broadsideblog

A Little Boy Lost — Murdered And Dismembered

In behavior, children, cities, Crime, domestic life, family, news, parenting, urban life, US on July 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm
13th Avenue in Borough Park

Borough Park, Brooklyn, scene of the murder. Image via Wikipedia

It takes a lot to shock New York, but the city and its suburbs are gasping today in shock, horror and fear at this week’s death and dismemberment of Leiby Kletzky, an eight-year-old boy kidnapped while walking home — for the first time — from day camp.

From today’s New York Times:

The funeral for the boy swelled to capacity before its scheduled start time at 8:30, prompting many of the thousands who could not get in to gather behind police barricades, crowding neighborhood streets as they waited to pay their respects to the young boy, Leiby Kletzky, whose remains were discovered earlier in the day. Throngs of police officers and members of a local security patrol group, the shomrim, kept order as a steady stream of visitors poured into the courtyard, adjacent to a school between 16th and 17th Avenues, within two blocks of where the boy lived. One of the shomrim volunteers estimated close to 8,000 people were in attendance.

That the alleged killer is a fellow Jew, that it happened within the confines of Borough Park, a heavily Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood where many small children live, has made the horror even worse.

The murder is terrifying for every parent, every child, everyone — and I have no kids — who deeply values trust, kindness, the benevolent stranger who will, when you are wandering and scared, help you.

Not kill you.

This story hit me hard because I have, many times, placed my trust — as a woman, alone, often in foreign countries — in strangers. I have gotten into their cars and trucks, have accepted spontaneous invitations into their homes, stayed in their apartments and houses. In not one instance, ever, was I scared, threatened, propositioned, aggressed.

I made friends, ate some great meals, had wonderful adventures. In Palermo, 26, alone, I met two men in the vegetable market, the Vucciria, like me out taking photos. When I ran out of film (these were the 80s) one gave me a roll, a generous gesture when color film overseas was costly. Astor and Nini invited me to their apartment for lunch. I was alone, female, carrying Nikon cameras. A total mark.

I went. Lunch was amazing: fun, a few others for company, and then they dropped me off at the TV station where I had an interview later that day.

It could have ended very badly. It did not.

The problem every parent faces, and each of us must negotiate — at every age — is when, where and how much (if?) to trust someone we do not know, have recently met and whose motives appear kind and helpful.

They can be evil. They can be a predator.

I know this, too, having become, home in New York, the victim of a con man, a convicted felon who brought me a pot of homemade soup, who showered me with affection and lavish praises…all in order to gain access to my credit cards, finances and who knows what else.

The police and DA laughed at my naievete, shrugged off the fact he’d committed six felonies in the time I knew him (from opening my mail to using my credit card to forging my signtaure) — and left me with the sad, dark and undeniable knowledge that monsters do live among us.

  1. It is mind-boggling to think of some of the situations I got my younger self into and emerged unscathed. And this innocent boy in such a seemingly benign situation gets killed. There’s just no sense to it.

    • Exactly.

      I also think, for women — who are often overprotected — this raises difficult questions about when and where we can take risks, and survive. There is no video game that will mimic your intuition or help you develop good judgment. It has to happen in real life.

  2. I think the sadness is in how it makes us behave, colouring our behaviour and views of strangers in our midst.

    It is horrifying to think that there are people out there who would do this to a child. But trying to not scare our children and limit their lives as a consequence is a difficult balance to find.

    Jim

    • I cannot imagine the dilemma for every NYC parent now…let alone parents anywhere. The shock of this in an insular and religiously homogeneous area of the city adds to the dismay — if we can’t “trust our own” (and clearly in this case one cannot) — who IS worthy of our trust? What is a child to do? Never go anywhere alone? At what age are they safe? I’d say…never.
      And yet I’ve had a great life (as have many of my colleagues, for our work can be damn risky) that began as a child going places alone and making (safe) judgments about what to do and who to shun. My parents did not teach me to be fearful but to be smart…

      But that, I know, is its own kind of hubris — which is how the con man got to me. Through emotion!

  3. [...] like a fellow blogger who writes the Broadside Blog. But in a recent post of hers, she asserts that parents can never assume their children will be [...]

  4. Breaks your heart, I still want my kids to have faith in the world and to believe there is still some good out there, but this makes it really tough.

  5. Oh, this makes my heart hurt. I’d love to think that people are good, but with things like this you get a pretty unfortunate understanding that they aren’t always.

  6. This is so tragic.

    The grim reapers of the world, just like the angels, come in every disguise.

