Archive for August, 2007

The “Cruise” factor

Friday, August 31st, 2007
Jessica Lewis

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a column about the medical profession, complained a bit about some issues and got reamed out by an angry reader. I wasn’t really shocked by that. I was kind of expecting someone to get fired up, although many others agreed with my opinion, so I wasn’t terribly surprised.

I was surprised when I came to the office today and found an angry e-mail in my in-box from someone who was upset because I took a couple shots at Tom Cruise. The same Tom Cruise who professes to know more about the medical profession than any doctor or psychiatrist on the planet, because he’s read a lot of  books. The same Tom Cruise who is an expert on postpartum depression, and the same Tom Cruise who criticized Matt Lauer for basically questioning his medical credentials on the air.

Let me make one thing clear, as an actor, I think Tom Cruise is pretty decent. I like “Top Gun,” and I used to watch “Far and Away” every chance I could get. I might even own a copy of “Jerry Maguire.” I take offense with any celebrity, or for that matter anyone at all, who tries to shove their religion down your throat. (Especially if their religion was created by the guy who brought us Battlefield Earth.)

Only in Norwich

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

In the last few days, I’ve seen some strange sights in the beautiful Norwich area, and I have to wonder, is it me, or are these things as strange as they seem.

Monday on my way home from work,  I saw a little boy (probably around 5-years-old) sitting in a shopping cart that had been discarded on a curb blocks away from the nearest grocery store. Since there were no adults in view, I wondered if this boy had hitched a ride down town via shopping cart, or if he simply wanted to meet Mike McGuire’s shopping cart companion Barry.

For months, we’ve known about the Rite Aid chains plan to acquire Eckerd stores. Now the deal is complete, I was sure the two stores would merge into one building, but so far that has not happened. Instead, Rite Aid has spent who knows how much money placing Rite Aid signs on the old Eckerd store, which is located approximately 10 feet away from the other Rite Aid store. I’m not a great business person, but doesn’t that doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. After calling Rite Aid’s public relations department, I was informed that business at both stores will continue as usual until further notice.

Also, this week, I saw the new playground equipment at the school, which could never be as cool as that awesome wooden castle thing they had. I never went to school in Norwich, but on the occassional weekend, we would come down to play on the coolest playground around. I’m sure the new stuff is fun, but nothing could beat that.

Keep your eyes open. You never know what crazy thing you might see next.

Drunk driving a growing concern

Monday, August 27th, 2007
Michael McGuire

I had to convince three different people not to drive drunk this past weekend. I didn’t know them really, they were mutual acquaintances, but that shouldn’t ever make difference. What’s wrong is wrong.

And what struck me was the idea that I was being irrational about the whole thing. That taking a cab was a stupid thing. Is that an irrational idea? These people seemed to think so.

They’re not alone. There’s plenty of people out there who don’t have any fear, or consideration, when it comes to driving drunk. These are often people who have already been caught for doing it once or twice before, too. I was talking with someone else about my weekend experience, and they asked the question, “what is it going to take to make them stop?”

Short of killing themselves or someone else, no idea.

Driving drunk seems to be as much of an addiction for some as drinking is for others. For some, getting behind the wheel after a night of partying is as, if not more important, than the party itself. Taking their keys is like taking an NRA member’s guns away.

I’d try to offer an explanation, some insight into why people feel the need to drive drunk, but there isn’t one. It baffles me. Passing out at home, not having to get-up and get your car and challenging the law are too important for some people. They have to do it. Hopefully those reasons, which are the only ones I can see as to why people drive drunk, will justify the consequences that’ll eventually come every offender’s way. But I doubt they will.

So what did happen Ford?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007
Tyler Murphy

I want to know. I want to know what really happened the night Shyanne A. Somers’ life came to an end. She was only 12, alone in the dark running from monsters.

I hate to be so terribly dramatic about something so sensitive but I don’t know how not to be. I hate the compulsion of my overly vivid imagination to place me in the small girl’s shoes on the night in question.

