A Terribly Sad Day

Even as our hearts  sink with sadness, they  go out to the family of Somer Renee Thompson, the 7-year-old whose body was found in a landfill. It is impossible to think of her story without feeling rage and anguish.

It’s also a hard time to talk about the fact that her case, as searing as it is, is also exceedingly rare. That’s why it is national and, I hear, international news. That doesn’t make it any easier for her family. And it doesn’t negate the immediate urge to hold our children close. It just reminds us that we are lucky that such stories are uncommon enough to make them shocking.

As David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, said in an interview about this case: “I am of the opinion that these kinds of crimes have declined.”

It doesn’t feel like it at the moment. It can’t. And, knowing TV, it won’t, not for a long time. But I’m very  glad the country’s leading expert on such things sees such travesties becoming ever less common, and I look forward to the day they are less common still. — Lenore

105 Responses

  1. My heart hurts so much for her family.

  2. It’s awful and tragic and my heart goes out to the Thompsons and the larger community who is mourning Somer’s loss.

    The entire office full of people that I work with attacked the decision of Somer’s parents as dangerous and wrong-headed this morning after hearing the awful news. Even with hard numbers in hand provided by the US Bureau of Justice statistics, rather than recognize that violent crimes against children have subsided back to levels seen when we were children (or even earlier, depending on age), they just shook their heads and stated flat out “I refuse to believe that’s true”.

    I probably shouldn’t have taken them on when the attacks against the parents started this morning, but I was physically incapable of sitting here and listening to everyone condemn Somer’s parents for letting her walk to school with a group of other children. I know that emotions are running high and that never makes for the most rational debate.

    I’ll probably be lucky if someone I work with doesn’t call CPS on me.😦

  3. @Joette, I feel the same way. I feel horrible for her family, but I couldn’t read the comments on this article without feeling sick: http://www.bloggernews.net/122714 These people are practically hysterical about the threat of child abduction, and one even says “LITTLE CHILDREN CANT EVER WALK SCHOOL FROM HOME OR WALK HOME FROM SCHOOL …
    THEY DONT SEEM TO BE SAFE IN THIS COUNTRY!” (all caps hers).

    I kind of want to comment there but know it would start a flame war.

  4. Yes I feel awful for the family. And yeah the parents don’t need more grief on top of this from hysterical strangers.

    On a board I often visit, numerous mothers are saying that school districts should pass rules that state no child can walk to school from kindergarten up to grade X (some saying as high as grade 5). This kind of thinking is the usual knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy but will not solve anything and will only keep kids more sheltered and less capable.

  5. Tragic… yes

    Also tragic that the parents are being blamed rather then the person who actually harmed Somer.

    I really was reflecting, because my children will eventually walk home without me in a year or two.

    Think about how many newer home developments, that even if there is an adult home at 3pm, the primary family room may be in the back of the house. A porch or an enclosed seasonal room in front, isn’t common either. On days in which children are playing outside, us, adults may be inside instead. Even if inside our windows aren’t open due to central air/heating or we can’t view anything outside our yard because we value privacy with high fences and hedges.

    Being in an older home, our family room is actually in the front and close to our street. If there is an adult simply hanging around, I’m there and probably other adults making note of it. Ironically because many parents now have to go outside to smoke, they’re out on the stoop.

    We blame parents for not protecting their children, but adult social behavior (hiding in our own homes) is what opened up this problem. Rather then being the eyes and ears of the neighborhood, we stick our heads in the ground, and creates possible opportunities for children to be preyed upon when the ‘good strangers’ disappear into their home.

    The themes from the book, ‘Bowling Alone’ come to mind in the change of adult behavior.

  6. What happened to that child is heartbreaking. It’s a shame that this tragedy is bringing out the worst in people. I turned on Headline News for about five minutes last night, then turned it off after listening to Jane Velez-Mitchell claim that child abductions are a “crisis” in this country and that there is a “war” on women and children. She’s trying to make people hysterical for the sake of ratings.

  7. It’s tragic. However, I do feel seven is too young to walk to and from school without an adult. Obviously the other children she was with were not mature enough to go after her or make sure she stayed with them in the first place. I do believe it was an error in judgment by the parents.

    This reminds me in part of the post about the mom who sent the little kids to the mall with the 11 or 12 year olds, and she got arrested because the older girls did not obey and they left the younger ones unattended while they tried on clothes in the dressing room. Again, an error in judgment by the parents…those girls obviously were not capable of being responsible for those younger children.

    Younger children really DO need to be under the supervision of an adult or at least an older teen. Other young children are not babysitters.

  8. Here is the full text of what Dr. Finkelhor said:

    “Dr. Finkelhor added in a telephone interview on Thursday: “I am of the opinion that these kinds of crimes have declined. They are shocking and galvanizing to the communities where they occur. But some of the research suggests that the effort we have made, both in flushing out sex offenders, incarcerating them and doing things like registering them and keeping tabs on them, are among the things responsible for the decline.”

    Maybe so, but it is sad that so many are put on these registration lists without actually committing a “hard core” crime. It was said that there were over 500 registered sex offenders within 5 miles of her home. I would hope that the police use some sort of common sense in weeding out which ones to talk to first, given that our laws currently lack such sense in creating these bloated lists in the first place.

  9. I do have one question about the case, now I haven’t read up on it in the past couple of hours, so maybe you’ll know-
    Is it possible that it was garbage pickup day when she ran ahead and she climbed into a dumpster (or whatever?). Has it been definitely proven that she was taken?
    I could easily see a child running ahead to hide or sulk and make that kind of choice to climb in somewhere.
    Or maybe, sadly she is that statistic; that 1 in whatever million…

  10. Thank you for this post, Lenore. It’s beautifully written, and it is, indeed, a terribly sad day. My heart goes out to Somer and to everyone who loved her.

    I agree with what several other commenters have said that what happened is firmly the fault of whoever did it, and I do hope he or she will be caught, soon.

  11. I was outraged at the audacity of folks on Facebook this morning, who seemed to have no idea that by saying things like “children shouldn’t be allowed to walk to school so young…etc.” they were passing judgment, effectively blaming her parents for Somer’s murder.

    These people are too afraid to place their rage where it rightly belongs–on the murdering piece of filth who did this to her. Too many people want to attach a “non-confrontational” solution to problems like this. Unfortunately, their touchy-feely good intentions lead to a nation of shut-ins who age to adulthood, but remain mentally children. The rational response should be to bring the perpetrator to swift and fierce justice.

    Sadly, the same folks who would have us all locked up for our own safety tend to swoon when faced with the difficult task of bringing about true justice.

    I’m sick and tired of being labeled as insensitive or intolerant simply because I’m not willing to give people a pass for having good intentions. To me, good intentions are like swinging an axe in a dark room full of people. Real good works require one to turn on the lights and see reality for what it is.

  12. “Younger children really DO need to be under the supervision of an adult or at least an older teen. Other young children are not babysitters.”

