Tough to point fingers for recent unspeakable horrors |

Tough to point fingers for recent unspeakable horrors

Claire Fortier, Tribune Opinion Page Editor

The abduction and murder this week of a nine-year-old Lake Tahoe girl sent a collective shutter of horror through the community. The heinous crime comes just days after another nine-year-old girl was abducted, apparently by her birth mother, and has yet to be found.

While there is no connection between the two crimes, few tragedies evoke absolute terror, particularly within parents, as seemingly senseless crimes against children. It unmasks our vulnerability and undermines our faith in our ability to protect our children.

In both cases, the parents of the two girls did nothing wrong. The children weren’t neglected, left with strangers or in strange situations or left in harm’s way in any manner. That makes the tragedies even harder to absorb.

Things like this don’t happen here. That’s been our collective wisdom.

And, in fact, it has been almost a decade since the last tragedy of such magnitude – the abduction of Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991, a case that still hasn’t be solved.

It has been our collective small-town mentality that has prevented more of these kind of tragedies from happening. Even with the transient nature of this town, there is an overall feeling of community. We look out for each other, especially our children.

So, what went wrong here? How did the man accused of killing nine-year-old Krystal Steadman get a job working of the Boys and Girls Club?

According to Steve Conway, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, the man complied with and passed a thorough background check, including fingerprinting and reference checks. So the blame cannot be placed on the club or those in charge of running this wonderful organization, which has been so beneficial to the children of this community for years.

Why did Al Tahoe Elementary School let a child go with a woman who is now blamed for abducting her?

The school cannot prevent a mother from visiting her child at school. While the school could have prevented the child from leaving with the mother if the responsible parent had taken the necessary measure to do so, that’s not what happened. The mother was listed as an emergency contact.

Had the school prevented the mother’s visit, the school would have been overstepping the legal rights of a parent and making decisions on what’s best for a child without legal backing of a court.

So, what went wrong here? The cold, hard facts may be that nothing went wrong. The responsibility of these tragedies should fall on the adults who are convicted of the crimes, not on the community or institutions that have fostered a safe haven for its children for so many years.

Lake Tahoe is a wonderful place to raise children. But that doesn’t mean this community is immune to tragedy and the grief violence and depravation can foster.

Claire Fortier, opinion page editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune, can be reached at or (530) 541-3880, ext. 221.

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