I want to know what really happened because I would like an alternative to what seems to be the horrific truth.

I want to know what really happened so I can justify striking out with my cruel intentions towards her murderer.

I want to know what happened that night so all the unanswered questions, speculations and details will stop strangling my mind with the worst of their possibilities.

It would be hard enough coming to grips with the tragedy but having to wander into the depths of uncertainty can be unbearable.

I find this topic even more difficult to write about than most because of my obligation to be objective. My personal beliefs in a fair and partial system are now being confronted with a rare display of sensibility in my emotions.

I’m waiting to hear the defense’s story, so far, they are playing dumb and acting like the GPS isn’t going to hold up in court. But that really doesn’t answer my question of what is the alternative story? I believe the GPS to be an accurate enough tool to call all of Ford’s testimony moot. If the system does indeed tell an accurate story, then it’s only a matter of time before they discover additional evidence to support it, if they haven’t already… and that will hold up in court.

My condolences to the Somers family.
Cherish the loved and lost; I can not understand the daunting bereavement of your tragedy but wish you the strength to endure a delicate and seemingly long path to justice. No angel can resist the shoulder of a child and most assuredly accompanied her to a peaceful desination. My heart goes out to you all.

For those about to rock

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007
Jessica Lewis

I don’t care who you are or what type of music you listen to, everyone knows what it’s like when that one song comes on the radio, and you have to blast the volume and sing at the top of your lungs. For me, there are a lot of songs that make me do that, and the list is growing every day. When people see you driving down the road rocking out to your favorite tunes, they might think you’re crazy, but when you do it at a rock show, you’re just like everyone else.

After months of careful preparation, which all fell apart at the last minute, I planned to attend a rock show at the Landmark Theater last night. My baby-sitter canceled, we had to leave late and all of the people who were supposed to ride with me had to switch their plans around, but we made it.

With feelings of guilt weighing heavy on my heart for leaving my one year old for the first time for a non-work related reason, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the show, despite my love of music.

We arrived fifteen minutes after the concert had actually begun, but managed to only miss the opening act. We waited patiently for the band to take the stage, passing the time by remembering the last concert we attended and how mom nearly got into a brawl with a huge biker who kept sloshing beer on us. (In the end, he ran away, because moms, even the ones who are only 5’1”,  are scary.)

Finally, the lights dimmed, the crowd fell silent, and the band burst on to stage.  For a couple of hours, I sang at the top of my lungs, screamed really loud and enjoyed every ear splitting note. I also managed to keep my little sister out of trouble after she “accidentally” poured ice water down the backs of the insanely irritating girls in front of us, and almost got into a brawl of her own, but that’s another story.

Ford says negligence, police claim intent

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
Tyler Murphy

Take a look at the differences of each and see how this murder case has evolved. Evidence now contradicts nearly everything the defendant originally claimed. Both the prosecution and the defense have declared their intent to settle the facts of the case at trial. A jury may have to decide the ultimate truth of the tragedy. Even more developments are pending as a number of sources speculate motive and police continue their search for evidence of sexual violence. None has yet been found … or police have decided not to release it. Time will tell all, but this is what has been acknowledged thus far.

Sources: Ford’s version comes directly from a copy of his officially signed statement given to police and the police version of events comes from a press release and conference held by the Sheriff along with old court testimony.

Statements Ford made following his arrest.

“My wife and I were at a party and I went home.”

“I picked up Jim Somers’ daughter from her house to baby-sit so my wife and I could go back to the party. When my wife got home, she decided not to go back to the party, so I was taking the girl back home. I don’t remember the girl’s name right now, but she is about 13-years-old. She lives about 3/4 to a half mile away from me on State Route 26.

“We were in my truck and talking about the horses that I own. I decided to take her to see them. I board the horses in a pasture on Warner Road that Chris Frantz owns. The pasture is about 3/4 to half a mile from State Route 26. The girl was in the front passenger seat of my truck.”