    It really depends on the maturity level of the child in question. I was expected to be responsible for my brother (3 years younger than me) from the time I was 6 or 7 years old when we went out to play with the neighborhood kids, often without ANY adult supervision. It was usually a mix of age ranges, with the oldest being around 11-12 and the youngest 3-4, with the understanding that the oldest were to look out for the younger kids, but my parents always made it clear that my brother was my special responsibility. I may not have been happy about it all the time, but the rules were pretty simple: if you want to go out to play and your brother does, too, you have to look after him, otherwise neither of you is going anywhere. Yes, they did take a risk, but it was one they were apparently willing to take because they trusted me, and believe me, that level of trust wasn’t lost on me, no matter how young I was, and In the long run, it was a good way to teach me (and those other kids) responsibility.

    I don’t know what the maturity level of poor Somer or the children she was with, but I’d hesitate about making calls about her parents’ level of judgment or casting aspersions on the maturity level of those other kids. Painting all children with the “not responsible enough until you’re X age” brush discounts the wide range of behavior and capability levels of kids in general. I’ve known 8 year olds who are far more capable than teens twice that age – it really does vary wildly. It’s terrible and heartwrenching what happened, but the sad fact is that in the end there really may be no making sense of what happened to Somer – and that’s probably the most frightening thing of all about this story.

  13. Kali – I posted a comment on that link and it hasn’t shown up yet – it said it would have to be reviewed by the blog owner, but I don’t think she wanted to post what I had to say!

    I agree – this is a terribly sad a horrible ending to the story, and my prayers too go out to the family, but I agree that there is no way to try to make sense of what happened here. It was senseless and no one is to blame except the pathetic excuse of a human who did this to Somer.

    We just have to continue to love our children without abandon each day and know that life is precious, we never know is going to happen – be it by a stranger on the streets, or in the car on the way to the playground. Life is short, and we have to live each day to the fullest (not hidden in our houses!)

  14. I agree with what Susan K says above – we all have immediately assumed some sick person saw this girl alone, snatched her up, mudered her and put her in a dumpster. The reality is, she ran ahead and out of sight of her siblings, and then was found in dumpster.

    Any number of things could have happened to her, she could have crawled in and hid, as mentioned. She could have gotten hit by a car and fearful of the charges, the driver could have put her in the dumpster.

    There have been no details regarding her presumed cause of death to indicate any of the terrible things most people are assuming (sex offenders, kidnapping etc) have happened.

    Please don’t take any of this to mean that I don’t think the entire situtation is terrible, regardless of what really happened.

    People jump to conclusions when terrible things happen. Its easier to deal with things like this when there is something tangible to blame…in some people’s case, the parents, in others the local sex offender, but it could have just been a tragic accident.

  15. My heart breaks for Somer’s parents. The loss of a child is the most profound kind of grief anyone can ever experience.

    Like others here, I cannot BELIEVE the reactions of some people. To actually blame the parents for letting her walk to/from school- is the WORST kind of abuse you could ever perpetrate on another person. I don’t think any of these horribly misguided fools even stop to think of the guilt and horror those parents are already feeling- and the person who SHOULD feel guilty- the person who hurt that girl most likely doesn’t feel a thing!

    It’s a shame that we live in a society that offers condemnation of parents who should be receiving nothing but care and support. They are grieving their CHILD!! Quite frankly, the people who are spewing hatred and guilt-trips should be criminalized.

  16. @ Susan K “Is it possible that it was garbage pickup day when she ran ahead and she climbed into a dumpster?”

    The police haven’t released any information related to how she died. We don’t know that it was an abduction. Someone could have hit her with his car, panicked, then hid the body, or any number of other scenarios.

  17. Kali – Sweet Jebus. The blog entry was bad enough, but I couldn’t scroll all the way to the end of the comments. I can understand and sympathize with the fear that Somer’s death has aroused in parents – it’s completely natural – but taking pride in being a “paranoid mom”? REALLY?? Why not take pride in being a mom who admits to being scared but has the strength to overcome that fear and trust the capability of her kids to let them experience as much of life as they can – because who knows what can happen – instead?

  18. I’m sorry, I’m really not blaming the parents when I say it was an error in judgment. Believe me, I’ve made plenty of those myself as a parent and mine could have ended in tragedy, too. I am middle of the road when it comes to free range….not 100% free range, and not 100% over protective. This issue is one I lean on the over protective side with.

  19. My heart goes out to this girl’s family. Horrible news.

    Let’s not forget there’s more bad news: they said 151 sex offenders lived in a 5-mile radius from her home. I wonder how many of these people had their life ruined because they actually comitted a crime and how many just did something stupid. Of course, 151 is a meaningless number unless all of them are convicted of sex crimes against a minor. If the sex offender’s register wasn’t stuffed to the rim with people thrown in there for petty crimes, the police would’ve had a lot more time left to follow leads…

  20. Kate – totally understandable, this is an awful thing and I’m sure there are lots of other scared parents out there, free range or no. Everyone’s got something they can be over-protective about. My mom had no problem with teaching me how to use kitchen knives and the stove, but god forbid she caught me reading in less than ideal light or *gasp!* the car: “you’ll go blind reading in a moving vehicle!” Well, I didn’t go blind, but I did end up with glasses (I’m horribly near-sighted), but so are a lot of my relatives so I’m blaming it on genetics rather than reading in low light in a moving car as a kid.🙂

  21. Whenever something awful happens to a child, our instinctive, horrified defence mechanism is to search for the variable in the situation that we could control to make sure the same thing could never happen to our kid. Otherwise life just seems to random and terrifying. In this case, the controlable variable seems to be letting kids walk home from school. But the truth is we can NEVER control all the variables. Their mom could have picked them up at school and been hit by a drunk driver on the way home. They could have made is home safe and been electrocuted by a malfunctioning microwave–which would have resulted in a massive recall of all microwaves of that model in an attempt to control THAT variable . .

  22. Special for you guys, I posted this on MomLogic… which fortunately, from the comments, seems to have at least a few moms using their heads.
    ——-
    “It’s a shame to see such a knee jerk reaction to a child being abducted. The statistics are far more grim for children being shuttled around and kept inside.

    Morbid childhood obesity is on the rise and consequently type II diabetes. In our CHILDREN. **TEENAGERS** are needing heart transplants, not because of a genetic defect, but because they are overweight! Fatty livers, doctors who have said they never used to see them in people 20 and younger, are more and more prevalent… and even kidney disease is rising among 8-year-olds.

    I’m sorry – but 115 kids out of the us dying at the hands of a stranger is low enough for me to ensure my kids walk themselves to school and home, and get outside and play. When we’re talking 1 in 4 kids KIDS being obese – I’ll take the precautions (outside – both of you) to ensure that I prevent THAT.

    People want to talk about not putting their kids in danger – that’s exactly what you do when you shuttle them around and shut them up in the house like prisoners. You are killing them. Just look at any health related news and see the statistics.

