Yesterday, roughly five miles from where I grew up, a woman was killed in her own home. Margaret "Peggy" Kostelnik, a 60-year-old resident of Concord, Ohio, was found by her husband, William. She was an employee of the neighboring city of Willoughby for twenty-seven years, and most recently, was the assistant of Mayor David Anderson. Anderson remarked, "I was thinking this morning, Peggy Kostelnik might be the nicest person I've ever met." Now, that beautiful person is gone, taken from this world in the place where she should have been the safest: her own home.
The Concord/Mentor area of Northeast Ohio is a quiet, middle class suburb of Cleveland. For perspective, in recent years, many rankings had Mentor as one of the top 100 places to live in the nation. Housed in Lake County where the amount of lives taken by violence each year, can normally be counted on two hands, the events that took place in my hometown, showed that the senseless violence that seems all too common across the nation, is even permeating into family oriented suburbs.
It all started yesterday morning, when a 14-year-old girl was able to escape from her uncle who was allegedly trying to rape her. She called 911 from a nearby veterinary office. Thankfully, she was not physically hurt, and was able to identify the suspect. After searching the park where the incident occurred and finding no trace there or at the suspect's home, Painesville police acquired a warrant for the suspect's arrest.
With the suspect still at large, police received a report a few hours later that a woman, who had been walking with her two children on the Greenway Corridor, a trail that connects Concord and Painesville, had been shot. The suspect fired even after the woman claimed that she was with her kids. He reportedly fired a total of five shots. She was hit in the arm, but again, thankfully, she and her children will be okay.
Unfortunately, the suspect fled successfully until shortly after the news of the fatal shooting of Peggy Kostelnik was discovered. A group of 50 law enforcement officials found the suspect along a large embankment, and while the suspect fired at police, no one was injured. Officers returned fire but the suspect ducked behind cover and was then surrounded and arrested on the scene, putting an end to the terror and violence that he unleashed over the course of the day.
Multiple families were personally afflicted by these despicable and unexplainable actions, and one beautiful woman lost her life. The only word that comes to mind is senseless.
What makes yesterday's events even more unsettling is that the suspect had been stopped three weeks ago for a traffic violation and it was discovered that he was living in the United States illegally. After police spoke with him, Border Patrol contacted the suspect as well, but no detainer was issued for him. He had been living in the country for five years, undocumented, and little besides that is known. The suspect does not speak English, and has no prior criminal record that is known as of yet. It is because of his apparent clean status, that he was not apprehended by authorities after investigating his status as an American citizen.
Immigration laws and reform are testily debated across the United States, mostly in states along the Mexican border like California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, along with Florida. However, the debate is a national issue with populations migrating from those states up north and into places like Painesville, Ohio. Most people have an opinion on whether or not undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States, and since we are supposed to live in a nation that prides itself on free speech, each person is entitled to their views, however different they may be from their neighbor's thoughts.
In this particular case, the system has failed. There are without question undocumented immigrants that try to be upstanding members of society, but the man who allegedly terrorized my hometown was not one of them. He slipped through the cracks. After Border Patrol was contacted and he was deemed okay to stay in Northeast Ohio, he was free to commit these heinous crimes against upstanding American citizens. When someone is deemed to be an undocumented immigrant, and that was determined from a case of probable cause not from racial profiling or immigration laws like the ones that were fervently debated in Arizona, a thorough investigation of what they are actually doing in America, at the very least, should be performed.
One cannot help but think that a man who was capable of such an act would raise some red flags during an investigation as to his reasons for residing in the states and his day to day life. It is quite obvious, that this man who more fittingly can be described as a monster, should not have been simply brushed off as an undocumented immigrant without a criminal record. The suspect has a criminal record now, and with a $10 million bond and multiple felony charges incoming, he will likely never be a free man again. His crimes took away the basic freedoms of the citizens in this community, and the life of an innocent woman. Hopefully, the families affected by this tragedy can find peace with time, and may Peggy Kostelnik rest peacefully.
The suspect's name has been intentionally excluded from this article because all too often, the names of criminals appear more than those of their victims in the media. We, as humans, attribute names to people, but anyone who is capable of these atrocious crimes against humanity, has lost their privilege of being regarded as a member of civilized society and therefore does not deserve to be mentioned by name.