A Boy, A Dad, A Tragedy and A Big Question

Readers — I just read aayrkkiikb
this story
and am sick to my heart. A dad brought his 5 year old son to the park then crossed the street to talk to some friends. The boy ran after him. He got struck by a car and died. Now the father is in jail and the charge has just been upgraded from “felony cruelty to children, reckless conduct and simple battery” to involuntary manslaughter.

I cannot imagine how that father would feel even if he weren’t in jail. It’s boggling. This is a tragedy pure and simple. But the issues are not so simple at all.

We live in a society that does not believe in accidents any more, or bad luck, or fate, or even, when it comes to children’s safety, “God’s will.” That’s good, in the sense that it makes us strap our kids into car seats, and take some basic precautions. But it’s corrosive in that when anything bad does happen to a child, we almost always blame the parents. The media does it, the DA does it (perhaps for political gain), and the neighbors may well do it, too. Sometimes we do it almost reflexively, as if to protect ourselves. “Well I would never do that so nothing bad will ever happen to my family.”

As if none of us has ever lost track of our kids for a sec.

Now, certainly, it makes sense to keep watch over a young child at the park. But if we slip up for a minute, if we do something human and not  intended to hurt anyone, especially our beloved child,   should that count as “cruelty”? What if it’s something that normally is NOT particularly dangerous? What if we go to the basement to put in a load of laundry and our child follows us and falls down the stairs? What if throw a ball to our child and, trying to catch it, he runs into a tree? What if we go across the street to say hi to a neighbor and unbeknownst to us our child follows and is hit, like this boy, by a car?

Is there no split-second that a parent is legally allowed to not be physically protecting his kindergartener from every possible danger? That’s a tough precedent to set. Think about even a child on a swing. Can we watch him there, knowing he COULD fall off? Or must we sit on the swing and hold him on our lap?

And didn’t a lot of us walk to school on our OWN, starting in kindergarten? I did. My husband and his siblings did. If we’d been hit by a car, no one would have arrested our parents. They would have grieved with them.

Right now, I am grieving for that boy and his family. And I am grieving for a society that is so convinced nothing bad ever happens to the children of GOOD parents that it is willing to put this man on trial.  A man who is already in hell. — Lenore


It's hard to think of any kid dying.



139 Responses to A Boy, A Dad, A Tragedy and A Big Question

  1. Silver Fang October 17, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    That’s really disgusting. Accidents happen! I fell off my bike as a kid, learning to ride. Should my parents have been charged with child endangerment?

    It’s crap like this that makes me glad I don’t have kids of my own. It’s not worth it in today’s culture!

  2. Mompetition October 17, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    I suppose pain is more bearable when there is someone to blame. Or rather, we can distance ourselves and pretend it could never happen to us because someone else is at “fault”. In this case, the father needs a hug rather than a pointer finger.

  3. Sarah at Bella Luna Toys October 17, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    Just today I saw online an interview with “Baby Jessica,” now all grown up. For those of you old enough to remember, 18-month-old Jessica McClure fell down the opening of an 8″ well in her family’s backyard about 20 years ago and was trapped for days. There was intense media coverage, and a nation was riveted on the story, everyone wishing and praying for the safe rescue of the baby girl, which finally happened with the help of dedicated firefighters and rescue teams.

    We all felt her parents’ pain and anguish. We could imagine how the torment and anguish they must have felt for leaving the well uncovered. But they were not arrested, jailed or charged with a crime.

    One can only imagine what would happen to those poor parents had that accident had occurred in 2010. If Baby Jessica had not survived back in 1987, would her parents have landed in the slammer? I don’t think so.

    I think we are a nation gone mad.

  4. Kacey October 17, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    It seems we must always find someone or something to blame….. perhaps it takes the community’s mind off the tragedy of a child’s death to vilify the father…. or maybe it makes us think that an accident couldn’t happen to our own child because we would never do something so foolish. Unfortunately, blame doesn’t actually make anything any better.

  5. Sarah at Bella Luna Toys October 17, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Damn, I wish I had taken the time to proofread before hitting “submit.”

  6. Rich Wilson October 17, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    We live in a society that does not believe in accidents any more

    I’d have to say I disagree with that. Not in this case in particular, but look at how the media refers to every car collision as ‘an accident’ before all (or hardly any) of the facts are in. If the collision included some behavior that reliably increases the chance of a collision, then it is not ‘an accident’. There are two parts to ‘accident’: unintended and unpredictable. Although the only car collisions that are intended are insurance fraud and demolition derbies, many that are reasonably predictable are still referred to as ‘just an accident’. I’m talking about DUI, and driving with cellphone in particular.

  7. Kelly October 17, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    Lenore… thank you for posting this, and for your commentary. It is truly tragic and small-minded and horrid that after this family’s terrible loss there are those that would try to find a way to criminalize a parent who is already suffering such a deep loss.

    You wrote:

    We live in a society that does not believe in accidents any more, or bad luck, or fate, or even, when it comes to children’s safety, “God’s will.” […] [I]t’s corrosive in that when anything bad does happen to a child, we almost always blame the parents. The media does it, the DA does it (perhaps for political gain), and the neighbors may well do it, too. Sometimes we do it almost reflexively, as if to protect ourselves. “Well I would never do that so nothing bad will ever happen to my family.”

    I live in daily gratitude for the safety and health of my children. I do not see how vilifying parents who’ve had tremendous, tragic losses serves anyone; it is also cruel.

  8. SKL October 17, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    Every parent’s worst nightmare. These things usually happen when the parent is not right there, but that doesn’t mean that the parent’s being there makes it a crime.

    I agree with you – the parents in that community should be rallying behind that dad and demanding that charges be dropped (assuming there isn’t more to the story). Really, who hasn’t had a moment where their little one strayed in the wrong direction while the parent’s back was turned? Come on, people.

    This is what I mean when I say that all our trends toward imposed “sensitivity” (AKA political correctness) do nothing to actually make people more caring toward each other. If anything, people nowadays have less ability to actually feel compassion from their hearts.

  9. Nicole Down Under October 17, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    How utterly, obscenely cruel.

  10. Karin October 17, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    If people really wanted to blame someone, why not the person wielding the lethal weapon? The driver was never charged with anything. Why? Because in our society, we’d rather charge a grieving father with murder than admit that driving is dangerous? The driver could have been speeding and texting, but because they stopped and took the kid to the hospital, all’s forgiven?

  11. Larry Harrison October 17, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    It is things like this that make me seriously consider–I am not kidding–taking my 2 children to the local adoption agency, and giving them up for adoption.

    Because–if the expectation that society now has with parenting is that it is a 24 hour job, that you can never take a breath, never close your eyes even involuntarily during a sneeze, never relax even for a single moment ever, that you are to chain your child’s hand to your own with the thickest chain imaginable so they are never ever more than 3 ft from where you are, and you to let them sleep in the same bed with you and have no life with your spouse to speak of–well sorry, but that’s not what I signed up for when I became a parent, and if society has that sort of expectation of me, then THEY can take the burden, because I want no part of it.

    I didn’t sign up for all of that when I became a parent. No one told me it was that ridiculous, I don’t agree with it, and I refuse to go along with it.

    I have no intention of going to jail over society being a total ass.

    And I will NOT be emotionally-blackmailed by all these damned morons–please forgive me for my cursing, but this really makes me angry–who always reply to such sentiments with “you must not think much of your children” or “if you loved your children you would do WHATEVER to have them in your home, even if it meant eating bolts and swallowing cyanide and praying that it didn’t kill you.”

    Well, first-off, I go by principles first. If we don’t have principles, what the hell DO we have? Not a damn thing. (Again, I’m sorry if I’m going over-the-line with my language, but I can’t tell you how angry this makes me.) This nation wouldn’t existed if its founders had been more worried about “just do as you’re told and you won’t get in trouble” (the typical refrain you hear nowadays) and sold out their principles to King George III. No, they were idealistic and firm in their principles, and they would not be swayed.

    The streets of Atlanta GA had damned-well better be filled with protests of how outrageous all of this is, as opposed to people calling for this poor father’s head on a canvas. Otherwise, I am very ashamed of the people of Atlanta, GA–and their district attorney, too–by the way–and they need to be told this.

    Felony-cruelty to children? My ass. My damn ass that’s “cruelty to children.” Lenore–please forgive my language, I know this isn’t a Def Comedy Jam HBO special. This just tears me up to read, and I’m really having a difficult time controlling my emotions as I do so. I am so incensed and angry reading this, my pores are speaking.

    I wish I lived in Atlanta GA & would have readily-accessible means to speak to the district attorney–and anyone else in Atlanta GA who would give me the chance to talk–and enlighten them to just how outrageous this is,not just this case in particular, but the whole “parents are to blame for everything that goes wrong in their child’s life” moronic-thinking that seems to have overtaken this country.

    Am I going to have to chain my son & daughter to my hands and have them sleep with us, and never have time with my wife in private, and never let them have a childhood–and us an adult-hood–in order to not have this happen to me? Or am I going to have to go to the adoption agency this very Monday and say “they’re yours, good luck?” Because I can’t possibly imagine parenting in this sick environment if it’s become this ridiculous.


  12. Janet October 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    That is horrific.

    I have a 5yo. We go to the park. We have friends across the road. That could be me or my husband. Except that we no longer live in the USA, and I would hope that the authorities in Australia would understand that “Just stay here, I’m going to talk to so-and-so for a moment,” when said to a 5yo, might actually not be obeyed, through no fault of the parents.

  13. katie October 17, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    I just read this tragic story and I want to know one thing. Why isn’t the motorist being charged with anything?

    A grieving, guilt ridden father is being held on a $10,000 bond for felony cruelty to children, reckless conduct and simple battery (yet the article never said he actually battered his son) and the driver who HIT THE KID WITH A CAR will not be charged with anything. I want to know the driver’s story. How fast was the car going near this playground. Was the driver distracted?

    If something bad happens to your kid on your watch you immediately blame yourself. “It’s all my fault” is a common phrase heard from people who really aren’t at fault. Did the father say this in front of someone looking to affix blame and charge someone?

    This poor family, my heart just breaks for this father.

  14. pebblekeeper October 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    No Words.
    My prayers are with the family.

  15. Suzanne October 17, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    I have not read all these posts, but may I interject my insight? More of an opinion, really, but these are my thoughts, at any rate.

    Traffic and cars. Streets and kids. Think. Who made the unwize choice? The dad. He is being held accountable for his actions and lack of careful attention to detail.

    I am almost paranoid about my children and safety, yet things do go wrong in a moment and wthout notice. Inviting disaster is another thing altogether.

    Men are sometimes (not always) less acutely aware of the children in their care, and while some women are too, I think it is more of a masculine characteristic.

    There are parameters and rules of behavior when children are involved and they apply to the parents. “Do not leave unattended” is the bottom line, but especially when the threat of danger exists, such as a road nearby. The unimaginable happens and all to often.

    A baby stroller left next to the railroad tracks while the family is picking apples. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

    A child standing next to the car as it is backed out of the garage, when a cd rolls underneath and the child goes to get it…

    One little sibling, in the rear of the pick up as it is backed out of the garage, decides she wants to “ride in front with daddy”…

    These are the stories I know of personally, and they all involve the dads. Child # 2 who went after the cd miraculously was unharmed. The others fared not so well. The sadness is overwhelming. But the fact remains, men need to be held accountable for their deeds.

  16. Suzanne October 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    Addendum: It is out of respect for the life of the child that the man is being held for bail. His sorrow is nothing compared to the tragic loss and pain suffered by the dear child. I imagine he is not complaining a bit but is grief stricken and in shock, enough so that if he is humbled by this due process, it will reveal his true nature and whether he is a worthy father. How tragic a test.

  17. Jen October 17, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    There are parents who have lost their children because they forgot they were in the car and left them in the heat. I also do not believe they should be charged with a crime, especially after hearing their stories from them. So to me, if they weren’t charged, then this father DEFINITELY shouldn’t be. What kind of people are these prosecutors? Are they not human? They must not be parents.

  18. Larry Harrison October 17, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    @Suzanne. I am sorry, but your mentality is the very hogwash–and I can think of more harsh words, but I’ll restrain myself–that is driving this very level of insanity.

    Have you even read Lenore Skenazy’s book? Do you even know what Free Range parenting is? I doubt it. I am sorry if my post is inflammatory & bad form–after all, we’re supposed to be able to debate topics without tearing each other up–but your post, frankly, was so offensive on so many levels I hardly know where to begin.

    How about the sexism?

    Yes, the blatant sexism. To hear you speak, fathers are incompetent. Fathers are stupid. Fathers don’t know, don’t care, don’t give a damn, and sure as hell can’t be trusted. Anytime something goes wrong, anytime there’s any goof-up, you can blame the meat-head men of the world for all of it.

    Yes, you are asserting as much with what you said. I know many wives & mothers–not just fathers & husbands–who would take total offense at what you said, and for good reason.

    How dare you! You are so out-of-line, I don’t think there’s a yardstick long enough to measure the outrage I feel reading it.

    And then there’s the whole “being held accountable for actions and lack of attention to detail.”

    This is the whole mentality which Free Range preaches against, and rightly so–the amount of “attention to detail” you seem to think we ought to have to perform in our parenting lives. It’s ridiculous and outrageous what you people expect of us. How the hell are any of us supposed to go to the bathroom, much less catch-up with adults over a cup of coffee, say, once a week–with those expectations? They are blatantly out of balance, and I’m sick of it frankly.

    If it were up to you, my parents would be in jail for letting me ride on the back of an open-bed pickup truck–at 55 mph. no helmets or anything. If it were up to you, back in 1987 Jessica McClure’s parents would’ve had baby Jessica taken from them and given to perfect parents with a state-approved, total risk-free–and boring!–living situation. Someone who has a home next to a lake & their child, despite miles of fencing and tons of diligence to prevent this, suffers a tragedy when their child escapes them anyway and drowns in the lake–they would be in jail, and their child would be placed in a home miles and miles from any sort of body of water.

    Thankfully, “Suzanne,” not all of society “thinks” like you do. I place “thinks” in quotation marks because, frankly, I don’t know that I consider it thinking at all. It’s the typical action plan of MORONS, frankly, and many of us here–with our children in one piece and functioning just fine, thank you–are tired of you judgmental snobs asserting such a ridiculous standard.

    I surely hope your type of “thinking” (again, I feel the need for quotes) doesn’t totally overtake this country. I’m sick of it, and so are many of us here. Frankly–shove it.


