Today, Sunday, Jan. 27, the 16th anniversary of the Butts triple homicide in Atlanta, Texas. The three were found in their Walnut St. mobile home, just a block off a main, heavily traveled street. This is the case I am writing a book about; a case I have covered since that rainy day after the Super Bowl in 1992.
I had remembered earlier in the day that today was "the" day, and recalled many years of covering and then taking part in memorial services in remembrance of Gerri Faye, Jessica, and Mackenzie. Jessica was only 11 at the time she was killed; Mackenzie only 3.
I was doing pretty good, and hadn't dwelled on the anniversary since I am now 400 miles away, but when Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" came on the radio...it was Katy bar the door. That was the song that had been played at every memorial I attended, usually near the end of the program.
And it moved me. My own tears came streaming down my face. Though not unprecedented, the tears were unexpected.
The three-year-old who is now part of my life was standing nearby and I reached out for her and hugged her tight. When I let go, her mother came over and wrapped her arms around me, consoling.
I apologized for the unexpected display of emotion, but she assured me it was okay.
I thought about the man who sits in jail awaiting trial for these murders. A man, Kevin Hailey, arrested a couple of months after they happened, then no-billed by a grand jury. He wasn't arrested for the murders until last year, after new DNA evidence strengthened the case against him and a new district attorney decided it was time to seek justice in the case. The DA, Clint Allen, is also seeking the death penalty in the case.
I thought about how Hailey (okay allegedly) took three lives, including the two young girls. Mad joined sad.
My book MUST get written. I not only owe it to the memory of Gerri Faye, Jessica and Mackenzie, but I also need to tell the story of the man who I believe took their lives, and tell of those who allowed him to walk free for 15 years. There is a pre-trial hearing for Hailey in late February. His attorney has moved for a change of venue.
The book has a beginning and a middle, and I hope sometime in 2008 it will have an ending, too.
I want to hear "Tears in Heaven" and think that the three Butts girls know that a satisfactory resolution has been reached and whoever is responsible for taking their lives has paid the price for their evil.
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