    For goodness sake – According to the National Weather Service, 400 people a year are struck by lighting. DOUBLE HOW MANY KIDS ARE KIDNAPPED. Are you telling me we should start issuing mandatory prison time for people that decide to go outside during a thunderstorm too? “

  23. @Nicola – there you go, using reason and logic. Can’t have any of THAT on the Intarbuttz.

    Every day, I am reminded more and more of why I like FRK so much. Y’all are SENSIBLE! You THINK! And most importantly, you believe your kids are ACTUAL PEOPLE!

    Seriously, you are my Tribe.

    I used to belong to a bunch of parenting communities at LiveJournal. I fled the “traditional” ones almost immediately, they were so full of self-righteous twaddle, and it was obvious that the parents there were only looking to score Mommy Points.

    So I tried the “alternative” communities – the ones supposedly inhabited by people like me. You know, unconventional looking (hair funny colors, tats, piercings, etc.), heavily involved with the internet and technology, gamer geeks, performers, etc. “Green” folks, pretty crunchy/neo-hippie types.

    They were WORSE! I got the hell out of there, too.

    I don’t always have a lot to say here, I’m pretty busy, but I do read everything, and I appreciate all of you for talking sense. You remind me that I am NOT crazy, that it’s the people who lock their kids away from the world and keep them helpless who are the loons.

    Lenore, you are a most gracious hostess, and I appreciate this oasis of sense in the middle of a vast ocean of crazy.

  24. I wonder if these people who blame Somer’s parents for letting her walk to school without adult supervision also blame, say, the parents of Polly Klaas, for allowing her to be in her own bedroom without adult supervision (if you recall, she was the 12 year old girl who was abducted by a stranger who broke in and took her from within her own home during a slumber party in 1993).

    On that note, the Polly Klaas foundation (www.pollyklaas.org) has on their website their own case management statistics (through 2007).

    The number of missing child cases that the Klaas foundation assisted in investigating in 2007: 250.

    Of those 250, the number that were “non-family abductions (includes stranger abductions)”: 2.

  25. Lenore, is it possible to get yourself on CNN to refute the absolute drivel being spouted by Jane Velez-Mitchell and her guests on HLN? One guest just announced that crimes against children are “skyrocketing.”

    I don’t know why I keep tuning in to her show. Maybe the same reason everyone in the kitchen has to smell the sour milk before you throw it out.

  26. This happened in my town. An innocent child was taken from us, and make no mistake, it was a murder. Until they catch this creep, and I have every hope that they will, there is a child murderer loose, and it has everyone in our town on edge. My church has been heavily involved in the search effort, and in providing meals and comfort to the family, and now we are trying to start up a “walking school bus” idea for the kids that have to continue to walk home from Somer’s school.
    (http://getreal.typepad.com/get_real_with_david_tarki/2009/10/continuing-to-minister-to-somers-family-community-plus-what-to-do-now.html)
    I think this is a reasonable reaction to this heinous situation. Based on how quickly she was taken, in a matter of minutes, really, that she was separated from the other kids that she walked with, the murderer is very likely somebody from the neighborhood. I’m proud of how my community has come out in support of the Thompson family. I think it proves that the majority of people are good, kind people who will drop everything to look for a missing child, who will stay out all night combing through the woods, who will stand at street corners and hand out flyers, who will gather together in prayer, and fall to their knees in anguish when the worst is confirmed. If we stick together as a community, and help watch out for each other’s kids, we won’t need knee-jerk responses like laws banning kids from walking to school. As horrifying as this is to our community, even our Sheriff said in his press conference this morning, this is an extremely rare occurrance, and we need to continue to live our lives and not hide ourselves away.

  27. @ Nicola – using your intellect and rationale to make a reasonable assessment of benefits versus risks rather than knee-jerk reactionary emotional gut feelings? Just what kind of parent are you??

    Well done.

  28. Well put.

  29. This from an article on the child’s death:

    “At a nearby shrine formed by flowers and dozens of teddy bears, Catherine Sullivan held her teary-eyed 5-year-old daughter, Nya Frederick. They drove to the Thompsons’ neighborhood from Jacksonville because Sullivan wanted to show her child the danger of being too friendly with strangers.

    “She seemed to understand when I explained to her, her mommy wouldn’t see her anymore,” she said.”

    Way to go, mom. Scare the crap out of your kid before you even know the real story of what happened to Somer.

  30. This girl’s parents are to blame for her death in the same way that a person killed in a car crash is to blame for being on the road at the same time as the drunk driver who plows into them.

    Oh, horrors…they let their child walk to school. Big hairy deal!

    Let’s imagine for a moment that one of her parents had been driving her to school that day, when out of nowhere, here comes a carjacker. The carjacker yanks the driver out from behind the wheel and takes off with the child still in the car. Days later, her body is found in the landfill. Would people still be blaming the parent who was driving because they DIDN’T let her walk to school, or because they didn’t lock the car door before pulling out of the driveway, thus creating an opportunity for the carjacker to get his hands on her? Where does the blame game end?

  31. Kim, the blame game doesn’t end. It’s too much fun for the idiots who keep playing it.

    I’m just waiting to hear on this one from some of the overprotective parents in my area. I’ve been talking to them about our second graders starting to walk from school without parents, and so far they all think I’m nuts. I was doing that in kindergarten.

  32. I’m a dedicated free ranger. My kids (8 and 9) walk or bike to school every day unaccompanied by me or any adult. It’s only about a half mile walk and we live in a very safe town within Oakland (Piedmont).

    So please talk me down off the ledge. I googled sex offenders in my neighborhood and ended up at http://www.familywatchdog.us/ . I looked at my zip (94610, CA). I even looked at the specific offenses, and did NOT find a bunch of indecent exposure or stuff like that. What I saw was things like “continuous sex abuse of a child” or “rape by force”.

    What am I supposed to do with this info?!?

  33. @Brain: Nothing. You do nothing with that information, which is why I think it’s pointless to have it available to the public. It only serves to scare them. The majority of people on that list will be half-sensible, regardless of their crime and have no interest in heading for jail. So no matter what the list says about them, they will not turn to their old ways.

  34. Get down off the ledge, Brian. There’s nothing for you to do with that information except to now needlessly worry your head off. Why waste time with that?

  35. ARRRGH! The comments on that momlogic “article”!!! I need to go call someone about replacing the hair I just ripped out of my head! Comments like:

    “I’d rather have control over these sort of things rather than making a great income and not having the opportunity to control a situation like this. Just my opinion.” (-anonymous)

    (You think you’re in control of everything that happens in your life and your child’s? Good luck with that, honey! )

  36. PS- Lenore, this was a beautiful resopnse to a horrible tragedy. Our hearts can break for this family (and mine is!) and we can feel “rage and anguish” over whoever or whatever caused this to happen WITHOUT blaming the parents and llowing this to pull our children further into our shells. Not theirs, mind you… ours.

  37. @ Ben I would disagree.