  19. bequi October 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    This is so awful on so many levels. How terrible that for the son’s last moments, his dad was in jail and unable to be there.

  20. Jen October 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    I just read up more on the story: “His lawyer, Jessica Stern, called the whole thing an unfortunate situation. She said Robertson only found that he was the boy’s father two days ago.
    “Mr. Robertson was there the entire time, he picked his son up in his arms. He was arrested with blood all over his shirt,” Stern said.”

  21. Emily October 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    I agree with Katie – why is the motorist not mentioned? Does it not behoove us to slow down near a park to avoid just such a tragedy?

  22. Larry Harrison October 17, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    As usual, I made a typo, although it could be worked-in as-is without being totally wrong.

    To wit: when I mentioned “they [the parents whose child escapes their home & drowned in a nearby lake] would be in jail, and their child would be placed in a home miles and miles from any sort of body of water,” obviously–if the child had died, that would be impossible. Even so, one could say–if this couple in this scenario had other children besides the one which had died in this scenario, then THOSE children would be removed from the home.

    Suzanne, my dear–no one is arguing that it was tragic that the child died. No one is suggesting that we be willy-nilly about safety. If you know anything about Lenore & her cause, you know fully well that she advocates safety precautions. She advocates bicycle helmets for children, for instance, and car safety seats–and although I think it was great how I & others used to ride in an open-bed pickup truck as children, I doubt she’d advocate that either, and that’s fine.

    What is NOT fine is this: the mentality that does not accept that sometimes accidents happen, despite REASONABLE precautions undertaken by a parent. Expectations these days are way out of control. Heck, growing up–and I’m only 42–my parents had 2 guns in their bedroom, they were NOT locked up and they were at GROUND level–I even knew where they stored them. Did I ever touch them? No, I didn’t. They made it clear to me–I was NEVER EVER allowed into their bedroom, EVER, for ANY reason–PERIOD. That was the common approach to such a situation, and if I had disobeyed and wondered in there anyway and a tragedy resulted–the thinking would’ve probably been (assuming I wasn’t 2 years old or something) “well there’s only so much you can do, and children need to listen.” This would NOT have meant that people were saying that I as a child deserved what I got, but rather it was a natural consequence of my not doing as my parents told me.

    Now, my parents could store those guns in the attic, locked, unloaded, buried under 200 pounds of wood boxes–and yet, despite all of that, if I somehow managed to climb into the attic, pick the locks, and shove aside 200 pounds of weight (and I’m a child, now!), AND ALSO somehow manage to get my hands on the bullets, AND figure out how to load the weapon (are you still with me!)–despite how totally far-fetched all of that is, and despite the fact that you’re obviously talking about a situation where my parents have done more than enough to ensure that nothing bad happens–STILL, there are some that would argue my parents should be prosecuted.

    That thinking is absolutely OUTRAGEOUS.

    And yes, this playground situation is no different.

    So there are cars around. So what? I grew up playing on a road with drivers going 55 mph, at age 8–yes, age 8–I was riding a Big Wheel on the road. NOT in my driveway, but the road itself. I was taught how to watch-out, and was told strongly that I had better do so or else–and I was allowed to play.

    People everywhere did it, no one for a minute considered it irresponsible.

    Now, people I meet won’t allow their children to play on 25mph roads which have 1/20th of the traffic on them that road of ours did, even with their children being the same age.

    Traffic hasn’t changed that much. Drivers & driving hasn’t changed that much. Kids & their abilities to judge haven’t changed that much.

    Society has changed that much.

    And it’s wrong.

    We think that everything MUST be risk-free, even if it stifles life and makes it not worth living to start with. I’m not talking about making risks minimal & taking reasonable precautions–which no one, including Lenore–would have a problem with–no, the issue is, the expectation has become that NOTHING can EVER go wrong, EVER, or you’re a bad parent who ought to have your children taken away.

    That is wrong.

    And anyone that thinks this father was reckless & deserving of legal prosecution (assuming the facts of the case are as they seem to be), they are wrong. It’s not a matter of a difference of opinion, such people are just wrong and no one of any importance should be listening to them.

    Such people need to wake-up, or shut-up. They’re poisoning this country, and poisoning child-hood.


  23. hoelt October 17, 2010 at 1:05 pm #


  24. Paula October 17, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Having survived 2 road accidents (one at about age 6) accidents happen the father isn’t to blame but the drivers speed needs to be checked.

  25. Peter Brülls October 17, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    I don’t understand why the driver isn’t charged with anything. After all, he killed a human. Over here, that would be near impossible.

    And yes, it was probably unavoidable, but this should be checked in a court.

  26. Amy October 17, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    The more I think about this, the more it bothers me. This could have been me if my 18 month old had gotten hit by a car when he went on his own little walkabout a year ago. I could be sitting in a cell right now for involuntary manslaughter, because the wind from an oncoming storm blew our locked front door open while I was in the can. What does that say about our society when a parent could be condemned for taking less than 5 minutes to themselves to go to the bathroom without their child tethered to them? If something had happened to him, I would have been devastated. I couldn’t imagine being charged, as the man in this case was, on top of all that grief. I am a good parent. I do try to keep him safe, but even the most diligent parent can’t protect their child from every threat at all times. Sometimes bad shit is going to happen, and we need to stop pointing the finger at others to make ourselves feel better when it does. If this behavior progresses, eventually we’ll all find ourselves behind bars for mistakes made or accidents. After all, nobody is perfect.

  27. oncefallendotcom October 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    If the child was kidnapped instead of hit with a car would idiots like Suzanne still insist it was the dad’s fault? The level of stupidity in the USA never ceases to amaze me. I just wonder if Suzanne’s kids ever get any air in that protective bubble of theirs?

  28. kherbert October 17, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    @Sarah at Bella Luna Toys You actually did the same thing blaming Jessica’s parents. As I remember they didn’t know the well was there or they didn’t know it had become uncovered.

  29. Peter October 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    In America, nowadays, if something bad happens, it must be someone’s fault. The fault obviously cannot lie with the victim, because they are the victim. So the blame must lie with someone else.

    What about the guy driving the car? It must be his fault! He must not have been paying attention! If only he’d been paying attention, he’d have seen the four foot tall child looking at his father across the road and somehow miraculously divined that the child would possibly run in front of him, so he would have slowed down to five miles per hour (on a road with a 30 MPH speed limit) in order to be certain that if the child did step out in front of him, he would be able to stop in time.

    What about the father? It must be his fault! If only he had brought his child with him to stand there quietly while he and his friend discussed things well beyond the comprehension of most five year olds. That would have been far safer than letting the child play in a park.

    What about the friend? It must be his fault! Why didn’t he cross the street to talk to the father? Couldn’t he see the dangerous situation he created by having the father cross the street to talk to him?

    If the driver had been driving slowly, he would have been able to stop before hitting the child. If the father had taken the son with him, the child wouldn’t be in the road alone. If the friend had crossed the street, neither would have been at risk.

    If the father had taken his son to the park 30 seconds later, the kid would not have run in front in of that car. If the driver hadn’t remembered his hat, he would have left 1 minute later. If the timing of traffic lights had been different, he would have missed the boy. If he’d stopped for a donut, he would have missed the boy. If he hadn’t stopped for a donut, he would have missed the boy. If the friend had stayed in the house to watch the football game, the father wouldn’t have seen him and the boy would be alive today.

    If the squirrel had come down the tree 10 seconds earlier, the boy would have been distracted by the squirrel and wouldn’t have run out in the street until after the car had passed.

    There’s a general belief that everything is preventable. It’s a desire we all have for a predictable world that we can control. An unpredictable world that we cannot control is frightening. It’s why people are afraid of flying but not of driving–I control a car and the physics are pretty understandable whereas I don’t control an airplane and the physics of lift, gravity, drag, and thrust are a bit more complicated.

    An unpredictable world where a five year-old boy can be tragically killed is frightening. So, in our fear, we lash out. We must find a villain–someone who knocked our predictable world out of whack. Everything would have been fine if this villain had not appeared. The villain is the driver. Or the friend. Or the father. Or the squirrel. If they hadn’t (or had, in the case of the squirrel) made an appearance, all would be well with the world. It’s their fault! String them up!

    For example, I’ve seen posts above about the driver of the car. Why isn’t he being blamed? He was probably texting on his cell phone while shaving and eating a pizza and traveling 90 miles per hour down the road. There’s never a question of whether or not the boy just stepped in front of him. Even if you’re staring down the street with both hands the wheel, most of us aren’t going to be able to stop our car if a kid runs out in front of you.

    We’re looking for someone to blame other than the grieving father. We don’t want to blame the boy–he’s young, foolish, and the victim and you don’t blame the victim. But there must be someone to blame! Some villain with an evil mustache to twirl that we can point at and say, “It’s his fault! He’s to blame!”

    Frankly, no.

    As I pointed out above, there are quite a few variables that could have made this accident not happen. The reason I point these out is to show how many random variables had to come together to make this tragic incident occur. The father is not some uncaring slob. The driver is not some homicidal maniac. The friend is not some self-important lazy dope. They’re all you and me, doing reasonable things in an everyday world.

    There is no villain here.

  30. Ellen October 17, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    Peter, bravo. That was so well said.

    This is tearing at my heart, too. I can’t begin to imagine how that poor father must be feeling right now.

    On a related note, I’ve been seeing a lot of blame in the blogosphere in the last year; twice, there have been incidents I know of in which a child died and people left comments/sent tweets blaming the mother. I think this phenomenon is only going to get worse.

  31. LMK October 17, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    “His lawyer, Jessica Stern, called the whole thing an unfortunate situation. She said Robertson only found that he was the boy’s father two days ago.

    This is not a case of free range kids, he probably didn’t KNOW the child. I would think that if the child had been with him his whole life, or even a few months, the father would have known that he could safely leave him. I disagree with all of you, he was in effect a babysitter and didn’t have time to amply prepare him. I would bet that the child would have thought he was abandoning him. This is not a case of free range kids.

  32. Jennifer October 17, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    I’m concerned about the suggestion that the driver should be charged. There are definitely cases where a driver is doing something negligent and should be held accountable for it. But hitting a child who runs out right in front of your car is a terrible, awful, accident, and it could happen to anyone. I don’t see any evidence that the driver was driving unsafely. Let’s not, in our sympathy for the father, rush to blame someone else without good cause.

  33. Larry Harrison October 17, 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    @Peter that was brilliant. I need say nothing else, you’ve done it so well yourself to start with.

  34. Tanya Sharkey October 17, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    This is horrible. We should stop the judgement and be grieving with him. I agree that many place blame and judgement to allow us to feel that this could never happen to our family because we would never have done this. We all make mistakes. This poor father is paying the ultimate price for a brief moment of what some will call poor judgement. I’m aching thinking of how I’d feel.

  35. Elizabeth Baer October 17, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    This could have happened to anyone. I don’t think that this is the father’s fault at all.

  36. Uly October 17, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    LMK, on the other hand, if he’d been with the kid for five years he’d know whether or not this five year old was able to be left alone near a street. Some are, some aren’t, and it’s easy to misjudge when you’re not used to a certain kid.

  37. Tim October 17, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    First off I need to emphasize that I raise my kids free range. In fact to do this we moved from a city center to a farming area. Our kids spend their time with parents accessible, but not always supervised, including when they choose to be outside.
    However this article starts to get down to the real core of the problems in our society- our ‘justice’ system. Now there’s an oxymoron if there ever was one. People don’t think accidents never happen; our justice system runs based on the assumption that someone can be held accountable for every accident.
    I acknowledge that the world is NOT the same as when I grew up. Our ‘justice’ system no longer punishes criminals, and consistantly puts society at risk with known offenders. This can be based on technicalities, per-determined sentance, or good behavior. The point is the system no longer serves as protection for it’s citizens. In Canada, our ‘justice’ system has made it illegal to protect yourself or family from these criminals. It often seems the punishment for protecting yourself outweighs the punishment for the criminal causing the situation in the first place!
    Did you know the #1 virtue the Canadian system looks for in a judge is compassion? Sounds all lovey dovey, but is our justice system really how we want to show compassion?
    The police are no longer civil servants who’s main goal is to protect citizens. They are trained to assume everyone is guilty in some way. Don’t believe me? When you are pulled over for speeding, cop comes to your window, and you plead your case. The cop then goes back to his car and writes down everything you just said. That info can NEVER be used in your defence, ever, legally. It can only be used in your prosecutiion. The cops have become tax collectors, and it’s not their fault. Our courts have made it this way.
    Add to that current state of ‘justice’ the internet! 20 years ago an individual who may have been abused, or for whatever reason struggled with issues that cause him to become a child predator, may have never had enough exposure to all the disturbing info available on the net. He may have been able to maintain control of himself. Now we have a situation where these people have access to all they need to escalate out of control. And perhaps there are some who’s first exposure are these images. The point is, child predators is an increasing problem, and to deny that is foolish. Most people are still good – true!
    My kids will be raised in reality. They will know not to trust or rely on our failing justice system. They will know never to talk to the police. They will know the legal risks involved in protecting themselves and helping others, and they will have to learn to calculate all these things and make a decision!
    Don’t be too hard on those who live in fear of everything. They are at one extreme and you’re at the other. Truth lies somewhere in the middle.

  38. SgtMom October 17, 2010 at 11:28 pm #

    A father in Utah committed suicide after being charged and sentenced to jail for his 5 year old son’s accidental death.

    I hope it makes society FEEL better this father will never allow another accident to happen again.

    My 5 year old brother was killed this same way, only my MOTHER was across the street, coaching him how to cross a street properly, preparing him to walk to school in the fall.

    A beloved cowboy hat he was wearing flew off his head and he suddenly turned and ran in front of an oncoming car to retrieve it.

    They tried to charge the poor woman who hit him with SOMEthing – she had her own horrified children in the car wailing as she was beating her head against her car. I knew she would carry the same grief and guilt the rest of her days, as we would.

    My father was called home from work. I remember him calmly talking to the police and thinking somehow Daddy was going to make everything alright. After the police and ambulance left, he picked up a kitchen towel and took my mother into their bedroom. Hearing their agonized cries through the door, I knew things would never be alright again.

    Their marriage had not been the greatest, but he never once blamed my mother or faulted her in any way. He knew how much my mother loved her precious son.

    It’s been almost 50 years ago, and I still grieve to this day. Tears are running down my face as I type this. I cannot imagine the damage to our family, or to my fragile mother, if she had been arrested or held at fault.