“We weren’t able to see the horses. I was driving in the road near the pasture and she got out. She was trying to see the horses. I was driving in the road and she was walking on the side of the road. As we were going up the hill, I got stuck in the loose stone. I told her to move so I could turn. I started making a K-turn in the road. There’s a spot up from the pasture that is just wide enough to turn around in.

“ I got stuck again, so I got out to lock in my hubs for four wheel drive. I got out of the truck and when I got to the front, I saw her under the front left driver side tire. I got back in the truck and pulled it forward to get off her. I pulled forward, got out and pulled her out of the way.”

Ford continues to tell investigators he did not put any new socks or underwear and that he left with Somers at “right about midnight.” He also denied any sexual related activity of any kind.

“I pulled in the wrong spot next door. I thought the Hospital driveway was just a driveway, so I made a right onto the next street. I turned around in the parking lot of some kind of medical building. Then I made a left into the hospital parking lot. I made a left in the lot and went around the back. I realized it was the wrong place, so I looped around the back and came back out front.”

What police reported in court.

The story told at Ford’s pretrial hearing by investigators citing their forensic evidence and interviews with the defendant. These are not Ford’s words directly, but investigators testifying as to what he told them.

Ford returned home Saturday evening at around 10:30 p.m. to change clothes. Ford planned on returning to a graduation party he’d been attending all afternoon where his wife and young child still were but wanted to put his child to bed because it was getting late. Before leaving his home he asked his neighbors, the mother of the victim first and then the daughter, if they could baby-sit for him. The young girl agreed and went back with Ford.

Ford’s wife unexpectedly returned home in a separate vehicle with their child and decided she wanted to stay. Ford then allegedly decided to take Somers back home from his seasonal residence on Rt. 26 in South Otselic at approximately 11:30 p.m.

On the way to take Somers home, Ford stopped along Will Warner Road to allow the girl to visit the horses, who police acknowledged she was fond of. Somers got out of the truck to see the horses and walked along the road with the truck running along side her. Unable to see any of the animals, Ford drove up the road to turn around and got it stuck; during the course of these maneuvers he struck and killed the girl with his front bumper and tire.

Police testified the defendant acknowledged himself to be an “ aggressive, crazy driver who liked to peal out and rev his engine.”

While the alleged accident took place Saturday night around midnight, the victim wasn’t transported to the hospital until five hours later at 5 a.m. Sunday.

“He said he was unable to get the victim in his vehicle because of her physical condition, he was too upset to move or touch the body because of the severity of the injuries,” testified Sheriff’s Lt James E. Lloyd.

Ford also claimed he got lost while driving the victim to the hospital, some time later. The drive from the area of the accident to Chenango Memorial Hospital, where Ford eventually took the body around 4:55 a.m., is roughly a 45 minute plus drive from the area.

Police said a few differences in the accounts raised their concern, such as the girl actually being killed nearly 50 yards up a steep hill from the horse fence. Also no phone call had been placed even though Ford’s residence was close by and has a working telephone. Both the defendant and girl where barefoot.

The autopsy conducted by Dr. James Terzian said the girl in all likelihood died quickly from multiple fractures across her body including the skull, sternum, and a number of ribs, in general the body and several internal organs suffered massive hemorrhaging.

No evidence of sexual abuse had been found.

The Sheriff bringing more to light following the indictment

“Contrary to the defendant’s story, he did not take the girl home. Instead the GPS shows his vehicle driving around the back roads for a while before ending up behind an abandoned farm house about a mile and a half from the place where she was run over. And it remained there for nearly three hours,” said Loughren. The house is remote enough from other local residents, surrounded country.

Police said that according to the GPS, Ford’s truck never stopped at the spot where Somers was killed until 3:20 a.m., over three hours later than what Ford told investigators. Police also said Ford’s vehicle only remained at the scene of the incident for several minutes before leaving.