    I have a good number of offenders in my area too. I check family-watch-dog from time to time. What does someone do about it? If I was a single mother, or just simply single without children I would want to know whoever I was dating was a sex-offender.

    Should children know specifically who are sex-offenders in the community?

    If there was a family I personally knew or I’ve been inside their home, I wouldn’t be too please if they are hiding the fact one of them was indeed a sex offender. I could be pretty clear with the boundaries for that particular person. No need for details though.

  38. My son and I discussed this on our walk to school this morning (Lenore: BEFORE I peeled off for my walk-to-work route halfway there) and we analyzed the possibilities of this happening to him/us. I said it was very unlikely, but nothing was impossible. “Sort of like being hit by lightning, or being attacked by a shark,” my son offered. I don’t know the EXACT numerical equivalents for those events vs. kidnapping, but yes, sort of like that, son.

  39. I thought your post on Momlogic was great, Lenore. Glad to see that they gave you air time.

  40. @Tara, thank you. Beautifully put. Our thoughts are with all of your community.

    @Josee, that passage got me screaming about wanting to slap the teeth outta Catherine Sullivan of Jacksonville, Florida. If we all start saving now I’ll bet we can make a small dent in the fund for the therapy her kid is going to need after this; what an idiotic, prurient act.

  41. I wrote about this on our blog too because I detest the blame that seems to be getting heaped on the mother.
    http://blogs.tampabay.com/moms/2009/10/dont-blame-somers-mother-for-killers-work.html

    Would you tell the victim of a drunk driving accident “Why were you out driving on a Saturday night? You know the roads are full of drunks.” Or course not. The blame goes to the criminal. Somer is a victim of a rare crime, not neglect

  42. Very well written entry, Lenore.

  43. Kali, I’m all over the Momlogic thread, lol!

    It’s sad. But I still don’t believe 7 is too young. My children start walking to school alone at age 5. And all is well.

    It’s just so rare. My heart hurts for those that it happens to, but thank God it’s so ridiculously pathetically statistically improbable, I can still let my children enjoy their childhood. We’re very fortunate to live in such a safe world.

    Why doesn’t the media glorify things like vaccine deaths? Car deaths? Any other death? Because fear sells – everyone has children, everyone can “relate”. It’s media fearmongering of an abduction, and it really needs to stop.

  44. Hmm… my comments are not showing up on the momlogic link posted above. I’ve been on it since she originally posted it… I guess it’s on “Gather” instead of the straight MomLogic site:

    http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474977865490&grpId=3659174697255990

  45. I wanted so badly to go join in the MomLogic thread, and to see what Lenore wrote there. Alas, that website is a flash-filled nightmare of a monstrosity that threatens to break my browser entirely. They need to fire their design team and start over.

    If there’s anything particularly good in that thread, can someone cross post so that I can at least enjoy the thread vicariously?

  46. What gets me was the commenter saying “I’m 45 and this kind of thing never happened when I was a kid.” What? Of course it did. You just never HEARD about it, unless it was in your town.

  47. Joette, it is awful, LOL! It’s just a bunch of the same old same old; my kid won’t walk anywhere without me holding his hand until he’s 25, blah blah blah.

    I’m really the rebel on the thread, bragging about how safe the US is and how such a teeny statistic doesn’t affect the way I parent my kids. I think they don’t like me. LOL

  48. Can I co-sign what Renee said at 3:20 am?

  49. I am NOT blaming the mother, but articles such as these are misleading.

    This is what was said today by Nancy McBride, Safety Director for the Nationa Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

    “TAMPA – It’s not the answer parents expect and it’s not exactly realistic.

    But whenever someone asks Nancy McBride to recommend when children can walk safely to and from school, she tells them never.

    The question is coming up frequently this week for McBride, safety director with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The reason: Seven-year-old Somer Thompson was found dead Wednesday in a landfill after disappearing as she walked home from school near Jacksonville.

    The case is a horrible reminder of how quickly things can go wrong, McBride said, and how vigilant parents must be, especially around schools. …”

    http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/oct/23/na-schoolchildren-find-safety-in-numbers/

  50. @Susan

    I remember in elementary school and on television in the late 70’s and early 80’s kids were constantly told not to hide in dumpsters, trunks, or old refrigerators. In one episode of one my favorite shows one of the kid hid in an old refrigerator and suffocated, but she was lucky as her friends knew CPR.

    Perhaps if this little girl had an accident after crawling into a dumpster the blame should be put on schools for not teaching safety as knowing what to do in certain situations helps kids be more independent.

    Why aren’t kids being taught these basic safety rules ( don’t climb into things that might trap you, not drinking poison, etc) anymore in school?

  51. absolutely the entire situation goes to intent.

    Did the mother intend harm to her daughter when allowing the child to walk home without an adult supervising? I think not.

    Did the killer intend harm to the child and take advantage of the fact that there was no adult supervising? absolutely.

    Yes, there are knee-jerk reactions when something like this happens. Especially within the community where it happens. Parents that never once gave thought to crime in their neighborhoods, against their children, are nort re-thinking that and with good reason.

    Yep, statistics show that this type of crime is down. And in my opinion that fact is due to the work of those who pushed for stronger laws.

    It’s good to read blogs such as this and see parents who are realistic in their parenting – but it grieves me to see such vicious comments here regarding the opinions, feelings, and fears of others.

    Maybe the blame for this fear needs to be placed in its proper place? the media who sensationalizes these cases and scare the living hell out of parents everywhere? I mean, who in the heck would want to experience what this mother is experiencing?

    Of course there is fear. Especially in Orange Park, Florida.

  52. @ Amber

    she did not climb into a dumpster and have a terrible accident.

    It was a homicide.

    But I agree, there should be age-appropriate, mandatory safety classes in the schools.

  53. I’m with all of you. And I keep trying to figure our HOW we can help change the tide of fear and blame. I know it’s not exactly pertinent to Somer’s situation, but a sane voice being drowned out by the craziness is Izzy Kalman. Check out what he wrote about Columbine.

    http://www.bullies2buddies.com/Columbine-Explained-Why-did-they-do-it

    His focus is how we handle bullies and victims…..and his perspective on victim psychology is really thought-provoking. We’ve got a lot of things backwards. Izzy makes a lot of sense, if we can remain calm and think about it!

  54. This is a terribly sad case. I am a mother with a 7 year old daughter and cannot imagine the pain and loss! I applaud the posts that talk about teaching our kids how to be safe and giving them the appropriate range to learn how to do so.

    But I am also very concerned that the fear of this rare event leads people to keep their children inside, cart them everywhere in a car and reduce their ability to live, be healthy and be safe in our world.

    Not to belittle the tragedy of this death, but over 70,000 pedestrians die or are injured by cars every year – many children. This is a horrifying number and one we should all focus on changing so that we can provide the environment to keep our kids safe while they build the confidence, street-smarts and ability to navigate the world!