    This isn’t ‘justice’. This is cruel and evil.

  39. anonymousmagic October 18, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    What is being done to this father is beyond cruel. I hope the case is thrown out of court and that he is compensated with a lot of money. It won’t bring his kid back, but it might make the justice system think twice before putting innocent parents on trial.

  40. M Brown October 18, 2010 at 12:15 am #

    Thank you for your compassion. May it spread!

  41. Matt C October 18, 2010 at 12:57 am #

    Thanks for speaking out about this. You write very well, and I think you’ll give courage to a lot of people who feel the same way but are uneasy about saying so out loud.

  42. SKL October 18, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    Suzanne, held accountable? You don’t think losing your child in that matter is consequence enough for a pure accident?

    Having started walking to school at age 4, I do not believe it was “predictable” that this child would disobey his father and run into the street, unless he was known to do that regularly. Possible, yes. But at some point, we can’t control for every possibility. The human race would die out because we’d all be afraid to drive to the store to buy food.

    And I’m curious about the driver, too. Maybe it was unavoidable, but when you are driving past a park, you slow down and watch for little kids. Did this driver?

  43. Tim October 18, 2010 at 1:52 am #

    For those who may be confused about the charges and outcome of this situation, here is what would have happened. The father, in shock and blaming himself would have been openly crying out “It’s all my fault, I didn’t protect him, ect”. The officer writes all this down and when they get to court his words will be used as a confession!
    The only way the driver could have avoided charges or being arrested is keeping their mouth shut. Not saying a word. And the officer could not find a reliable or properly trained person that would say they were speeding or driving with undue care and attention. It’s important to note that the officer would not care about witnesses saying the driver was going slow or driving careful, that is all considered here-say. And if the driver had made any mention of their speed or attention, even intended as defense, they would have been in trouble. I obviously wasn’t there but can virtually guarantee this was the case.
    I know this sounds skeptical, but we should all be aware of how our system works, and take the precautions to protect ourselves from it. Keep your mouth shut! Justice has nothing to do with it, liability is all that matters.

  44. Scott October 18, 2010 at 1:54 am #

    The street was next to the playground so the speed limit should have been 15mph, enough so that a diligent driver had enough time to stop if a child suddenly appears. There is a reason why speed limits are lower next to schools and playgrounds! It is because children appearing in the street has for decades been viewed as the normal reality of playground and school zones. If the driver was going more than 15mph then the driver clearly should have been charged. If the driver was going less than 15mph and the child was still killed then the entire location of the playground and street needs to be reviewed. Have they foolishly allowed for shrubbery and car parking along the road beside the playground? Cars block views and children can dart out from them. The side of the road along the playground needs to be a no parking zone. If it is not, then it is city engineers who are to blame, assuming we have to have someone to blame.

  45. kherbert October 18, 2010 at 2:10 am #

    To those blaming the driver without any information let me tell you a story.

    I lived on a corner that had several accidents. One time I had to comfort a 17 yo, who hit an 11 yo. The 17 yo was driving below the speed limit when she sneezed several times in a row. Thankfully she pulled her foot off the gas. At the same split second 11 yo on a bike ignored the stop sign and rode directly in front of the car.

    I saw the whole thing happen – there was no way for the 17 yo to stop. The 11 yo was bruised but her helmet did its job. The neighbors and I kept the two children from leaving – both were in shock and tried to walk home. Some of the neighbors were mad that the 11 yo got a ticket for running the stop sign. The officer explain that it to project the 17 yo, because of the assumption that the driver was always at fault.

  46. Scott October 18, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    “If the father had taken his son to the park 30 seconds later, the kid would not have run in front in of that car. If the driver hadn’t remembered his hat, he would have left 1 minute later. If the timing of traffic lights had been different, he would have missed the boy. If he’d stopped for a donut, he would have missed the boy. If he hadn’t stopped for a donut, he would have missed the boy. If the friend had stayed in the house to watch the football game, the father wouldn’t have seen him and the boy would be alive today. If the squirrel had come down the tree 10 seconds earlier, the boy would have been distracted by the squirrel and wouldn’t have run out in the street until after the car had passed.”

    Hi Peter, this is actually an interesting cultural issue. Some years ago I was in a certain asian nation and a taxicab carrying a western tourist from hotel to airport was in an accident. The tourist was arrested and sent to jail. The reason was that if he had not taken the taxi that day, the taxi would not have been where it was to be in the accident.

  47. Lily Shahar Kunning October 18, 2010 at 2:17 am #

    Gods, this is terrible. I am sure that father must feel beyond awful- and then to be charged with a crime? Ugh.

  48. LauraL October 18, 2010 at 2:44 am #

    Scott, my city doesn’t have special speed limits around parks, so please don’t assume it is such everywhere.

    This story is heartwrenching and a terrible tragedy, but everyone else who said so is right: It was an unfortunate accident, a tragic one indeed: but no one MADE any of this happen. Peter has it right – there are too many variables.

    When I was 17 I had a similar incident to one shared a few posts above me. I was driving down the road at 35mph (posted speed limit) when a girl on a bike came out a side street and smacked right into the right rear fender of my car. I stopped, checked her out, took her HOME, left my phone number, and went on to work.

    HER mother called MY mother and a huge row ensued. My mom and I were being threatened with a lawsuit (so her mom said) for hitting her daughter!

    Once my mom got the girl’s dad on the phone (after several phone calls of the shrieking kind) and told that dad, “LOOK! YOUR daughter hit MY daughter! YOUR daughter ran a STOP SIGN and hit the RIGHT REAR FENDER of my daughter’s car! There’s a dent! If anything, we should be suing YOU for repairs!” The dad was then heard questioning his daughter on these statements (the mother wouldn’t hear it from MY mom) and in getting confirmation, he said, “Thank you, we won’t be bothering you again.”

    But there you see it – in 1985 – the same automatic “blame the driver”. The girl on the bike disobeyed the laws, but they wanted the LEGAL driver to be held responsible for something happening at the back end of her car.

    So, no, I wouldn’t necessarily charge the driver unless there’s evidence the driver was speeding or didn’t even try to stop.

    SHIT HAPPENS. And in this case, it’s tragic. But it’s not a felony, pre-planned, deliberate instance.

  49. Nicola October 18, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    Such a sad and heart-rending story. I am utterly disgusted at our society… that this is ok?!!! They’re going to punish the father? No one is at fault here but the child, and even then, the only “fault” he had was being a child. There should be no punishment – every day this father wakes up will be punishment. How cruel and demeaning and deviant is a society to punish a man (or woman) for something that is, obviously, an accident??? I plan on finding out where I can write – the judge needs to hear someone crying out for sanity in this instance. I suggest we all do the same.

  50. rhodykat October 18, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    wrong, wrong, wrong.

    The father could just have easily been in the playground talking to a friend and the son could have chased a ball into the street with the same result…or the father could have had both eyes on his tag playing child who was about to run into the street when said child was distracted by the fathers distraught yell, causing the child to look back instead of check for cars with the same result.

    this is a tragedy…NOT a crime.

    As for Suzanne, you’ve GOT to be joking…how sexist and stereotypical can you get?

  51. EricS October 18, 2010 at 3:49 am #

    That is just sad. Losing a child by an unfortunate event. At the same time, losing a father/husband (for all intent and purpose) because “authorities” felt the need to blame someone for the death of the little boy. Lenore is right, back in the day, if a child got hurt because of something they were doing, it was an accident, but no one pointed fingers at the parents. If anything other adults, became the support for the parents, acting as a secondary voice letting the children know to be more careful.

    Truly, less and less common sense, and more and more paranoia is breeding a very dark future for individuals.

    @SKL, I wonder about the driver as well.

    @Suzanne, wtf?! I can’t believe you lay blame on the father, or say men are less acute to such attention. I drive, and then number of bad drivers that I see everyday are mostly women. I’ve even seen women drivers do the craziest things in the vehicles with children in the back seat. ie. running a red light to make a left turn, and laughing as she does it. Yes, I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. I felt like chasing her down, stopping her and giving her a piece of my mind. But not once do I ever think that ALL women are bad drivers.

    And your mentality of “Do not leave unattended”, is one of the most ignorant and illogical thing I’ve heard. No one, and I mean NO ONE can ever watch a child EVERY SECOND of EVERY HOUR of EVERY DAY. The only way to way to make sure a child is never unattended is if you have that child strapped to you 24/7, and you don’t sleep. By your reasoning, ANYTIME a child is hurt the parent is to be held responsible. That would include you. As there is no parent I know that has not had their child fallen down, bumped their head, gotten a bruise or a scrape. Not a one. Are we all to be charged with “neglect”? God forbid, manslaughter? I’m one of those people that don’t completely believe in accidents. As most accidents ARE preventable. But there is still that 5% that an accident IS an accident. This is one of those rare cases, in regards to the father and the child. As SKL points out, what about the driver? Was that person paying attention as he/she was driving. Were they preoccupied as most people are when driving? ie. talking on the phone, talking to passengers, etc… In this regard, there are no such things as accidents. That if the driver wasn’t being attentive driving through a park area, that would be considered neglect on their part. THAT is NOT an accident, as it could have been avoidable. This is opinion and speculation, as we don’t know the driver’s side of the story. But to lay blame on the father? Unless the father intentionally got his kid to follow him without assisting him across the street, that charge is absurd!

    Don’t get me wrong, there are parents who are intentionally neglectful of their children, these parents should be held accountable. But this father…not even in the same category. I’m sure he was a loving and caring father. His son’s death will live with him for a very, very long time. Now with being charged with manslaughter, he may start to actually blame himself because others are. He’s being punished for something that he had no control over. That is hard on anyone.

  52. Matt October 18, 2010 at 3:53 am #

    OK, this is confessional time for me.

    When my son was about two and a half, we were on our weekly grocery run. I started taking him to the grocery store when he was three weeks old, he was an old pro by this point in time about our routine.

    Our weekly grocery shopping time was early in the morning on a weekday, when the store was emptier (and thus the weird emanations and behaviors of a toddler were likely to be less intrusive on other shoppers). I allocated plenty of time to this trip, in part to allow my son to get out of the cart and walk freely – literally free range, I suppose.

    On the way out, he and I usually had a snack outside on some tables on the walkway by the store. At this particular stage, he had become interested in “free books”, the real estate and ad circulars in newspaper boxes available by the tables. He liked to take one out and look at the pictures while he had his snack.

    On this particular day, he was “in the zone”, concentrating heavily on the pictures of houses and his cookie or carrots or whatever it was he was noshing on, well after I’d finished my coffee. I had a cart full of groceries that were wilting a little in the sun, and today a big bag of kitty litter and a bigger bag of dog food to schlep over that didn’t fit in the cart.

    We were parked opposite the tables, and there were almost no cars in the parking lot. The entrance to the parking lot is such that it’s used almost exclusively by cars coming to shop at the grocery store; the other shops in the little strip weren’t even open yet, and any car that came in to shop would most likely want to park closer to the store entrance.

    I told my son we had to get up and go, but he didn’t want to. He was not whiny about it, he said something like “me want look” or something to indicate he was happy reading his book. So I said, OK, I’m going to go right over to the car (30 feet away across the lane) and I’ll watch you the whole time. My thought at the time was, well, he’s been very good about staying in one place in general, he’s happy here, I’ll get this heavy kitty litter and dog food put away now and he can linger a little more. I told him, please stay right here, understand? And he said he would, and I believed him because he’d been pretty good about this before. He never had been a clingy or “run after” kid (my littlest one is, by much contrast) so I didn’t think much of it.

    So I left him there, keeping an eye out on the entrance, which had no traffic in it, and him all the while as I dragged the heavy can of litter and bag of dog food over to the back of our car. The table he was at was next to the wall of the store, one of two sets of tables.

    As I loaded the bag in and closed the back of the car, two things happened simultaneously. A car came into the lot, going very fast (aVolvo wagon, somewhat ironically) not only too fast for the lot and time of day but pretty much going at street speeds, something I’d never seen before or since in this parking lot.

    And my son, for some reason of two year old logic, decided he HAD TO BE WITH ME RIGHT NOW, and as I watched him, he got up from the table and started RUNNING across the sidewalk up to the edge of the curb.

    The timing was such that he just stepped off the curb right before the speeding car came to the point in the lot.

    I did the only thing I could do – I YELLED, “STOP RIGHT NOW RIGHT THERE!” I am not generally a shouter, fortunately, and my son was generally a good listener. So…he stopped. Right on the curb. The car sped by a fraction of a second later.

    Now, as is the case of such moments of stress, I had a severe reaction right after this incident. As soon as I had run across and scooped him up, that’s when fear and panic set in. I was filled with remorse and self-loathing that I could’ve let my little boy almost be killed by a car through negligence. I had to call my wife up as soon as he was safely strapped in his car seat (where I practically squeezed the breath out of the poor boy in triple-checking the tightness of the straps) to confess and tell her what a terrible Dad I had been. This fear-stress-reaction has stayed with me ever since: as I type this, the whole scene is still vivid (I can recount to you exactly what he was wearing) and my body feels sick, and my pulse races a bit.

    What I couldn’t focus on, and what I still have to tell myself intellectually, is all the things that combined to go wrong to create this situation in the first place, and all the things that went right to prevent a real tragedy.

    Did I make an error in judgement in leaving a two and a half year old by himself? Could be. I knew my child, and knew he liked the adventure of being “away” from his parents and also that he was extremely consistent about sitting and concentrating on his activity. But, the fact is, he was two, and two year olds, even the most consistent of them, often do impulsive things and change their minds extremely fast. So I accept that yes, I made a bad call here.

    But parents make bad calls all the time. What I had done was make a risk-reward assessment. Is this parking lot busy at this time of day? No. Can I see where the cars come in and then cut across in front of the car, under normal conditions, if need be? Yes. Will my son freak out if I leave him here? On the contrary, he’d freak out if I took him away from his pleasant activity. Is there something in it for him? Yes, he can practice being a “big boy” and enjoy his break a little longer. Is there something in it for me? Yes, I save having to take two trips with my son unwillingly strapped into the shopping cart.

    The potential accident depended on something relatively unusual, which was some idiot deciding for whatever reason to use a grocery store parking lot for practice for the Indy 500. My son had to be suddenly out of character and not pay attention to my instructions and also actually care I was on the other side of the ‘street’. And then he had to not pay attention to me when I yelled “STOP RIGHT NOW!”

    But he did pay attention. My fail-safe here, as it turned out, was he was just a good listener. I knew him well enough at one level, he knew me well enough.

