Forced to think about families of Holmes, Paterno, and Sandusky

An Internet avalanche of wrath uncovers a sexual predator and enlightens a blogger about remembering the "other" victims – the families of Holmes, Paterno, and Sandusky.

Gene J. Puskar/AP
Dorothy Sandusky, wife of former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, center, arrives at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., on June 19, 2012. Jerry Sandusky was charged with 51 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 boys over a period of 15 years.

After the news of both the NCAA decision on the Penn State pedophile and Colorado massacre hit in the same week, we were so upset that most folks didn't really waste time wondering what the families of the bad guys must be feeling. Because so much compassion is expended for the dead and wounded, there isn’t much feeling left for the families of those who committed the evil act itself.

My July 23 Modern Parenthood blog on the NCAA ruling prompted a left-field response that blew my mind and prompts me to think more about the families of criminals.

In the blog, I lashed out at those at Penn State who knew about former coach Jerry Sandusky's acts as a pedophile and sex offender. And instantly, I was targeted by members of a Missouri community who linked a sex offender there with a donor to my children's chess charity. Suddenly my chess blog and YouTube videos – part of the nonprofit organization Norfolk Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) – were slammed with outraged comments revealing that a donor to the nonprofit is a sex offender.

It was all news to me.

My best guess on how this connection was made is that people who were aware of the man’s convictions tended to look for stories slamming pedophiles and sex offenders, and it wasn’t a big leap from my Monitor blog to my chess blog and videos, which are prominently featured in the donor’s home state of Missouri where he sold brightly colored and patterned chess boards for children.

While most people might not think of chess as a child's playground, more than half of the 45 million Americans who play chess are children playing in schools and community centers. The Glos company, which donated the chessboards to my organization, was trying to strike deals with major school systems as well as the Boy Scouts which created a chess merit badge last August. So this is a very big deal to this little company.

I have never met James C. Walker in person, nor his wife Laura. It is she who owns and operates Glos Games, while he designed boards and did marketing and sales. I am told he no longer has any contact with the company.

After a series of phone calls a year ago, Laura and I became friends. Jimmy and his larger-than-life persona over the phone irritated me so badly that I just stopped dealing with him, except on rare occasions when Laura wasn't available.

I didn't know that back in January of this year Laura and her children suffered the humiliation of Jim's arrest at their home in Missouri, followed by a plea bargain to avoid a lengthy jail sentence on Internet porn charges involving a teenage girl. After a first degree conviction for sex with an underage girl in 1987, he was then charged with "internet enticement of a minor" originally filed in 2008, which did not reach a plea deal until January 2012. He pled to a lesser charge in order to achieve a suspended sentence.

I found the first two charges online on the Missouri State Highway Patrol Missouri Sex Offender Registry website with a fuller explanation online at Our Missouri Courts.

Laura called yesterday morning after I sent some of the reader e-mails to her and asked her to tell me what was happening.

This woman is a smart, beautiful attorney with kids, and now she is considering closing the doors to the business she built.

She didn't cry. She didn't shout. She seemed numb, saying, “I should have been so much smarter than this. I worked on a task force catching guys like this and here I am married to one, and I think I just kept moving from day to day for the sake of my children.”

The legal wranglings ended with him being placed on the public sex offender register six months ago and wearing an ankle bracelet.

She left him before the jail jewelry went on his person. Yet, for the sake of her business and kids, she did not let the world know anything had happened. Business as usual. She waited and prayed that nobody would stumble across the registry entry on her soon to be ex-spouse.

Then I wrote about Penn State and the NCAA, online readers went looking through my blog posts, YouTube videos, and website to learn more about me and somehow the connection was made to Walker. Every video with a Glos board in it, each post and Tweet has since been tagged by those same readers with comments about Walker and his crimes. Since most of my online postings allow me to preview comments and approve them, I have kept what is out there to a minimum in deference to the innocent victims – his children and wife.

The cat was out of the bag and Laura called me and said, "It's time. Just put it out there. Start up the bus and throw us under."

Laura and her kids don't belong under the bus.

How does the wife of a convicted sex offender tell her kids where daddy is and hold her head up at the PTA? How devastating is the survivor guilt of the parent of a mass murderer like James Holmes?

It's so easy to hate the bad guys for what they do. From there it becomes easy to kill our compassion for their spouses and families. Frankly, I hope that Laura can weather this, reopen the business so she can support her children, and continue to make something that inspires more kids to play chess.

I am deeply sorry for having lost my compassion for Mr. Paterno's son and Sandusky's family. That was wrong. We should not make more emotional and social victims, but seek to bring justice to those who actually did the harm, or turned away from it and allowed it to continue.

We cannot heal if we continue to make fresh wounds in the spiritual body of our nation.

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