  55. Brian,

    Get down off the ledge. A couple of things to consider about the actual predators you’ve discovered on the sex offender registry:

    First, its incredibly rare for child molestors to prey upon random children they happen to encounter out in the world. The vast majority of children who are sexually abused are victimized by someone they know well and trust; a family member, babysitter, friend of the family, etc. (This is what the sex offender registries don’t tell you–the relationship of the victim to the criminal. You have to read between the lines: “CONTINUOUS sexual abuse of a child” indicates that the abuse happened over a period of time, that the molestor had long-term contact with the child.)

    Second, the recidivism rate for registered sex offenders is low. Think about it: these are the creeps who’ve already been caught and convicted (or pled guilty), and they are living under restrictive conditions and their names and crimes have been made public . They have far less opportunity and motivation to perpetrate a sex-related crime than those who have not been caught.

  56. Hi Lenore,
    I just published a column on this topic, focusing on how people are blaming Somer’s mother, and how she is blaming herself.

    Don’t blame Somer Thompson’s mother

    http://www.annarbor.com/entertainment/parenting/dont-blame-somer-thompsons-parents/

    -Jen Eyer

  57. I have a better idea than banning kids from walking to school or going outside.

    Let’s ban kids altogether by banning pregnancy.

    The miscarriage rate is estimated to be as high as 20%-50% in the first few weeks of pregnancy and can stay around 5% or so until delivery. MUCH higher odds than abductions! THEN! You have SIDS, which takes, what? .02% or so of infants? Again, you’re talking more probable odds of your kid dying from that!

    Everyone probably knows someone who lost a child to miscarriage or SIDS (if they didn’t lose one to it themselves)!

    PLUS! By banning pregnancies, not only do you stop miscarriages and SIDS, but also child abductions! (Because, of course, it’s quite difficult to abduct a child when there aren’t any around.)

    Yes, I’m being sarcastic. This, in my opinion, illustrates the idiocy of some of the measures people take “for the sake of the kids.” Things like miscarriage, SIDS, and child abductions are essentially the World’s Shittiest Lottery, and regardless of the precautions one might take, or whether they’ve done everything right, if they’re the not-so-lucky winner, there’s not really anything they could have done to prevent it.

  58. protectkidz — Do you have any articles that state Somer’s cause of death by the police or coroner?

  59. no Dragonwolf – they are not releasing any autopsy details or details of the condition of the body, although they stated that this is a homicide.

    I think you you can infer from that, that the condition of the body along with the autopsy has caused them to draw that conclusion.

  60. Here’s a link to a local news article:

    http://www.cfnews13.com/News/Local/2009/10/23/hunt_for_a_child_killer.html?cid=rss

    This is a local 24-hour news outlet, so they’ll be the best bet for anyone who wants to follow the minute to minute updates — not that I recommend anyone do so.

  61. When are we going to get a clue? Why is the next response always the parents are being vigilant now and protecting there childeren from Pedophiles. They are waiting for there chance to snatch your kids and rape and murder them. These same parents a month from now will let there guard down and become lazy again. There next response will be our neighborhood is a safe place, we watch each others childeren. We let our childeren into each others houses because the wife is seems nice. What about the father, do you really know your neighbors, when will you stop taking a gamble with your kids, is it really worth it. Why don’t you come over with your kids and hang out and watch your kids. We have become this society that lets our kids outside by themselves. My generation, I am 36 was given the opportunity to be out allday and be active even though I was only 8. This is not the 70’s. They existed then and pedophiles are everywhere now. I got lucky I think but not for sure. CAN WE PLEASE WATCH OUT FOR OUR OWN KIDS. TAKE THE EXTRA TIME AND MAKE SURE THEY ARE SAFE BY BEING VIGILANT AND NOT TAKING ANY CHANCES BECAUSE IT TAKES ONLY ONE MOMENT AND YOUR KID IS GONE, MOLESTED AND MOST LIKELY DEAD.

  62. Martin, you’re saying that 50 kids out of 300 million people means “pedophiles are everywhere”? Sorry, buddy, but you’re part of the problem. My children are as safe I was in the 70’s, if not safer. You too are blurring the line between CSI and reality; the influence of 24 hour news stations has had it’s effect on you.

    Every time I read a post like yours, I realize how lucky my kids are to have me as a mother. They can actually BREATHE, because I’m not sitting on them under some misdirected, misinformed sense of fear in a safe world.

  63. Instead of blaming the parents for not micro-managing, let’s look at these release programs for sex offenders. We all know these people never change. They are mentally ill- why are they allowed to live among us? They are unable to stop themselves, they will always strike again.

  64. what I want to know from the overprotective and over bearing parents out there is when will it be ok for my kids to play outside with out me hovering over them? When they go to collage?

  65. Hey Martin? You might want to talk to your doc about having your meds adjusted. Your frothing is getting spittle all over my shoes, and it’s pretty gross.

    @Sandra – Sing it louder for the people in the cheap seats, sista! I refuse to live in fear, and I refuse to turn my kids into fraidy-cats just because the TV says I should.

  66. @Jerri – Probably not even then.

    My brother in-law and sister in-law are college professors. The stories they tell about the hoverparents they encounter are horrifying.

    One of SIL’s students does not know how to set an alarm clock, so her mother calls her every morning to wake her for classes. She’s 20 years old, and can’t get the hell up for school on her own??

  67. that’s so sad.

  68. No matter what you do, if someone really wants to take your kid, they will. You think that someone who wants to kill a child won’t kill you to get your kid in the first place? For every story like this, there’s a story of a kid who got killed at home with their parents. Or got killed BY their parents. Or got killed in a freak accident with a hedge trimmer, band saw or hang glider.

    Shit happens. People blame the victim because it makes them feel like it won’t happen to them. The idea that this could happen any place at any time is terrifying, but ignoring that fear is part of having a good life. People who obsess over germs and kidnappers generally aren’t the happiest people I know.

    For every kid saved by having parents who ferry them to and from school in the car each day, there are probably a thousand people who drop dead of a heart attack at 45 because they never developed healthy exercise habits that start with a brutal slog to and from school in driving rain.

    Plus, hell, there’s just the risk of driving to school. 1.2 deaths per 100,000,000 miles. 2 miles traveled a day. 180 days a year. That’s a 1:200,000 chance that your kid will die on the trip to and from school in any given year. MUCH worse than the risk of getting abducted and killed on that same walk.

  69. Martin, what the bloody hell are you trying to say? That my kids should not be allowed to go to friends houses, without me sitting there in the living room watching them??? I have neighbor kids over at my house all the time, and I’d really rather not have to entertain the parents, too, thank you very much. So now the simple act of allowing your kids to have a social life is lazy!

  70. @paanta
    your right none of us are ever 100% safe, and I for one refuse to live in fear or have my kids live in fear.

