It is most unfortunate that the tragic murder of Kami Ring in Cecil County last week is likely to be overshadowed by the renewed debate the case has spawned about capital punishment.
As the stories about Kami's murder have rolled out online and in print - with many more no doubt to come - many people are focusing on and reacting in a predictable way, I suppose, as in: Here's a strong reason why the legislature and governor should not have passed the death penalty repeal earlier this year.
But before we use Kami's murder as a cause celebre to beat the kettle to get the death penalty back - let's also try to remember that an innocent child has been brutally murdered through no fault of her own, something that happens all too often in our country and in our own community, regardless of the potential consequences that may be faced by the perpetrator.
From what little we know officially from the police, Kami was well-acquainted with her alleged killer, Richard Madden, and others in his family, to the point where the girl had called the couple police have identified as Madden's parents her own "grandparents," even though there was no biological relationship, and Madden considered the girl his "niece."
Obviously there are a lot of pieces of the puzzle yet to be fitted, so it's best to keep an open mind and simply ask ourselves if this child's death was preventable? I can't say "yes" or "no" at this point, but it's an overriding question that often gets obscured in this and many other cases like it, as we grieve for the victims and their families and demand justice for their killers. Were there red flags that others in the girl's life responsible for her well-being should have seen? How about others in the community? Could they have urged more caution?
Madden had a criminal record and spent time in prison, mostly because of a stunt when he was 18 when Madden and three juveniles raided a used car lot and took several vehicles. He later violated his probation from that case and ended up back in prison, from which he was released just this past February, according to a state corrections system spokesperson. He's had other brushes with the law, including arrests for non-violent crimes for which charges were eventually dropped, according to state online court records.
Would any of his past disqualified Madden from having a personal relationship with Kami Ring? In our contemporary society, I suspect even the angriest among us at this girl's death would have to concede, probably not.
We have a pending case in Harford County, from barely eight weeks ago, in which a 19-year-old Forest Hill man, Colin Wolf, has been charged with killing his 2-year-old niece, with whom he was left to watch, while the girl's mother and grandmother - Wolf's mother - went out to visit the baby's father, according to court records.
Regardless of the circumstances and who was responsible for what, this is a real tragic case, too, and yet another instance where the victim had no choices to protect herself, perhaps even more so than what happened in Kami Ring's killing.
As many of you who read my columns regularly know, I have supported keeping the death penalty in the past. I have cited my continuing revulsion at the circumstances of the state's unwillingness/inability to execute the convicted double-murderers Vernon Lee Evans and Anthony Grandison as having made me a permanent convert to the needle.
Dead for 30 years, Susan Kennedy and Scott Piechowicz, the two victims of the drug lord - Grandison - and his hired killer - Evans - are unfortunately shades on a printed page today. The fact that Mr. Piechowicz was killed because he was a witness in a drug case against Grandison (and Ms. Kennedy was in the wrong place at the wrong time) hasn't changed the fact that people who come forward to cooperate with the authorities still get gunned down to silence them.
Thirty years from now, I would hope the name of Kami Ring will have raised awareness that the need to protect our children from harm should be our paramount focus and concern. Let the other political agendas take care of themselves. This is about a little girl's life that was stolen from her and how all of us might prevent similar horrors in the future.