I love the news. I'm a journalism major, so maybe that's pretty much expected, but I do. Of course, I love the good news more than the bad news; the happy stories more than the sad ones. But I know the importance of being informed of even the worst of the bad news.
I read the news every morning. I start with local sources, such as The Daily Tar Heel, run by UNC-Chapel Hill student journalists like myself. Then I move on to national outlets — The New York Times being a favorite of mine. I watch CNN while I get ready in the morning.
I'm studying to be a journalist, so I consume a lot of news. Some of that news disgusts me, such as the news of Brock Turner's six-month jail sentence after raping a woman. Or the news that used mental health to justify the actions of Adam Lanza, a white man who walked into an elementary school with a gun and killed innocent children.
News isn't always happy. But I don't think I've ever had a piece of news take my breath away like the story of Jayme Closs.
Scrolling through Twitter is usually a pretty mindless act for me. So, this tweet from The Associated Press today caught my attention immediately.
It caught me off guard because, honestly, I thought it was my name in the tweet. I had to read it again and again before it was clear. Jayme Closs, not Jamey Cross. Our names differ by only one letter.
Jayme Closs. I hadn't heard the story of her disappearance, so maybe that's why this story hit me so hard today. Or maybe it's the fact that we share the same first name and our last names are incredibly similar. A similarity like that kind of makes your stomach hurt. Whatever it was, the story of this 13-year-old girl hit me like a ton of bricks.
In October, Jayme Closs disappeared from her Wisconsin home. On the same night, her parents were found at the home — both had been fatally shot. On January 10, after Jayme had been missing for 87 days, she escaped from her kidnapper, got help and found her way back home.
As of Friday, Jayme had helped lead investigators to her abductor. 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson is the prime suspect in Jayme's kidnapping and her parents' murder. Patterson, a white man, is being held on preliminary charges of homicide and kidnapping. I only hope his fate doesn't mirror that of other white men who have been in a similar position.
I hope my Twitter and Facebook feeds don't erupt with posts suggesting mental health played a factor in his commitment of these crimes. Or if it did, I hope his actions aren't justified in the name of mental health. Depressed or not, a person capable of murder and kidnapping deserves no excuse. I also hope he doesn't get away with serving only half of an already-too-short sentence like Brock Turner did.
Too often, we see white men commit a violent crime and receive sympathy rather than punishment. We see white criminals let off easy, and we see black men receive harsher punishments for the same crimes. I hope that isn't the case here.
Jayme Closs is alive. For that, I am glad. However, I am not glad enough to excuse the murderous and violent actions of the person responsible.
I can't imagine what the past 87 days have consisted of for Jayme Closs. And it pains me to think of what the next 87 will look like. She's been orphaned and traumatized, and now she has to fight to make sure the person responsible is punished justly.
No matter what comes out about the criminal's past, family life or mental health status, let's not forget who the victim is in this case: an innocent, now orphaned, 13-year-old girl.
Jayme Closs deserves our sympathy, not the white man who uprooted her life forever.