by Constance Daley
The American Reporter
St. Simons Island, Ga.
March 22, 2005
THE LURE OF THE INNOCENT
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- In a silent world, like a fish approaching the lure, a child is led away - without a cry, nor even a sound, trusting the grownup leading her from her secure bed toward the unknown. In her innocence, she is unafraid, but within hours her silence reverberates around the nation.
Actually, it was 48 hours before law enforcement alerted the country through the "Amber Alert," a program designed to inform drivers who might be on the same road as a get-away vehicle. Thousands of eyes peer at cars and trucks - ready and eager to call 911.
But there was no vehicle involved in kidnapping Jessica. Family members were interviewed while, just 150 yards away, a man in a trailer was washing the dirt from his hands after burying the innocent child he lured to her sexual violation and death.
There were searchers, there were dogs, and, finally, a widespread alert. There was a false alarm when a similar-looking child was seen on a surveillance camera. But it wasn't Jessica. No, the missing child was buried in a shallow grave while the search continued.
Pictures of Jessica smiling broadly wearing her fuzzy pink slouch hat flashed before and after all the commercial breaks on television - and frequently as "breaking news." But there were no breaks in the case as the investigation continued.
The only break came when the list of registered sex offenders revealed there was a gentleman living nearby ... very nearby. But he had moved. That's not allowed. Sex offenders must be "mapped" and always report their comings and goings. (A question arises and begs for an answer: Why don't sex offenders wear ankle bracelets?) No one stopped him and the parole violation raised a red flag. At last, they had a person of interest.
The investigation shifted until they tracked him down. In no time, they knew they had their man. He confessed to the murder; he told the police where Jessica lay. Dead.
The lure. The practiced lure. The little girl lived across the way from where he lived; he was indigent, shiftless, bored, and a convicted pedophile on parole. She was just that innocent age to satisfy his predilection, his powerful urge for the sexual gratification he would get by once again molesting a child.
Of course it's sick! Pedophilia is a sickness and cannot be profiled in any way that would immediately identify them. These predators are usually male; they come in all ages, colors, all segments of society. They are rich, they are poor, they are professional, they are bums. And, again, they are sick.
Some lure young boys; others, young girls. And there is art in the luring just as sexual predators preying on adults are artful in their ways of seduction.
It's too late for the charming and innocent Jessica but not too late to give John Couey, the confessed murderer, punishment to fit the crime. His will be one case where the long period of time it takes for him to have his day in court, the appeals his lawyer will make in his behalf, will not give rise to cries to "string him up." While he waits until it's over, he'll be subject to "jailhouse justice," a system of justice meted out to the most heinous of criminals - those who sexually assault children. Guards don't always notice this form of justice going on. They have children, too.
Whatever happens to John Couey in or out of jail only takes care of that one pedophile. This breed of mankind is organized now. Couey happens to be a crack head surviving on the kindness of his sister who lets him bunk in at her trailer. Other times, he registers at a flophouse or shelter.
But there are still pedophiles out there who are living as respectable citizens, engaging in child friendly location swapping on the Internet, sharing techniques on how to get a young child's confidence. They operate worldwide and are very organized. Some organizations boast of having 1000 members. They prey on youngsters in their own communities, at the mall, in the park, in video parlors.
During research on this subject, I found "A Profile of the Child Molester" by Kenneth Wooden. He found, as I did, that the molesters do not fit a profile, but then he interviewed incarcerated predators and quotes one such molester as saying, "Give me a kid who knows nothing about sex, and you've given me my next victim." Chilling. No matter how you read that quote, there is no sign of remorse.
Is that what we're doing? "Giving" our children to them? Are we are not teaching them early enough? I knew nothing about sex as a youngster. Nothing. And yet, Mr. MacD, the grocer, would put his fat arm around my shoulder until his hand was cupping my budding breast. Then, he'd jiggle his fat arm in a jovial greeting. It was a warm embrace and yet, I felt "funny." But I didn't tell my mother why I didn't want to go the store for bread anymore.
No one ever told me about the "dirty old man" who could be anyone: friend, relative, or, ever a stranger visiting. We teach children about good and bad touches. We also teach them to trust, We don't want them to be afraid of their own shadows - but those shadows could be exactly where a predator lies in wait.
What he's waiting for is so unthinkable we don't want to think about it - so we don't. Does our reticence implicate us in his ability to commit the crime? Are we too trusting? Haven't we learned they don't all look alike, instead they all look just like us.
How many times do we have to acknowledge he was just like the man next door; he worked next to me for 12 years; he looked like a teacher or a judge? In the case of John Couey, he was a crackhead. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the people in that trailer were on methamphetamine - they called them "trash."
Jessica's family is hurting too much for me to cast aspersions but with a trailer full of crackheads across the way, they could have done one small thing. They could have locked their door.