    I’m under no illusions I wasn’t extremely lucky he didn’t take the extra few steps out into the driveway and was hit by the car. Every time I think about this I feel this unbelievable combination of I-am-so-lucky and how-could-I-have-been-so-stupid. I expect I have had some bad “Anti-Free Range” moments as a result, where I have erred on the side of caution, knowing we had had such a close call on this particular occasion.

    At the same time, I’m working on it. We have a neighborhood mailbox (no individual mail delivery) and my son, now nearly seven, loves to get the mail. The mailbox is in sight from our yard about a half a block away. But it’s across the street. My son is, well, just unusually good about checking to cross the street. If he’s with an adult, he insists (not the other way around) on holding hands. He does the Check-left-check-right check-left-check-right check-left, proceed to the middle of the street check-right hurry across the street thing as second nature. Despite this, every time he does his “chore” of going to get our mail, which his mother and I have agreed is a good way for him to build some independence, I get nervous and choke up.

    Now if my son had been hit, in this town in Georgia, I suppose I’d be in jail now. Or perhaps even if he hadn’t been and the whole thing had been observed by another adult. (Trust me, as a stay at home Dad, back then, I was accustomed to being second-guessed openly by what seemed like half the women I ran into in the course of the day about everything from what I was feeding him to whether he had enough clothes on to whether I was warping him by my staying at home while his mom worked. Seriously. Topic for another day.) I wouldn’t be there for him, nor would I have been for my younger son, who has some special needs and requires some pretty intensive parenting.

    What is the purpose of a Justice system that doesn’t recognize things like – sometimes mistakes are made; that tragedy is a chain of events, not a single malicious act, 99 times out of 100; that even when mistakes are made, it doesn’t mean that judgments that went into making the mistake are wrong; and that maybe we have to have some risk in our lives to make ourselves strong and worthy humans.

    When I was my son’s age, crossing the street to the get the mail out of our mailbox was one of my chores. I don’t remember my parents ever once watching me do it. At six, sometimes under the eye of my older sisters and sometimes not, I had the run of the neighborhood. Between school and dinner, I wandered freely from friends’ houses to the woods to the old sand pits. There was danger aplenty and I got into scrapes every now and then, but I also learned to get out of them. It’s not like I wasn’t born with an inherent sense of self-preservation or danger.

    And I do remind myself that yes, my son was born with those same instincts. I give _him_ full credit for recognizing a dangerous situation at some level with that car coming up so fast, or my yelling, or that he had disobeyed my instructions, or some combination thereof. Growing up is in large part finding your own common sense. But I don’t think it’s possible to develop common sense without a bed of experience.

    My son doesn’t remember this incident with the car now — too young. But I think in some ways, he’s so good with the street crossing, perhaps this and other experiences had a cumulative effect on him. I must say that now, at six, I believe he has common sense about traffic.

    I’m still nervous about him crossing the street to get the mail (I am a modern parent, a victim of my own times) but I am also immensely proud that he can do this. Sometimes he asks for “company”, but often not. He has far more confidence about his skills in some ways than I do (or I wouldn’t be nervous) and the only thing I really dread is…some nosy neighbor stopping him, or one of our constables stopping him on the street and asking him why he’s there and him ending up in some County foster home while I fight for my right to have my son learn to cross the street, within sight of our front door, alone.

  53. Matt October 18, 2010 at 4:08 am #

    I have to leave one additional PS here. My cousin was killed crossing the street in front of a car 30 years ago. He was jaywalking, trying to catch up with a friend, across a street where traffic was fast but not thick. The driver was what we could now call “distracted”, apparently trying to simultaneously light a cigarette and put a cassette into his tape player. My cousin died a few hours after being hit, at the age of 14, of massive internal and head injuries. The driver was not cited.

    I took the call from my Aunt – I had just arrived home from school – and had to relay the news to my Mom and Dad and sisters.

    It’s very hard not to have this in the back of my head with my own kids at all times. That’s an experience that feeds into my own sense of caution. It’s painful to think about what could have been done differently to prevent this accident. My cousin should’ve crossed at the crossing — but how many people do this? The driver should have been paying attention better, but how many times had he done the same thing without a kid crossing in front of him? The speed limit should have been slower in an area where kids crossed from a convenience store to their school — but how slow is slow enough to be safe? I don’t care to go over such imponderables any more. What’s done is done. If the driver was partly “at fault”, and in one sense, he undeniably was, even if not legally – it doesn’t seem to me like he should’ve been in jail away from his family for the last 30 years. That is not justice. That would have been vengeance, and vengeance is a base intinct, not one of a civilized society.

  54. Claudia Conway October 18, 2010 at 4:58 am #

    Thanks for your post, Matt.

    I have to say, I was knocked over by a car, when I was 8, crossing the road (alone) on the way back from my best friend’s house. I fractured my skull from crown to base, and it was touch and go as to whether brain swelling would kill me for the first 24 hours. At that time (nearly 25 years ago) I can’t imagine anyone would have criticised my parents for allowing me to negotiate the roads alone, and quite rightly too. But one does wonder what would happen now. I nonetheless hope to allow my children local journeys alone or with one another at a similar age… I think I have a good story to warn them with!

    As for the original post – I fail to see the point of this punishment. It won’t save any lives, and the father has already suffered the most appaling punishment of all.

  55. Scott October 18, 2010 at 5:13 am #

    No one should be arrested unless the driver was driving recklessly, which I assume is not the case.

    However, it is also wrong to say that every accident can not be prevented.

    Someone above has said that Atlanta does not have lowered speed limits around schools and parks! Really! Well there is a good place to start making changes!

    Saying, oh well, we have to have a speed limit of 30, 40 or 55 mph next to a park (or whatever it is) is not a rational response.

    Put traffic lights, speed bumps and speed limits, whatever is recommended by an experienced traffic engineer.

    Just allowing cars to speed merrily along next to parks and schools is no more a rational reaction to claiming this is the father’s fault, which it is not.

  56. culdesachero October 18, 2010 at 5:39 am #

    The Dad made a mistake. Let’s not forget that. His mistake was that he misjudged his boy’s maturity level – on behaving near busy streets and on being left in the park while the supervising adult walks away. What is disturbing, is the crimilization of simple mistakes in judgement. I would feel comfortable that my 5 year old could stay in a park while I walked across the street (within view) but I’d never leave the park without telling him. I am a safety freak, but I don’t believe that every accident is a crime – even if the results are tragic. This would only further chase parents off the streets and sidewalks and into their backyards and basements. Kids would never have any interaction with their neighbours (as is the current trend).
    Close knit communities would be replaced with closed doors and pointing fingers: “I saw Mrs Jonson’s kid go right near the street to pick up a ball, so I called Children’s Aid.”
    If I were writing regulations, they’d require mandatory lessons on crossing and playing near (and on) streets: what to do when a ball or hat rolls across the road or down a sewer grate.

    My heart goes out to the parents of the boy who died. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to live with the mistakes and their tragic consequences.

  57. Penni Russon October 18, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    I was nearly hit by a car twice. The first time I was under five. My mother was taking me out to meet the school bus, which my sister was on, which stopped on the other side of the road. I slipped out of her hand and ran in front of a car. Luckily for me the car stopped. My mother was right there, and in no way (in my opinion) accountable.

    Another time I ran across the road outside the shop without looking. I was probably 10 and there with a friend. The driver wound down his window and bellowed at me. I wonder if today drivers would feel so comfortable telling strange kids off in that situation.

    The point is I was saved in both cases by drivers being aware of what was going on around them, aware that kids were around because we were, we were all over the place. And old people and wandering dogs and teenagers and middle aged people and the odd horse (I saw a horse get killed by a car at 10 – I’ll never forget the immensity of the young girl owner’s grief as she lay with her arms around his neck).

    I really appreciated reading Matt’s frank story. I have lost track of my eldest child more than once, through a moment’s distraction (I am, by the way, a woman).

    It is almost impossible to bear a child’s death, but the accountability game doesn’t make it more bearable. Think of Jashon’s poor mother, with her son gone and her husband in gaol. How is she supposed to make sense of this?

  58. Mike Chlanda October 18, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    omg, this is horrible. I can’t believe the father is being charged. He will have enough hell to live through the rest of his life playing what if? – he certainly didn’t do anything to justify being charged with a crime.

  59. Karen October 18, 2010 at 7:23 am #

    @jen and @lmk–After reading some other articles about this sad story, I’m going to have to say I’m suspending judgement about whether the charges are “outrageous”. The man did not know he was the boy’s father until two days before the accident? To me that signals that there are complexities here that make this more than a “Could have happened to any of us” situation.
    I agree with the comments that our culture has gone WAY overboard in terms of blaming parents for any accidental harm that comes the their child, I’m just not sure that is what’s happening in this particular incident.

  60. Edward October 18, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    Forwarded link for these comments to reporter at AJC who covered the story, just so he knows. Wish I had the name of the officers who arrested him to send it to also. The legal mindset here has got to change! The real blame for this mess goes only one place – only we’re not ALLOWED to blame “THEM”.
    God this whole thing makes me so mad!

  61. Caroline October 18, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    Peter, well said. Larry, I completely agree with you.

    Suzanne, your opinions are poisonous. And sexist. You offend me, and decent people everywhere.

  62. sylvia_rachel October 18, 2010 at 7:27 am #

    Wait, wait, wait: SOMEONE ELSE hit this little boy with their car and killed him, and HIS FATHER is being charged with manslaughter?!?!

    There is something very, very wrong with a world in which this could happen.

    (I’m not saying the driver should necessarily be charged, either; I don’t know enough about the circumstances. Accidents do happen, that’s the whole point. I’m just saying that taking your 5-year-old to the park and crossing the street to talk to someone while the 5-year-old is playing is NOT negligence on a par with, say, failing to provide the necessities of life, nor can it rationally be stretched to fit the definition of manslaughter, involuntary or otherwise. Lord tunderin’ Jayzus, there is something wrong with us.)

  63. She Started It October 18, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    This makes me sick. I’m so, so sorry for that family.

  64. Suzanne October 18, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    I better go read the book. I knew I would be saying some stupid things since I was completely reacting and not thinking, as was pointed out to me. Most of us speak out of our own experience. Since I do not know any of you, I feel I can speak freely. But not without recoil. A mirror is a good thing and this is where we can find it in others.

    My mentality is skewed against men, I think, and it may be because of my personal situations. But not until I received a verbal smack or two did I see it so clearly.

    I think tragedy brings out opinions faster. It’s the way people think. I was trying to understand why in the world would they put the man in jail? And so I went on a trip down that road. I had heard of it before with the baby stroller left by the rr tracks. The parents were in the ICU with their baby and also being arraigned (or something). Can you imagine?

    What I was experiencing, emotionally, when I read this was a lot of different things:
    #1 My mom’s baby sister was hit by a car back in 1928 or so. This destroyed their lives and certainly scarred my mom, who had been holding her hand before she ran out… My Grandma spoke these words in the ambulance on the way to the hospital: “It’s because we’re such a quarrelsome family” meaning God did it on purpose. Second tragedy. Third, since my mom heard it. Grief is like that. People tend to respond without thinking clearly.

    So it seems reactions are the second culprit in these kind of situations. Are we all doing the same thing now in reacting to me? Smash the opposition? Or try to be deeper and think Why does she say these things?

    One thing on my mind when I responded initially was the recent upset I have been feeling with a local father. (this would be #2) His child is the one who crawled under their van when the cd rolled away from her. It was her favorite dvd, actually. The dad stopped the car because he thought her heard something. Her arms had tire marks on them. When they went to the ER she told the doctor she didn’t like it under the car. That was all she would say (4 y/o). They cried out of relief and thankfulness since this could easliy have turned out differently, like it has for so many others.

    However, when all is said and done, the very same dad a year or two later brought his kids out to the car and said “stay here while I go back inside” to get something. Little dear who had survived the tire marks on her arm, now 6 instead of 3, got out of the car and ran back in to the building. No cars coming and no incident, but I still became upset that he would be so careless. I asked the mom if they would rather park next to the building next time, but she wanted to train the kids to listen instead. I figure it woud be better to have a living child rather than have her epitaph be “she didn’t listen”.

    Am I out of touch? Am I paranoid? Or do I love more? I always end up on the “sexist” side that believes the men are less innocent. Terrible thing to say. I just want to be confident in men as our compatriots. And so far I am let down. Not always, but almost. Sorry guys. Men are just as imperfect as women, but theirs is the role of the protector (any daggers ready to fly at me now?) and I cringe at the lack of it. Like leaving your purse on the floor as you go over to the mirror at the store, it’s gone before you know it. Protect with passion like I do my kids. My purse had pictures of them in it. At the same time as this incident I realized my husband had been clearly as neglectful of his wife and she consequently felt vulnerable to being snatched away. In her heart she almost was…
    Men do your job and we will do ours.

    I am off to google stories of arrested parents due to accidents. The technical term is neglect. In no way do I a support the ourts doing terible things to famlies and children. Recently the news showed a man complaining his newborn daughter was stolen from the hopsital by the government (in NH). Unbelievable. Apparently the woman had been beaten and choked by the guy and her two other kids from her marriage had been hurt by him as well. They called him her “fiance”, a tip off that he was not a man of good principle but had gotten her pregnant out of wedlock (Old fashioned momma here). The child services had stepped in (and over) to remove the baby from the mother as they were trying to do with her other kids. I was thinking maybe she’s the one who tipped them off “now would be a good time to step in and help me!”

    By the way, I confess to being that crazy woman driver.

    Not kidding, you hit the nail on the head and it is paralyzing to think about the stupid things I have done behind the wheel.

    Also, the one who said to keep the mouth shut when in an accident: He is right. Anything you say can be held against you.

    Am I right?

  65. SgtMom October 18, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    Man Responsible for Son’s Death Returns to Scene for Suicide
    by Hannah Wolfson

    At age 2, Gage Wayment was his father’s constant companion. For Paul Wayment,
    taking his only son into the wilderness brought together the two things he loved most.
    (Salt Lake City Tribune) Source: http://www.pulitzer.org/year/2002/feature-writing/works

    Salt Lake City – A man who was due to report to jail for the death of his 2-year-old son apparently killed himself in the same mountains where the boy wandered off and froze. Paul W body was found Wednesday, hours after he was supposed to surrender to begin serving a 30-day sentence. A hunting rifle and pair of binoculars were found at his side. Wayment, 38, pleaded no contest Tuesday to negligent homicide for leaving son Gage alone in a pickup truck for 45 minutes while he scouted for deer last October. When Wayment returned, the boy was gone. Gage’s frozen body was found five days later, more than a mile from the truck.