  71. From this article (http://www.12news.us/how-did-police-solve-the-mystery-of-somer-thomsons-killer.html):

    “An autopsy to establish the cause of death is done, but authorities Thursday would not disclose their findings. Beseler would not say if Somer had been sexually assaulted or answer other questions about the condition of the body.”

    protectkidz, perhaps I missed it, but I haven’t seen anything that describes the condition of the girl’s body. In fact, I’ve actually seen two somewhat conflicting reports — that she was identified by her dental records, and that her father identified her by a birthmark on her leg.

    Unless you have something that describes the condition of her body (which I would be interested in seeing), there really isn’t anything but speculation and the word of the media to go off of, and the condition of the body, without details, could be just as easily explained by the trash compactor present in most garbage trucks (it should also be noted that the landfill they found her body in is the same one the trucks from her neighborhood go).

    All deaths of people under a certain age, outside of a hospital, and without apparent cause are treated as a homicide until it’s determined otherwise. Law enforcement doesn’t wait until the body confirms it was a homicide to start investigating it like one because the longer they wait, the more evidence they lose. One thing I can’t find is something that shows the spokeswoman saying that it was a homicide, although I do concede that the papers are reporting that (however, I am extremely leery of the American media as they have consistently been known to put ratings over facts, particularly in recent years).

    However, that also does not discount (and perhaps even highlights) the fact that we have no information as to the details of anything around this case, aside from:

    1. She was found in a landfill, two days after she disappeared
    2. She was positively identified as Somer
    3. She ran ahead of the group she was with the day she disappeared
    4. Police talked with 155 of the 161 sex offenders in the area (and even that is somewhat shaky, as I’ve seen a few different numbers floating around; and then there’s also the caveat that “sex offender” doesn’t automatically mean “child molester”).
    5. The landfill was found by following the trucks that pick up the trash in Somer’s neighborhood

    It seems to me that there is far more fear going around than actual facts (one of the reports I found even mentioned a woman from a different town who brought her child to the shrine to show her “the dangers of being too friendly with strangers.”).

    Does that make her death any less tragic? Certainly not. Whether it’s an unborn child lost to a miscarriage or infant to SIDS, a teenager lost to a drunk driver, or a grown child to war, or any one of the number of things that could potentially happen (some with higher odds than others), losing one’s child is devastating, and my heart goes out to Somer’s parents. However, the general public’s reaction (particularly those who aren’t in the area in the event that it is a homicide) is, in my opinion, rather out of line, because, as other people have stated, her case is making national and international news precisely because it happens so rarely. Unfortunately, there has been just enough information released about the case to cause trouble more than anything, and has led to a lot more victim-blaming (“how could they let her walk to school without supervision!?”) than is necessary and is something the parents certainly do NOT need right now.

  72. So since you put out odds with your childs safety, you must be a gambler. You obviously let your kids out alone to fend for themselvs during the day. I have never let my child out without supervision. On the other hand I have parents in my neighborhood that drop there kid off because my kid has played with there kid outside. These same parents I have had problems with, knock on my door one day unannouced and ask if my daughter can play with there daughter in our house, she turnes around and says I will come back in one hour to check on her. They don’t know me, but they trust me for some reason. This is the type of mentality I am speaking of. LAZY WHITE TRASH. So you speak of odds, what are the odds of me not being a pediphile and that kid being abused when this is what is handed to a person that they really do not know. The odds are she probely won’t be killed, but how about groomed because her parents do not show her love and she is looking for some kind of affection, what are the odds of she responding to someone that shows her attention. 100%

    You do not speak for everyone, your sittuation is different or it might be the same but you you are on your soap box and want to be right. Instead you should be a little more vigilant. My daughter is very well adjusted and loves school where she see’s her friends everyday. I am involved, and a presence at her school. Her school is right next to a police department. Just because you take precautions does not mean nothing will happen, I am just making the odds better for my kid.

  73. How DARE you. You do not know me, you have just proven that you are the vile vermin that I DO teach my children to fear. Grow up, insult someone in your own world, stay off this site – we share the same views and opinions, and don’t result to elementary playground insults to try to make a (very weak) point. I won’t even begin to address the misinformation and the ignorance of your entire statement.

    Go crawl back under the rock in which you happily live with children that will some day resent you because you smothered them. Buh bye.

  74. EXACTLY! This is and was my one and only first thought on this also. People are so quick to lay blame, what if there is no one to blame but herself.
    .
    .
    .
    “I do have one question about the case, now I haven’t read up on it in the past couple of hours, so maybe you’ll know-
    Is it possible that it was garbage pickup day when she ran ahead and she climbed into a dumpster (or whatever?). Has it been definitely proven that she was taken?
    I could easily see a child running ahead to hide or sulk and make that kind of choice to climb in somewhere.
    Or maybe, sadly she is that statistic; that 1 in whatever million…”

  75. I guess I’m not understanding the mindset here.

    You seem like an intelligent group of people who care about your kids and have chosen a specific way of raising them, and have gathered as a community.

    Seems all good to me.

    Why, then, would you waste your “free” time discussing something that you don’t think is important in the larger picture?

    And why, if you have created this group and are proud of your individual parenting choices, can’t you give respect to others who choose differently?

    And, why would you assume that people who choose to walk their children to and from school hover over their children like helicopters?

    Sounds like you people are awfully defensive – have you been attacked for your choices?

    In any event, it’s an individual choice that has nothing to do with how you yourself was raised but has more to do with where you live and the maturity level of your kids, imo.

    I am surprised though, when people here proudly stand up for their right to make this choice, and laugh at the choices made by others.

  76. Karren W
    I am not saying you need to entertain these people. If you feel comfortable then you feel comfortable. I do not know your situation, I know what I see and what I experience in my life. I do let my child outside, she does play just like any other kid, but I choose to watch her or my wife watches her. What else would I be doing? Putting your kids first is always an option.

  77. oh and, btw:

    family watchdog is notorious for not being up-to-date.

    Megan’s Law was passed years ago which directs all states to have online sex offender registries available to citizens. The information on the state sites is much more accurate than familywatchdog.

    This is just one tool that has been fought for, for you and your kids, but those whose children, sadly, were in the minority of the statistics.

    Use it. It’s part of what’s helped bring those statistics down.

  78. Sandra Stehly

    Are you cult. Obviously I have hit a NERVE, GOOD, CHANGE FOR YOUR KIDS NOT ME

  79. Dragonwolf:

    you will not read a description of her body at recovery – it will not be released.

    If you choose, you can read the news stories from today’s presser, or you can view the 4 pm presser.

    It would be better if this WAS an accident, but it’s a homicide.

  80. @ Martin
    “These same parents I have had problems with, knock on my door one day unannouced and ask if my daughter can play with there daughter in our house, she turnes around and says I will come back in one hour to check on her. They don’t know me, but they trust me for some reason. This is the type of mentality I am speaking of. LAZY WHITE TRASH”

    I’m going to highlight this

    “I will come back in one hour to check on her.”

    How is that lazy on a parents part? If anything it sounds like they don’t trust you. Not that they don’t trust you, but as parents its seems like a good habit we do with younger children.

    But as children grow we can guide them… we won’t be there in college and beyond.