“He had no idea that the GPS was in his truck. I placed it there because George was having an affair. He didn’t know about it until after he took the girl to the hospital,” said Ford’s wife, Cindy.

The information taken from the GPS contradicted nearly all of Ford’s statement given to police and shows his vehicle parked behind an abandoned house for over three hours. During that three hour period police said the 12-year-old victim, Shyanne A. Somers, may have escaped from Ford. Police believe she fled the scene and she was pursued by Ford in his pick-up truck and that he deliberately ran her over at around 3:20 a.m.

Ford appeared at Chenango Memorial Hospital at 5 a.m. that same day and told police he had accidentally run over the girl while showing her his horses. He also told police the accident happened around midnight and he was too shocked by the condition of her body to move it. He also reported he became disoriented and lost on his trip to the hospital.

Police also reported that both the GPS and forensic evidence showed Ford’s truck coming down the Will Warner Road towards the victim’s home. Police allege that Ford may have pursued the girl in his truck and drove over her up onto the bank. “There is no evidence at all to show that the truck was traveling up the hill as the defendant stated,” said Loughren.

Investigators then reported that Ford’s truck traveled to Georgetown, turned around, came back down to Otselic Valley, then traveled on Rt. 80 eventually ending up in Sherburne, following the incident. The vehicle then drove to Norwich right past Chenango Memorial Hospital along Rt. 12, and drove around the downtown city for several minutes before returning to the hospital.

No clear motive has yet been established, but investigators are still looking at the scene behind the abandoned house and waiting for further results from the rape kit and other forensic evidence.

Police said Ford tested positive for traces of cocaine in his blood and that he admitted to drinking some beers and shots at a party the day of the murder. After arriving at the hospital, police also found a bag of marijuana in Ford’s truck.

A rock and a hard place

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

I hate hearing people bash working mothers or stay at home mothers. It seems like no matter which way you choose to go, someone is going to have something negative to say about it.

There’s been a lot of discussion on the forum lately about what mothers “should” do, and I just couldn’t let this one go without throwing in my two cents.

As the mother of a one year old child, I know all about the anxiety and guilt that goes along with choosing to work or choosing to stay home. There’s no question that your child is the most important thing, but it’s hard to know if it would benefit them more for you to stay at home nurturing them and caring for them, or if it would be better to get out of the house, communicate with other adults so you’re not so crazy, and find a way to help pay for the numerous costs that go along with raising a child.

Spending time with your child is a blessing. I know I enjoy every moment I spend with mine, even when he’s pulling the freshly folded clothes back out of the laundry basket and stomping on them, but I chose to go to work. On the days I’m feeling the most guilty, I wonder if I made the right decision.

But I know that if I had stayed home with my adorable baby boy I would feel the same guilt whenever I bought something nice for myself or when the bank account started slipping lower or especially every month when it was time to pay those student loans.

In developmental psych, they show you numerous studies and reports that show absolutely no benefit from either lifestyle. The real difference lies in how you spend the quality time that you have with your children. So instead of arguing about which is better, lets just leave it at that.

Seventy-six trombones …

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007
Jeff Genung

“Seventy-six trombones led the big parade, with a hundred and ten cornets close at hand …”

Or not. Not, anyway, in the case of the Firemen’s Parade at the opening of the Chenango County Fair Tuesday night. More like four trombones. And if I knew how to precisely identify a cornet, I’d say three.

That’s because our “big parade,” while big and certainly parade-ish, had only one marching band. One. From Laurens. The Laurens that’s not in Chenango County.

Granted, I didn’t brave the torrential downpour just to hear high school bands trot out a little Sousa or massacre some movie theme, but I did expect that there’d be more than one marching band in the parade. Or at least one from Chenango County.

As a self-proclaimed band geek, I marched at many a county fair (this county and several surrounding) under the Blackhawk banner back in the day. Following the extracurricular with avid interest in my post-high school years, I’ve certainly witnessed the steady decline of the form. Apparently, we’ve reached a point where not a single school in the county has a summer marching band anymore, and that’s sad.

