He was supposed to have been indicted in June. His father had been hacked to death in his own bed with an ax the previous November. His mother was similarly brutalized and left for dead with her husband but survived. On the last Monday of that August, after several months and many investigative twists, turns, and fumbles, there sat the son—the prime suspect—in my literature class, the first class I would teach for the semester. Not only was the young man under suspicion for the murder and attempted murder of his parents, but his parents were acquaintances of mine. My husband and I exchanged news with them at school concerts and waited behind them in checkout lines. Their son sat near ours in band practice, and their house was on our running route.
His mom, an employee of a local school system, is the kind of woman who would agree to model clothing at the church fashion show; his dad was a guy who, when his boys were preschoolers, exchanged a private law practice for a public-sector job, a swap that must have meant less money but more time with his two sons. The couple mowed their lawn, arranged play dates for their kids, and carpooled to sports and lessons, just like the rest of us.
The killing and assault created a fault line for a while in our subdued suburb, with its fine schools and well-behaved citizenry. There were those in our town who "knew" the son did it and those who "knew" he didn't. The college kids' grapevine was ripe with stories, which, even if only half were true, revealed in the son a dangerous charisma and an Olympic-size ability to lie. His guilt was less frequently debated as family e-mails were reprinted in the news papers, as cameras and computers he allegedly stole and sold on eBay were located, and as security-camera videos of his familiar yellow Jeep came to light.