  81. Renee
    If they don’t trust me then why are they leaving there only child with me. Why take the chance. My daughter is 4 and she is 5. Would you bring your child over to a person you know but had problems with and leave them for an hour. They do not know me and even if they did what on earth is she dropping her child off and leaving her. By the way she tells her daughter she dislikes me, again LAZY WHITE TRASH

  82. “Sounds like you people are awfully defensive – have you been attacked for your choices?”

    In a word, yes. I’ve been attacked by co-workers who are convinced that allowing my very mature, self-confident, and capable 7 year old son to walk to the park alone or with a friend (just around the corner from my house and part of a larger sports complex) is just barely short of criminal.

    In fact, you can read just somewhat upthread here and see people accusing Free Range parents of being lazy. Look at a couple of other threads, and you’ll see the words negligent, lazy, selfish, etc pretty often. And those are just the words. Search the site and you’ll see reports from Free Range parents who have had visits from CPS because of their choices.

    What people who accuse Free Range parents of being heinous don’t realize is that, if they had any freedom of their own when they were children, they’re tarring their own parents with the same brush. It’s rather sad, really…

  83. Don’t flatter yourself, you haven’t affected me in the least. You are who I aspire my children never to be like.

    Gawd, my kids are lucky.

  84. @Leila, that’s exactly what I was thinking. I’ve even heard about that happening–really rare, but it does happen. Either a curious kids climbs up to look in the back of the truck and the driver turns it on without realizing someone is there, or a person (sometimes homeless) hides in a dumpster. So it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this is what happened. Kid mad at her sibs tries to hide and ends up unable to fulfill her obligations.

    Martin, I used to be like you. I thought all the media stories were true and overwhelming. It’s not that my kids run wild with no supervision or idea of safety. They’re probably a little too sheltered still, but I’m not eager to have neighbors calling CPS. My 4-year-old’s older sibs walk her across the street and to the end of the block to play at her friend’s house, in part because my 10-year-old has friends there as well.

    But a 9 or 10 or 13-year-old doesn’t need to have me come along when they go to a friend’s house. Really. Maybe if I lived in the inner city across the street from a crack house.

    And I find the shouting “lazy white trash” insulting and racist. It’s hard, not lazy, to trust your kids and fly in the face of mass cultural hysteria that is not based on facts. I could tell you a lot more about how I’m exactly not that (and so could others here tell you how they are not) but you’ve already shown us that you don’t listen to facts.

    And now, I’m just going to ignore trolls and other things that my imagination is telling me are going bump in the night.

  85. Well you’re point might be better understood, without the cliche label ‘lazy white trash’.
    If the two girls got a long, and it was a merely a personal difference with the parents.
    Yes, I would let them play.
    I think adults cab see the difference between someone they don’t like and someone who may be dangerous to their child.

    I read Lenore’s book by borrowing it from the library, why yes many people with like minded views come here to vent, the book itself makes many of points that are ‘baby steps’.

    What that means is what direction should we approach a situation, because we only have so many years until children for their own good need to be able to assess danger without us guiding them.

    I have one small child with a severe articulation problem, despite quite self-directive I have to be by his side. I have children a bit older, and I realize all the things they could be doing by themselves. It doesn’t mean let them off and do it, but I set a goal and we work on it.

  86. protectkidz — I mentioned the description because you used the condition of the body as a reason for agreeing that it was a homicide. However, if there has been no description released, how can you use it to agree that it was a homicide? The fact of the matter is, you, as a member of the general public with the rest of us, do NOT know for sure. There simply hasn’t been much information released.

    Frankly, I don’t care much about the circumstances surrounding what happened. It’s a tragic loss for the family. Regardless of whether it was an accident or a homicide, there’s not much more that we can do as the general public to prevent it that we aren’t already doing (which is reflected in the 50 out of 300 million statistic that has been mentioned several times–you have better odds of being struck by lightning).

    As for the questions you’ve asked to what appears to be no one in particular:

    What’s it matter how anyone spends their free time? That question isn’t meant to sound like an attack. I simply don’t understand the mindset that doing one thing (often something involving the Internet or a computer in general) during one’s free time is more wasteful than doing something like watching TV (yes, even the news, particularly since when reading the news on the Internet, you have the benefit of reading multiple different sources).

    That said, I recommend going through some of the articles posted here (there’s even one Lenore posted entitled “Hate Mail” in which someone did write to her, condemning her, and by extension, the rest of us, for how we choose to raise our kids). You will see that yes, many of us have been attacked in various ways, ranging from verbal attacks to calling the cops. This blog (and Lenore’s book) was started BECAUSE she was publicly accused of being “the world’s worst mom” for letting her son ride the NYC subway alone.

    And then, there’s also the plethora of stupid laws and regulations that spring up because of the hoverparents that directly affect free-range parents, including banning walking and biking to school, considering a parent watching someone else’s kid(s) in the parent’s home a “daycare”, or banning trick-or-treat, all of which are enacted under the guise of “child safety.”

    I think the issues regarding the free-range-vs-hoverparenting thing go deeper than you realize. As I said, I recommend reading through the archives of the site. I think you’d find them interesting.

  87. I stopped reading these comments part-way through because it became a parent-bashing session against parents who believe in a more protective way of raising their kids than we free-rangers do. Parents who walk their kids to school are not bad parents. Parents who let their kids walk themselves to school are not bad parents.

    I raised my children in the 70’s, and they walked themselves to school beginning in kindergarten. One day my son did not return home. I nearly went mad searching for him. A neighbour found him; he had wandered off to pick dandelions for his Mommy. I confess that I walked him to school for a long while after that.

    We all have different levels of risk tolerance. Can’t we free-rangers be tolerant of those who can’t take the risks that we do?

  88. Martin,

    I have no idea why the “LAZY WHITE TRASH” mom would dislike you. Let’s think about it shall we?

    I’m not sure why someone bringing over their child to play with yours is horrible parenting. Since you don’t let your child leave the house it good she has some friends willing to come to your compound.

    It must be tough to live in a world so full of fears.

  89. By the way she tells her daughter she dislikes me, again LAZY WHITE TRASH

    Gee. I wonder why she dislikes you, what with you being so charming and intelligent and articulate and all. Whatever could be the matter?

  90. Parents who walk their kids to school are not bad parents. Parents who let their kids walk themselves to school are not bad parents.

    You are correct. But I will argue that parents who insist on keeping their children fearful, helpless, and thoroughly dependent on them ARE bad parents.

  91. I would like to interject a little good news into this sadness. A mom I know has picked up and dropped off her kids every day since they started school (oldest is in grade five). This week, she started to make them take the bus. Almost force them really. She wanted them to stop relying on her so much. And then today, she called me and during our conversation she mentioned that she is letting her kids walk home alone! I am so happy! They are in grade five and grade three. I think she’s going to see such an improvement in their clingy-ness. So, despite the really tragic news, people are still starting to see the light.

