I follow the news constantly so when I heard about a missing person's case involving a woman in Utah just over two years ago, it caught my attention. Her husband claimed he had taken their two very young sons for a midnight camping trip. In a blizzard. To the middle of nowhere and far away. When the trio returned home, mom was gone but her car keys and cell phone weren't.
This just all just sounded plain crazy to me. This guy was not only a murderer but he was nuts too. What sane and responsible parent would drag their kids, the youngest barely out of toddlerhood, out in the middle of the night during a snowstorm to go camping?
Over the next couple of years, I followed the case as it developed because I couldn't wait for Josh Powell to be put in jail for murdering his wife, Susan. What was taking law enforcement so damn long? I already had it all figured out. He obviously did it. And when Powell's father was arrested and put in jail for having child porn in his computer, the story got even weirder.
When I heard the news last Sunday that Powell had blown up his house with his two sons in it, I was stunned -- and grief-stricken. So this was how it was going to end? I didn't know Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, but my youngest child is about to turn four in two weeks. That was enough for me. In a way, I knew them because I am a mom and in every kid I see my own.
Besides, I'm the type of person that can easily get caught up in another person's pain. It can be a curse. When I was a reporter covering, for instance, the drowning death of a child or a teen killed in a car accident, I would sit with my notepad in hand, diligently taking notes with tears running down my cheeks.
Compassion is important to me and I can't help sometimes being overwhelmed by the pain of others. I always tried to put myself in the parent's shoes. Then I would go home and hug my own kids.
About 17 years ago, I was a very young mom in college when the infamous Susan Smith case happened in South Carolina. She steered her car into a lake and drowned her two little boys because they were getting in the way of her affair with a wealthy man. She said an African-American man had carjacked her. With that, she most likely had every innocent African-American man in the region shaking with fear for being mistaken for the murderer.
I remember hearing the first report on the radio and looking in the rear view mirror at my two small children in the backseat, both strapped in their car seats, happy and secure. They were close in age to the little boys murdered by their mom, now serving a life sentence in prison.
They smiled back at me innocently and with trust in their eyes.
When I put myself in Josh Powell's shoes, they didn't fit. He said he couldn't live without them. Fine. Why couldn't he have just killed himself then?
Then more details came out. The autopsy revealed that the children had died of carbon monoxide but had been hacked with a hatchet by their father first. That's when I really broke down. These boys suffered horrendously. What a selfish and horrible thief who has wreaked havoc on so many lives. With this story everywhere in the news, I feel like I can't escape and with every tidbit of information that gets out, it's like torture.
When I went to the doctor this week, I asked the nurse if she had heard about the story. I was looking for comfort, someone else who perhaps felt the same way I did.
"No, I had no idea," she said.
"Do you watch the news?" I asked.
"No, never," she said. Lucky, I thought to myself.
Then I saw someone say in a newspaper story that they were comforted by the fact that at least now the two boys were reunited with their mom. That sounded so nice that I decided not to let my secular humanism keep me from accepting that theory. After all, fairy tales serve a purpose, right?