Sherburne’s Pageant of Bands used to be the start of the season, and these days it’s the end. For many schools, it’s the one and only, save for perhaps a tepid Memorial Day appearance. I know there’s lots of reasons for the decline – budget and time constraints, competition from other interests, yadda yadda yadda – but I still think it’s a cryin’ shame that not a single Chenango County school – Norwich chief among them – can’t field a band for a parade which is supposed to represent the entire region.

Bagpipers are nice, but that ain’t a parade, folks.

“Fair” assessment

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007
Michael McGuire

Tuesday was my day at the fair. It went great. I think we got a pretty good story out of it, too.

If I had had it my way, the whole thing might have gone completely different.

Originally, I was really hoping to spend the day “in the life” of a carnival worker. Didn’t happen.

Instead I worked with a bunch of real nice people doing a bunch of unusual (to me) odd jobs. Things couldn’t have worked out better.

So it’s like Garth Brooks sang, “Sometimes I thank God… da da dum… for unanswered prayers.”

Looking back on it, I’m not sure what I would’ve got out of working a carnival. Carnies have long hours and spend a lot of time on the road. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a job like most – not much glamour, plenty of hard work. A story, all by itself, that you can find anywhere.

What I learned to appreciate from the fair is; it takes all kinds. Not just carnies. Sounds cheesy, but honestly, most things in life are (I still get goose bumps when I hear The Scorpions “Wind of Change” – you do to).

It takes all sorts of people to make the fair work. It takes the derby car drivers who brought the fans who bought the pies. Or in my case, vice-versa. It takes the caller barking at you on the midway to play their game to scare you into visiting the ag area to see how a farm works. It takes people who can laugh at themselves and others to make the fair a good time, understanding that there wouldn’t be much to laugh at all if everyone were the same. I’ve learned to appreciate everyone and everything at the fair. Because it’s always been about the people.

Sad exposures

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007
Tyler Murphy

I sometimes catch myself staring into the eyes of the those appearing before the court. After hearing about some of the things people have done I’ll lift my head just high enough to see into the windows of their souls to perhaps catch a glimpse of vacancy.

The sex offender who raped an eleven year old girl, a man who literally looked death in the eye and took another’s life, the high school classmate I traded jokes with between classes now heading to state prison.

I’m young and new to the sad exposures of societal decay; some days I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry. Judge Howard Sullivan has told me that he doesn’t take it home with him, and it’s advice I’ve tried to abide. I’ve always looked up to the Judge in that regard. I see only glimpses and glimmers of the grand scheme of things, while he is immersed in every gory and tragic detail. If anyone believes they have an understanding of life and its beautiful tragedies, I would entice them to sit through a few afternoons of family court. All I can bear to imagine is what I don’t know.

I can’t resist the urge to throw myself into people’s shoes – both victims and defendants – imagining the last moments of a desperate victim’s fading life or the still pause just after committing such a monstrosity. I think about the defendants, the ones who know they are guilty, the ones that know they are doomed to spend the better parts of their lives disgraced and caged.

I find myself getting angry at the repeat offenders and their smug looks as they are regurgitated by the system for a third or fourth time. Why can’t people change, why don’t they get it?

Yesterday a child rapist stepped past me and as he did, the air of his passing sent a casual breeze across my arm, straight to my spine; all I could think about was his touch upon his victim, and how close to such a terrible thing I really was, not just to the man but the crime he committed. I glanced up to see him smiling.

I often have wandering thoughts as I stroll out of the courthouse. People I pass on the street, the roots of the community, the skeletons hidden in our closets. I think about what might lurk below the surface of the strangers I see. I feel a strong appreciation for people who seek to live in our community and pity those who don’t understand the advantage of such a concept. Although, on occasion my pity is replaced by bitter resentment.