  92. Sandra Stehly
    Why are you getting so upset over a WHITE TRASH MOM IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD. DO YOU FEEL SOME KIND OF CONNECTION WITH HER

  93. Nannidale

    Why does some women in my neighborhood have anything to do with you. I am not bashing anyone on this site. I am responding to the bashing on me. When your son went missing, the feeling you had was genuine. You even admitted that you became very protective and would not let him out of your site. I am sure by the time my daughter is older, 9 or 10 she will be as well adjusted and mature for her age as she is now. My daughter is not clingy and I do not see how not letting my daughter out of my site until she is older is being over protective. She gets tired of us and is very independent and is not scared of anyone, she just knows that some people are bad and to be careful.

  94. swa101

    I think responsibility for kids is a great self asteem builder. How far is the school? These are boys, a little different. Being 11 I am sure he is prepared for this task, but there should be some rules in place and they should be tested by someone they do not know to see how they react to certain situations, you know real life stuff. Maybe some self defense classes so he is able to fight off an attacker and protect his little brother.

  95. Renee

    Its how she went about it is what bothered me. It was like she needed a babysitter so they could party. They are a little immature even though they are my age. The mom never met me or my wife before and we had her kid just like that. We knew of the the grandparents that they live with but never met them before so it was quite a surprise to have this kid all of a sudden. Me and my daughter go on playdates with her friends at least once a week and she see’s her friends everyday at school. If I left the playdate, my daughter would be just fine by herself and would not care if I stayed or went. This puts me at ease not her.

  96. […] A Terribly Sad Day Even as our hearts  sink with sadness, they  go out to the family of Somer Renee Thompson, the 7-year-old whose body […] […]

  97. Hi Martin. We got off on the wrong foot before. I just wanted you to know that I would never ambush a neighbor to babysit my kids. I don’t know if that automatically qualifies as “white trash” but it is wrong. Also, when my kids were only 4-5 years old, I did not let them out of my sight very much. If they played at someone’s house at that age, I had to know the parents very well. Now, I trust my 9 year old completely to go to school or a friend’s house by herself, because she’s proved herself to be responsible, and is way too smart to go off with a stranger (and too big to be snatched against her will!) So you may have pissed off a few people by insinuating that they were lazy, but you don’t sound like a bad parent to me.

  98. I would have never, ever allowed my 7year old child to walk a mile to school. Sometimes you just have to face hard facts and those facts show that some parents just do not pay enough attention to their children’s safety. I am not blaming the parents here, but I see the kind of neglect on my own street. Toddlers are left to ride bikes in the court without adult supervision and worse, without knowledge of how to protect themselves.

    I feel terrible for Somer’s parents, but sometimes you just can’t take risks.

  99. @Martin, Renee, KarenW et al

    Even back in the more “free range” good old days, there was a certain unwritten ettiquette for casual, neighborhood visits. In my neighborhood, as a kid you knocked on the door and inquired if your friend could play. It was not at all uncommon for the parent to reply that she could not (she’s got homework, we have visitors, we’re going out soon, etc.) If she could not, you went back home–or tried another friend. You always went home when your friends’ parents said it was time to go. It would have been considered not very good manners for a mom to simply show up and dump a kid on another family assuming that it would be no problem–unless the two families were long-established friends. This seems like more of a manners thing than a free range issue.

  100. I’ve heard a couple of parents say on this post and I think some others that because their children are 9 or 10 years old that they are too big to be taken against their will. We simply can’t assume that. Adults get taken against their will. Even if your child is overweight as one mom said, they can still be overpowered by someone especially if they are caught off guard.

    I’m not saying this to say that you shouldn’t let your kids out, I am very free-range. I’m just a little worried that complacency could have a bad outcome. We need to teach our children to be careful and aware of their surroundings at all times. Their age and size do not matter.

    I agree to that we need to be tolerant of people who take less risks than some of us do. Every parent and child is different. This is a place they should be able to come to and hopefully go away feeling that they can take more risks and it will be ok. Let’s use this space to show them how to begin their journey not turn them off the idea because we were so judgemental.

  101. My heart goes out the little girl’s parents. This is a devastating tragedy. But I am going to give everyone a different perspective on this situation that probably no one is going to like. Please don’t flame me, I have heard this all before. I have been called every name in the book, so you can blast away and it won’t matter to me. However, I know there is a certain group of family members who are going to understand where I am coming from.

    This group will understand me when I say we don’t done let our children play with other children, we don’t go outside to enjoy the autumn air. My husband and I have quit walking our dogs for pure pleasure. We don’t open our drapes. We stay home and don’t have anything to do with our neighbors. We don’t participate in any neighborhood goings on. And we live in fear of the general public all day and all night. We wonder if and when a dead animal will end up outside our doors or a brick will come through our windows. Graffiti on our property is nothing new to us.

    We have been blasted in the above postings and you all know who you are.

    We are the families of registered sex offenders. Doesn’t matter what the offense was or if some poor guy was falsely accused and forced to take a plea deal because 80 years in prison was thrown at him. We live in fear everyday because we “own” every tragedy that happens with a child. There is a collective sigh and a sense of dread of what will they try to restrict us from doing now. Shopping for groceries, going to the pharmacy, movies, simply trying to drive across a town could be dire consequences.

    Yes, what happened to this poor child is horrific, but there are more children being killed in car accidents every year and none of you think twice about strapping your kids into a one ton vehicle and fly down the freeway at 65 mph. Kids are being backed over by their parents in their own driveways everyday.

    We know you hate us and don’t feel we should be able to live among you. But you know something? You have a better chance at being hit by a drink driver or hit by lightning than having to fear us.

    Again, don’t bother trying to flame me, we have all heard it before. Just remember….one false accusation can happen to any of you. It happens everyday. Your life and your families will change in ways unlike you can ever imagine.

  102. Kate, I don’t want to flame you, I want to hug you. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around the life you are forced to live. I can’t imagine the people that are so full of hate towards you, what black hearts and closed minds they must have. I feel so badly that you have to be subjected to this, it’s not right on any level.

    I agree – harming a child is the most horrific of crimes. I won’t ask what happened, it’s not relevant – but you indicate “false” accusation, and you indicate you are only in the “family” of the offender. I once watched a great 20/20 (John Stossel) episode where he showed the bullsh** that the database really is – the 19 year old put on for “raping” his 17 year old girlfriend (Daddy found out? The girl was dumped?); the man who has been married for 15 years to the girl he “raped” and has three kids; the list goes on and on. This is why I don’t look at the database, because frankly, it’s all crap to me. Even if the old man 10 doors down had a legitimate conviction 20 years ago, I don’t believe he’s sitting on his front porch with a bowl of candy waiting on my daughter to go by. I just don’t buy it.

    I’m so sorry you have to live like that. My heart truly hurts for you.

  103. waw..this is really a nice blog and community. and i find out why as to your passion and skill in writing.keep the good stuff coming.

  104. Thanks for this info, I really enjoyed reading it!

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