    “In one brief and monumental moment while Gage slept in the truck, I made the biggest mistake of my life,” Wayment said before his sentencing. “If I could change places with my son, I would give up my life in a second.”

    Wayment apparently shot himself in the head, Summit County sheriff’s Detective Robert Berry said. Wayment told his family as they left the courtroom Tuesday that he was “going to drive up into the mountains to be by himself for a little while,” Berry said.

    Still Dressed in His Court Clothes
    Berry said Wayment, who was still dressed in his court clothes, walked around a small pond and out to a low rise. “From there he could look out at all the country where the search went on for his son,” Berry said.

    The sentence from District Judge Robert K Hilder was a surprise, because prosecutors had recommended against jail time as a condition of Wayment’s no contest plea to negligent homicide. “He could have done the jail time,” Wayment’s attorney Glen Cook told KUTV. “I think it was the overwhelming burden at that point that tipped the scale.”

    Paul and Gage were inseparable. A neighbour said she used to sit on her porch
    just to watch them when she felt she needed her spirits lifted.
    Source: pulitzer.org/year/2002/feature-writing/works

    Hilder said the death revived memories of his own father’s suicide 20 years ago. “If the jail sentence I imposed was a factor, large or small, in Mr Wayment’s decision, I regret that result with all my heart, but I cannot change my decision,” Hilder said in a statement. “For the rest of my career I will remember Paul Wayment and try never to lose sight of the human consequences as I discharge my responsibilities.”

  66. skiermom October 18, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    Almost that exact same thing happened to a girl in my class when we were in second grade. She and her father were crossing the road to get to a pond to ice skate. She started to cross after her father, saw a car coming and froze in the middle of the road. He, of course, had to witness her being hit by the car.

    I can remember well how tragic it was, how awful for the father, how hard to comprehend for all of us, her classmates. I cannot imagine what good could possibly have come from charging the father with a crime. Nothing anyone could do to him could even come close to the pain of losing his child.

  67. SgtMom October 18, 2010 at 8:58 am #


    Google this:

    .American government agencies report in the US in 1999, 70.3 percent of perpetrators of child abuse were FEMALE parents acting alone or with others. Out of an estimated 826,000 victims of child maltreatment, nation-wide, 1,100 were fatalities. Their perpetrators break down as follows:


    31.5% Female Parent Only
    10.7% Male Parent Only *
    21.3% Both Parents *
    16.3% Female Parent and Other
    1.1% Male Parent and Other *
    4.5% Family Relative
    6.1% Substitute Care Provider(s)
    5.7% Other
    2.7% Unknown

    * “Male parent” in that context most likely is just about anything but a natural father.

    That means that, acting alone or with others, female parents were responsible in 69.1 percent, and male parents in 33.1 percent of cases of fatal child maltreatment.
    If anyone cornered the market on the killing of children, women did, not men!

    Furthermore, considering stepfathers, common-law husbands, boyfriends and other strange males involved in the lives of women and in the abuse of “women’s” children, it emerges that NATURAL FATHERS ARE THE LEAST LIKELY TO LET HARM COME TO ANY CHILD.

    Put that in your tailpipe and smoke it.

  68. Denny Li October 18, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    I live in Atlanta, and I came to this site thinking to post about this incident. I was hoping to find some resources on what I could to do help this father being charged with involuntary manslaughter. The only thing I can think of is to contact the DA’s office in protest and to contact the father’s attorney.

    If anyone has any further suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

    We have a son who turns 5 in December and a 17 month old daughter. We had been planning on letting our son go to the neighborhood park by himself next summer as part of our plan to free range him. He’s been going there since he started walking, and has known the way since before he cold talk. We’ve always been careful to drill him on how to cross streets. Often when we take him to the park, he runs ahead of us. As other posters have said, “This could have been us.”

    I am sad the boy is dead and I am angry that instead of grieving with the father, the prosecutor’s office has decided to throw him into jail. There have been comments that the father only realized he was a parent two days ago, and suggestions that this somehow makes him more culpable. From my perspective, the fact he chose to take his son to the park rather than to shirk his parental responsibilities speaks well of him. He was probably across the street, saying to his friends, “Hey, can you believe it? I’m the father of a 5 year old boy…” when the accident happened.

  69. Lori Brown October 18, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    I am totally disgusted by these so-called authority figures who think that everything that happens to a child is the parents’ fault. My youngest is 5 and regularly crosses the street by himself. I’m not even usually outside when he is. If he forgot the rule and chased a ball into the street and was killed, would I go to jail for manslaughter? Would it matter if I was outside with him or in the house folding laundry? Would it matter if I were home or my husband? What arbitrary “rules” are being enforced here? Is there a law that says that I can’t stand across the street from where my child is? Until what age? Idiotic acts like this make me wonder why anyone would want to have children anymore.

  70. Jen Connelly October 18, 2010 at 9:29 am #

    This case is just asinine. This whole “someone has to be blamed” mentality is ruining this country. Sometimes there are just accidents.

    I almost had something similar happen to me years ago. We were packing our van up for a trip and my oldest, then 3, followed me out of the house. We lived in Chicago and our van was parked across the street from the house.

    My daughter came out onto the porch while I was coming out and I just assumed she would stay on the porch like every other time a similar situation happened. I crossed the street with my arms full and proceeded to load the van from the passenger side (which was facing the houses across the street.

    I remember noticing a black SUV coming down the street and I got this uncontrollable urge to look up. Just as I did I heard tires screeching and came around the van in time to see my neighbor’s boyfriend grabbing my 3yo by the shoulder and yanking her out of the street and the oncoming Expidition (the front of this SUV was almost a foot taller than her).

    She decided to come help me and just walked out from in front of the neighbor’s boyfriend’s big Suburban. There was no way the oncoming SUV would have seen her until it was too late. The SUV wasn’t speeding but would have crushed my daughter. Luckily the boyfriend was there, working on his car and saw her.

    I was in tears and shaking so bad I could barely walk. I never would have expected her to follow me into the street without asking first because that is what we taught them and what she had always done before. I was a nervous wreck the rest of the trip and could only think, “what if Ricky hadn’t been standing right there?”

    My daughter was just as traumatized as I was when she realized what had happened. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if she had been hurt or killed. Then on top of that being arrested and having my family destroyed. That’s just beyond cruel.

  71. Eika October 18, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    When I was nine years old, and in third grade, I was allowed to bike to and from school. That summer, my mother and I rode the route almost every day. I’d been walking to school for years, but we were biking a variation of it, with a less steep hill. It took maybe two minutes to bike.

    I rode my bike on the sidewalks, which was allowed, got off the sidewalks for pedestrians, said ‘excuse me’ and got back on. I stopped the bike and looked both ways before crossing the street.

    One day, while I was biking home from school, I was on a side road. I’d been walking that road from age 5, and was 10 at that point; I’d only ever seen one car on it. It was about four houses long. I was on the sidewalk, and suddenly a car started to back out. I veered into the street, and it kept coming.

    I jumped off my bike, hit the road, and rolled. The car stopped halfway over my back tire. A tearful lady- old in my eyes, probably not old enough to retire in reality- apologized up and down and was far more panicked than I was. I wound up having to reassure her. Never told my parents about it. Still don’t think they know.

    I’ve spent much of my life wondering what would’ve happened if I had been hit there. It’s ranged from a childish ‘then they’d be sorry’ when I was younger to, right now, real horror: would my parents be in jail? What about the old lady, who I recognized two years later, volunteering as a youth coach and teaching soccer?

    Treating that father as a criminal is a shame to our entire country. No, to Humanity on the whole.

  72. Suzanne October 18, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    “Put that in your tailpipe and smoke it.” ~one of the many lovely members who refrain from using profanity.

    Here is who I agree with:

    Karen, on October 18, 2010 at 07:23 Said:
    “@jen and @lmk–After reading some other articles about this sad story, I’m going to have to say I’m suspending judgement about whether the charges are “outrageous”. The man did not know he was the boy’s father until two days before the accident? To me that signals that there are complexities here that make this more than a “Could have happened to any of us” situation.
    I agree with the comments that our culture has gone WAY overboard in terms of blaming parents for any accidental harm that comes the their child, I’m just not sure that is what’s happening in this particular incident.”


    And that is it for me. This forum is not user-friendly unless you happen to be of the same mind. I am sorry to say I am more disheartened than before I arrived to find such nastiness abounding and hypocritical people in such a supposedly enlightened group. You’d think you were all old housewives, the way you cackle.
    “I can’t believe they are charging the poor father! He just lost his son, how awful that they have to blame him” The poor father is a bum who might just have gotten HIS life saved by being incarcerated: momma bear is still on the loose! Good night and good riddance.

  73. Safiya October 18, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    So encouraging to see the comments here.

  74. Larry Harrison October 18, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    She’s gone? (Suzanne). Good riddance, if she’s going to be nasty and refuse to acknowledge that she started all the hostility which has come her way.

    The poor father is a bum? Suzanne, if you’re still reading, what makes him a bum exactly? Is he a bum because he wasn’t perfect and a terrible accident occurred as as result? Were Jessica McClure’s parents bums? Were my parents bums because, at age 9 or so, I was allowed to run in the woods after dark with my cousin, and I ended up in the hospital when I ran into a bob-wired fence and it just missed my eyeball? (I still have a scar just above my left-eye to this day from that ordeal.) Was my grandaddy a bum because his grandchildren were always over on Sunday & he had a pile of junk in his yard (old refrigerators, wood planks, sheds with old fans locked up inside), and he allowed his grandchildren to play in this environment just as it was?

    And no one was ever seriously injured, either?

    Suzanne, by your definition, any parent that doesn’t have their child confined to the indoors 24 hours a day, or is only allowed outside if there are approximately 19 dozen state-licensed adults from the Department of Social Services on-hand to monitor every wiggle and motion even THOUGHT about, any parent that lets their child actually have a childhood–to you, apparently, ANY such parent is a “bum.”

    You, Suzanne, have issues. I’m sorry that you do, but at the same time, I have a parenting job to do besides that, and I haven’t for one minute asked the likes of you what brand, quantity, and color of bubble wrap I should wrap my children in. Thank God you aren’t around to watch me allow my 3½ and 1½ year-old run up & down the sandy beach of our local lake–the entire length of it, mind you (easily 200 yards or so)–while I’m in the water merely keeping an eye on them from afar. You’d probably call me “psycho dad” and advocate social services to have my children removed from my home.

    Sure, and what kind of life would they have then? They’d still be alive, sure (by the way, I just peeped into their rooms where they’re sound asleep, and you know what? they’re still alive under my care too, ha!), but what kind of life would it be? They’d probably never see a lake again. Even if they did, you’d be 2 inches away from them the entire time, and they’d not even be allowed to tip their toe in the water, much less run along the edge of it splashing in joyful glee.

    Heck, they’d probably not be allowed in an 18-inch inflatable pool, not even if it were near the window of your living room where you could still watch. You’d be like that one woman I saw watching a group of 12-year olds in the pool at the apartment complex I used to live at–screaming at them to stay in the shallow end even though she herself can swim (I saw her do so numerous times), even though this is a finite-sized pool, and even though you’re talking about 12 year olds who demonstrated plenty of skill to handle themselves in the deep end.

    Come to think of it, you’d probably not allow them into the pool at all to start with.

    Instead, such kids would be stuck inside their entire lives, playing Nintendo Wii and watching another “Sponge Bob Square Pants” episode. They’ll be fat, overweight, and won’t know a darn thing about how to take care of themselves. Meanwhile, they’ll be sleeping in the same bed with you–just imagine what kind of sex-life that means for your husband! (dont’ come crying to us when he cheats on you)–they’ll never be allowed to flunk a test at school because you’ll always be fixing it for him (and assuming, of course, it’s the teacher’s fault that he’s a lazy-ass at home refusing to study).

    Meanwhile, you will have no social life of your own. Your friends will never see you again–unless of course your son is with you (even if he’s 12 now and it’s summertime and the pool is open), and they get to go “poo poo” and “tinkle don’t stinkle” and all that sort of lame horseshit all the time, because as a friend to them on the adult level you’ve totally checked out, you’re nothing but your son’s mother now, you’re not even your own person anymore.

    THIS is what you expect EVERYONE of us to do, to be that kid-absorbed, because if we’re anything but that, and 1 child out of 10,000 dies in a situation like this one, one in which every possible angle was covered on a reasonable level but yet still, despite the person’s best reasonable efforts, the worst still happened–well, that’s just not good enough for you. We have to be perfect, nothing less will do–any failure at all, no matter how remote or how unlikely and unpreventable at a reasonable level, is acceptable.

    Well guess what Suzanne. If we have to be perfect to be a parent, you have no right to be one either. Because–no matter what you do, you are going to make a mistake, and I sure hope it doesn’t cost a child his or her life, but it may, and that’s just the way it goes, sad as it is.

    In other words–you’re not going to be perfect, so by your own standard, you have no business being a parent either.

    So there.


  75. kim October 18, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    I am saddened about this tragedy. I know nothing about this story except what was blogged about here, but the pain that the dad must be suffering is unimaginable.

  76. Frau_Mahlzahn October 18, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    I always wanted to move back to the States — but, really, my husband and I would probably be in jail soon, because our kids grow up “free range”…

    My youngest one fell off the swing several times — but now, with three and a half years — she climbs the highest trees, has a real good sense of balance, gets into stick fights with her brother and his friends, and is a very confident young child.

    So long,

  77. Staceyjw October 18, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    The more you explain yourself, the worse it gets… Stop digging.

    As for the post- The problem is that here in the USA, we loooove to criminalize normal, everyday actions. There is a reason we have more people in jail than any other country, AFAIK. Its a trend that is only increasing the numbers of normal people caught in the system.

    And for all those who are blaming the driver, unless there is hidden info- its an ACCIDENT. This includes the driver AND the dad. Charging either of them is cruel esp the dad.

    BTW Streets are actually safer without all of the extra “traffic calming” additions, ie:speed bumps, etc. It sounds backwards, but its true, and is now called Shared Space! When people feel safe,they take more risks, like texting, playing with the stereo, etc. Roads with lots of people, no signs, lots of parked Check out one of the books listed on this site, it’s called “How to Live Dangerously”.It covers the part about the way to design streets (or remake them). Interesting stuff!

