Az 53 minutes away from killing someone
That was the subject line on an e-mail I got, from a lawyer friend in Arizona yesterday.
A while later, Donald Beaty was killed.
It's just a couple of weeks past 27 years since he murdered Christy Ann Fornoff. Laurie Roberts, columnist for the Arizona Republic, gives the rough plot.
It was May 9, 1984, a hot Wednesday evening, a little before 8 p.m. Christy, just six days past her 13th birthday, grabbed her tennis shoes, pulled on some shorts over her swimsuit and announced she needed to collect a few overdue accounts from customers on her paper route.
It was a trip she had made dozens of times but it would soon be dusk and so her mother, Carol, decided to go along.
She clipped a leash on Pepe, the family cockapoo, while Christy hopped onto her brother's bike and off they went, to the Rock Point Apartments on McClintock Drive.
At the complex, Carol stopped to chat with a resident while Christy went on ahead.
"Mom, you know where I'm going," Christy said, and her mother told her that she'd catch up shortly.
"We were already in the complex," Carol told me this week. "I thought it was fine."
Five minutes later, Carol broke off the conversation, noticing that it was getting dark. She found the bicycle, leaning against a back patio fence and knew instantly that something was wrong. Christy, Carol said, would never leave her brother's new bike unattended.
Two days later, Christy's body was found behind a dumpster in the apartment complex. She'd been raped and suffocated, wrapped in a sheet and dumped beside the trash. The man who discovered her body was Donald Beaty, a 29-year-old maintenance worker in the complex and the man who killed Christy Ann Fornoff.
Roberts says the case "wrenched in the heart of this city." From what happened to Christy Fornoff, Arizonans learned to live in fear. The gates of hell opened on a residential side street, and the world would never be the same.
Maybe. I've never lived in Arizona, been there only briefly, in the Phoenix airport to change planes. I hear it's a beautiful state. I know it has an interesting history, a politically curious present. The demographics of the place are fascinating. I've got a number of friends who live there.
And although I pay more than my share of attention to death penalty cases around the country, and although I had some very vague sort of familiarity with the name of Donald Beaty, I didn't know anything about the case and don't think I'd ever heard of Christy Ann Fornoff - yet another thing that's bizarre about those who are passionate about the death penalty - for years, maybe decades, the press will be all about the killer with the victim of the criminal act no more than an afterthought.
Want the focus on your loved one rather than the person who did her in? Convince the prosecutor not to seek death. If only Dr. Petit understood that.
But I digress.
Since I don't know anything much about the case beyond what I've read in the last 36 hours or so, I'm prepared to assume that Beaty was a monster and Christy Ann an angel. I have no doubt that her death was devastating to her family. And it's difficult, especially without knowing anything of the man, to stir up much sympathy for Beaty.
Still, it's well to remember both she and he. In some sense, they're permanently joined, have been for 27 years. And each was killed, murdered. She by him; he by the people of Arizona. No equivalence, as I've said before since, whatever else it may be, death (and murder in particular) is always deeply personal and individual. But joined in those facts nonetheless.
But it's not my case, not my state, and there are plenty of murders, by individuals and by governments, to go around. And my subject, despite how this looks so far, isn't she or he or her killing or his.
My subject is Christy Ann's family.
Laurie Roberts reports that along with lobbying for "victims' rights" (and I don't want to get side-tracked into that subject here) they've been holding retreats for those who grieve the loss of a loved one. That's her set up for this.
They've taught the rest of us a thing or two as well, about humanity and how to live.
"We forgave him immediately because Christy was a forgiving child and we just knew that she would not want us suffering with unforgiveness," Carol told me. "It eats at you. It's a selfish thing in a way. I don't want to hurt any more than I already am. Forgiveness is the only way."
They plan to be at the prison in Florence when Beaty is killed, but not for hate and vengeance.
Mirriam Seddiq has one of the great tag lines in blogdom
We are all not guilty of something. . .
Equally, of course, we are all, each of us, guilty of something. We each need to be forgiven, even if we don't deserve it.
The Fornoff's get it. More, they know that hatred really doesn't heal and that death, however it is administered, is no cure, no remedy, has nothing to recommend it.
Roberts quotes Carol again.
"I'm just expecting it to be very sad," she said. "It's not joyous to see a person die. We feel sad and many of us wish to pray for his soul and hope that he has forgiveness."