartment in Monroe, Michigan. According to her mother’s account, she was last seen riding her bicycle in the parking lot at around six-thirty. Then she was gone.

Two weeks later, the body of a child was found along the River Raisin, a few miles from Nevaeh’s home. Dumped in a shallow grave and hardened over with a layer of ready-mix concrete, DNA tests confirmed that the remains were those of Nevaeh.

To be honest, I’m unable to muster much sympathy for Jennifer Buchanan. Her daughter had been taken from her by the courts after she was convicted of home invasion. According to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, “Sherry Buchanan [Nevaeh’s grandmother] was granted custody of Nevaeh after Jennifer Buchanan was convicted in 2006 on a first-degree home invasion charge. She had been breaking into homes to support a drug habit. For the last 2 1/2 months, Sherry, Jennifer and Nevaeh Buchanan have lived together in the two-bedroom apartment.”

Jennifer associated with low-lifes and criminals. When Nevaeh landed with her grandmother, it was undoubtedly the best thing that ever happened to her.

Two registered sex offenders, both having served time in prison, circled the family like hyenas waiting to make a kill. Whether they got to Nevaeh or not, the very fact that Jennifer Buchanan would allow them within shouting distance of her daughter is a crime--maybe not in the legal sense of the word, but at least in the moral sense. George Kennedy and Roy Smith have now been sent back to prison to complete their original sentences because they violated their parole by associating with the child and her mother.

Whether either committed the murder remains to be seen.

The case has even fueled a debate about the death penalty in Michigan. The state abolished the practice in 1846, yet such a monstrous crime as this screams out for more than life in prison.

I guess the reason I’m drawn to this case is that Nevaeh was facing an uphill battle in life almost from the beginning. She had no father-figure (her real father was long-gone). Her mother seemed bent on self-destruction. Her role models (except for her long-suffering grandmother and a few relatives) were criminals.

Yet she should have been given a chance. Millions of people have risen above worse than what Nevaeh faced.

When she was murdered, that chance ended.

And for that I mourn.

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