  78. iteezy October 18, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    this is really bad….never though that such things can also happen

  79. Jenny Islander October 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

    Er, what’s with the sleeping in the same bed being lumped in with helicopter parenting? For breastfeeding moms, it’s often practical. (Not always; my middle child made it very clear as a baby that her preferred sleeping space was her little sidecar PLUS half of our bed, so she left her sidecar for a crib pretty early.) For kids who have nightmares, it’s safety and security. For families with space for a much bigger bed than ours and no sprawly middle kid, it’s probably very comforting. And it’s the way our species has slept for nearly all of our existence. For an interesting historical perspective on co-sleeping, nighttime parenting, and a bunch of other presumably modern issues, check out _At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past_ by A. Roger Ekirch. It’s about how Europeans lived at night in the last centuries before gaslight. Although his focus is not at all on modern parenting controversies, he provides a lot of perspective on them just by quoting primary sources. People lamenting the newfangled notion of sleeping alone rather than en famille; people comparing methods for teaching their children to get around in the dark; etc.

  80. baby-paramedic October 18, 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    Children have tunnel vision when it comes to roads. They do not see the cars. I am so glad I live in Australia – I have been to accidents involving children and cars. Not one of the ones I have attended have resulted in someone being charged (I would know if they did, they would come interview me and whatnot!)

    Accidents happen. A child being hit by a car is a tragedy. But, if we were all charged for every accident we caused, there would be a hell of a lot of us incarcerated.

    As far as Suzanne, there are many valid family arrangements. Some women are more inclined towards the “bread-winner” role, whereas some fathers are more the nurturing type. Quite frankly, it comes down to what works for your family. Try not to judge other configurations so harshly.

  81. Donna October 18, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    I live outside Atlanta. My tv is currently stuck on nickjr until I find the remote so this is the first that I’ve heard of this story, but something tells me that there is more to it than the this article is indicating. Fulton Co is mostly inner city, housing project Atlanta. The issues there are so vast that prosecuting something like this incident as it is being described would be out of the norm for the area. So I’ll withhold judgment as to this particular story.

    However, working in the criminal justice, I will confirm that, as far as the law is concerned, there are very few accidents anymore, particularly in suburbs and smaller towns where crime is not plentiful but police officers are. This is the thing that worries me the most about free ranging. I know for a fact that if something tragic happened (not even talking abduction here), I could go to prison for letting my child do what children have been doing for generations. The law now requires absolute perfection in the care of children. The police in my area even looked into filing charges against a mother who’s toddler son was killed when their car was rear-ended on the highway (She pulled over for an ambulance and was struck from behind. They looked into whether her actions were acceptable under the circumstances.) They ultimately decided that it was an unfortunate accident and the worst that anyone was charged with was following too close but I can’t imagine how much insult on top of injury this woman had when the paper and police were second-guessing her judgment and trying to decide if she was to blame for her toddler’s death for weeks after the accident.

  82. Moi! October 18, 2010 at 8:29 pm #

    Suzanne – your kid is unattended while you are typing your posts. Please go pay more attention to him. You are a bad parent and if anything should happen to your poor child while you are selfishly using the computer when you should be staring at him with total focus then YOU are to blame for being such a rotten parent.

  83. dmd October 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    I read an article recently that parents are suing Disney because their son was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk, veered off into the road, and a Disney bus hit him. Their suit says, among other things, that the sidewalk was too close to the road. The cause of the accident appears to be that the bike tire was flat.

    Obviously, this is ridiculous. A family in grief is lashing out. But what gets me just as much is that on the message board about this, post after post says “where were the parents.” They assume a parent should be attached to a 9-year old. That having a parent attached to a child will prevent all accidents. Just as in this story, the view is that there are no accidents. We just pile on the guilt and make parents feel they should not nurture their children’s independence. We should not teach our children to listen to us. We should not trust our children. It bothers me so much.

    There is a time and place for everything. Obviously, this poor father thought his son would stay where he was. Stuff happens. What earthly point does arresting him serve? Who is the living victim? The father! He is being punished enough. He will live in his own prison for the rest of his life. My heart breaks for him and his family.

  84. wkh October 18, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    I don’t think that a felony charge is appropriate, or any really for this father I think, but I really reject this idea that we should be able to do all kinds of stupid dumb mistakes and then throw hands up and say “oh well, sh*t happens!”

    BTW parents of BBQ’d children left in cars do not “suffer the consequence” of their actions -their children did :-/ And if you’re so distracted you forget an ENTIRE HUMAN in your vehicle you’re a danger on the roads.

    Way back when drunk driving accidents became more prevelant, as it became more common for average people to have private vehicles, folks were appalled that anyone would consider charging a drunk with a crime after a car crash. “He feels so bad already.” “She would never have done that sober, it was just an accident.” “He can’t be blamed, he was drunk!” “She’ll have to suffer with the guilt the rest of his life, you don’t need to charge her!”

    Post after post here lists incidents of, IMHO, totally inappropriate parenting and lack of supervision. Children, particularly preschoolers, simply don’t have the cognitive development to be that reliable. Sure, some feral kids do. Do you really want your child to be that self reliant as a preschooler? Really? Are you that lazy?

    And no, I’m not a bubble parent. My kids take subways and trains by themselves as tweens. My elementary aged kids go to the corner store (on our busy street) alone. But I’m not going to cross a street and leave a preschooler unsupervised. And if I’m teaching my preschooler how to cross streets, an adult or older child will be with him on the other side to go through it step by step.

    Being Free Range doesn’t mean abdicating your responsibility and throwing up your hands to say “Oh well!” when things foul up. On the contrary, it means a higher level of responsibility, to ensure your child can have autonomy safely.

  85. SgtMom October 18, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    In all these posts, not one person has questioned the fact this man only found out he was a father two days before.

    How has parental alienation become so acceptable in our society?

    BTW, America doe NOT have the most “people” in prison in the world – they have the most MEN in prison in the world.

    More than Russia, more than China = combined.

    American women rank a middling 9th among world incarceration statistics, a nice comfortable average as far as the world of prisoner goes.

    This either means American males are the most absurdly out of control criminals the world has ever known – or our American Justice system is the most absurdly out of control in the world.

    If you have a son…hide him. Protect him. Fear for him. It’s not ‘molesters’ out to get him – it’s our For Profit prison slavery system.

  86. AB October 18, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

    “felony cruelty to children, reckless conduct and simple battery”

    “Simple battery”? It wasn’t as if the poor guy tossed his kid out in the street in front of the car!

  87. MommyMitzi October 18, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    One thing that I think is important is to not just comment here, where most of us are like-mided and in agreement on the outrage of this. But we also need to google the story and post on other websites reporting on the story. I’ve been to some where the guy is being persecuted in the comments section, with assumptions on what he’s was doing with friends and what a terrible father he was.

    Obviously we don’t know a lot of details of the story but as it stands right now, we should all be outraged–and let commenters on other sites know that.

  88. Jennifer October 19, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    @wkh The thing is, the child in question was not a preschooler. I too would question the judgment of someone who crossed a street and left a 2 year old at the park, though I imagine some 2 year olds would be all right, and I’d still hesitate to charge the parent with anything. After all, what good would it do? But 5 years old is kindergarten age. Children at that age used to walk much further than across one street to school all the time in the United States. In some places they still do. Most 5 year olds can be trusted a short distance away from their parents across a street.

    What if the father had been on the same side of the street as his kid, and the kid had run out chasing a ball and been hit by a car before the dad could do anything. Would the father be charged for not hovering over his 5 year old every single second? Heck, many 5 year olds are fast enough that even if you’re standing right next to them, they could run away from you chasing something and many parents couldn’t catch them. If they pulled away from you, ran into the street and got hit by a car, is that the parent’s fault? Do you have to literally tether the child to you to keep him safe? Again, I might try that with a 2 year old, but a 5 year old?

  89. Rich Wilson October 19, 2010 at 12:18 am #

    Atlanta has some of the worst pedestrian facilities I’ve ever seen.

    @Staceyjw “streets are safer without traffic calming”
    I’ve seen that argument applied to a lot of things, and sometimes with some stats, that frankly seems a little cherry picked. I’m willing to concede that there are probably cases where it’s true. But the logical conclusion would be to do away with seat belts, bike helmets, speed limits, stop signs, traffic lights…

    Just think how careful we’d be at ever intersection if we didn’t trust a red light to ‘take care’ of us.

    That is, I don’t think it’s a very simple balance, or that we should do away with all traffic calming devices.

    #Suzanne I just wish we as a community could separate calling out the “ism” without adding a bunch of insults. And maybe cut down on the “me too”s. I know there are a lot of comments on here, but please, before mixing the napalm, check to see if the ground has already been scorched? And I have to wonder why the other recent display of sexism on here didn’t smell like napalm in the morning…

  90. AB October 19, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    @Mommy I mean as in there are so many parents that do abuse their kids and should be prosecuted under “felony cruelty to children, reckless conduct and simple battery” , but here this poor guy is being treated as a criminal due to a tragic accident.

  91. Lisa October 19, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    How come no one is charging the person who was driving the car? At the very least, isn’t mowing a kid down negligent? And if they were blabbing on their cell phone or texting, then the *driver* is the one who should be being charged with involuntary manslaughter.

    Time to subpoena the driver’s cell phone record!

  92. Larry Harrison October 19, 2010 at 1:27 am #

    MommyMitzi you’re right–we need to comment on the stories at the other sites, too.

    Lisa This is a bit off-topic, but I myself tire of hearing people go after cellular phone distractions with drivers. That’s the automatic reaction–‘were they using their cellular phone?” I don’t agree with that persecution. Why do they never ask “it was a teenaged male, he was near campus–was he looking at the females sunbathing in the grass?” Or “it was a single mother, was she refereeing your kids in the back seat rather than looking at the roads?”

    How come people are so quick to want to make criminals out of someone who was distracted using their cellular phone, but nothing else? I think it’s a form of discrimination, a witch-hunt, even analogous to racism. Seriously.

    As an example, in 1999, while I still lived in Tucson AZ, a woman was killed while jogging with her infant (the infant was in a stroller & survived) due to a driver distraction. Turns out it was a teenager fiddling with his car stereo. A cellular phone, GPS, texting etc–had NOTHING to do with it.

    Do you think there were editorials in the paper or local news persecuting him? Any commentaries about “is changing the song you’re listening to THAT important? You killed someone because you just couldn’t STAND the idea of listening to ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ as opposed to ‘Oops, I Did It Again’? I hope you’re proud of yourself!”

    No, there was no such comments along those lines at all.

    If this teenager had been distracted due to usage of a cellular phone, I guarantee you there would have been such a reaction. I guarantee you.

    The difference between the reactions is, to me, nothing less than a form of discrimination, a witch-hunt. I don’t agree with it.

    wkh I don’t think that people here, myself included, are suggesting that free-range means throwing your hands up & saying “oh well, stuff happens” with everything no matter how over-the-top it is. You will hear Lenore herself say that a parent does need to teach their child, and I think most of us here have the same thought about it also.

    As for the various stories–frankly, I don’t find them appalling. I surely don’t consider that it was reckless or inappropriate parenting with the examples I mentioned–me running in the woods at night-time around age 9 or so & running into the bob-wired, my parents letting me ride in the back of an open-bed pickup truck. These things aren’t necessarily black & white, after all, it’s almost totally illegal to let your child ride in the back of an open-bed pickup truck anywhere, and I think most free-rangers would consider that going too far. (I don’t, but most others probably do, and that’s fine.)

    Rather, it’s a matter of judgment, and people need to realize that there are different stances others take with regards to such matters, and to legislate too much is to stifle a parents’ right to make such judgments. Yes, there are some things we must come to an agreement on, we can’t give parents total 100% license to do whatever. I surely wouldn’t sanction someone throwing their child off a roof, for instance, or having them do horseplay on a motorcycle they’re driving themselves–at age 6.

    The issue is, the line we’re drawing is getting, in many of our minds, stricter each year–and too much so, to the point of dampening any job at all in childhood. It used to be that only in extreme situations did we advocate intervention, but more & more we advocate intervention in almost every minor situations which don’t come anywhere near these extremes. When it’s to the point that someone wants to criminalize my mother’s parenting of letting me run in the woods in the dark at age 9. I’m sorry–that’s going too far.


  93. Larry Harrison October 19, 2010 at 1:32 am #

    Argh, typos galore!

    When I said “I think most free-rangers would consider that going too far” (laws restricting kids riding in the back of trucks) I was saying they would consider a parent allowing their child to do that as going too far, NOT the existence of a law forbidding it.

    Also, I said “dampening any job at all in childhood,” I meant to say any JOY in childhood.


  94. Donna October 19, 2010 at 2:37 am #

    @ wkh – The kid was 5, not preschool. And, yes, I expect that when I tell my 4 year old to stay in the yard while I walk across the street to talk to a neighbor that she’ll do exactly that. And, guess what? SHE DOES because she knows that she’ll go to time out if she doesn’t listen. Unless the child has mental delays, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that a 5 year old told to stay in the park and play would stay in the park and play.

    “BTW parents of BBQ’d children left in cars do not “suffer the consequence” of their actions -their children did :-/ And if you’re so distracted you forget an ENTIRE HUMAN in your vehicle you’re a danger on the roads.”

    It’s not a matter of DISTRACTION; it’s a matter of HABIT. Humans are creatures of habit. It takes many times of doing something different to undue a habit, and many can never do it. In 99.999999999% of the cases where kids were accidently left in a car, the person who left them was undertaking a routine activity that they did every day but with the addition of taking the child who never otherwise went along. The most common time that kids are left in cars is when the parent (grandparent, babysitter) who never takes the child to daycare has to do it on their way to work one day. Having had an extremely organized (aka anal), responsible coworker who got partially to work before remembering she had a kid in the car to drop off at school (only remembering because the kid in question was not an infant and actually said “hey, you missed my school”) because she never took the kid to school, I can easily see how it happens.

  95. Mike in KY October 19, 2010 at 3:18 am #

    Another bone-headed “tough-on-crime” prosecutor looking to score some “protect the children” points in advance of an election.


  96. Jamie October 19, 2010 at 3:22 am #

    This is the playground, I think, at Morgan and Boulevard.


    Boulevard appears to be a very busy street, but Morgan does not. It is not clear, from the story I read, which one the dad crossed.

    There is so much room, in this tragedy, for ugly assumption and finger-pointing. I know from personal experience that 5yo boys can be utterly unpredictable forces of nature. I also know that our cultural tolerance for that kind of chaos is critically low. There is certainly a *limit* on how much I trust my own 5yo, because I’m more aware, than anyone, of *his* personal limitations. But I’m also scared, and I don’t know which prompts what reaction.