  7. It’s just terrible. Poor little boy. I can’t even go there. I’ve seen you around, and have no doubts you are an intelligent woman. If you can be taken advantage of like that, we all could be. It’s strange to think people like that live among us, when I want to live in this bubble where my biggest “threat” is the nosy neighbor down the road…

    • Thanks for the kind words.

      One of the most humbling experiences of my life — and DEEPLY instructive — was learning that intelligence alone will never protect you from decisions driven by emotion or emotional need. The two are very distinct and I was, then, in lousy shape: broke, lonely, despairing I’d ever again find love after a nasty divorce, brief marriage and distant family. So when this charming, good-looking guy showed up and started helping me with all my sundry problems, including (what appeared to be) some financial help, I was grateful. Perfect set-up!

      I later spoke to a TV producer who interviewed several women like me who had been similarly victimized and he said we were all very bright — but lonely, isolated, lacking self-esteem and people close enough to us, physically or emotionally, to yank us away from it all. My then BFF — a psychologist (!) did not even see through him, though her boyfriend, a journalist, found him creepy and weird.

      What bothers me is not that these people live among us (which is very disturbing) but that when I really needed the police and DA to do their damn jobs and arrest and prosecute and possibly put the creep back in jail…they refused. That upset me far more than becoming a crime victim.

      • I am a bright and independent female who has a Bachelor’s Degree and a good job. My IQ was tested when I was a child and I was told it was somewhere near 160. I too, am a victim of one such “con man.” Not only was this person a liar and a thief, apprently everyone in the small town I’d moved to knew this. No one warned me because he was also VIOLENT and they were actually afraid of him. (This included his own family.) Thinking he was someone else, I fell in love and allowed him to move in with me. He would work for a week or to, pretend to be “laid off,” than go months without working. I was never shown a dime. Then my own money began disappearing out of my purse and I had the HR Manager write an “incident report” where I worked because I assumed it was a coworker stealing the money!!! When I set this guy up and he proved his guilt, he got so mad he BEAT ME and killed my dog. I USED to be a trusting person. Now I feel like a shell of my former self–scoffing at other women’s problems. I feel very cynical and critical and almost like I know more than happy people do about the world, if that makes any sense!

      • It makes a great deal of sense. Sorry you faced such an ordeal. It is not a matter of your intelligence at work — but your trust in others.

        I hope (?) you had this man arrested and prosecuted?

  8. Thank you. It is difficult to view myself as a victim but necessary in order for me to remember this wasn’t a situation based on a lack of intelligence!!! (So foremost I appreciate your pointing that out!) This person was arrested and prosecuted. Due to a lengthy criminal record and some legal obligations/restitution payments he had ignored, he was given 8 years in federal prison. I obviously had mixed feelings about the sentence, since I felt I was being held responsible for his being “locked up.” I have to remind myself every day that worrying about how he or his family perceive me is both a sign of insecurity and a complete waste of time. In addition, it was my having “escaped” from my own apartment and nearly breaking down the door of a neighbor, that led to MY calling 911 from said neighbors apartment. (My neighbor was worried about illegal immigration status so he was reluctant to open that door–at first literally pushing it closed as I tried to open it.) He later was called to testify in court and was so nervous he said he saw and heard nothing that night. I found this more than a little frustrating, since my friends and I spent hours cleaning my blood from his apartment.) Forgiveness is something I am capable of but trust is now something I am virtually incapable of. I have since moved 90 miles away and changed my name. I am resiliant and in a way quite lucky but I also tend to have a case of the “poor mes.” I realize this was originally a blog about trust and I sincerely apologize for my rant but truly appreciate your time.

    • You are so articulate about this…seeing oneself as a victim is so NOT what we want to do. But it is legally, morally, ethically and spiritually true. Thank heaven you were able to see him jailed.

      Interesting that you can forgive but not trust. Have you (I hope!) done therapy or sought other help since then? I joined a church after realizing I had become so utterly isolated and felt desolate and broken. I truly felt beyond redemption. I did not date for months and did not allow a man I did not know well into my home for a year. I still live in the same place, (I own it), but I was “only” subject to emotional manipulation, not physical harm.

      I don’t see this as a rant. I am thankful you are better now, and wish that more women were as willing to share their stories. It is totally terrifying to be annihilated (as one is, even for a while) by the sheer, determined evil of a criminal. I feel very strongly now that the world is divided into two — those who have been victims of crime (and see things very differently as a result) and those who have not, and as a result cannot even imagine the effects it has on your life, then and later.

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