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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Sometimes safety net fails in society

Thursday, May 22, 2003

The boy was only 10-years-old but had already lived a tough life. Kids teased him at school because he smelled of cat urine. When the truth finally came out, police said he had 30 significant bruises on his body from regular beatings with a whip. His mother and grandmother are now in jail on abuse charges.

When police were finally alerted it was only because neighbors spotted the boy hiding under a porch, afraid to go home for fear of more beatings. After a brief interview with his mother, police discovered a feces-filled home with 49 cats, three dogs and two ferrets. Most of the animals were destroyed because of disease and neglect. Police immediately condemned the house as uninhabitable.

So how could this happen? And how could it happen in St. Peters, Mo.?

I would have thought that a neighbor, a relative, a teacher or someone would have noticed something was tragically wrong. But that was not the case.

Police said the home was so filthy they found not one clean place to sit or sleep and virtually no food in the house at all. The boy and his 12-year-old sister had endured a nightmare at the hands of their mother and grandmother and no one noticed.

I'm going to assume - since the information is not yet available - that this family received some type of financial assistance from the state and/or federal government. Given this background, I'm sure I'm right. So that makes one more safety net that failed. Who is to blame?

Well for starters, the mother and grandmother are obviously responsible and deserve severe punishment. And though I am reluctant to point the finger of blame, a landlord or teacher or cop or someone should have noticed something as well.

Having said that, I pass houses every day - this morning, for example - where the outside conditions are tragic. I would bet good money that the inside living conditions are equally as bad. And in these houses I pass, I know for fact that a handful of kids live there.

So why have I not made a call? Why have I not alerted police or social services that I suspect the living conditions in these houses are unacceptable? I suspect like many others, I just don't want to get involved. And that's my fault.

I don't want to live in a police society where "big brother" is constantly watching. But examples such as this in St. Peters make you recognize that some people unfortunately should be monitored because they lack the skills, the intellect or the compassion to do the right thing.

These two kids in St. Peters will never overcome their tragic beginning. And society - as always - will pay for this abuse for years and years. That is the final tragedy to this story.

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