    We don’t trust our children, and no one wants to be responsible for a preventable tragedy.

    Charges like this are, I guess, a comfort to everyone who desperately wants to believe that *their* child could never run into a street, because of their parenting prowess, at either discipline, supervision, or both.

    But I’ll admit it. It could have been me.

  97. Grimalkin October 19, 2010 at 4:40 am #

    I think it’s even more incidious than that. We need to someone – anyone – to blame for everything. Trip while walking up some stairs? Sue the building owner. Nothing can ever just happen out of bad luck, it always has to be someone’s fault.

    It’s terrifying to think about. This poor man has just lost his child, presumably he has a wife who has just lost a child and now has to deal with an imprisoned husband (do they have other kids? Is she worried about how she’s going to care for them on a suddenly-reduced income? Not to mention the long-term reprocussions of having a criminal record).

    It reminds me of cases where parents of babies who’ve died of SIDS have been jailed or, at least, had to stand trial. People die, even kids, and its not always someone’s fault.

    I do think that your analysis was very pointed, in that people want to blame the dad because that means that as long as they are “good” parents who would be more cautious. It makes us feel like maybe, if we smother our kids enough, we might just avoid a similar misfortune. But that we could let our fear control us to the point that we would act so heartlessly towards a family that has already lost so much makes us monsters.

  98. esmeraldasquietlife October 19, 2010 at 6:06 am #


    Your first two posts made me cry and your third made me gape in surprise. I too have been steeped in this very anti-male expectation that dads are more likely to abuse- but I’ve had to ulearn most everything I’ve ever been told, so I guess I’m not really surprised. Also, the older I get, the more i realize that cruelty and stupidity know no bounds of race, creed, gender, etc.
    thanks for the stats- those were super interesting- and thank you for sharing A) your very personal and painful experience and B) the unbelievably sad story of that poor father.

    My child is born out of wedlock, and I don’t intend to change my unmarried status, since my lack of religious affiliation does not require a ceremony to officiate my love for my partner, who is a caring, unbelievably wonderful man. I think he is a better father than I am mother often. His patience and ability amaze me more every day.
    I have also had bad fortune with men in the past, and until I met my son’s father I too felt like maybe all men were of low carachter, but I was happily proven wrong. It’s important to remember that a broad sweeping generalization is just that- and there are exceptions to every rule.
    Anyway, I’m sorry you’ve had such lousy experiences that have colored your view of 50% of the population. It’s really hard to change one’s feelings about stuff as basic as this, but it’s important that you’re willing to do so. Good for you.
    I hope you will also reconsider your views about marriage. My parents were unwed and stayed together for over twenty five years- longer than most marriages! I was and am a well adjusted person, and was not affected by this other than deciding to avoid the major expense of a wedding myself because I saw firsthand how little a piece of paper changed the way two people felt about one another.

    I’m reserving my opinion about the whole situation- I don’t think there’s quite enough info to say guilty/ not guilty about anyone- and TBH, it doesn’t really matter. A child is DEAD. Fault is beside the point. It’s just a horrible situation.
    My heart goes out to them.

  99. wellcraftedtoo October 19, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    Interesting how the police officer quoted states without a shadow of a doubt that ‘this is negligence’.

    What is negligence? Last time I was in a courtroom, negligence is determined by a jury applying its state’s version of the ‘prudent person’ standard to the facts of the case before them. Negligence is not a conclusion reached by a police officer.

    Does the hypothetical ‘prudent person’ never, ever walk across the street leaving their 5 year old on the other side? What if he’d taken the boy with him, by the hand, and the child had still been hit by the car? Would he then be charged with negligence for crossing with him at this side?


    I think you’re on target, Lenore, when you state that increasingly we are living in country that just won’t, can’t, allow ‘accidents’ to happen: someone, somewhere, MUST be to blame for pain and suffering.

    Now, whether a jury would find this man guilty is another question–I think there’s a very good chance it would not.

    But in the meantime, what misery heaped on misery.

  100. Jen C October 19, 2010 at 7:45 am #

    It’s situations like this where the FRK community needs to step forth and show a solid front. Petitions, letters to government officials, the media….imagine what an impact we could have if we took this headlining case and ran in OUR direction with it??

  101. angela October 19, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    Privatisation of childhood.
    Here in Aus, some laws encourage drivers to recognise extra risks of kids running onto road around schools. But generally, we are driving less and less with awareness that we share the road with pedestrians, cyclists and immature children. Some places around the world are experimenting with strategies to fix this. In this case, Dad might have accidently got talking to a friend, or stranger, in the park while the child ran for a ball, another friend, to look at a truck etc. Accident for parent, but for the driver driving past a park? Accident maybe. Foreseeable event to plan for? definitely.

  102. Grimalkin October 19, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    Excellent point, Angela. This could have happened to the dad no matter what he was doing. Children are extremely fast considering how short their legs are. He could have been right there staring dead straight at his child, who could still have conceivably run into the road before the dad could catch him.

    But the driver? I wish I had more details on him/her, but it seems that anyone who is driving too fast to hit the breaks while going past an area where children are playing is at least partially culpable for any children he/she kills.

  103. Scott October 19, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    The google link is missing its end, but if you go to maps.google.com and search for “Morgan and Boulevard Atlanta” it goes right there. With street view you can see it’s a very small playground in a very typical tree lined Atlanta residential neighborhood. There are indeed no parking zones surrounding it on the side streets so that cars will not block visibility of darting kids. The main street has a yellow crossing guard sign but there seems to be no intersection control there. It also looks like parking is allowed on the main street, there’s plenty of room in the right hand lane. The picture there is taken at winter, but right now those trees would still have foliage. If there were cars there someone coming along the boulevard would absolutely not see a kid coming out at the cross walk if there were cars parked there.

    Walking south down Boulevard NE and turning around viewing the intersection, with the park below an incline, street parking, and no stop signs, I would say it’s amazing that more kids haven’t been killed here, and that the death is entirely the city’s fault for locating a park here and designing the street in this way.

    How many more kids will have to die or be injured before this is fixed.

  104. Bob Davis October 19, 2010 at 1:54 pm #

    For a look at an ex-law-enforcement-officer’s take on the “criminal justice” system of the US, may I recommend “Arrest-Proof Yourself” by Dale C. Carson? It’s full of advice on how to avoid acquiring a criminal record and how to keep your teenagers out of trouble. Some of the information is not relevant to retired guys who don’t smoke dope and never drink alcoholic beverages when there’s the slightest possibility of driving in the near future, but it’s still an eye-opening look at cops and courts.

  105. Scott October 19, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    I virtually walked a great distance along that road and saw no speed limit sign, which means it was 30MPH, which is the default business/residential speed in Atlanta unless otherwise marked.

    There were no signs indicating a playground was coming up. All there was was a single sign at the cross walk itself.

    Do notice that although there is a small fence along the two side streets, there is no fence stopping children from leaving at the side open to the 4 lane Boulevard.

  106. bgs October 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    I don’t believe people should be ragging on Suzanne as much as they are. She was giving her opinion and she is entitled to it. I don’t agree with everything she said but I can see a little of her point. Come on people–I don’t think a lot of father’s think as through things as mothers. Call me sexist if you want but I see it all the time with our friends and even my husband. A lot of men don’t think things are as dangerous as women do or think if they tell a child to wait or be still or “I’ll be right back” that they will just listed and abide by what they say. I am not “blaming” this man. It was a tragedy and if he had it to do over, he would have taken the child with him or not gone at all. That doesn’t make him a monster and it doesn’t make him “guilty.” But, don’t you think he MAY have been wrong in thinking the kid wouldn’t follow him across the street??? WRONG doesn’t make im GUILTY of a crime. My beef is that, in today’s world, we all want to blame someone when something bad happens. Parents want to blame teachers if their kids get in trouble at school or don’t make good grades. We want to blame doctors if anything goes worng medically. People want to blame parents if kids turn out bad or if they do something bad. Whatever happened to people being responsible and taking responsibility? A good point is that people on here now want to blame the person who was friggin driving the car down the road. Give me a break! They were in a car driving, a kid darted out in front of the and now you want to send them to jail. Heaven forbid if you should be driving and a very small kid run out in front of you and they die. Guess that means you are going to jail! First, none of us know the whole story. Second, could the man not be the least bit responsible for asking his 5 (FIVE) year old to wait while he goes across the street to “talk to some friends.?” I am not saying the man should be charged with anything, except not truly thinking through what he did. I am sure this man is in terrible pain. That doesn’t mean he should go to jail. But, we all have to quit blaming someone when something bad happens. It just does and always will.

  107. Karen October 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    @Scott–To me, blaming the city is simply a different version of blaming the father. It reinforces Lenore’s original contention that we live in a culture where there can be NO ACCIDENTS. If a tragedy occurs there must be someone we can arrest, sue or otherwise blame.

  108. Julie October 20, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    How do you know this guy is a good parent? He had just met his kid a day before, according to the article? There may be loads of facts relevant to the DA that we don’t know from this article. We don’t know this man’s past record, etc.

    I don’t think every child mishap should be prosecuted, nor that kids need to be under the watchful eye of adults 24/7 — my own kids walk to and from to school without adults. But this story — I have a lot of questions about it.

  109. BrianJ October 20, 2010 at 1:59 am #

    @Julie – I agree that there could be many facts that we don’t know. That said, simply arresting the father puts an extraordinary toll on him. Our for profit bail system means that he will automatically lose 100% of the bond that he posts (10% of the bail), there’s lost time from work, horrible emotional stress, etc. So unless all of the additional information was available to the officer at the scene, it seems on its face that this is an over reaction by the police. An over reaction that victimizes a man suffering the most painful loss imaginable.

    That said, if there were unusual circumstances that are not obvious to us, the DA could have arrested the father at any time later, AFTER it was clear that a crime had been committed. Because even if he is a just released felon and a coked up drunk, unless he committed an actual crime, he should not have been arrested.

    Finally, I’m disturbed the the presumption that “they wouldn’t have arrested him if he hadn’t done something wrong” (which you didn’t say, but I inferred). Our for profit prison system demands fresh meat constantly. As SgtMom pointed out earlier, it is a beast that is out of control. It”s why we have such harsh sentences for crimes with no victim. It feeds the idea that for every bad outcome there has to be a criminal to be held responsible (thrown into the gaping maw that is ‘the system’).

    This father may have done something wrong. There’s nothing that I have read so far that says he did. It seems that he deserves our compassion at least until it is even alleged that he committed a crime. And if that happens, he then deserves his day in court. My guess is that the DA will quietly drop the charges and offer no apology (unless the man is poor and/or black or brown).

  110. Scott October 20, 2010 at 2:28 am #

    “To me, blaming the city is simply a different version of blaming the father.”

    A scapegoat must be found. The city isn’t going to put themselves in jail, but they are willing to and in the process of destroying this man’s life.

    But the design and placement of the park really is awful. A park for small children should not be unfenced and next to a major thoroughfare which has no speed decrease or signs alerting cars.

    When an airplane crashes they do an investigation to see what contributed to the accident and then they make changes to decrease the chances of this happening. Finding the fault in a failure is not the same as finding a scapegoat to blame. Fault analysis is very important and worthwhile.

  111. DirtyHooker October 20, 2010 at 2:30 am #

    Larry, I’ve been reading your posts and nodding my head vigorously to most of them, until I got to this:

    >>>I think it’s a form of discrimination, a witch-hunt, even analogous to racism. Seriously.<<<<

    Surely, you can't see being angry with the behavior of someone who is knowingly doing something to distract themselves while handling a multi-ton projectile as analogous to hating someone because they had the nerve to be born black or Asian. One is behavior, the other is the randomness of birth.

    Also, people get distracted when driving, sure, but no one accidentally ever sends a text or answers the phone. If you are driving, you need to be doing everything reasonable to maintain focus.

    That aside, I remember when I was a kid and my mother was still taking in foster kids. She was ready to go out somewhere with us and started up the car in the driveway, then she spotted a car with some friends of hers driving past our house. She left the car running to talk to them, only a few feet away from us. I don't remember what I was doing, but my 3-year-old foster sister climbed into the car and put it in reverse. The car rolled down the driveway and would have rolled into the street and hit my mother and her friends, or been hit by a car coming down the street, had she not noticed it at the last moment and jumped in the car to stop it.

    My mother raised the three of us and 350 foster kids, so no one can argue that she was inexperienced and incompetent. Sometimes crap happens.

    Even if we attribute this tragedy to an error in judgment, poor judgment is not a crime. Or it shouldn't be, unless it is a pattern, and this guy knew he was a father for only a couple of days.

  112. Scott October 20, 2010 at 2:33 am #

    Also, figuring out what really caused the death is the only thing that is going to get this poor father from spending the next 15 years in prison on this absurd homicide charge.

    Looking at the neighborhood, it is likely the father is a poor black man who can not afford a good attorney.

    If this happened to a white person who could afford an attorney the case would be easy to defend. Hire any civil engineer in the US and they will testify as an expert that the design and placement of the park and street were the major factors in the death. But if you are poor and relying on a government provided attorney they will simply collude with the prosecution and have you cop a plea to a slightly reduced charge and agree to take a shorter prison term to avoid trial. But then you have a conviction and no longer qualify for student loans, housing aid, and you can’t get a job. This is part of the whole system that keeps the poor and minorities down. Charge them with BS charges knowing they can’t defend themselves. They never would have charged a well off person with these charges because they know they would never fly in court. They know these are BS charges, they are just getting their stats up. Atlanta is corrupt and does not care about the people.

  113. Grimalkin October 20, 2010 at 2:34 am #

    Let’s say that this guy is a terrible father (whether because he’s a man and all men are completely inept around children because they are far too busy being manly or because he had only just found out that he was a dad and hadn’t had that fear part of his brain activated yet), he did not cause any harm to this child.

    He didn’t neglect the child. He didn’t hit the child. From what the article mentions, he simply let his attention wander temporarily and the unthinkable happened. He could have been the worst father in the world and that still could have happened to any one of us. That he was charged with anything at all is infuriating. That he was arrested is just unbelievable.

    I don’t know about the car. It does disturb me that the article talks about the dad’s fault, but there’s no mention of the driver. Yes, it can be very difficult to stop in time when something small jumps out in front of you (or even something big, as anyone living in deer country can attest), but the link between the car and the accident is far stronger than the one between the father and the accident, so it disturbs me that the father is arrested and facing charges while the driver is hardly mentioned in the article. Was the driver talking on a cell phone or otherwise distracted? We don’t know. Was this ever looked into?

    Finally, the point about the city possibly being held responsible is a perfectly valid one, I think. Maybe it’s silly, maybe there’s nothing more the city could have done, but it warrants a look into the area and whether it could have been made safer. Again, a third party that has at least as much connection to the accident as the father has, and yet it isn’t even mentioned in the article.

    As someone else mentioned, it seemed like there is an open way from the park to the street, possibly some parking or trees that would obscure any view of children about to jump in front of cars, and a speed limit that doesn’t seem to acknowledge the fact that small children are very likely to be playing nearby. If they look into it, maybe they will decide that there is an acceptable risk level in that area, but shouldn’t they at least look into it rather than just arresting someone whose only crime appears to be not strapping himself to his child 24/7?

  114. pentamom October 20, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    “Maybe it’s silly, maybe there’s nothing more the city could have done, but it warrants a look into the area and whether it could have been made safer.”

    It’s fine to look into things and see if they can reasonably be made safer — it’s good to do so. Yet ultimately, it is not “the city’s” responsibility to make sure no car hits any child anywhere near public property. To the extent that an entity like a city has any responsibility in such a situation, it is only not to actively create a hazard, not to ensure optimal safety. I think the implication that it is the city’s responsibility to make sure no accidents happen near the park, and that they’re “at fault” if ordinary actions lead to an accident, is what bothers some of us.

  115. Kate October 20, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    All of the comments suggesting the driver was at fault make me sad. I’m sure that the driver will be haunted for the rest of his/her life. And I think we can all rest assured that if there was any scrap of fault, there would of been charges laid. It’s the way it’s done, right?

    I hate the consequentialism “justice” these days is based on. Would CPS have been called on the father for leaving his child on the other side of the road? Would they have taken his son away? No. Then why is it neglect just because the child died?

    I’m saddened by the whole situation.

  116. Grimalkin October 20, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    @pentamom – No one has said that, though (at least not that I can remember). It is the city’s responsibilty to ensure some amount of safety – for example, altering speed limits around areas with a lot of young children, elderly people with dimentia, etc. There is an acceptable risk, and no one is saying that the city should be sued or anything like that. I haven’t been using the word “responsible” in that way. Merely that the city is responsible for looking into the situation and seeing if there are ways that this situation could have been avoided (in compromise with other factors, such as flow of traffic, etc).

    As someone else has pointed out, Google StreetView seems to show an area where an accident may have been likely. There was a combination of low visibility (due to trees and possibly parking), as well as a high-ish speed limit. So decreasing the speed limit, putting up signs warning cars that young children may be playing in the area, and perhaps moving the trees back a bit might be acceptable ways to reduce the chances that this would happen again. Would any of this be unreasonable?

  117. Scott October 20, 2010 at 3:13 am #

    Yes, exactly, that is what we pay taxes for. It there is an intersection with a lot of fatal accidents, any city with competent civil engineers starts to do an analysis of that intersection. That’s their job. Not properly doing the job they are paid to do is negligence. If the city can’t be bothered to do their job, why should we be bothered to pay taxes?

  118. Scott October 20, 2010 at 3:17 am #

    Another consideration there is you have this park, and then a street with high enough traffic to have four lanes, and on the other side of the street, family housing. What are the chances that people in those houses are going to be interested in routinely crossing the 4 lane boulevard to get to the playground.

    And yet look. No traffic light. No button to press. It’s just wait for an opening and dash across. How is that a good design? It’s not.

  119. Denny Li October 20, 2010 at 3:56 am #

    I posted earlier to mention I was contacting the Fulton County DA’s office as well as Joseph Robertson’s public defender to express my opinions. Both attorneys were thankful for my call, and quick to assure me that by simply expressing my opinion, I was making a difference.

    I urge that all the parents on this board who feel Mr. Robertson is being wrongly prosecuted contact the DA’s office to express their dismay. Fulton County DA, Paul Howard, Jr., is an elected official. This being an election year, voter support is even more critical to him. I understand many of you are not Atlanta residents, but it is important that he hear from you and understand that there are many parents out there who do not support his prosecution of Mr. Robertson.

    Talking about how wrong this situation is, and speculating on the unsaid circumstances can be addictive, but if we want to change the direction this country is going, if we want to make sure we are not going to land in jail because our inability or unwillingness to have our children manacled to us 24/7, we have to let the people in charge of our criminal systems know how we feel.

    I have requested a copy of the police report. Once I have it I will post information, if any, not found in the news article. It is my hope to take the article and the police report over to the area where this tragedy happened, and get a petition going.

    This is the number for the Fulton County DA’s office:
    (404) 730-4981. If this is important to you, please call.

  120. esmeraldasquietlife October 20, 2010 at 6:48 am #

    @Denny Li- I will be fascinated to read further information on this case, since it appeared that the reporter picked and chose what they thought was pertinant, but which leaves some clear holes that I, at least, would like filled.
    Also, sorry, I’m not an Atlanta resident, but I’m very very glad you called and expressed your opinion on the matter.

  121. Suekiyaki October 20, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    1965–70; sex + -ism, on the model of racism
    -attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes* of sexual roles.

    *a set of inaccurate, simplistic generalizations about a group that allows others to categorize them and treat them accordingly

    Aha. I see. But what about accurate generalizations? Some of which this group seems to adhere to according to one’s own persuasion… such as “If this happened to a white person who could afford an attorney the case would be easy to defend. Hire any civil engineer in the US and they will testify as an expert that the design and placement of the park and street were the major factors in the death. But if you are poor and relying on a government provided attorney they will simply collude with the prosecution and have you cop a plea to a slightly reduced charge and agree to take a shorter prison term to avoid trial”
    Why are one person’s generalizations allowed and another’s, not? Think think think.

  122. Donna October 20, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    “Looking at the neighborhood, it is likely the father is a poor black man who can not afford a good attorney.”

    I’m a public defender outside Fulton County who knows many of the Fulton Co PDs that you are disparaging. The fact is that they are dedicated professionals who CHOOSE to do this job over other more lucrative practices of the law because they enjoy it. Personally, I left a 6 figure income with one of the most prominent law firms in the country to do public defender work (and like my current clients much better than the CEOs I used to deal with). While I count the DAs I work with as personal friends, I have never once colluded with the prosecution on any case, although that is generally in the best interest of the client because contrary to your apparent belief the vast majority of DAs offices and police are not corrupt entities looking to keep a brother down (most of my clients are actually guilty – on video, caught red-handed, confessed, etc. – and do need to take the best deal that they can get). Public defenders go to law school like everyone else. Many, like myself and my coworkers, graduated at the top of their classes. A public defenders office ONLY hires people dedicated to helping the poor – and we do exist in large numbers in the legal community.

    If by “good” you mean F. Lee Bailey and the like, by all means, you would be better off with them but that’s because you also have several millions of dollars in the bank and probably are closely connected to the DA and judge anyway. However, I suspect that by “good” you mean anyone who is paid. Any idiot who graduated from law school can hang out a shingle but that doesn’t mean that you should hire them to get your dog out of the pound. Just yesterday I had a client who believes like you his public defender must be colluding with the DA to get him convicted (the fact that he had crack in his pocket when arrested for DUI and fully confessed to being drunk, driving the car and possessing the cocaine clearly had no bearing on us telling him to plea). He hired a drunk, formerly had his license suspended, attorney who frequently forgets court dates and can barely string together a sentence. So when did he have a better attorney?

  123. Karen October 21, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    There is a lot of talk on this site about letting kids walk to school alone, and how dangerous that is. Apparently bad things can happen even when you do walk your kids to school. I saw this article and immediately thought of this site. Hope this mother is not thrown in jail! It appears for now the police are saying it’s “an unfortunate and very sad accident” and probably won’t charge the driver either.


  124. Jenn @ Juggling Life October 21, 2010 at 2:39 am #

    I agree in principle with much of what you have to say. I wonder, after following the links, if this is the story to choose to prove your point. There are just too many oddities to this–he just met this child? What was the street, the park and the neighborhood like? Did he know the child well enough to know he was capable of being trusted on his own while he crossed the street (which he apparently was not).

    I think there are 5-year olds that can walk to Kindergarten alone if it’s quite close and there are those that shouldn’t be left unsupervised. Kids are such individuals that I really don’t believe in blanket statements about when they should be meeting milestones.

    I say this as a parent who was the first in my neighborhood to let my kids walk places alone, ride bikes to school and stay home alone.

  125. Scott October 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    Hey Donna, public defenders in most of the US do not do their job. They assume all their clients are guilty and try to get them to accept an idiotic plea bargain down from ridiculously trumped up charges like we see here in this case. Yeah, there are probably a couple of public defenders out there that are like they are on the TV shows. A couple. At most.

  126. Juliet October 21, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    Life is too scary for us to accept that sometimes horrible tragedies and ACCIDENTS happen. It makes us feel out of control to realize this, but it’s a fact of the human condition.

  127. Donna October 22, 2010 at 5:23 am #

    @ Scott – As someone who knows public defenders throughout the country you are patently wrong. Most public defenders are dedicated professionals. The vast majority of criminals in this country are represented by public defenders and yet:

    Fact: About 99% of criminal defendants are not in court on trumped up charges. A very small number of defendants are in court on trumped up charges. Another slightly larger percentage are there because of legitimate crimes that they did not commit. Certainly there tragically are innocent men and women in prison but the prisons are not overflowing with them. Thousands of people go to prison every year in this country; only a very small number are innocent.

    Fact: Most Public Defender clients do, indeed, enter plea bargains. That is not because their attorney colluded with the prosecution; it is because they are are guilty!!!! Public defenders are lawyers, not magicians. They can’t file a motion to change the facts. They don’t have time machines to go back in time to take back the full confession. They can’t erase the video of the client’s smiling face selling drugs to the man wearing a hat that says “narcotics task force.” They can’t make the 15 people who place their client at the scene of the crime with a gun disappear. They can’t wash DNA out of the baby the 13 year old just gave birth to. They certainly can’t do anything about the repeated confessions to anyone who will take calls from the jail even though every phone call starts with the message that the calls are being recorded.

    Fact: Most criminals are seriously delusional about their innocence and their likelihood of winning at trial. They seem to watch too much CSI and fail to understand that the jury does not need to see a video of the crime, fingerprints, DNA and whatever other scientific evidence TV dreams up to convict them. They fail to believe that testimony of eye witnesses is actual evidence. They really come to believe their bogus explanations of how the crack magically appeared in their underwear. This causes them to spew nonsense about being railroaded when in fact they committed the crime and the state had an open and shut case against them.

    Fact: Public Defenders are overworked and overfunded. If you need an attorney who has time to answer every single innane call because nobody in your family will take your calls from jail so they are the only ones you can talk to all day, hire an attorney. Otherwise, you’d be better off with a public defender unless you can afford to hire the likes of F Lee Bailey or Barry Schrenk.

    Truthfully, I love my job. I do get sick of people from outside the system denigrating it based on the word of criminals who say they were railroaded after being caught on tape breaking into a convenience store, giving a full confession to the police before getting an attorney and had crack in their pocket when searched at the jail.

  128. SgtMom October 25, 2010 at 3:32 am #

    Donna: Fact: Public Defenders are overworked and overfunded. If you need an attorney who has time to answer every single innane call because nobody in your family will take your calls from jail so they are the only ones you can talk to all day, hire an attorney. Otherwise, you’d be better off with a public defender unless you can afford to hire the likes of F Lee Bailey or Barry Schrenk.

    As an INNOCENT person falsely accused, and yes, Dear Donna, such animals exist, I will concur that unless you have $200,000. and up to fork over to purchase justice, you might as well choose the lesser evil.

    Of course you will always be looking over your shoulder and wondering if the outcome would have been better with a ‘real’ attorney, but the truth is the truth comes at a great price.

    If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it. If you can’t afford steak, you eat hot dogs. If you can’t afford leather shoes you will wear plastic. If you can’t afford a “good” attorney, you will wear prison scrubs.

    It’s the greatest justice system money can buy.

  129. Mike October 25, 2010 at 5:31 am #

    We have too many lawyers in this country.

  130. Jay R. October 26, 2010 at 1:27 am #

    Staying within the speed limit absolves the driver of nothing. The number on the sign is an absolute upper limit, but drivers are also required to slow as conditions require. The presence of a park with playing children is obviously such a condition. Drivers have no fundamental right to travel at or even near the posted speed limit.

    We cannot to reduce moral responsibility to a metric. If you hit a pedestrian in a setting where a reasonable person could have anticipated such an occurrence, you’ve acted irresponsibly.

    We’ve somehow forgotten that it’s the motorists who are driving in the pedestrians’ space. The rules are in place for the safety of the walkers, not the convenience of the drivers.

  131. Betsy October 27, 2010 at 3:17 am #

    As a mom who boiled some water, poured it into a mega mug along with a peppermint tea bag, brought it into the living room and put it down on the coffee table, then turned her back on it, and her 10-month old, and walked away to get a forgotten cup of orange juice for her older child, only to hear blood curdling screams on the way to the kitchen, then found herself on a wild ride of ambulances, emergency rooms, medevac helicopters and children’s burn hospitals, I now know that, had my child not survived–the burn was potentially deep enough to affect lung and heart function– I could have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Not sure if I would have cared what happened to me, had she actually died, but….. Wow. Wow.

  132. Betsy October 27, 2010 at 3:21 am #

    p.s. if anyone wants to know more about how easy it is for a blink- of- an -eye attention lapse to turn into a major emergency, or how dangerous hot drinks can be around sensitive-skinned young children, you can read about my experience here. http://www.numbmum.com/2010/10/hot-burn-baby.html

  133. Laura October 31, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Yesterday I was waiting for a monorail train with my 3 year old. The train was coming, I couldn’t get the money to go into the machine for the ticket and in those few seconds–with my attention on the machine–I lost track of my child. It was just one moment, but a train was coming….it opened the doors…and there I was. Did my daughter board the train? Was she on the tracks somewhere? I started screaming her name. She was about a foot and a half away, behind me. My first thought was “thank god, she’s safe.” My second thougth was “if anything had happened, I could have gone to jail for that.” It was one moment…just trying to make a dollar bill fit through a token machine.

  134. False Nails November 17, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    living rooms should be decorated with style that is why i always get some living room decoration idea on the internet “:,

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